Churchill on pigs

I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.
- Winston Churchill

About dogs and people 2

Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.
- Sigmund Freud
as quoted by the Episcopal padre

Power cut

In some parts of the world, power cuts are frequent, I am told. Not so in Finland; not so in Porvoo. Therefore, I felt a certain amount of surprise at the power cut at 8:25 this morning. It was a fairly long one, as well - almost ten minutes. I don’t know what caused it.
Luckily, it was already light out; even more luckily, my coffee was ready!
This summer, Porvoo had another episode that normally happens only in other countries: Our tap water was contaminated. A thunder storm burned out a water purification plant, and at the same time, torrential rains flooded the water intake with surface water. In consequence, intestinal bacteria made their way into the water supply. We had to boil our drinking water for weeks, while the water company raised the chlorine levels sharply, in order to purify the water and the pipes.
Now, the situation is normal again, but it was a reminder of the vulnerability of our technological society in the hands of natural forces.

Iceland celebrates!

On June 28, I got an e-mail:
Dear friends
Yesterday [27.6.08] was a double celebration for us here in Iceland. Samtökin 78, the National Queer Organization, celebrated it's 30th birthday with a big celebration at the Reykjavík art museum. On the same day, a law that allows religious denominations to register partnerships if they so wish, came into action. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland is the first state church in the world to allow its priests to perform partnership registrations according to an official ritual for such events, agreed on in the last pastoral Synod. Already one couple have registered their partnership using this ritual, which is legally binding as priests in the ELCI are representatives of the state in this matter. The ritual is based on the marriage ritual already in use with slight variation in text and form. The rituals have the same status within the official rituals of the ELCI although one is for registered partnership ("staðfest samvist") and the other for marriage ("hjónaband"). Next step is to have only one word for both marriage and registered partnership; hjónaband (marriage). I'm sure that will happen in the very near future. Already people in Iceland use the word marriage when referring to registered partnerships and it's been like that for many years. Both have exactly the same legal status in every way, only separated by the forementioned words.
Love to all of you from from the small island in the north
Grétar Einarsson
Good news, indeed!
I mentioned the process last year in the post Iceland: Church blesses gay partnerships (3.12.07). See also Discrimination against same sex couples ended ( 31.5.08) and First Gay Couple in Iceland Marries in Church (Iceland Review 27.6.08). The Box Turtle Bulletin also reports 27.6.08.

Minds and parachutes

Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.
- Sir James Dewar

Bible publishers sued for "clobber passages"

In my blog, Hbt-bibeln, I've explored different Bible texts alleged to deal with homosexuality. The conclusion is that most of the allegations are misunderstandings or mistranslations. The blog is in Swedish, but there are a number of English links.
On the same note, American gay author Bradley Fowler is seeking US$60 million in damages from Zondervan Corp. and $10 million from Thomas Nelson Publishing, charging that the publishers are guilty of malice, negligence and violation of his civil rights. He claims the publishers misled consumers and Christian Bible readers into believing "homosexuals would not inherit the kingdom of God."
While conducting research for a book he was writing, Fowler says he "grew concerned about the variation of scriptures from one Bible to the next." According to Fowler, he was "flabbergasted to find out this Christian publisher had imposed its own opinions upon religious sectors, by fraudulently implementing the terminology - homosexual - to its Bible; then removed the term from its 1994 Holy Bible - without informing the general public."
One of the text alterations Fowler attributes to Thomas Nelson Publishing comes from 1 Corinthians 6:9. In the text from a 1976 Bible version by Thomas Nelson, the passage reads: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind [...]"
In the text from a 1982 version, the passage has been changed to: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites [...]"
Finally, in a 2001 version, Fowler claims the passage was changed yet again to read: "Surely you know that the people who do wrong will not inherit God's kingdom. Do not be fooled, those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes, or men who have sexual relations with other men, those who steal, are greedy, get drunk, lie about others, or rob, these people will not inherit God's kingdom."
In a statement released to the press, Fowler says that imposing terminology that "conveys a message of hate and discrimination towards a particular sector or group of individuals, solely based on bias opinions" has caused countless homosexuals to be "assaulted, discriminated against, and or, even murdered." He claims that Christians historically believe biblical scriptures are the "authentic word of God" and that the alterations of passages by Bible publishers to depict homosexuality as a sin is a wilful manipulation of society into "mistreating homosexuals."
A spokesperson for Zondervan Corp. says: "Since Zondervan does not translate the Bible or own the copyright for any of the translations we publish, we are not in a position to comment on the merits of how a word should or should not be translated."
Well, what can one say? Zondervan has a point; it is the translators that have the greatest responsibility for the wording of the translations. I do think that the publishers share the responsibility in some fashion, but going after them with a law suit is perhaps not the way to start. But it's the USA, of course.
Fowler also has a point, however. The misconceptions about the sinfulness of homosexuality per se are largely based on 1Cor 6:9 and a few similar verses being mistranslated according to the prejudices of the translators or their backers. This misuse of a text perceived as authoritative is serious, since it leads to so much suffering and even violence against those who are seemingly singled out by "the Word of God". From the viewpoint of society, this is a serious offence; from a Christian viewpoint, this is a grave sin!
But how to remedy the situation? By law suits, creating "martyrs"? I doubt it, but it is perhaps worth a try. We'll see how it turns out.
'Gay' man sues Bible publishers (WorldNetDaily 9.7.08)
Gay man sues Bible publishers for $70 million (Advocate News 10.7.08)
Gay man sues Bible publishers over "homosexuality" passages (PinkNews 11.7.08)
Here comes that money they promised you (Of course, I could be wrong... 11.7.08)

Tuovinen blessed a lesbian couple

The president of a Christian association for LGBT rights, Yhteys-Gemenskap, pastor Liisa Tuovinen (b. 1938, see image), has blessed a (female) same-sex couple, Annukka Matilainen och Veera Lange, in a chapel in Kirkkonummi (west of Helsinki) on July 12, 2008.
She then informed her bishop, Mikko Heikka, who said that the diocesan chapter of Espoo will deal with the case only if someone makes a complaint. Not many days went by before not one, but two, complaints were made. Since Tuovinen is no longer in active duty, she cannot be barred from any position within the church; if anything, she can only be defrocked.
Bishop Heikka himself was also the object of a complaint, stating that he had neglected his duty as bishop when he didn't bring the case before the chapter himself, rather than wait for a complaint to be made. All three complaints will be dealt with starting August 19, but it is expected to take several months before the chapter reaches a decision.
A couple of years ago, a complaint was made to the chapter of Helsinki against pastor Leena Huovinen for a similar deed. She was exonerated on February 6, 2007. This is not binding for the chapter of Espoo, since the chapters are largely autonomous in cases like this, but the Helsinki decision will shurely influence Espoo.
The process against my colleague Tomas Ray and myself before the chapter of Porvoo in 2007 was not parallel, since we hadn't actually done anything; we had only expressed our opinions. It was unpleasant anyway, of course, although we, too, were exonerated.
See links and sources in the Swedish post.

Schoolboy Howlers 4

A consonant is a large piece of land surrounded by water.

Singer on free will

You must believe in free will; there is no choice.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer

California Methodists perform same-sex marriages

In June, I wrote about, and lamented, the decision of the United Methodist Church not to change its rules on the treatment of homosexuals. Apparently, I am not the only one lamenting; in the UMC dioceses in California, several retired clergy are taking a stand by marrying same-sex couples (which recently became legal in the State of California).
More than 80 retired Northern California clergy from the United Methodist Church are offering to perform same-sex marriages, saying they want to help out active ministers who would risk more severe consequences for presiding over these ceremonies. [...]
"We're willing to challenge the injustice and contradictions of this," said the Reverend Don Fado, retired pastor of St Mark's United Methodist Church in Sacramento. [...]
If disciplined, the clergy could be defrocked, said Fado. He believes that is unlikely.
When same-sex marriages were legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, retired Methodist clergy there began performing weddings, Fado said.
Retired clergy offer to perform gay marriages in California (The Guardian 25.6.08)
Not all, however, are retired. Those on active duty risk more, of course. But:
"I'm tired of being part of a church that lacks integrity," said the Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen of Santa Monica's Church in Ocean Park, who plans to conduct weddings for two gay couples in August and September.
"I love my church, and I don't want to leave it. But I can't be part of a church that is willing to portray a God that is so hateful. I would rather be forced out."
Pastors defy United Methodist officials to conduct gay weddings (Los Angeles Times 17.7.08)
I know how she feels... As to how this isn't such a break with Scripture and tradition after all, a pastor tells a Texas newspaper:
"It is our UM tradition to interpret Scripture with attention to its context and purpose," said the Rev. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, pastor of Claremont (Calif.) United Methodist Church.
"We create misunderstandings when we choose some texts to be understood as literal and others not," she said. "We once excluded women as clergy based on Scriptural authority; we once justified slave-holding based on Scripture. We're doing the same thing now with regard to homosexuality."
Wulf said the church's unity does not necessarily lie in the unanimity of practice in all things. "We are fallible human beings, and our covenant is imperfect. We all know that because we get together every four years to adjust it," he said of the church's General Conference.
"To those of us in the West who feel a calling to offer a different kind of message to same-sex couples, there is a sense in which the whole church wants to hem us in and prevent us from following that calling," Wulf said.
"... We know the world is in flux, particularly on this issue," he said. "So we do this - not as an act of disrespect to the people of Africa or the people of (other parts of the United States) - but as a way of speaking the Christian Gospel compassionately to a group of people who deal with this every day."
California United Methodists make strong pro gay rights statements (The Dallas Morning News 9.7.08)
And a gay blogger concludes:
The support of [California's] United Methodists is most welcome. As more houses of worship declare their opposition to exclusionary political efforts, this debate becomes less a battle between the Holy and the Profane and becomes better understood as an effort by a few to introduce discrimination into the state’s constitution.
California United Methodists Support Marriage (Box Turtle Bulletin 10.7.08)
There's some truth in that, isn't there?
See also:
Methodists choose hypocrisy (Of course, I could be wrong... 17.7.08)
LA Times Article on Methodist Support (Box Turtle Bulletin 18.7.08)

An nescis...

An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur.
- Axel Oxenstierna (1583-1654)
as quoted by Andreas Elfving

If you only knew, my son, with how little wisdom the world is ruled

"No homosexuals in the Sudan" - oh, really?

Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak, primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and bishop of Juba, said at the Lambeth conference on July 22, 2008, that there are no homosexuals in the Sudan. "They have not come to the surface. We don’t have them." The Anglican Journal (of Canada) reported this.
Is the archbishop being obtuse, is he stupid, or is he deliberately twisting things, I wonder? If I were gay and Sudanese (like the blogger, Ali), I would not come "to the surface" or "out of the closet" either - it would simply not be healthy!

Theologian vs. church leader?

The Archbishop of Canterbury ("ABC"), the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, presided at the Lambeth conference this summer. He made it clear that gay inclusiveness was to be regarded as a kind of splinter movement and that the (mainly North American) church provinces that engaged in gay marriages and the like were to cease doing so, in order to preserve the unity of the Anglican communion. The African and South American provinces that are actively creating parallel structures in North America were also to subside. Neither group has reacted favorably to his request.
When Williams was elected ABC five years ago, he was Archbishop of Wales, and known as a fairly liberal theologian. Today's the Times published an article, Rowan Williams: gay relationships 'comparable to marriage', by its Religion Correspondent, Ruth Gledhill, where she quotes some private correspondance shown to her by Williams. In an exchange of letters with an evangelical Christian, written some eight years ago when he was Archbishop of Wales, he described his belief that biblical passages criticising homosexual sex were not aimed at people who were gay by nature. The letters, written in the autumn of 2000 and 2001, were exchanged with Dr. Deborah Pitt, a psychiatrist and evangelical Christian living in his former archdiocese in South Wales, who had written challenging him on the issue. [Update: Another article by Gledhill, New light on Archbishop of Canterbury's view on homosexuality, was published later the same day.]
Williams told Pitt that by the end of the 1980s he had "definitely come to the conclusion" that the Bible did not denounce faithful relationships between people who happened to be gay. In his 1989 essay The Body’s Grace, Dr Williams argued that the Church’s acceptance of contraception meant that it acknowledged the validity of nonprocreative sex. This could be taken as a green light for gay sex.
That is all well and good. Liberals have, however, been bitterly disappointed that a man whom they regarded as chosen to advance their agenda has instead abided by the traditionalist consensus of the majority.
In a recent interview, the Archbishop said: "When I teach as a bishop I teach what the Church teaches. In controverted areas it is my responsibility to teach what the Church has said and why."
I wonder. His statement seems to mean, as one commentator put it: "If I’m asked for my views, as a church leader rather than a theologian, I have to be dishonest."
As a pastor, I have the same responsibility regarding Church teachings as the ABC, although not the same visibility or influence. My view is that I will teach "mainstream" Christianity as long as it does not clash with my own considered opinions. I will not lightly deviate from Church dogma. If I find myself in opposition to the dogma, however, I have a responsibility to follow my conscience and be true to what God has revealed to me, be it through the Bible, through tradition, through my intellect or through my conscience.
Then, of course, I'll have to bear the consequences of my stance - if my church finds that I deviate too much, it will discipline me in some way, I suppose. So far, it has refrained from doing so; instead, I have been exonerated by the Diocesan Chapter of Porvoo.

Thinking alike

When all think alike, no one is thinking very much.
- Walter Lippmann

Different kinds of exclusion

... at the end of the day, there is an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are. Brother and sister Anglican walking away from the table because they've been disagreed with is a painful thing. The church walking away from the gay and lesbian baptised is a sinful thing.
- Susan Russell
in A flock abandoned (the Guardian 31.7.08)

Does this count as 'gay bashing'?

On July 27, 2008, Jim D. Adkisson, 58, opened fire in a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. He was unemployed and strongly influenced by some right-wing talk show hosts, so he blamed his problems on the "liberals". His wife had left him; since she at some point had attended the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and since it can be branded as "liberal", it became a focus point for his frustration and anger, and so he chose it as the venue for his act of desperation.
Unitarian Universalism is a religion that, while it has Christian roots, no longer can be said to be Christian (in a theological sense), but has a creedless, non-dogmatic approach to spirituality and faith development. "Unitarians" believe God to be a single entity, as opposed to the Trinity of the Christians; "Universalism" implies that everyone will be saved in the end, i.e. there is no concept of Hell or eternal damnation.
Just as many other non-Christians (and even some Christians, believe it or not!), the "UU's" are well worth our respect for their strong engagement in questions of social justice, working for the benefit of those who have least, those on the fringe of society. This has often meant activism in political causes, notably the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, the social justice movement, and the feminist movement. In the 19th century, Unitarians and Universalists were active in abolitionism, the women's movement, the temperance movement and other social reform movements. The first six (!) presidents of the USA (Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and J.Q. Adams) were what today would be called "UU's".
Some European news reports claimed that the Knoxville shooting took place in a Presbyterian church, but that is clearly a misunderstanding, probably based on the fact that there are very few "UU's" on this side of the Atlantic.
Adkisson killed two and wounded seven of those gathered for the church service, before he was wrestled to the ground. One of the two stood deliberately (heroically!) in front of the shotgun, trying to protect the rest of the congregation.
Adkisson was motivated by hatred of liberalism and by extension homosexuality. The church is liberal and gay-friendly, and this was one reason why it was chosen. No homosexual was killed, but this was a hate crime, none the less. I only wonder whether it qualifies as a gay bashing.
During Europride in Stockholm, Sweden, a number of gay bashings took place. One hate crime targeted churches - luckily much less seriously than the events in Knoxville. The church buildings of Högalid parish and two other parishes in Stockholm were covered with flyers. The flyers, posted by a group calling itself "orthodox Christians", were taped to the exterior walls of the churches and strewn on the ground with rocks to hold them in place. One flyer, containing 95 theses, was nailed to the church door, mimicking the 95 theses Luther nailed to the church door in Wittenberg, thus starting the Reformation. The theses in Stockholm were of far poorer quality, though...
This is, of course, not the most aggressive act imaginable. However, in combination with the Knoxville shooting and other similar incidents lately, it is clear that it is not only gay people that are targeted by homophobic so-called "Christians", but anybody who is making an effort to spread God's love to those who are considered "unworthy". Witness the processes against myself and other pastors within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, who have dared to speak out for gay rights - and the threats (including death threats) that we have recieved!
Knoxville, Tennessee:
2008 Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting (Wikipedia)
Kyrkobesökare öppnade eld (Dagen 27.7.08)
Två döda i skottdrama i kyrka (Dagen 28.7.08)
Gunman Kills 2, Wounds 7 At Gay Welcoming Church (AP through 365gay 28.7.08)
Accused church shooter threatened to kill wife, himself (Knoxville News Sentinel 28.7.08)
Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list (Knoxville News Sentinel 28.7.08)
Two killed in gun attack on US church supportive of gay rights (PinkNews 28.7.08)
Shooter hated church's pro-gay, liberal views (AP through Advocate News 28.7.08)
Knoxville Shooter Hated "Blacks, Gays, Anyone Different" (Box Turtle Bulletin 28.7.08)
Knoxville update (Of course, I could be wrong... 28.7.08)
Police: Man Shot Churchgoers Over Liberal Views (AP through 365gay 28.7.08)
3 Wounded In Shootings At Gay-Friendly Church Improving (AP through 365gay 29.7.08)
Kyrkan som attackerades var öppet gayvänlig (Antigayretorik 29.7.08)
Hate for Liberals and Gay People Drove Gunman, Police Say (New York Times 29.7.08)
Madpriest's thought for the day after Knoxville (Of course, I could be wrong... 29.7.08)
The word on the streets (Of course, I could be wrong... 29.7.08)
Sköt ner två i USA - kyrkan var för liberal (Dagen 27.7.08)
Suspect's note cites 'liberal movement' for church attack(Knoxville News Sentinel 29.7.08)
Tenn. church shooting victims recovering (AP through Advocate News 29.7.08)
Tennessee UU Church Gunman Motivated by Hate; Shooting Leaves Trans Teen Fatherless (365gay 29.7.08)
"A Whole Lotta Ugly" in Church Shooting (Washington Post 29.7.08)

Högalid, Stockholm:
Churches vandalized for Europride involvement (The Local 30.7.08)
"Ortodoxa kristna" vandaliserade kyrka (Dagen 30.7.08)
Protest mot Högalids församlings prideengagemang (Kyrkans Tidning 30.7.08)
"Orthodox Christians" target EuroPride churches (PinkNews 30.7.08)
Terrorists - our Archbishop feels your pain (Of course, I could be wrong... 31.7.08)