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Arts festival too hot for Catholics moves to Episcopal church

Arts festival too hot for Catholics moves to Episcopal church

An Episcopal church in Brooklyn Heights has stepped in to provide space for an arts festival that was deemed too controversial for its original location, a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan.

According to the New York Times, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Episcopal church will be the new location for the International Human Rights Art Festival, a part of the larger Culture Project.  The Culture Project had recently signed a contract with St Mary’s Roman Catholic church in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, to use 9,000 square feet of basement space as a regular home for their events.

Father Andrew O’Connor, the administrator of St. Mary’s, said in an interview that he had recently received a call from Bishop John O’Hara, the vicar for Manhattan, expressing concern on behalf of himself and Cardinal Dolan about the gay and transgender-themed performances of the festival. He wanted Father O’Connor to speak to the producers to make sure that the material was appropriate for the Catholic Church.

Had there been more time, perhaps a compromise could have been worked out, Father O’Connor said. When Mr. Block [the event’s producer] asked him if the festival would be allowed as is, Father O’Connor said he told him “probably not,” and rather than ban some artists, Mr. Block decided to pull the show.

“We are a human rights arts festival,” Mr. Block said. “We are not going to abandon people.”

The performances in question were a comedy improv piece titled “Thank You for Coming Out,” about revealing gay identity, and a series of original cabaret songs by transgender artist and activist Maybe Burke.  The event’s organizers and artists seemed shocked at the actions of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

“I think it’s absolutely, completely wrong,” Ms. [Kathleen] Turner said [the event headliner]. Deciding who should be heard and who silenced, she said, “is very much against the teaching of Christianity.”

Allan Buchman, the founder of the Culture Project, said he was told that he would have to be sensitive to the church in what he presented, but the example he was given was avoiding excessive profanity. He was not told, he said, that gay-themed work would be unacceptable.

The essential question is whether or not allowing use of space in a church for outside voices is an implicit endorsement by the church of that voice.  The Times reached out to the Rev James Martin, author of Building a Bridge, who has been pushing the Catholic church to be more inclusive and who has also faced a backlash from reactionary elements in the Church:

“Sadly, many self-appointed Orthodoxy watchdog groups are focused on this, hosting a play about coming out is not an endorsement, any more than hosting a Greek tragedy is an endorsement of murder and suicide.”


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Jon Threlkeld

I am all for inclusion, if by inclusion one means that we welcome all to here the Gospel and that most certainly applies to those who identify as LGBT. But bending scripture to accommodate their behavior which the Bible clearly considers sinful is to betray them: they need to hear the truth but given in a civil and loving way — no name calling or vilification. They need to know that they will be supported if they desire to change their same sex attraction, and even if they do not. Even the ones who do not see their behavior as sinful need to be welcomed but to expect that their sinful behavior will regarded as is all other sinful behavior: sin is sin and we are all sinners and our particular sins do not define us as human beings. I know some reading this will regard me as a “hater” or a “bigot” because I reject the claim that homosexual acts are not sinful and that same sex marriages are blessed by God. I ask those who see my comment this way, how can I be a “hater” or a “bigot”?

Tom Block

Jon, with all due respect, if we followed the dictates of the Bible literally, we’d be stoning people to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, and involved in endless and apocalyptic religious wars. Let’s hope we move past your vision of the Bible (and the Qu’ran and the Torah and all the others) — before it is too late. Tom

Wayne Helmly

“Judge not, lest you shall be judged”

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Alan Justice

This is the best kind of evangelism: TEC as the place where folks can tell the truth about themselves.

Prof Christopher Seitz

“hosting a play about coming out is not an endorsement, any more than hosting a Greek tragedy is an endorsement of murder and suicide.”

I suspect that comment will do the trick…

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