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Church Oppression of Minorities! When does it Stop?

The ‘Church’ professes to be accepting of all, but it is becoming obvious that this is normally paid lip service to rather than in reality.  Being narrow minded is almost a perquisite for being conservative these days, and with Marcelo Crivella, as the mayor of Rio de Janeiro it may well be that that wonderful place for fun and frolics is slowly going to die, and obviously if the fun stops so will the money coming into the country from visitors.  Surprisngly enough, this has occurred occur in other locations eg. the states of South Dakota, Georgia,Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississipi in the USA.

The Revel & Riot website’s article on LGBTQ PEOPLE AND RELIGION, states that…

Worldwide, fundamentalists of every major religion promote discrimination, hatred and often violence towards LGBTQ people. Because of religion, families are torn apart when misguided teachings conflict with the biologically determined sexual orientation and/or gender identity of a child or parent. Countless LGBTQ people are raised in religious families and experience a great deal of internal conflict and pain as they try to reconcile their own learned beliefs with the reality of who they are.

Religion is supposed to be a refuge from oppression, not to implement it or to condone it because some tennet written by a person in the past said that that kind of person was bad, or evil, or indeed sub-human – wasn’t that what occurred in relation to slaves (and does still today in some countries)!

I would be the first to fight and stand up for everyone to have the right to voice their opinion, but I will not stand by and allow any minority to be oppressed because they don’t fit into the perscribed norm!

Further reading:

Church and State Sin city elects a preacher as mayor

Source: A Pentecostal’s progress | The Economist

Can you be LGBT and Catholic? This documentary investigates

Gay Times Logo

A documentary has gone inside the walls of an LGBT-friendly church in Baltimore to dispel myths that people cannot be both gay and Catholic.

The LGBT Educating and Affirming Diversity Ministry within the Saint Matthew Catholic Church seeks to provide church-goers with a community that is universally accepting of people from all walks of life.

LGBT-Church

© Eric Kruszewski

 

Filmmaker Eric Kruszewski recently crossed paths with LEAD and decided to create a documentary series to share their mission statement, and look at the lives of people who identify as both LGBT and Catholic.

He told Out magazine: “I was raised Catholic, but have not practiced my faith in years. And before this project, I had never heard of Saint Matthew Catholic Church. One of the parishioners knew my work and me. So when we bumped into each other at a media event, she told me, ‘I have a story for you…’

“There’s no way I can fully understand what it’s like to be an LGBT Catholic in 2016. But through interviews, the documentary process and getting close to the individuals portrayed in these videos, my goal was to accurately capture their thoughts, feelings and experiences.”

Watch the first part of the documentary below

God's warriors are locked in a barbaric, futile battle against marriage equality

The Guardian LogoDavid Marr

Thursday 10 December

 

 

 

 

 

 

The opposition of Australian bishops to equal marriage is ignored by the public and will ultimately be faced down. But not before the established church threatens mayhem and terrifies politicians in defence of the status quo

 The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, delivering the homily during the annual marriage mass and renewal of vows at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. ‘Fisher said nothing that cold night at St Mary’s Cathedral about his church’s rule that these men are bound for hell if they ever have sex with one another. Perhaps he didn’t need to.’ Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP


The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, delivering the homily during the annual marriage mass and renewal of vows at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. ‘Fisher said nothing that cold night at St Mary’s Cathedral about his church’s rule that these men are bound for hell if they ever have sex with one another. Perhaps he didn’t need to.’ Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

 

The power of the hard men of God is one of the great political puzzles of this country. They are the only opponents of equal marriage. They don’t remotely have the numbers. But they have log-jammed reform.

I’ve been tracking the power of these people most of my professional life. It’s no wonder. When I was a kid journalist, sex for men like me was a crime nearly everywhere in Australia.

Kissing was assault. One year in the early 1980s, a Sydney magistrate fined a man $50 for tongue-kissing another on the dance floor of an Oxford Street club. Fucking carried a prison sentence of 14 years.

In that lost world, hardly anyone was thrown behind bars. The point was the threat and the shame. The upshot was corruption and violence. Lives were ruined.

And just as they are fighting today against equal marriage, warriors of the cloth battled with everything they had to keep it that way.

They fought from the pulpit, in the press and along the corridors of every parliament in the land. They fought in the name of children – and, yes, some of these men turned out to be protecting paedophiles. They vilified homosexuals. They declared the fate of western civilisation was hanging in the balance.

Australians wanted these cruel laws changed. We are not a profoundly conservative country. Support for keeping sodomy a crime had collapsed here just as it had in the rest of the western world.

What made reform such an agonising business in Australia wasn’t overcoming public reluctance but defeating the preachers. They can’t promise votes. They can threaten mayhem.

Politicians are terrified of them. Grappling with churches is about the most distasteful contest they can imagine. The faiths remain the most resilient, most respected and the best-connected lobby in the nation.

Whether the issue is homosexuality, divorce, abortion, euthanasia or equal marriage, religion has the power to shatter party discipline.

Neville Wran, an atheist premier with a fat majority, shilly-shallied over the change for the best part of a decade. He could count absolutely on the people of New South Wales. Their support for decriminalising homosexuality was never in doubt. But he feared humiliation at the hands of his caucus.

Sydney Mardi Gras was already touted round the world before Wran acted. That was in 1984. Already over the line were South Australia, Victoria and the ACT. Tasmania was the last state to stare down the preachers in 1997.

The battle for equal marriage brings back to the field the same old rhetoric, the same fears, the same tactics and the same combatants.

This is not a pitched battle between Christian and secular Australia. Many Christians find the fight against equal marriage embarrassing, even barbaric. Their voices are hardly heard.

 

 Facebook Twitter Pinterest A letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia arguing against same-sex marriage and marriage equality. Photograph: Catholic Bishops of Australia


A letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia arguing against same-sex marriage and marriage equality. Photograph: Catholic Bishops of Australia

 

Politicians fear the defenders of the citadel: Catholic and Orthodox bishops; evangelical Anglicans; Presbyterians and other protestants who shunned the Uniting Church; mighty Hillsong and those who gather under the umbrella of the Australian Christian Lobby. Their (mostly) silent partners in the struggle are Muslims and conservative Jews.
Miraculously they are holding the line.

Much deeper than bigotry

I know many of these warriors. I’ve debated them, read their work and reported their campaigns. To call them bigots is too simple. Though without the loathing of homosexuality, there would be far fewer recruits to their crusades.

Disgust comes gorgeously packaged these days. “God made every person unique and irreplaceable as His beloved images in this world,” the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, preached this past winter. “If God loves people with same-sex attraction, so must the church.”
Fisher said nothing that cold night at St Mary’s Cathedral about his church’s rule that these men are bound for hell if they ever have sex with one another. Perhaps he didn’t need to. The teaching is so familiar.
Disgust comes gorgeously packaged these days

And though he spoke of the “justice and compassion” Catholics offer homosexuals, he forgot to mention the exemptions his church – and most faiths – demand from anti-discrimination laws so they can go on refusing to employ lesbians, transsexuals and homosexuals or sack any they discover on the payrolls of their schools, charities and hospitals.

The faiths call this just discrimination. As Fisher said so piously that night: “All forms of unjust discrimination must be opposed.”

This goes much deeper than bigotry. It’s about claiming the most intimate power over believers, the power to forbid any sex without the blessing of the church. That means never before marriage; never outside marriage; and, of course, never with the same sex.
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These ancient rules were law for centuries. Judges and police were supposed to jump to the aid of bishops and preachers. The noose and the stake sent the worst offenders to hell. Shame did the rest.
Nearly every one of these laws is dead and gone after titanic brawls we tend to put out of our minds because they seem, in retrospect, so absurd. This is a mistake. The lesson is that we’re fighting the one battle here, over and over again.
And because the warriors of the faiths know the tide of popular opinion is running strongly against them, they fight for keeps. They realise no defeat will ever be reversed. It’s once and forever.
So they dig in with a particular and at times comic ferocity. The example of the world counts for nothing in their eyes. Though equal marriage has been embraced by nearly every Western nation, the warriors are fighting to the last – just as they fought no-fault divorce, the morning-after pill, IVF for lesbians, smut on television and sparing gays the useful terror of prison.

 Facebook Twitter Pinterest George Brandis, the attorney general, criticised ‘an alarming emergence of intolerance of religious faith’. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


George Brandis, the attorney general, criticised ‘an alarming emergence of intolerance of religious faith’. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

 

Australia is the land of the warriors’ last resort.

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But the troops are deserting them. The faithful are no longer as willing as they were to obey the ancient Christian sex rules. They have shrugged off the power of their bishops and preachers.
Just like the rest of us they live together before they marry. They use the pill. They have abortions. They divorce. They remarry without annulment. They aren’t much troubled by their homosexual brothers and children. And most back equal marriage.
When Crosby Textor asked Australians in 2014 if they supported or opposed allowing same-sex couples to marry, they found support high across the faiths as well as Australia:
Total support: 72%.
Catholics: 67%.

Christians generally: 59%.

Anglican and Uniting: 57%.

The bishops aren’t speaking for their flocks. And while the Australian Christian Lobby blasts marriage reform with startling ferocity, pollsters make it clear these preachers speaks for few of us.

According to Crosby Textor only 21% of Australians oppose equal marriage. For every opponent there are three or more Australians who support equal marriage. Success should be a lay down misère.

It isn’t.

 Facebook Twitter Pinterest A composite image of Australian same-sex couples. A Crosby Textor poll found that 72% of people supported marriage equality. Photograph: Getty Images


A composite image of Australian same-sex couples. A Crosby Textor poll found that 72% of people supported marriage equality. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a pastoral letter earlier this year called Don’t Mess with Marriage. The pictures are gorgeous. Disdain for homosexuals is buried beneath the usual gauzy rhetoric about love, respect and justice.

“We wish,” say the bishops “to engage with this debate.” There’s no debate. They simply assert in various ways on page after page that marriage can only ever be “an institution designed to support people of the opposite sex to be faithful to each other and to the children of their union.”

A complaint about Don’t Mess with Marriage has been taken to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Board. This is ludicrous. Homosexuals don’t need to run to tribunals for protection from the insults of the clergy.

And the case is a gift to Christian hardliners. They are crying liberty.

“Same-sex marriage ideology is incompatible with freedom,” the head of the ACL thundered. “All of the debate of the past five years has been about forcing people of conscience to bow to the new definition of marriage.”

News Corp columnists have taken up this line with extraordinary passion. In prose that wouldn’t disgrace the King James Bible, Paul Kelly warns of “a calculated strike by parliaments and anti-discrimination boards using the cover of same-sex justice to achieve a quantum reduction in religious freedom and a pivotal change in the norms of our society.”

In early November, the attorney general, George Brandis, spoke of “an alarming emergence of intolerance of religious faith” by some of the most voluble elements in the community” when he opened the Human Rights Commission’s “roundtable” on religious freedom.

“It is the work of the roundtable,” Brandis said, “to develop strategies and understandings which promote a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect within a culture of freedom.”

Australians have grown cynical about claims that the faiths are the true guardians of families and children. That’s looking, after a couple of years’ evidence to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, a little shop soiled.

But we care about religious freedom. We remain tolerant of churches. We loathe interfering in their affairs. As much as possible we want to leave them to themselves. We are oddly reluctant even to name them as opponents – often the only opponents – in political contests of this kind.

This is an asset for the faiths that gives them strength beyond their numbers. And they are even stronger because this secular, respectful country doesn’t have much appetite for interrogating their claims. We say: that’s just them.

But as the fight over equal marriage takes this turn, it has to be asked what the hard men of God mean when they say liberty of faith is under threat in Australia? Is there anything at stake here other than them wanting to go on belittling homosexuals at maximum volume?

Two fundamental claims lie behind the rhetoric of freedom imperilled.

First, the warriors say abuse is forcing them into the shadows. They want to be loved as they pursue their ancient quarrels. Men who might once have faced lions for their faith are whinging about ridicule.
Here is Fisher a few weeks ago: “When people like me … enter the fray on marriage we now expect to be tagged ‘ultra-conservative’, ‘tedious imbecile’, ‘delusional nutter’, ‘evangelical clap-trapper’ and even ‘nauseating piece of filth’ not just in the anti-social media but even in the mainstream.

“What is new is that such ad hominem hails not just from fevered activists and net trolls but from respected journalists and public figures.”

The warriors of the cloth ought not to be abused. But men like Fisher are strangely unwilling to grasp why their opposition to equal marriage might stir ugly passions. Right or wrong, they seem unable to acknowledge the profound change of heart in this country to both homosexuality and marriage.

Men like Sydney Anglican priest Peter Kurti see themselves not as collateral damage in a great shift of values but targets of an “aggressive secularism that wants to drive religion out of the public square”.

“This campaign seeks completely to drive away religion, particularly Christianity, from the social and cultural realm where faith is practised, to the private and confined realm of the mind.”

That deserted public square is a key image in this debate. But men like Kurti, Fisher and Lyle Shelton are as active as ever in that space. They have all the platforms they have ever had to pursue their causes. They may not have the airtime they would like, but in a year or so there is to be a national debate on same-sex marriage on which Canberra has promised to spend $160m.

They aren’t victims. They just don’t have the traction they once had. They aren’t as respected. They aren’t as believed. They have lost their veto.

Abusing them is inexcusable, but what has happened to Christian fortitude? Aren’t the warriors of the faith supposed to boast rather than complain that standing against the zeitgeist earns them no applause?
I have read thousands of words trying to identify any freedom at stake that doesn’t involve demeaning homosexuals

The second fundamental is the claim allowing equal marriage would mean the inevitable loss of religious liberty.

It’s apparently a zero sum game for the warriors: freedom won is freedom lost. When two blokes are allowed to marry, the faiths are no longer free.

I have read thousands of words over the last weeks trying to identify any freedom at stake in this exchange that doesn’t involve demeaning homosexuals in the name of their God.

Alas, in the words of the old song, that’s all there is.

Fisher promotes a grim dystopian future should equal marriage ever become the law of the land. It’s easy slippery slope stuff: allow this, and what other horrors – like forcing churches to pay tax – might follow?

Of this mythical Australia of 2025 he said: “Already one Catholic bishop has been briefly jailed for refusing to apply the state-approved ‘LGBTIQQ safety protocols and awareness program’ to the schools in his diocese; and parents at Jewish and Muslim schools have been advised that they may not withdraw their children from such programs.

“Many clergy and teachers in faith-based schools have been cowed with threats of prosecution for ‘hate speech’ if they teach that divine law limits marriage to people of opposite sex.”

Disdain for homosexuals is key to these fears, but they go deeper than bigotry. Allow men to marry each other, and what happens to church teaching that marriage is the sacred gateway to sex?

Opposition to same sex marriage isn’t about freedom, it’s about privilege. It’s a last ditch stand to keep the most fundamental of the sex rules of Christendom entrenched in law.

Fisher and his kind know they will never be forced to perform same-sex marriages themselves. Nor would any Australian government compel them to allow their churches to be used for such ceremonies. Yet in a world that accepts same sex-marriage they see such “niggardly exemptions” as not enough to guarantee their freedom.

This is where they talk of small town martyrs in North America: men and women of profound faith compelled to bake wedding cakes, take wedding photographs and offer double beds to honeymooning gay couples.

Fisher is calling for these “ordinary believers and their businesses” to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws. Hardliners across the board want the legal privileges enjoyed – and fiercely protect – by their religious organisations to be extended to the faithful.

 Bob Katter refused to allow publicly homophobic candidates run for his party. Even a man running a breakaway party based in rural Queensland could see this was poison at the ballot box. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Bob Katter refused to allow publicly homophobic candidates run for his party. Even a man running a breakaway party based in rural Queensland could see this was poison at the ballot box. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

 

As each month passes, this astonishing demand to bust anti-discrimination schemes across Australia is looking more and more like a deal being offered by the faiths to government.

“The terms of their defeat are up for grabs,” says David Glasgow, an Australian lawyer working at New York University Law School. He has watched the same demands being made by the faithful across America since the supreme court approved equal marriage in June.

“Many religious people object to all homosexual activity and relationships, not just marital ones. If baking a cake makes a business owner complicit in the sin of same-sex marriage, a wide range of activities could make them complicit in the sin of same-sex relationships.

“What’s to stop an architect from claiming that it violates his or her faith to build a home for a same-sex couple, or a police officer saying the same when asked to keep the peace at a pride march … this is religious liberty on steroids.”

The end is nigh

I won’t be rushing to marry. It didn’t turn out so well the last time. And I reckon that after nearly 20 years, my partner and I are as married as two people can be. No kids of course, but absolutely married.

How Australia has changed even in those years. One marker I love of that transformation was Bob Katter’s refusal a couple of years ago to allow two candidates for his Katter Australia Party to fly the flag of homophobia.

One tweeted he would never allow a gay person to teach his children. The other equated homosexuals with paedophiles. Both were dumped. Even a man running a breakaway party based in rural Queensland could see this was poison at the ballot box

 Facebook Twitter Pinterest A rally for marriage equality in May, attended by Christine Forster, the sister of Tony Abbott, and her partner Virginia Edwards. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

A rally for marriage equality in May, attended by Christine Forster, the sister of Tony Abbott, and her partner Virginia Edwards. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

 

So why do politicians take it seriously when it’s delivered from the pulpit?

The politics of salvation are always on the boil in this country. But this is not an entirely bleak story. Within the churches, fine men and women continue to struggle against the forces of punitive Christianity. Christians everywhere have joined the fight for equal marriage.

And the wishes of the people can’t be denied forever. That’s the lesson from the brawls of my youth over gay rights. Good, secular sense wins out in the end. It always does.

Equal marriage will happen. There are more rounds to fight. But even the most hardline contenders know it will happen. God’s work is in the delay, in making change as painful as possible.

But Australia will get there in the end

Images of Lust: Sexual Carvings on Medieval Churches

These drawings are not from  recently discovered mediaeval or rustic fore-runner of ZIPPER magazine, but from the book Images of Lust: Sexual Carvings on Medieval Churches by James Jerman (Author), Anthony Weir published in May 1993.  The book is about GS - Drawings from twelfth-century churches“obscene” carvings on twelfth-century churches, and is called ‘Images of Lust: Sexual Carvings on Medieval Churches’and it established that carvings of men, women and animals in exhibitionist or otherwise flagrant posture, were not caprices of bolsy stonemasons, nor bizarre objects of “fertility-rites”, but part of the Benedictive and Augustinian concern over sins of the flesh and luxury and greed, which increased greatly as a result of the 12th century boom in commerce, travel and pilgrimage to Rome and Santiago, made possible by these monastic orders themselves.  Seven hundreds of years later the concern about sins of the flesh remains slightly diminished – but, alas, luxury and greed are no longer regarded as even distasteful – except, of course, when enjoyed by film stars, Boy George, perverts like the Shah of Iran, and members of the Onassis family.

Reprinted from Gay Star Issue No 15 Spring 1985

 

Dublin priest comes out as gay at church, receives standing ovation

 Reprinted from GayStar News: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/dublin-priest-comes-out-gay-church-receives-standing-ovation090115
Now that’s something worth praising
Father Martin Dolan came out to his parish at Mass.

Photo via Twitter.

A Dublin priest decided to risk everything by choosing to come out in front of his congregation in order to fight for same-sex marriage.

But it was worth taking, for he received a standing ovation from his parishioners.

Father Martin Dolan, a priest at Church of St Nicholas of Myra in Dublin’s city center, led Mass last weekend by calling on his flock to support same-sex marriage in the upcoming Irish referendum.

‘I’m gay myself,’ he revealed.

At first there was a smattering of applause, and then his ‘proud’ parishioners stood up to clap at the bravery of his statement.

Liz O’Connor, a community youth worker, told the Irish Sun: ‘We are all very proud of Martin. Because he has admitted that he is gay doesn’t change the person that he was before he said it.’

But not everyone was pleased by Dolan’s coming out, with some suggesting he should be fired or moved from the church he has been at for 15 years.

‘I wouldn’t like to see him being moved for the statement he made. That would be horrendous,’ O’Connor added.

‘He should be supported. He has done nothing wrong. If he’s moved, there would be uproar in this parish. He’s still the same man today.

‘Martin has always been an advocate of people’s rights, and even spoke about the child abuse in the Church.

‘There’s not many [priests] that would come out because they’re afraid of the bishops and that, but Martin is his own man. That’s what he believes in.’

The Dublin Archdiocese declined to comment until they had spoken directly to Dolan.

In the polls leading up to May’s referendum, they show over 70% of Irish people support gay marriage.

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/dublin-priest-comes-out-gay-church-receives-standing-ovation090115#sthash.jrCtGKsF.dpuf

Fearless love in a gentle soul

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle – SDGLN Contributor
August 9th, 2013
The Rev. Mervyn Kingston
ENLARGE
The Rev. Mervyn Kingston    The Rev. Mervyn Kingston
Mervyn Kingston was born with many challenges. He grew up in Ireland where it was illegal to be LGBT for half of his life. He grew up in an evangelical Anglican church in Belfast at the height of the sectarian violence and although the evangelical world condemned him for being gay, he ended up his own reconciliation project with Richard O’Leary, who was a Roman Catholic from the Republic of Ireland.
They were a transformative couple over their 24 years together and entered into civil partnership in 2005. He was to all outward appearances a “nerd” and his life as a Church of Ireland clergyman for 34 years was not exactly about setting the world on fire, but behind these appearances was a remarkable man the world is missing already.
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RGOD2: Fearless love in a gentle soul
RGOD2: Fearless love in a gentle soul

Fifty years in the making

I knew Meryvn since I was 11 years old and we had a lot in common, though we didn’t know that until relatively recently. We attended the same grammar school, “Grosvenor High” in Belfast, and I remember him as a Prefect in the Sixth Form … about five years ahead of me. He was most memorable for a very pronounced stammer and it was butt-clenchingly painful to listen to Mervyn read from Scriptures at morning chapel when it came his turn. Sniggers and pure discomfort were all around and there was a kind of “please Lord – help him just get through this” kind of prayer some of us offered to the Almighty.
My connection with him grew initially from these painful encounters because I too had a stammer and I knew how incredibly difficult it was for Mervyn to stand up in front of an audience of about 1,000 people knowing he was going to stutter on every fifth word! So I was a secret admirer of his courage and shared his wound.
A form of self-sabotage
There are many theories about stammering and some would claim it is a kind of self-sabotage. It is a way of limiting our ability to communicate and between anger and self-knowledge, it was a kind of social disguise of not being too articulate for one’s own good.
People around you could hurt you if you really spoke your mind in this Irish working class and violently homophobic culture of the 1970s. So, like the nerdy, churchy costume that Mervyn wore, I too was influenced by these kinds of survival skills. “The King’s Speech” has wonderfully portrayed the issue of stammering that has been an unexplored taboo for most of my life and there is often a misinformed parallel drawn between stammering and having a learning disability. It is socially and professionally debilitating when a stammer chats and robs you of public speaking skills or simple conversational aptitude. People who stammer don’t when they sing and so Mervyn was a big part of the school’s music program.
Our paths would cross many times and most significantly during the ordination process. I was ordained before he was, even though he was older and I reckon my speech impediment issues were not as much as a concern for the authorities as his were. I worked very hard at overcoming my stammer and what began as my “thorn in the flesh” forced me to develop my communication skills. I love public speaking and preaching and with God’s help, the journey to this place has not been easy, but here we are. We are witnesses of the miraculous in many simple ways and sometimes it is purely about practice and honing skills that others take for granted.
Impediments to ordination to the priesthood
What Mervyn and I did not know about each other was that we were both struggling with issues of sexual identity and its relationship to us becoming priests at a time when being gay was illegal.
In many ways, my stammer was much more a serious practical impediment to my ordination that my sexual orientation given the amount of public speaking and social intercourse required by the work. Yet, I knew God loved me and if God could call a couple of Irish stammers into the priesthood, then he could probably handle my sexual orientation and the men who came into my life over the past 50 years. They too shaped this imperfect priest and God was present in these deep relationships. God always calls the most unlikely people into ministry and leadership and the pattern usually follows that we feel totally inadequate for the task, yet with God’s help and the beloved community around us, we find a way to move shuffle forward.
Moses had a similar speech problem which rabbis claim was most likely a stammer and he is reluctant to take on God’s task of liberating the Egyptian Jewish slaves because he feels he just cannot speak properly. So God provides Aaron to do his public speaking and the reluctant stammerer Moses –reluctantly leads.
Mervyn was a relatively rare and early ecumenist in the sectarian violent Northern Ireland society of the 1970s and 1980s. At his ordination in east Belfast in 1973 he invited a Roman Catholic priest to prominently attend, ecumenical actions he repeated in the 1980s when he was serving in the parish of Glencairn in exclusively Protestant loyalist west Belfast. In sharp contrast his next appointment was as rector to the group of parishes which included overwhelming Catholic and republican south Armagh. Mervyn quickly established fruitful relationships with his Catholic neighbors. Mervyn saw his ministry and social outreach as one for all the people – Protestant and Catholic, loyalist and republican.
A pioneer of LGBT pastoral care and rights in a difficult global context
When I was fired from my work in a parish in the Republic of Ireland in 1980, Mervyn and many clergy friends were sympathetic but the church was a bastion of homophobia and no dissention or discussion on these issues was allowed.
I can understand the religious climate in Russia or Africa where Archbishops still rule with impunity. In Russia today, any LGBT sympathetic clergy are simply excommunicated. It is not that long ago when we clearly had the same experience in Ireland both within Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. I had to leave Ireland and Mervyn and others like him stayed to do the difficult work of transformation. He met Richard O’Leary, a delightfully sweet and self-effacing academic who later taught at Queens University in Belfast, and they began to work really intentionally at bringing Ireland into the 21st century around LGBT rights and faith. His obituary reads:

“The Revd Kingston was a pioneer of the gay Christian movement in Ireland since the early 1980s as well as a member of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA). He was a serving clergyman in the Church of Ireland for over 30 years until he retired in 2003 on health grounds as rector of the Creggan and Ballymascanlon group of parishes which straddled the Irish border. In that same year he co-founded Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) as a group of Christians, gay and straight, lay and ordained persons, which has campaigned for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the churches.”

Early retirement

In 2002 Mervyn was diagnosed with cancer and retired early at 60 in 2007. He claimed his church pension and sought to establish Richard’s entitlement to a survivor’s pension as his civil partner. He then had to fight the Church of Ireland to ensure his FULL pension rights could be transferred to his legal partner and when I spent two years back in Ireland in 2007, Richard and Mervyn were in the throes of this important battle. Eventually, Richard was given the same right of access to pension that other married clergy are entitled to and the pension policy was changed for other civil partnered couples.
Although Archbishop Alan Harper was pastorally supportive of him, Mervyn’s own bishop refused to license him to preach or celebrate the eucharist in his local parish church. (Ironically, a memorial service was held there this week). The Bishop of Down and Dromore, Harold Miller, is a contemporary of mine and like Mervyn comes from evangelical roots, but this “good cop- bad cop” strategy by our church leaders is a far cry from the ministry of Jesus. I don’t know what version of the Bible these guys read.
I remember often visiting them and walking on the beach near their seaside home and listening to the exhausting effects of a church that simply could not deal with the realities of having to engage fully with a gay person (or clergyperson), even when they had dedicated most of their life to its mission, as Mervyn had done. The courage and the tenacity, the sense of justice was palpable. These were holy men who were engaged in their own process of grief and loss with Mervyn’s terminal illness, while they were vicariously fighting for the rights and dignity of others. It was another remarkable witness behind all the apparent conservative exterior, there was a lion, a tower of strength, a prophet crying in the wilderness. Fearless love in a gentle soul.
Comrades in the global battle for LGBT equality
We continued to communicate when I returned home to the U.S. and worked together on a video and some publications. Mervyn was the editor of “Share Your Story: Gay and Lesbian Experiences of Church” (2010, CAI) and the author of “Church Needs To Listen To Its Gay Clergy” (in “Moving Forward Together: Homosexuality and the Church of Ireland” 2011, CAI). They supported the work of our St. Paul’s Foundation and hosted Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo once in Ireland.
I always considered Mervyn and Richard were bravely dealing with as difficult a religious context as any African country because they remained totally excluded from the life of the mainstream church and were treated as a kind of pariah by many of their contemporaries (especially almost all of the bishops). If these bishops had only approached this situation differently, their legacy and their common humanity might have been more compassionate. These bishops remain on the wrong side of justice and have failed to offer any significant contribution to the public debate, which has now passed them by.
The Church of England mirrors much of this similar response. History will judge these acts of cowardice disguised as a concern for church orthodoxy. Not to permit a dying priest permission to celebrate the eucharist or share the Word of God through preaching just because he is in a legal partnership with another man is simply another form of clergy abuse by Bishop Harold Miller.
Mervyn died on Aug. 2 and was buried in Downpatrick on Tuesday. My love goes out to Richard, who remained at his side even during these tough years when the institutional church failed them.

A tribute to our heroes

In remembrance of Rev Mervyn Kingston

So it has been a difficult week for me with the burialof two LGBT heroes, Eric Lembembe in Cameroon and the Rev. Mervyn Kingston in Ireland. In tribute to both of them and representing the LGBT diaspora, I share one of my favorite poems written by an early LGBT theorist from the late 19th century and Anglican clergyman, Edward Carpenter. These men lived and loved deeply and have shaped who we are and what we are becoming. They rest in the earth’s womb which brought them forth and inspired them to do the kingdom work that we are all invited to participate in doing. Unlikely leaders, yes. But what wounded and challenged them became their strength and shaped their legacies. They shaped us.

”The Lake of Beauty”

Let your mind be quiet, realizing the beauty of the world, and the immense the boundless treasures that it holds in store.
All that you have within you, all that your heart desires, all that your Nature so specially fits for you- that or the counterpart of it waits for you embedded in the great Whole, for you. It will surely come to you.
Yet equally surely not one moment before its appointed time will it come. All your crying and fever and reaching out of hands will make no difference.
Therefore do not begin that game at all.
Do not recklessly spill the waters of your mind in this direction and in that, lest you become like a spring lost and dissipated in the desert.
But draw them together into a little compass, and hold them still, so still.
And let them become clear, so clear- so limpid, so mirror-like;
At last the mountains and the sky shall glass themselves in peaceful beauty.
And the antelope shall descend to drink, and to gaze at his reflected image, and the lion to quench his thirst,
And Love himself shall come and bend over, and catch his own likeness in you.

RGOD2, written by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, looks at faith and religion from an LGBT point of view. Ogle is known around the world for his work in support of LGBT rights and HIV-prevention efforts. He is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. Donations to the foundation can be made by clicking HERE.

 

Further information links:

 

  1. LGBT History Project
  2. Irish Times – Church of Ireland priest who championed gay rights and ecumenism
  3. Letter to Irish Times from Rupert Moreton (Revd)