Concluding thoughts – or, now what?!

The book is finished. Our planned discussion times completed. We liked the book. We said we would leave it around for others to read – and intentionally pass it on to some who could benefit from it. We especially liked chapter 2, and the discussion about the Biblical passages and arguments. We loved that the whole thing was so easy to read and so accessible.

And then we wondered – now what? This issue matters. So many people have been so badly hurt by the Church on this issue, personally rejected and vilified.

We traded stories of feeling like the only Christianity that gets heard and seen is one that is all about rules and judgement, a faith that is rigid and seems to have very little to do with the messy business of loving our neighbour as ourself. We want the mainline churches, the faith we follow, to be louder; to include and be tolerant – but in a more obvious and overt manner!

And in the course of conversation, two possibilities emerged –

  1. Could we have a poster campaign?! (Might this even be a national church project?) Posters of people, with the caption “This is what a Christian/Anglican looks like”, with a quote or caption “Pro-gay”, or”Pro-choice”, or some such thing… and borrowing a little from the “This is what a feminist looks like” campaigns.
  2. A more local and immediate project (we are looking at you St Bede’s folks!) – during exams, use sidewalk chalks and write quotes/scripture passages all over campus. Quotes like “Judge not, lest ye be judged” or “If one of you says, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”, or “St. Therese of Lisieux “I choose all”, or Meister Eckhert “We are all called to be mothers of G-d, because G-d is always needing to be born”, or…Well, you get the idea!

What do you think? Want to be part of this? Got other suggestions?!

Chapters 4 & 5 – the end of the book!

Oh my goodness – tomorrow is our last time to meet to discuss Epiphany! We will look at the final two chapters, 4:”The Future” and 5:”Last Words”. Well, chapter 5 isn’t really a full chapter…

Anyway, Coren argues in chapter 4 that a large part of the reluctance from mainline churches in North America and Europe to proceed with the acceptance of same-sex marriages, stems from the sense of being a global church. This is very true for Anglicans and Episcopalians in Canada and the US. The movement within our global Anglican communion to prevent same-sex marriages gaining acceptance and approval seems often to stem primarily from Africa and from a homophobia that exists in there. Coren points out that much of that is a result of colonialism, and that this continues to be a factor through funding from American evangelicals.

BUT there are cracks even within the American evangelical movement. Coren is not alone in arguing that a generational shift is coming, and for most millennials, this isn’t even an issue worth debating.

Coren argues convincingly that there is a myth of right-wing Christians being persecuted (no longer having sole access to a voice and funding , having to be ‘one of’ many denominations and approaches, does not necessarily equate to persecution!) And once again, Coren points out that Jesus seems to be unequivocally anti-divorce, and yet evangelicals speak of divorce as simply something that is ‘regretful’ versus an ‘abomination’.

So questions that arise from chapter 4:

  • How much of Anglican (and other mainline denominations) reluctance to proceed is based on the sense of splitting apart the global church? How much are conservatives also a strong voice within our more local and national context? Conservative voices are much louder – does that fool us into thinking there are more of them?
  • The issue of the ordination of women is not agreed to by all members of the global Anglican communion. Why can the issue of same-sex marriage not also be something where we ‘agree to disagree’?
  • Do you agree this is a generational issue?
  • Is it hard to admit to being Christian in our society? Is that because of anti-faith sentiments – or because Christianity is so often equated with conservative attitudes?

In chapter 5, Coren puts forward his claim that there are no non-religious arguments remaining against same-sex marriage. The only opposition seems to be faith-based. He then pushes – the church needs to repent and to rejoice in love.

Questions from chapter 5:

  • Are there really no non-religious arguments? Is that because everyone else has ‘seen the light’ – or because the stalwarts have joined the conservative branches of the church where there is support for such a position?!
  • The church is notorious for moving slowly, sometimes with good reason. Can the church move too slowly? Is moving slowly always a sign of being cautious around the weighty matters of doctrine, or is it simply institutional inertia?

Looking forward to a good closing discussion at 12 noon tomorrow in the Ministry Centre!

After Monday’s conversation…

Well, it’s been a busy week (!), so no chance to post since Monday. But we had a good meeting on Monday over the lunch-hour, though not quite as intense as the last two weeks have been, when we looked at the traditional Bible verses used to condemn homosexuality!

There were some interesting insights as we talked about the various stories that Coren includes in Chapter 3.

  • People were struck both by the numbers of stories directly from Roman Catholic priests (or men who had been RC priests), as well as by Coren’s ongoing insistence that a large proportion of RC priests are homosexual. We talked about celibacy and what might be some good arguments for making that part of the ordination vows – but also about the difficulty of requiring something that can only be given in response to a call from G-d.
  • We noted that people often have arguments about “why people become homosexual’ and that this is a way of seeking to have control – much as people who see tragedies happen to others wil try to come up with a reason why it happned to the other person and not to them, psychologically protecting themselves (e.g. “G-d was trying to tell you something” or “G-d never gives you more than you could handle”). We also connected to this to the sense that sometimes people who loudly condemn homosexuality seem only too interested in it, making us wonder what they are trying to deny in themselves…
  • We wondered how these stories might be different in a younger generation. We know that individual families and denominations still exclude and condemn, but it is more possible now to find an alternate community which will accept a person, including their sexuality. How does that change the stories? (Though we know suicide/suicide attempt rates for LGBTQ2 folks are still MUCH higher.)
  • The stories Coren tells are generally ‘finished’ stories. What do those stories appear like when they are only half-lived?

Chapter 3 “On the front line”

This chapter consists mainly of interviews Coren held with a variety of people who identify as LGBTQ, telling the pain and struggle with the church that they have experienced throughout their lifetimes. It is generally a direct re-telling of the interviews, often using their own words without further commentary. Coren does note that mainly those he interviewed are male. Several of them are former RC priests, and almost all the people interviewed are older.

So – questions for discussion tomorrow…Who is missing from these stories that Coren re-tells? In the context of campus, which stories do you know about people who have struggled with the church’s refusal to affirm and include all, regardless of sexuality? How do they differ (or not) from the stories Coren tells? For folks from the mainline churches, which have become much more liberal within recent times, how much is this still a struggle on campus? Why does this story about the struggle with the church matter?! Who needs to hear this?

Are there any good stories?!

And further – knowing that suicide/suicide attempt rates tend to much higher for the LGBTQ population, how should churches respond? (declaring my own position – this is not something we can move slowly on – for many of the young folks I work with, this is life and death stuff…) And what response can we in more mainline, liberal churches have to the ‘conversion therapy’ movement and it’s popularity within more conservative Christianity?

Translations matter!

A lot of our conversation today centred around the reality of the Bible as always being a translated text, and so we cannot avoid the bias of a particular context. We wondered about the newest English Bible (Common English Bible) and how it translated 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 – here it is:

Don’t you know that people who are unjust won’t inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Those who are sexually immoral, those who worship false gods, adulterers, both participants in same-sex intercourse, thieves, the greedy, drunks, abusive people, and swindlers won’t inherit God’s kingdom.

Actually the whole passage is interesting – you can read it here.

We talked a lot about the literary context of these verses, and the overall sense of what Paul was trying to convey. Also about the reality of temple prostitution, and slaves being sexually abused by their masters, and there being more interest in prohibiting male homosexuality versus lesbianism, and especially the negative response towards a man who was the passive recipient in homosexual activity, and so seen as more feminine…
(We also noted that if Paul really wanted to condemn homosexuality, he would likely have used the word “paiderasste” – and he doesn’t.)
Next week we will talk about chapter 3, and the conversations Coren reports on from people he knows who identify as LGBTQ, including folks who have chosen to stay in the church and those who have left.

Tomorrow’s gathering

Just a reminder – tomorrow at our lunch meetings we are going to continue the conversation about Biblical texts. Specifically, we are going to look in more detail at the story of the healing of the centurion’s slave/lover, and the two remaining clobber texts.(These can be found in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. The texts are linked in the previous post.)

I think it might also be worth thinking about how we look at scripture. What does it meant to take scripture seriously but not literally? What difference does it make what the Bible says anyway? Why would we allow a text written two thousand years ago to impact us in the twenty-first century? (These are not just rhetorical questions. I’d be interested in hearing your answers, whether or not you think the Bible is outdated or simply a historical document.) What do Anglicans mean when we talk about a three-legged stool approach to decision making in the church? What is pastoral and what is doctrinal?

Looking forward to conversation tomorrow, and to some comments…

After the lunch-time ‘lecture’…!

So today’s discussion became more like a lecture as I tried to fill people in on contextual background and issues when we look at Biblical texts – and give my own version of why I interpret the Bible through a more liberal lens…

Some thoughts from today:

  • not everyone had seen the letter to Dr. Laura
  • a big theme of our conversation today was how different understandings of both marriage and sexuality are in our context, versus the various worlds in which the Bible was written
  • we did read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and concluded that it is a story about gang rape, and many of the group recalled that rape is about power not about sex… (helps to have several SDS folk in the circle!)
  • we had a WIDE variety of levels of Biblical literacy present today in the group – not sure where any of the virtual group are at? Makes me aware again of the need to do some general teaching around how you can take the Bible seriously but not literally. It may be time for a group on that again (each week so far we have ended up talking about the interpretation of other passages). I used to have a group to look at Bible passages (Re:verse) – would anyone be interested in that starting up again?

We didn’t get through all the passages, so next week we will continue to look at Biblical verses/stories/teachings and how they apply (or don’t!) to same-sex marriage. You can go ahead and keep reading the book, or simply continue to think about how the Bible is used both for and against acceptance of LGBTQ people & relationships. (Next week we will look at the story of Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s slave in more detail, as well as the ‘clobber’ texts in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy.)

Dealing with the Bible!

This week in chapter 2, Coren looks at how the Bible is traditionally used to condemn homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and presents an alternate approach. I think this chapter is well done, in a way that is accessible to non-Biblical scholars! But I am curious to hear from others at lunch tomorrow. I will have a basket of Bibles there, so we can look directly at the texts Coren highlights. But in the meantime, & for those of you participating virtually, here are links to the various passages, plus a couple of articles for further reading…

And then there’s the “clobber texts”:

    Lastly, two articles – one on the healing of the centurion’s slave/lover, and one on the clobber texts.

    You do not have to read all of these! But here they all are in one place…

    After tomorrow’s lunch meeting, I will post some highlights from our conversation and some questions. But feel free to post your own thoughts and comments in the meantime!

    Chapter 1 – further thoughts…

    Well, a (very) small group of us met over the lunch-hour, and had a very good conversation. Some key points:

    • Folks were saddened by the negativity that Coren experienced even before he had come out in favour of same-sex marriage. We talked about how most of us move in more liberal circles and don’t tend to experience this first hand. Even when we do, it is often done anonymously, with people not brave enough to actually own their negative response. What has your experience been?
    • We were struck by the comparison Coren makes about how Jesus actually condemns divorce, and yet many conservative church groups are more tolerant of that as a reality, versus same-sex marriage (about which Jesus says NOTHING). We talked about the way in which Jesus’ idealism about marriage and statement against divorce is seen by many feminist scholars as a way of affirming women in a culture where it was easy for men to discard wives. We also talked about how the acceptance of divorce is a relatively new development in even the Anglican church, and the irony of that in a church which formed around the request for a divorce from a monarch! (And then Megan gave a brief history lesson on why the Anglican church is not just the result of a whim by Henry VIII…)
    • We wondered – why did Coren think the Anglican church was more welcoming than the Catholic church? Is that because we focus less on doctrine? Is it because he is in the Diocese of Toronto which is quite liberal? I am not sure that either of this article or this interview helps clarify these questions, but they are interesting to read!
    • We also wondered if this change of heart around same-sex marriage has affected his other beliefs?

    What do you think? What comes to mind with any of this, or with the questions posted yesterday? What did you think of the first chapter? Does it make you want to keep reading?  Got questions about our questions? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

    (and note – next week is the ‘meat’ of the book, an exploration of the Biblical arguments – I will have the ‘basket of Bibles’ from the chapel at our Monday meeting and we will sit and actually look at the passages…)

    Ch. 1 “So this is how it feels”

    So – did you get through the first chapter of “Epiphany”? Thoughts so far? This is a fairly light introduction to the serious business of chapter 2, when Coren looks critically at the Bible. But this chapter sets the stage as Coren lays out the strong negative response that he experienced as he moved to a less conservative position about same-sex marriage.

    Some questions to ponder in response to this chapter:

    1. Coren seems surprised by the vitriole that his change of heart prompted in others. Are you surprised? Can such a response be justified? What is it that prompts such anger and fear?
    2. How familiar are you with the conservative world that Coren portrays? In your own everyday world, how much of this negative response exists? Does his story seem accurate?
    3. The tipping point for Coren seems to have been learning about the new laws in Uganda (p. 15 “Those people in that nation who happen to have such a biting obsession with the gay community and such a chronic and violent homophobia brought me to my senses.”) Until then, Coren believed that he could still act in love while opposing same-sex marriages. Are there other experiences that have changed people’s minds on this issue?
    4. Coren was let go from his role as host of 100 Huntley St. Was that fair? If you are host of a show, do you need to agree with the unwritten values and asumptions of the company paying for the show? What if the position was reversed and he was promoting a conservative agenda on a liberal, left-wing show – would that be OK?
    5. When do you take a stand? When do you stay quiet?
    6. Who do you think this chapter is aimed at? Who is his intended audience?

    Coming to our group tomorrow (Monday) at 12 noon in the Ministry Centre? Bring your thoughts with you – come prepared to discuss these and other questions. I will post an update after the in-person meeting, and then feel free to comment and add your own thoughts…