Thursday, August 30, 2007

Whatever were they thinking?

No doubt about it, this has been one of those weeks when our sweet Lord & Savior’s wept over the latest doings of the patriarchy. It’s been a pretty sad one for me too- seeing one of my biggest fears realized.

Monday 365Gay an online news site reported from Lagos Nigeria

A mob attempted to break into a prison in northern Nigeria on Saturday and lynch
18 men awaiting sentencing on morals charges, state controlled NAN news agency
One prison official was injured as guards fended off the angry
Sentences for the 18 [sic] years were to have been handed down last
week by a Sharia court in the Moslem state of Baluchi....
...The 18 were
convicted of sodomy earlier this month but last week the judge reduced [sic]
that to violating Islamic law by dressing in female garb when it could not be
proved any sex had occurred.
Sodomy carries a maximum sentence of death.
When the prosecutor said he would not seek the death penalty the judge said
he would need time to consider an appropriate sentence...
...NAN reports that
the mob was angry that the charge was reduced.
Whether the men are gay or
transsexual has not been fully explained by the authorities.
The government
frequently alleges that men arrested for being gay were dressed as women and
were attending or preparing to attend gay weddings.
More than a dozen men
have been sentenced to death in recent years for alleged homosexuality. In most
cases their fate is unknown. Officially the government denies there had been any
Meanwhile the government is moving ahead with legislation that
would strip gays and lesbians of all rights.
The ban started out as a ban on
same-sex marriage and has been revised to make it a crime for more than two gay
people to be in the same venue at the same time...
...The legislation goes
so far as to make it a criminal offense to impart information of HIV/AIDS to
gays or for non-gays to meet with any group of gays for any purpose.
penalty would be five years in prison with hard labor...
The southern half of
Nigeria is predominately Anglican. The primate of the Nigerian
Church is
Archbishop Peter Akinola who had been at the forefront of opposing gay clergy in
the denomination.

Lynch mobs after the blood of gay brothers was bad enough, but the more I read the more nauseous I felt.

More than a dozen gay brothers living with death sentences, if indeed they are still alive; for simply who they were created by God to be.

Banning the meeting of more than two gay people & the meeting of gays and straights resonates too strongly of the Nazi race laws and the ghettoisation of our Jewish elders.

The denial of resources and information about AIDS prevention is but an insidious, slow variation on the Nazi death camps.

There’s only one word for it, and it’s an ugly four-lettered one at that- HATE. That mob had but one intent- to KILL ( another four-letter word) my fellow human beings for being the embodiment of what God had created them to be.

O.K. I admit we know nothing about the religious beliefs or affiliations of any of the mob attacking that prison, but there are two indisputable facts which undoubtedly played into this obscene act of mob violence:
  • The workings of the Sharia could which tried these men. A court which claims to function in the name of the one true God; the same court system which has routinely sentenced gay men to death by public stoning- all in the name of that same one true God.

  • The unfortunate, sad public performance of a fellow Christian I insist on still calling a brother. I’m referring of course to +Peter Akinola, a fellow baptized, who the church in the past saw fit to also bless with the chrism of the priesthood, and who in time it also elevated to the episcopacy and primacy. A brother who, in my opinion, appears to have become so hypnotized by the sound of his own rage, that he is positively delusional. And if that wasn’t bad enough, having already rent the fabric of the Communion his behaviour continues to grieve & scandalize the faithful, confuse those outside the Church, and put the lives of our gay brothers in very real danger. This same priest of Christ’s holy body the Church has called my LGBT brothers and sisters worse than dogs, wished death upon us and called for our imprisonment. This same bishop and primate of our Communion has called ++Lambeth a heretic, and carried out grievous violence against The Episcopal Church- violence which I would suggest is at least partially misogynist in nature, as I seriously doubt ++Peter and his brothers would have been had so audacious had the Episcopal Church currently been lead by one of his gender.

Was I really surprised by any of this?

Sad to say, once I’ve got over the initial sickening shock I realized that following the course of recent events within the Communion, it was almost inevitable.

The week before, there had been the outrage by one of the patriarchy’s spokesmen over the declared intention of our radiant brother +Gene New Hampshire to claim the act of civil union for himself and his partner of 18 years Marc Andrew, as soon as the act is signed into effect in his state.

You want outrage- I’m outraged that anyone would ever suggest that the civil rights of a baptised brother or sister would be or should be handicapped by their baptism.

That this same forgettable individual should suggest that +Gene and Mark’s civil union would be an affront to the upcoming Lambeth Conference is worse that preposterous! We’re talking a civil right, determined and endorsed by the legal government of the jurisdiction in which +Gene and Mark live.

On what grounds would the patriarchy suggest these two radiant men be excluded from acting on this right? Their Baptism and Confirmation? Their active membership in the Body of Christ? Their collective and individual ministries? Or perhaps it’s because of something over which this same mouthpiece has no choice or influence- the fact that these same two radiant brothers in faith were created gay men, in the image and likeness of the True Living God, and that these same courageous human beings have been redeemed by Christ Jesus through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and consecration to the Episcopate.

After having shared this terrible story out of Nigeria with several radiant brothers & sisters in faith, I sat with this story all week, I prayed and wept over it... And in the process a couple of things perhaps became clear.

The first is a question of ownership. As anyone with the slightest experience in clinical or pastoral counselling will know, the second step to any path to recovery is one of ownership- to take responsibility for one’s situation or actions, the consequences and the effects on others.

Not something I’d expecting too soon from the bullies of the patriarchy. But I strongly believe that the path of healing for the larger church doesn’t have to wait on our bullying brothers. There’s always the other side of the paradigm: the healing of those suffering the effects of this violence and the witnessing to God’s grace in the process. Many of our sisters in faith, many of our Afro-Canadian & Afro-American kin have already born powerful witness to the great grace to be found on this path out of fear and victimhood.

By owning the consequences of what is happening and the effects of this violence; by insisting on witnessing to a larger vision of the Church’s vocation in these times; by stepping outside the dualistic straight-jacket of the patriarchy, and by speaking loving truth to power we have by grace all God needs for the future of the Church, for the future of humanity.

In this present fix, my understanding is that our ownership has to do with two things: boundaries and voice.

Boundaries not walls: Turning back & disassociating ourselves (ie. not buying into) the acrimony, noise & violence which is being set up to cover an insidious strategy to break the Communion, first set out in obscene detail in the Chapman Memo of Dec 28th 2003.

This ugliness and disingenuous mis-representation is not ours, and does not belong in the culture of sacramental inclusivity. Turn it back.

Call it what it is, but turn it back.

But to do this, our language must always be non-violent & non-escalatory, and I would suggest should always be cast in the context of the baptism we share. In other words, let our talk always be Christ Jesus and witness to the paths our lives of faith have taken us on. (For anyone interested in the exciting skills of non-violent communication I’d recommend the wonderful work of Marshall Rosenberg

In another forum I have put forward a proposal for an online resource for the community of sacramental inclusivity. But that’s only my best-case scenario! One of the most thrilling and wondrous developments in the last few years on the internet has been the concrete proof of the leavening of our church as so many radiant LGBT sisters and brothers take their place and find their voices within the Church and the larger community. Equally wondrous are all the other radiant brothers and sisters who have made our full sacramental inclusion their cause.
My proposal, is one for linkage, among other things. But in the meantime, there’s so much still to be done- and it’s all about voice and presence. Brothers and sisters we can nourish and encourage, listen to and resource as they find their true place and voices within the Communion, wether it be in coming out, in writing their stories of faith and healing, or in becoming an on-line presence.

As I said, that four-letter ugliness is not ours and I passionately believe our vocation as leaven within the Church is essential at this time, more than ever.

Yes within the Church, because that is not only where we belong, but where we are through the seal of Holy Baptism.

Call me naive, but I think that some of our friends just might be undervaluing what’s really going on in these present struggles. This isn’t a justice issue that’s for the courts. What’s going on speaks directly to the meaning, significance and power of Christian Baptism and no man wearing a skirt is going to deny the efficacy of the chrism which has sealed my radiant brothers and sisters in faith. Thank God!

Those who rain down such venom on ++Katherine, ++Rowan and +Gene, those who rage so vociferously against the Communion forget one very important thing...... and that this is not just a Communion of history and tradition, but part of the Living Body of Christ who Himself has had some part in bringing us out of our fear of Jews, Women, Afro-Americans, and just about the rest of humanity. Out of fear of the other... And now, most gloriously for this individual at least, Christ Jesus is calling the Church of my birth and Baptism out of its fear of its lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender brothers & sisters.... and who knows, in the process is possibly calling us all out of primitive fear of our God-given sexuality and all the intimacy issues associated with it.

Opening ourselves up to God’s Greatest Blessing for God’s Greatest Glory that’s our vocation in these times- and nothing less. It’s how we’re supposed to think, how we’re supposed to speak, how we’re supposed to act. It’s also, I believe what’s really at stake here.

Which I suppose brings me to the two consecrations in Kenya today.

And then of course brother +Peter is threatening to carry out his own little act two this week-end with another irregular consecration of an American priest.

Believe it or not, I actually laughed at the news- but only after I’d shaken my head, with real sadness. There might have been tears also, had I forgotten what I believe to be the real big picture of what’s going on here.

From that perspective these acts of impotent defiance are little more than annoying nuisances.

It may look real or threatening but only for the moment; in the long run they’re little more than footnotes....

Less than a year away, Lambeth.... The biggest gathering within the Anglican Communion of baptised, ordained &, consecrated women and men of faith- who inspite of their varying opinions, toil to be the embodiment of Christ’s Church here on earth... Christ’s Church, so of course they won’t be the only one’s there. And that’s what my faith is riding on.
The Living, Breathing Body of Christ- nothing less!

One last time, I’ll let you call me naive, but I believe that it just might be in this larger picture +Katherine most particularly, many of our primates and bishops, and hopefully +Rowan are operating. Let the bullies rant, let them carry on their circuses of impotent defiance, but against the Body of Christ nothing shall prevail thank God.

And in the meantime- we’re called to act upon that promise & nothing less.

God’s Greatest Blessing to God’s Greatest Glory- always & nothing less!


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