Saturday, 18 June 2011

Happy Father's Day

I was going to blog on something deep and meaningful this evening. However, I have decided to spend some time with my family instead and so you are going to have to make do with this video from Anglican Mainstream with some hints on how fathers can help their kids grow up...well....normal...

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Myers Briggs Prayers

I bet loads of you have already seen this - but just in case you haven't:)

ISTJ: Lord help me to relax about insignificant details beginning tomorrow at 11:41.23 am e.s.t.

ISTP: God help me to consider people's feelings, even if most of them ARE hypersensitive.

ESTP: God help me to take responsibility for my own actions, even though they're usually NOT my fault.

ESTJ: God, help me to not try to RUN everything. But, if You need some help, just ask.

ISFJ: Lord, help me to be more laid back and help me to do it EXACTLY right.

ISFP: Lord, help me to stand up for my rights (if you don't mind my asking).

ESFP: God help me to take things more seriously, especially parties and dancing.

ESFJ: God give me patience, and I mean right NOW.

INFJ: Lord help me not be a perfectionist. (did I spell that correctly?)

INFP: God, help me to finish everything I sta

ENFP: God,help me to keep my mind on one th-Look a bird-ing at a time.

ENFJ: God help me to do only what I can and trust you for the rest. Do you mind putting that in writing?

INTJ: Lord keep me open to others' ideas, WRONG though they may be.

INTP: Lord help me be less independent, but let me do it my way.

ENTP: Lord help me follow established procedures today. On second thought, I'll settle for a few minutes.

ENTJ: Lord, help me slow downandnotrushthroughwatIdo.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Gentle Spirit

"A  great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."

We often think of the Holy Spirit as a dynamic powerhouse, but we sometimes fail to appreciate the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, which is found as much in the silence and stillness within us as in  extraordinary external events such as rushing wind or signs and wonders. The Holy Spirit inhabits the world of the ordinary and everyday much more than it does the world of the extreme or sensational. Henri Nowen wrote:
        "The movement of God's Spirit is very gentle, very soft - and hidden. It does not seek attention. But that movement is very deep and strong. It changes our hearts radically."

 I have been thinking recently of those who have been hurt by some of the  more extreme and sensationalised expressions of religious faith. The picture of a  gentle spirt speaks to me of the way God brings healing through giving us space, and reaches us in quietness and calm.

Section four and Te Hui Amorangi O Te Tai Rawhiti

Te Hui Amorangi O Te Tai Rawhiti , a diocese in Aotearoa, New Zealand, Polynesia, has rejected the Anglican Covenant. It gives several reasons, but I note that they say of Section Four:

 We see that Section Four of The Anglican Communion Covenant propose measures of compliance and discipline – including “relational consequences” and being declared “incompatible with the Covenant” – that go against our Gospel imperative to “love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Do dogs have souls? (Part fourteen)

I was delighted to hear on Church Mouse that Mandy, a devout Yorkshire Terrier, has received a blessing  from the Bishop of Wakefield, Stephen Platten after thirteen years attendance at St Anne in the Grove, Southowram in Halifax. Some people get all upset about this sort of thing (or at least I think they do - maybe it is just when they get baptised...confirmed...admitted to communion...consecrated as bishops...) I never understand why anyone gets upset at  the blessing of  an animal , I am sure there have been blessing of inanimate objects such as new church toilets, for example.

I think I  might start taking Bessie along on Sunday mornings. After all, she takes me to the pub...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Family Values

An amusing take on the family!

Lesley Pilkington case

Christian Concern, the group which is supporting Lesley Pilkington in her appeal against charges that she acted unprofessionally during "reparative therapy" to a man who purported to be a client but was actually taping the sessions to expose her methods, has published an open letter from the therapist. In it she complains about the way she was deceived by Patrick Strudwick   - and I must say I can see her point there - but her letter is interesting more for what it reveals about her mindset. Pilkington writes:
"This is a spiritual conflict and we are in a battle. We must stand our ground. We are not downhearted but we are deeply disappointed with the BACP. We want to ensure client self-determination – that individuals have the opportunity to choose reparative therapy if they feel it is appropriate for them. We also want therapists to be free to provide this therapy without being opposed by activists who insist that homosexual behaviour cannot and should not be changed. Finally, we want to uphold freedom of speech on these matters, so that we are ‘included’ in an inclusive and diverse society.
Please pray that this case will be used to totally change the homosexual agenda in this nation for the good of all. Please pray that we will continue to proclaim the love, forgiveness, hope and true freedom that is found only and supremely in the Lord Jesus Christ."

Admittedly I have very little absolutely no  sympathy with the aims of reparative therapy, nor the attitudes underlying it. I think it is deeply damaging, unprofessional and an abuse of generally very vulnerable clients. If it is going to be allowed (and I'm not sure it should) then it has to be carried out within very clear ethical and professional guidelines. I also personally believe that anyone allowed to carry out this type of therapy should be well informed, rational and balanced, and certainly not someone who believes they are engaged in a "battle", "spiritual warfare", or uses value laden terms such as "homosexual agenda", or believes that love, forgiveness, hope and freedom is found only in Jesus.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Politics and the Primate

 It really does seem quite a coincidence that, on the same day as we hear about Rowan William's criticisms of the Coalition Government, Theos has published this report examining the way the previous three Archbishops of Canterbury have intervened in political matters. I've skim read it and it also looks at the various justification for and objections to the heady mix of religion and politics - for what it's worth, I am all in favour of our faith being to do with this world as well as the next!   Church Mouse meanwhile reckons that Rowan Williams words and intentions may have been misreported. Nothing new there then! I am sure one of the ABC's favourite mantras must be "that's not what I said...."

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

What is an exemplary family?

The Pope today spoke of what he described as the urgent need for "exemplary"Christian families that will give a concrete witness to,  "the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony", which I read as meaning "must be married" and "must not practise contraception" - although this may be a somewhat limited and narrow interpretation on my part...
     I value enormously the idea of strong families. There are few things more important than bringing up children in loving and supportive environments which allow them to mature into confident and happy adults. However, I cannot buy into this idea of an "exemplary" family. To start with,  I am not sure this exemplary family even exists, nor that I would want to be part of any family that felt it could not be anything other than "exemplary" at all times. Furthermore, a christian married couple and their children  might tick all the "exemplary" boxes  but still be no such thing , as the wonderful cartoon from ASBO Jesus shows. All sorts of unsavoury things can be found under the surface of the "exemplary" family. Moreover, another family that did not pass some ludicrous litmus test could still be an environment where children are loved and nutured. It might not be "perfect", but it might be good enough. Should any family be considered a "second class" family?
       I would also challenge the idea that one of the main points of a family is to be some kind of testament to the virtues of Christianity or Catholicism. Surely families are there to allow people to live together, to care for each other, to bring up children and offer something which is valuable in itself?  Do people of faith own unique rights to THE FAMILY? Sometimes you would think we do!  Is a child best brought up within a faith system in any case? It can be great gift, equally it can be damaging and limiting, especially if children are not also given freedom of belief and the right to make their own choices.
So, I am not very impressed when I hear people harping on about family and family values. I agree with the idea that love is a family value. It is the qualities found within a family that count, not its external respectability.  Even when families are not "exemplary" - and I am pretty sure mine isn't - if there is love and respect and relationship, can they not still be a "concrete witness" to all of us?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Benny Hazelhurst and a genderful God.

   I really enjoyed Benny Hazelhurst’s post on A Genderless God; I was particularly struck by Benny’s suggestion that God is “genderful.” I have long thought that God transcends gender, but I had not come across this idea of a genderful God before and it immediately struck a chord with me and set me thinking about how many of our debates about the position of women in the church may be rooted in our theology, but that that theology itself grows out of our world view about men and women.
Benny mentioned that C.S.Lewis had been quoted to him; Lewis seeming to suggest God is male because,
“What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relationship to it.”
I have read plenty of Lewis’s books and value many of his ideas, but I suspect it tells us as much about how Lewis related to God, and to his own masculinity, than about a universal truth. The idea suggested by Lewis only works if you accept or believe that maleness is inherently “above and beyond all things” and that femaleness is inherently weaker, more dependent, fallible and submissive (just as we are to God.) This is not a model of the divine, or of men and women, that rings true for me at all, I see men and women as equals, I do not see men as “above and beyond." Cultures with female divinities often worshipped them because of the conception that women, with their power to give birth and sustain life, were “above and beyond” – but this can be limited as well. If men and women are equals, then, like the God in whose image we are made, we are both "genderful" - enriched by our gender - and we transcend gender  in that we relate as human beings first and foremost rather than simply as men and women.

Benny sees God as “genderful” because both man and woman are made in God’s image. To me, a genderful God is also suggestive of the breath, depth and height of God – a God teeming with creativity, the source of all being and someone in whom we find ourselves, both as men and women and as people who exist beyond the labels of male and female, gentile and Jew, slave and free. A genderful God also suggests to me the wisdom and knowledge of God. In Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, the narrator, who observes and reflects on four hundred years of human history, changes sex during the story. In a similar way Ovid’s Tiresias is turned from a man to a woman, and through the experience gains wisdom, breadth and compassion; T.S.Eliot in his poem The Wasteland also presents Tiresias as an observer/ participant of human life,and the Christian God is nothing if not a participating God. A genderful God participates in our humanity and encompasses all that we are as human, not just one half of that.

It is also true that when we free God from gender, or see God as full of gender,  this frees us from patriarchal confines. I don’t mean this just in an abstract way but in a practical sense. Women (and men) who have been abused often find the idea of a Father God, in particular when this is reinforced by a Church which is masculine in its hierarchical structures, difficult to cope with. The promise from Galatians that, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”, not only frees us from gender but also from demarcations and ideologies based on how we perceive ourselves and others. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with beliefs and definitions, but it is liberating that we are told that in Christ we exist beyond these structures – especially when we are in danger of being oppressed, rather than liberated by them. I don’t personally see marriage as oppressive, but when I was listening to John Richardson on Premier last week, he kept bringing his ideas about women in the Church back to the (supposed) position of men and women in marriage. To many unmarried women and men, or to those of us who do not view our marriages in this light, such a comparison was irrelevant or unhelpful. A genderful God allows us to find meaning in a way which is relevant, abundant and expansive – just as God is.

The pain of unjust suffering - LGBT lives and the invisible church

I found the following account incredibly moving. I do not think we stress often enough that the conflicts in the church over sexuality do not just affect gay priest and bishops but, like ripples in a pond, have an impact on lay people, LGBT people who remain invisible in the pews week after week. I hope you will read this story, to me it is an indictment of the way the church is failing its people. It is a glimpse of one person's experience, but behind it are many other people who pay a heavy price.

1 Peter 2:19 - 20

"For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God."

I used to think this passage was referring to Christians in one of those Third World countries where they had to go to underground churches and memorise the whole bible in case they were ever thrown into prison for believing in Jesus. Recently, though, God has been telling me that actually this applies to me more than I might think. Why do I think I suffer? Because I’m gay. Who makes me suffer? The Church. Yup, you heard right, and I’m pretty angry about it. Actually, I’d go so far as to say Jesus is angry about it too. “That’s a bold statement,” I hear you say. “Care to elaborate?” Don’t mind if I do :).
Isn’t it strange how Jesus can show you His heart when you least expect it? Usually in a situation you’d really rather He didn’t. Recently it happened to me when I was sharing my intercessory prayers in a crowded Sunday morning Baptism Service. That wasn’t embarrassing (Not). Thanks God. But actually, yes; Thanks God. I felt just a small glimpse of the joy Jesus felt at those parents bringing a new baby into the church and saying “Thanks for this new bundle of joy, we want her to grow up to know you as her friend and guide and a great source of strength and inspiration as she goes through her life.” It really warmed my heart to know that Jesus loves to welcome new people into the loving arms of His Bride; the Church. It’s just a shame that the Church doesn’t always get it right.
Jesus has laid a burden on my heart for the suffering we can endure as gay Christians who want to serve Godin their own church. We’re often made to feel like second class citizens because of our orientation. I know that as a lesbian who is not out at my church, I am on borrowed time. When I do choose to come out I am of the opinion that I will be asked to step down from the various leadership roles I've taken on. In the words of many an outsider: That doesn’t sound very Christian to me! And to be frank, it doesn’t to me either.
I recently remembered an occasion in my youth when I was about 15 or so. Myself and a few other teenagers in the church were deemed to be too old for Pathfinders group (church youth group), so we started a youth Life Group where we could talk about issues like evolution and whether we thought ghosts existed or Jonah really got swallowed by the big fish. You get the picture. I remember commenting (tentatively) to the Curate and youth leader who ran the group that I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being gay. There was a short discussion and the Curate said something along the lines of “Oh yes, I knew a gay man once and he was a lovely bloke... but it’s what they do.”
So... What exactly is it that I do? Try to Love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind and soul, perhaps? Maybe it’s because I try my best to seek first the kingdom of God? ...No? Is it because I try to live a life worthy of the Lord? Or is it because I try to rejoice in the Lord always? Aw come on, give us a clue! Cleary it’s none of these things. After much study and deliberation I’ve come to realise it’s simply because I want my significant other to be a Christ-following, loving, supportive, understanding... woman. And just like that, quick as a flash, I know that I’ll become a second class citizen in the church I’ve grown up in, worshipped in, walked with Jesus in, had fellowship in, met with the Holy Spirit in, learned to pray in... I think Jesus is pretty miffed about that.
It gets worse. There’s a whole section of my life and thoughts and dreams and fears that I can’t discuss openly at church because they’re linked to my sexuality. Even gay Christians who are out at church don’t feel like they can truly be themselves and bring their worries and cares to the leaders at the church they attend. At worst, they might receive a biblical ear bashing, or at best, a patronising smile and reference to “Jesus still loves you, it doesn’t matter what sins you’ve committed.” Yes... well, right back at ya! What the Church is encouraging here is a culture of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and much worse than that, a culture of downright fear.

My most recent encounter with the Holy Spirit gave me an insight into what Jesus really thinks of me; He told me I was beautiful :). I knew what he was getting at. The ugliest part of me (I thought) was my gayness. How could Jesus possibly approve of that part of me? It’s a sin, right? Big fat wrong! (This is what the Spirit has led me to believe, in any case.)
People say “Oh, Jesus is just the coolest because he accepts you for who you are!” And that’s great, and probably true. But I believe you’re doing Jesus a disservice there; He AFFIRMS who you are. Acceptance implies that there’s something wrong there to begin with; a flaw, something to be changed. What the Holy Spirit enabled me to do that day was to shake off the idea that Jesus merely accepts my gayness (pending a miraculous change). He loves that part of me. Oh, he adores it! He looks on it with such love in his eyes, and he delights in my unique brand of gayness when I use to get to know Him better and to love Him that little bit more.
He also told me that there was something I could do for Him; I could let Him love me that little bit more. There was this whole section of my heart that I was unintentionally hiding from God. I didn’t want Him anywhere near that part of who I was. It was locked up and hidden from his gaze; if he saw it, he might get all “holy” on me and say ,"I know you are attracted to women, but you know that’s wrong, don’t you? I need you to be celibate/straight.*” (*Delete as appropriate.) So I kept it wrapped up in fear and wouldn’t let Him in. I now realise that my sin wasn’t my orientation, but the fact that I was holding back part of myself from God and not letting Him love me the way He wanted to.
1 John 4:18 says “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (NLT). This verse, though I’d seen it many times before, now had a whole new meaning. By hiding my heart in such a way, I’d blocked God out and stopped myself from experiencing His perfect love; stopped Him from living in me, and I in Him. I was so sorry for that, and that’s what I’ve repented from, not from being gay.
I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out yet; far from it. The journey from fear to love is a long and arduous one with many mountain top experiences and big valleys to match. But I’m pleased to say I’m on what I believe is the path Jesus wants me to be on, and I’m very excited to see where it might lead me.
So what’s the point of this little story? Well, I hope (for one) that you’ve found it honest and open, but I also hope that this gets shared around and maybe gets read by some person in authority in their own church. I hope someone has read this note and has been challenged by the story I’ve told. I’m not saying abandon what you think is right, I’m saying question it. Look at the gay person wanting to be God's hands and feet in your fellowship; look at their integrity, look at their heart, look at the fruit they bear. Are they really so full of sin and deserve to be put to the bottom of the pile? I’m not saying let all gay people who attend your church into the upper echelons of leadership. Be discerning. All I ask is that you don’t dismiss someone’s strengths and talents and willingness to serve God based solely on who they are attracted to.

Women Bishops

An article from The Church Times ( open for a while to non subscribers) speculating on what the Code of Practice is likely to look like.
Even though it is half term week, I have been struggling to find time to blog alongside the competing demands of the house. We are trying to redecorate the study and tackle the garden which is currently overgrown and unkempt due to a full time house husband who is not a keen gardener! I am aiming to find some blog time very soon...