Sporting events abound this winter. We made it through the Super bowl (congratulations, Seahawks!) and are now awaiting the beginning of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Along with the pleasure of watching professional and amateur athletes compete, we get the opportunity to express our differences, be they about the various teams, ruling of judges, content of commercials, or who has the right to participate. Freedom of speech can seem to cover a multitude of sins! Take Sunday’s Super Bowl, for example. I love football and am unashamedly a Seattle fan but I also enjoy watching the commercials. Every year I wait to see what heart-grabbing story the Clydesdales will portray and I was not disappointed! Who can resist adorable puppies and a budding relationship between one little pup and these majestic horses? But I was also touched by the Coke commercial with Americans of many backgrounds signing “America the Beautiful.” I guess I was wearing my “rose-colored glasses” while I watched because I was quite unprepared for the negative reaction I’ve seen all over social media this morning. As a society, we seem quite ready to express our differences but maybe not so quick to respect therm.
I was considering this as I remembered that the Winter Olympics begin this week. Watching our athletes share their gifts and talents is always a delight! But the beauty of this year’s events has been clouded somewhat by the concerns for security and by Russia’s strict stance against the LGBT athletes and population. Religious, political and sexual identity discrimination are yet another reminder that tightly held opinions can lead to serious consequences, indeed. In December 2013, both the Ugandan and Nigerian governments passed brutally repressive laws targeting their LGBT communities. In Nigeria, the penalty for gay marriage can be a jail term as long as 14 years while membership in an LGBT organization can lead to 10-year terms. According to a news article in the Guardian, dozens of gay men have been arrested across northern Nigeria since the passage of this law. The bill passed by the parliament in Uganda is even tougher calling for the death penalty in some cases. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has vetoed the bill but then unleashed a torrent of verbal attacks on gays. No one is sure where he stands.
This discrimination flies in the face of the promises we make in our Baptismal Covenant to respect the dignity of all human beings. Many of the leaders in the Anglican Communion have spoken out opposing such laws including our own Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori in her statement dated Thursday, January 30, 2014:
The Episcopal Church has been clear about our expectation that every member of the LGBT community is entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other member of the human family. Our advocacy for oppressed minorities has been vocal and sustained. The current attempts to criminalize LBGT persons and their supporters are the latest in a series, each stage of which has been condemned by this Church, as well as many other religious communities and nations. Our advocacy work continues to build support for the full human rights and dignity of all persons, irrespective of gender, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability or inability. To do less is effectively to repudiate our membership in the human community. No one of God’s children is worth less or more than another; none is to be discriminated against because of the way in which she or he has been created. Our common task is to build a society of justice for all, without which there will never be peace on earth. Episcopalians claim that our part in God’s mission is to love God fully, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means all our neighbors.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York expressed similar concern in their letter to both the Presidents of Uganda and Nigeria, as well as all the Primates of the Anglican Communion. In their communication, they recalled the commitment made by the Primates in a communique written in 2005:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
In recent days, questions have been asked about the Church of England’s attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalizes people with same-sex attraction. In answer to these questions, we have recalled the common mind of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, as expressed in the Dromantine Communiqué of 2005.
The Communiqué said:
‘….we wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of moral appropriateness of specific human behaviors, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people.
The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give – pastoral care and friendship.’
We hope that the pastoral care and friendship that the Communiqué described is accepted and acted upon in the name of the Lord Jesus.
We call upon the leaders of churches in such places to demonstrate the love of Christ and the affirmation of which the Dromantine Communiqué speaks.”
Yours in Christ,
+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis
Last week, Religious New Service published an op-ed piece by the Rev Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, calling for all Christians to speak out against this legislation and to support progressive African Christians seeking to change the homophobia in their churches and societies. Here’s the link to her essay:
I searched my list of resolutions to see if I could make any reasonable connection to a particular resolution- but no luck; however, this topic is important enough to stand on its own. I know that this issue has been a hot topic for churches in our Household right here in our own country. And I know that there are some strongly held opinions out there. I ask that we would each prayerfully consider how we respond remembering Bishop Katharine’s words: “…our part in God’s mission is to love God fully, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means all our neighbors.”
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior,
the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the
great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away
all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body
and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith,
one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all
of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth
and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and
one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council