So many religious denominations in America today are struggling with how to cope with gays. Since most of them began with the premise that homosexuality is a sin, but civil society is less and less inclined to buy that, these organizations find themselves inching, bending, zigzagging, stiffening and twisting their way forward.
In fact, the only outfit performing more contortions is Cirque du Soleil.
Take the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the global Anglican Communion. Episcopalians have been on the Anglican hot seat since 2003 when they consecrated openly gay V. Gene Robinson as New Hampshire’s bishop. Rather than giving their posteriors a chance to cool, they further irked conservatives at home and abroad by choosing a woman to lead the Episcopal Church.
Those little devils.
Katherine Jefferts Schori, who took office in November, supported Robinson’s election, and believes the church should bless same-sex couples. To those Anglicans who don’t like women being ordained, she has said they’ll need to “get over it.”
But even she, or especially she, believes a compromise is called for. She wants the American church, for now, to hold off on electing another gay bishop, per the Anglican Communion’s request. Jefferts Schori is a rock climber – she knows about manageable contortions.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recently performed a neat sidestep to avoid a head-on collision. Janet Edwards, a minister in Pittsburgh, stood accused of breaking church law by performing a lesbian wedding. The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Pittsburgh Presbytery voted 8-0 to dismiss the charges – because they were filed too late!
Now that’s agility. Commission members managed to avoid addressing every sticky question, like whether she broke the letter or the spirit of church law, and whether the law is valid. That was one heaven-sent technicality.
As Presbyterians delayed the inevitable in Pittsburgh, Catholics executed a Houdini-like contortion in Baltimore.
At the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the gentlemen overwhelmingly approved new guidelines for dealing with us. In the statement “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination,” the bishops tried to support gay Catholics while affirming the doctrine that gay relationships are “disordered.”
And for their next trick, the bishops formed up into the shape of a Pez dispenser.
The bishops maintained that outreach to gay parishioners must include teaching that’s “welcoming yet challenging, loving but firm in the truth.”
Here’s the welcoming bit: It isn’t a sin to be attracted to a person of the same gender. Here’s the challenging bit: It is a sin to act on that attraction. Lesbians and gays must remain celibate. Also, the bishops noted they frown upon gays making “general public self-disclosures” about being gay within their churches.
Naturally, same-sex marriage is forbidden, as is adoption by gay and lesbian couples.
So the Catholic Church loves its gay members – as long as those members pretend not to be who they are. The church’s breathtaking contortions mean that gay Catholics must decide how much contorting they’re willing and able to do. If I were Catholic, I’d feel a lot like Gumby.
Finally, at this writing, eminent rabbis of the Conservative Jewish movement are meeting in New York to consider whether Jewish law permits gay sex. Conservative seminaries have only been ordaining women since 1985, and now it’s possible they could be ordaining openly gay folks in the near future.
That’s not inching forward, that’s galloping.
I wonder if it’s a tad heartening to members of the various denominations that theirs isn’t the only one bending and swaying over the gay question. Perhaps it gives them all something to compare, besides their aches and pains, when they meet at the orthopedist’s, chiropractor’s or acupuncturist’s.