Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’

Magazine article following Orlando Killings and murder of Jo Cox

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Following the Orlando nightclub shooting, Archbishop Justin said the primacy of love rules over the proscriptions of holy texts. That’s a challenge to all of us who understand that, in some way, God is revealed in the Bible, or the Quran. The primacy of love was experienced by those first emergency workers who entered the Pulse Night Club and heard phone ringtones. The family and friends of victims were ringing their loved ones longing for them to answer when, tragically, 49 of them will never pick up their mobiles again. We rightly condemn physical or verbal violence against gay people, such as the Westboro Baptist Church placards proclaiming, “God hates fags”, and we seek to contextualise and thus reject those parts of the Bible which proscribe the death penalty for homosexual acts. While at the same time, many mainstream Christians remain opposed to equal marriage and disagree with the experience of the gay Orlando politician Patty Sheehan, “by fighting against my rights [for equal marriage], they helped create this climate of terrorism and hatred.”

We now know that Omar Mateen, the man who attacked the gay nightclub, claiming affiliation to ISIS, was himself a regular visitor to the club and attracted by the gay scene. Not only was he driven by a hatred of gay people but also a self-hatred as he internalised the prejudice which he proclaimed. He had an extremely narrow view of God and humankind, and resorted to violence when he and others fell outside of this restrictive view. Our poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy has a very broad view of God. Because we are created in God’ image and some of us are gay, she concludes a poem with the line, “And God is gay”. It could also have been concluded with, “And God is straight/black/white/female/male…”

Another act of prejudicial violence was the killing of Jo Cox; targeted because she was a white woman MP with liberal views. Rather like the Orlando killings, her death comes amid a toxic climate of fear and prejudice, be it the anti-immigration poster launched by UKIP, hours before her death, or the scaremongering predictions of both sides in the referendum debate. Her killer is likely to be attracted by notoriety and violence, but the bitter divisions in our body politic form the background which may have given this “malignant narcissist” some warped self-justification.

St. Paul emphasised our fundamental unity and wrote, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. He could also have added there is no longer gay or straight, no longer European in or out, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus, and you are all responsible for rebuilding the body politic.

Hampshire Chronicle Post on my Wedding Anniversary

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

In The Marriage the priest poet RS Thomas describes, with a devastating beauty, the pathos of a 50 year marriage: love’s moment/in a world/in servitude to time. This column is submitted on my 25th wedding anniversary and it’s hard to believe our own servitude to time: where did those years go?

The early church writer, Tertullian, describes marriage as the “seminary of the human race”, so equating the married life to a college where priests are trained. It’s a wonderful image suggesting that a life lived with a partner is a life that gives space, generosity and encouragement to reflect upon the purpose of life and our relationship with God.

That is not to suggest that those who are married are always closer to God. Often it seems that the opposite would be true, the demanding immediacy of family life seems to squeeze out the eternal. Those who are single may more easily find time to pray or don’t have to squeeze in both rugby and church on a Sunday morning. The dedication of many single parents often seems closer to the God, who is love, than their married counterparts.

However, it is the married life which has deeply shaped my understanding of God, my life as a priest and my relationship with my children. I have been blest and continue to be blest by the close relationship and friendship that now goes back more than 25 years.

There is a contemporary debate within the church over the nature of marriage: does it have to be the union of a woman and a man or is the gender unimportant? Our traditional Book of Common Prayer says of marriage that, “First, It was ordained for the procreation of children”. However, in our contemporary service marriage is first described as the place where we “grow together in love and trust” and even places the birth of children in optional brackets. The drifting emphasis away from procreation and modern society’s affirming of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) recognition and rights, means that gender takes a secondary role in civil marriage and is being debated in church marriage. Personally, I support equal marriage and would want to enable more to experience the blessings of a married life, regardless of gender. Our traditional marriage service says we can be “like brute beasts that have no understanding”, let’s open the civilising effect of marriage to more people.

There is a cost to loving and so often that cost is grief. All marriages will one day end, either by separation or death, and we must never forget those who mourn the loss of their partner. RS Thomas’ poem concludes: And she/who in life/had done everything/with a bird’s grace,/opened her bill now/for the shedding/of one sigh no/heavier than a feather. It’s a shattering description of a deathbed scene and recalls the support and care we need to offer those who are grieving.