Saturday, 11 May 2013

careless talk does cost lives: musing on *that* General Assembly report, May 2013

Having posted the following in a closed space amongst friends, I have decided to open it out a little for some possible discussion.  It concerns my horror, yes, I will use that word, at some of the comments made in the Church of Scotland report coming to the General Assembly this year re. LGBT people who are in relationships, and whether they should be allowed ordination/ ministry roles.  Amongst some of the very badly worded parts of the report, were comments on the death penalty....
Dear wonderful ones
Maybe I'm off-beam on this, but crumbs, regardless of what side of the theological fence, there are comments that are just ...
well... words fail me... :(

The Church of Scotland has been undergoing, for what now seems a millennia, conversations upon LGBT folk and the Kirk. This latterly with particular reference to the ordination of LGBT people who are in a relationship.
In 2011 our General Assembly voted, unexpectedly, to set up a Commission tasked with exploring theologically what was termed the 'revisionist' [or moderate to liberal] trajectory and report back in 2013.
The report has now been out for a week. [link below].

The Commission has neither explored the 'revisionist' trajectory, nor has it done any basic theology -
how do we explain the existence of 'gayness';
questions concerning the image of God/ and being created in God's image;
practical/ pastoral theology - if we insist upon imposing celibacy/ imposing a higher standard of morality on LGBT people what implications does this have on the way we minister to LGBT folk? etc. etc. etc.

What has been presented is a rehashing of the same old hermeneutical set-pieces...including those 'joyful friends' - bestiality, paedophilia, incest, and some glorious unthinking misogyny as well.
These I am used to, even as I shake my head wondering how they are even deemed to be valid arguments any more.
My problem is with one word: 'however'...
I have been disquieted ever since I read it, and a subsequent comment; both reference the death penalty.

I woke up this morning and 'that' report was on my mind and in my heart;
I realised that there has been a slowly building, cold, clear anger emerging, particularly re pages 79 and 84 of the report and these two comments concerning the death penalty.

Let me highlight these:
note the unstated, yet implied sense of regret that comes across with the very careless use of the word 'however' [my caps], and perhaps also a sense that LGBT folk should think themselves lucky not to be executed any more, [well, at least in the UK] and should just... shut... up. Leviticus 20 [p79]
‘We do not seek to apply the death penalty today, hoping that an offender may yet come to faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ, acknowledging their sin and receiving forgiveness. HOWEVER, we must recognise that our God considers such sexual sin as an offence against his nature and his holiness and his appointing such punishment for this sin cannot be ignored or treated lightly.’

And surprising, in light of the 'traditionalist' castigation of 'revisionists' doing so [namely: Jesus never says anything about homosexuality - I would actually agree here with the 'trad' criticism; it is not a valid way of making a case], the 'traditionalist' writers arguing from the silence of scripture to imply the tacit approval of Jesus concerning the execution of gays: The Lord Jesus and the Gospels [p84]
The Old Testament law books prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality (Leviticus 0:13), adultery (Leviticus 20:10) and prostitution (Leviticus 21:9). While Jesus condones neither practice, the Gospels record instances where Jesus did not demand the death penalty for people practising adultery or prostitution. There is no recorded instance of him overturning the law’s requirement for homosexual conduct’.

No. No. NO.
Words are important.
Words are powerful.
These words are not merely offensive,
nor are they just irresponsible.
Let us be clear:
these words are dangerous and could cost lives.
These words above send out a message that subtly - or not so subtly - lend some 'authority' to those countries in which the death penalty does still operate in the case of LGBT folk who are found to be in a relationship.
There is an implied approval that this is the right action.

How, in the name of all that is good and holy, can we approve this report?
I am sitting here quite calmly writing this, but filled with quiet horror at the almost inadvertent revelation of a very, very deep-seated prejudice that so values the ideological point, that it dispenses with the value of human life... in a manner that is so casual as to be chilling.

link -


spotthegerbil said...

I'm sorry to say that I skipped the report and went straight to the deliverances at the end.

But what the events of this week regarding Palestine have shown is that there are people who read these reports a lot more attentively than I have done. The Bible is abused and corrupted and used to justify all manner of human made abuses, so that the blame can be shifted to God. I think we've got to be careful when revisiting some of the Old Testament, for fear that we might be seen to be endorsing some severe wrongs against those that can't defend themselves.

You know me. I really don't care what my minister does under the duvet, how often and with whom. I want to hear and be colleagues with good preachers and pastors. What I don't want is for anything attributed to Christianity or the CofS to be used to opress anyone.

Mrs Gerbil said...

Hadn't had time to read the whole report, yet. Just read the deliverances and the conclusion.

Now, as I pick my jaw off the table, words fail me.

Pausingplace said...

Gah! You are quite right - taken in isolation these bits are appalling, and the caveats under which they are stated (i.e. that the report's not the view of the church etc etc) are not in even nearly big and bold enough letters anywhere, imho. And though I've not read the whole thing yet, it DOES look to be pretty sadly narrow how it's addressed the theological issues.

Then again, having spoken to someone this week whose ministry has been rejected because of their gender, I don't know why I'm surprised (*sigh*).