Sunday, April 29, 2012

"The Holy Spirit Descended On Them..."

It was an incredible experience, thanks to a church full of impassioned Catholics and friends from several other denominations, and thanks to a powerful song, "For All the Children", by composer David Lohman. With cameras rolling, this intentional community sang it's heart out for the full inclusion of God's LGBTQ children and for the defeat of a hurtful anti-marriage amendment on Minnesota's ballot in November. Why film this moment? We wanted to provide a sacred visual and audio witness to the fact that many Catholics respectfully--and boldly--disagree with the Minnesota Bishops' efforts to support this amendment. We wanted to show, in the context of a profoundly inclusive hymn, that many Catholics reasonably and instinctively support our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to enter into loving and committed relationships not to be demeaned by our society. We wanted to be clear that by virtue of our baptism, Catholics are called to follow the dictate of their informed personal consciences, even when that means differing with our leaders on issue. Immediately following the final "take" of the filmed performance of the song, the packed church erupted in a spontaneous, 3-minute long applause peppered with shouts and hollers of gladness. A testimony to the soul-centered belief that all God's children deserve a place in the choir! In late summer, Catholics for Marriage Equality will host a gala premiere to launch the 'Sing Out' video. In the meantime, we'll be asking hundreds of friends and allies to commit to posting the video on their social media channels. We want the citizens of Minnesota to know without doubt that for many people of faith, a NO Vote in November comes because of our faith, not despite our faith.
May our hearts and minds be opened, fling the church doors open wide, may there be room enough for everyone inside. For in God there is a welcome, in God we all belong. May that welcome be our song!
---Refrain from "For All the Children"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Quote of the Day

The spirit works . . . not only at the top of the hierarchy but at every level. Many of the people the church now recognizes as saints, as heroes of the church, were originally people who were renounced and condemned. Sometimes, the opinions that are the last to change are at the top.

– Ron Joki
Quoted in Beth Hawkins' article,
April 18, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Marriage Amendment Not In Best Interest of Children and Families

By Doug Bowen-Bailey

NOTE: This commentary was first published April 13 as a letter-to-the-editor of the Duluth News Tribune.

I am an advocate of marriage and the role it plays in supporting families. I am approaching my 20th wedding anniversary, and my relationship with my wife is one of my greatest treasures. We have two children, and even though they are 13 and 12, they admit that our family has been a benefit to them.

So I was in strong agreement with Jason Adkins of Minnesota for Marriage who wrote in a March 21 commentary in the News Tribune that in considering marriage it is important to take into consideration the well-being of children and society. However, I was perplexed by his conclusion that defending marriage as a union between one man and one woman – and writing such a definition into the Minnesota Constitution – serves this purpose. The Minnesota for Marriage website states that “marriage is a special relationship reserved exclusively for heterosexual unions because only the intimate relationship between men and women has the ability to produce children as a result of that sexual union.” Does this mean straight couples who can’t conceive naturally and use in vitro fertilization should have their marriage licenses stamped as invalid? Does it mean parents who choose to adopt have a second-class union? Should we be any less concerned about the children of these marriages? I highly doubt anyone would argue that, but it is the logical outgrowth of a procreative argument for the primacy of heterosexual marriages.

If we still give equal care to children of heterosexual couples who become family by other means, what consideration do we give to the thousands of Minnesotan children who are being raised by parents who are gay or lesbian – and yet are denied the supports my children receive because my wife and I have a marriage license? For me, this is not some abstract issue. I know more than 30 children who have parents who are gay or lesbian. Why would we want to vote as a state to say their welfare is less important than the welfare of my own children? Adkins didn’t write about this, but if you visit the Minnesota for Marriage website and view its list of supporters, it is clear that certain religious perspectives underlie the support of the constitutional amendment. Of the 52 organizations listed as supporters, at least 36 are explicitly religious bodies. So while Minnesota for Marriage casts its support of the amendment in explicitly sociological language, there is also a religious component. As a son of a New Testament scholar and as an active member of a church, I understand the importance of religious principles undergirding action. Yet I wonder why certain religious interpretations should be lifted up over others. [In this case, it's probably because Adkins serves as both the vice chairman of Minnesota for Marriage and the executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (of Bishops). This latter group is the most well-funded and vocal religious group working to pass the amendment. However, it would be erroneous to think that it represents the majority of Catholics on this issue. As has been noted previously at Sensus Fidelium, the bishops represent just one of many legitimate Catholic voices on issues relating to marriage and sexuality.]

Many of the 30 children who I mentioned previously are part of families in my own congregation. Our pastor there has been performing Holy Union ceremonies for lesbian and gay couples for 17 years. Is my faith tradition not as worthy as other faith traditions? Who is qualified to judge that? I am a firm believer that denominations and faith communities should be free to choose whether or not they want to perform weddings for same-sex couples, but I don’t believe such a belief should be used to embed discrimination in our state constitution. In my experience, lesbian and gay marriages do not diminish my own. In fact, the opposite is the case. Being in a faith community that supports family relationships in all forms has strengthened my own – to the benefit of my children. So in November, when I vote “no” on this amendment, I will do it based on my religious conviction and my concern for all children and families. I urge you to consider doing likewise.

Doug Bowen-Bailey is a member of Peace United Church of Christ in Duluth.

Recommended Off-site Link:
From Northern Minnesota, Two Excellent Rebuttals to the "Convoluted Logic" of the Bishops' Pro-Amendment ArgumentThe Wild Reed (April 9, 2012).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Church Officials Fail Us, But a Local Priest and Parish Shine

Those reading this blog are likely aware of the recent DeLaSalle incident involving Archdiocesan representatives and members of the school’s senior class, first made public in a Star Tribune column by Jon Tevlin. In a question and answer period following the main presentation, the Archdiocesan presenters were asked a question from a student about same-sex relationships. The married couple then felt it necessary to include reference to beastiality in their response.

For those of us who are LGBT persons and/or in a loving same-sex relationship, and for the many who know and love us, any direct or indirect comparison of same-sex love to beastiality – no matter the reference – is a profound insult, an egregious affront to the dignity of LGBT persons and loving same-sex couples. Yet here’s how the Archdiocese addressed that mention of same-sex relationship and beastiality, sent to all priests in an official statement:

[A]n example was used by a presenter which sought to illustrate the point that traditional marriage differs from other relationships. In this context, the comment suggested an inference which fostered a misunderstanding some of the students found upsetting.

“The comment suggested an inference which fostered a misunderstanding some of the students found upsetting.” This is no apology, of course, but further insult to injury. This was the best our officials could do. Students left that meeting shaken, angry, some crying. And this is the best our leaders can offer.

Yet Christ is still risen in the life of the Church. During his Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday homily, one Archdiocesan parish priest also addressed the DeLaSalle meeting. In that homily, he mentioned “the candor and ease with which young people discuss the matter of sexual orientation these days, as well as their conviction that something’s wrong when religion gets in the way of love and respect for any person.” He continued, “I am impressed with the grit of the DeLaSalle students to voice so confidently their truth, especially about such a tender matter.”

And then the pastor said this: “I think it’s critical for those of us who intend to hang around [in the Church], to agree that not standing up, over time, for what we know to be the truth, is not right.* I too often wonder, ‘Will this get me into trouble?’ or ‘Can I pay a kid from DeLaSalle to do this for me?’ rather than, ‘What does Jesus Christ ask of me?’ In the face of insult, or injustice, or bigotry, or hatred, or greed, or lies, or the abuse of power, the Christian must stand up for and speak the truth, knowing that the cost and consequence – ‘The Cross’ – are part of what being Christian means.”

When the homily ended, resurrection reigned yet again when the Vigil packed church practiced what was just preached. The church stood, and she, too, spoke truth with an ovation that rocked the rafters.

We are so hungry for the Word that gives respect and dignity to God’s LGBT daughters and sons. May we continue to find that Word spoken and lived clearly in our high schools, in our kitchens, in the halls of our legislatures, and yes, even – and especially! – in our parish sanctuaries.

Jim Smith, Catholics for Marriage Equality MN

* Citing James Alison.

See also the previous Sensus Fidelium post: 
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN Calls on Archbishop Nienstedt to Discontinue Hurtful Marriage Initiative in Catholic High Schools

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN Calls on Archbishop Nienstedt to Discontinue Hurtful Marriage Initiative in Catholic High Schools

The following media release was issued today by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, a grassroots organization of Catholics faithful to Jesus' call to embody justice and compassion, and thus opposed to the proposed "marriage amendment" which would ban civil marriage rights for same-sex couples in Minnesota.

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN is proud of the seniors at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis who stood up and spoke on behalf of all loving families, including single-parent and same-sex couple households. These students offered a Gospel counterpoint to the erroneous and profoundly insulting comments of Archdiocesan representatives who, in a recent presentation at the school, equated same-sex commitment and love to bestiality and called single-parent families “less than” two parent families. Catholics for Marriage Equality MN board member Brent Vanderlinden, father of a gay son, remarked, “I hope all Minnesota Catholics will be inspired by these high school seniors to stand with our gay, lesbian and transgender families and friends in the face of this kind of public bullying.”

We call on Archbishop Nienstedt to pull these presenters from any further speaking engagements in Catholic high schools, and to apologize to the Church in the Archdiocese and to those attending the DeLaSalle meeting for the hurtful statements made.

We call on all Catholics to continue the witness of these young people by participating in a powerful music video event on April 28th. Join a church full of Catholics to sing the hymn “For All the Children” in a videotaped performance. More information click here.

Calling All Catholics!
“Come Out and Sing Out!”
Saturday, April 28, 2012, 1:00-3:30pm
Calvary Lutheran Church
(Chicago Ave. S. and 39th St. in South Minneapolis)

Monday, April 2, 2012

"An Inspirational and Energy-Filled Event"

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN co-founder Lisa Vanderlinden
shares her experiences of "From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics & Relationships,"
New Ways Ministry's Seventh National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality

On March 15-17 I attended New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore. It was an inspirational and energy-filled event. When I arrived in Baltimore, the city was already in the midst of spring. The trees were dressed in white and pink blossoms, reminding me of early May in the Twin Cities. There were many daffodils along the highway.

The hotel with the conference was across the street from the harbor, in the midst of a revitalized downtown. The airport cab drivers were obviously very proud of their city and its vibrant downtown area. “This used to be a slum, when I was a kid,” one said. I wondered where those inner city dwellers moved when the high rise hotels went up, but I didn’t ask.

As soon as I arrived at the conference, I put up our Catholics for Marriage Equality MN table and immediately had visitors.

“We are fighting an amendment in Minnesota” I would say.

There were two types of frequent responses. The first was surprise or even shock. “Oh, no! I thought Minnesota was a progressive state," was one comment made by many people. Over and over I heard a variation of that phrase . . . I thought Minnesota was an open-minded state . . . I thought Minnesota was a nice place to live . . . What happened to you?” I said that conservative Republicans got into the majority in the state Senate and state House.

“Oh, so you turned from progressive into reactionary?” was the exact response of several people.

 These conversations helped me understand the concerns of businesses and why many major Minnesota businesses have come out against the amendment.

Other symposium attendees knew about our amendment fight. They knew about the bishops’ DVD. It had made national news, after all. They knew about the “return the DVD campaign” and knew about the artwork made by returned DVDs. These people were all too familiar with the money spent by the archdiocese to further discriminate against LGBT people in our state constitution.

Richard Rodriquez was the Thursday evening speaker. He spoke of the great joy and liberation he felt to be able to speak openly of being gay. (Often at speaking engagements, he has been asked to not mention his homosexuality.) Richard talked of the importance of welcoming all. He went to school with Sisters of Mercy as his teachers and said that because of them, he almost felt Irish as much as Mexican American. He was welcomed by them and it has enriched his life. He said that the sense of tragedy common among Irish writers is frequently evident in his work. He mentioned the unholy union of Catholic bishops and Mormons fighting marriage equality in California with millions of dollars, when one side still discriminates against women and the other side had practiced polygamy. There is great irony, he said, that Mitt Romney’s grandfather moved to Mexico so that he could practice polygamy, but Mitt speaks loudly against both marriage equality and immigrants from Mexico.

Friday speakers included Patricia Beattie Jung and Bishop Geoffry Robinson, as well as numerous options for breakout focus sessions. Both plenary sessions were fantastic. Jung has written several books, including Sexual Diversity and Catholicism: Toward the Development of Moral Theology and God, Science, Sex and Gender: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Christian Sexual Ethics.

Jung spoke of the importance of fidelity in relationships. Fidelity allows us to focus on the other and give them the time and energy they deserve as a child of God. Fidelity does not require partners who are of the opposite sex, but partners who are of the “apposite” sex. Apposite - from apt - meaning someone perfectly suited for you. She discussed the importance of marriage equality for many reasons, but one important reason will be that as GLBT relationships are respected and normalized, hate crimes may be reduced. She reported a 52% increase in hate crimes reported by LGBT people in Kansas City between 2009 and 2010. Jung mentioned numerous reports that children of LGBT families are flourishing and legal protections for these families are important.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (right) was introduced by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. Robinson was a powerful speaker. He said that “there is no possibility whatsoever of a change in the teaching of the Catholic Church on the subject of homosexual acts unless and until there is first a change in its teaching on heterosexual acts.” He continued with a very strong case that there is a necessity for these changes. He is the author of Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus. I strongly recommend reading his entire speech. It can be found here.

Another highlight of Friday was a visit by the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley. The crowd gave him several standing ovations because he has recently signed marriage equality into law. He said that he respects the freedom and liberty of all people of Maryland. After his brief speech he answered many questions by reporters. I had the change to give him a Catholics for Marriage Equality DVD and he accepted it warmly. I hope he has time to watch it! You can find many articles about the Governor online. If you go to, you can find photos of the symposium and one of the photos is O’Malley shaking hands with me after I gave him my video. Although I have it, I cannot publish it here. But it is a great photo!

The last two speakers, Luke Timothy Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, were both on Saturday morning. Johnson's presentation was titled, "Doing the Truth in Love: Eros, Relationships and the Communion of Saints." He spoke of Paul's letter to Galations and how Paul said, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." Johnson added, "There is neither gay nor straight in God's eyes. We are all one. And if a church does not manifest God's reconciliation among all humans, it has no reason to exist as a church. We are all called to agape, complete love and acceptance of each other."

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (right) was a lively speaker and full of stories. She said that treating gay, lesbian and transgender people as second-class citizens “because it says so in the Bible” is no different than earlier generations treating women as second class citizens because of Bible verses. The Bible also was used to defend slavery. She told about her father’s visit to South Africa and how apartheid was defended because “slavery is in the Bible.” When politicians in South Africa told her father, Robert F. Kennedy, that apartheid was acceptable to God, he responded by saying, “Well, if people are made in God’s image, then what will happen when you get to heaven, go through the pearly gates, and God is Black?” Townsend said the same thing could be said today . . . what will happen when we get to heaven and God is gay? If we are made in God’s image, male and female, gay and straight, we are all made in God’s image, then truly God will ask us how welcoming we are to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, also made in God’s image.

Townsend spoke of the fight for civil rights for gay and lesbian and transgender people as similar to the fight for women’s rights and civil rights for African Americans. The fight for justice for all people is a fight that Catholics understand. Townsend wrote a book, Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way.

The closing ceremony was a blessing for the union of Barbara Johnson and her partner Ruth. I had to leave a bit early to get to my plane, but this article tells all about it. Barbara was denied communion at her mother’s funeral. Since then the priest who denied her communion has been put on leave.

In addition to powerful speakers, high energy participants and inclusive prayer, I enjoyed the many tables of information. I talked to people from Call to Action, Fortunate Families, DignityUSA, PFLAG, Catholics for Equality, Future Church, Roman Catholic Women Priests, and many others.

There were great book stores present and I brought home some books to read. One of these was The Gay Gospels by Keith Sharpe. It is an enlightening book.

I can’t wait until the next New Ways Ministry Symposium!

Images: Lisa Vanderlinden.