GAFCON urges Evangelicals to depart C. of E.

GAFCON head ratchets up attacks on CofE with call on evangelicals to act on threats to leave

The chair of the GAFCON conservative Anglican grouping has urged evangelicals in the Church of England to act on a warning that they may withdraw from the Church if it liberalises its doctrine of marriage and sexuality.

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) issued the document Gospel, Church & Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith and Life at the end of January. It said the doctrine that sexual relations were only for heterosexual marriage was not an ‘optional extra’ on which Christians could disagree and that a departure from apostolic teaching ‘regrettably requires in response some degree of visible differentiation’.

Nicholas Okoh
GafconThe Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of All Nigeria and chairman of the Gafcon Primates Council, said in his monthly letter to supporters: ‘At a time when the Church of England’s senior leadership seems unable to resist the pressure to compromise with a highly secular culture, it is a sign of hope that evangelical leaders are able to come together in this way.’

He quotes the statement about ‘visible differentiation’ and appears to encourage conservatives to distance themselves from the Church of England, saying: ‘However, the question I humbly wish to ask my brothers and sisters in England is this: will you take courage and act on these words? As members of the Mother Church of our beloved Communion you have a great responsibility. We will pray for you and stand with you, but we cannot stand for you.

‘If you do not act, sexual practices and gender identities which represent a radical rejection of God’s will and purpose will become entrenched and lead to a tragic separation from the great majority of the Communion.’

Okoh says: ‘There is much in our shared history that we can thank God for, but that alone will not hold us together in the present.’

GAFCON is a global movement of Anglicans resolutely opposed to what it perceives as a liberal drift within the Church of England and specifically to any compromise over same-sex relationships.

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Contrary to the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 4: “There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called”, the Chair of GAFCON, Nicholas Okoh, primate of All Nigeria, now urges conservative Evangelicals in the Church of England to make good on their promise to leave if the General Synod fails to live up to their own expectation of the rejection of same-sex relationships.

Okoh’s advice on schismatic severance in the C. of E. runs counter to the biblical counsel of Unity in the Body of Christ – a matter which should be of concern, not only to the evangelicals involved but also to the Primates of the Church of England and of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

This tendency towards schism – on a matter considered by many Anglicans to be of major importance to those people in the Church concerned for the inclusion of ALL into the Church – regardless of race, status, gender or sexual-orientation – without the sexist and homophobic prejudice that has prevented LGBT people from being made welcome by the Church in past times.

More moderate voices in the Church are wanting to get on with the inclusive Mission of Christ to ALL people – including those same-sex partnered persons who want to live out their lives in faithfulness to one another and as useful members of a society which now accepts Gay Marriage as part of the basic building blocks of human thriving. In a society threatened by the problems of promiscuity in sexual relationships, the desire of same-sex couples to commit themselves to the bonds of a relationship akin to heterosexual marriage ought, perhaps, to be welcomed.

Sadly for the Anglican Communion, GAFCON now has its disciples of separatism in the daughter churches it has fostered within the domain of the more progressive liberal Anglican Churches that have already come to terms with matters of social justice on gender and sexuality issues.

FOCA (The “Fellowship of Confessional Anglicans”) has its adherents even here in Aotearoa/New Zealand; whose leaders are threatening schism if ACANZP, at its next General Synod, allows the Church to conduct Same-Sex Blessings. However, the likelihood is that our ‘Motion 29’ will be passed by the majority in General Synod, and it remains to be seen whether this threat will be taken up.

Here, in reflection, is a commentary from today’s ‘3 -Minute Retreat’ from a Jesuit website on Ephesians 4:4

“This phrase from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, in addition to the several verses that follow it, eventually came to signify the unity of the Church with the Holy Spirit. The Sacraments of Baptism, Penance, and Eucharist usher us into that same unity. We are called to live in that bond, in right relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is only in that unity that we, as a Church, can proclaim the Good News and give witness to the Kingdom of God with credibility and integrity.

What GAFCON and its Chair need to consider, is whether their invitation to schism is consonant with the gospel imperative implied in this Letter of the Apostle, Paul.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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Race & Colour – New Evidence

Cheddar Man, the first modern human in Britain, had blue eyes… and black skin

The early hunter gatherers are usually depicted as white but after DNA was taken from Cheddar Man, Dutch experts reconstructed his face
The early hunter gatherers are usually depicted as white but after DNA was taken from Cheddar Man, Dutch experts reconstructed his faceJONATHAN BRADY/PA

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The people who lived in Britain 300 generations ago were black, research suggests. DNA tests on the oldest complete skeleton discovered in this country indicate that he had “dark to black” skin and blue eyes.

Cheddar Man, who died in his 20s about 9,000 years ago, has been described as the first modern Briton as he marked the start of continuous habitation of the island. All previous human populations who attempted to settle in Britain had been wiped out, and modern-day Britons are descended from the same pool of people as he was.

The research by the Natural History Museum and University College London is the first attempt to pinpoint the skin tone of Britons from the Mesolithic era using DNA. It suggests that lighter skin pigmentations did not develop among northern Europeans until much later than thought. Past representations of Cheddar Man, whose skeleton was found in a Somerset cave in 1903, depicted him as white.

The research also challenges assumptions around British ethnic identity. Yoan Diekmann, of UCL, said: “What may seem a truth — that people who feel British should have white skin — through time it’s not at all something that is an immutable truth.”

The study builds on findings that suggest southern Europeans had darker skin pigments up to 7,000 years ago. Humans in areas with relatively low levels of sunlight developed lighter skins to absorb more Vitamin D, scientists believe.

Iain Mathieson, assistant professor of genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, who did not work on the project, said the findings were in line with studies suggesting the emergence of genes linked to lighter skin. Researchers also established that Cheddar Man was not related to earlier humans whose remains were in the same caves. They are thought to have practised cannibalism.

In addition to his “dark to black” skin pigment, researchers are now confident that Cheddar Man had striking blue eyes, gently curled black hair, wide cheekbones and a delicate chin. He stood 5ft 5 in tall and had an excellent set of teeth,

Cheddar Man’s people were hunter-gatherers who speared fish with harpoons and killed red deer with rudimentary bows and arrows
Cheddar Man’s people were hunter-gatherers who speared fish with harpoons and killed red deer with rudimentary bows and arrowsGETTY IMAGES

“It’s that combination of features that make him look not like anyone that you’d see today,” said Ian Barnes, an expert in ancient DNA at the Natural History Museum. “Not just dark skin and blue eyes, because you can get that combination, but also face shape.”

Cheddar Man’s people are thought to have come to Britain about 11,700 years ago, crossing Doggerland, which once connected the country to continental Europe.

Although humans are known to have lived in Britain far earlier — at least 900,000 years ago — all previous colonisations had died out, meaning the new arrivals were exploring virgin territory.

The tribes were hunter-gatherers who made harpoons to spear fish and used rudimentary bows and arrows to kill red deer and wild boar. They are thought to have fanned out across the south and Midlands. Academics estimate that the total population of Britain at this time of the Mesolithic period was just 12,000.

Cheddar Man’s skeleton was discovered more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.

Well preserved by the cool limestone surroundings, the bones were transferred to the Natural History Museum for public display until recent breakthroughs in DNA sequencing made it possible to unlock their secrets.

In a joint project between the museum and University College London (UCL), filmed for a Channel 4 documentary, researchers drilled into his skull to obtain bone powder that could be tested for DNA.

The results were combined with high-tech skull scans to reconstruct Cheddar Man’s face using 3D printing. The model makers, Adrie and Alfons Kennis, from the Netherlands, stressed that their creation was an interpretation rather than a portrait, but was rooted in scientific data.

It was previously assumed that humans developed lighter skin tones as they migrated north from Africa towards Europe about 40,000 years ago. More recent research has suggested that dark skin pigments persisted among some southern European populations with genes linked to lighter skin spreading only about 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. An earlier facial reconstruction of Cheddar Man had depicted him with a white face, but until now scientists had no solid DNA evidence of the skin tone of these first Britons.

Modern Britons draw about 10 per cent of their genetic ancestry from the West European hunter gatherer population from which Cheddar Man hailed.

The researchers also established that Cheddar Man was genetically similar to other Mesolithic skeletons found in Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg. “It would be fair to say that he’s more a European than a Brit,” the team conclude.

Steven Clarke, director of the Channel 4 documentary, said that he hoped that the results of the genome sequencing would inform modern discussions about race and even Brexit.

“You go back quite far and discover that everything’s in flux, everything changes. That’s the message of the film,” he said.

“There is a national debate, and a debate about our relationship with Europe. All those things are still in the mix. It speaks to us now.”

The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Sunday, February 18.

LIGHTER SKIN SUITED COOLER CLIMATES

  • Modern humans, or Homo sapiens, evolved in Africa. When they started leaving is disputed — research indicates that migration may have begun 120,000 years ago.
  • They are believed to have reached Europe about 40,000 years ago. Lighter skin tones were thought to have developed from this time, as dark skins were less advantageous outside sunny latitudes.
  • A study published in 2015 found that hunter-gatherers in Spain and Hungary 8,500 years ago did not have genes linked to pale skin. DNA evidence suggests that humans living further north, in Sweden, had developed white skin by this time.
  • Research suggests that having whiter skin helps humans to absorb more Vitamin D, a benefit in northern climates with little sunshine compared to Africa.

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This scientific revelation, in the ‘TIMES’ today, gives striking evidence of the possibility that the first humans in Britain were actually dark-skinned and blue-eyed, a startling discovery that renders human separation on the basis of race and colour a fallacy from earliest times.

Of course, those people who believe that the story of Creation began with the arrival of Adam and Eve a mere 6,000 years ago will do their best to discount this new discovery – if only to shore up their own understanding that the Old Testament gives an historical account of the act of Creation.

However, what this new discovery does reveal, is the fact that human beings are, historically, migratory creatures, whose skin tone has adapted to the climatic conditions that they have been subjected to in the course of their migrations. As people began to migrate from Africa – where it is thought all humanity originated – they encountered vastly different climatic conditions. This necessitated – for their survival – an adaptation to the sun’s light and heat, together with their capacity to absorb the amount of sunlight their bodies could cope with.

This new knowledge ought to help us to refrain from judging the colour of one’s skin as a primary indicator of a person’s social acceptability or culture – which, unfortunately, has often been the basis of prejudice from the point of view of white European settlers in other countries.

The old (biblical) idea of the ‘children of Ham’ – which has affected the understanding of countless white-skinned people, that black people are in some way less valuable to God than fair-skinned people – needs now to be understood in a more balanced way – remembering that all human beings are created in the Image and Likeness of God their Creator.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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The Scariest Catholic in America?

Frank Bruni — The NY Times Sunday Review — FEB. 3, 2018

The Rev. James Martin, SJ is a Roman Catholic rock star. His books, including one on Jesus Christ and another on the saints, have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The director Martin Scorsese has twice hired him to consult on movies with religious themes. Television producers love him: Back when Stephen Colbert had his Comedy Central show, Father Martin popped up frequently as its “official chaplain.”

So the reaction when he agreed to speak this month to a group of parishes in central New Jersey was unalloyed elation, right? Wrong. Within days of the announcement, parish officials were in a state better described as dread.

Check out the websites and Twitter accounts of far-right Catholic groups and you’ll see why. To them Father Martin is “sick,” “wicked,” “a filthy liar,” “the smoke of Satan” and a “heretic” on a fast track to “eternal damnation.” They obsessively stalk him and passionately exhort churchgoers to protest his public appearances or prevent them from happening altogether. And they succeed. After the New Jersey parish in which his remarks were supposed to be delivered was inundated with angry phone calls, the event was moved off church grounds. Father Martin will give his spectacularly uncontroversial talk — “Jesus Christ: Fully Human, Fully Divine” — at a secular conference center in a nearby town.
Why all this drama? What’s Father Martin’s unconscionable sin? In his most recent book, “Building a Bridge,” which was published in June, he calls on Catholics to show L.G.B.T. people more respect and compassion than many of them have demonstrated in the past. That’s all. That’s it. He doesn’t say that the church should bless gay marriage or gay adoption. He doesn’t explicitly reject church teaching, which prescribes chastity for gay men and lesbians, though he questions the language — “intrinsically disordered” — with which it describes homosexuality.

But that hasn’t stopped his detractors from casting him as a terrifying enemy of the faith — Regan in “The Exorcist” and Damien in “The Omen” rolled together and grown up into a balding and bespectacled Jesuit — and silencing him whenever they can. A talk about Jesus that he was supposed to give in London last fall was canceled. So was a similar talk at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America.

And the vitriol to which he has been subjected is breathtaking, a reminder not just of how much homophobia is still out there but also of how presumptuous, overwrought, cruel and destructive discourse in this digital age can be. “Inexcusably ugly” was how the Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, described the attacks on Father Martin in an essay for the Catholic journal First Things in September. Archbishop Chaput is no progressive, but still he was moved to write that “the bitterness directed at the person of Father Martin is not just unwarranted and unjust; it’s a destructive counter-witness to the Gospel.” He cited a recent article in a French publication with the headline “Catholic Cyber-Militias and the New Censorship,” observing, “We live at a time when civility is universally longed for and just as universally (and too often gleefully) violated.”

After Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published a similar defense of Father Martin in the Jesuit magazine America, one of Father Martin’s devoted inquisitors tweeted: “If you think the anti-sodomite bigotry in the church is bad, you should see hell.” I spoke with Bishop McElroy recently, and he said that while there are calm-voiced critics of Father Martin with earnest concerns about what they see as the church’s drift from traditional sexual morality, there are also out-and-out bigots whose methods are “incompatible with what we hope to be as a church.” “We have to face the fact that there is a group of people across all religious views that are particularly antagonistic to L.G.B.T. people,” he told me. “That comes from deep within the human soul, and it’s really corrosive and repugnant.”

I have known Father Martin for many years and have long been struck by the painstakingly careful balance that he maintains. Is he telling his fellow Catholics to judge L.G.B.T. people less harshly, whether they’re chaste or not? Absolutely. When he and I talked a few days ago, he repeated a recommendation in “Building a Bridge” that Catholic institutions stop firing gay people, which has happened repeatedly. “Straight couples do not have their sexual lives put under a microscope like that, nor are they targeted,” he told me. “A couple living together before they’re married aren’t fired from a Catholic school.” But that arrangement runs as afoul of church teaching as a sexually active gay or lesbian couple’s does.

From listening to Father Martin, it’s certainly possible to conclude that, or at least wonder if, he has qualms with church teaching about homosexuality. But he’s so restrained and respectful that the president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States officially approved “Building a Bridge,” which has also been endorsed by an array of prominent cardinals and bishops.

And he trails behind many members of his faith in his publicly stated views. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center last June, 67 percent of Americans who identify as Catholic support the legalization of same-sex marriage, in contrast to 62 percent of Americans across the board. But the far right isn’t quietly ceding the fight. That’s clear not only in the response to Father Martin but also in a federal education bill, drafted by Republicans, that would protect colleges that ban openly gay relationships or bar gays from certain religious organizations on campus.

And in the church as in the government, the scorched-earth tactics of ultraconservatives often gives them a sway disproportionate to their actual numbers. “These online hate groups are now more powerful than local churches,” Father Martin said, referring specifically to Church Militant and to the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, which started a petition demanding that the New Jersey parishes cancel his appearance. It gathered 12,000 signatures.

Lyle Garcia, 72, one of the parishioners involved in the decision to invite Father Martin, admitted to me that he was “very concerned” that in changing the location of the event, they’d rewarded and emboldened the haters. But at least, he said, the talk would proceed.
As will Father Martin. An expanded edition of “Building a Bridge” will be published in March, and it includes material about L.G.B.T. Catholics who told him, as he promoted the book, that it had given them desperately needed comfort. “I’m at total peace,” he told me. “I really am. An ocean of hate online is really wiped out by just a few tears from an L.G.B.T. person.” Only one thing to say to that: Amen.

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The United States is probably the most divided country in the world at this moment – not only on the subject of the leadership of its current President – Donald Trump – but also in its attitude towards the LGBTQ community,

It has long been known that the ‘Bible Belt’ in the South of the country has retained its traditional patriarchal understanding of gender and sexuality – evidenced more recently by the relationship between the homophobia of President Trump and that of the Evangelical fundamentalist leaders who have come out in support of him, despite his public record of heterosexual misdemeanours.

However, even in the Roman Catholic world – which has been much more reticent in its opposition to gay people in North America, despite the opposition of Cardinal Burke to the papal ethos of ‘Amore in Laetitia’, which has been interpreted (by Burke and others) as being too lax in its openness to the restoration of divorced people to the Sacraments – the level of antipathy to Same-Sex Marriage has generally been less than notable.

However, in this article about the Jesuit, Fr. James Martin – whose book ‘Building a Bridge’ focusses on his thesis that Catholics ought to respect LGBTQ people as fellow children of God – is seen to have been severely criticised by far-Right protest groups, not only in the U.S.A. but also in the U.K., where a lecture he was due to deliver was cancelled at the last moment by the R.C. authorities.

Fr. James – a popular broadcaster on U.S. television –  has captured the attention of both friend and foe alike in his imaginative use of the media for his gentle advocacy of a more respectful attitude towards the gay community – a fact that has obviously disturbed those in the Church and outside if it who believe that toleration of gay relationships can only end in disaster for the Church and society.

One is left to wonder what Jesus might have said about all of this?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tolerance versus Separatism

Neighbours – Can’t We Just “Walk By” Sometimes (please)?

by Jayne Ozanne, Director of the Ozanne Foundation and Editor of ViaMedia.News

Jayne Ozanne new

On Thursday evening the States of Jersey voted by 40 votes to 5 to reject a so-called “Tolerance Clause” within their proposed Same-Sex Marriage legislation.  Had it passed it would have enabled local business owners to refuse to provide goods and services to any same-sex couple wanting to get married on the island.  Photographers, cake-owners, hotels, venue-providers – anyone could have refused to provide services to a couple seeking to arrange an event, which for most is the most important day of their lives.

Whilst this controversial clause was presented as a “Freedom of Religion” clause for islanders who do not approve of same-sex marriage, it was in effect a clause that would have set islander against islander and caused a deep rift in a small close-knit society.  In my mind this would have caused untold damage – not just to the island’s standing in the international community, but more importantly to the local LGBTI community who have until recently been subject to prejudice and abuse in a highly conservative society.

What few of the advocates for the clause appear to understand is the lasting harm and damage that their law would have inflicted on an already marginalised group within their society.  International healthcare professionals are unanimous in their concern for the well-being of LGBTI people given the far higher levels of mental health problems they experience compared to heterosexuals.  This is particularly true amongst LGBTI youth, who suffer extremely high levels of depression, self-harm and sadly even suicide.  All are clear that it is the discrimination and prejudice caused by those in their immediate societies that can lead to this.

What is more worrying however, is that this action flies in the face of Christ’s command to “love our neighbour”.  In giving us this command, Jesus did not of course give us any caveats of exemption clauses.  Instead, he drove home his point by telling a story in which he chose a hero, a Samaritan, who would have been shunned and rejected by the religious leaders of his day – both for the beliefs he held and the way he chose to live his life.

The inconvenient truth is that the story is designed to force us to stop and consider – Who is my neighbour?

Is he or she purely someone like me?  Are they people I agree on everything with?  Or are they the people amongst whom I have been called to live and witness, no matter how different or difficult I find them?

I happen to be blessed with most incredible neighbours.  They have shown me love and kindness at a level I’ve not encountered before, and frankly frequently don’t believe I deserve.  One is an ardent atheist, the other a firm Catholic – both show me equal love, as I myself also try to show them.   Together we have forged a little community where we have learned to respect each other’s’ differences and ensure that our own thoughts and beliefs are sharpened by the constant wholesome discussions we have with each other.

I believe it is perfectly possible to live in a society of people who hold differing beliefs on a range of matters – which I as a Christian am called to respect.  This does not mean that I agree with them, but it does mean that I understand their point of view and treat them with the same dignity and respect that they kindly afford me.

This is what forms the bedrock of a cohesive, tolerant and stable society.

The significant problem caused by any “tolerance clause” based on “freedom of religious belief” is that it moves from respecting different beliefs whilst treating people the same, to disrespecting their beliefs and so believing we have cause to treat them differently.

We therefore start to judge our neighbour against a set of predetermined criteria and treat with respect only those with whom we agree.

In effect, a law like this would allow and encourage the creation of categories of those we “cross the road to help”, and others we assiduously avoid.  In other words, it gives us permission to “walk on by” past some we do not approve of – ostensibly because our righteousness seemingly demands it.

To me this is theologically bankrupt and morally reprehensible.

This is not the Gospel of Love as we have been taught it.

Our role as Christ’s disciples is simple.  It is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to and learn to JUST LOVE our neighbour – whoever he or she may be.  No caveats, no exemptions and no tolerance clauses!

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Jane Ozanne, a member of the Church of England’s General Synod, here reflects on the recent decision in the Channel Islands (Jersey) to outlaw intolerance of LGBTQ people by providers of Goods and Services in the local community.

Whatever one’s views about LBGTQ people, this is surely a victory for common sense. Regardless of one’s attitude towards Gay people, for instance, to refuse to provide them with services or goods that are otherwise freely made available to other citizens is one sure way to court public disfavour – even though it might salve one’s personal conscience to not have anything to do with people who do not match up with our personal ideals.

The story of the Good Samaritan invoked here by Jayne, perfectly describes the Christian attitude that Jesus advocates towards people different from one’s self. Punctilious moral behaviour towards people of whom we might disapprove – for their status or lifestyle – is not the Way of Jesus – nor should it be an excuse for refusing to supply publicly advertised goods and services. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Scottish Primus (SEC) Visits St.Marys’s Cathedral, Glasgow

Visit of the Primus, the Most Rev Mark Strange

by Kelvin

The absolute honesty and humility with which the new Primus in SEC conducts himself is an inspiration to me, a retired but active A.C. priest in ACANZP, whose experience of some bishops has been less than inspirational.

The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), and its historic relationship TEC in North America have encouraged me to believe that God is truly the God of Love – rather than of canonical obedience and rules and regulations.

Thanks, Father Kelvin, for these glimpses of the authenticity of Anglicanism in Scotland.
“Lang may yer lum reek!”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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Rite of Passage for Trans-Sexual Child

Naming ceremony for transgender child an important rite of passage

 – About a year ago, Jonah and Dani Gabriel’s daughter came to the couple with an announcement.
The 8-year-old announced he was a boy.

“He was very definitive when he first came to us and said he was a boy,’’ said Dani Gabriel, 40, of El Cerrito.

It was somewhat of a surprise, but not completely.

After family discussions, soul searching, and time, the 8-year-old slowly transitioned and ultimately chose a new name: Samson “Sam” Red Gabriel.

“It all started in kindergarten,’’ the 9-year-old Sam said of choosing his name. “I had a crush on a boy named Sam and I always loved the color red. My name is Samson Red Gabriel and I love it.”

Sam is not the only one who has an appreciation for his new name.

“The name Samson is a remarkable choice. It’s a very strong figure, a great leader…,’’ said Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, which oversees 27,000 communicants in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties, and the cities of Los Altos and parts of Palo Alto.

But even with his new name, Sam didn’t quite feel complete.

“I felt that so many churches wouldn’t accept me and this one did and I wanted to feel like everything was affirmed and I could just ignore people who were mean,’’ the boy said in a recent interview.”

Andrus said he and the church were as supportive as possible when the child and his family decided to have a “blessing and renaming” ceremony at All Souls Episcopal Church in Berkeley this past summer.

“People come here to the Bay Area to claim their authentic identities and the church wants to support that within itself and within society,’’ said Andrus.

Liz Tichenor, the associate rector at the church, said many Christians have done great harm to transgender people by being unwelcoming to them in religious settings.

“I believe they are an important part of our community and we are more whole when everybody is part of our community. Not just present, but present fully as themselves and honored as such,” she said.

As more and more children identify as transgender, experts say inclusion in religious communities could help kids with a very difficult transition, but the relationship between transgender people and religion varies widely. Religions range from condemning any gender variance to honoring transgender people as religious leaders. But children have a tougher challenge.

“Religious dominations that see sexual orientation and gender diversity as being wrong, see these as issues of adults, not child and adolescent development,’’ said Caitlin Ryan, the director of the Family Acceptance Program at San Francisco State University.

Ryan, whose organization works to support religiously diverse families learning to support their LGBTQ children, said the group’s work won’t be complete until transgender children are integrated into all settings, including religious communities.

“The church is really his safe place,’’ Sam’s mother said. “I’m overwhelming grateful that our church was there for us They were there for us from the beginning. It wasn’t just we did this thing this one day. Our priest was there to support us the whole way along.”

Social justice advocates see this as a positive.

“Faith and family are the two major institutions that set you on a path toward great success,’’ said Cedric Harmon, the executive director of Many Voices, a social justice church movement that offers a transgender renaming service. “In the absence of one, the outcomes from individuals can really be quite devastating.”

Harmon said renaming ceremonies are becoming more popular as children seek to rename themselves and parents seek to understand the child’s request.

“Names give us a way of identifying and being understood and of knowing and being known,’’ said Harmon. “What I’ve heard from many trans persons is the name they were given at birth often represents the assigned gender. But the name that they select, represents who they really are at the core of their being.”

As for Sam, he stays busy doing computer programming and coding, riding his bike, building a covered wagon for a school project, and being grateful, his mother said.

“When I asked Sam how he felt after the blessing he said: ‘I feel like the luckiest boy in the world.’”

______________________________________________________________

Now that the Church of England has been challenged to provide a suitable liturgy for the re-naming of trans-sexual persons – a task which it has recently addressed through an ambiguously-worded statement from the House of Bishops – the issue of trans-sexual people being welcomed and acknowledged by Anglican Churches around the world has been taken up in the Episcopal Church of the United States. 

This moving story of an 8-year-old in Calfornia highlights the need of the Church to take very seriously the needs of transgender persons whose lives have become transformed by their new- gender status being acknowledged by the State and by society at large.

As with other non-binary sexually-oriented people in the LGBTQ community, whose unique gender/sexuality identity falls outside the majority ‘normal’ population statistic, transsexuals have a need to be recognised for the person they identify with – rather than the identity they have been arbitrarily assigned, in accordance with society’s ‘norm’ – often despite the symptoms of differentiation that have progressively been manifested in the life experience of the individual concerned and that of their close family members.

To continue to force a child, whose self-identification has proved different from their assigned gender/sexuality status, to continue in an increasingly troublesome and confused childhood and adolescence – with no support for the child’s deepest need of recognition for whom they perceive themselves to be intrinsically – could prove a devastating barrier to the child’s mental and spiritual advancement.

A new ‘Naming Ceremony’, approved by the Church, could do much to reconcile the trans-sexual person to the fact of their different status on the community – a status that needs to be recognised and acceptable to both family and the community in which they live.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Fresh call to ban ‘gay conversion therapy’

  • 25 January 2018 – BBC
Ben Bradshaw
Image captionBen Bradshaw says a ban is long overdue

The government is facing a fresh push to ban “conversion therapy” aimed at changing gay people’s sexuality.

The Church of England has been calling for the highly controversial practice to be outlawed after its ruling body voted for a ban last year.

Ministers condemned the “therapy” but have refused to meet Church campaigners to discuss the issue.

Now, Tory MP and church commissioner Caroline Spelman has vowed to set up a meeting with the minister in charge.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw raised the issue in the House of Commons, telling MPs: “This so-called therapy does dreadful, dreadful damage to young people’s emotional and psychological health and it is long overdue to be banned.”

‘Stamp out homophobia’

Ms Spelman, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, who provides a link between the Church of England and the Commons, said: “I am not responsible for the decisions of the government.

“But the general synod did vote clearly to ban gay conversion therapy absolutely unequivocally.”

Church urged to update sexuality stance

She said the government had last year made it clear to campaigners in a letter that it was “strongly against” the practice but did not want to legislate against it because “existing voluntary registers provide safeguards for the public”.

But she told MPs she would write to the government minister responsible, Jackie Doyle-Price, to ask her to meet campaigners.

Caroline Spelman
Image caption Caroline Spelman promised to take up the campaigners’ case

She also insisted the Church of England was working to “stamp out homophobia”, after Labour MP Helen Goodman claimed, “in some parishes, anti-gay prejudice masquerades as theology”.

Ministers say the UK’s medical bodies will already strike-off any psychologists or therapists who practise “gay cure” therapy – and they last year rejected a petition signed by 33,000 people calling for it to be directly banned.

‘Potentially harmful’

At the time, Ms Doyle Price said: “This government does not recognise so-called ‘gay conversion therapy’ as a legitimate treatment. A person’s sexual orientation is not an illness to be cured.”

But she said the government was not aware that use of the “therapy” was widespread in the UK and it was seeking to find out more about it through a survey.

In the 1950s and 1960s, behavioural therapy was routinely used to try to “cure” gay men, paid for by the NHS.

Men convicted of homosexual acts were given electric shock treatment, hallucinogenic drugs and subjected to brainwashing techniques.

In 1992 the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, but a 2009 survey found one in six psychological therapists in the UK had worked with clients on attempting to change their sexual orientation.

“The practice of conversion therapy, whether in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, is unethical and potentially harmful,” said an October 2017 agreement signed by NHS chiefs, the Royal College of GPs and the British Psychological Society among others.

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And still the spectre of ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ is allowed to linger in the U.K. Though the Church of England has officially requested that ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ be banned, the government has not yet agreed to meet with Church officials to discuss the possibility.

Caroline Spelman promised to take up the campaigners’ case

She also insisted the Church of England was working to “stamp out homophobia”, after Labour MP Helen Goodman claimed, “in some parishes, anti-gay prejudice masquerades as theology”.

The real problem within the Church is obviously that conservative anti-gay preachers are still clinging to the fallacy that intrinsically homosexual people can be cured – of a mental health condition they insist on diagnosing as ‘sinful, against nature, and harmful to the individual and society at large’.

Until this association of gender and sexual difference with wilful and dangerous behaviour is completely erased from Christian social consciousness,  the tremendous damage done to the health and welfare of our young people will remain a threat. Though the Church of England has declared homophobia and sexism to be sinful –  needing to be repented of – the fundamentalist underbelly of conservative believers continues to perpetuate the myth of a need for ‘conversion’ on the part of LGBTQ people whose behaviour (and presence in the Church) they cannot live with.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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