United Methodists Elect 1st Gay Bishop; Canadian Anglicans OK Same-Sex Marriage

Bishop Karen Oliveto


Human Rights Watch released a report calling for an end to cruel, degrading, and useless anal exams that supposedly “test” for homosexuality:

Some countries where authorities have used forced anal exams in the past, most notably Lebanon, have taken steps to end the practice. But others, including Egypt and Tunisia, rely on them with great frequency in prosecutions for consensual same-sex conduct. The use of forced anal examinations appears to be a recent phenomenon in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia.

United Methodist Church: First openly gay bishop elected; schism ahead?

The Western Division of the United Methodist Church elected openly gay Rev. Karen Oliveto as a bishop, the first in the church whose doctrine bans “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination. Oliveto, currently serving as pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco, was one of three openly gay candidates. The vote, which the pro-LGBT Reconciling Ministries Network called a “tipping point” in the “40-year movement to end codified discrimination against LGBTQ persons” comes after more than 100 Methodist clergy came out in advance of the denomination’s General Conference in June. At General Conference, delegates voted to create a commission to study the issue of ordination and marriage.

As World Religion News notes:

The situation was extremely unlike even a few years ago. Even though a substantial portion of American Methodists are supportive of same-sex marriages, a conservative delegate coalition from the US and other countries have repeatedly blocked the required votes at the denominational meetings.

More on the global context from Jacob Lupfer at Religion News Service, who wrote in May about why the Methodists’ “chaos” on sexuality will continue:

When Lutheran, Episcopal, and Presbyterian denominations affirmed gay marriage or LGBT clergy, co-religionists in other parts of the world could not stop them. (Though it is worth noting that the Episcopal Church’s affirming stance has created serious challenges in its relationship to the global Anglican Communion.)

Forty percent of the delegates to the United Methodist Church’s recent General Conference were from outside the U.S. As Methodism declines in the U.S. and grows in other places, particularly Africa, where traditional Christian attitudes about sexuality remain strong, conservatives are guaranteed to be a majority for many years into the future.

From NPR’s story on this week’s election:

“I think at this moment I have a glimpse of the realm of God,” 58-year-old Oliveto said after her election, according to a news story from the church. “Today we took a step closer to embody beloved community and while we may be moving there, we are not there yet. We are moving on to perfection.”

The United Methodist Church, which has more than 7 million members in the United States, is divided over the issue of homosexuality. “This election raises significant concerns and questions of church polity and unity,” Bruce R. Ough, president of the Church’s Council of Bishops, said in a statement after the vote.

And some comment from the United Methodist Church’s news service:

Ough clarified that the Council of Bishops does not have constitutional authority to intervene in the election, but “is monitoring this situation very closely.”

He acknowledged that some in the church will view this election as a violation of church law and a significant step toward a split, while others will consider it a milestone toward being a more inclusive church.

“Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable,” Ough said. “We are confident God is with us, especially in uncharted times and places.”

Conservatives were not happy with the move: “’If the Western Jurisdiction wanted to push the church to the brink of schism, they could not have found a more certain way of doing so,’ Rev. Rob Renfroe, head of the evangelical organization Good News, said in the church’s news story.”

The conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy reports that immediately following the vote, the South Central Jurisdiction asked for a ruling from the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court.

In Lupfer’s RNS commentary in May, he criticized the bishops’ commission plan for kicking the can down the road rather than dealing seriously and realistically with divisions in the denomination. “Schism may be impractical or prohibitively expensive,” he wrote, “but it’s more likely than not. There is no reason to delay the inevitable discussions about how, if at all, each side can remain connected to the other after some definitive split takes place.”

Canada: Anglicans back same-sex marriage; vote originally reported as rejection

After it was reported that Canadian Anglicans had rejected a marriage equality resolution by a single vote, some delegates objected that their votes had not been counted. That led to a recount and what the CBC called “a stunning reversal of the result.” From the CBC:

To pass, the resolution required two-thirds of each of three orders — lay, clergy and bishops. The clergy failed to reach that threshold by one vote that was apparently not counted because it was counted in the lay order.

The error was discovered after delegates requested a detailed hard copy of the electronic voting records.

Hiltz then declared the resolution in favour of same-sex marriage had passed.

“That is our reality,” Hiltz told stunned delegates. “That the motion is in fact carried in all three orders.”

The resolution must be affirmed at the next synod in 2019 before it goes into effect, but some bishops have said they will begin allowing same-sex couples to marry in their dioceses without waiting; the Toronto Archbishop Colin Johnson had planned to do so even before the recount.

The close vote and what one bishop called the “adversarial process” reveal “deep differences” within the church, not to mention the likely consequences of the church’s standing within the Anglican Communion, which has sanctioned the Episcopal Church in the US for its stance on marriage and LGBT ordination.

Also in Canada, Vancouver’s city council voted unanimously this week “to support the equality, diversity and inclusion of transgender people by implementing a series of recommendations made by a consulting group that specializes in trans issues,” according to CTV News.

Iraq: Religious leader issues fatwa against violence toward gender nonconformists

Shiite religious leader Muqtada Sadr issues what OutRight International calls a “groundbreaking religious decree” prohibiting the use of violence against gender non-conforming individuals.

The June 29 ruling came in response to a question about men who “look like women” and engage in “suspicious same-sex [sexual] relations. The questioner added, “Such a dangerous trend, which has been promoted by the colonialism against the Muslims, has been spreading like a wildfire. You, our Master, have been against corruption and those spreading corruption in all forms. Shall you, our Master, implement a new plan to combat such a dangerous virus?”

Sadr’s fatwa says that men who “dress like women” are psychologically ill. But he decrees that they should not be physically attacked: “These people should be stayed away from. There shouldn’t be any physical attack against them, since the attacks will push them further away from the accepted path of logic.”

OutRight calls the ruling “significant from both religious and political perspectives,” as Sadr “is a populist clergy man with great following in Iraq, and has been considered a political and military powerhouse in the post-Saddam Iraq.” More analysis:

Mr. Sadr’s fatwa was not an acceptance of same-sex practice or cross dressing. Rather, the new ruling classifies homosexuals and cross-dressers as individuals “suffering psychologically” and committing sinful acts, but society should respect their right to life, hoping that they will eventually see the light. In doing so, he views the issues of homosexuality and cross dressing from three different perspectives: psychologically, socially, and religiously. This distinction is a departure from the traditional stand of Shiite clerics on this issue, which only relied on a religious doctrine on same-sex practice. Although Mr. Sadr condemns homosexuality on a religious basis, he acknowledges that the social realities cannot be solely judged through a religious lens. Though Mr. Sadr classifies homosexuals as sick people, his refusal to demand punishment for their “sins” and his acknowledgement of the complexity of this issue can potentially open the doors to a broader debate among Shiite religious scholars about sexual orientation, homosexuality, and the treatment of gays and lesbians in Islam.

Beyond Iraq and within the Shiite communities, Mr. Sadr is viewed as a mid-ranking clergyman, whose religious opinion on the treatment of cross-dressers and gay men can encourage his peers and leading Shiite clerics to re-articulate their long-standing views on same-sex practice and gender-non-conformity. Though Muqtada Sadr is not considered to be a religious heavy weight similar to Ayatollah Sistani (the leader of Iraqi Shiites), he is a mainstream Shiite cleric, from a prominent family, with extensive connections within the Shiite cleric circles worldwide.

The new religious decree is binding for the followers of Mr. Sadr, including his militia men, though given the high level of social stigma against gender non-conformist individuals in Iraq, it is not clear how long it will take for Mr. Sadr’s followers to adhere to the new ruling.

OutRight links to the original Arabic text on Sadr’s official website.

Tanzania: Regional commissioner declares war on ‘gayism’

Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda has declared war against homosexuality, including calls to to track down gays on social media platforms, deregister LGBT-supporting civic orgniazations, and arrest people who attend gay events. His crusade is being cheered on by some in the media, such as this commentary that appeared in the Daily News last week, which called for the “anti-gayism” plan to be taken nationally.  Some excerpts:

DAR ES SALAAM Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda has made a point, his bid to fight homosexuality must be cheered. The truth is, for the first time, a government leader has come out in the open to declare war against the menace that silently keeps on devastating the dignity of the youth.

The RC’s intervention is timely. The country shouldn’t wait until it is too late to address the problem, kind of a mistake made by Western ‘democratic’ countries.

This western philosophical standpoint serves political rather than social ends, egoistic rather than collective ends and hypocritical rather than reality ends that were meant by whoever created the earth.

The overwhelming power of sexual attraction between male and female known to supersede all other forms of sexual attractions throughout the human race, biological design of male and female body and the ability to naturally produce children through sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, among other reasons, have all failed to convince powers there, that sex between man and a woman is superior.

Sadly, in the West it has reached a point of no return.

To get into power and stay there in the government, church, private corporations, local government and associations, one must support and glorify issues of interest to what they fashionably call Lesbianism, Gayism, Bisexualism and Transgender (LGBT).

Fortunately, Africa is still pretty much safer. Banking on lessons from the Western democracies, African leaders must make sure they don’t let their countries get to the point of no return by upholding the so called gay rights movements in their territories.

Israel: Activists protest parade shift due to religious sensitivities, threat of violence

LGBT activists in Be’er Sheva turned what was to have been their first Pride parade into a protest at City Hall after police, citing “religious sensitivities” and potential violence, broke a promise to allow the parade to go down Rager Boulevard, the city’s main street. The Israeli National LGBT Taskforce (known as Aguda) had appealed to the High Court of Justice, but the court declined to overturn local official’s decision to require the parade to go down side streets.

Jamaica: Court stacks the deck against LGBT rights

Activist Maurice Tomlinson reported that earlier this month that the Jamaican Supreme Court allowed nine conservative Christian groups to participate in a lawsuit challenging the country’s anti-sodomy law, but blocked the LGBT-friendly Public Defender from taking part.

More from a press release from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network:

“This is truly a David and Goliath situation, requiring me to respond to not only the government’s, but also the religious groups’ arguments,” says Mr. Tomlinson. The legal challenge, which is supported by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and AIDS-Free World, argues that Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law violates the constitutional rights of its people.

The religious groups allege that they must participate in the case to defend the 1864 British colonially imposed anti-sodomy law that criminalizes all forms of intimacy between consenting adult males, even in private, because the statute protects their rights under the 2011 Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. These rights they claim include freedom of religion, equality before the law, the right to a healthy environment, and the right to privacy. They also claim that gay men must be banned from having sex because that will inevitably lead to the exploitation of children.

“During the hearing of the applications, the court stated that some of the churches’ allegations seem far-fetched. Nevertheless, the court found that the opinion of the majority of Jamaicans — as reflected by the religious groups — was important in deciding what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms,” says Mr. Tomlinson, asserting that the law violates his rights to privacy and non-discrimination…

The Public Defender has indicated that she will seek leave to appeal the court’s ruling and the matter will likely be suspended until that appeal is heard. The full hearing is not expected to take place before 2017.

Albania: Conservatives, clerics warn anti-discrimination law will lead to gay marriage

Balkan Insight reported this month that “Albanian conservatives and clerics are demanding withdrawal of a proposal to outlaw discrimination based on sexual identity, saying it could open the way towards gay marriage. A vote on a package of judicial reforms sought by the European Union in scheduled on July 21; the proposals include the addition of constitutional protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation:

On Thursday, Mesila Doda, an MP for the Party for Justice, Integration, and Unity, PDIU, which is in coalition with the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama, asked her colleagues to not vote for the reform until this amendment is withdrawn.

Speaking in the plenary session Doda said that “without doubt, the changes [to the constitution] open the way for gay marriage.

“We are not going to vote the draft if you don’t withdraw the amendment,” she added, addressing parliament.

Doda called on her colleagues in the chamber to trust in God and urged them to “not vote changes that change our social model.”

Doda’s party mainly represents members of the Cham community, ethnic Albanians expelled from Greece after World War II

But much the same arguments are also being used by the Catholic and Muslim community leaders to show their disagreement with the initiative.

A well known imam in Tirana, Ahmed Kalaja, on Facebook on Thursday said Doda’s speech was powerful and welcomed by all religious communities in the country.

“To believe in God and, at the same time, to approve that law, are two things that cannot go along together… cursed be whoever added that amendment to the package of judicial reforms,” the imam wrote.

Bermuda: Senate rejects bill man-woman marriage bill

On Thursday, the Senate rejected “amendments to the Human Rights Act aimed at solidifying marriage as being between a man and a woman.” The legislation had passed the House a week earlier. From the Royal Gazette:

A key turning point in yesterday’s seven-hour debate proved to be the speech from Ms Wilkerson, who became only the third PLP politician to reject Mr Furbert’s Bill.

The lawyer described it as an attempt to “degrade rights rather than affirm them”, adding that if the Bill passed it “has consequences which cannot be turned around”.

Ms Wilkerson also likened the issue to the historical discrimination of black people, saying: “I believe the feeling must be the same.”

That point was reinforced by Ms Woolridge, who noted the irony that many black people who have experienced discrimination were still pushing this legislation.

Ms Woolridge said she cringes when she reflects on experiences of black men and women and that, as a black woman, she cringes at the thought of anyone wanting to infringe on human rights.

But other senators criticized the analogy, with one saying that his religious beliefs “hold the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.” Another said that only a combination of masculine and feminine energies can “bring for life,” adding, “Man, woman and child is of the highest order. That union cannot be mimicked by any other combination.”

Bermudans voted recently to reject civil unions and marriage equality, but based on the voter turnout the question was officially considered undecided.

Mexico: New national LGBT movement launches

Mexico as a new national LGBT movement, The Movement for Equality in Mexico, where religious conservatives are leading resistance to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s call for a constitutional guarantee of marriage equality nationwide. Among the principles and goals spelled out on the group’s website is this quote from actor and activist Felipe Nájera: “When human rights can only be exercised by some few people, you cannot call them human rights, these are called privileges.” [English translation by Google]

Juan Alberto Vazquez writes in Milenio.com that the number of cities in Mexico holding pride celebrations is booming, but that visibility and progress go hand-in-hand with continuing resistance, bullying, homophobia, and violence.

Bosnia and Herzogovina: Anti-discrimination law protects LGBT and intersex people

The House of People of the Parliamentary Assembly adopted amendments to the country’s anti-discrimination, including sexual orientation and gender identity and stating explicitly that “sex characteristics” are a prohibited ground of discrimination. The Sarajevo Open Centre, a human rights organization, said Bosnia and Herzogovina is the first country in southeastern Europe to provide “anti-discrimination protection for intersex people in all spheres of life.” ILGA Europe called the changes a “great step forward.”

Russia: Officials making it hard for LGBT activists to exercise their rights

LGBT activists in St. Petersburg were detained after gathering in a public park area designated by law for public events. The activists met there after being repeatedly told that the park was being used for another purpose and, as required by law, offered another day. Yet when they accepted that day, there were told the park was busy. From comingoutsbp.com via Google translation:

The scheme worked like this: LGBT action organizers reported that on July 9 at the entire territory of the Champs de Mars (including the area of Hyde Park) is planned carrying out of mass event “St. Petersburg reserve” a military equipment exhibition. The Committee suggested that an alternative date – 10 July. LGBT activists agreed on this date and filed her notice. The next day, followed by a call – phone Sergey Kryukov Committee official said on employment and 10 July as cultural events “Petersburg reserve.” And the next date was proposed again – 11 July.When submitting notification of July 11, and that day was busy event in support of the traditional family and President Putin.Kryukov offered 12 July and activists agreed again. But the July 12 all the Campus Martius was busy.

Puerto Rico: Communities mourn Orlando victims

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reports on families and communities in Puerto Rico mourning the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Nepal: Interview with intersex activist

UNAIDS publishes an interview with Esan Regmi, an intersex man who was lead facilitator at Nepal’s first national meeting earlier this year on the issues and challenges faced by intersex people.