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?!

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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?