Category : Pastoral Care
Among Catholic priests, one of the most outspoken critics of the church’s message with regard to sexuality is Father James Martin, an American Jesuit. In his book “Building a Bridge,” published earlier this year, he repeats the common criticism that Catholics have been harshly critical of homosexuality while neglecting the importance of sexual integrity among all of its followers.
Father Martin is correct to argue that there should not be any double standard with regard to the virtue of chastity, which, challenging as it may be, is part of the good news of Jesus Christ for all Christians. For the unmarried—no matter their attractions—faithful chastity requires abstention from sex.
This might seem a high standard, especially today. Yet it would be contrary to the wisdom and goodness of Christ to require something that cannot be achieved. Jesus calls us to this virtue because he has made our hearts for purity, just as he has made our minds for truth. With God’s grace and our perseverance, chastity is not only possible, but it will also become the source for true freedom.
We do not need to look far to see the sad consequences of the rejection of God’s plan for human intimacy and love. The sexual liberation the world promotes does not deliver its promise. Rather, promiscuity is the cause of so much needless suffering, of broken hearts, of loneliness, and of treatment of others as means for sexual gratification. As a mother, the church seeks to protect her children from the harm of sin, as an expression of her pastoral charity.
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) August 28, 2017
Almost all Houston-area churches—including the Bayou City’s biggest congregations such as Second Baptist, Houston’s First Baptist, Church Without Walls, Wheeler Avenue Baptist, and Woodlands Church—canceled all Sunday activities as a precaution.
“We have five services on the weekend, and I cannot ever remember canceling all services,” said Chris Seay, lead pastor at Ecclesia. “We asked our community to stay home with family and to look out for their neighbors.”
Gregg Matte, pastor at Houston’s First Baptist, spent the weekend checking in with members of his congregation—from elderly evacuees to a local TV meteorologist—with whom he has been texting Bible verses in between broadcasts.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever prayed like that, like I prayed today, just asking God to have mercy on us,” Matte said in a Facebook video Sunday evening. “Just make the rain stop.”
Whenever white supremacists march to proclaim their Europid purity and superior cranial virtue, they are usually met with an equal and opposite force of scorn and condemnation: protest meets counter-protest; hate meets hate. The result so often is violence and injury, if not death. You can quibble over whether neo-Nazis or Antifa are the more extreme; whether to be anti-black is more evil than those who are anti whoever offends them. Ultimately, it is angry people railing against more angry people; man throwing Molotov cocktails at man; woman spitting venom at woman. And so hate stokes hate; punching and kicking breeds window-smashing and car-burning. The bigots, racists and phobes can shout their disgust, but ‘We the people’ can break bones, too: just “punch a Nazi in the mouth” or ransack his house because “property destruction does not equate to violence“. To hate is to curse, and persecution is murder.
‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you‘ (Mt 5:44).
There is a black Christian musician by the name of Daryl Davis. He has spent three decades befriending members of Ku Klux Klan, and hundreds have abandoned their white supremacist views because of him. He doesn’t set out to convert them: he goes to their rallies, has dinner with them, listens to them, and talks to them. Instead of protesting and yelling, he gets to know them, and asks: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”
And, of course, they can’t: over time, the white supremacists look into the black man’s eyes, and they see an equal human person.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
For some the Cathedral’s approach falls far, far short of what the church should do to welcome and celebrate same-sex couples. From this perspective, if this is all that can be offered to gay and lesbian couples within the current law then it is, in truth, unjust and insulting. If even this is not permitted by current teaching and guidance then all talk of “welcome” and “radical Christian inclusion” is simply pious, prelatical platitudes.
For a second group this solution represents an acceptable, even admirable, Anglican via media of legitimate pastoral accommodation and compromise for the sake of unity. It should, therefore, be commended more widely (as apparently it is to enquiring parish clergy in Southwark dioceses). It is a good example of what the Bishop of Chelmsford set out as his vision in his March Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod, leading to widespread concerns among evangelicals in the diocese:
Let me plain: LGBTI+ people are welcome in the churches of the Chelmsford diocese. They are welcome and we want to listen to them and work with them so as to find appropriate ways of expressing their love – for it is not good for human beings to be alone – in permanent, faithful, stable relationships. At the moment there is no consensus in the Church of England for those relationships to be formally blessed in Church, or for the Church of England to embrace same-sex marriage, but the current arrangements do welcome lay people and clergy into civil partnerships and there is no reason why prayers of thanksgiving for these relationships – perhaps a Eucharist – cannot be offered. We do not want same-sex couples to be cut off from the Church, and we want those who come to us seeking God’s blessing for their love to receive the guidance, challenge and support of the Church.
For this to happen, however, it either needs to be clearly shown that such services are (as the Cathedral claims but Davie disputes) within the bishops’ guidance or that guidance needs to be adapted to enable this form of accommodation.
For a third group, however, as the widespread concern among evangelicals in Guildford and Southwark dioceses shows, such services clearly reject the spirit and probably the letter of the church’s current teaching and guidance.
As the traumatic aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy continues to unfold, the rawness of the anger and grief of the victims of the disaster remans undimmed in the absence of obvious milestones to justice and restitution. A recent Guardian report has looked at the role of the faith communities in the vicinity of the tower since the very earliest hours of the tragedy. They not only co-ordinated emergency relief and ongoing needs such as bereavement and trauma counselling, but now act as a bridge of communication and outreach between local residents and the local authority. Churches and mosques are trusted as safe spaces to not only kick-start the very delicate task of reconciliation, but also in which to hear and hold the rawness of the pain and anger still swirling within the community. They have also offered quiet spaces where many people have come to simply reflect on what this has meant to them, and to remember in silent thought and prayer those who have died, been injured or made destitute. They know as well that this is no quick fix response, but that they will need to be doing this for many years to come – they are in it for the long haul, long after the media circus has left. In addition, these churches and mosques have also been platforms for a determined denunciation at the corporate greed and inequality that contributes to the housing crisis on cities like London.
Key to the power of these responses has been the renewed visibility of religion and religious identity (already very strong in the North Kensington area) to the external world, especially the media and politicians. One of the most telling remarks from the Guardian piece came from local Methodist minister Mike Long, who said that until a month ago, he rarely wore a dog collar. However, at 4.30 on the morning of the fire he put it on and has never taken it off at any public engagement since. ‘Now’ he says, ‘my role is much more public and I need to be identifiable’.
Let’s say Sara walks into your church. She looks like a man dressed as a woman. One question she will be asking is, “Am I welcome here?” In the spirit of a redemptive witness, I hope to communicate to her through my actions: “Yes, you are in the right place. We want you here.”
If I am drawn to a conversation or relationship with her, I hope to approach her not as a project, but as a person seeking real and sustained relationship, which is characterized by empathy as well as encouragement to walk faithfully with Christ. But I should not try to “fix” her, because unless I’m her professional therapist, I’m not privy to the best way to resolve her gender dysphoria. Rather, Christians are to foster the kinds of relationships that will help us know and love and obey Jesus better than we did yesterday. That is redemption.
If Sara shares her name with me, as a clinician and Christian, I use it. I do not use this moment to shout “Integrity!” by using her male name or pronoun, which clearly goes against that person’s wishes. It is an act of respect, even if we disagree, to let the person determine what they want to be called. If we can’t grant them that, it’s going to be next to impossible to establish any sort of relationship with them.
The exception is that, as a counselor, I defer to a parent’s preference for their teenager’s name and gender pronoun. Even here I talk with the parent about the benefits and drawbacks of what they want and what their teenager wants if the goal is to establish a sustained, meaningful relationship with their child.
Also, we can avoid gossip about Sara and her family. Gossip fuels the shame that drives people away from the church; gossip prevents whole families from receiving support.
The word “pilgrimage” usually evokes visions of far-off, exotic places, but for some 100 gay and lesbian Catholics and their families, a pilgrimage to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart here on a recent Sunday was more like a homecoming.
The doors to the cathedral were opened to them, and they were welcomed personally by the leader of the Archdiocese of Newark, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin. They were seated on folding chairs at the cathedral’s center, in front of the altar in the towering sanctuary, under the blue-tinted glow of stained glass.
“I am Joseph, your brother,” Cardinal Tobin told the group, which included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics from around New York and the five dioceses in New Jersey. “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord.”
The welcoming of a group of openly gay people to Mass by a leader of Cardinal Tobin’s standing in the Roman Catholic Church in this country would have been unthinkable even five years ago. But Cardinal Tobin, whom Pope Francis appointed to Newark last year, is among a small but growing group of bishops changing how the American church relates to its gay members. They are seeking to be more inclusive and signaling to subordinate priests that they should do the same.
(CT) Joy Beth Smith reviews Gina Dalfonzo’s book providing an insider’s perspective on the frustrations of long-term singleness in the Church
Somehow, despite many friends getting married, the single among us are still here, clinging to a community that seems to view us as more of a nuisance than a necessity. And we long for a place in the church—besides standing up at the altar while other people’s vows are being exchanged.
Gina Dalfonzo has lived this storyline as well, but a bit longer and with more grace than I have. As a lifelong single, she’s endured passive-aggressive advice, negligent married friends, hurtful generalizations, and the inevitable shaming that comes with prolonged singleness. The path just wide enough for one is familiar to her feet, though not always welcome. But bitterness has no place in Dalfonzo’s journey, and that alone is refreshing.
Her book, One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church, is the result of extensive interviews, hours of research, and years of living the harsh realities the book describes. Dalfonzo highlights the experiences of others as she discusses the state of singleness, touching on everything from the stereotypes and stigmas of the unmarried to the hope we have for a unified church that seeks to celebrate every phase of life.
How should Christians bring our perspective into the public debates about assisted dying?
Well for a start, we need to make sure that we are involved in these discussions, even if it’s just closer to home—in our offices, in our communities, among our friends, as well as in the national debate. We’ve got good news to share—so let’s get engaged. So much of this discussion assumes that some lives are just not worth living—and Christians need to say, no, every life has dignity.
Second, we’ve also got something important to say about suffering. Our culture can’t cope with suffering—it wants to reduce suffering as much as possible and at all costs. Christians say suffering is bad—it’s a result of the fall—but God can be wonderfully at work in and through it.
And third, I think one key assumption underlying the argument for assisted suicide is that there’s just nothing worse than being dependent on others. But a Christian worldview says that actually our dependence on God and on one another is fundamental to our humanity. It’s a good thing! Illnesses brings that dependence to the fore, and that can be mutually very uplifting—for the carer and the one being cared for—even in the midst of very hard times. My father found the loss of independence the hardest aspect of his illness to cope with. At the very end of his life he was paralysed and unable to speak. Those last few days were intensely sad and yet also, in a strange way, profoundly beautiful. He had given so much to us and now we in the family had the privilege of caring for him, stroking and kissing him, singing his favourite hymns and praying. Such dependence is not undignified. This is being human.
I appreciate our Christian patriotic interest in guarding the Christian faith from being supplanted by Islam. However, the church should not allow that concern to distract it from keeping its house in order. God does not call us to compete with Islam. Rather, he calls us to holy living. “It is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Pet. 1:16). As it is, the Christian faith in Nigeria is suffering public disgrace and disrepute because of our lack of self-control, ungodly living, and compromised integrity.
Jesus declared that he is the truth, the way to eternal life (John 14:6). Christians can be confident in our salvation by faith in our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ; we have nothing to fear. Our source of power and authority is God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:18–20). We are given power and authority to combat satanic and demonic oppression, to destroy the works of the flesh, to heal obsession with material things, and to create just structures and systems that guarantee human flourishing. By the power and authority God has vested in us, we have nothing to fear and no excuse for failure. We have in us what we need to create fertile environments for social and spiritual transformation, in Nigeria and around the world.
The fear of an Islamization agenda is very real, but it must not be allowed to distract us from our primary concern: Christlikeness, holy living, hard work, and moral integrity. If we are concerned about the spread of Islam, let us be equally concerned about the lack of Christian public integrity and witness in our society. We must not allow fearmongering or conspiracy theories to prevent us from recognizing the true threat.
A Bishop’s Liaison Officer for the LGBTI Community has been appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to ‘build bridges.’
The aim of the post is to identify what ministry among this community ‘might look like if it is to be more effective’ and to provide the bishops and parishes with up to date information about the pastoral needs of LGBTI people.
The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, announced the appointment of the Rev Andrew Woodward, Priest in Charge of St Mary’s Kemp Town and Rural Dean of Brighton, as the first holder of the post.
Mr Woodward will help the church to ‘build bridges and enable pastoral support for a substantial group of people who feel the Church is alienated from them. Many feel they are tolerated but not included.’
Read it all (may require subsciption).
The Bishop of Willesden concluded by saying:
“We lack a consensus on what we mean by “good disagreement” – is it about process or is it about outcomes? I think that many who want change believe that it’s possible, on the basis of good disagreement, to have pluriformity of practice in the Church. Others don’t believe that it’s possible to live in that way because of the canonical and legal constraints of uniformity that exist in our Church.
We will find this debate a continuing source of disagreement because we haven’t coalesced around an end point. When we legislated for women to be bishops, even those opposed came to the view that the Church of England had to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of God according to our canons and formularies. In this debate, we haven’t even begun to find a place where we can coalesce. The Bishops’ Report acknowledges a place of starting. More conversation is needed. We don’t yet know the next stage – nor yet when and whether we can bring any further report to Synod. Please make the fullest possible use of the groups and the debate to enable those deliberations.”
Read it all and the presentations are below.
Monday morning and it’s a Zumba class for the over 50s at St Stephen’s Church, Westminster. This class is part of St Stephen’s Second Half Club, a weekly day of classes that looks to build community, keep people active in mind, body and spirit, and ultimately combat social isolation. St Stephen’s is one of two London churches, the other being St Paul’s, North Marylebone running a pilot of this programme.
It is well-known that loneliness is a serious concern, with over half of adults in England saying they experience feelings of loneliness.
Although there are many different ways Anglican churches are addressing loneliness in their communities, what is truly exciting about the Second Half Clubs is the partnership that they can create with other organisations looking to achieve the same goals.
Read it all from Joseph Friedrich.
On Friday the House of Bishops released a report saying the Church of England shouldn’t change its teaching on marriage but recommending that it reviews other aspects of how it treats LGBTI+ clergy and laity. The Rev Rachel Mann is critical of elements of the report and gives Martin Bashir her reaction to it….
([The Rev.] Canon Andy Lines is also interviewed about his perspective on the report).
The Bishops of Manchester and Maidstone respond to criticism that the Church has come up with a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ solution.
Listen to it all (begins approximately at 21:58 and ends about 35:42).