Scottish government rules out same-sex marriage referendum

The Scottish government has ruled out a referendum on the proposed introduction of same-sex marriage.

On Monday, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, urged the Scottish government to hold a public vote on the proposals.

A government spokesman, speaking after a cabinet meeting, said the issue was a matter of conscience, not constitution.

He said a decision on whether to bring forward a bill on same-sex marriage would be made before the end of July.

Members of the cabinet met in Edinburgh to discuss the issue.

After the meeting, the spokesman said: “This is an important issue and it is right that cabinet takes the time to get both the principle and the detail of the decision right.

“During the discussion, recent calls for a referendum on the subject were carefully considered. However, cabinet views this as an issue of conscience not constitution.

“Given that if a bill is brought forward it should in the view of the Scottish government be determined by a free vote, cabinet has concluded that a referendum would not be appropriate.

“Cabinet has now asked a cabinet sub-committee, led by the deputy first minister, to further examine some particular issues of detail before a final decision is reached.

“We remain committed to publishing the consultation responses and our clear decision on the way forward before the end of this month.”

-more at BBC News 

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The first couple to be married on a military base met at a Baptist church,

Will and Erwynn met at church and fell in love. But they had a big problem—“don’t ask, don’t tell.” The unlikely story of the first gay military union.

It’s almost Christmas, and I’m eating lunch with Tech Sgt. Erwynn Umali and his fiance Will Behrens at a Cracker Barrel in New Jersey. Erwynn, 34, is an active-duty serviceman in the Air Force. Will, 35, is a branch manager for a financial firm. There are six months to go until Will and Erwynn get married at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a joint military base in Wrightstown, N.J. It will be the first publicly announced gay civil union or wedding ever to take place on an American military installation. But today is about family, not planning for the big day. With us are Will’s children from a previous marriage, his 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. When the country fried steak and chicken and dumplings arrive, everyone joins hands in prayer. Will thanks God for our food and prays that I’ll make it home safely. We say amen and eat.

 Little about the couple’s biographies would suggest that they would become gay rights trailblazers or find themselves on the progressive side of a culture war. Will was born outside of Chicago in 1976. His mother was a teacher. His father, a marine-turned-fundamentalist-minister, spent most of the year on the road through his work with Fairhaven Baptist church in Chesterton, Ind. Will’s father was its youth pastor and vice president of the church’s small Christian college.
Fairhaven Baptist was founded by Dr. Roger Voegtlin, a firm believer in corporal punishment. Will recalls Dr. Voegtlin giving spanking demonstrations and instructions during church. Will’s parents followed Dr. Voegtlin’s example, imposing strict discipline on Will and his three siblings. Will ran away from home twice, in fifth and sixth grade, because he was so fearful of punishment from his father.
-full report at Slate
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San Francisco Congregation Banned For Gay Pastor, Rejoins Church

After nearly two decades of separation sparked by its inclusion of a gay pastor, a San Francisco congregation has finally rejoined the Lutheran Church.

On Sunday, First United Lutheran Church voted to rejoin the church nearly three years after receiving an apology and an invitation to reunite, according to the Examiner.

The reunion follows a 17-year split between the congregation and the Lutheran church after the congregation ordained–and refused to abandon–an openly gay pastor. The congregation was suspended in 1990, and formally expelled in 1995. Another San Francisco congregation, St. Francis Lutheran Church, was also cut loose for its protection of two lesbian pastors in the same year.

Finally in 2009, The Lutheran Church voted to admit gay and lesbian pastors into the clergy, issuing an apology and an invitation to reunite to both of the San Francisco congregations.

“There’s been an acknowledgment that these two congregations were forward-thinking and committed to their ministry,” said Bishop Mark Holmerud to the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. “They took a stand, paid the consequences, and our church has finally seen the wisdom of our opening the rosters to all committed gay and lesbian couples. And we’re all the better for it.”

via First United Lutheran Church, San Francisco Congregation Banned For Gay Pastor, Rejoins Church.

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Can Non-Liberal Christianity Be Saved?

It seems to me far from a given that conservative Christianity by definition will flourish. It is not as though it is only theologically liberal or socially progressive churches that have seen declines. Hence the title of this post, asking whether there is anything that would lead one to believe that conservatism gives churches more staying power. Many of the dwindling and disappearing institutional churches around Europe are profoundly conservative, and in the case of institutions like the Roman Catholic Church, one has to reckon with the reality that large numbers of adherents maintain a cultural and religious connection with that church, but feel free to individually disagree with its teachings. I hope that in the comments here we’ll see some discussion of whether and to what extent being conservative makes a religion’s persistence more likely. From my own liberal perspective, conservative churches have time and time again found themselves on the wrong side of issues, and yet seem to learn nothing from the experience, viewing the issue of women in ministry, for instance, the same way they viewed slavery, even after they have admitted their forebears were wrong about that issue. They seem not to grasp that the reason why they were wrong about that issue is intrinsically connected to their conservative approach to religion and social norms.

….

There is a version of Liberal Christianity that it is easy to get excited about. And I am excited about it. Perhaps the time has come for all of those of us who see things in this way to unite, and to take back the identity of Christianity from the loud and prominent self-proclaimed spokesmen (yes, most of them are men) who have so managed to persuade the media and popular opinion that they represent “true Christianity,” that Liberal Christianity has come to be viewed as a half-hearted, half-baked mixture of the traditional and the cultural, which does justice to neither.

But that is not how things stand at all. Those who claim to be “Biblical Christians” are more prone than anyone to conflate their culture’s values (not all of them, to be sure, but many) with “what the Bible says.” And they are prone to miss that there has been liberal Christianity from the very beginning. When Paul set aside Scriptures that excluded Gentiles on the basis of core principles of love and equality, and arguments based on the evidence of God’s Spirit at work in them, he was making and argument very similar to that which inclusive Christians make today. The fact that his argument eventually became Scripture itself should not blind us to the fact that when he made his argument, his words did not have that authority.

– full commentary by James McGrath at Patheos?.

(in  response to Ross Douthat  at NYT, “Can Liberal Christianity be Saved?)

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God and Gays: The Rite to Bless Same – Sex Unions

The smooth certainty of the right is just as unattractive as the moral smugness of the left

The question of the hour is whether the Episcopal Church can continue to muddle into a sixth century, or whether falling levels of membership suggest inevitable decline. Critics such as Douthat link the church’s progressive stand on sexuality — the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003 and now the vote on the same-sex rite — to its troubled numbers. “It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows,” wrote Douthat. “But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.”

Eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes. As I read it, his argument, shared by many, is that the church is essentially translating liberal views of sexuality into the language and forms of the faith. If the Bible speaks out against homosexuality, then a church that moves to embrace homosexuals must be acting not according to theological thinking but to political factors. Put another way, the Episcopal Church has taken the course it has taken on sexuality because it is politically fashionable to do so, not because there is a theological reason to open its arms wider.

The problem with this argument is that it ignores a long tradition of evolving theological understanding and changing scriptural interpretation. Only the most unapologetic biblical fundamentalists, for instance, take every biblical injunction literally. If we all took all scripture at the same level of authority, then we would be more open to slavery, to the subjugation of women, to wider use of stoning. Jesus himself spoke out frequently against divorce in the strongest of terms. Yet we have — often gradually — chosen to read and interpret the Bible in light not of tradition but of reason and history.

-full commentary by John Meacham at  TIME.com.

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Scottish Cabinet Discussing Gay Marriage

The Scottish cabinet is expected to discuss plans to legislate for same-sex marriage when it meets later.

SNP ministers, who favour the move, are due to announce legislation this week in the wake of a consultation which resulted in 80,000 responses.

The proposals, which would see Scotland become the first part of the UK to introduce the policy, have provoked opposition from some religious groups.

The Catholic Church and Church of Scotland strongly oppose the policy.

Same-sex couples in Scotland currently have the option to enter into civil partnerships and the Holyrood government has insisted no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.

The introduction of gay marriage has been backed by a “rainbow coalition” of organisations, including The Equality Network, Amnesty International, Unison and the Humanist Society of Scotland, as well as political parties.

Faith groups, including the United Reformed Church, the Quakers, Buddhists and the Pagan Federation also support the move

– BBC News.

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The conservative case for gay marriage

The current debate on legalising gay marriage was sparked by one of the more memorable speeches of this Government, when Prime Minister David Cameron said “I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.”

What has been missing from the debate since that speech has been a convincing, measured discussion from the political right on what he meant. Until now, that is. Today the Policy Exchange, a leading conservative think tank thank, has published What’s In A Name? Is there a case for equal marriage? Don’t be fooled by the question mark in the title. This report represents the best and most carefully considered case for equal marriage from a conservative (with a small ‘c’) perspective so far.

-full blog post at  UK Human Rights Blog.

The full (61 page) Policy Exchange report in PDF format is  at  What’s In A Name? Is there a case for equal marriage?

Contents are:

About the Authors       2
Contents           3
Acknowledgments       4
Introduction       5
1  A Brief History of Marriage     8
2  Why marriage matters            12
3  Is there a conservative case for equal marriage?   16
4  Equal Marriage as Equality Before The Law?     28
5  Evaluating the arguments against equal marriage    33
6  The International Experience      45
7  The Practical Implications of Equal Marriage     51

Conclusion   58

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Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts to allow clergy to bless gay couples

Starting in December, the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts will let clergy bless gay couples, a change announced after a national Episcopalian convention this month approved a new rite for same-sex relationships.

The diocese will continue to forbid clergy from performing gay marriages, something its Eastern Massachusetts counterpart allows. But in an interview last week, the incoming Western Massachusetts bishop said he plans on asking worshipers whether they want to revisit the prohibition.

By a wide margin, Episcopalians at this month’s national General Convention approved a new rite blessing same-sex relationships. Each diocese in the country can decide whether to perform the blessing.

Following the convention, the Diocese of Western Massachusetts announced it would give parishes the option to perform the same-sex blessing.

Bishop-elect Douglas John Fisher, who will succeed Bishop Gordon Paul Scruton in December, called the resolution “a big move in the right direction.”

“This is a great development for our gay brothers and sisters, and we hope to celebrate that with them starting in December,” Fisher said in an interview.

While the new ritual will not constitute nuptials, Fisher left open the possibility the diocese may ultimately approve gay marriage, following the lead of the Eastern Massachusetts diocese, which sanctioned such services in 2009.

“When I get there, I’ll certainly be having those conversations,” said Fisher, currently rector of Grace Church in Millbrook, N.Y. “We’ll see where all of that leads.”

– full report at  The Boston Globe.

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Golden Rule Dominates Minnesota’s Gay Marriage Debate

ST. PAUL — It’s a story 2,000 years old: People read the same words in the Bible, but come up with different conclusions.

Chaplain Mark Papke-Larson and Reverend Steve Schmidt of St, Bartholomew’s Church in Bemidji participate in a round table discuss on same sex couples marrying during a VOTE NO Rally as they listen to Marilyn Heltzer.

That is center to a debate about amending the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The bottom-line difference is about whether religious doctrine allows gays to marry.

To the Rev. Jeff Evans, there is no doubt the amendment follows God’s wishes. It is, he said, an issue “the Gospels are very, very clear on.”

Those who oppose the amendment, Evans said, are just following parts of the Bible with which they agree. “If you cut and paste … then you can come up with anything.”

The Rev. Grant Stevensen, who opposes the amendment, reads the Bible differently.

For Stevensen and others campaigning against the amendment, the Golden Rule says: “Treat other people as we would like to be treated.”

“I am concerned about the state of Minnesota drawing lines between people,” Stevensen added, something he sees as violating the Bible’s Golden Rule.

Involvement extensive

Evans and Stevenson coordinate religious activities for the two amendment campaigns, with what probably is the most extensive religious involvement of any state that has debated a marriage definition thus far.

The 30 states that have debated a constitutional amendment similar to the one Minnesotans will decide in the Nov. 6 election all passed it. However, amendment opponents say that in other states, faith communities that opposed the amendments did not have time to mount resistance like they are in Minnesota.

Most of the state’s conservative evangelical churches side with the Catholic Church, the state’s largest denomination, in favor of the amendment. Evans is pastor for the evangelical Christ Church Twin Cities in Minnetonka.

Amendment opponents include most of the second-largest denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Jewish synagogues that have taken stands on the issue. Stevensen is pastor at St. Matthew’s, an ELCA church in St. Paul.

– full report at  Grand Forks Herald 

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Lutherans for Full LGBT Participation

On July 8, TransLutherans was announced as a new affinity group in ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation at our assembly in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the board for approving the formation of this group at its 2012 spring meeting in Minneapolis. TransLutherans has been a long time in the making. A word or two about the history of this process is in order.

The board of LC/NA approved a resolution in the fall of 2002 to add transgender and bisexual to our vision and mission statements, and a task force was formed to integrate this work into the RIC program. In 2003 transgender and bisexual identities were to be included in all subsequent mission statements of congregations who were to become RIC. All congregations previously approved as RIC were asked to update their statements as well. Many chose to use the wording “all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Those gathered at the final business session of the 2010 biennial assembly of LC/NA in Minneapolis approved a resolution to

  • increase transgender and bisexual training opportunities for board, staff, and Regional Coordinators,
  • create a national speakers bureau qualified to provide education,
  • commit the Legislative team and trans/bi/queer communities to work together to create resolutions for synod and church wide assemblies.

These resolutions would expand the welcome of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to specifically include trans*, bi and all people affected by binary gender oppression.

– full report at Huffington Post

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