Uganda: David Kato

On Wednesday 26th January, 2011, gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in his house in Kampala, Uganda. He had been hacked on the head with a hammer.
Kato’s murder comes only weeks after the Uganda Supreme Court told the local magazine Rolling Stone (not to be confused with the music magazine) to stop publishing names of prominent Ugandan alleged homosexuals and calling for them to be hanged. It now seems someone apparently took up the magazine’s call and David Kato, who was out already as gay man and LGBTI activist, has become the first lethal victim of the magazine’s hate call.
Kato said in an interview last year: "I can’t run away and leave the people I am protecting. People might die, but me, I will be the last one to run out of here."
He did not run, and he died.
David Kato was arrested three times for his activism and faced innumerable other forms of harassment and assault. A long-time activist, Kato had earned the title of ‘grandfather of the kuchus’ – as gay men in Kampala call themselves – for his work on behalf of people in the LGBT community. In the past he has sheltered many people in his home, visited them in prison and worked for their release. He worked as the advocacy and litigation officer for SMUG, Sexual Minorities Uganda, Uganda’s main LGBTI Rights group. David Kato’s murder ironically comes on the same day that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon made the strongest call ever by the UN for an end to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

At David Kato's funeral on Friday, January 28, there was a sad turn of events. Since Kato was an Anglican, the local parish church of Nagojje was responsible for his funeral rites to be read from the Book of Common Prayer. Although tributes have been pouring into the Kato family from President Barack Obama and other international leaders, the Church of Uganda sent no priest, no bishop, but a Lay Reader to conduct the service.
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo arrived in his purple cassock accompanied by his wife Mary and let the master of ceremonies know he would like to say a few words at some point in the service. He was going to read a message from Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) where David worked tirelessly since 2004. As an excommunicated bishop of the Church of Uganda, Senyonjo has no standing in the official hierarchy of the church.
The Lay Reader, Thomas Musoke, began to make inappropriate remarks condemning homosexuality quite graphically and stating the Church of Uganda’s position that homosexuality was a sin and against the Bible. The crowd began to cheer him on and the event was turning into an anti-gay rally. The bishop was never called upon to speak. He felt for the LGBT community having to suffer yet another public humiliation. The (Anglican) Church of Uganda took a pastoral opportunity for healing and reconciliation with family members and LGBT people and allies and turned the event into an anti-gay political rally. Musoke was, however, finally thrown out from the funeral.
Following this horrific incident, Bishop Senyonjo, as a bishop of the church and wearing his purple cassock, walked behind the coffin carried by Kato’s friends and family to the graveside. There, although he was disinvited by the Church to speak at the funeral, he found a way to bring words of comfort to the mourners and said the final blessing over David’s battered remains.

In this one sad occasion, we can see there are two churches in Uganda and indeed elsewhere - one following the love of the law, and the other following the law of love.

R.I.P. DAVID KATO (symbolic event)
COMMENTARY: David Kato's funeral illustrates schism of Anglican Church (San Diego Gay and Lesbian News 28.1.11)
Which side are you on? or - They fucked up the Anglican Communion for this? (OCICBW 28.1.11)
MadPriest's thought for the day (OCICBW 29.1.11)
Präst utkastad från Katos begravning (Dagen 29.1.11)

Just a thought...

When you're right, no one remembers. When you're wrong, no one forgets.

Finland: Chaplain boycots bishop

In December last year, bishop Björn Vikström of Porvoo visited the parish in Lappfjärd-Kristinestad in southernmost Osthrobotnia on the west coast of Finland. He had discussions with the clergy and other parish workers, with the different elected officials and with the parishioners, and took part in some church services. All very normal for that sort of thing.
What was less normal this time around, was that Markus Saarinen, the chaplain of Sideby (that nowadays is a part of Lappfjärd-Kristinestad), refused to attend the services in which the bishop participated. He did take part in the discussions, however. The reason for his refusal was that he considers bishop Vikström to be a heretic, since he is a Liberal and a good man with pretty much the same views as I on many matters. I wrote about a call for a boycot him and other ELCF bishops a while ago.
Since the vicar had ordered Saarinen to attend the services and he refused anyway, Saarinen was handed a reprimand. To my mind, this is quite logical - if an employee refuses to do his job, the employer or manager has every right to reprimand him. At least.

But, of course, the conservatives see this as outrageous. It is persecution of all who want to be Classical Christians, they say. And if being a Classical Christian equals being an ass, they are right, of course.
But I don't think it does. There are Classical Christian asses, as this case clearly shows - but the majority are good, considerate people that it is very nice to meet. It's the same as with Liberals or any other group of people. Some are nice and some aren't, pretty much regardless of their opinions.

Sidebykaplan bojkottade biskopen (Kyrkpressen 15.12.10)
Saarinen fick anmärkning (Kyrkpressen 18.1.11)

Denmark: Cathedral parish wants to marry same-sex couples

In Denmark, same-sex couples can form a civil partnership with the same status as a marriage. If they wish, they can then have their partnership blessed by the Church of Denmark in a ceremony without legal connotations. A pastor can refuse to perform this blessing, but then has to refer the couple to another pastor. I wrote about this some time ago.

When the Vor Frue (Our Lady) parish in Copenhagen – which is the Cathedral parish of the diocese – received a question from the State’s Ministry of church affairs, as to whether they would be ready to marry same-sex couples, the pastors and the Church Council were unanimous in answering: Absolutely!
They answer that God’s love to humans is absolute. No church has the right to withhold God’s blessing, but is on the contrary required to give it to those who ask for it, including same-sex couples who wish to be married.
Furthermore, the Church of Denmark doesn’t view wedding or marriage as sacraments, but as a question of order. The wedding is a confirmation of a common life that already exists and an act of blessing – not an act where the church judges and approves some ways of living together.

Köpenhamns domkyrka vill viga homosexuella (Kyrkans Tidning 12.1.11)

Sweden: Lesbian pastor was refused a job

An openly lesbian pastor in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden heard of a job opening in a parish in central Sweden and contacted the vicar, whom she had met before. He was positive during their telephone conversation, but she later recieved an email saying that the opening wouldn't be filled after all.
When someone from the diocese contacted her about the same job, the pastor wondered about that email. It turned out that the vicar had reported to the Parish Board that the pastor in question was a nice and competent person, but that they couldn't employ "one of those people". It was unthinkable that she and her partner should live in the parsonage and that she should teach confirmation classes.
The pastor was, of course, dismayed by this and in the end reported the parish to the discrimination ombudsman.
The bishop of Strängnäs, Hans-Erik Nordin, won't comment on this specific incident, but says that the Church of Sweden has decided that there is no bar on homosexuals working within the church, even as pastors.
The vicar has since changed jobs and won't comment. The new vicar agrees with the bishop in this.

Some comments on the news sites and on various blogs say things like: "God bless the parish!" and "The vicar is a wise man who wants to follow the Bible." Others say that this shows that the Church of Sweden has double standards, and that religious people in general can't be trusted.
I'm sure the pastor in question will get the job eventually (if she still wants it). But the damage has been done. Specifically, damage to the image of the church as being a loving, generous institution. If, indeed, it has ever had such an image...

Homosexuell präst anmäler pastorat till DO (Kyrkans Tidning 18.1.11)
Homosexuell nekades prästjobb (Svenska Dagbladet 18.1.11) 
DO får anmälan från lesbisk präst (Dagen 18.1.11)
Hos Gud finns ingen synd (Apg 29 18.1.11)
Man vill ju inte anställa "en sån" (Solen i ögonen 18.1.11)
Kyrkan är som kyrkan är (Håll ditt huvud högt 18.1.11)

That's bad!

In Memoriam
With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey", died peacefully at age 93.
The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.

Thanks to Wounded Bird!

The idols of our churches

In the Bible, we discover the prophets and Jesus struggling against the same idols that dominate many of our churches.
- Jorge Pixley
Biblical scholar at Baptist Seminary, Nicaragua
as quoted on God's Politics

Hey, That's A Nice Lighter

An American goes into a bar and sits down next to an English guy. The American notices that the English guy has a huge BIC Lighter. The American says, "Wow cool lighter, where did you get it?"
The English guy says, "A genie granted me one wish when I rubbed this bottle."
"Wow", says the American, "Can I have a go?"
"Sure", says the Englishman.
The American rubs the bottle and the genie comes out. "You have one wish," says the genie.
The American wishes for a million bucks, and the genie snaps his finger and vanishes with a poof. About 5 minutes later a load of ducks come into the bar. There are thousands of them.
The American says, "I don't believe this! I wished for a million bucks, not a million ducks!"
The Englishman replies, "Well, do you really think I wished for a 12 inch BIC?"

Getting Old Is A Drag

When I went to the bar tonight, I noticed this old man about 75-80 years old sitting all alone in the corner. He was crying over his cocktail. I stopped and asked him what was wrong.
He said, "I have a 22 year old husband at home. I met him a year ago, right here in this very bar!" He continued, "He makes love to me every morning and then he makes me pancakes, sausage, fresh fruit and freshly ground, brewed coffee."
I asked, "Well then, why are you crying?"
He said, "He makes me homemade soup for lunch and my favorite brownies and then he makes love to me half the afternoon."
I asked, "So, why are you crying?"
He said, "For dinner he makes me a gourmet meal with wine and my favorite dessert and then he makes love to me until 2:00am."
Again, I asked, "Well, for goodness sakes! Why in the world would you be CRYING?!!"
And he answered, "I CAN'T REMEMBER WHERE I LIVE!"

2Tim 3.16 as argument for the authority of the Bible

"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3.16; NRSV).
This Bible passage has the same numbers for chapter and verse as e.g. John 3.16, that can be said to be a kind of abstract of the Bible's Christian message. Since the numbers happen to coincide, this verse also gets a hightened glow for some Bible teachers. Be that as it may - 2Tim 3.16 is used in ways that often become problematic.
In claiming that this verse teaches the authority of the Bible, two errors are made, one logical and the other chronological.

A. Circular reasoning
"The Bible claims that the Bible is authoritative. We can believe this, since the Bible is authoritative, which we know since the Bible claims it."
This seems to be an (often unspoken) line of thought with many who quote the verse we are inspecting. When this line of thought is written down in this way, it is easy to see that it is an example of circular reasoning, i.e. that the conclusions are used to prove the postulates. But since it is seldom written down, it is easy to hide this logical somersault.
In most cases, this is probably not done with ill will, but rather through thoughtlessness, based on poor Bible teaching. It is, however, surprising how many otherwise intelligent people fall in this trap.

B. The meaning of the word, "Scripture" 
When Paul wrote to Timothy, the anthology we know as the Bible didn't yet exist. Parts of it weren't even written, and the very idea of a "New Testament" hadn't been broached. The books of the Old Testament had been written, but the final table of contents hadn't been decided on as yet.
So, when Paul uses the terms, "the sacred writings" and "scripture", in vv. 15 and 16 respectively, we must look to the context to see what he means. It cannot be The Holy Writ in today's meaning of the expression. Through his mother and grandmother, both of whom were of Jewish descent, Timothy had been taught the Scriptures since childhood. Isn't it obvious that Paul is referring to the Jewish Scriptures, that a few decades later were crystallized into our OT?

In my opinion, therefore, 2Tim 3.16 cannot be used to prove that the Bible is divinely inspired. Such a use of the verse would twist it into a shape that violates its actual message.
This is not to say, however, that the Bible isn't divinely inspired, just that other arguments are needed to prove the idea.


I wish to make an additional comment:
Paul writes in the previous verse that point of Scripture is "to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." Scripture - whether a proto-OT, as here, or the present-day Bible - is not meant as a school book in science, law, history or sociology, just to mention some examples, but its point is, rather, to help us to Christ. Nor is it the knowledge gained from the Bible that saves, but faith in Christ.
I wanted to say this, because I've seen too many examples of Bible abuse and bibliolatry, i.e. Bible worship. It could even be claimed that the Bible is the Christians' most common idol - a trap that we by all means possible must try to avoid!

Finland: Opponent to female ordination fined by the Supreme Court

In March 2007, a male pastor, Ari Norro, was invited to preach in a church in Hyvinkää (southern Finland). One of the parish's pastors, a woman named Petra Pohjanraito, was one of the designated assistants in the mass. Since Norro is a member of the Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland (LEAF), an association within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland that does not accept the ordination of women, this was a problem. There are several versions of the discussion that took place in the sacristy, but the outcome was that Norro stayed and Pohjanraito left.

The Finnish Supreme Court ruled on 22 October, 2010, that Norro was guilty of discrimination when he refused to work with a female colleague. The court slapped Norro with a 320€ fine for his discriminatory behaviour, thus upholding two lower courts’ decisions.
Norro has maintained that it is impossible for him to perform his duties alongside a woman and has demanded that charges against him be dropped.
However the Supreme Court ruled that religious freedom doesn’t imply that the law can be broken. Earlier court decisions emphasised that the church must abide by the same rules on gender equality as other workplaces.
“Actions determined by faith can’t lead to human rights breaches, such as gender-based discrimination,” the Supreme Court stated.

Around one-third of the pastors in the ELCF are women, but the proportion is growing.

Pappi käännytettiin kirkkonsa ovelta (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 5.3.07)
Hyvinge, SLEY och kvinnliga präster (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 6.3.07)
Lisätietoa Hyvinkään tapauksesta (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 8.3.07)
Vielä Hyvinkäältä (Kalles kyrkliga kommentarer 10.3.07)
Male Pastor Fined for Discrimination (Yle News 22.10.10)
HD: Kvinnopräst diskriminerades ( 22.10.10)
HD förbjuder diskriminering av kvinnliga präster i Finland (Dagen 22.10.10)
Präst diskriminerade kvinnlig kollega - döms till böter (Kyrkans Tidning 22.10.10)
HD-dom om kvinnoprästmotstånd i Finland (Karin Långström Vinges blogg 22.10.10)

You know that your dog has trained you well when ...

... you have no reservations about kissing your dog on the lips, even when you know where his lips have been.