Maureen Fiedler: How 12 Religious Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People

Sr. Maureen Fiedler offers an excellent overview of where faith traditions are on the question of homosexuality in her article Radio Program Explore Homosexuality in Different Faith Communities. Well worth the read, and tuning in to her 12-part radio series. These radio interviews could offer a great opportunity for small group conversations within your community.

Here’s an excerpt of Maureen’s article:

Public opinion about homosexuality is changing rapidly, and civil law is not far behind. Gays and lesbians are increasingly open about their relationships and accepted. In some states, they now can marry legally and adopt children.

But among those who are people of faith — with a few exceptions — gay men and lesbians wrestle with how to be faithful to their religious traditions while living fully the human reality in which they discover themselves.

That’s why it seemed just the right moment for “Interfaith Voices” (the public radio show I host) to broadcast a series titled “Gay in the Eyes of God: How 12 Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People.” It began this summer and will stretch into the fall. It was made possible by a grant from the Arcus Foundation.

This series offers much more than scriptural or theological conversations, although those are included. We hear the often poignant stories of gay and lesbian people struggling with who they are as they try to stay faithful to their respective traditions. …

Read the whole article.
Find out more about this series and Interfaith Voices.

Video: One-Hour Bible Study on Gay Christians in the Church

Matthew Vines speaks on the theological debate regarding the Bible and the role of gay Christians in the church. Delivered at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas on March 8, 2012. A one-hour bible study on homosexuality and the Bible. Matthew Vines looks at 6 critical scripture verses. Well worth the time. The transcript is also available.

“In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes about marriage and celibacy. He was celibate himself, and he says that he wishes that everyone else could be celibate as well. But, he says, each person has their own gift. For Paul, celibacy is a spiritual gift, and one that he realizes that many Christians don’t have. However, because many of them lack the gift of celibacy, Paul observes that sexual immorality is rampant. And so he prescribes marriage as a kind of remedy or protection against sexual sin for Christians who lack the gift of celibacy. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” he says. And today, the vast majority of Christians do not sense either the gift of celibacy or the call to it. This is true for both straight and gay Christians. And so if the remedy against sexual sin for straight Christians is marriage, why should the remedy for gay Christians not be the same?”–Matthew Vines, The Gay Debate

“If you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I’m asking you to ask yourself this: How deeply do you care about your family? How deeply do you love your spouse? And how tenaciously would you fight for them if they were ever in danger or in harm’s way? That is how deeply you should care, and that is how tenaciously you should fight, for the very same things for my life, because they matter just as much to me. Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love.”–Matthew Vines, The Gay Debate

Remembering Walter Righter, Episcopal Bishop and Shepherd

Bishop Righter and wife Nancy Righter

When theologian William Stringfellow and Anthony Townes wrote about The Bishop Pike Affair in the 1967, they dug deep into the decision by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops to resurrect heresy laws to address behavior by Pike that was either outlandish and heretical or prophetic and revelatory, depending on your point of view. In the person of Pike, an early proponent of ordination of women, racial desegregation, and the acceptance of LBGT people within mainline churches, his actions were a messy human mix of both and all.

Though Pike lost the trial, the Pike Affair raised in stark relief the fact that, on occasion, mature religious conscience could come into conflict with religious orthodoxy. It was a highly significant revelation in American religious thought.

This week American Christians lay to rest another brother who lived and died in that same stream: Walter Righter, the Episcopal bishop who ordained the first woman in the Iowa diocese in 1976 and ordained an openly gay partnered man to the diaconate in 1990, after “changing his mind” on ordaining “homosexuals,” died at home in Pittsburgh and was interred in Calvary Church’s columbarium.

Bishop Righter was also brought up on charges that by ordaining a gay man he violated the doctrine of the church and Righter’s own ordination vows. But this time the battle was won. In May 1996, the Bishops Court stated in a 7-1 decision that the Episcopal Church “has no doctrine prohibiting the ordination of homosexuals,” and that Bishop Righter did not contradict the “core doctrine” of the church. Righter reflected on the trial and his life in his book A Pilgrim’s Way. Well done, good and faithful servant.

The Rt. Rev. Walter C. Righter, an Episcopal bishop whose victory at a 1996 heresy trial played a key role in the push for gay rights in the church, died on Sunday (Sept. 11) at the age of 87.

“I look around the Episcopal Church today where there are no impediments to the ordination of gay or lesbian members … none of that would have happened without Bishop Righter’s leadership,” said the Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif., former president of the pro-gay group Integrity USA. Righter was bishop of Iowa from 1972 to 1988, during which time he ordained the first female deacon in Iowa. From 1989 to 1991, he served as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Newark.

Righter ordained Barry Lee Stopfel, a noncelibate gay man, as a deacon in 1990. Ten bishops brought charges against Righter, alleging that he violated both the doctrine of the church and his ordination vows by ordaining Stopfel. In a verdict issued on May 15, 1996, a church court stated that the Episcopal Church “has no doctrine prohibiting the ordination of homosexuals,” and that Bishop Righter did not contradict any “core doctrine” of the church.

A member of the court, Bishop Cabell Tennis, told The New York Times that the verdict offered neither an opinion “on the morality of same-gender relationships” nor guidance on whether a bishop “should or should not” ordain sexually active gays and lesbians. When asked after the trial to speculate on the future of homosexuality in the church, Righter told The Times, “I think we’re making too much out of the bedroom.”

The Episcopal Church now has two openly gay bishops and allows for the ordination of gays and lesbians in most dioceses, and will likely debate formalized rites for same-sex unions at its General Convention next year. “When the history of the movement for the full inclusion of the LGBT community in our church is written, there is no doubt that Walter Righter will be one of its great heroes,” said Russell.

In a statement Monday on Righter’s death, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said: “The Episcopal Church can give thanks for the life of a faithful and prophetic servant…. His ministry will be remembered for his pastoral heart and his steadfast willingness to help the church move beyond old prejudices into new possibilities.”

Andrew Wilkes: Evangelicals, Race, and GLBT Issues

LaTona Gunn holds a 2001 photo of her daughter, Sakia Gunn, at her home in Newark. Sakia, 15, was stabbed to death while waiting for the bus in Newark after she and her friends told her attacker they were lesbians.
LaTona Gunn holds a 2001 photo of her daughter, Sakia, 15, who was stabbed to death while waiting for the bus after she and her friends told her attacker they were lesbians.

I really appreciated Andrew Wilkes excellent post today on Sojourners blog on the evil of indifference when it comes to how dominant sexuality Christians relate to gays and lesbians (Ignoble Indifference: Evangelicals, Race, and GLBT Issues).

Andrew worked with Sojourners as a policy and organizing fellow and added his depth and richness to our ministry life. Now he’s back at Princeton Theological Seminary and getting ready to graduate this spring. Andrew is a noble son of the Black church tradition and it gives me hope that our future is carried by him and his compatriots. Here’s an excerpt:

While progressive evangelicals consider color within and beyond the Emergent Church, let us not ignore the stories of our gay and lesbian brethren as if the two issues are completely separate. The two issues ought not be conflated, and yet they are inextricably intertwined.

Far too often, black and brown youth who are gay and lesbian suffer from an unceasing stream of epithets, threats, and violence in the formative years of life. From the ghastly murder of Sakia Gunn, a fifteen-year-old lesbian, to the skull-fracturing beating of Gregory Love at Morehouse, visceral responses to homosexuality have provoked not only dehumanizing discourse but also destructive deeds. Violence against our gay and lesbian brethren — again, many of whom are black and brown — is immoral, illegal, and incompatible with those who follow the Prince of Peace.

Another sin of civil rights storytelling is that many who invoke Martin King ignore Bayard Rustin. And yet, the emergence of Martin King as a nonviolent prophet is unintelligible without brother Rustin — a brilliant organizer, orator, nonviolent strategist, and also a gay man.

Or when Tonex, perhaps the most gifted gospel artist of the past quarter-century, came out, many of his peers publicly threw him under the pews. The not-so-subtle message was twofold: one cannot be explicitly gay and publicly offer praise to God; and secondly — since everyone and their grandmama knows that there are gay gospel artists — one must suffer in silence before God and Church. This message is unhelpful, tacitly encouraging a culture of shame and clandestine sexuality.

Instead, let progressive evangelicals acknowledge that there are Christian arguments for gay marriage, civil unions, and so forth. One may or may not be convinced, but let us be charitable enough to acknowledge that there are Jesus-loving and justice-seeking believers who have theological reasons to account for their sexuality, an open and affirming church, and so forth.

The stone-cold truth, I suspect, is that more than a few progressive evangelicals are indifferent about GLBT issues. By God’s grace, I ashamedly — and yet gratefully — admit that I am slowly being delivered from this apathy.

“There is an evil which most of us condone and are even guilty of: indifference to evil. We remain neutral, impartial, and not easily moved by the wrongs done unto other people. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself … The prophets’ great contribution to humanity was the discovery of the evil of indifference. One may be decent and sinister, pious and sinful.”–Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom, pgs. 110-1

Gracious Triune God of love and justice, deliver us from this ignoble indifference.

Read more on this discussion here. To watch the amazing documentary on the life of Bayard Rustin, see Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. And for more on Sakia Gunn, read here.