Saturday, 29 January 2011

Hearts of flesh and hearts of stone

 A report here on how David Kato's funeral reflected the Ugandan Church's attitude to homosexuals. They did not send a priest or bishop, but only a lay reader to conduct the ceremony, although Christopher Senyonjo, a fomer bishop, who was stripped of his office for pastoral support of LGBT people, also attended. A local priest, who was attending and not presiding, grabbed the microphone and began to denounce activists who had come to mourn and chaos ensued.
Meanwhile, the PB, whom the absent primates would also like to see excluded and ostracised for the same basic "crime" as Senyonjo, has released a statement. It is almost a prayer, a prayer that we may be given hearts of flesh and not hearts of stone in our relationships towards each other. Amen!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Complicity, collusion and culpability

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is currently in Dublin for the Primates’ meeting, has made the following statement regarding the murder of the gay human rights activist David Kato Kisulle in Uganda:

“The brutal murder of David Kato Kisule, a gay human rights activist, is profoundly shocking. Our prayers and deep sympathy go out for his family and friends - and for all who live in fear for their lives. Whatever the precise circumstances of his death, which have yet to be determined, we know that David Kato Kisule lived under the threat of violence and death. No one should have to live in such fear because of the bigotry of others. Such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion worldwide. This event also makes it all the more urgent for the British Government to secure the safety of LGBT asylum seekers in the UK. This is a moment to take very serious stock and to address those attitudes of mind which endanger the lives of men and women belonging to sexual minorities.”

I had mixed feelings when I read this statement by Rowan Williams. I am glad that he has made a statement promptly condemning this action, I found it enormously difficult when he took so long to speak out against the Ugandan  death penalty bill  last year. However it simply is not true that such violence has been consistently condemned by the Anglican Communion worldwide, many voices have been silent that should have spoken out and in many places in the Communion a climate of hatred and condemnation is supported tacitly or openly by the church and its representatives.  I do not like  half truths on matters such as this; the Church desperately needs to confront its own complicity and collusion and this is not openly acknowledged in this statement. It is indeed a moment to take very serious stock, especially for those Primates who will not be in communion with those who support the rights of LGBT people because they see this support as more heinous than their own hatred. It is time for the Church of England to also take stock of the ways in which it betrays LGBT people, in society in general and  those who remain - often invisibly - within its own ranks.

It is time for change, it is time to have the courage of our convictions, it is not a time to say that others must take stock when we have no intention of doing so ourselves.  I blogged yesterday on the importance of words and the danger of a them and us attitude ; I would like the Archbishop to apply his words to us and not just to them. The Church is culpable. The Church itself needs to  address those attitudes of mind that endanger the lives - and the emotional and psychological wellbeing - of men and women belonging to sexual minorities.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Them and us

David Kato, the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda, was bludgeoned to death in Mukono, Kampala, yesterday afternoon.  The Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi is numbered among  those primates who have boycotted the Primates meeting this week simply because Katherine Jefferts Schori, who has consecrated those in gay partnerships, has also been invited. 
In 2008 Orombi reportedly described gay people as "dangerous" saying,
" They can harm anybody who is against them. Some of them are killers. They want to close the mouth of anybody who is against them.”
Those words are sadly ironic, firstly Orombi does not seem to be above closing the mouth of others, secondly it is clear that they could be applied with deadly accuracy to Kato's killers and opponents, not to a man who took the courageous step of suing a paper for breaching his human rights.  Here in Britain we have been debating another legal action, and I have been saddened to read on some blogs the words of Christians who have described Hall and Preddy as "obnoxious", "repugnant", "bullies", "homosexualists", - and - "Gaystapo" and "Nazis" - rather ironic on  Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when we remember countless who died  because of their race, disabilities or sexual orientation.

It is natural to use emotive language when we hold strong opinons, and sometimes it is right to speak out using strong language-  but if language is a powerful tool then we  also need to be careful how we use it. I also read a commentor on a blog recently who said that if you believe that homosexual sex is wrong, you are automatically homophobic. I thought long and hard about this and  I do not think it is right to automatically apply the word "homophobe" to someone who has thought carefully about the issue and has in all conscience come to such a conclusion. I also feel that when we trade insults we close down debate, we also force people into polarised positions, you are either "completely in" and agree with everything I say - or you are "completely outside" the fold and can be demonised and labelled accordingly. Once people are  on the "outside" , it is too easy to start to regard them as "the other" - someone who does not count, someone who is not our fellow human being, someone who can be disregarded, or worse...

The paper which named Kato carried the legend, "hang them."  Two words, but what terrible terrible words - one an injunction to kill, the other an invitation to regard fellow human beings as "other". I think we all condemn those words, but as we too need to think carefully about the words we use,  that our words speak with power but with fairness - or else they can say more about  us  than them.

Monday, 24 January 2011

In his presence

It seems particularly ironic that in this week that Churches Together has designated a week of Christian unity I should be writing on the eve of the Primates meeting in Dublin, a meeting from which a number of the Primates seem likely to absent themselves. One of the readings in Church yesterday was 1 Corinthians 10-17, appropriately enough about disunity in the early Church and a reminder that Christ is our foundation and  should be the source of our unity. It made me think of this passage from Rohlheiser's The Holy Living:

Imagine a woman, whom we shall call Betzy, who has a heart the size of the Grand Canyon. She is gracious, loving, devoid of prejudice, and with an understanding and empathy wide enough to encompass everything and everybody.

Because she is so loving, she has a very wide variety of friends and one night she decides to have a party and invite them all. She rents a hall to hold everyone. And her guests begin to arrive. Men, women, and children show up, of every description, ideology, background, temperament, taste, social standing, and religion.
A curious mixture of persons fills the hall. Liberals and conservatives, fundamentalists and feminists, Promise Keepers and New Agers, priests and anticlerics, union presidents and bankers, animal rights activists and persons involved in the seal hunt, meat-eaters and militant vegetarians mingle with each other. Present is the president of the local pro-life association, but the president of pro-choice is also there. Ian Paisley is there, as is the leader of the Irish Republican Army.
Given the mix, there is fair amount of tension, but because Betzy is there, because she is in the center of the room, and because they respect who she is and what she stands for, everyone, for that night at least, is polite to one another and is enough engulfed in a certain spirit of tolerance, respect, decency, and charity to stretch them beyond how they would normally feel, think, and act.
As you can imagine, such a gathering would work only while Betzy was actually present. Should she have to excuse herself and leave, or should persons get preoccupied in ways that would make them forget the real reason why they are there, you would soon enough get a combination of fireworks and dissipation that would empty the room.
This particular mix of persons can be brought together and kept together only around one person, Betzy. Everything depended upon her presence and upon those present having her wide empathy while they are in that presence, that is, upon being in her spirit.
That is an image of the Christian Church around Jesus Christ. Outside of a focus on His person and what we are drawn to spontaneously live when we sense His presence, we have angry fireworks and constant dissipation, as the state of our families, communities, nations, and world give ample testimony too.
Nothing else, ultimately, holds us together.

Primates meeting

Some fantastic reflections on the conservative boycott of the  Primates meeting in Dublin from Colin Coward on the Changing Attitude blog.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

It's a nice day for a White Wedding!

It looks like April Fools day has come early! According to Anglican Mainstream   the Archbishop of Canterbury/ Lambeth Palace are concerned about the possibility that  it is "morally problematic" that Kate Middleton - wait for it - may wear a white dress when she is not a virgin...(gasp)

Although Anglican Mainstream seem to have taken this story seriously, I think they have fallen for a  spoof? (Please tell me I am right, or I might have to leave the Church after all!)
According to the article, which is supposedly by the Independent, but also carries the legend "the talbot Church" (slight hint there as the talbot is a mythical hunting dog),  Rowan Williams has  suggested that Kate might opt for something slightly less whiter than white , peach perhaps, or something with a hint of colour, but definitely off- white, just to show that - you know- he's had her- and so now she is a bit defiled, not as clean and pure as she used to be, a bit shop soiled.

  Can you imagine how offensive such a dictate  would be on a personal level (come back Pete Broadbent, all is forgiven...)  And after all, surely Kate and Will would tell the ABC to shove his off white dress - well - you get the picture?

I was rather entertained though at the  thought of an official Church of England policy of no non virgins allowed to marry in white! Perhaps vicars should be obliged to carry out tests to ensure the bride  is virgo intactica and then dispense advice on the bridal couture accordingly?

How could Anglican Mainstream think this story was likely to be true, and when will they realise and take it down?  I know they lack a sense of humour, and irony isn't exactly their strong suit - but you'd almost think they believe the Church of England is deeply misogynistic, uncharitable, narrow, joyless, out of touch, oh so stupidly obsessed with all the wrong things? (Hang on...I'm starting to think it might just be true now...)

 Our man to trust is telling us spoof, not truth - otherwise  not only is it  a nice day for a White Wedding -  it's also a nice day to start again!

 (AM has now taken the piece down! Here is the link to the parody that they fell for - pretty much because it is in line with their attitudes! As I've said in the comments, this shows that much of the subtext underlying the "moral standards" of conservative Christians is that women need to be kept in line and shamed and punished when they transgress. This is not what Jesus taught - perhaps Anglican Mainstream should ask whether it is a nice day to start again?)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

That B and B case

Many of you will already know that there has been a ruling in favour of a civilly partnered couple , Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall, in their case against  Mr and Mrs Bull who refused them a double bed at their B&B. I strongly agree that this is the right ruling. The Bull's defence was that they had not discriminated because they only offer double rooms  to  married couples, whether gay or straight. This meant that the issue at stake was whether a civil partnership is equal in law to a marriage, clearly it is, and as gay people cannot get married anyhow, the Bulls did discriminate. This ruling will send out the right message - that lesbian and gay people are protected by law and are equal citizens.

There has been a major shift both in attitudes to homosexuality and also in the legal standing of gay people during the last few decades. I do think that the rapid pace of change has left some people, such as the Bulls, struggling to cope with the fact that they may hold certain views, but they can no longer act on those views with impunity when it harms or inconveniences those concerned. Nor can they complain that it was "their own home" any more than they could presumably make that case if they gave their guests food poisoning through poor hygiene, or jeopardised their safety in some way; they were providing goods and services.

However, I do think the judge was right to take time to consider the case carefully and to look at the issues involved, because both parties did think they had a case. One of the problems that is being raised by a number of voices is whether Christians themselves are discriminated against. I have to say that I know nothing about the law as it relates to the entitlement that people have not to be denied goods and services because of their faith. Could a Bed and Breakfast set up largely to cater for gay couples, for example, turn people away on the grounds that they were Christian? (I hope not!)

A few years ago, just as the equality legislation had come into force, someone I knew was organising a retreat/ conference for LGBT Christians. There was a dinner dance organised for the final night and she booked a gay  DJ - really to ensure that she had someone who would be at ease in a such an environment. However, on receiving the details the DJ phoned back to cancel saying that he was not prepared to offer his services to  a Christian group! He considered it irrelevant that this was a gay Christian group,  part of his reasoning was that he would find the environment of a Christian centre intimidating, but he also made it clear that he did not approve of Christians. The deposit was fully refunded,  the organiser did not make a complaint, but was he discriminating unfairly, should he have put his prejudices to one side and would his refusal be illegal today?

"This equality legislation is going to be a minefield", said the person recounting this story to me.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Keeping on surviving

Those affected  by childhood sexual abuse are often termed as survivors of abuse, and rightly so as being defined as a victim is hardly empowering for anyone who has already been degraded and stripped of dignity.  The trouble is that it can be hard to always think as survivors,  it is much easier to slip into patterns of victimhood in our view of ourselves and our relationships with others.

This post from Lesley explores the tendency towards victimhood and manages to be moving and honest. It acknowledges self pity without indulging in it. What I am coming to value more and more when I read accounts of difficult personal circumstances is the honesty.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

ACI clarification

The the integrity and good intentions of Rowan Williams should be apparent to anyone with eyes to see. Ephraim Radner has clarified matters concerning the comment on the Primates meeting (below), saying that
it was not intended as a personal attack and that,
 "ACI members continue to hold Rowan Williams in great respect -- for his intellect, his piety, his Christian hopes."
 Despite the frustrations of the present time, I am sure everyone can say "amen" to that.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Conniving and manipulative?

Some dubious talk here from the Anglican Communion Institute, an official sounding body which, as I have pointed out before, is  actually self styled and self appointed. It also manages to be rather worse than self righteous in this charming little missive which might be seen as a nasty attack upon Rowan Williams and his authority,
       "Whatever one’s view of the matter, there is one perspective that is particularly disturbing in its implications. It argues that the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow administrators – or in some versions, the Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church — are conniving and manipulative, perhaps even heretical, and that the meeting is a sham." (My emphasis)
  Although the ACI does not directly claim this perspective is their own, the ideas are  given a certain credence in this piece. It continues,
          "The Archbishop of Canterbury is held to be an immovable force, impregnable and beyond challenge. The effect of this is to give him an authority virtually beyond the scale of the Bishop of Rome."
The parallel  between a challenge to William's power and a challenge to the Papacy is particularly resonant given that our current problems have already been likened to the English Reformation which split the Church in the 16th century. The attacks seem unpleasant and uncalled for when they are against an Archbishop who, at the least, has tried to deal with implacable extremes with gentleness, ironically appeasing traditionalists so much more than liberals.

The piece continues with a suggestion that those primates who are considering not attending should set up their own meeting, perhaps rather as GAFCON was staged just before the Lambeth Conference,
     "If one does not attend the Dublin gathering, it remains the case that the Primates as individual leaders and as a body must propose and resolve how they will gather and do their work. "
For all its bluster, the piece ends on a weaker note, expressing frustration that the power of the ABC is seen  by some (clearly not themselves!) as "infinite", but with a tacit  recognition perhaps that the number who will absent themselves is small and that other conservative voices  calling for full attendance, talking and listening may well be heeded more than their own.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Do dogs have souls? (Part eleven)

Martin Luther believed that dogs have souls, a theological insight which we are keen to develop at Significant Truths. I have blogged before on the link between the love of music and the possession of a soul. Tolstoy  indeed described music as “love in search of a voice” and Kurt Vonnegut opined that “The only proof needed for the existence of God is music.”

I hesitate to say whether this performance proves the existence of either Tucker's soul or a God, but I think he is a lovely dog and this clip is funny enough to get his rendition a feature on this blog!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Fundamental truths

 I was fascinated by this article, Putting the Fun in Fundamentalism by Theo Hobson which reports on the rise of Christian theme parks and museums in the USA. Britain is a much more secular nation that American and I have blogged before saying that I do appreciate the general freedom and tolerance that a secular society confers. I understand  that some christians feel their freedoms are curtailed and their views are not tolerated here, but I am not one of them, although I do deplore the arid and aggressive atheism we sometimes see in the public sphere.
Although I found Hobson's article fascinating, I do not see biblically inspired theme parks as quite as benign as he seems to. I have no major problem with theme parks that tell the bible stories, although I have some sympathy for the unfortunate offspring of any bible belter dragged off to such places so that it will instill biblical values, but it is the existence of places such as the Creation museum that chill my blood somewhat. I get a little Dawkins-like (just  a tad, now) when I hear of people treating Genesis as though it were a scientific text book and not a myth explaining creation and  the presence of good and evil in our world.
I get even more incensed when I feel that children are being taught such things as "science". Children deserve honest information, the facts and the truth. Creationists are guilty of deception and double think and that, especially when sold to the younger generation, really isn't fun.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Some light relief

 I am far too busy to blog today, so you will not be treated to any of my deep insights (there's a relief now) but instead you can look up your birthday bible verse on this site. The authors say something along the lines  of how the idea was a personal revelation from God and that they prayed long and hard until God told them which verse meant to be your personal birthday verse - yeah, tosh and twaddle, but good fun! I was quite relieved to find God hadn't selected one about me being smited or anything like that.

You might also like this rocking icon piece.

H/T to e-Church Christian blog for these. although the icons originally came from Clayboy.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Give black God the glory! ( She deserves it)

Despite having to go to work, I managed to listen to the final installment of Radio 4 on the King James bible while washing up yesterday evening. It is fascinating that there are so many versions of the bible, often tailored to the politics or understanding of the times. My absolute favourite bit this time was when they played a record by Max Romeo, "Bring back  Maccabee version."

You gave I King James Version
King James was a white man
Now give I Maccabee version
Cos I am a black man
You sold the land God gave I
And taught I to be covetous

What other wicked things
Have you got in mind?
Tell me, what are gonna do
To stop these daily crimes?

Bring back Macabee Version
That God gave to black man
Give back King James Version
Belongs to the white man

Black man, get up, stand up
Find your foot
And give black God the glory
Black man, get up, stand up

Find your foot
And give black God the glory, yeah!

You suffer I and you rob I
You starve I, then you kill I
But what are you gonna do
Now that your sword have turn against you?

Black man, get up, stand up
Find your foot
And give black God the glory
Black man, get up, stand up
Find your foot
And give black God the glory

Bring back Macabee Version
That God gave to black man
Give back King James Version
That belongs to the white man

Black man, get up, stand up
Find your foot
And give black God the glory
Black man, get up, stand up
Find your foot
And give black God the glory

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

King James Bible

I  have been enjoying the series on Radio 4 about the translation and production of the King James Bible and some of the political issues surrounding its production. You can listen again here and  here , and  I shall be using their "listen again" facility to catch up on the final episode, which I will miss due to being back at work tomorrow :)

My absolutely favourite bit was the quote from the preface of the bible, written by Miles Smith. In a series of beautiful images he conveys what it  means to translate  the bible and to have it available in English -  a freedom  that would not have been taken so much for granted back in 1611,

"Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may drink the water."

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy New Year!

I am sure you wished someone a "Happy New Year"  this year and were wished the same  in return. It is a simple fact though that none of us, however much we do wish it, can in anyway know, predict or control the events and circumstances that await us unforseen in the year ahead. At Christmas we wrap up gifts for each other, usually things we hardly need, more a way of wrapping up a bit of love, an attempt to say that we long to enrich each others lives, to give the things that are wanted or needed so much.

The things we want and need most cannot usually be gift wrapped anymore than a " Happy New Year" can be granted by uttering those words. The things we need most -  fulfilling relationships, employment that boosts our self worth and gives us a means of support, good health, and a freedom from worry about our loved ones, whose difficulties can tear at our hearts more than our own problems- are often beyond our control. I know that a number of my friends, acquaintances and even several readers of this blog are facing difficulties and uncertainty as 2011 stretches ahead of them. I know people for whom employment, finances, health, family and relationships are all uncertain or presenting them with complex and painful problems.

And yet despite the emptiness of the gifts and the well wishes, the love and kindness that lies behind them is a source of hope and comfort to most of us. I would say that faith too is a source of hope and comfort, and of course it is, but I also know people this year who are struggling with issues around their faith, either doubts and questions, or simply a disillusion with the Church, either generally on on a personal level.

This year was a difficult one for me in many ways; I also have my fears and worries for  the year ahead.  I will wish you a "Happy New Year", and say that I really wish that I could grant it to you and vice versa! I  sincerely hope and pray that throughout this year your difficulties will not be too great, but that if and when they are, you will find in yourself, your family, your friends, your faith, a source of hope and strength.