Unfortunately for me, nothing exciting has happened in the last month. School holidays have just started, so I've had time to do a really long column. Hope it don't send you to sleep. I wrote this just after Easter, so this month my column is about the Church.
While most of the Church is against homosexuality, there are some out there who fight for homosexual and bisexual people.(It is interesting to note that all member of the clergy have stayed away from transgendered people.)
One such person is the Rt. Rev John Shelby Spong. Rev Spong is an American bishop who has been bickering with the many, including the Archbishop of Canterbury [leader of the Anglican/ Episcopal Church], about Queer rights. He has released many statements about his stance, and rather that directing you to the often long winded comments by Spong, I have quoted the most relevant information to my column [gay marriage].
Rev Spong believes that all humans are equal, and, therefore, Queer people should be able to marry, and hold places in the Church. Currently gay clergy are allowed, but as they cannot marry, the are forced to be celibate ( To be clergy you have to be married or celibate, rules of the cloth). Many people, including Rev Spong, believe this is appallingly stupid.
... the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt. Rev. Richard Harries, was quoted as saying, "Marriage and gay unions are not on a par." .... The Archbishop of Canterbury used these same words in the press recently. .... These words imply that marriage is clearly superior to a gay union. ... [they] are, of course, speaking out of their own heterosexual perspective.
This argument has been used in the past by those in power to block and denigrate other rejected people who were seeking a place in the sun. White people defended slavery, segregation, apartheid, and anti-miscegenation laws with similar versions of that statement which maintained that black people were simply not on a par with white people. Males in previous generations have acted to keep females from voting, from achieving the ability to hold property in their own name, from getting adequate education, from entering professions reserved for men only, from being ordained and even from getting divorces when they lived in abusive marriages. These conclusions were also justified by the claim that women were in fact not on a par with men.
-- Rev. Spong's Message to the Anglican Communion on the Subject of Homosexuality.
All the examples given by Spong must be making the like of the Archbishop of Canterbury very red faced. The plight of women to have equal right is a superlative, and credible, comparison. But the explicitly logical thought of Rev. Spong is not accepted by the conservative hierarchy of the Church. By using the same logic, one can draw the conclusion that Homosexual marriages will eventually come , but Spong's messages are a call to arms for those in support of his [our ?!?] cause. One may also conclude that John Spong will be seen by future generations as a person who will be seen as a fighter for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Just as Kate Sheppard, a New Zealand woman who was instrumental in the campaign to give women the vote [she's on our $10 bill], was. Kate Sheppard is seen by New Zealanders as one of our most important historical figures, a real pioneer, as NZ was the first country to give women the vote [although Oklahoma had done so a few years before]. I hope that this is not his motivation. Having said that I believe that Sprong is sincere in supporting our cause.
-- Statement of Koinonia [by The Rt. Rev John Shelby Spong] Aug 25, 1994
The last point deals with a issue that all gay and lesbian people go through, "their willingness to accept and acknowledge their own sexual orientation". I know we all have at one point have struggled to find our true selves. Unlike our heterosexual peers we have to hide and live under an umbrella of false pretenses. Many of us have grown up with the stigma that Queer people are abnormal [excuse the unintentional pun].
And many of us find out the opposite, we are all normal. One Oasis columnist [can't remember who or when] said that GLBT are unique [I think s/he didn't like the term Queer]. I dispute that. EVERYBODY is unique, and, as that columnist said, we should celebrate our uniqueness
The debate over the possibility of gay marriages has been building to a head for a while. John Spong has long been campaigning on behalf of GLBT everywhere.
This .... makes our faith community better able to deal with the subject of human sexuality around which there has been great fear, great misunderstanding, great misinformation, and great prejudice.
-- Statement of Koinonia [by The Rt. Rev John Shelby Spong] Aug 25, 1994
I am fearful that when we meet at the Lambeth Conference in 1998, we will act out of our long-standing ignorance and fear, instead of out of the Gospel imperative and thus deal one more violent blow to these victims of our traditional prejudice.
-- Bp. Spong's Letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion
I believe that John Spong may just be the catalyst for the creation of official gay union. But he cannot do it alone, and it will be difficult for him to achieve. Especially when he is against such opposition as he is:
I am saddened by the hectoring and intemperate tone of your statement which appears to leave little room for the dialogue you demand. You claim the high ground of science and reason; you argue that the view of those who disagree is 'tired and threadbare' and their leadership lacks integrity. Furthermore, you attack personally those of us who disagree with your opinion and in doing so you distort the theologies and reasons why we are led to conclude that there is no justification for sexual expression outside marriage.
-- The Archbishop of Canterbury's Reply to the Bishop of Newmark [Spong] 24 November 1997
The Archbishop does have a point, but Spong's Statements are valid when you consider the arrogance exuded by those issuing counter statements:
It is, therefore, with an awareness of our own vulnerability to sexual sin that we express our profound concern about recent developments relating to Church discipline and moral teaching in some provinces in the North -specifically, the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions.
While acknowledging the complexities of our sexual nature and the strong drives it places within us, we are quite clear about God's will in this area which is expressed in the Bible.
The Scripture bears witness to God's will regarding human sexuality which is to be expressed only within the life long union of a man and a woman in (holy) matrimony.
The Holy Scriptures are clear in teaching that all sexual promiscuity is sin. We are convinced that this includes homosexual practices between men or women, as well as heterosexual relationships outside marriage.
We believe that the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Holy Scriptures about human sexuality is of great help to Christians as it provides clear boundaries.
We are deeply concerned that the setting aside of biblical teaching in such actions as the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions calls into question the authority of the Holy Scriptures. This is totally unacceptable to us.
-- The Kuala Lumpur Statement 1997
In July and August the Lambeth conference is to be held. At this conference the world's 800 Bishops will meet. George Carey [the Archbishop of Canterbury) is worried that Spong will 'split the conference open' and divide Bishops over homosexual matrimony. I for one hope he won't. I hope he will unite the Bishops into this thinking that all mankind is equal in practice as well as theory.
This is more than just religious wrestling: the gay issue is a signpost to how Christians will fit into the 21st century. It matters. After all, churches have been home to not just Mother Teresa, but abortion clinic bombers, to book burners as well as James K Baxter; to the executors of apartheid along with Martin Luther King Jr., and to paranoid people as well as purposeful ones.
by Phil Pennington, Evening Post 6 April, 1998
I hope one day I will be able to walk into a church, my head high, for the sole purpose of marrying the man I love.
I would love to hear from you. I got hardly any e-mails last month, go on, I won't bite.