Heads up: next week Mexico will host the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) World Conference. According to the Washington Blade,
Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, executive director of Equal Ground, a Sri Lankan LGBT advocacy group, said the conference is “a unique opportunity” to network with fellow activists to ensure “there is a constant exchange of ideas and ideals which lead to furthering the LGBTI global movement and making positive changes for LGBTI persons all over the world.” Anne Lim, founding director of Galang Philippines, an advocacy group that seeks to reduce poverty among LGBT people in her country, added the gathering is a chance to highlight economic disparities as they relate to discrimination.
“Participating in ILGA processes is first and foremost an opportunity for knowledge sharing with colleagues working on SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) rights,” she told the Blade.
More than 1,000 LGBT organizations throughout the world are members of ILGA.
Vatican: Synod a Traditionalist Win or Start of Longer Conversation or Both?
We reported last week on the ideological warfare that had broken out at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family after the publication of a mid-term document enraged conservative bishops and their allies with its welcoming language on gay people and couples. Some right-wing Catholics fumed that the synod had been “engineered” or “rigged” by the Pope and other reform-minded bishops. In the end, the conservative bishops seemed to emerge victorious, with the gathering’s final document purged of that welcoming language. But that hasn’t stopped right-wing bishops from slamming the synod and Pope Francis himself for having allowed the public conversation to take place.
Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, an ardent foe of marriage equality in that state, has publicly sneered that the Synod was “rather Protestant,” notes Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry, which has provided in-depth coverage of the Synod and its aftermath on its Bondings 2.0 blog. Sniped Tobin, “Pope Francis is fond of ‘creating a mess.’ Mission accomplished.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput, another strident opponent of marriage equality, did not attend the synod, but disparaged it this week for sowing confusion, which he said is “of the devil.” As David Gibson of Religion News Service reports, Chaput is clearly in no mood to reconsider the church’s pastoral approach to LGBT people:
Chaput’s lecture, titled “Strangers in a Strange Land,” focused on the theme that traditional believers are experiencing an internal exile akin to that of the ancient Israelites in Babylon. Chaput said that the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month not to review state appeals against gay marriage was a “tipping point” that confirmed that traditional believers are now a minority in society and on the defensive. He blasted gay activists for their “dishonesty” and “hatred” of gay marriage foes and said the portrayals of traditional believers as homophobic is “dishonest and evil.”
“We also need to thank God for the gift of this present, difficult moment,” Chaput said. “Because conflict always does two things: It purifies the church, and it clarifies the character of the enemies who hate her.”
Chaput is scheduled to host Pope Francis for the 2015 World Meeting of Families, which National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters calls “a train wreck waiting to happen.”
Some suggest that Pope Francis is “playing a long game,” and that he accomplished much by allowing the public airing of alternatives to the conservative’s approach. They note that the watered-down paragraphs on gay people did not get the two-thirds votes required for approval; Cardinal-elect Vincent Nichols of London has said some more progressive bishops voted against the paragraphs on LGBT people in the final document because they were not welcoming enough.
At a speech last Saturday just before the final report was released, Francis himself praised the synod as a “journey,” and took his own shot at the self-appointed protectors of tradition, those who are tempted to think of themselves not as guardians but as owners of the deposit of faith, “making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them ‘byzantinisms,’ I think, these things…”
At the gathering’s closing mass the following day, Francis declared that “God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.”
Equally Blessed, a coalition of pro-LGBT Catholic groups, released a forward-looking statement on the synod. “Equally Blessed is inspired by Catholics in the pews who see the face of Jesus in our LGBT loved ones, who celebrate the profound witness of love shown by LGBT people in their relationships, families and parishes. It is these Catholics who are answering Jesus’ call to open the doors of the church,” says the statement, which calls the next twelve months “pivotal ones for LGBT equality in the Catholic Church, as the bishops will continue to engage in prayer dialogue and reflection in preparation for their Ordinary Synod in October, 2015.”
At the Daily Beast, Barbie Latza Nadeau is even more upbeat, saying that had won the battle and that the synod “paved the way for significant changes to come in the lives of gay and divorced Catholics.
Mary Ann Walsh, a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Community and a correspondent for America magazine, writes that the transparency of the conversation was good for the church.
“Whispered questions about why Aunt Jane never goes to Communion and why Uncle Jack never married have made it into the parlor. The presence in the church community of people who divorced and remarried without an annulment and lesbians and gays found a healthy acknowledgement.”
“The church acknowledges there may be pastoral solutions to long-standing problems. Nothing heals better than fresh air. For many, the pain silently endured by people forced to the fringes has developed individuals beloved in their families for their generosity and kindness and particular sensitivity. Now they just might receive some of the generosity, kindness and sensitivity they’ve offered others for years.”
Bob Shine points to Fr Thomas Reese’s piece in National Catholic Reporter urging people not to miss the forest for the trees:
“The synod was a victory for openness and discussion in the church and the final document is an invitation for everyone in the church to join that discussion. This is exactly what Pope Francis wanted…
“Unlike we journalists, he has not obsessed over the language of the report but has been much more focused on the process. He set the tone at the beginning by encouraging the bishops to speak freely. At the end, in summing up the synod, he showed that he had been listening carefully, and like a good Jesuit discerning the Spirit in the process…The synod was a big win for openness and for Francis.”
Reese also noted that change was evident, like Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama’s clear opposition towards criminalizing homosexuality of which Reese writes, “In Africa, that matters.”
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who affirmed that doctrine develops and refused to depict same-sex relationships as a black and white issue during the synod, told media: “There have been two steps forward, there may be one step backwards, but certainly not two.”
Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, told media to “watch for a possible ‘revolution’ a year from now,’ according to Australian outlet 9News.
John Allen of Crux looks further out, to the expected apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis after next year’s synod concludes this process, writing:
“At the end of the day, therefore, the only question that really matters is: When this extraordinary two-year process of reflection ends, what will Pope Francis do?”
For more on the synod, watch the bloggingheads conversation between RD’s Sarah Posner and Patti Miller.
Australia: Mixed Signals from Evangelical With Global Following
The Catholic bishops are not the only ones sending mixed messages on homosexuality. At ThinkProgress, Jack Jenkins reported this week on controversy surrounding comments by evangelist Brian Houston of Hillsong.
The leader of an influential global network of evangelical churches is sparking controversy for sending mixed messages on the subject of homosexuality, initially taking a hands-off approach to the matter before quickly backtracking and voicing support for “traditionally held Christian views” on same-sex marriage.
At a press conference last Thursday, Brian Houston, head of the evangelical megachurch Hillsong, was asked by the New York Times about his position on same-sex marriage. Houston, whose congregation is based in Australia but boasts around 100,000 weekly worshipers at campuses in a dozen cities around the world (including New York City and Los Angeles), responded to the question by saying that while he wouldn’t offer a firm position on the matter, he also wouldn’t rule out further conversation, and lamented the negative impact that anti-gay theology has had on LGBT youth.
“The world we live in, whether we like it or not, is changing around and about us,” Houston said, according to the New York Times. “The world’s changing, and we want to stay relevant as a church, so that’s a vexing thing … It’s very easy to reduce what you think about homosexuality to just a public statement, and that would keep a lot of people happy. But we feel at this point, that it is an ongoing conversation, that real issues in people’s lives are too important for us to just reduce it down to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer in a media outlet. So we’re on the journey with it.”
However, Houston quickly changed his tune when several news outlets wrote stories detailing his seemingly ambivalent response. In an interview with the Christian Post on Saturday, he insisted that had not shifted his position on LGBT issues.
“Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage,” he said. “My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”
Russia: Putin Ally Launches Orthodox News Network; Activists File Human Rights Complaint
Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev is launching an Orthodox News Network he says is modeled on Fox News. Slate’s Joshua Keating published a profile of Malofeev this week in which the Putin-allied mogul sounds like one of the conservative American religious leaders who denounce LGBT equality as a form of religious tyranny. “This so-called liberalism, tolerance, and freedom, these are just words, but behind them you can see the totalitarianism,” says Malofeev.
Asked for examples of this totalitarianism, he cites legal battles over U.S. businesses not providing flowers or cakes for gay weddings and the use of tear gas against anti-gay-marriage protesters in France. “We saw all of this in the 1920s in the Soviet Union. We know how it starts when the protection of minorities becomes the policy of the state,” he says.
Putin himself has made his devout faith a major component of his public persona: The Russian president has surrounded himself with religious advisers, and has made some comments about the West’s lack of Christian values that aren’t that far off from Malofeev’s arguments. But the Orthodox oligarch dismisses the idea that his very public faith has been good for business, pointing out that he was Orthodox long before it became fashionable among the Russian elite. “I didn’t come to Orthodoxy so I could get connections. Connections came to me because I am Orthodox,” he says.
In other news from Russia, activists filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights over the government’s rejection of their application to hold a marriage equality rally in Moscow, one of dozens of event requests rejected in the name of the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law.
India: Talk Show Sets Record Straight — Yoga No Cure for Homosexuality
In India, where LGBT people are living with last year’s Supreme Court decision recriminalizing homosexuality, a Sunday night talk show focused on LGBT issues drew nearly 130 million viewers. The show is hosted by actor Aamir Khan, who is a GLAAD “Global Voices” advocate. According to Gay Star News, “The hashtag #FreedomForLGBT became the top trending topic globally on Twitter and 1.7 million missed calls were made to a hotline set up by the show to protest the anti-gay law.” One commentator praised the show for doing more than preaching to the choir:
Satyamev Jayate devoted an hour upon alternative sexuality on Sunday morning. It was well-researched, sensitively presented, occasionally hilarious — like when Deepak from Ajmer said, “In Ajmer, dates aren’t like what dates are in Mumbai” — and deeply poignant. Satyamev Jayate declares in its advertisements that it has changed the way people think. This episode on queer identity may well live up to those lofty claims and we can only hope that it does, because Satyamev Jayate did something radical: it presented queer identity as something normal. Because news flash: normal is exactly what it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or straight.
As psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria put it to Khan, “If I asked you today to not look at women, but consider men sexually, would you be able to do it?” Khan said he wouldn’t. “Then why expect that of a [homosexual] boy or girl?” she asked. Khan also did the nation a favour by clearing another prevalent misconception: yoga cannot change your sexual preferences.
United Kingdom: Conservative Jewish Movement Backs Equal Marriage
Masorti, a conservative British Jewish movement, is allowing its rabbis to perform same-sex marriages, a step already taken by liberal and reform Jewish groups. More from Pink News’ Nick Duffy:
The conservative Masorti movement is considered more progressive than Orthodox Judaism – allowing men and women to sit together, and believing the Torah to be divinely inspired instead of the literal word of God.
Each of the Masorti’s 12 communities in the UK will be able to choose whether to perform same-sex marriages or not themselves – with no obligation for them to do so.
Senior Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, who heads the New North London Synagogue, said: “This is an important step forward. As a movement, we will continue to strive to be inclusive and to honour the dignity of all people, within the framework of Jewish law.”
The Masorti board of trustees said: “After much learning and discussion, the Masorti rabbis have ruled that communities may carry out ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples based on a ‘shutafut’, or partnership, ceremony.
“We recognise that our movement encompasses diverse views on this important subject. Each Masorti community, together with its rabbi, will be free to decide whether to carry out these ceremonies and, if so, whether the relationships sanctified by them should be registered under English law as same-sex marriages or civil partnerships.
Islam: Gay Imam on Engaging the Koran
The German website Qantara, an effort by the German government and the Goethe Institute to promote dialogue with the Islamic world, has published an interview with South African Imam Muhsin Hendricks, in which Hendricks discusses his struggles to reconcile his faith and sexuality and his approach to interpreting the Koran.
Italy: Rome Mayor May Take Marriage to European Court
We have previously reported on efforts by the national government to shut down actions taken by several mayors to register the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally married in other countries. Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said this week that he might take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.