Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Lutheran Church blesses "non traditional communion of life".

 I seem to have only just picked up on the news that the Lutheran Church in Italy has sanctioned the blessing of homosexual unions. The blessing is also open to heterosexual couples in what was translated as a non- traditional communion of life ( I assume that means living together?) The Church says it is distinct from marriage (obviously) but it is clearly the church giving its approval to sexual relationships outside of marriage. The Lutheran Church says this is:  “A decision rising from listening to God’s Word and from observation of society”, an attitude which seems nicely balanced to me, but which some see as the church  changing the construction of marriage and adapting itself to the times rather than upholding an eternal truth about marriage - though how anyone can think that exists given the multiplicity of models seen throughout human history and in the bible, I do wonder...

I did have to smile though as I couldn't quite imagine anyone saying, "We're not married, but we are in a non traditional communion of life."

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Children who abuse

Quite a few reports and articles surrounding the sexual abuse of children have cropped up recently and it has made me think about how ignorant so many people are about abuse, its range and complexity. I mention the perpetrators of abuse because I was struck by an NSPCC report earlier in the week which revealed not only the scale of the abuse, but also discussed the taboo and little known fact that many perpetrators of abuse are themselves under the age of eighteen.

The media, the tabloid press in particular, still tend to depict abusers in terms of "stranger danger" (even though this accounts for a tiny fraction of abuse cases.) We are much more comfortable with the idea of an abuser as a sleazy unkempt man in a park who preys on children. Some Christian groups still perpetuate the myth that abusers are largely homosexual men, rather strange considering that girls account for 86% of known victims! Whatever our choice of profile to demonise as a typical abuser, few of us want to believe that abusers may be respectable professional people, women, or other children - but they can be and they often are. A third of abused males report being abused by a woman, for example, a statistic which scotches the myth that women do not abuse.

The abuse of children by other children is a particularly painful and thorny issue, and it is horrifying to read that a quarter of abusers are under the age of eighteen. Sexual abuse by another child also poses great difficulties for the abused child. It is no easier to speak out about abuse carried out by other children, the shame, sense of taboo and fear of not being believed is just as great. Children who "come out" about it as adults often face problems because the abuse is dismissed as "less serious" or not "real abuse"; it can be put down to "playing doctors and nurses" when often it was no such thing. I can't imagine what it is like to be abused by another child, but one of the hardest cases I heard was of someone who was abused when she was nine, initially by three teenage boys and then by some more of their friends. By the time she was in her own teens she was promiscuious, reckless, getting into trouble at school and home. As an adult she still found it hard to accept she was not responsible and this is common in those abused by children ; it is clear that a fifty five year old man should not be acting in that way, harder when the abuser is fifteen.

We need to move away from tabloid myths about abuse and abusers and be clear sighted in recognising the often complex situations involved and the pain and damage inflicted. We need to educate and empower children and we need to learn how to deal more effectively with survivors and with perpetrators.

Colin Coward on Sunday

I thought Colin Coward did an excellent job on the Sunday programme this morning ( relevant bit starts about 35 minutes into the programme.) Having said that, I truly am getting ticked off by Anglican Mainstream's depressingly predictable attempts to  link gay people to an agenda to attack marriage and advocate promiscuity. They really do need to be challenged for these kind of slurs.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Church behaving badly

 It is quite interesting to read the leaked account by the late Rev Colin Slee of the shouting and tears as well as the cowardice, hypocrisy, dishonesty of the House of Bishops. Another Colin, the Rev Coward on the Changing Attitude blog writes of this week's reported meeting of the bishops to discuss gay priests. Colin Coward expresses his anger with the church (Slee's family feel his anger and distress may have contributed to his cancer)  and with the cowardice of those who play the "don't- ask- don't tell- bloody- well- know- but -don't- say- anything-and-let's-hang-the-honest-out-to-dry" approach. We knew a lot of it and could have guessed most of it, although it is hardly edifying to read about that sort of behaviour in print.
The attitude of the Church strikes me as so desperately childish; while everyone around them grows up, they play game of make pretend. More people in senior positions in the Church  must have the courage of their convictions, otherwise we are stuck with the status quo until they die off and are replaced by a younger generation.
Slee used the word "nuclear" about the revelations, and Coward picks up on it. All I can say is that if the end is coming for the Church, it feels less like a bang than a whimper.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


I am experiencing some problems with comments. Hoping it will soon be sorted!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Kirk decides

 Yesterday saw significant moves towards the acceptance of  clergy openly in same sex relationships in the Church of Scotland. The General Assembly voted to "allow the induction into pastoral charges of ministers and deacons ordained before May 2009 who are in a same-sex relationship", though there are some concerns about potential problems this cut off point may raise. The Kirk has also voted to reconsider the moratorium again in 2013 and also to consider the blessing of the relationship of persons in committed, life long same sex relationships. It is not the case that the Kirk is allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian priests, but this ruling is likely to pave the way to that decision. Some Church of Scotland churches  and individuals will be celebrating, others will not. Reports claimed that ten percent of ministers said they would leave the Kirk in the event of acceptance of LGBT priests, but then five percent said they would leave given the opposite decision! Some say this will tear apart the Kirk, but I have a feeling they will weather it. Watch this space!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Reflections on the Rapture

I had an interesting discussion on face book about  how all the hype about Harold Camping and the rapture had brought back memories of seeing an "end times" film  back in the late seventies when I was about twelve. I should explain that I attended a charismatic, evangelical youth group which, looking back, was rather misguided in some of its teachings and approaches. The film in question was undoubtedly A Thief in the Night, a film which was based on Larry Norman's 1969 song "I wish we'd all been ready", although I am sure I also saw its sequel "Distant Thunder". In Thief in the Night, Patty, a young married woman, is left behind, not because she isn't a Christian but more because her theological approach isn't quite right ( that's me finished then...) Her husband is taken and Patty has to endure the tribulation on her own.

Anyhow, by now you will either be nodding in recognition or thinking "WTF" - which was my husband's reaction when I told him, but my main point in writing this piece is not to reminisce about end time films and literature but more to reflect on the idea that such melodramatic obsessions with what we might call the more sensational aspects of Christianity long pre-date Harold Camping's recent prediction of May 21st apocalypse and is not confined to American flakeys. When I watched A Thief in the Night I was only twelve years old, most of the adults around me bought into the ideologies expressed and I was not equipped to recognise it as extreme religious fantasy, but  saw it as an accurate depiction of what would shortly happen. It did not help that the film was followed by a very earnest talk by our youth leader about how we might be "left behind" - as a teenager with pretty low self esteem  I was secretly sure I would be - and how we must not succumb to accepting the mark of the beast, despite the fact this would mean starvation/ torture.

When I hear the stories of followers of Camping who have given away their life's savings or given up their jobs, or  are simply bewildered and lost, I am torn between feeling sorry for them as victims or angry with them for their naivety. On the one hand, they are not twelve, on the other, they are clearly people unable to take full responsibility or control of their own lives, for whatever reasons.   We might say that Camping's followers have been "brainwashed", but what is brainwashing and how do we recognise it? I recently read on Faith is not the Same as Religion, Peter's account of his time in a  monastery, a place which most would see as mainstream and above board, but a place he left suffering from the effects of brainwashing as completely as if he had been enmeshed in any extremist sect. We need to be careful before we disassociate ourselves too much from Camping's followers. One of the things that makes them so embarrassing is that we do not wish to be tarred with the same brush, and because they seem to confirm all the things that the new breed of militant atheists say about Christianity as an irrational fantasy, with the more sane of us simply on the far end of the spectrum...
Food for thought indeed!

(The above clip contains some shocking images of clothes and hair styles from the 1970s - don't say you haven't been warned!)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Malta's divorce laws

As a member of a Christian European group involved in working towards inclusion, I do try to generally keep up with the situation in  countries other than Britain, and I regularly get emails concerning various events, votes, petitions. Malta, the  last European country to oppose divorce, is currently facing a May 28 referendum. The upcoming referendum is over legislation that is far from being a green light to liberalism; it will offer voters the option of divorce only for couples who have had four years of marital separation with no prospect of reconciliation. Only separation and annulment  are possible under the current Marriage Act. I don't particularly like the idea of annulment as, in all but a handful of circumstances, it is a type of sanitised lie which pretends a marriage/ relationship was never valid rather than facing up to the reality that marriage does break down.

 I find it offensive when people assume that, because I hold certain views, I am cavalier in my attitude to marriage. Marriage involves taking vows before God and, more importantly (because it is more important to God) it involves undertaking a lifelong vocation to another person, to love and cherish them and to look to their interests and well being. At the same time I strongly believe that the breakdown of any marriage is a tragedy and not a sin or a crime. This is not to say there is not sin or failure involved in any such breakdown, but it is the type of sin and failure that we are all capable of, and which occurs in all our relationships. Perhaps those whose marriages last are simply fortunate that the combination of difficulties and failures were not sufficient to overwhelm the relationship. I do not understand how people can judge in these cases, and the situation in Malta undoubtedly causes much human misery.

The account here comes from a Roman Catholic priest who describes his shame at the tactics the Church has used in Malta in the run up to the referendum.  So this post is as much to, once again, express despair over the effects of institutionalised religion and its barbarous attitudes to human dignity and freedom as it is to reflect on Malta.The account was sent to me in an email this morning and I found it left me saddened and  angry, but moved by the thought of those who speak out despite everything - please read it.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Rapture ready?

Any top rapture tips would be appreciated!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Do dogs have souls? ( part thirteen)

More evidence above, firstly what happens to a dog in purgatory and secondly a theological treatise on the way God is made in Dog's image (I have got that right, haven't I..?)

Sunday, 8 May 2011

On the Road

"Our battered suitcases were  piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

The reading today, the account of the road to Emmaus, is one  I always find meaningful  and moving. This post resurrection appearance seems to encapsulate most tellingly the nature of  the joys and difficulties of living beyond  Easter. I did not blog about the Resurrection this year, I may well do next year, but it is an event that is much harder to grasp than the crucifixion. Most of us can identify with the idea of a suffering Christ - simply because suffering and failure are so much a part of being human- but the Resurrection defies understanding,and, as we see in the story of doubting Thomas, it can defy belief. The appearances of Christ seem to continue the theme of the elusive; Christ is  a complete stranger who turns up while other things are happening.
If the Resurrection is hard to grasp, the practicalities of continuing after the Resurrection are even more difficult. No matter how intense the awe and exultation, the mundane practicalities of life reassert themselves, the doubts creep in, we remain mortal, our faith fails to live up to the promise of Easter. The appearances of Jesus give us a hope that there will be still be tangible moments when we realise that God remains with us - but they also tell us that that we may not always recognise those moments until after the event. A key element  is the unrecognisable nature of the risen Christ. He is encountered at inbetween moments,  at daybreak out fishing,  on a long dusty road, or when our eyes are blinded with tears. We realise too late what we have encountered, sometimes we know with certainty, but have no proof, at other times we half know - but we did not recognise him. We are stupid, we are too dumb for words, our hearts burned with a knowledge that our eyes and mind could not comprehend. At times his presence is as real as someone who sits and walks and talks and breaks bread with us, at others he is a guess or a glimpse and the minute we try to define him he disappears.
I think this gospel reading teaches, warns and reassures us in so many ways about the reality of living as Easter people when Easter is over.