Canada's HOB releases statement on same-sex blessings

The Anglican Church of Canada's House of Bishops has released a pastoral statement on same-sex blessings that will be sent to delegates of General Synod.

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, meeting from April 16-20, 2007, once again discussed the question of the blessing of same-sex unions. Once again a number of diverse opinions were expressed. Again questions were raised about theology, scripture, discipline, and our church's constitution. However we did find a common strong concern for the pastoral care of all members of our church. While not all bishops can conceive of condoning or blessing same-sex unions, we believe it is not only appropriate but a Gospel imperative to pray with the whole people of God, no matter their circumstance. In so doing we convey the long-standing Gospel teaching that God in Christ loves each person and indeed loves him/her so much that Christ is calling each person to change and grow more fully into God's image and likeness. To refuse to pray with any person or people is to suggest God is not with them. All of us fall short of the glory of God but all are loved by God in Christ Jesus. We believe that in offering the sacraments we invite God's transformative action in people's lives.

Read the whole statement here.

Canadians rebuff Bishops’ proposal

Integrity Canada has released a statement today that takes issue with the recent Canadian Anglican House of Bishop's statement on Same-Sex blessings. The statement is posted on Integrity USA's blogsite:
"Gay Anglicans offer mixed reviews of a statement by the Canadian House of Bishops in which the bishops claim to support 'the most generous pastoral response possible' toward gay and lesbian couples while they also signal they will veto attempts to clarify the church's teaching. Members of Integrity Canada are at turns offended, disappointed, and confused by the bishops' 'possible pastoral responses' and demands for prolonged dialogue and study. The proposed pastoral provisions are a 'slap in the face of committed gay and lesbian couples,' says Michelle Crawford-Bewley of Integrity Toronto. 'We are relegated to second-class status in our own church.'"
The release quotes a member of Integrity stating:
"As limited as the proposal is," observes Chris Ambidge of Integrity Toronto, "in some jurisdictions this would be an improvement. In some places children of gay parents are denied baptism, gay people are turned away from the communion rail, and the bishops know that. We'd expect them to implement their earlier policy that it is unacceptable to deny baptism to children to discipline their parents, but until then any tentative statement in that direction is welcome."
You can read the rest of the release here: Gay Anglicans rebuff Bishops’ proposal for “pastoral care” and more study

Anglican Essentials Canada has posted a statement from that also rejects that Canadian HoB statement but for opposite reasons. It states in part:
Unfortunately, the Bishops' statement forecloses any further discussion of the blessing of same sex unions by accepting those in committed homosexual relationships to Communion and confirmation. The statement advocates using the Eucharist as a device to give the church's recognition to gay and lesbian married couples. This supposes that gay and lesbian practice is, in principle at least, a form of Christian holiness, and it clearly insinuates the hope that the forthcoming General Synod will explicitly sanction the blessing of same-sex unions, so bringing the ACC into line with the civil marriage of gay couples that are now sanctioned by Canadian law. This deviates directly from the pastoral care of homosexuals which the whole Christian church has practiced till very recently, and to which the Lambeth Conference of 1998 recalled us all, and to which the greater part of the world-wide Anglican Communion adheres today. The deviation is totally unacceptable to all those who hold to the apostolic Christian faith as the churches of the Anglican Communion have received it.
The full statement by Anglican Essentials is posted here.

The article published in the Star (and on Canada.com as linked above) which claimed the HoB called for the "status quo" has been responded to by the General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. He specifically rejects any sense that the matter is settled going forward. He states:
The statement issued by the Canadian House of Bishops was intended to anticipate the pastoral needs of Anglicans after a decision on same-sex blessings, which will be made by our General Synod in June. The statement describes the status quo and is not pre-emptive of the decision General Synod will make. Bishops will be part of that process, but they do not make such decisions on their own.

Mixed messages

Integrity Canada offers some responses to the Canadian House of Bishops statement that illustrate a perceived conflict in how they will treat the question of gays in the church.

...the bishops claim to support "the most generous pastoral response possible" toward gay and lesbian couples while they also signal they will veto attempts to clarify the church's teaching.

On the one hand, says the release from Integrity Canada, there is good news in this:

"As limited as the proposal is," observes Chris Ambidge of Integrity Toronto, "in some jurisdictions this would be an improvement. In some places children of gay parents are denied baptism, gay people are turned away from the communion rail, and the bishops know that. We'd expect them to implement their earlier policy that it is unacceptable to deny baptism to children to discipline their parents, but until then any tentative statement in that direction is welcome."

But the bishops stop short of advocating that same-sex unions be recognized in the church. Integrity also notes that the line may be more political than pastoral, and may reflect an urban/rural divide:

But while other church sacraments are open to gay church members, the bishops draw the line at marriage, even disallowing prayers for God's blessing on civilly married same-sex couples. Without promising any particular action, the bishops suggest that "intercessory prayers" may be allowed for gay couples who make their covenant promises elsewhere, but not a "nuptial prayer." Although official church teaching affirms the sanctity of committed same-sex relationships, the bishops insist "the doctrine and discipline of our church does not clearly permit further action."

It is unclear, however, whether the proposal offering special prayers for married same-sex couples can be taken seriously, whether this is a pastoral or a political gesture. Which bishops would actually implement this suggestion? For the conservatives it goes too far, and in most urban centres it is far too little, far too late, and only further alienates gay and lesbian people.

Read more about this and how the HoB's stalling on this issue is causing people to leave the church on both ends of the spectrum at Walking With Integrity.

Sex & Religion & Teenagers

Slate Magazine has a discussion of a new book by Mark Regnerus. The book, Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers, is a sociological study of the ways that personal faith influences young people's choices regarding their choices to be sexually active or not.

The effect of faith is not nearly what parents hope it would be:

Teenagers who identify as 'evangelical' or 'born again' are highly likely to sound like the girl at the bar; 80 percent think sex should be saved for marriage. But thinking is not the same as doing. Evangelical teens are actually more likely to have lost their virginity than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. They tend to lose their virginity at a slightly younger age—16.3, compared with 16.7 for the other two faiths. And they are much more likely to have had three or more sexual partners by age 17: Regnerus reports that 13.7 percent of evangelicals have, compared with 8.9 percent for mainline Protestants.

The complex reasons behind this are discussed in the article. The good news is that the situation is not true for young people who are really committed to their faith rather than just self-identifying themselves as faithful.

Read the rest here.

Retired Canadian Archbishops Call for Same Sex Blessings

News from the Anglican Province of Canada today:

"As Canada's Anglican Church prepares for its historic – and possibly schismatic – decision on blessing homosexual unions, six of its most senior clerics Thursday called for a yes vote that would show ‘justice, compassion and hope for all God's people.’

The declaration from the half-dozen retired archbishops from across the country reveals a sharp division in the church's hierarchy.

While the archbishops said that blessing the unions of same-sex couples does not touch on the church's ‘core doctrine,’ last month the national House of Bishops issued a pastoral statement saying that the ‘doctrine and discipline of our church does not clearly permit [same-sex blessings].’"

Read the rest here: Bless same-sex unions, retired archbishops urge

The complete statement from the General Synod site is HERE

Former ex-gay ministry leaders apologize

They once were important leaders in Exodus, a prominent ex-gay ministry movement. But yesterday, these three individuals publicly apologized "for the harm they said their efforts had caused many gays and lesbians who believed the group's message that sexual orientation could be changed through prayer," according to L.A. Times reporter Rebecca Trounson.

The apology was released as a written statement at a news conference outside an office of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, timed in conjunction with Exodus' annual meeting being held in Irvine, Calif.

"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," the three, including former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, said in a joint written statement presented at the news conference. "Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates."

Now a licensed family therapist in Riverside, Bussee left Exodus in 1979 after he fell in love with a man who was a fellow ex-gay counselor with the group. He speaks out frequently against ex-gay therapies.

"God's love and forgiveness does indeed change people," said Bussee, who remains an evangelical Christian. "It changed me. It just didn't make me straight."

Read the whole thing here.

The Anglican Communion listens

The last Lambeth meeting encouraged all the Provinces of the Communion to create forums for listening to the experience of LBTG christians who are seeking Christ within the congregations of the Anglican church.

The Anglican Communion Office has created called the Rev. Canon Phil Groves to serve as the facilitator of these programs around the church.

The Episcopal News Service has a long article that reports on his experience here in the Episcopal Church in America and some of his experiences in other parts of the Communion:

"Anglicans whom Groves has recruited from throughout the communion will facilitate the compilation of each section of the guide. It is expected that the bishops at Lambeth will use the study guide for reflection and will then 'go away and contemplate in their own place and with their own people' to discern the course of their future engagement, he said.

The collection of material gathered for the study guide and the accumulation of the provinces' work on human sexuality 'is going to have to be on paper,' Groves said, because in some instances that is the only way some voices from some provinces will be heard. The guide will be backed up by a larger collection on CD-ROM.

Lyn Headley-Deavours, justice minister for the Diocese of Newark, urged Groves to ensure that the process quickly involves people across the communion actually listening to each other. The Rev. Dr. Cy Deavours, co-director of the Oasis LGBT ministry in the Diocese of New Jersey, told Groves he'd like some assurance that the listening will actually happen."

Groves goes on to discuss his role with in the process:

"If I am perceived as being on any side, I am worthless to you and the entire Communion," Groves said. He also characterized the process as "mutual listening" that will hear from as many voices as possible, including some "that you believe have caused intense damage."

The hoped-for long-term result of the Listening Process, he said, is that with the inclusion of as many voices as possible, "we will know the gospel better." He asked the Integrity-organized group to support the process by contributing papers and other resources by mid-August of this year.

Read the rest here.

Gay life changing in America says The Economist

The Economist has an interesting analysis of the changing nature of the GLBT community in America. The subtitle says it all: "As tolerance spreads, gay life is becoming more suburban, contented and even dull." Here are some highlights:

Perhaps it is no surprise that gays find a hip city like New York hospitable. But two sets of data suggest that America as a whole is becoming steadily more tolerant. First, opinion polls show that homophobia has receded almost as far as Homer Simpson's hairline. As recently as 1982, only 34% of Americans thought homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Now, 57% do. Since young Americans are far more relaxed about homosexuality than their elders—three-quarters of 18-34-year-olds think it is OK to be gay, whereas half of those over 55 think it is not—this trend is likely to continue. This year was also the first since Gallup started asking the question that a majority of Americans have not said that homosexual relations are morally wrong. And a hefty 89% think that gays should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities. If that strikes you as no big deal, recall that a total ban on gays working for the federal government was repealed only in 1975.

Second, and more subtly, one can look at demography. Gary Gates, a Californian academic, has been mining census data to determine where gays live in America. He observes several trends. First, the number of openly gay households is growing five times faster than the population as a whole. The last full census, in 2000, counted nearly 600,000 same-sex couples. Five years later, the American Community Survey (in which the Census Bureau quizzes a statistically representative sample of 1.4m households) estimated that that number had increased by 30%, to 777,000. Mr Gates reckons the bulk of the increase is because as tolerance spreads, more gay couples are willing to be counted.

The increase was most pronounced in the Midwest, with Wisconsin showing an 81% jump in the number of same-sex couples and Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and Indiana also among the ten fastest-growing states in this respect. What this means, perhaps, is that gay America is becoming more like Middle America. “Much of the stereotype around gays is a stereotype of urban white gay men,” says Mr Gates. “The gay community is becoming less like that, and more like the population in general.” Gay couples are still more likely than straight ones to live in cities, but the gap is smaller than popularly believed, and closing. In 1990, 92% of gay couples but only 77% of American households were in what the Census Bureau calls “urban clusters”. By 2000, the gay figure had fallen to 84% while the proportion for households in general had risen to 80%, a striking convergence.

The article then observes that the greater acceptance is leading many GLBT couples to move to the suburbs:

But if you want to settle down with a partner, the suburbs and the heartland beckon. Gays who have children—and a quarter of gay couples do—gravitate towards them for the same reasons that straight parents do: better schools, bigger gardens, peace and quiet. Mark Strasser, for example, lives with his male partner and their two children in Columbus, Ohio. He says they encounter no hostility eating out as a gay couple or picking up the children from their private school. He has to rack his memory for the last time anyone called him anything nasty for being gay. “That would have been in the late 1980s, I think,” he says. His employer, a private university, offers the same health insurance to employees' gay partners as to spouses (as did most Fortune 500 companies, for the first time, last year).

Mr Strasser has worries, of course. Ohio is one of 26 states with a recent constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. Mr Strasser wonders whether a public school would recognise that his children have two fathers, or if a hospital would allow both of them to visit if one of their children fell ill. This is a serious matter. Only Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage, although six other states have allowed civil unions that are marriages in all but name, and a law allowing full marriage rights passed through the lower house of New York's state legislature on June 19th. Most Americans are still uncomfortable about letting gays tie the knot, but support for the idea has risen from 27% in 1996 to 46% this year.

Read it all here.

Attitudes are clearly changing and there may well be a "virtuous cycle"--as attitudes change, more GLBT people come out and there is a resulting improvement in the attitudes of friends and relatives. The Pew Research Center issued a study that found that 4 our of 10 Americans say they have a friend or relative who is gay or lesbian, and not surprisingly, this group has very different attitudes about issues such as gay marriage than those who claim to have no such friend or relative:

Overall, those who say they have a family member or close friend who is gay are more than twice as likely to support gay marriage as those who don't -- 55% to 25%. A similar relationship between knowing gays and favoring gay rights is evident when people are asked whether school boards should have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals. That idea gains support from only 15% of those who have a close friend or family member who is gay. Almost four-in-ten (38%) of those who don't have close friends or family members who are gay support the idea. In other words, those without close friends or family members who are gay are more than twice as likely to say schools should be able to fire gay teachers as are people who are close to gays. Overall, 28% of the public thinks school boards should be able to fire gay teachers.

Read the study here.

Lutheran Synod removes gay pastor

Lutheran Pastor Brad Schmeling has lost his appeal to remain a pastor in a Lutheran Church in the Atlanta area. He was removed because he is a gay man in a relationship, which is contradictory to Lutheran canons.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an article detailing the most recent developments and which includes background links plus the news that this particular case is expected to be appealed.

"The Rev. Bradley Schmeling lost another skirmish with the nation's largest Lutheran denomination over the fact that he is in a gay relationship.

But he and his flock at Atlanta's St. John's Lutheran Church intend to take the battle national.

Schmeling and members of St. John's in Druid Hills say they will travel to a national church conference in August to try to change the minds of delegates on gay issues.

They will host a forum, hoping that hearing Schmeling share his story will convince delegates to change ELCA policies.

Schmeling said he will remain St. John's minister."

Read the rest here: Gay pastor's bid for inclusion denied.

More Conservative rabbis blessing same-sex unions

Last December, the leading authority on Jewish law for Conservative Jews, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, changed a previous ruling from 1992, and rules that it is consistent with Jewish law for Conservative Jews to bless same sex unions, The Jewish weekly, The Forward reports that there has been a growing acceptance of same sex blessings by Conservative Rabbis as a result:


Six months after the movement’s law committee approved same-sex unions, Conservative congregants and clergy are testing the waters of change. While some of the movement’s clergy members performed same-sex unions before the December 2006 ruling and others remain staunchly opposed to officiating, a growing number of rabbis, like Roston, have been spurred to perform their first rites for gay and lesbian partners.

“I rely on the law committee when I make my halachic decisions for my community,” said Roston, 39, in an interview with the Forward. “The decision strongly influenced the ability I had to create a Jewish ceremony for these couples.”

Roston said she had long supported the allowance of same-sex commitment ceremonies, but was uncomfortable officiating without explicit approval from the movement. Although Conservative rabbis are deemed the ultimate authorities on Jewish law within their own congregations, many rabbis defer to the movement’s top legal panel, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.

The law committee’s ruling last December capped 15 years of wrangling, which followed in the wake of an earlier decision, issued in 1992, that maintained the movement’s historical ban on homosexuality. In recent months, Conservative institutions and organizations have embraced a somewhat quicker pace of change: Both the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism) in Los Angeles are admitting their first openly gay and lesbian rabbinical students this fall, while the movement’s congregational arm, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, recently announced a policy of nondiscrimination in hiring. Meanwhile, the Rabbinical Assembly has established a special committee, led by Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., to establish guidelines for the rituals and liturgy used at commitment ceremonies.

The movement’s longtime gay activists say the changes could not come soon enough. “I look forward to the day when we’re just any other synagogue,” Rabbi Carie Carter said. Carter, 38, leads Park Slope Jewish Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., which has long been known as a spiritual home for gay and lesbian Jews. It was Carter who performed the original commitment ceremony in 2003 for the lesbian couple who recently renewed their religious vows with Roston at Congregation Beth El — and filed for a civil union recognized by the state of New Jersey.

. . .

Some rabbis are embracing change haltingly. One New York-area rabbi recently honored a soon-to-be-wed lesbian couple with a Saturday morning aliyah and blessing — his first same-sex aufruf.

“The couple was calling what they were doing a ‘wedding,’ and I told them in advance that I would not refer to it as a ‘wedding,’” said the rabbi, who did not want to be named. He demurred when asked if he would be willing to perform a commitment ceremony.

“I would really have to struggle with that,” he said.

Rabbi Dan Schweber, of Congregation Beth Israel in Andover, Mass. — the only state to allow same-sex marriage — also admitted to struggling with his decision: “My heart says one thing — I want to do one thing — but my allegiance to Jewish law makes me at least hesitate.” A 2004 graduate of JTS, Schweber said that his hesitancy is somewhat unusual among his younger rabbinical colleagues.

Faced with a difficult decision, some rabbis are opting to bring their congregations along for the decision-making ride. Kelman, who is stepping down from his pulpit this summer, involved his congregation before deciding to perform same-sex ceremonies in 1995, and others are now following his example.

Last month, members of Chicago’s Congregation B’nai Amoona voted in favor of same-sex ceremonies within their synagogue. The proposal, approved June 4, was passed by 90% of 300 ballots cast by 800 member-households, according to Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose. The vote was the culmination of a year of study that began prior to the committee’s December meeting.

Read the article here.

Why do we not see an Anglican-style soap opera in Conservative Judiasm as a result of this change in the view of same sex blessings?

Brad Pitt and Desmond Tutu talk

The July issue of Vanity Fair includes this conversation between Brad Pitt and former Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu:

Brad Pitt: "So certainly discrimination has no place in Christianity. There's a big argument going on in America right now, on gay rights and equality."

Desmond Tutu: "For me, I couldn't ever keep quiet. I came from a situation where for a very long time people were discriminated against, made to suffer for something about which they could do nothing--their ethnicity. We were made to suffer because we were not white. Then, for a very long time in our church, we didn't ordain women, and we were penalizing a huge section of humanity for something about which they could do nothing--their gender. And I'm glad that now the church has changed all that. I'm glad that apartheid has ended. I could not for any part of me be able to keep quiet, because people were being penalized, ostracized, treated as if they were less than human, because of something they could do nothing to change--their sexual orientation. For me, I can't imagine the Lord that I worship, this Jesus Christ, actually concurring with the persecution of a minority that is already being persecuted. The Jesus who I worship is a Jesus who was forever on the side of those who were being clobbered, and he got into trouble precisely because of that. Our church, the Anglican Church, is experiencing a very, very serious crisis. It is all to do with human sexuality. I think God is weeping. He is weeping that we should be spending so much energy, time, resources on this subject at a time when the world is aching."

Brad Pitt: "I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for saying that."
July 2007 p. 96ff

More from Vanity Fair and Photo by Annie Leibovitz here

H/T to John Clinton Bradley

More good sex-related news

Today is shaping up as chastity on the march day. First the news on a drop in the number of teens having sex (one item below) and now news that a change in sexual practices in Zimbabwe is curtailing the spread of AIDS.

Craig Timber of The Washington Post writes:

Alone among southern African countries, Zimbabwe has shown a significant drop in its HIV rate in recent years. A major reason, researchers say, is the changing sexual habits of men forced to abandon costly multiple relationships.

The story also advances the controversial thesis that grinding poverty helps slow the spread of AIDS:

Many researchers now suspect that economic vitality -- expressed in rising truck traffic, burgeoning bar scenes and widening income disparity -- encourage the behaviors that fuel a sexually transmitted epidemic. But as men get poorer, they pare back their relationships, making them less likely to contract or spread HIV.

Psychologists review stance on gays

The American Psychological Association is doing a review of its policy on counseling GLBT persons, and the result may be to stop counseling that aims to "convert" sexuality to heterosexuality. Several conservative groups are not happy:

The American Psychological Association is embarking on the first review of its 10-year-old policy on counseling gays and lesbians, a step that gay-rights activists hope will end with a denunciation of any attempt by therapists to change sexual orientation.

Such efforts _ often called reparative therapy or conversion therapy _ are considered futile and harmful by many gay-rights activists. Conservative groups defend the right to offer such treatment, and say people with their viewpoint have been excluded from the review panel.

six-member task force set up by the APA has its first meeting beginning next Tuesday.

Already, scores of conservative religious leaders and counselors, representing such groups as the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family, have written a joint letter to the APA, expressing concern that the task force's proposals would not properly accommodate gays and lesbians whose religious beliefs condemn gay sex.

"We believe that psychologists should assist clients to develop lives that they value, even if that means they decline to identify as homosexual," said the letter, which requested a meeting between APA leaders and some of the signatories.

APA spokeswoman Rhea Farberman said a decision on when and how to reply to the letter had not yet been made.

The current APA policy, adopted in 1997, opposes any counseling that treats homosexuality as a mental illness, but does not explicitly denounce reparative therapy. The APA has decided to review the policy at a time when gay-rights groups are increasingly critical of such treatment and groups that support it.

Read it all here.

Read the Christian Right letter here.

The obvious question,of course, is whether it would be appropriate for the APA to consider religious arguments on what is essentially a medical science decision.

Davis Mac-Iyalla's American tour

St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Washington, D. C. has made available a podcast of the presentation that Nigerian gay rights activist Davis Mac-Iyalla made at the church on July 3. He speaks about his efforts on behalf of gay Christians in Nigeria, and the smear campaign launched against him by Archbishop Peter Akinola.

Girls gone mild?

Wendy Shalit has made a career as the sort of journalist whose trend stories fall apart on closer examination. But no matter, because by the time closer examination occurs, the stories have frequently started quite useful conversations. Her latest book, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good, is a case in point. Unless one believes that the plural of anecdote is data, there is simply no evidence for a resurgence in modesty. But by the time a reader figures that out, he or she has skipped past the need for data, and leapt to the discussion of whether such a resurgence would be desireable. It is possible to regard Ms. Shalit simultaneously as a mediocre journalist and a useful contributor to contemporary conversation about morals.

The Washington Post's review of her book, and, to a lesser extent, her career, is here.

82 Lutheran gay and lesbian clergy come out

Dozens of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered Lutheran clergy and seminarians on Tuesday openly proclaimed their sexuality to church members meeting at Navy Pier for a national assembly according to Chicago Sun Times reporter Susan Hogan/Albach.

A devotional booklet titled, “A Place Within My Walls, is being handed out to the more than 1,000 voting members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a 4.8 million-member denomination headquartered in Chicago.

Presently, the ELCA requires that gay clergy be celibate. But nearly one-third of the ELCA’s 65 synods – regional districts – have requested that the celibacy requirement be dropped, a measure that will be debated this week.

Goodsoil, a coalition of groups hoping to lift the celibacy rule, is distributing the booklets. The booklet includes devotional stories from the Acts of the Apostles that “speak to the experiences and decisions of the early church when confronted by diversity and conflict.”

It also features stories and photos of 11 gay and lesbian clergy and two-would-be pastors. And a list of pastors, seminarians and others serving in ministry, awaiting call or removed from the clergy roster for their sexual orientation over the past two years who were willing to go public.


Read it all here

UPDATE: According to a press release by Good Soil: a coalition of Lutheran groups working for full inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Lutherans in the life of the church, eighty-two lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Lutheran ministers have chosen to introduce themselves to their denomination and speak out against the policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that prohibits them from entering into lifelong, loving family relationships.

Read about Good Soil here

Another Gay bishop

The Anglican Journal (published in Canada) is re-running an article from 2003 this month. It's written by Terry Brown, the bishop of Malaita in the Church of the Anglican Province of Melanesia. Bishop Brown attended the Lambeth Conference of 1998 as an "out" gay man serving as a bishop. This article is his reflections and objections to the resolutions passed at that Conference.

"What do I do (what do you do?) when I realize (when you realize) that a relationship, a touching, an intimacy - which is experienced by me (or you) as grace-giving and filled with love - is for another Christian, equally devout, an act of great sin and offence? Such is the experience of many gay and lesbian Christians. Even if the friendship is rooted and grounded in mutual respect, in faithfulness, in prayer, in worship, in trust, indeed, experienced as 'in Christ,' still the judgment of the other Christian is the same: it is sin.

But then there are other Christians who, though they have not experienced the grace of my exact experience, can place themselves enough in it from their own experience, say, of Christian marriage, to offer support and encouragement. But they too are condemned for such a leap of empathy and charity. The Christian who condemns me (and them), I finally decide, is not working under Christian grace, charity and freedom but rather under some sort of 'Christian law.' Or they have totally universalized their personal experience and are now prepared to impose it on all humanity. It feels like there is a great gap between us. Indeed, there is.

I am not prepared to renounce a friendship that is experienced as fundamentally grace-filled and loving. But I do not want to offend the conscience of another. And so I stay silent. But that is not so satisfactory. The other still tries to make me feel guilty and my freedom is assaulted. Yet if I respond with truth, the other is not interested in listening but only in condemning."

Read the rest here.

Dallas paper profiles Robinson

The Dallas Morning News offers a profile of Bishop Gene Robinson and a sidebar on his parents. The bishop says: I take the long view of history. The debate will end with the full inclusion of GLBT people. We're really only arguing about timing."

Susan Russell has the cover photograph here. The bishop was in Washington, D. C. last night to speak at a screening of For the Bible Tells Me So in northern Virginia.

Ottawa synod recommends same-sex blessings

The synod of the diocese of Ottawa, by an overwhelming vote of 177 to 97, today approved a motion requesting its bishop to allow clergy “whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized” and to authorize rites for such blessings.

But despite what he called a “strong majority” (65 per cent in favor) and “a clear directive,” the diocesan bishop, John Chapman, cautioned that the approved motion was only “a recommendation and is not binding on the diocese or bishop.”

It's all here in the Anglican Journal, although the coding is a little strange.

For the Bible Tells Me So

For the Bible Tells Me So, a documentary by Daniel Karlsake about conservative Christian families coming to terms with their children's homosexuality, had its Washington premier last night. The movie features interviews with Bishop Gene Robinson and his parents.

Have a look at the film's Web site, read a review, find out more about the director, and find a screening near you.

While you are at it, have a look at this item from Common Sense, which suggests that th "professional intolerance movement" is on the wane.

Australia: Women bishops OK; gay acceptance still a battle

Australia has cleared the way for women to become bishops (story here), but even as some still cite that as a divisive decision, they now must press on to handle questions about sexuality, according to an article last week in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Justice Peter Young, deputy chairman of the Australian church's General Synod, believes homosexuality will be the next controversy to confront the Australian church now that the debate over women bishops has been all but thrashed out.

"We can see from England and New Zealand what the problems are. We can see that the next problem is between the hierarchy and gay and lesbian Christians," he says.

The spectrum of stories was presented at a compulsory "listening process" meeting, as set out by Lambeth, between the church and GLBT Christians.

The article covers several stories of gay people in the church, all of whom spoke anonymously, an indication of how difficult it is to be openly gay (or to have been gay) for Australian Anglicans:

As Australia's Anglican leader, the Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Phillip Aspinall, lamented this week it has been hard to get cool, rational debate on the vexed issue of homosexuality.

"David," for instance, is a clergyman who came out to his archbishop shortly after his ordination:

The archbishop's initial reaction was to "gently ease" him out of the ministry but following the intervention of an assistant bishop, David was sent for psychiatric counselling.

The psychiatrist concluded David was well and simply needed patience to wait until social community mores caught up with his sexual orientation. David went on with his parish work, took on a tough inner-city parish, and remains an ordained member of the clergy in a rural parish. He is honest about who he is, but subtle as well.

But his patience has been rewarded with more derision and a global church hastily trying to paper over fissures over faith and sexuality. If anything, the church has become more fearful and very often mean-spirited against gays, he says.

Other stories shared included one of a person who had left the church because he felt like he was not being treated like a whole person, one of a gay man who had chosen celibacy, and one of a woman who had been a lesbian and even identified as transgendered before renouncing homosexuality and marrying at age 29. She is now the proud mother of three children.

You can read their stories here.

English bishops urged to model acceptance of gays

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Britain has released a statement calling on the leadership of the Anglican Church in that country to model supportive actions toward its gay and lesbian members and clergy as a way of helping British parents build healthy relationship with their gay and lesbian children. The statement was released as part of the Church of England's participation in the Listening Process begun as a result of the 1998 Lambeth conference.

“The Church has a wonderful opportunity to lead rather than to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Christianity is such an inclusive religion,” said Professor Michael King, an executive committee member of the College’s special-interest group of 200 to 300 psychiatrists who work with lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transsexual people.

His committee has submitted a report to the Church’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality, to inform a study guide for next year’s Lambeth Conference. The report, endorsed by the full College “from the President down”, said that there were no scientific or rational grounds for treating lesbian, gay, and bisexual people differently, Professor King said on Monday.


Read the full article here.

Entire text of the RCP statement is here (pdf), or - via Thinking Anglicans - here (html).

Science and religion

Ekklesia publishes an essay by Savitri Hensman on the history of the use of scientific evidence within Anglicanism and the way the current issues are pulling the church away from the traditional Anglican understanding.

In 1958, the Lambeth Conference gratefully acknowledged ‘our debt to the host of devoted scholars who, worshipping the God of Truth, have enriched and deepened our understanding of the Bible, not least by facing with intellectual integrity the questions raised by modern knowledge and modern criticism’, and ‘the work of scientists in increasing man's knowledge of the universe, wherein is seen the majesty of God in his creative activity. It therefore calls upon Christian people both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used.’

At that time, scientific knowledge and theological reflection on human sexuality, including close reading of the Old and New Testament, were developing rapidly. Attitudes among Anglicans to contraception had changed radically, and theologians were beginning to question whether the Bible had been correctly interpreted and whether same-sex partnerships were always wrong. The growing visibility of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in many urban centres throughout the world made it harder to ignore their concerns and the issues for faith communities as they prayed, worshipped, cared for those in need and sought to discern God’s will

.
Read it all here.

Juno, Jamie Lynn and the rules of engagement

This item was prompted primarily by a desire to tell as many people as possible what a wonderful movie Juno is, but to give it a little more intellectual respectability, we included a link to Ruth Marcus' recent column on talking to her daughters about sex. And that's when things got complicated.

She writes:

This is the conundrum that modern parents, boomers and beyond, confront when matters of sex arise. The bright-line rules that our parents laid down, with varying degrees of conviction and rather low rates of success, aren't -- for most of us, anyway -- either relevant or plausible. When mommy and daddy didn't get married until they were 35, abstinence until marriage isn't an especially tenable claim.

Nor is it one I'd care to make. Would I prefer -- as if my preference much matters -- that my daughters abstain until marriage? No; in fact, I think that would be a mistake. But I'm not especially comfortable saying that, quite so directly, to my children, partly because that conversation gets so complicated, so quickly.

She moves on to the pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spears, and then concludes:

And so the message I choose from Spears's pregnancy--and the one, once I recovered my composure, I ultimately delivered, is this: It could happen to you--even if you're the kind of "conscientious" girl who, as Jamie Lynn's mother described her, is never late for curfew. And so, whenever you choose to have sex, unless you are ready to have a baby, don't do it without contraception.

This is not only good advice, but probably all of the good advice one can manage in a 700 word op-ed piece. Still, there is protection and there is protection. Sexual relationship go awry in any number of ways less dire than an unwanted pregnancy, and young people need to be prepared for potential emotional as well as physical reprecussions. Such conversations are even more difficult to conduct with the necessary honesty and delicacy than The Talk. Yet they are so important, so worth having, that parents must be willing to have them badly.

Scaife family values

Richard Mellon Scaife, who has helped finance the campaign against the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church through his contributions to the Institute on Religion and Democracy, is the subject of an intriguing profile in Vanity Fair magazine. It turns out that Scaife favors open marriage.

Michael Joseph Gross writes:

Asked whether his infidelity is hypocritical, in light of his political commitments, he refers not to a moral principle but to his own personal history. “My first marriage ended with an affair,” he says, amused. And monogamy is not, he continues, an essential part of a good marriage. “I don’t want people throwing rocks at me in the street. But I believe in open marriage.” Philandering, Scaife says with a laugh, “is something that Bill Clinton and I have in common.”

Those are surprising words indeed to hear from a man who spent so lavishly to uncover Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes and to advance the movement fueled by family values. But it would be a mistake to read the saga of Richard Mellon Scaife’s divorce as simply a story of moral hypocrisy. His treatment of women, especially his first wife, suggests a high regard for his own gratification. His commitment to conservative politics has never been primarily about upholding traditional morality; it has been about promoting policies that help to preserve his own wealth and that of people like himself.

Lesbian and gay relationships are psychologically healthy

The Dallas Morning News reports on a new study in the journal Developmental Psychology of a study of committed gay, lesbian and heterosexual relationships. A key paragraph from the conclusions:

The current study adds to this literature by demonstrating that, controlling for demographic differences, gay males and lesbians in our studies were generally not distinguishable from their committed heterosexual counterparts on measures of self- and partner reported relationship quality, as well as in how they interacted with one another—and responded physiologically—while attempting to resolve conflict in their relationships.

Translation: Far as these researchers can tell, gay and lesbian committed relationships look to be as psychologically healthy as committed heterosexual relationships.

A link to the pdf of the paper is here

How about extending don't ask don't tell to heterosexuals?

Ian Ayres guest blogging at Freakonomics:

There are also two ways to end the military’s de jure discrimination based on sexual orientation. We can either repeal DADT, or we could extend its application to heterosexuals as well. If extended, no soldier could talk about his or her orientation without risk of exclusion.

My own church, St. Thomas Episcopal in New Haven, tried a version of this strategy. In 2004, the church vestry adopted a resolution “calling for St. Thomas’s clergy to treat same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples equally in administering the sacrament of marriage,” as the church Web site describes it. The Bishop was not amused, and within 3 days he called an emergency meeting warning our rector, Father Michael Ray, that he risked being defrocked if he performed marriage ceremonies for any same-sex couples inside the church. Ray responded by honoring both the request of the vestry and the demands of the Bishop by announcing a moratorium on the celebration of all marriages. The Times ran a great piece describing the event.


Read the whole thing at Freakonomics.

Presbyterians restore gay man to ordained status

In the news this morning is an article reporting on actions of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities:

"Minnesota Presbyterians have voted to restore the ordination of an openly gay man who has refused to pledge celibacy, the latest test of revamped pastoral guidelines in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Paul Capetz, a seminary professor, asked to be removed from ministry in 2000 after the PCUSA voted to require that ministers be married to a member of the opposite sex or remain celibate.

But changes made in 2006 to the Presbyterians' Book of Order allow candidates for ordination to declare a conscientious objection to church rules. Local presbyteries, or governing bodies, then must decide whether the objection 'constitutes a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity.'

On Saturday (Jan. 26), the Presbytery of the Twin Cities voted that Capetz' objection, or 'scruple,' did not violate the 'essentials' and restored his ordination as a minister of word and sacrament.

...Capetz told the Minnesota presbytery that he would follow the pastoral guidelines on sex if the church allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry, saying 'if that were the case, I would have no difficulty abiding by the standard of chastity in singles and fidelity and marriage.'"

Read the rest here.

Making the case

Tobias Haller continues to do heavy lifting in graceful prose. His case for a positive view of same-sex relationships, informed by Scripture, tradition and reason, has now grown to nine parts, the most recent of which are here, and here.

The ninth part concludes:

The legal code of Deuteronomy is book-ended with citations that indicate its contents derive from God: These are the statutes and ordinances that you must diligently observe in the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you to occupy all the days that you live on the earth... Moses and the elders of Israel charged all the people as follows: Keep the entire commandment that I am commanding you today. (Deuteronomy 12:1; 27:1) The same sort of general description applies in Leviticus, which often takes of the refrain of the need to keep all of the statutes and ordinances delivered by Moses. (Lev 20:22, 25:18)

Yet Jesus clearly distinguished between these collections of Law and the commandments of the Decalogue: when the young man asked him how he might inherit eternal life, Jesus cited only Decalogue commandments. (Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20 — though in Matthew’s version at 19:19 he added the Law on love of neighbor from Leviticus 19:18).

I by no means wish to suggest that because Jesus emphasized the Decalogue over the other laws, and set aside a number of the latter laws explicitly (more on this below) that all of these laws are no longer to be observed. I am merely observing here that this places these laws in a category in which we are able to review them for their applicability, in keeping with the general principle which Jesus affirmed as his own touchstone for moral action: loving one’s neighbor as oneself. This is the explicit conclusion reached in Jesus’ discussion with the lawyers concerning what is most important in the Law. (Luke 10:27-28; Mark 12:33-34)

As a bonus, have a look at Tobias' take on recent developments regarding the proposed Anglican covenant, which may see the light of day on Ash Wednesday.

Davis Mac-Iyalla visits US, plans for Lambeth Conference

Davis Mac-Iyalla, a prominent critic of Nigeria’s Archbishop Peter Akinola, is returning to the United States this month to raise awareness about the lives of gay Africans and to raise money in support of a gay African presence at this summer’s Lambeth Conference. Learn how you can support his efforts. His schedule to date:

February 17th, 10:15 a. m., St. Luke in the Fields, New York City

February 17, 1 p. m., The Riverside Church, New York City, Maranatha LGBT Monthly Forum.

February 21-24, World Pride Power Conference, Los Angeles. Davis describes the conference as “an international gathering for GLBT people of African Descent and their allies.”

He will also be speaking at the rector’s forum at All Saints Church, Pasadena on February 24.

Davis, director of Changing Attitude, Nigeria, has developed a funding proposal for the Lambeth Conference in cooperation with the Rev. Colin Coward of Changing Attitude England. To read the proposal click on read more.

To make a donation visit the Changing Attitude Web site.

Find our previous coverage of Davis' activites here, here, here, here, here and here.

Read more »

God, gays, and eschatology

The Right Rev. Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, addressing what Ruth Gledhill calls "a fringe meeting of the General Synod" that marked the release of God, Gays and the Church, tossed off a remark that was probably meant to be witty and seems to be coming round as something else. At the very least, it seems that Bishop Dow did not intend for his remarks to go outside of the audience:

... Dow told a fringe meeting of the General Synod that the Government was like a demonic beast imposing its morality on the nation.

“It has become a Revelation 13 Government rather than a Romans 13 Government,” he said.

Revelation 13 is one of the most quoted chapters of the Bible by those prophesying apocalypse. By contrast, Romans 13 advocates respect for the law, God and authority.

Bishop Dow was speaking at the release of God, Gays and the Church, a book intended to put the conservative evangelical side in the debate on gay rights.

In her blog, Gledhill adds:

Not many bishops have yet met Riazat Butt, the Guardian's new religious affairs correspondent, so the Bishop can perhaps be forgiven, when she went up to him afterwards to find out if he really meant that Gordon Brown's Government was demonic, for asking 'Are the press here?'

Martha Linden of the Press Association, who was with Riazat, asked him if he really meant what he had just said. He asked her not to report his quotes, although it was a public meeting to which the press were invited. But he told Martha: 'I didn't mean to say the Government was demonic. The point I want to make is the change from a positive evaluation in Romans 13 to a negative one in Revelation.'

Gledhill also reports that:


Bishop Dow, a devout evangelical and one of the Church's authorised specialists in "deliverance" ministry, was told that many church members feel helpless in the face of the gay rights agenda and was asked what they could do to counter the trend. He responded: "The challenge is to be brave and bolder than we have been, keeping the issue in the public domain, not falling into the trap of being aggressive. We will be called homophobic consantly."
[sic].


The BBC notes that this isn't the first time that Bishop Dow has apparently sounded curiously like certain famous American personalities who link everything from the AIDS epidemic to various natural disasters to God's wrath and End Times.

Last year, he reportedly said the flooding in the UK was partly God's judgment on society's moral decadence.

Ruth Gledhill's news story is here, and her blog post is here.

HT to Thinking Anglicans, which has the BBC link and others.

Long-term Church growth strategy

From The St. Petersburg Times:

This latest challenge is not about losing weight, saving money or eating more vegetables.

It's about having sex. Lots of it. Every day, if you're married. Or not at all, if you're single.

An openly edgy Christian church in Tampa has launched a 30-Day Sex Challenge to help members improve their relationships and rediscover themselves. Single folks are to abstain from sex for 30 days, even if they are in a committed relationship. Married folks, on the other hand, are supposed to have sex every day for 30 days.

Leaders at Relevant Church launched the campaign the Sunday after Valentine's Day.

''Of course, all the guys say it's genius,'' said Pastor Paul Wirth. ``The married women think we're out of our minds.''

Read it all. Then visit the Relevant Church Web site.

Lutherans to confront sexuality issues

Two big stories from the Lutheran Church:

A task force drafting a statement on sexuality for the nation's largest Lutheran group said Thursday that the church should continue defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

However, the panel did not condemn same-gender relationships. The committee expressed regret that historic Lutheran teachings have been used to hurt gays and lesbians, and acknowledged that some congregations already accept same-sex couples.

Rachel Zoll of AP has it here.

The Draft Statement is here in pdf.

For background on the statement from ELCA click here.

Meanwhile:

Facing a likely vote on the ordination of gays at the 2009 national convention, which will be held in Minneapolis, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) issued a draft Thursday of its Statement on Human Sexuality. Seven years in the making, the report does not take a specific stand on gay ordination -- that will come in a position paper expected to be released about a year from now -- but it does lay the groundwork for the impending debate.

Jeff Strickler of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has the story.

Bishop Robinson's book launch

The Mad Priest presents a report from the UK launch party of Bishop Gene Robinson's new book, In the Eye of the Storm.

Correspondent Mary Clara writes of Robinson:

Looking ahead to the Conference itself, he does plan to be there in the public areas surrounding the meetings and available for conversation. He reported that bishops of The Episcopal Church plan to host two evening events at which other bishops and their spouses will be invited to come and meet him. He emphasized the importance of opportunities of this kind to reach out to the great numbers of people in the broad middle, who do not want to exclude, judge or harm those who are different, but who, perhaps because they haven’t had direct experience of LGBT people living normal lives, are “not yet ready to celebrate us”.

Bishop Robinson on Today


NBC's summary of the interview is here.

Robinson, McKellen to speak at UK premier of For the Bible Tells Me So

There will be a British premiere of the documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, on Monday evening, July 14, at Queen Elizabeth Hall, at the SouthBank Centre for the Arts, in Central London, on the Thames. In addition to the filmmaker, Daniel Karslake, speakers will include Sir Ian McKellen and Bishop Gene Robinson. The evening will be a celebration of the lives and ministries of gay and lesbian people, on the eve of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in Canterbury. Some of the proceeds will go toward AIDS work in Africa.

Robinson's story is one of several told in the film, which chronicles the lives of Christian parents coming to terms with the realization that one of their children is gay.

Ruth Gledhill is on the story as well.

Marriage for all

All Saint's Church in Pasadena, one of the largest congregations in the Episcopal Church has announced that, in response to the recent California Supreme Court ruling, they have decided to "treat equally all couple presenting themselves" to be married at the church.

From the press release received from the congregation quotes the Rev. Edwin J. Bacon Jr., rector of All Saints:

“Today’s decision is consistent with All Saints Church, Pasadena’s identity as a peace and justice church,” said Bacon, following the historic vote. “It also aligns us with the Scriptures’ mandate to make God’s love tangible by ‘doing justice and loving mercy’ (Micah 6:8) and with the canons of our Episcopal Church that forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

[...]“As a priest and pastor, I anticipate with great joy strengthening our support of the sanctity of marriage as I marry both gay and straight members and thus more fully live out my ordination vow to nourish all people from the goodness of God’s grace.”

The full press release follows below

Read more »

Father Thomas Reese on same sex marriage

Jesuit priest Thomas J. Reese, Senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center and former editor of the Catholic weekly magazine America, has thoughts on the California Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage and the efforts to put the issue on the ballot:

The California Supreme Court, like the Massachusetts Supreme Court, has ruled that the state constitution requires that the state recognize same-sex marriages. The court specifically said that churches would not be required to perform such weddings.

Many, even some who support gay marriage, believe that this was an unwise decision on the part of the court. California already allowed domestic partnerships with most of the rights of married couples. By rejecting what had been a political compromise, the court has made it inevitable that a state constitutional amendment will be put on the ballot in California. The amendment will not only overturn the decision but may also eliminate domestic partnerships.

I agree with those who believe that the California Supreme Court’s decision was unwise, but I would oppose a constitutional amendment that would forbid gay marriages. I believe that this issue should be dealt with by state legislatures, not by the courts or referendums.

Homosexual relationships exist in American society in not insignificant numbers. Even if you consider such relationships immoral, it can be argued that the state has an interest in encouraging these relationships to be stable and long term rather than multiple and short term. State legislatures are used to coming up with compromises that are acceptable to most of the people. They can also return to legislation to adjust it based on experience and future circumstances.

Some argue that gay marriage is a threat to marriage as a heterosexual institution. I have never understood this argument. In an apartment building filled with unmarried couples, both gay and hetero, if all the gay couples got married, it would seem to me that their example would inspire the heterosexuals to think about marriage. I would prefer to reserve the word “marriage” to heterosexuals, but I don’t think it is worth fighting over.

I think it is foolish for churches to expend their political capital opposing the legalization of gay marriage. There are many other issues of greater importance: abortion, hunger, global warming, peace, health care, etc. Pro-life churches and organizations should especially be suspicious when gay marriage is given more prominence as an issue than abortion. Money and resources that would have gone to pro-life work are being siphoned off to oppose gay marriage.

Read it all here. As you might expect, these comments have not been well received by more conservative Catholics such as Richard Neuhaus.

A majority of respondents at every level of education and income say same-sex marriage is "strictly private."

USA Today:

Six in 10 Americans say the government should not regulate whether gays and lesbians can marry the people they choose, a survey finds. As same-sex couples line up to get marriage licenses in California on June 17, the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found that 63% of adults say same-sex marriage is "strictly a private decision" between two people.
...
After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, 11 states voted on similar questions.

But these poll findings "suggest caution" to conservative activists who think this will mobilize voters, he says. "People were warned, with lots of overheated rhetoric, about the consequences of gay marriage in Massachusetts. They didn't see it affect their own lives. Now, most people have let loose a collective yawn about the issue."
...
A majority of respondents at every level of education and income say same-sex marriage is "strictly private." This was true:

• In every region: East (71%), West (64%), Midwest (63%) and South (56%).

• Among all ages except "65 and older": 18 to 29 (79%), 30 to 49 (65%), 50 to 64% (62%) and 65 and older (44%).

• Among people who also say they have a favorable view of any of the three leading presidential candidates. For those holding favorable views for John McCain, 55% say marriage is a private decision; for Barack Obama, 75% say so; and for Hillary Clinton, 69% do. All three oppose same-sex marriage. Both Democrats both favor civil unions.

It would appear that it is just a matter of time before no major candidate for president senses the need to take a position that is in all likelihood contrary to their personal views.

The Eldorado Hills Telegraph has a story on how the California ruling affects churches, or not:

Area churches are divided on whether they face an ethical issue around discrimination after a court decision struck down California’s anti-gay-marriage law.

Folsom residents interviewed tended to support churches’ legal exemption from the May 15 ruling, which is binding on civil marriage only. State Supreme Court justices ruled the California Constitution’s equal protection clause prohibits discrimination against same-gender couples.
...
Exemption for churches from the ruling May 15 ruling is based on the doctrine of separation of church and state, and a church's status as a non-public institution.

The doctrine of separation of church and state, and a church’s status as a non-public institution, combine to base an exemption for churches from the ruling.

Residents’ support of the exemption was guarded and in some cases tinged with irony.

“A church is the one place you can get by with discrimination,” said Rich VanDusen.

Rescue Baptist Church Pastor Gene Harmon said his church’s no-gay-marriage policy finds sufficient ethical grounding in Biblical scripture. He noted his church doors are open to all people for worship.

“I’d say it is moral not to allow same-sex marriage,” Harmon said. “The word of God has the final word.”
...
Brian Baker, dean of the cathedral at Trinity Episcopal Church in Sacramento, noted that no area Episcopal church can decide for itself on the marriage issue.

“We’re part of the Diocese of Northern California, and the bishop doesn’t allow same-sex marriage,” Baker said. “In Roman Catholic churches, the decision would come from a higher ministerial -- the pope.”

Baker said denominations vary in considering “paramount” either of two of Jesus Christ’s outstanding human or quasi-divine virtues -- purity and compassion.

“I disagree there’s no moral issue around discrimination,” Baker said.

Rescue Baptist Church’s Harmon said, “My calling from God says compassion cannot enter.”


Nicely done, Bishop Smith

The Anglican Communion has been keen to insure that conservative Episcopalians have "alternate" episcopal options that allow them to minimize contact with liberal bishops. But to date, Rowan Williams, Tom Wright and company have shown no such pastoral sensitivity to liberal church members in conservative dioceses--or, for that matter, to gay Christians in provinces that actively persecute them. Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota, however, understands that accommodation is a two way street. He writes to his diocese:

June 4, 2008

Dear Friends:

*I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace *(Ephesians 4:1-3).* *

I am pleased to announce that Bishop Carol Gallagher has accepted my invitation to assist in providing episcopal pastoral care in the Diocese of North Dakota. She has agreed to reach out especially to congregations and clergy who feel alienated and hurt by me due to different understandings of human sexuality. I am most grateful for Bishop Gallagher's assistance. .... View her blog at mamabishop.blogspot.com.

We find ourselves in the midst of a discernment process, seeking the mind of Christ, about whether the Holy Spirit is leading us to new understandings of human sexuality or not. As this discernment continues through the canonical processes of The Episcopal Church and the conciliar processes of the Anglican Communion, I urge patience, kindness and respect in our dealings with one another. I also pray our energies will be focused on
engaging the mission of the church as we are sent into the world to serve the poor and to share our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am,

Yours in Christ,

+Michael Smith


Update, Thursday afternoon: The ELO reports.

Decline in teen sex levels off

From The Washington Post

The nation's campaign to get more teenagers to delay sex and to use condoms is faltering, threatening to undermine the highly successful effort to reduce teen pregnancy and protect young people from sexually transmitted diseases, federal officials reported yesterday.
And:
The new figures renewed the heated debate about sex-education classes that focus on abstinence until marriage, which began receiving federal funding during the period covered by the latest survey and have come under increasing criticism that they are ineffective.

"Since we've started pushing abstinence, we have seen no change in the numbers on sexual activity," said John Santelli, chairman of the department of population and family health at Columbia University. "The other piece of it is: Abstinence education spends a good amount of time bashing condoms. So it's not surprising, if that's the message young people are getting, that we're seeing condom use start to decrease."

Proponents of abstinence programs dismissed the criticism, blaming "comprehensive" sex education that emphasizes contraceptive use.

"Contraceptive sex education does not provide practical skills for maintaining or regaining abstinence but typically gives teens a green light to activity that puts them at great risk for acquiring STDs or which serve as gateway-to-intercourse activities," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association.

Others blamed the onslaught of movies, books, advertising and cultural messages that they say glamorize sex.

"The No. 1 movie that all teenage girls want to see right now is 'Sex and the City,' " said Charmaine Yoest, a spokesman for the Family Research Council. "Our culture continues to tell them the way to be cool is to dress provocatively and to consider nonmarital sexual activity to be normative."


This would seem to be an issue where a position on one issue, say the efficacy of abstinence education, would not determine, or even influence one's position on another issue: whether out cultural gatekeepers should use greater restraint in depictions of sexual behavior. No?

Gay unions give insight into healthy marrriage

NYT: Gay Unions Shed Light on Gender in Marriage

A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships. Most studies show surprisingly few differences between committed gay couples and committed straight couples, but the differences that do emerge have shed light on the kinds of conflicts that can endanger heterosexual relationships. After Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions in 2000, researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 couples, including same-sex couples and their heterosexual married siblings. The focus was on how the relationships were affected by common causes of marital strife like housework, sex and money.

Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility; and men were more likely to initiate sex, while women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship. With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

While the gay and lesbian couples had about the same rate of conflict as the heterosexual ones, they appeared to have more relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the inequality of opposite-sex relationships can take a toll.

"Heterosexual married women live with a lot of anger about having to do the tasks not only in the house but in the relationship," said Esther D. Rothblum, a professor of women's studies at San Diego State University. "That's very different than what same-sex couples and heterosexual men live with."

Other studies show that what couples argue about is far less important than how they argue. The egalitarian nature of same-sex relationships appears to spill over into how those couples resolve conflict.

Read it here.

For the record, housework is usually defined to exclude tasks like " tasks like gardening, home repairs, or washing the car." See the double-entendre titled, Exactly how much housework does a husband create?

You were worse than we are

A young person defends the moral fitness of young people in an intriguing post that is more explict than our usual fare.

I am sick of hearing Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers complain about a perceived cultural decline among the younger generations. For a variety of measures, things started to go bad already by the 1950s, became obscene during the 1960s and '70s, and plateaued some time during the 1980s. Since roughly 1990, however, things have gotten steadily better. This series will catalog such a trend for measures typically given in support of the declinist hypothesis: we begin with sexual behavior, and will eventually cover violent crime, divorce, narcissism, the arts, and whatever other examples I come across or that readers suggest in the comments. The hope is that the series will prevent the real-world picture from disappearing down the Memory Hole, as every generation thinks that patterns among its usurpers spell doom, regardless of what the data show.

Read it all.

Bishop Shaw blesses Pride marchers

Ethan Jacobs of Bay Windows writes:

After the high-energy spectacle of the Pride parade about 30 revelers headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a more subdued but no less heartfelt celebration of Pride. Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw, fresh from marching in the parade, led worshippers in song and prayers. During the service worshippers lined up in the center aisle of the cathedral, coming up as individuals and as couples, and Shaw laid his hands on them and blessed them.

The Archbishops' "erroneous" letter

The Church Times says the Archbishop of Canterbury and York made a mess of their response to the gay wedding at a London church:

The House of Bishops’ 2005 guidelines on civil partnerships suggested that clergy had a certain amount of leeway: “Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.” It is unlikely that a service involving the scattering of rose petals ever crossed their minds. It is known that services of this sort are conducted from time to time, but they are, more often than not, discreet affairs, involving far fewer than the 300 guests who attended in Smithfield, and there are reports that similar liturgies have been used. But the Smithfield service was a public affair, and has been made much more so since it happened. It thus reinforces the message to the gay community that all is well as long as all is hidden. The Rt Revd Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, is fond of saying that he is not the only gay Anglican bishop, but he is the only honest one. Be that as it may, the present arrangement is pernicious when it encourages dishonesty.

More here.

Not of one mind

Jonathan Marlowe of Theolog writes:

The recently concluded United Methodist General Conference retained its claim that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The vote was relatively close, and of course there were faithful, intelligent people on both sides.

At one point, a legislative committee proposed replacing the “incompatibility clause” with nonjudgmental language declaring that the United Methodist Church (UMC) is not of one mind on this issue. Part of me agrees with the idea: I would like very much simply to acknowledge our “separate minds” and move on. But then I wonder . . .

How consistently would we apply this principle? For example, the UMC has a clear statement in our social principles opposing capital punishment. I am glad that we take this prophetic stand. Should we apply our principle of nonjudgmentalism to this area and say simply: “United Methodists are not of one mind with respect to capital punishment,” and leave it at that? I would be deeply disappointed.


Read it all.

Same sex marriage and Christian theology

From Bishop John Bryson Chane's op-ed column in today's issue of The Guardian:

Archbishop Rowan Williams has tried to take the issue of gay marriage off the table at the Lambeth Conference, which begins in three weeks. But the celebration of a gay relationship at one of London’s oldest churches last month, and the well-publicised gathering of anti-gay Anglicans in Jerusalem this week, suggest the controversy must eventually be faced squarely.

Conservative Christians say opening marriage to gay couples would undermine an immutable institution founded on divine revelation. Archbishop Henry Orombi, the excitable primate of the Church of Uganda, calls it blasphemy. But, theologically, support for same-sex marriage is not a dramatic break with tradition, but a recognition that the church’s understanding of marriage has changed dramatically over 2,000 years.

Read more »

A gay writer at GAFCON

Iain Baxter, who is writing about GAFCON for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, joined the gay pride parade today in Jerusalem. He writes:

We are the lucky ones, we are free to march and live our lives. In many, many, countries around the world, including many in which Anglican church leaders are powerful politically, as well as religious leaders, such as Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, people are still harassed, arrested, tortured and killed for their failure to love the right person; their failure to be a "real man" or "real woman". We are all real people, made in the image of God. That is why it is such a privilege for me to march in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Reuters has this succinct summary of the week's events:

Conservative Anglican leaders meeting at a rebel summit expressed frustration with the church's leadership on Thursday but indicated that an outright schism might be avoided.

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a week-long convention of hundreds of conservative bishops and clergy, opened on Sunday amid talk that it was a first step towards a split between conservative and liberal wings in the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion.

The Communion is divided over issues such as homosexuality and biblical authority.

But mid-way through the conference, conservative leaders spoke only of making GAFCON a "movement", without indicating how such a process would be handled and if there was enough support among the bishops to initiate a split.


UPDATE - BBC: Anglican rebels clash with gay march
to the evident consternation of the organisers of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) they had travelled all this way to the Christian Holy City only to find the streets taken over by Jerusalem Gay Pride.

It was a noisy - you might even say brazen - celebration of homosexuality by the descendants of the very people who gave Christianity the Old Testament of the Bible.

As 3,000 gay and lesbian marchers gathered in a park in the centre of Jerusalem, guarded against attack by 2,000 police, back at the conference hotel contingency plans were being laid to contend with any gay raiding party sent out to beard the traditionalists in their redoubt.

Genetics and homosexuality

Willaim Saleton has a fascinating discussion of a new theory about the possible genetic basis of male homosexuality:

Gay couples can't have biological kids together. So if homosexuality is genetic, why hasn't it died out?

A study published last week in PLoS One tackles the question. It starts with four curious patterns. First, male homosexuality occurs at a low but stable frequency in a wide range of societies. Second, the female relatives of gay men produce children at a higher rate than other women do. Third, among these female relatives, those related to the gay man's mother produce children at a higher rate than do those related to his father. Fourth, among the man's male relatives, homosexuality is more common in those related to his mother than in those related to his father.

Can genes account for these patterns? To find out, the authors posit several possible mechanisms and compute their effects over time. They conclude that only one theory fits the data. The theory is called "sexually antagonistic selection." It holds that a gene can be reproductively harmful to one sex as long as it's helpful to the other. The gene for male homosexuality persists because it promotes—and is passed down through—high rates of procreation among gay men's mothers, sisters, and aunts.

This theory doesn't account for female homosexuality, which another new study (reviewed in Human Nature last week) attributes to nongenetic factors. It also doesn't account for environmental or prenatal chemical factors in male homosexuality, such as the correlation between a man's probability of homosexuality and the number of boys previously gestated in his mother's womb. But it does explain the high similarity of sexual orientation between identical twins, as well as patterns of homosexuality in families. It's also plausible because sexually antagonistic selection has been found in other species. And many scientists who think environmental and prenatal factors influence homosexuality also believe that genes play a role.

The authors note that according to their computations, the theory implies some testable predictions. One such prediction can be checked against existing data. The prediction is that on average, if you're a straight man, the reproductive pattern among your aunts will reverse the pattern seen among aunts of gay men. That is, your paternal aunts will produce children at a higher rate than your maternal aunts will. The authors check this prediction against the available data. Sure enough, it holds up.

Saleton notes that this theory, if true, has implications for how society views homosexuality, including the following:

Third, if the authors are correct, we're not really talking about genes for homosexuality. We're talking about genes for "androphilia," i.e., attraction to men. The importance of the genes lies in what they do not to men but to women, by increasing reproductive output so powerfully that these women compensate for the reduced output among their male relatives. You can't isolate gay men as a puzzle or problem anymore. You have to see them as part of a bigger, stronger, enduring phenomenon.

Fourth, this larger phenomenon can't be dismissed as a disorder. The study's press release concludes that "homosexuality should not be viewed as a detrimental trait (due to the reduced male fecundity it entails), but, rather, should be considered within the wider evolutionary framework of a characteristic with gender-specific benefits."

Fifth, the benefits aren't really confined to women. They protect society as a whole. The authors' computations indicate that as a society's birthrate falls, female carriers of androphilic genes account for a larger share of the output. In short, the genes provide a "buffer effect" against extinction.

Read it all here.

Hooker on Romans 1

Most every Anglican knows that Richard Hooker was the founding theological visionary of Anglicanism. But many have not read his writings nor sought to apply his insights to the present controversies in the Communion. The Archbishop of Armagh luckily has risen to the task.

In an address to the USPG Conference in Swanick today, the Archbishop AET Harper OBE traces the primary lines of Hooker's thinking on the ways that scripture and reason can serve as theological norms. (Norms are the tools that we use to make decisions between two competing ideas or claims.)

You can read Ruth Gledhill's take on this paper here.

The full text is found here.

It's a very long and densely written lecture, but well worth the time to read.

Read more »

What good can come from homonegativity?

Dr. Bernard Ratigan, writing in Comment is Free over at the Guardian, is a member of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and observes that the "gay issue" is thorny for many reasons, not the least of which being a strong distaste for it coming up again and again to the detriment of, as some see it, more important work in the church. Dr. Ratigan comes at it from a more clinical point of view, noting that gays who remain in a church that is hostile toward their sexuality have a greater rate of mental illness:

Read more »

Availability changes behavior

Richard Whitmire writing in the The Chronicle of Higher Education

One key element to the pickup culture, however, remains unreported: American colleges are undergoing a striking gender shift. In 2015 the average college graduating class will be 60-percent female, according to the U.S. Education Department. Some colleges have already reached or passed that threshold, which allows anecdotal insights into how those imbalances affect the pickup culture. What can be seen so far is not encouraging: Stark gender imbalances appear to act as an accelerant on the hookup culture.

Go to Whitmire's blog on why boys lag in education, Why Boys Fail, for a link to the article.

NY Court backs governor regarding gay marriage

New York Times:

The decision, issued by Justice Lucy A. Billings of State Supreme Court in the Bronx, a trial-level court, is the latest in a string of rulings by state courts that have upheld the right of same-sex couples who were married in other jurisdictions to have their marital status recognized in New York, even though gay couples may not marry within the state. A bill to allow gay unions passed the State Assembly last year but has not come up for a vote in the Senate.
...
[I]n her decision to dismiss the suit, Justice Billings rejected the plaintiffs’ reasoning, finding that Mr. Paterson’s order was consistent with state laws that generally require officials to recognize marriages from other jurisdictions and are silent on whether gay marriages should be excluded from that recognition.

“Furthermore,” she wrote, “when partners manifest the commitment to their relationship and family, by solemnizing that commitment elsewhere, through one of life’s most significant events, and come to New York, whether returning home or setting down roots, to carry on that commitment, nothing is more antithetical to family stability than requiring them to abandon that solemnized commitment.”

A Contrarian History of Marriage

The New York Times did a review of Susan Squire's new book, I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage, which seems to be an aptly timed book for recent controversies in both the secular world and in the Anglican Communion:

Various state supreme courts have been grappling with this conundrum as they try to determine whether to expand the definition of marriage to include gay couples, a question California voters are poised to answer in November. This has forced groups on both sides of the issue to struggle to define the essential purpose of marriage. Is it a religious sacrament or merely a civil allocation of property rights? Is marriage a way of optimizing the rearing of children or an ancient way of enforcing female chastity? In legalizing gay marriage in 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts insisted that marriage encourages “stable relationships over transient ones,” “provides for the orderly distribution of property” and promotes “a stable setting for child rearing.” The Washington Supreme Court, in refusing to strike down that state’s ban on gay marriage in 2006, rooted its logic in a view of marriage as an institution that exists to “promote procreation and to encourage stable families.”

It’s a testament to our national confusion about the purpose of marriage that the courts can toggle this way between four or five rationales for such a union in a single judicial opinion, with little regard for any one coherent principle. In “I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage,” Susan Squire explains that this is because there is no single coherent principle behind modern marriage. As currently practiced, the institution is a hodgepodge of biblical, classical, courtly and Christian rules and mores. What we know as “marriage” is rooted in warring historical efforts at regulating procreation; tamping down sexual lust (especially female lust); and — only relatively recently — celebrating companionship and romantic love. Those of us who speak reverently about the sanctity of marriage must also acknowledge that modern matrimony is less a sacred vessel than a crazy quilt.


Read more »

Poll: California gay marriage ban is losing support

The Sacramento Bee reports of a new Field Poll:

A constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in California has lost support during the past two months and now trails by a 17-point margin.

Just 38 percent of likely voters back Proposition 8 while 55 percent say they will vote against the Nov. 4 ballot measure, according to a new Field Poll. In July, the measure trailed by nine points.

Since then, the heading on the ballot summary – which began with the words "Limit on Marriage" on petitions to gather signatures for the measure – has been changed on voter pamphlets to read "Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry."

Attorney General Jerry Brown decided to change the wording after the state Supreme Court in May overturned a ban on gay marriages in California.

In the new poll, half the respondents were read the original summary and the other half the amended version to test voter reaction.

The level of support did not waver – in each case, only 38 percent of likely voters said they intended to vote for the measure.

Canadians to focus on Williams' request for moratorium

The Anglican Journal carries an insightful interview with Canadian Primate Fred Hiltz on the difficulties his Church would face in attempting to comply with Rowan Williams' request for a moratorium on authorization of rites for the blessing of same-sex relationships:

He said there are conflicting interpretations on what the moratorium on same-sex blessings means, with some thinking it means not having any new blessings, and some interpreting it as retroactive, which would require a synod like New Westminster to rescind its 2002 motion that allowed same-sex blessings in their diocese. He added that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent letter about the moratoria was also “significant.” Archbishop Williams had acknowledged that, while the call for moratoria received support from “a strong majority” at the conference, he was nonetheless aware of the “conscientious difficulties this posed for some.”

Archbishop Hiltz said that the diocesan bishop of New Westminster, Michael Ingham, “rightly pointed out that it’s not for him to rescind the motion; the synod has to debate the issue.” The primate said that he’d be “very surprised if they rescind that motion.”

Archbishop Hiltz said that the call for moratoria would also be “a huge pastoral challenge” for bishops of four dioceses that have pending requests from their synods for the approval of same-sex blessings “given the kind of strong majority votes those synods” had.

Undercover at an "ex-gay bootcamp"

Lucy Bannerman's article in The Times Online describes a few days spent at a camp run by Exodus International, an organization that believes it can help people to “find freedom from homosexuality through the love of Jesus Christ.” Exodus and similar groups are popular on the Anglican right.

The article quotes Peterson Toscano, a performance artist who performed at one of the "Lambeth Fringe" events at the recent Lambeth Conference.

Peterson Toscano spent 17 years and £20,000 in the US and UK trying to suppress his identity as a gay man. “It is a far more subtle seduction over here,” he says. Toscano claims that therapists in Britain - who he says tried to exorcise his gay demons in Kidderminster, in the West Midlands - nearly drove him to suicide. “There is no question about that. I became severely depressed and contemplated suicide on several occasions,” he says.

Toscano, who now runs the Beyond Ex-Gay support group, believes that, far from being living proof of being a changed man, [Exodus] is simply promoting celibacy by stealth.

“You walk out on this cloud of ex-gay glory,” says Toscano, “but you end up intimate with no one, becoming more and more isolated until it's just you alone on this little ex-gay island ... so many people are hurting and living this half-life.”

CT Supreme Court rules ban on gay marriage unconstitutional

Following a similar line of reasoning of the decision earlier this year by the California Supreme Court, the Connecticut Supreme Court has issued a 4-3 ruling that appears to overturn a "separate but equal" argument for civil unions and orders that same gender couple have the right to marry.

From the ruling:

" We conclude that, in light of the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians, and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody, the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm. We also conclude that (1) our state scheme discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, (2) for the same reasons that classifications predicated on gender are considered quasi-suspect for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the United States constitution, sexual orientation constitutes a quasi-sus- pect classification for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the state constitution, and, therefore, our statutes discriminating against gay persons are subject to heightened or intermediate judicial scrutiny, and (3) the state has failed to provide sufficient justification for excluding same sex couples from the institution of marriage. In light of our determination that the state’s disparate treatment of same sex couples is constitution- ally deficient under an intermediate level of scrutiny, we do not reach the plaintiffs’ claims implicating a stricter standard of review, namely, that sexual orienta- tion is a suspect classification, and that the state’s bar against same sex marriage infringes on a fundamental right in violation of due process and discriminates on the basis of sex in violation of equal protection. In accordance with our conclusion that the statutory scheme impermissibly discriminates against gay per- sons on account of their sexual orientation, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand the case with direction to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment."

Read the full ruling here. There are three dissents: 1, 2, 3.

The New York Times story is here.

A story by the AP on the case in question which gives some background.

The Blade also has a piece up on the legalization that would seem to be implied by this decision.

Read GLAD's reaction and plans.

Integrity has released a statement, which we received via email:

"Integrity applauds today’s Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. “Today’s decision is a decision in favor of marriage and against bigotry,” said Integrity President Susan Russell.

“It is another step forward toward making this a nation of liberty and justice for all -- not just some – and it is a cause for celebration for all Americans. It is also a source of great encouragement for those of us working to preserve marriage for all in California.”

“Integrity is committed to continue to work toward full inclusion for the LGBT faithful in the Episcopal Church and to advocate for equal protection for LGBT Americans -- and we give thanks for those who made today’s Connecticut Supreme Court decision possible.”

From Bishop Bruno

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The Supreme Court of California has determined that all citizens of our state should have equal access to marriage as a civil right based in our state constitution. The Court's ruling provides the Church with an opportunity to reflect on our own theology of marriage. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, we have sought to provide the Church's blessing to all the baptized people of God.

Among those are people who have sought to have same-sex relationships blessed in the community of faith. I know that the acceptance of same-sex unions has caused spiritual struggle and questioning for some members of our Diocese, our Church and the Anglican Communion. My policy has been to allow clergy to respond to the needs of their community with pastoral sensitivity including the blessing of these unions as they deem appropriate to the pastoral context.

Earlier this year, when the court made same-sex marriage an option in civil law, I felt it necessary to convene a task force to develop a diocesan policy by which clergy in our Diocese might officiate at same-sex marriages. The task force has developed educational materials that I hope will help you and members of our Diocese to reflect on the issues involved in same sex-marriage as we discern our way forward.

I hope that all clergy in our Diocese might educate our congregations about marriage and have conversations about it.

Performing and blessing these marriages is not simply theoretical. There are real people in congregations large and small who have waited sometimes for many years for this opportunity, and the witness of their faithful love has been an inspiration to me. Other couples will step forward in the future. I hope you will take the opportunity in the next several weeks to listen to their stories. Many among these couples are members of our congregations.

While no one in this Diocese will be forced to move beyond what his or her conscience allows, we seek to provide that gracious space for those whose conscience compels them to bless the marriages of all faithful people as together we discern the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead us into all truth.

Your Brother in Christ,
J. Jon Bruno
Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles

Florida faith leaders rally against gay marriage ban

From The Miami Herald:

A coalition of religious leaders from across Florida joined forces Thursday to speak against a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Florida Clergy for Fairness, a group of interfaith clergy, say that Amendment 2 is mean-spirited and an infringement upon the religious freedoms of all Floridians.

''Hatred and bigotry are the motivations behind this,'' said Father Frank Corbishley, an Episcopal Chaplain at the University of Miami, during a conference call with reporters Thursday morning. ``It's sending a dangerous message about intolerance.''

The measure, called the Marriage Protection Amendment, will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot and needs 60-percent voter approval for passage.

Speaking out against "that's so gay"

Celebrities Hilary Duff, Wanda Sykes and others are speaking out against the use of the phrase "that's so gay" when it means "that's so awful" or "that's so dumb" or other negative put down. GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) has joined with the National Ad Council to launch the first national multimedia public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to address the use of anti-gay language among teens. According to GLSEN:

LGBT teens in the U.S. experience homophobic remarks and harassment throughout the school day, creating an atmosphere where they feel disrespected, unwanted and unsafe. GLSEN’s new survey found that three-quarters of LGBT teens hear slurs such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often at school, and nine in ten reports hearing anti-LGBT language frequently or often. Homophobic remarks such as "that’s so gay" are the most commonly heard type of biased remarks at school. Research shows that these slurs are often unintentional and are a part of teens’ vernacular. Most do not recognize the consequences, but the casual use of this language often carries over into more overt harassment.

The new campaign aims to raise awareness among straight teens about the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in America’s schools. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce and prevent the use of homophobic language in an effort to create a more positive environment for LGBT teens. The campaign also aims to reach adults, including school personnel and parents, because their support of this message is crucial to the success of efforts to change behavior among the target age group.


Read more here

Watch all the videos here.

Watch the CNN report below:

Read more »

Canadian province will bless civilly married same-sex couples

From the Anglican Journal

The assembly of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) has requested its bishop, Gordon Light, to allow clergy whose conscience permits to bless civilly married gay couples where at least one party is baptized. The assembly passed the motion when it met October 17-19.

A notice of a similar motion was filed at the synod of the Diocese of Ontario but was declared out of order by the diocesan bishop, George Bruce, who acted on the advice of the diocesan chancellor (legal advisor). The ruling was appealed at the synod held October 16-18 but was upheld by a majority vote of delegates.

At the APCI assembly, Light gave concurrence to the motion but suspended any action pending consultations with the Canadian House of Bishops, which meets October 27-31 to discuss, among other things, how best to respond to renewed proposals for moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of persons living in same-sex unions to the episcopate, and cross-border interventions.

Since the 2007 General Synod, four dioceses have already passed similar motions -- Ottawa, Montreal, Niagara, and Huron. The diocesan synod of New Westminster approved same-sex blessings in 2002.

Running out of "passionate patience"

From The Denver Post:

Elizabeth Bennett sits in her Denver church contemplating the elephant in the sanctuary that few polite Episcopalians want to mention.

Bennett grew up in the Episcopal church. She sang in the choir. She was married in one and baptized her five children there. Her mother's ashes are buried under a tree outside an Episcopal church in Massachusetts.

But being openly gay now in the Colorado diocese, she says, is like being given "half-a-loaf acceptance."

Gays are offered some sacraments but not others.

"I've gotten mine. But this is wrong — to go to church, have potlucks and not care about other people's rights," said Bennett, 59.

And, she said, the pain of partial acceptance is the pain of rejection.

"There are places in our lives where we truly want to be loved," Bennett said.

The church's hope is that a moratorium on blessing gay unions and ordaining openly gay priests — "passionate patience" — will help hold the fracturing American church together and keep it part of the larger, less liberal international Anglican Communion.

No apology given

There are some further developments coming to light about the story of a same-sex liturgy celebrated in London that we've been following since this summer. Today the vicar in question insists that he never offered an apology for his actions in leading the liturgy.

According to an article by Martin Beckford in the Telegraph:

"In a letter published in this week's Church Times he disputes the claim of the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Assistant Bishop of London, that there was 'a series of frank discussions' about the service, and insists that he never issued a 'statement of apology'.

His latest public comments are likely to further enrage those who believe he should have been dealt with much more strictly. They will also confirm suspicions that he is rather enjoying the storm he has brewed and is unwilling to let it die down."

Read the full article here.

Some background material and previous coverage can be found and is linked from here.

Robinson recognized by gay advocacy group

Stonewall, a U.K.-based LGBT advocacy organization, has recognized Bishop Gene Robinson with its Hero of the Year award for 2008. The award is voted on by Stonewall supporters and was presented to him at a ceremony in London Thursday night.

In a release about the award, Stonewall cited that Robinson "has bravely endured sustained personal attacks in recent months, as church debate on homosexuality has intensified, [and was] recently barred from Lambeth conference." He received a standing ovation from the audience at the Victoria and and Albert Museum, where the ceremony was held.

From his comments to the audience, via Pink News:

I have tried to bring God's voice to the struggle we are all in. God's voice has been abused in the name of hatred and bigotry for far too long and it is time we took Scripture and the Church back from those that would use it to hurt us.

The Church is different from God, you do not need me to tell you that, the Church often gets it wrong, but God never does.

We learnt that with using Scripture to justify slavery, we learned it when Scripture was used to subjugate and denigrate women, and now we will learn that we also got it wrong about LGBT people.

I am doing everything I can to undo the harm that has been done by churches because I think it is going to take religious voices to undo all that has been done in God's name.

He also discussed his recent conversations with President-Elect Obama, calling him "the genuine article."

From here.

Looking forward after Prop. 8

There has been a great deal of anger, sadness and concern after the disappointing result in California on same sex marriage. Andrew Sullivan reminds his readers that this is not the end of the battle:

I totally understand the anger, hurt and pain now roiling the gay community and our families, especially in California. But it's important to keep our heads. I've been in the middle of this fight for two decades. It's important to remember that we have never had this level of public support for marriage equality before. In eight years in California alone, the majority in favor of banning marriage equality has gone from 61 to 52 percent. Meanwhile, California's legislature has voted for it, 18,000 couples are legally married in California, and legally comparable (if still unequal) domestic partnerships are available. Very soon, thousands of gay couples will be able to marry in Connecticut. The one state with a history of marriage equality, Massachusetts, is showing how good and positive a reform it is. New York recognizes Massachusetts' civil marriages.

Calm down. We are not experiencing a massive, permanent backlash.

The next generation overwhelmingly backs the right to marry, and there is no sign of cultural reversal, even if we have suffered some electoral set-backs. If Obama has taught us anything, it is to keep our eyes on the prize, and not always to react impulsively to hatred, bigotry or simple ignorance by exaggerating its power over us. We are winning. We lost this one, by an excruciatingly small margin. But the whole point of this movement is education in support of toleration. Even though we lost, we persuaded many of something they barely thought about a short time ago. I am immensely touched by the support of straight readers and all of you, gay and straight, who donated time and money to the No On 8 campaign. We need to remember this as well. And the sight of a small minority having basic equality stripped from them by a religiously-funded majority is itself educational. It has already changed minds. One thing we need to remember is dignity in defeat. That's how it becomes victory.

Read it all here.

The single-issue faithful

Andrew Sullivan:

The American Family Association puts out a DVD showing how homosexuals have a plan to infiltrate and take over every small town in America in order to construct a new Sodom to terrorize your children. Or something like that. Is it my imagination or has the far right, salivating over their three anti-gay victories in the last election, decided that fear and loathing of homosexuals is now the fundamental tenet of American conservatism?

Newsweek poll finds "surge" in support for gay marriage

Newsweek:

[T]he latest NEWSWEEK Poll finds growing public support for gay marriage and civil unions—and strong backing for the granting of certain rights associated with marriage, to same-sex couples.

Americans continue to find civil unions for gays and lesbians more palatable than full-fledged marriage. Fifty-five percent of respondents favored legally sanctioned unions or partnerships, while only 39 percent supported marriage rights. Both figures are notably higher than in 2004, when 40 percent backed the former and 33 percent approved of the latter. When it comes to according legal rights in specific areas to gays, the public is even more supportive. Seventy-four percent back inheritance rights for gay domestic partners (compared to 60 percent in 2004), 73 percent approve of extending health insurance and other employee benefits to them (compared to 60 percent in 2004), 67 percent favor granting them Social Security benefits (compared to 55 percent in 2004) and 86 percent support hospital visitation rights (a question that wasn't asked four years ago). In other areas, too, respondents appeared increasingly tolerant. Fifty-three percent favor gay adoption rights (8 points more than in 2004), and 66 percent believe gays should be able to serve openly in the military (6 points more than in 2004).

God Bless Newsweek

Newsweek has just published a cover story by religion editor Lisa Miller outlining the religious case for gay marriage.

The magazine's treatment of the issue begins with an Editor's Letter from Jon Meacham who, in previous writings, has described himself as a centerist Episcopalian. Meacham has written a book on the faith of the Founding Fathers and recently published a well-received biography of Andrew Jackson. He writes:

On the campus of Wheaton College in Illinois last Wednesday, in another of the seemingly endless announcements of splintering and schism in the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan and other leaders of the conservative forces of reaction to the ecclesiastical and cultural acceptance of homosexuality declared that their opposition to the ordination and the marriage of gays was irrevocably rooted in the Bible—which they regard as the "final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life."

No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

(Emphasis mine.)

Millers' story begins:

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.

Some other choice bits:


[W]hile the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes.

If the bible doesn't give abundant examples of traditional marriage, then what are the gay-marriage opponents really exercised about? Well, homosexuality, of course—specifically sex between men. Sex between women has never, even in biblical times, raised as much ire. In its entry on "Homosexual Practices," the Anchor Bible Dictionary notes that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women, "possibly because it did not result in true physical 'union' (by male entry)."
Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument).
(emphasis mine)
The Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.
if we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color—and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that. People get married "for their mutual joy," explains the Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center in New York, quoting the Episcopal marriage ceremony. That's what religious people do: care for each other in spite of difficulty, she adds. In marriage, couples grow closer to God: "Being with one another in community is how you love God. That's what marriage is about."

To read Bishop John Bryson Chane's defense of gay marriage, published in June, visit the Guardian's Web site.

And click on comments to read Deirdre Good's excellent contribution.

Pat Boone equates Anti-Prop 8 prostestors with jihadists

The Human Rights Campaign has posted the rants of Pat Boone that equate anti-Proposition 8 protesters with the terrorists of Mumbai in India. This is the sort of terrifying rhetoric that gives permission to those who would attack gay, lesbian and transgender persons. All of us need to speak out against such hatred.

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All Saints, Pasadena rector on Oprah, encore visit

From All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA:

The Reverend J. Edwin Bacon, Jr., rector of All Saints Church, Pasadena will make an encore appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show today, Monday, January 12, to respond to the controversy around his statement in a January 8th segment on the Oprah Show that "being gay is a gift from God."

It was no surprise at All Saints Church that the show's producers asked for some follow-up time with Reverend Bacon. "The volume of email we're getting here in Pasadena tells us that Ed Bacon's message -- the good news that God loves absolutely everybody -- is one people are hungry to hear," said the Reverend Susan Russell, All Saints Senior Associate for Communication.

"We are deeply grateful for the national platform Ed Bacon's appearance on Oprah has given this message of love, inclusion and tolerance that we hear preached here in Pasadena 24/7. We look forward to welcoming those coming toward us who are hearing for the first time that the abundant, inclusive love of God includes them!"

For more information contact Keith Holeman, Director of Communications at All Saints Church, Pasadena, at kholeman@allsaints-pas.org, or 626.583.2739.

The Oprah show is reporting that it was the most controversial moment of her "Best Life" Week series. Oprah Winfrey said Monday her show's message boards were flooded with responses to statements made by a religious leader that being gay was OK in God's eyes.

Responding to a viewer who Skyped into the show, The Rev. Ed Bacon, declared being gay is a "gift from God."

Bacon appeared live via satellite during today's show and didn't back down from statements made last week.

"I meant exactly what I said," Bacon said.

It is so important for every human being to understand he or she is a gift from God. ... and it's important to remember that God made them, he said.

Bacon said he's received a lot of response from his appearance last week, most of it being positive.

"It simply unleashed a flood of healing," Bacon said.


Read the article here.

Comments to the Oprah Show are here.

Integrity, Episcopal group working for full inclusion of GLBT persons in the Episcopal Church, comments here.

Ed Bacon tells of his experience in the first show below:

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"Being gay is a gift from God"

Video from the Rev. Dr. Ed Bacon's follow-up visit on Oprah is now available. Bacon is rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.

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Ruth Gledhill spots a double standard

Ruth Gledhill notes that the Church of England seems to judge the Episcopal Church by one standard and the Swedish Church by another:

"The Church of England along with the three other Anglican churches of these isles is in full communion with the Church of Sweden, which is about to debate and probably approve a proposed rite of same-sex marriage. And there is no Anglican-English-style fudge here, over 'when is a blessing a wedding and when is it just a blessing'. These are real, one-flesh-and-all-that same-sex marriages we are talking about here. The Swedish church already has two women bishops and we've remained in communion with them through that one, so I don't suppose this will make any difference. It just seems a bit unfair that The Episcopal Church should get it in the neck for Gene Robinson, and Canada for New Westminster, while another church, albeit Lutheran not Anglican, gets away with it. Poorvoo but not pour vous, it seems, if you are a gay Anglican in England or TEC.

"Mississippi Queen"

From the Jackson Clarion Ledger:

She came out during her senior year of high school. Paige Williams acknowledged she was gay, and her devoutly religious parents were devastated.

It took more than three years for their fractured relationship to begin to heal, and now they all deal with the issue publicly, albeit different avenues.

Paige Williams, a Montana filmmaker, created a documentary called Mississippi Queen that tells her coming out story and her parents' transformation.

Her parents, in turn, sought solace through an organization called Exodus International. Although designed to "liberate people from homosexuality," Judy Williams, Paige's mother, said the organization taught her empathy, understanding and unconditional love. It's a message she and husband Jerry hope to impart as co-directors of Restoration Grace, an upcoming seminar at Morrison Heights Baptist Church.


Bishop Robinson testifies in New Hampshire

There are a number of initiatives being considered in New Hampshire at the moment that all relate to the question of state sanctioned same-sex partnerships or marriages. Bishop Gene Robinson gave testimony along with many other citizen as the state legislature starts to work through the various bills and initiatives.

From his testimony:

"[H]as your marriage to your opposite sex partner been undermined, in any way, by my professed love for and commitment to my partner? [R]egardless, there are many who still seek to reign in, if not repeal what's been done."

Watch the full testimony here.

Leap of faith by Mormon filmmaker

"Who could have foreseen what would happen between the Mormon filmmaker and the lesbian priest? Not Douglas Hunter, even after he took a leap of faith and trained his camera on the Rev. Susan Russell. And maybe not even Russell, who had undergone a remarkable transformation from onetime suburban soccer mom to priest and outspoken champion of gay rights." Duke Helfand of the LA Times tells their story today:

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Meet me in the middle

In the weekly missive from The Alban Institue, Wesley J. Wildman and Stephen Chapin Garner write:

There are plenty of Christians who feel theologically and spiritually displaced. They feel lost in the middle between the noisy extremes of religion and politics and long to feel at home right where they are. They sense that it is possible to ignore the oversimplifications of left and right and, instead, move deeper into their faith. But they are not quite sure how to do that. They know the path they seek has something to do with love because they understand the power of love to unite people of different kinds, to overcome alienation, and to bring about transforming forgiveness. If only they could understand their situation clearly, perhaps they could plot the path ahead.

Numerous conversations and interviews lead us to conclude that there are at least four distinct reasons why discerning moderate Christians make the decision to transcend the liberal versus evangelical conflict and commit themselves to church unity in the face of theological and political diversity. Each is a tangle of negative and positive motivations.

Is it possible that the authors simply don't want to acknowledge that a choice has to be made about whether to include LGBT Christians fully in the life of the Church, and that it is very difficult to argue anything other than Yes, or No? One can choose not to participate in this debate, but it is difficult to understand how one would "transcend" it, as the authors advocate. But this criticism comes from one who is suspicious of those who deride left and right, and who believes that the argument for the superiority of the middle often reflects its own sort of moral vanity. In addition, there is a certain reflexiveness about this sort of argument, as though the soundest thing one can do in a debate about whether the value of two squared is 4 or 5,000 is to insist that we should all agree on 2,502.

Chicago Consultation: full Inclusion and Anglican Communion

The Chicago Consultation, a group of Anglicans committed to the full inclusion of GLBT Christians in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, has released a statement following its meeting this week. The statement calls for the Episcopal Church to continue its commitment to the Anglican Communion and calls for the Episcopal Church to commit to a process the would ultimately lead to liturgies to be used for blessing same-sex unions. Additionally the Consultation calls for the removal of any restrictions that would keep gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships from serving as bishops.

The full release can be found following:

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Lutherans to test the local option on gay clergy?

From the Associated Press:

The nation's largest Lutheran denomination will consider allowing individual congregations to choose whether to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy, an attempt to avoid the sort of infighting that has threatened to tear other churches apart.

A task force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recommended that course Thursday in a long-awaited report on ministry standards. The panel, however, said the church needs to clarify a number of questions before overhauling its gay clergy policy.

The report, issued at the same time as a broader church social statement on human sexuality, seeks balance on an issue dividing many Protestant churches. Both documents will be considered in August in Minneapolis at the biannual convention of the 4.7-million member denomination.

"At this point, there is no consensus in the church," said the Rev. Peter Strommen of Prior Lake, Minn., chairman of the 15-member task force on sexuality. "The question ends up being, 'How are we going to live together in that absence of consensus?'


Addendum. See, also, the Grand Forks Herald.

An end to the culture wars?

In today's New York Times, William Saletan examines whether common ground is really possible on the culture war issues like abortion and same sex marriage, and offers possible common ground based on personal responsibility:

Start with abortion. Pro-lifers tend to show up after a woman is pregnant, imagining that laws and preaching will make her bear a child she doesn’t want. They’re mistaken. Worse, they’re too late. To prevent abortions, we have to prevent unintended pregnancies.

How? The conservative answer is abstinence. That’s a worthy aspiration. But as a stand-alone national policy for avoiding pregnancies, it’s foolish. Mating is the engine of history. It has overpowered every stricture put in its way.

. . .

Mr. Obama, like many other pro-choicers, doesn’t like to preach on these issues. He talks about family planning purely in terms of access and affordability. Overseas, that’s a huge challenge. But in this country, the principal cause of abortions isn’t that we can’t get birth control. It’s that we don’t use it.

. . .

This isn’t a shortage of pills or condoms. It’s a shortage of cultural and personal responsibility. It’s a failure to teach, understand, admit or care that unprotected sex can lead to the creation — and the subsequent killing, through abortion — of a developing human being.

Our challenge is to put these two issues together. For liberals, that means taking abortion seriously as an argument for contraception. We should make the abortion rate an index of national health, like poverty or infant mortality. The president should report progress, or lack thereof, in the State of the Union. Reproductive-health counselors must speak bluntly to women who are having unprotected sex. And as Mr. Obama observed last year, men must learn that “responsibility does not end at conception.”

Conservatives, in turn, need to face the corollary truth: A culture of life requires an ethic of contraception. Birth control isn’t a sin or an offense against life, as so many girls and Catholic couples have been taught. It’s a loving, conscientious way to prevent the conception of a child you can’t bear to raise and don’t want to abort. It’s an act of responsibility and respect for life.

Read it all here (including his approach to ending the culture wars on the issue of same sex marriage). And let us know what you think.

A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage?

Apparently, today is "end the culture wars" day at the New York Times. In addition to the William Saletan essay we posted about earlier this afternoon, the Times also features an interesting op-ed by David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values (who opposes same sex marriage) and Jonathan Rauch is a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution (who favors same sex marriage). The op-ed purports to offer a compromise to settle the issue:

In politics, as in marriage, moments come along when sensitive compromise can avert a major conflict down the road. The two of us believe that the issue of same-sex marriage has reached such a point now.

We take very different positions on gay marriage. We have had heated debates on the subject. Nonetheless, we agree that the time is ripe for a deal that could give each side what it most needs in the short run, while moving the debate onto a healthier, calmer track in the years ahead.

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

. . .

Linking federal civil unions to guarantees of religious freedom seems a natural way to give the two sides something they would greatly value while heading off a long-term, take-no-prisoners conflict. That should appeal to cooler heads on both sides, and it also ought to appeal to President Obama, who opposes same-sex marriage but has endorsed federal civil unions. A successful template already exists: laws that protect religious conscience in matters pertaining to abortion. These statutes allow Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortions, for example. If religious exemptions can be made to work for as vexed a moral issue as abortion, same-sex marriage should be manageable, once reasonable people of good will put their heads together.

In all sharp moral disagreements, maximalism is the constant temptation. People dig in, positions harden and we tend to convince ourselves that our opponents are not only wrong-headed but also malicious and acting in bad faith. In such conflicts, it can seem not only difficult, but also wrong, to compromise on a core belief.

But clinging to extremes can also be quite dangerous. In the case of gay marriage, a scorched-earth debate, pitting what some regard as nonnegotiable religious freedom against what others regard as a nonnegotiable human right, would do great harm to our civil society. When a reasonable accommodation on a tough issue seems possible, both sides should have the courage to explore it.

Read it all here. Again, please let us know what you think. Is this an encouraging step toward reconciliation of this issue, or an ill-advised compromise?

Gays? I don't see any gay people here.

The Changing Attitude blog reports that the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs reported to the UN periodic review of human rights in Geneva on February 9, 2009 that they know of no gays or lesbians in Nigeria, let alone LGBT groups, and therefore see no reason to protect their rights. Davis Mac-Iyalla and other leaders of Changing Attitude Nigeria described the statement as a lie.

The Minister, Ojo Madueke, said:

As we have indicated in our National Report, we have no record of any group of Nigerians, who have come together under the umbrella of “Lesbian, Gay and Transgender” group, let alone to start talking of their rights.

During our National Consultative Forum, we went out of our way to look for the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender group, but we could not come across Nigerians with such sexuality....

If they are an amorphous group, then the question of violence against them does not arise, let alone negotiating special rights for them.

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Nigeria once again considers harshly punitive anti-gay legislation

Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans has an excellent round-up of recent developments in Nigeria's attempts to ban gay marriage--which is already illegal.

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Vermont clergy voice support for gay marriage bill

The Rev. Linda Maloney of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont is among those featured in a report from WPTZ in Burlington about 185 clergy of various faiths who support a bill legalizing civil marriage for same-sex couples in Vermont.

A dumb, depressing document from Peter Akinola and his Church

Updated, Friday 10:00 p.m.: Andrew Brown has weighed in. Remember when a similar bill was first introduced in 2006 and Martyn Minns and a host of conservative bloggers asserted that there was no evidence that Archbishop Akinola actually supported it? Turns out that this time around, the Church of Nigeria is actually busing people to the hearings to support the legislation.

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Integrity gears up for the General Convention

The Rev. Susan Russell: It is critical that the Episcopal Church move beyond B033 and toward marriage equality. Watch the nine-minute video.

Quick, somebody tell Fred Phelps he's made a typo

Quick, somebody tell Fred Phelps he's made a typo. And alert Peter Akinola, too, while you are at it.

figs.jpg


Jeremiah 29:17
Mark 11: 12-14
Matthew 21: 18-20

Emily_Litella.jpg
Emily Litella, anyone?

Hat tip: Pastor Dan at Street Prophets.

Therapists and the "treatment" of homosexuality

The BBC reports on a new survey that sheds some light on how far out on the psychotherapeutic right wing the ex-gay movement, endorsed by many of the leaders of the schismatic movement in the Episcopal Church really is. A grand total of 4 percent of therapists in the study believe it is possible to change someone's sexual orientation.

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Who says we haven't done the theology?

The Anglican Theological Review has made its Summer 2008 issue available online, thanks in part to a grant from the Chicago Consultation.

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Shades of gay

In his Human Nature column in Slate, William Saleton offers some thoughts about the British study which found that "one in six [surveyed] admitted to having helped at least one patient attempt to alter homosexual feelings."

The study's authors find this disturbing. Treatment to change homosexuality has proved ineffective and often unsafe, they argue. Therefore, therapists shouldn't try it.

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Breaking: Iowa's highest court allows gay marriage

Two quick observations: It's unanimous and it's from the heartland.

UPDATE: Press release from heads of the Iowa state legislature below.

The AP reports:

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Having The Talk

Two articles on the sex talk, both from the New York Times (well, one is from a NYT blog, Freakonomics), caught our attention in the last two days.

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Gay marriage = religious freedom

Many of the arguments against gay marriage come from Christian organizations suggesting that the recognition of gay marriage somehow infringes upon their religious freedom. This video from the Web site Waking Up examines these claims and dismisses them.

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Haller's "Reasonable and Holy" now available

Tobias Haller, a friend of this site and keen theological mind, has just published a book entitled "Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality". The book argues that the Church's provision of pastoral care to members in committed, monogamous, life-long same gender relationships is in keeping with the ongoing development of the Church's traditional work.

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Bishop Robinson calls for Episcopal Church to stop performing marriages

Bishop Gene Robinson, visiting a parish in Los Angeles, has suggested that a way forward for churches split on the question of same-gender marriages would be for the clergy to stop officiating at the marriage, and focus on the blessing instead.

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Marriage equailty and church unity

TIME asks the question, "Will Gay Marriage Pit Church Against Church?":

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Clergy support legislation banning hate crimes

The Washington Post reported yesterday that, "more than 300 clergy from a variety of faith and denominations will fan out over Capitol Hill to preach a unified gay-rights message to members of Congress: Pass the hate crimes bill that would give sexual orientation and gender identity the same federal protection as race, and pass the employment non-discrimination bill that would protect gays."

The group included Bishop Gene Robinson and the Rev. Susan Russell of Integrity.

Faith in Public Life has more news.

Five years on, gay marriage no longer controversial in Massachusetts

The Washington Post reports:

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Systemic evil and Christianity

Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, England, explores the question of why "biblical religion that sees every person as created in God's image so easily become a sponsor of human rights violations in the area of sex and gender?"

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Same-sex marriage, conscientious objection and the law

Peter Steinfels in The New York Times

The movement toward legalizing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire has hit a bump. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, said last week that he would sign a same-sex marriage bill only if it included new language expanding protection for religious institutions that might object to same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, the state’s House of Representatives rejected that amendment. So for the moment, the matter is stalled in New Hampshire.

But whatever the outcome, Mr. Lynch may have moved the debate over same-sex marriage forward, at least by isolating it from the question of how it affects religious groups.

For some time, scholars have debated this issue, and some are now urging states considering same-sex marriage laws to include strong protections for religious organizations. Some are even suggesting protections for individuals and small businesses who offer services for weddings — like photographers, florists, caterers, bakers, wedding planners and musicians. The argument is that these individuals and businesses might have religious objections to gay couples’ marrying and could be exposed to sizable fines or strong penalties under nondiscrimination statutes.

Can the same logic be used to argue for legal protections for opponents of interracial marriage?

Prop 8 proponents idolize a word

As we reported yesterday, a careful reading of the California Supreme Court's decision on Proposition 8 suggests the opponents of gay marriage may have won little except the right to say they won.

The Rev. Richard E. Helmer writes:

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Testifying to love

The Rev. Will Scott of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco explains why he got arrested in a protest following the California Supreme Court's decision upholding Proposition 8.

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Is homophobia the new anti-Semitism?

Writing for the Web site of the American Prospect magazine, Michelle Goldberg asks whether global homophobia is akin to anti-Semitism:

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Surprise: knowing gay people affects attitude on gay issues

Some interesting findings from the latest Gallup Poll:

While 57% of Americans oppose legalizing gay marriage, Americans who personally know someone who is gay or lesbian are almost evenly divided on the matter, with 49% in favor and 47% opposed. Among those who do not personally know anyone who is gay, 72% oppose legalized gay marriage while just 27% favor it.

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Theology committee controversy: Bishop Parsley responds

By the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr.
Chair, Theology Committee of the House of Bishops:

In response to questions that have been raised about the panel of theologians appointed by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops to prepare a paper on same-sex relationships in the life of the church, I wish to assure those concerned that the panel very intentionally represents a robust range of views on the subject and includes gay and lesbian persons.

This project has been designed in full communication with the House of Bishops. It has always been the committee’s intention to publish the names of the panel when the work has reached the appropriate stage. We believe that for a season the work can best be accomplished by allowing the panel to work in confidence. This supports the full collegiality and academic freedom of the theologians and provides the space they need for the deep dialogue and reflection that is taking place among them.

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New Hampshire Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Six states and Dick Cheney have now dared to go where the Episcopal Church will not.

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24 Episcopal clergy urge recognition of same-sex marriages in DC

Bishop John Bryson Chane, retired Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon and 22 Episcopal priests are among the 135 religious leaders who have signed a statement supporting the recognition of same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia.

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To the House of Bishops Theology Committee: Repent!

Christopher Evans writes:


I would suggest that this recent action on the part of the House of Bishops Theology Committee demonstrates once again that our Churches’ cultures are in need of conversion. Conversion means rejecting “habits, behaviors, ideas, and attitudes” that demonstrate undignified treatment of and hostility toward lgbt members of Christ’s own Body.

More below the fold...

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Gay marriage: heading toward a tipping point?

Andrew Gelman at FiveThirtyEight:

In 1995, support for gay marriage exceeded 30% in only six states: New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and Vermont. In these states, support for gay marriage has increased by an average of almost 20 percentage points. In contrast, support has increased by less than 10 percentage points in the six states that in 1995 were most anti-gay-marriage--Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Idaho.

I was stunned when I saw this picture. I generally expect to see uniform swing, or maybe even some "regression to the mean," with the lowest values increasing the most and the highest values declining, relative to the average. But that's not what's happening at all. What's going on?

Some possible explanations:

- A "tipping point": As gay rights become more accepted in a state, more gay people come out of the closet. And once straight people realize how many of their friends and relatives are gay, they're more likely to be supportive of gay rights. Recall that the average American knows something like 700 people. So if 5% of your friends and acquaintances are gay, that's 35 people you know--if they come out and let you know they're gay. Even accounting for variation in social networks--some people know 100 gay people, others may only know 10--there's the real potential for increased awareness leading to increased acceptance.

Conversely, in states where gay rights are highly unpopular, gay people will be slower to reveal themselves, and thus the knowing-and-accepting process will go slower.

- The role of politics: As gay rights become more popular in "blue states" such as New York, Massachusetts, California, etc., it becomes more in the interest of liberal politicians to push the issue (consider Governor David Paterson's recent efforts in New York). Conversely, in states where gay marriage is highly unpopular, it's in the interest of social conservatives to bring the issue to the forefront of public discussion. So the general public is likely to get the liberal spin on gay rights in liberal states and the conservative spin in conservative states. Perhaps this could help explain the divergence.

"The never ending search for the common good"

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire gave a lecture recently at Emory University on "Why religion matters in the quest for gay civil rights."

Obama administration defends DOMA

President Obama's administration filed a legal brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a court case seeking to overturn it. In effect the administration has come out defending the constitutionality of measures that give a privileged place in society to traditional opposite sex marriage.

John Aravosis has analyzed the brief that was filed late last week:

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Doing the theology: two new major resources available

Last week two groups in the Anglican Communion published documents that seek to inform the discernment process regarding the full inclusion of Gay and Lesbian Christians into the life of the Church.

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Bishops seek "pastoral generosity" in addressing same-sex marriage

Episcopal bishops in the six states that have legalized same-sex marriage are asking the Church's General Convention to "permit the adaptation of the Pastoral Offices for The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage for use with all couples who seek the church's support and God's blessing in their marriages."

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Honoring the institution of marriage

William McColl in a letter to the editor of The Washington Post:


I am a gay man. My partner lives 12 time zones away. We are in a monogamous relationship, and we do not cheat. We get to see each other only twice a year for less than three weeks. Although he is a professional in marketing, the United States will not let him immigrate because he was not picked in the lottery. The federal government would not recognize our relationship if I married him. The government will not allow us to be together.

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Sparta granted women exceptional rights

Kevin Lewis in his column, Uncommon Knowledge

Spartan women could inherit, own, and bequeath property; they were fed and schooled as much as men; they had complete freedom of movement; they married later and could even get away with adultery. So why would the tough Spartan men allow this to happen?

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Bayard Rustin and the convergence of civil rights and gay rights

From Killing the Buddha comes this essay by the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is the Senior Minister of Lemuel Haynes Congregational Church (UCC) in South Jamaica Queens, New York:

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San Diego releases report on same sex unions

The Rt. Rev. James Mathes writes that the report commissioned by the Diocese of San Diego on Holiness in Relationships and Same-Sex Unions has been released for study by the whole church as well as in the diocese.

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Not so secret theology committee: six of eight names now known

Lisa Fox, who blogs at My Manner of Life, has the names of six of the eight members of the secret panel that the House of Bishops Theology Committee assembled to study same-sex relationships.

Bishop Henry Parsley, chair of the commitee, has refused to release the names, but, as Lisa writes, it is hard to keep secrets in a small church.

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Bishop Wantland: a metaphor too far

Julia Duin posts this revealing comment from Bishop William Wantland, who apparently thinks that when you go to church you are marrying Jesus:

I queried retired Eau Claire, Wis., Bishop William Wantland, an old friend and an ardent opponent of ordaining women. He reminded me that 22 of the ACNA's 28 dioceses do not allow female priests. It's a system known as "dual integrity," dioceses that differ on a question where Scripture can be read both ways agree to respect and live with each other's views.

I asked him if he wanted the ACNA to eventually outlaw ordaining women entirely.

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Sexual ethics

In his latest book, Out of the Shadows into the Light: Christianity and Homosexuality, Miguel A. De La Torre writes,

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APA: say no to reparative therapy

The Associated Press:

The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.

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Homosexual relationships benefit society

Writing in the National Journal Jonathan Rauch says homosexual relationships benefit society. As an example he gives the three decades long relationship his cousin Bill Meezan has had with his partner. And the harrowing experience they went through when Bill was hospitalized.

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Inclusive Church to try to count gay and lesbian clergy in C of E

As part of a growing response in the Church of England to the recent essay by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the actions of General Convention, an English group committed to full inclusion is planning to try to determine the number of GLBT clergy in that country.

According to the Guardian:

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Why do gay Christians keep faith with the Church?

David Gibson at AOL's Politics Daily:

As America's leading Christian denominations are once again feuding and splitting over whether they should allow gays and lesbians to marry, or ordain them as clergy, is it a miracle there are any gay Christians? Given Christianity's history of exclusion and often outright homophobia, and the current bloodletting over their role, why do homosexuals bother staying, not to mention believing?

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An "orthodoxy" that cannot last

Andrew Brown says that the current evangelical orthodoxy about gay people cannot last because there are just too many gay Christians, but progress is heartbreaking.

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Transgender basics

General Convention approved several resolutions on the role of transgender persons in the life of The Episcopal Church. Here is a good video from the Gender Identity Project explaining transgender.

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Russell and Harmon discuss gay and lesbian married clergy

Minnesota Public Radio carries a discussion with the Revs. Susan Russell and Kendall Harmon on gays and lesbians in ordained ministry.

Listen to podcast.

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A step forward in South Africa?

The Anglican Diocese of Cape Town today agreed to a resolution asking the church’s bishops to provide pastoral guidelines for gay and lesbian members of the church living in “covenanted partnerships,” taking into account the mind of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Read the entire release.

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The shape of things to come

Ryan Sager writes:

We all know there’s a gap between how old folks feel about same-sex marriage and how young folks feel. What you might not quite grasp is just how tremendous that gap is. A new paper (”Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness” [PDF]) by Jefferey Lax and Justin Phillips puts it in a bit of perspective.

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Transgender and The Episcopal Church

The Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco, CA, reports on The Episcopal Church's move towards full inclusion of transgender persons and the work by Episcopalians to make it happen:

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Fun with demographics

The Friends of Jake are featuring a couple of interesting charts about levels of education among members of various religious groups, and how education correlates to acceptance of gays and lesbians.

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South African bishops chart course

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of South Africa has released a statement to the Anglican Communion regarding their intentions toward the proposed Anglican Covenant and their need to respond in an appropriate pastoral manner to those seeking the Church's blessing for same-sex unions.

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Question of the day

Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, I learned that celibacy was both a charism (a particular spiritual gift) and an act of heroic self-sacrifice made by priests on behalf of God's Church. Growing older in the Episcopal Church, I increasingly hear people argue that God calls homosexuals--every single one of them--to lives of celibacy.

Are these positions compatible? Is lifelong celibacy for heterosexuals a rarely-issued invitation to acts of spiritual heroism, while lifelong celibacy for homosexuals the only alternative to damnation? If so, has anyone worked out a plausible theory on what God's intention may have been in ordering creation in this fashion?

Church bans Pepsi products

A Florida "mega-church" has decided to remove all Pepsi vending machines from its campus and replace them with ones serving Coca-Cola. The change is due to Pepsi's perceived support for LGBT rights and legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

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Same-sex marriage coming soon to D. C.?

Tim Craig in The Washington Post:

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill said it appears unlikely that Congress will block a bill to be introduced Tuesday that would allow same-sex marriages in the District.

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Same-sex marriage controversy sweeps through Maine

The Associated Press:

For an off-year election, in a state only rarely in the national political spotlight, an upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage has dramatic potential to make history and to roil emotions from coast to coast.

On Nov. 3, Maine voters will become the first in any state with the chance to repeal or uphold a law passed by their Legislature and signed by their governor, legalizing same-sex marriage. The outcome is considered too close to call, and the race is galvanizing activists on both sides of the issue across the country.

The ballot measure, Question One, results from Maine's provision for a ''people's veto'' -- any newly passed law can be subject to repeal by voters if enough valid signatures are obtained to trigger a referendum.

And there is this column letter to the editor, which argues that "true" Episcopalians oppose same-sex marriage.

Obama says he will end "Don't ask, don't tell,' but doesn't say when

The Associated Press:

President Barack Obama pledged to end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military in a speech Saturday, but acknowledged to a cheering crowd that the policy changes he promised on the campaign trail are not coming as quickly as they expected.

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PRA: Rick Warren exports bigotry to Africa

From Public Research Associates:

In March 2008, U.S. evangelical leader Rick Warren told Ugandans that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. One year later, U.S. conservative evangelical and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively (a resident of Massachusetts) addressed the Family Life Network and Ugandan members of Parliament in March 2009, saying legalizing homosexuality is akin to legalizing "the molestation of children or having sex with animals."

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Obama signs Hate Crimes Law

President Obama keeps promise to sign an expanded Hate Crimes Law.

PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama Keeps Word on Hate Crime
From the Associated Press and the New York Times

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The challenge Uganda is presenting to the Communion

Almost three weeks ago, news reports began to circulate of new proposed legislation in Uganda that would criminalize even the creation of coordinated efforts to defend the rights of LGBT Ugandans. Colin Coward, of Changing Attitude is very troubled by the silence that has reverberated within the Anglican Communion as a result:

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Christian African leaders hold first dialog on sexuality and faith

Press Statement from 1st African Dialogue on Sexuality and Christian Faith

Hosted by Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) in partnership with The Rainbow Project (TRP) of Namibia from 2-5 November 2009, Stellenbosch

The past few days 77 participants from 13 African countries met for the first time ever to dialogue about the issue of sexual orientation from a Christian faith perspective.

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Southern Ohio to bless same-sex relationships

From Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal's address to the diocesan convention:

Finally, after much prayer and consultation, I have decided that the time has come for Southern Ohio to adjust its policy regarding the blessing of same-sex unions. As you all know, in the forums that preceded my election as your diocesan bishop, I was very clear that I thought the church should bless the godly, faithful and life-long union of two persons of the same sex.

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Sexuality, faith, and India

The Rev. Winnie Varghese writes,

I leave for India Monday to attend a consultation in Chennai entitled "Sexuality and Faith." I have been an Episcopal Priest for almost 10 years, an Indian for 37, and I had not planned, in the words of Mordecai, for such a time as this.

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How one man came to change his mind

Mark Achtemeier is a Presbyterian pastor and a seminary professor. He's also a man who has been open about how he has changed his mind on the question of the full inclusion of LGBT Christians into the church. He details the process that led to his re-thinking in an essay that was delivered to a group of Presbyterians who are working, among other things, for full inclusion in that denomination.

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Bishop Chane on the Christian case for same sex marriages

Bishop John Chane points out that the Christian understanding of marriage has undergone extensive changes in the past 2000 years in an opinion published on the Washington Post site.

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ELCA's Church Council moves reinstatement process forward for clergy in same-gender relationships

Certain clergy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- "people in lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships" previously barred from serving -- are a step closer to reinstatement following a vote of the ELCA Church Council on Sunday, the ELCA site reports.

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How the U. S. right promotes homophobia in Africa

From Public Research Associates:

Sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars as U.S. conservative evangelicals and those opposing gay pastors and bishops within mainline Protestant denominations woo Africans in their American fight, a groundbreaking investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) discovered.

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Canada speaks while others are silent

The Anglican Church of Canada is, to our knowledge, the first province of the Anglican Communion to express its opposition to draconian anti-gay law under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament. The provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda has expressed support for the legislation, while suggesting that executing people for having sex was perhaps going a bit far.

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Gay Catholics don't want church's 'cure'

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Gay and lesbian Roman Catholics who contact the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for spiritual guidance can find themselves directed toward programs aimed at helping them become celibate.

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Catholic govs pan DC archdiocese tactics on same-sex marriage

Religioin News Service has the story that broke on WTOP News:

As the Archdiocese of Washington steps up its campaign against (all but certain) same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia, the Catholic governors of Maryland and Virginia, both Democrats, are crying foul.

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'Pastoral generosity' comes to the Diocese of Massachusetts

Starting Advent 1, clergy of the Diocese of Massachusetts are being given leave by Bishop Thomas Shaw to solemnize same-gender marriages for eligible couples.

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'You can't leave a void': BBC Radio on Uganda and silence

BBC Radio 4's "Sunday" program has looked into the situation in the Ugandan Parliament with a bill promoting anti-gay measures and found more of the "deafening silence" within the Anglican Communion that has many asking for a voice of intercession or appeal.

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Of D.C., gay marriage and leadership (religious and civic)

As the city council of Washington, D.C., appears set to make same-gender marriage legally permissible on Tuesday (and while a veto by Congress seems but a distant possibility), the Archdiocese of Washington has noted that new policies "could restrict [its] ability to provide the same level of services as [it does] now."

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Movement in DC as vote on same-sex marrage recognition nears

The City Council of Washington DC is voting tomorrow on the question of legal recognition of same-sex marriages within the district. The Roman Catholic Church in the district has strongly objected and broadly hinted that, if the measure passes, they may be forced to curtail some of the social services they currently provide to the poor and needy in the district.

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PB interviewed on NPR in Atlanta

The Presiding Bishop was interviewed on the Atlanta National Public Radio affiliate on the state of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion:

from WABE in ATLANTA, GA

6 years ago, Eugene Robinson became the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. But internal battles continue. Some parishes left the church, to join other parts of the Anglican Communion. This summer, the church's General Convention resolved that the screening process for new bishops is open to gays and lesbians. Two years ago, Episcopal leaders had said they'd hold off on gay bishops. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told WABE's Denis O'Hayer that's not a contradiction.

Listen to the interview

Bishop Beckwith on Marriage Equality

Bishop Mark Beckwith of the Diocese of Newark has an op-ed piece in today's New Jersey Record in which he calls for the state legislature to vote for the Marriage Equality Initiative making its way through the New Jersey Senate. He emphasizes the need for legal protections for same gender couples and points out that our understanding of the legal construct of matrimony has been changing over the years.

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Chicago Consultation responds to Archbishop Williams

The Chicago Consultation has released a response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's reaction to the election of Canon Glasspool as one of the Suffragan bishops of the Diocese of Los Angeles. The statement calls for the Communion to recognize the ministries of gay and lesbian Christians as the only way it can, "in the end", remain faithful to the Gospel.

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Sexuality, faith, and India - more

From the meeting of the Theological Roundtable on the Churches' Response to Human Sexuality held in Kolkata, India previously noted in The Lead, comes this report A Message to the Indian Christian Communities:

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UK LGBT Anglican Coalition warmly welcomes Glasspool election

Statement of the LGBT Coalition in the United Kingdom:

LOS ANGELES AND UGANDA

The LGBT Anglican Coalition warmly welcomes the election of two new suffragan bishops for the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles, and notes:

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The latest from Uganda

Four new items from Uganda:

Uganda bans female genital mutilation

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GLBT notables from D.C., Houston, California

South:

With 53 percent of the vote, Annise Parker, Houston's openly gay City Controller, has been elected the city's next mayor. In her brief victory speech, she noted:

This election has changed the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, just as this election is about transforming Houstonians’ lives for the better.

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Canadian House of Bishops expresses "deep sense of alarm"

The Episcopal Church's Primate and President of the House of Deputies have been joined by the entire House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in Canada (and their Lutheran colleagues) in expressing their deep concern regarding the proposed Ugandan legislation which would increase the already harsh penalties for homosexuality in that country:

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Westboro Baptist folks picket
in New Hampshire

The folks from Westboro Baptist traveled to New Hampshire over the weekend to protest against the state's new same-sex marriage law. They protested at a high school, the city hall in Concord and the offices of the Episcopal Diocese.

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Official position on Ugandan bill: depends on who you ask

The Ugandan government has not taken an official stand concerning the anti-homosexuality bill due to be considered soon in parliament. Or has it?

As seen below, NTV Uganda reports that investment minister Aston Kajura ("We shall talk to the private member who brought that bill to consider withdrawing it") and information minister Kabakumba Masiko ("When, eventually, cabinet sits and comes up with a position, the whole country will be informed") are factually at odds.

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Olson argues that same-sex marriage is a conservative value

Later today in California oral arguments begin in the case challenging that state's ability to deny same-sex marriage to its citizens. Ted Olson, a conservative republican, is the lead attorney in favor of restoring their right. Why? He explains his reasons in Newsweek.

A taste of his long article:

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Gay Marriage trial begins in CA

Today is the opening day of arguments before the California Supreme Court regarding the legality of denying same-sex couples the ability to have their relationships recognized as marriages according to state law.

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Confession is good for the -- wait a minute!

Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family and sometime "Rachel Maddow Show" contributor, added a comment Saturday night to a Box Turtle Bulletin item concerning recent clarifications and obfuscations over the possibility of Sharlet's having misrepresented Family organizer Bob Hunter's knowledge of Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo.

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UN rights chief opposes Ugandan bill as supporters plan march

From the Guardian:

The UN's top human rights official has called on Uganda to drop a proposed ­anti-homosexuality law that would impose the death penalty on some gay and lesbian people.

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Uganda's Bahati says he'll show at National Prayer Breakfast

UPDATE: Warren Throckmorton reports that Bahati "will not be attending the National Prayer Breakfast according to sources with the Fellowship Foundation," and that "NPB officials and Congressional leaders were taking action to assure that Bahati did not come." [h/t's to Lionel Diemel and Box Turtle Bulletin]

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Child welfare

Rob Tisinai rebuts the hideous comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia and sheds new light on the kind of bigoted thinking that truly puts children at risk.

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The bizarre world of conversion therapy in the UK

The Independent, UK is reporting on the number of therapists in the UK attempting so-called conversion therapy for homosexuality despite the evidence that the process is ineffective or even harmful:

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Mark Silk bets the anti-gay Ugandan bill won't pass

Mark Silk thinks the stars have aligned against the anti-gay Ugandan bill:

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Uganda Anglicans support anti-homosexual bill with amendments

UPDATED -see below
UPDATED -again

The Church of Uganda had ended its silence on the anti-homosexual legislation according to Christianity Today:

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Song of Solomon:
Valentine's Day edition

The Song of Solomon has a history of flustering preachers and youth pastors.

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Southern African bishops deplore Ugandan anti-gay law

Received via e-mail from the Primate's office of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa:

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Believe out loud makes it debut

Peter Laarman writes at Religion Dispatches:

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Anglican Bishop Ssenyojo speaks at Ugandan LGBT conference

The Ugandan Daily Monitor reports that an anti-gay demonstration was halted by police and that the pro-gay community met in Kampala:

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Elton John and Jesus and Homosexuality

Music legend Elton John recently talked to Parade Magazine about a number of things. In what apparently constituted a sidebar conversation (is anything ever off-the-record anymore?), he said something about Jesus.

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D.C. Catholic archdiocese gets out of the adoption business

Mark Silk of Spiritual Politics says we may not know enough yet to make moral sense of the conflict between various Catholic social service agencies and the government of states in which same-sex marriage is legal:

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Report from Uganda

Integrity USA's website has a very alarming report on the situation today in Uganda. The outside voices that have fanned the flames of homophobia in the country have created a volatile situation that might erupt in violence with the passage of the proposed anti-gay legislation.

From the report:

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Bush v. Gore lawyers now teaming up to fight Proposition 8

Lawyers from opposing sides who brought Bush v. Gore to the Supreme Court are working together on Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a U.S. District Court case challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8. (Prop 8, you'll recall, was a California-based definition-of-marriage [one man, one woman] initiative that won narrowly and is now back before the bench.)

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Critics of anti-gay Ugandan bill collect 450,000 signatures

From the BBC:

Campaigners opposing Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill have taken an online petition to parliament, signed by some 450,000 people from around the world.

The petition is the latest attempt to halt the bill, which carries the death penalty for some homosexual acts. ...

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English evangelical bishop calls for tolerance

A leading voice in the evangelical wing of the Church of England, Bishop James Jones, speaking to his diocesan synod in Liverpool today says the battle of sexuality in the Church needs to end.

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'Nightline' and 'World News Tonight' to examine Ugandan bill

TV Tip: Tune in tonight (or at least set your DVR) for ABC's "Nightline" (11:35 EST) and "World News Tonight," (6:30 EST), Box Turtle Bulletin reports.

It looks like it will be well worth watching (or recording, if you can’t stay up for it). Martin Ssempa is already upset that the Nightline crew didn’t fall for his easily-disproven lies.

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Tutu op-ed calls for full human rights for African LGBT people.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the Washington Post, writes forcefully: "Hate has no place in the house of God". He takes politicians in Africa to task for fomenting hatred and fear of gay and lesbian people as a tool to gain more power for themselves.

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Inter-Religious Council steps out gingerly against anti-gay bill

Carried as news in only one major Ugandan publication, it came forth quietly over the past few days and has taken a while to gain the ears of the world.

We're talking about a statement by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda which (though perhaps shot through with a late-in-the-game sanctimony that reverses previous positions) has that key group finally denouncing the kill-the-gays bill now before the Ugandan parliament.

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Andrew Sullivan tackles the arguments of anti-gay Christians

Andrew Sullivan refutes the arguments against recognizing same-sex relationships in this seven-part video excerpted from a lecture at Princeton University.

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Even death doesn't end the violence against LGBT people

The Associated Press tells this horrific story via the Boston Herald:

THIES, Senegal — Even death cannot stop the violence against gays in this corner of the world any more.

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Pediatric group distorts research

A group called the American College of Pediatricians has recently issued a press release and sent a letter to every school district in the country. The name is very similar to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and no doubt intended to be mistaken for that body of respected physicians.

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NIH director disturbed by anti gay group's distortions

Statement from NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., in Response to the American College of Pediatricians

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Christian Love and Sex can be an icon of Christ

Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of the newly published Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, in an essay in today's Washington Post, reflects on the the ways that the Church has understood sexuality and sexual expression over the years. He also writes about the theological ideas that have served to guide that thinking. He argues that because God is Love, the expression of love serves necessarily as an icon of God.

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Maori resolution opens ordination process for gays/lesbians

From New Zealand, we have word of this resolution passing at the annual meeting of the Maori Anglican diocese which is in the East Coast of North Island in New Zealand.

That Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke receives with thanks the report from Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa commission on Human Sexuality and moves in principle to adopt the statement on ordination provided that any gay and lesbian (takatapui) candidates/ordinands are carefully and prayerfully selected, supported and encouraged through their discernment process.

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Bishop Robinson writes Pope Benedict with advice

Bishop Gene Robinson has written an open letter to Pope Benedict the 16th offering some thoughts on the present sexual abuse scandal that has been rocking the Roman Catholic Church of late.

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Opinion: The Anglican Church of Canada can’t approve Covenant

The Rev. Dr. Canon Dean Mercer of Toronto and The Rev. Catherine Sider-Hamilton,a Ph.D candidate at Wycliffe College have called the Anglican Church of Canada to refuse to sign the Anglican Covenant because to do so would be to lie about where the Canadian Church stands.

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America's evangelical right still stirring trouble in Uganda

Josh Kron of The New York Times writes from Kampala of the further efforts of America's religious right to make life miserable--and dangerous--for people in other countries:

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Is Uganda's anti-gay legislation being gutted?

There is some reason to believe that that the Ugandan government has quietly moved to kill the notorious "anti-gay" legislation that we've covered here on the Lead through the past year.

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What more than love?

Seth Walker profiles the former Rector and current Priest-In-Charge of St. Mary's, Eugene, Oregon, and in the process explores the difference that it makes to hold the line from a place of love, rather than to just pick a side and declare oneself to be in the winning camp.

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Another English bishop talks sense on sexuality

Peter Owen of Thinking Anglicans brings us news of a recent speech by Bishop Michael Perham of Gloucester, another English bishop who seems to understand that neither God nor history are on Rowan Williams' side when he attempts to hold the Anglican Communion together at the expense of gay and lesbian Christians:

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Malawi gay couple face harsh prison terms

The story of the gay couple in Malawi who celebrated their commitment in a marriage ceremony last December face prison sentences of up to 14 years with hard labor according to the report in the Mail and Guardian, SA.

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Nigerian primate wants his country out of UN

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, has called for his country to pull out of the United Nations because the organization opposes bias against gays and lesbians. Can we expect Rowan Williams to express displeasure as quickly as he condemned the election of a lesbian bishop in the Episcopal Church? No, because that deadline has already passed.

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The fallen Bonobo

Presented with evidence that homosexuality occurs naturally among bonobos, this evangelical pastor responds that bonobos were also affected by the Fall.

McDonald's "Come as you are" ad

A McDonald's ad featuring a gay teenager, running on French television, has generated a few spates in this country. What do you make of it?

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Two weddings, a divorce and Glee

Frank Rich writes in today's New York Times:

June is America’s month for weddings, and were we so inclined, we could bemoan [Rush] Limbaugh, an idol to the family-values crowd, for marrying [for the fourth time] a woman barely half his age. Alternatively, we could lament Al and Tipper Gore’s divorce, which has produced so many cries of shock you’d think they were the toy bride and groom atop a wedding cake rather than actual flesh-and-blood people capable of free will.

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End gay marriage, or we'll end up with more people like these two

From the wedding announcements in The New York Times comes further evidence that tolerating gay relationships is inviting all sorts of undesireables into the Episcopal Church. Next thing you know, the church will be filled with people trying to help those who are less fortunate than they are. And then where would we be?

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SCOTUS: gays and lesbians are a protected class

[Our second commenter scores a significant point of caution.]

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a public law school can deny recognition to a student group that excludes gays and lesbians, in this case the Christian Legal Society. The Court said the University of California's Hastings College of Law could enforce a policy requiring official student organizations to accept all students who want to join.

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Scam? Integrity Uganda youth worker murdered? Perhaps not.

We are now having second thoughts about this story based on confirmation that Bishop Christopher Senyonjo did not make the statements attributed to him. This calls the veracity of the entire story into question. More soon. 7/6/10 6:10 pm

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Are Presbyterians looking at a sexual-ethics sea change?

Will the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), currently sitting in its 219th General Assembly in the Twin Cities area, be the next major denomination to make major adjustments in regard to a self-understanding of who may marry and be ordained?

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Seminary receives major grant to support General Convention work

The Arcus Foundation has granted external funding to help support the work of Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music over the next three years as it responds to the charge assigned it by General Convention and resolution C056. That resolution, passed last year in Anaheim, directed the Episcopal Church to begin gathering liturgical resources used in blessing same-gender relationships.

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Majority of Californians say they'd vote for same-sex marriage

Updated

This just in from the LA Times:

If a vote similar to Proposition 8 upholding a ban on same-sex marriage were held tomorrow, a majority of Californians say they would cast ballots in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, according to a survey released Wednesday.

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Ethical conflation on the way to making sexual scapegoats

At recent lectures given at United Theological College, Cambridge University divinity professor Sarah Coakley gave her listeners some food for thought about our tendency to accidentally commingle ideas in the search for scapegoats, especially in the RC and Anglican traditions.

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Broken Hearts and New Creation

Changing Attitude, UK, hosted a book launch party for the Rev. James Alison, the brilliant gay Catholic theologian recently. Colin Coward reports that Alison responded to questions:

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All Saints, Pasadena hosting 'Justice & Marriage For All' webcast

From All Saints, Pasadena, CA:

"Justice & Marriage for All" -- Sunday, August 8 @ 10:15 a.m. PDT

All Saints Church in Pasadena welcomes back to their adult education hour attorney David Codell -- who is widely credited as the architect of the legal strategy that led to the 2008 California Supreme Court on marriage equality decision.

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Ban lifted: Same-sex couples in California may marry

UPDATE: Premature reports had simply said marriage would be immediately available. We now know the following:

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Reaching out to the transgender community

When people discuss the rights of lesbians and gays in contemporary U.S. culture, and across religious denominations, the abbreviation "LGBT" is used as a shorthand: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. Becky Garrison, writing in Religion Dispatches, asks if churches really take transgender people into account in their mission and ministries. She asks, "What's the state of the struggle, where transpeople are concerned?"

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New studies point to growing acceptance of same-sex relationships

On Friday afternoon PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) released a report on new data gathered by the Pew Research Center that show that the American public's views on same-sex relationships and gay and lesbian marriage are showing significant movement during the past decade. A majority of Americans now support civil unions. Same-sex marriage support has increased 27%.

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Ruth Meyers talks same-sex blessings on "State of Belief"

The Rev. Ruth Meyers, chair of the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, was a guest on The Interfaith Alliance's weekly radio program State of Belief on Saturday. She spoke with host Welton Gaddy about the commission's work on collecting and developing resources for blessing same-sex relationships. The broadcast is available here, and Dr. Meyers segment begins at the 28 minute mark.

Dan Martins and Resolution C-056

Resolution C056, which charges the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music with "collect[ing] and develop[ing] theological and liturgical resources, and report[ing] to the 77th General Convention" and authorizes bishops "particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, [to] provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church." You can read it here.

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Clementi's death a "call to action"

Integrity USA, the voice of advocacy for LGBT Christians in the Episcopal Church, has issued a "call to action" to the Episcopal Church following the suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers this week. Clementi is the fourth young person in the month of September to have committed suicide because of bullying and teasing due to their sexuality.

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The suicides

One argument that gets made against the Episcopal Church's efforts to fully include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Christians in the life of our church is that this initiative entails compromising the vaules of the Gospel with the values of permissive Western culture. Another argument sometimes offered is that our efforts at inclusion matter place the interests of a privileged class of western activists ahead of those of the church in the developing world.

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LGBT Anglican Coalition writes Archbishop of Canterbury

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Anglican Coalition has written an open letter to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, critical of the culture of dishonsty, fear, and secrecy in the church. The letter urges acceptance of gays and lesbians who are not closeted and who may have life partners as bishops, priests and deacons:

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In gay/lesbian teen suicides, Americans see culpability in pulpits

Chilling research into perceptions of religion and homosexuality show many Americans believe the messages propounded from pulpits may just be exacerbating the issue of suicides among gay and lesbian youth.

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The first person I came out to was God

And the second person he came out to was a priest. Andrew Sullivan on being gay and Catholic. (The video is 7:30 long, and there is a very moving passage about his father toward the end.)

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DADT not a big deal for the troops

News began to leak out during this past week that, when the troops serving the US in the field are asked whether it would matter to them if openly gay and lesbian Americans served with them, it doesn't.

MSNBC reports in part:

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Anti-gay outrages in Uganda continue

The invaluable folks at Box Turtle Bulletin have the latest:

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Mega church pastor "comes out" to help gay teens

The recent rash of suicides by gay youths who were tormented at school for their sexuality provided the impetus for Swilley’s public disclosure, the pastor told Atlanta news station WSB-TV. As a father...Think about your 16, 17-year-old killing themselves. I thought somebody needed to say something."

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Commission asks help in research on rites for same-sex blessings

From the Rev. Ruth Meyers, chair of The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music:

INTRODUCTION

We are inviting members of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to help us know what resources are or have already been used in a congregational discernment process to welcome same-gender blessings and to prepare couples for a Christian life together and for a blessing ceremony.

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Laity drive Finnish Lutherans to recognize same-sex marriages

A month or so ago a leader of the Christian Democratic Party in Finland created a controversy by speaking out against the possibility of the Finnish Lutheran Church allowing for gay marriages to be blessed. The result was a wave a resignations of church memberships - at its peak reaching "hundreds an hour".

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Transgender Awareness Week

November 14-20 is Transgender Awareness Week leading up to the annual Day of Remembrance for those who have been victims of violence as transpeople.

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Hounding homosexuals in Uganda

The Anglican Church in Uganda, awash in money donated by the American right has yet to speak out against the peresecution of LGBT Ugandans. Archbishop Henry Orombi and his allies advance what they believe is a faith rooted in Scripture. But nothing in Scripture justifies the sort of treatment described in this story from Religion Dispatches.

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B16 says the best celibate is a straight celibate

Recently, the news was filled with the Pope's apparent change of mind regarding the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. But few reported that the Pope said in the same book of interviews that he believes that the priesthood should be closed to all homosexuals.

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'Tis the season to be unrepentantly homophobic

If you listen to the debate in the Anglican Communion, or for that matter in the U. S. Congress on issues involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, you will hear repeatedly that those who oppose giving LGBT people the same rights and responsibilities as the rest of us don't actually wish LGBT folks ill, they just aren't sure that they should be allowed to (fill in the blank) for reasons that have nothing to do with personal distaste or, God forbid, bigotry--because maybe they shook a gay person's hand once, or were nice to a lesbian when they could have been mean.

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Don't ask don't tell: why should it matter what chaplains think?

Writing for Religion Dispatches, Eugene McMullen points out that the Rt. Rev. Timothy Broglio, the Catholic Archbishop for the Armed Forces, has written a column Don't Ask Don't Tell that is not simply poorly reasoned, but confuses the issue by making it seem that chaplains--who have to take orders like any other solider--are somehow privileged decision makers in this debate.

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Data dispels myths about LGBT income levels

There's a not uncommon perception that Gay and Lesbian households have more income than straight households, and because of that they have a disproportionately greater economic might. At least that's been offered as a reason that to discount LGBT political gains and lobbying success. Turns out that LGBT earners tend to earn less money than straight workers.

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New group, Equality Matters, to press for same-sex marriage

Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times:

As gay people around the country reveled on Sunday in the historic Senate vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a liberal media watchdog group said it planned to announce on Monday that it was setting up a “communications war room for gay equality” in an effort to win the movement’s next and biggest battle:

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NPR updates story of surging anti-gay sentiment in Uganda

Barbara Bradley Hagerty interviewed David Bahati, author of Uganda's notorious anti-gay legislation, and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who was defrocked by Archbishop Henry Orombi, primate of the Church of Uganda, for ministering to LGBT Christians, for this report.

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UN restores sexual orientation to unjustified executions resolution

Reuters reports:
The United States succeeded on Tuesday in getting the United Nations to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified executions.

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Obama "evolving" on gay marriage

Obama answering reporters' at yesterday's news conference:

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BREAKING: Ugandan "Kill gays" pastor arrested

Pastor Martin Sempa and seven others have been charged by Ugandan authorities with conspiring to frame another pastor on sodomy charges.

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Gay marriage: inevitable, logical and right

Stephanie Coontz, writing in the Washington Post suggests that opponents of gay marriage should calm down a bit. Their fears for the institution will not be realized.

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Should gays and lesbians debate scripture?

Religion Dispatches has a dialogue on whether it is possible for LGBT believers to debate other believers, particularly those who cite the seven "clobber" verses of the Bible, about scripture.

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ABC statement on David Kato's murder

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is currently in Dublin for the Primates' meeting, has made the following statement regarding the murder of the gay human rights activist David Kato Kisulle in Uganda:

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Anti-gay outburst marks Kato's funeral

UPDATED: see below

The BBC and Reuters are reporting that the funeral for David Kato in Nakawala, Uganda, turned chaotic after the local Anglican priest began to berate gay people and refused to bury Kato's body.

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Pride (the good kind)

If you haven't yet heard of Zach Wahls, let me tell you about him.

In 2009, Iowa's Supreme Court recognized that preventing access to marriage for all persons was a fundamental denial of an inherent right. The Court effectively acknowledged that Iowans such as the two long-partnered women who had raised Zach Wahls and his biological sister had a valid partnership. The Court opened up the possibility of equal marriage by recognizing that at stake was a question not of political expediency, but in fact of civil rights.

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Nigerian writers and academics against homophobia

A press release by Writers and Academics Against Homophobia has been posted on Nigerians Talk.

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Saying prayers for civil unions

The Rev Canon Giles Fraser of St. Paul's Cathedral in London and Ruth Gledhill of The Times discuss impending legislation that would allow gays and lesbians to celebrate their civil partnerships with religious ceremonies in the United Kingdom.

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Religious and political leaders reflect on shifts in marriage law this week

Yesterday the Maryland Senate voted to allow same-sex marriages. The Governor of Hawaii signed legislation making it legal in Hawaii. And this week the Obama administration announced that it would change course and no longer defend the Defense of Marriage act passed under previous administrations.

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A first: More Americans support same-sex marriage than oppose it

A sociologist at Southern Illinois University has examined data from the General Social Survey data and found that in 2010, for the first time, more Americans support same-sex marriage than oppose it.

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Unapologetically Catholic, unapologetically for same-sex marriage

Of a certain age, Glen Arm, Maryland's Erma M. Durkin says there are plenty of Catholics who support gay marriage, and that it's the logical conclusion of a life spent soaked in the best teaching of Catholicism:

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DOMA just isn't very good law

Writing for The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen says that John Boehner's decision to defend the Defense of Marriage Act can't change the fact that is a poorly-written law:

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Young people find churches out of touch

The Guardian reports that young people believe churches are out of touch with issues of sexuality from interviews with Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Sikhs as well as those of mixed faith.:

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FDR toddler pictures disturbing

Just when did pink become a girl's color?

The Smithsonian:

Little Franklin Delano Roosevelt sits primly on a stool, his white skirt spread smoothly over his lap, his hands clasping a hat trimmed with a marabou feather. Shoulder-length hair and patent leather party shoes complete the ensemble.

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National Day of Silence

The National Day of Silence will be observed in more than 8,000 high school and colleges today and in many other places unofficially.

William Van Ornum described the day at America magazine:

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Sentamu asked to condemn anti-gay violence in Uganda

From the Advocate:

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Padré Alberto: Churches need to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, too

In column for AOL Noticias, Father Alberto Cutíe praises the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and says:

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Hope in Nigeria

The brave souls involved in this story reported in the Guardian need our prayers:

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A tipping point on marriage equality?

Adam Liptak of The New York Times writes:

It’s not every day that a leading law firm fires a client for holding a position so extreme that it may be said to be unworthy of a defense. And it is rarer yet — unheard of, really — when that client is the House of Representatives and the position in question is a federal law.

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Presbyterians on the verge of approving LGBT ordination

Peter Smith of the Louisville Courier-Journal reports:

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Navy to allow same-sex weddings

According to the Navy Times, the new policy of allowing openly gay and lesbian to serve in the military has caused the Navy Chaplain Corp to issue a memo allowing for Naval Chaplains to perform same-sex marriages on navy bases. Naval facilities may be used for the reception.

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PCUSA votes for inclusion

UPDATED: 5/11 AP reports:

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NY bishop reminds NY Times that TEC supports civil marriage equality

Bishop Mark Sisk of New York has written a letter to The New York Times, in response to a story about the efforts to faith leaders to block marriage equality legislation in New York state:

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Same-sex blessing resources now online

The resources that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music have gathered in fulfillment of Resolution C056, are now available online. It includes Diocesan resources, resources for liturgy and worship, and others.

Fisking the John Jay report

The Revealer has been running an illuminating series of articles on the John Jay College report on clerical sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

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Fed flag fans fight

The Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond Virginia is flying a rainbow flag in observance of LGBT Pride Month as a symbol of their commitment to "the values of acceptance and inclusion". A Virginia legislator is calling for its removal arguing, in part, that it supports an act which he says is still a felony in Virginia.

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Marriage equality gains momentum in New York

The New York Times reports:

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A clergy perspective on marriage equality

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, Priest in Charge, St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, has a blog post today in Huffington Post on the subject of marriage equality.

I am writing to make only one point. State recognition of same sex marriage is about freedom, an all-American value, more libertarian than liberal. It is about removing a state imposed barrier in the construction of family.

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Cuomo signs same-sex marriage bill into law

Late last night New York's new governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill allowing legal same-sex marriage in the state passed hours earlier all into law. Governor Cuomo had made the passage of such legislation one of the key pieces of his campaign platform.

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The O'Malley model?

Mark Silk suggests that Roman Catholic bishops stop talking smack about marriage equality. After noting that the bishops and their allies were outmaneuvered in New York, he writes:

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C. S. Lewis defends same sex marriage

Mark Silk draws us to this passage in Mere Christianity that shows C. S. Lewis would oppose state prohibition of same sex marriage:

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We survived our tough times. We want you to survive yours.

Holy Apostles Church in New York City has made an excellent contribution to the It Gets Better series.

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Canadian Lutherans approve human-sexuality statement

From the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada:

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Is Uganda's "Kill the Gays bill" coming back?

It seems possible that the Ugandan parliament will take up notorious anti-gay legislation when it reconvenes later this month. Box Turtle Bulletin has the story:

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Christians unite! These marathoners must be stopped

Writing for Religion Dispatches, Sarah Morice-Brubaker argues that as citizens we have a perfect right to tell other citizens what to do with their bodies, especially if what they are doing goes against God's design, and is likely to cost us money.

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Rowan Williams in 1988 on homosexuality

A pamphlet entitled "Speaking Love’s Name; Homosexuality: Some Catholic and Socialist Perspectives" written in 1988 had an introduction from Prof. Rowan Willams. It a name we recognize, but a voice we've rarely heard.

His writing refers to a resolution at the 1987 synod of the Church of England in which the traditional teachings of sex being reserved for the state of holy matrimony was reaffirmed.

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A wedding in a hospital room

In this deeply moving article, New York Times reporter Anemona Hartocollis tells the story of Richard Townsend, 77 and Jacques Beaumont, 86, partners of 39 years, who were married this week in the hospital room in which they are both being treated for terminal illnesses.

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Anglican liturgy group offers views on same-gender blessings

The communique from the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, held August 1-6 in Canterbury features this nugget:

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But he seems so nice

Jack Hibbs, pastor at Calvary Chapel, Chino Hills, preached last Sunday on the subject of "Authority, Submission, and Love." Before that - apparently in loving submission to heavenly authority - he recorded an announcement encouraging the blockage of The FAIR Act, California SB 48, a recently-signed-into-law bill that would prohibit

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Getting up to speed on transgender issues

Becky Garrison admits to her credit that even many veteran campaigners for LGBT equality don't actually know very much about the challenges faced by those identified by the last initial in that acronym. In a recent article for Killing the Buddha, she sets out to educate herself, and educates the rest of us in the process. Some excerpts:

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Religion links from all over

Riazat Butt, religion reporter for the Guardian, is traveling in Afghanistan with British army chaplains. One chaplain said to her:

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"Don't Ask Don't Tell" is dead

AP reports on the end of the U.S. policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for gays and lesbians serving in the military:

After years of debate and months of final preparations, the military can no longer prevent gays from serving openly in its ranks.

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Presbyterians to ordain first openly gay man

A Wisconsin Presbyterian church is planning to ordain the first openly gay minister in the history of the denomination early next month. This is the first such ordination since the vote this summer that opened the Presbyterian Church to gay and lesbian clergy.

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Irish clergy unwilling to wait for action

UPDATED 9/25: George Conger reports: "The outcry over the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory’s support for an Irish dean’s gay civil union has forced the bishop to skip the consecration of the Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry."

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Five common questions from those opposing GLBT inclusion

Presbyterian minister Dr. Janet Edwards writes in the Huffington Post's religion section that pretty much all of the opposition to including GLBT folks in the fullest life of the church comes down to five basic questions, each of which betrays its own bias in the asking:

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Nigeria appears to be following Uganda's lead

A group of Nigerian legislators are moving in roughly the same direction as a similar group in Uganda; enacting national legislation to criminalize same-sex marriage, and impose stiff penalties on anyone who "witnesses, abets and aids the solemnization of a same gender marriage contract."

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Sex and the single evangelical

From an illustration the article "(Almost) Everyone's Doing It" by Tyler Charles, in the September/October issue of RELEVANT Magazine (p. 66):

SEX AND SINGLE CHRISTIANS
A Look at Relationship Status Among Unmarried Young Adults (Age 18-29)

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Why marriage equality in Portugal?

Portugal legalized same-sex marriages last year, joining a small but growing group of countries around the world. According to an op-ed piece in the New York Times, it's not a coincidence that some of the countries have made this decision. It's because of their history.

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An actor's coming-out note

Fresh from a run of playing in "Angels in America," Actor Zachary Quinto comes out in New York Magazine, and attributes the courage to do so to Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old boy who killed himself after incidents of bullying over his sexuality brought his spirit so far down.

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Hundreds of NY and CT Methodist clergy reject ban on same-sex marriage

News being made today as Methodist clergy and others push back against the long standing ban on same-sex marriages in the Methodist Church:

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A bishop reflects on the consultation in South Africa

Today I hope to roll out some of the first videos, columns and sermons from participants in the recently concluded consultation in Durban, South Africa among African Anglicans, Episcopalians and some interfaith friends on issues of justice and human sexuality. First up is a video that Bishop Jeff Lee of Chicago sent home to the people of his diocese.

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Making new neighbors to love

The Rev. Bonnie Perry, co-founder of the Chicago Consultation, preached this sermon about the recently concluded consultation on justice and human sexuality to her congregation at All Saints Church in Chicago yesterday.

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CoE clergy warned against holding civil union ceremonies

The government has set a date for opening the churches in England to civil unions (effectively same-sex blessings), but the Church of England has told the clergy that they may not participate.

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Bipartisan groups forms to push for marriage equality

USA Today has the story:

A group of high-profile Democrats and Republicans who back legalizing gay marriage are calling on advocates to shift the focus on the issue from an argument about equal rights to promoting the value of commitment.

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Susan Russell annoys the religious right

You will no doubt be surprised to learn that the Rev. Canon Susan Russell has written something that has annoyed the religion right.

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Top Marine: End of Don't Ask, Don't Tell no big deal

The Associated Press is reporting that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military is thus far causing less unrest than, say, allowing them to serve as bishops in the Anglican Communion.

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Porvoo consultation on marriage equality

Modeling respectful communication on controversial issues, the Churches of the Porvoo Communion held a consultation on marriage in Finland in November as reported by Thinking Anglicans:

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Sudan withdraws invitation to the Presiding Bishop

Archbishop Deng Bul, the Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, has written to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to withdraw her invitation to visit Sudan this spring. He cites the Episcopal Church's support of gay and lesbian Christians as the cause.

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Trinity Church, Wilmington blesses Delware's first civil union

Delaware's first civil union was blessed at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wilmington. Some readers may recognize the Rev. Patricia Downing in the photograph accompanying this article.

Catholic laity more supportive of gay rights than hierarchy

A report in the Stamford (CT) Advocate tells about a support group for LGBT Roman Catholics that encourages sexual abstinence and avoiding same unions or marriage. It is a kind of middle way between the stand taking by the Catholic group Dignity USA, which is for full inclusion, and mindless gay-bashing. The problem is that a new study shows that most Catholic laity are way ahead of their heirarchy in accepting LGBT persons in their midst.

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Therapy almost never changes sexual orientation, proponent says

Denominations that are aggressively opposed to including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians in the life of the church frequently assert that LGBT people are simply failed heterosexuals who need to discover their true natures. But, as Warren Throckmorton reports, even those in the orientation changing business say that this almost never happens.

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SCLM asks for more feedback

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) has been tasked by General Convention with creating resources to be submitted to General Convention for approval for trial use for same-gender blessings in the church. They've been collecting resources, studying them and are now asking us for feedback on where they are in the work.

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Ugandan ambassador withdraws from MLK event over LGBT legislation

The Washington Blade is reporting news that it had a hand in making.

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A lesbian Episcopal priest visits her parents' native India

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, priest in charge at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery in New York City, was in India recently to attend "continuing indaba" conversations among members of the Church of North India, the Diocese of Derby in England, and the Diocese of New York when the Mid-Day paper in Mumbai caught up with her. Varghese is an ethnic Kerali, who was raised in Dallas.

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LGBT students at major Christian schools

What is it like to be LGBT Christian attending a major Christian University? It's hard. There are lots of tears. And there's no one to talk to as people are trying to come to terms with their orientation. If you'd like a window into the experience check out the new file "Let Your Light Shine".

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How one parish made up its mind about same-sex blessings

Even if you aren't in the habit of visiting our Video blog, you might nonetheless appreciate this presentation of how one parish went about deciding whether to bless same-sex relationships.

Uganda's awful anti-gay bill is back

Warren Throckmorton links to a Ugandan TV report suggesting the bill may be taken up in Parliament tomorrow.

"One Town's War on Gay Teens"

The town of Anoka Minnesota, in Michelle Bachmann's congressional district, has had a rash of teenage suicides attributed to unchecked bullying against LGBT people in the community. Rolling Stone has an long, moving report on the situation, the background and the way the teens are organizing to try to save their own lives.

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Opposing an amendment banning marriage equality

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Shelby, North Carolina recently hosted a forum for opponents of a ballot initiative that would make same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

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Is marriage equality in the United States inevitable?

Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Harvard Professor Michael Klarman argues that the outcome of the struggle for marriage equality is already won, even as the fighting goes on.

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Contraception, Catholics, and the old Kosher Deli

Yesterday's story was of a mostly-testosterone-y panel of witnesses on Capital Hill at the birth-control-benefit hearings (walked out of, in protest, of by Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney [D-N.Y.] and Eleanor Holmes Norton [D-D.C.]) It led Katie Halper to muse that the "hearing was good, but having it in Salem in the 17th century would have made it even better."

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Kenya's legal same sex marriage

BBC News reports:

Homosexual acts may be outlawed in Kenya but there is a long tradition among some communities of women marrying each other.

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ABC steps up to defend LGBT people

There's an ongoing dispute at the UN Human Rights Council about the limits to the persecution of LGBT people. In a speech in Geneva this evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke out strongly against any decisions that would countenance laws criminalizing gay and lesbian people.

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Twenty years later, an archbishop and gay priest reconcile

Twenty years ago, Archbishop Terence Finlay, then Archbishop of Toronto revoked the license of the Rev. James Ferry because Ferry had fallen in love with the man who would become his lifelong partner. Next Sunday, they will participate in a rare service of reconciliation. Love changes lives, and changes minds.

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Bishop and priest reconcile after 20 years

In 1991 the Bishop of Toronto, Terence Finlay (who later became the Archbishop of the Province of Ontario) dismissed a priest of the diocese, Jim Ferry, because Ferry was a partnered gay man. The dismissal was controversial, effectively "outing" Ferry to the community. Finlay insists that he was required to take such action by the canons of the Anglican Church of Canada at the time.

A week ago, the two men, now both retired, were publicly reconciled to each other and their history.

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Tolerance isn't enough

British Film Institute featured Love Free or Die and an interview with Bishop Gene Robinson:

Speaking after the screening of the new film about his life and work as the first openly gay and partnered bishop in Christendom, Bishop Gene Robinson talks about the role of religious institutions in civil liberties, explains why tolerance isn't enough and gives everyone who sees the film a mission of education.

Bad news and good news for gays/lesbians in Africa

Box Turtle Bulletin reports on the anti-gay rhetoric and actions in Liberia while news of a new gay and lesbian publication emerges from Sudan:

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The wild Catholic career of the Rev. Bernard Lynch

Peter Stanford of The Independent profiles the Rev. Bernard Lynch, whose career is the Roman Catholic Church as a whistleblower, advocate for LGBT people, and, as it turns out, married gay man, would be dismissed as implausible were it proposed as fiction.

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Courage founder: "Gay cure" not possible

Jeremy Marks who founded Courage in the UK to help gays and lesbians overcome homosexuality writes 'I began to think that perhaps we’d got it really wrong.' in
The Guardian:

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Billy Graham could learn a thing or two about families

On the eve of the day on which voters in North Carolina will decide whether to add discrimination against gays and lesbians to the state constitution, Fred Clark, also known as Slacktivist, directs us to three commentators who could enlarge Billy Graham's sense of what it means to be Christian.

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President Obama endorses marriage equality

In an interview with ABC News, Barack Obama today became the first sitting U. S. President to endorse marriage equality:

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Chicago Consultation, Ujamaa Centre hold African consultation on scripture, sexuality

From the Chicago Consultation:

In October, some 25 Anglican leaders from across Africa gathered with more than a dozen Episcopalians from the United States for a consultation on issues of justice and human sexuality.

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Did the medieval church perform same-sex unions?

I lack the theological and historical chops to assess Eric Berkowitz's claim that the Catholic Church celebrated same-sex unions between men in medieval times, or to distinguish his claims from those of the late historian John Boswell. But I would be delighted to hear from commenters who can give us a sense of whether Berkowitz is saying anything new or significant. He writes:

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Catholic Archbishop reported to advocate equal treatment for homosexuals in long-term relationships

Interesting news out of Germany-- the Catholic Archbishop of Berlin has reportedly come out in favor of treating those in long-term homosexual relationships equal to those in heterosexual relationships.

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Mote Magomba: a change of heart

One of the great pleasures of working on the video we posted last week from the gathering that the Chicago Consultation held in partnership with the Ujamaa Centre of the University of KwaZulu Natal in October was the opportunity to interview several of the participants in the consultation at length. I especially enjoyed talking with the Rev. Mote Magomba, director of the Amani Christian Training Centre in Iringa, Tanzania. The story of his change of heart on LGBT issues was the highlight of the video. Here, you can hear him speak about it at greater length.

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Peter and the "shellfish" argument

As the Episcopal Church and other denominations have taken positions of that support the full inclusion of LGBT Christians and marriage equality, those in support of that position point out that the ritual law of the Old Testament was suspended after the resurrection, and arguing that Levitical prohibitions are still in force for some things and not others doesn't make a lot of sense.

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Ecclesia de Lange and the cost of conscience

The Rev. Ecclesia de Lange talks about being dismissed from her position as a pastor in the Methodist Church of South Africa after she married her female partner. The Rev. de Lange participated in a consultation sponsored by the Chicago Consultation and the Ujamaa Centre of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in October 2011.

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What would Martin do?

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Senior Religion Editor of The Huffington Post asks "Would King have evolved on Gay Rights?"

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Voices of Witness: transgender persons tell their stories

Integrity marks the beginning of Pride Month with the June 1st release of "Voices of Witness: Out of the Box"

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"God has been present among us."

Professor Gerald West, who developed the Bible study program for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, was one of the principle planners of a gathering of Episcopalians and African Anglicans held in October in Durban, South Africa. In the first of these two videos, he talks about the the work of the Ujamaa Centre at the University of KwaZulu Natal. In the second he reflects on what was accomplished at the gathering.

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Gay rights advocates find support in religious, civil rights circles

New research offers "a cautionary note for those who would try to fit members of different religious groups into monolithic boxes on gay and lesbian issues," writes David Briggs of the Association of Religion Data Archives:

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Church Times: C of E paper on marriage is tendentious, poorly argued

The Church Times devotes its lead editorial to an evisceration of the paper that the Church of England submitted to the British government expressing its opposition to same-sex marriage:

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Kenyan bishop says "gay movement" more dangerous than terrorists

CORRECTION: SEE STORY ON 8/13 - Bishop says this is false

Despite some seemingly hopeful developments in the Anglican Communion, proponents of spiritual equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender should have no illusions about what they are up against in some quarters. Standard Media of Kenya reports:

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Jeffrey John speaks up for marriage equality in UK

Dean Jeffrey John of St. Alban's Cathedral in England has made a powerful pitch for marriage equality in the United Kingdom.

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Bishop of Alabama: Yes, but no on same-sex blessings

Bishop Kee Sloan, who voted yes at General Convention to approve the new ritual for same-sex blessings, will not allow the blessings to be performed in the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.

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Marriage is too precious a thing not to share

A lovely marriage equality ad from Maine.

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Somewhat against our better judgment: a Chick-fil-A story

Richard Allen Greene of CNN reports:

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The T in LGBT

Becky Garrison, writing in the Washington Post says The Episcopal Church promotes the T in LGBT:

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The right's appropriation of the 'Christianity' mantle

Zack Ford at Thinkprogress.org notes he received some flak from a reader who complained about his characterizing Chick-Fil-A as a "Christian-run company." He admits this perspective has merit, and goes on to describe how conservatives have appropriated the mantle of Christianity specifically to advance an agenda hostile to the gay community and progressive Christians:

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When "hate" is the right word

Elizabeth Drescher takes a hard look at the use of words like "hate" and "homophobia" in the wake of the Chick-fil_A controversy, and takes issue with Rick Warren's attempts to paint himself and his followers as folks who love LGBT people, but simply disagree with those people and their advocates about their place in society. She writes:

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Gene Robinson's Straight Talk about Gay Marriage

G Jeffrey McDonald interviewed Bishop Gene Robinson about his new book God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage for Publishers Weekly. Here is some of what they said:

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In Sydney, brides may "submit" rather than "obey"

There's good news and bad news: if you get married in an Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, the bride no longer has to promise that she will "obey" her husband. Instead, she has the option of "submitting" to him.

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A camp where transgender kids can be themselves

Bella English of The Boston Globe has written a lovely story about a camp for transgender children.

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Is the church too timid to speak frankly about sex?

The Rev. William Lamar, managing director of leadership education at the Duke University Divinity School wonders why Christians talks so much about sexual issues without paying closer attention to the rich, varied and challenging Biblical texts dealing with sex and sexual violence. Writing at the Huffington Post he says:

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Archbishop of Sydney: being gay more hazardous than smoking

The Rt Rev. Peter Jensen supports his anti-gay stance while appearing on the Australian TV program Q and A and as reported in The Age, Jensen says:

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Chick-fil-A clarifies: we're still anti-gay

Apparently Chick-fil-A has pulled a fast one. Here's the story from the Advocate:

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Bishop in NJ, priest in Washington pen marriage equality op-eds

Episcopalians are raising their voices on behalf of marriage equality in several states where that issue is on the ballot. In New Jersey, Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark took direct issue with his Roman Catholic counterpart Archbishop John Myers in today's Newark Star Ledger.

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Andrew Brown: sexuality wars ending, liberals have won

Andrew Brown of The Guardian says the Anglican Communion's sexuality wars are ending and the liberals have won. He writes:

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California bans therapies to 'cure’ gay minors

The NYTimes reports:

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Matthew Shephard: Fourteen years ago tomorrow

From the blog Talk About Equality:

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

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Boy Scouts sticking to their anti-gay guns

Yahoo has the story, and a photo:

A longtime Boy Scout claims he's being denied the organization's highest honor because he's gay.

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Talking about God and sex on campus

Here is a fascinating account of the conversations that students and the Rev. Kimberly Jackson are having about sexual ethics and their religious faith at the Atlanta University Center, which serves several universities in that city. An excerpt:

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Bishop Robinson plans an active retirement

Surprise! Bishop Gene Robinson plans an active retirement. The Advocate has the story:

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Ted Haggard now believes in marriage equality

In an online debate, Pastor Ted Haggard says now that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry under state law even if churches do not agree. OnTop Magazine summarizes Haggard's points:

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Theology of same sex love

Ekklesia reports that Savitri Hensman has written Journey towards acceptance: theologians and same sex love, an overview of theological discussion and debate from the last 60 years.

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Uganda's anti-gay legislation rears its head yet again

The indefatigable Warren Throckmorton, whose reporting on the anti-gay legislation that has been in and out of consideration by the Ugandan parliament, suggests that it may once again be time for concern. He writes:

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Bishop of Georgia authorizes a rite for same sex blessings

Updated at bottom with Rev. Susan Russell's response

Bishop Scott Benhase has released a pastoral letter and a rite for blessing same sex relationships. He writes:

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Clause by clause analysis of Uganda's anti-gay legislation

Jim Burroway has done the world an invaluable service in providing a clause-by-clause analysis of the notorious anti-gay legislation which is currently before Uganda's Parliament. He writes:

There has been considerable confusion over what would happen if the bill were to become law. Most of the attention has focused on the bill’s death penalty provision, but even if it were removed, the bill’s other eighteen clauses would still represent a barbaric regression for Uganda’s human rights record.

Among the bill's more pernicious provisions is one that defines homosexual activity so broadly that mere touching becomes a criminal act. Burroway writes:

All of which means that someone can “commit homosexuality” even if they are fully clothed and there is no actual skin-to-skin contact. The sole proof required is that the “touching” took place with the perceived “intention” of committing the act of homosexuality. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But just to make sure we’re clear that the bill intends to cast an extraordinarily wider net, go back to the definition of ”sexual act” in Clause 1: an act that “does not necessarily culminate in intercourse.”

You can see where this is going, can’t you? With the bar for conviction thus lowered, anyone can be falsely accused of being gay — one can easily imagine rival politicians, business owners and pastors falling prey to such accusations – and it will become virtually impossible for them to prove their innocence.


APA awakens: Being transgender no longer a mental illness

The mental health establishment is catching up to what friends of transgender people have long known: being transgender is not a mental illness. Zack Ford writes:

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Rick Warren Tweets opposition to Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill

Rick Warren has been under some pressure to speak out on proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda.

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Ugandan president speaks against homosexuality at consecration

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni spoke against homosexuality at the consecration of The Rt. Rev. Stanley Ntagali as primate of the Church of Uganda this weekend. But has he also signaled his intention not to sign the draconian anti-gay legislation under consideration by that country's parliament. From the Daily Monitor of Uganda:

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Happy, clappy and out of the closet

Born-again Christianity has become synonymous with social conservatism, but a growing number of adherents don’t see it that way according to an item in The Independent:

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Dean Hall discusses National Cathedral's new same-sex marriage policy on CNN

Dean Gary Hall of Washington National Cathedral, a founding steering committee member of the Chicago Consultation, appeared on CNN this morning to discuss the cathedral's decision to bless same-sex relationships and perform civil marriages for gay and lesbian couples.

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Marriage equality and the Rhode Island state senate

Katharine Gregg of the Providence Journal fills readers in on the politics behind the marriage equality debate in Rhode Island:

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Boy Scouts considering end to ban on gay scouts

Pete Williams of NBC News reports:

The Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation’s largest private youth organizations, is actively considering an end to its decades-long policy of banning gay scouts or scout leaders, according to scouting officials and outsiders familiar with internal discussions.

If adopted by the organization’s board of directors, it wo