Month: January 2010

Gay wedding check-list 1


So after working through a wedding magazine’s checklist and the then-realised dire need for a gay checklist, I decided to draw a few up. Here is the first.

How to ensure people know they’re at a gay wedding

1. Organise Christians to stand in the parking lot with signs saying “God hates fags”. You know you’re cool when you have protesters.

2. Have a celebrity at the wedding. It doesn’t have to be a real celebrity, someone dressed as one while lip-syncing to a song will do.

3. Have feathers. Everywhere. Nothing says gay like feathers.

4. Do not have candles on the tables. With the amount of cologne and hairspray in the room, people will be set on fire.

5. Ensure the MC clearly explains where guests sit during the ceremony. Friends and family of the top on the left, friends of the bottom on the right. Versatile couples shouldn’t have a centre aisle…

6. Make sure you have a song to walk down the aisle to. It has to be Madonna or your wedding will be disastrous. People expect you to play the Queen. Do not use an ABBA track. You want to build up to the faaaaaaaaaabulousness slowly. Just saying.

7. Weep. Gays cry. And everyone else will. Nothing says a fantastic wedding more than smudged mascara.

8. Do not get drunk. Your parents are already traumatised. They do not need to see you in full flap.

9. Do not let the best man get drunk, especially if he’s giving a speech. Your parents are already traumatised and don’t need to know about how many people you’ve slept with.

10. Make sure you invite rich people, even if you hardly know them. They’ll buy expensive presents.

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Full speed ahead… check

Well, we’re full speed ahead to a good ol’ gay civil union. First of Feb will bring on the three month mark and according to the bridal magazines, that’s when things start reaaaaaaaaaaaallllyy kicking in…

So let’s see where we’re at for the three month mark according to the mag I have:

  1. Choose and order wedding rings… check
  2. Choose music for the ceremony… no need, we’re gay so the music chooses us… *strikes a pose*
  3. Start dancing lessons….. Seriously? Dancing lessons? How hard is it to click my fingers above my head while I lip-sync?
  4. Confirm your catering… check. Nibbly nits all round.
  5. Confirm your floral arrangements… sheesh, with the amount of gay people there the flowers will probably be arranged before each course.
  6. Make any necessary personal appointments. Hmmmm, now what could this mean? See a psychic to check if I’m making the right decision? Ah, it’s implying cosmetic surgery. Plan to have every hair lasered and every wrinkle botoxed to hell and back so that you look like Robert Pattinson on the day. Clever…
  7. Choose a dry cleaner to take your gown to after the day. Seriously? I need to wear a gown?
  8. Select speechmakers for your reception. Check. I will speak and thereafter everyone else will speak about how faaaaaaaaaaabulous I am…
  9. Arrange any insurance policies you may need. They clearly know the kind of people that will be at the wedding.
  10. Trial make-up and hair with your veil. Okay, people we really need a gay wedding magazine. They clearly don’t realise we’ve been testing hair and make-up since we could lift our arms.

Seriously people… how hard is this going to be? We put on suits. Everyone rocks up. They give us gifts. We give them food and then we work at spending the rest of our lives together.

Surely it’s that simple…

Definitely need a gay wedding checklist….

Nice…

It’s nice when a family you were once terrified to reveal your (deviant) sexuality to are now all excited when they receive your wedding invite.

It’s nice.

It’s nice when the very-same family even ask how they can help and what part they will play.

It’s nice.

It’s nice when they get jealous that the one is more involved in the ceremony than the other.

It’s nice.

It’s nice when it’s about me.

It’s nice.

Very nice…

Haiti and God

I’ve written nothing about Haiti but have read many responses to the awful experience they have been through. I have read three categories of responses, and these are responses from Christians. You see, a natural disaster like this makes us immediately look at our picture of God, or reflects it in our response. It is, after all, even called an act of God by many, and most definitely by those in insurance who uses these so-called God-acts to get out of paying.

The three responses I’ve tracked down have been:

  1. It’s apocalyptic. It’s a sign we’re nearing end-times and God is reminding us of that. Some go further to say that God has punished Haiti for it’s witchcraft, much like he did those awful homosexuals in Sodom and the horrible people who were nasty to Noah.
  2. Why God? Why have you allowed this to happen? You confuse us, but we trust that you have a bigger picture in mind. That seems to be the main response amongst the blogs I read who have responded in writing to the tragedy.
  3. The third says let’s not ask God why, but let’s ask God what we can do. How can we show his love in this devastation.

I’m more of a number two kinda guy. Number one is puerile. And people have been screaming end-times since hu-person-ity learnt to scream. It’s not a sign of the end-times. The world may end, but I think an earthquake in Haiti is not a sign of the end-times. Just like the Thai Tsunami wasn’t. I could go on and on. And the punishment thing, well that’s just laughable. And presents your picture of God in a way that reflects my picture of the devil.

The third response is a plausible one. People springing into action to help other people is never to be scoffed at and I have huge respect to all those who have dropped what they are doing to help the people affected in this. God in action, I’m all for.

But I want to spend time on the second. It’s a question we can’t answer for certain. No one knows why this happened. And why God allowed it, and why he has allowed it since creating the planet. I know some may say it’s because of Adam and Eve and the fall of person-kind, but I seriously don’t see God as the kind of God who is still punishing us for Eve and Adam’s apple-eating session. He created us with the possibility to sin after all. He gave us choice and cursed us when we used it? Not really my picture of God.

The answer I get when I look at the tragedy… perhaps this God who we think is so active in the world isn’t actually so concerned with us. Perhaps He just created a system and left it to its evolutionary devices. It’s an imperfect creation, and perhaps He went onto something bigger and better. Perhaps He doesn’t even exist at all.

Perhaps.

Why else would He let this happen?

I don’t know. I don’t know if there is a God but I choose to live my life as if there is. I’ll never know the answer while I’m alive. But I what I do know, is that all that counts is what I do during my time on this earth.

Ecclesia part two

The last post received a number of responses, both on my blog and via e-mail. i appreciate the comments and a large number of that was support for people who are gay and lesbian to be included in the life of the church.

One important comment reminded us that at the heart of this is a woman who loves God trying to find her way in a world or institution she wants to belong to while being authentic and true to who she is and her beliefs.

Her story was published on the Facebook group and I thought it fitting to copy it here for others to read who may not be a part of the group. So much of her story echoes mine and thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of others who have attempted to be Christian and honest about their sexuality. Here it is… hopefully this will help to heal.

Ecclesia’s story

I desire to serve Jesus. I desire to be true to myself. I desire to minister within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) with integrity and be faithful to God’s call on my life. This has not been easy. My journey has been complex and I would like to share some of my story with you.

During my late teens I came to the conclusion that I am a lesbian. I realized that this discovery would not be acceptable to my family or church and so I concealed it. I tried to fit in by being in heterosexual relationships, appearing to be normal and acceptable to the community. However, my ability to pretend to be heterosexual did not last and it wasn’t long before others found out about my sexual orientation. I was told in no uncertain terms that I can not be Christian and lesbian. My family relationships and support system were shattered. The Church’s stance on homosexuality sent a clear message of rejection to me which forced me to leave the Church. The pain and loss was immense.

Several years later I had an encounter with God that made me return to the Church. I knew that God loved and accepted me and I renewed my commitment. I then set out to find a Church. It did not take me long to discover the official stance of the Church was unchanged on same-sex-relationships. At the time the only way for me to be included in the community was either to deny my sexual orientation and live a life of secrecy or live a life of celibacy.

Seeing that my faith was very important to me and to stop the fear and pain of being rejected, I tried to conform by attending several support groups and going for counselling. I was also part of an ex-gay ministry (for recovering gay people) for several years. However none of these efforts changed my sexual orientation. In order to obey the church’s teaching, I lived in denial of who I was and I settled for a life of celibacy and secrecy. The suppression of the truth enhanced my pain and steered me into a deep hole of discontent and depression. Even during this period of denial, I at times, fearfully worried and wondered about what would happen should I meet someone and fall in love. Would I still be able to deny my sexuality, my need for love as well as my desire to give love and to live with a life companion?

My relationship and love for Jesus deepened over the years that followed, I heard and then responded to God’s call to ministry by candidating for the ministry within the MCSA. My whole being was occupied, stimulated and challenged by the Theological and Ministerial training. I will be for ever grateful to the MCSA for the wide expansive education given to me. It was here, during my theological studies that I encountered another perspective on the issue of homosexuality that challenged the traditional stance within the Church. With much research and self-evaluation I discovered new ways of interpreting scripture and found a new way of coming to terms with who I am as a child of God.

I learned that when one reads Scripture in context, the traditional verses that have been used to condemn homosexuality are in all probability not referring to a faithful, loving, committed, respectful relationship between two people of the same sex. I learned that by using the Wesleyan quadrilateral (Scripture, experience, reason and tradition) that my sexuality is a gift from God. I learned that the Church has had a sad history of being sure who to exclude and then to repent later (exclusion of women to the ordained ministry, apartheid). I also learned that at the heart of God is an all inclusive love which is far wider than I can ever comprehend.

Through this learning curve my relationship with Jesus found a new intensity as I embraced the acceptance of God’s love for me…just as I am. Afresh I realized that “nothing” could separate me from God’s love and acceptance. I have also come to a new understanding that my sexuality is part and parcel of who God created me to be – and that God created someone beautiful. Indeed the Gospel of Christ became very good news for me! This knowledge has brought me profound confidence and peace, yet accompanied by much tension about my reality and the traditional stance of the MCSA. Listening to debates and colleagues comment on the issue has been a fearful and painful experience within the MCSA. Numerous times I have wanted to stand-up and say “this is me you are speaking about; speak to me”. However, the lack of “a safe space” and the fear of rejection have kept me in my seat.

In the mean time, by God’s grace I have met a wonderful person, Amanda. In this relationship I discovered that by denying my sexuality, I denied a significant part of my self, my God given means of connecting and loving another human being. This relationship has brought us both much joy and pleasure. We offer one another companionship where we are committed to being respectful, faithful, caring and trustworthy. Our desire has been to honour God and so we are celebrating our love relationship by getting married in Dec 2009. The context and sensitivity of the same-sex debate within the MCSA made me afraid to come out and break the silence. Hence the soul destroying silence, instead of inviting my Church family to celebrate with me.

By God’s grace my immediate family embraced and supported me in my journey of coming to terms with disclosing my sexual orientation and my marriage with Amanda. I am also grateful for the acceptance and support of several colleagues and friends during this journey who have helped me to come to this place.

I have reached the point where I can no longer be silent. I have come to see that it is better to be rejected for who I am than to be accepted for who I am not.

I know that, by sharing with you my story I take a huge risk. I am also concerned for the Churches that I serve. However, I am of the conviction that my relationship and journey with Christ has brought me to this place, which requires me to speak and live in the truth, trusting that this alone will bring freedom. By denying my sexuality and my marriage I am denying who I am and who Jesus wants me to be.

I am not afraid, as I know that God is with us (with me, Amanda and the Church at large).

It is my desire to serve God in the MCSA and to be accepted for who I am. I understand that we are not all of the same mind on this matter and I pray that God will help us to become an …

“… inclusive body of Christ that celebrates diversity in all its facets of religious, social and organisational being…to pastor and welcome all people irrespective of race, social class, disability, sexual orientation etc. [For] to single out any one of these for a special dispensation of salvation would be religiously spurious as well as an affront to our values of human respect, dignity and equality.” (MCSA 2008 Yearbook & Directory, pg 18) and affirm that “we will seek to be a Christ-honouring community: a. celebrating the rich diversity of those called to follow Jesus, honouring the sacred worth of all people and practising our Wesleyan heritage of warmth, welcome and hospitality; b. recognising the authority of Scripture and nothing that in our quest for understanding, there is no one, monolithic and incontrovertible interpretation of it; c. Acknowledging that there are therefore some issues upon which there may never be total unanimity within the church and upon which we must “agree to differ” without reducing our respect for, and trust of, one another.” (MCSA 2008 Yearbook & Directory, pg 81)

I have survived the hardest part already, which is self-acceptance. I made it through – not broken but more confident and complete than I ever was. And I want to share that with the people I love and live with and those I serve within the MCSA. However people react, by God’s grace I will respond to them with love.

Yours in Christ,

Ecclesia
Advent 2009

Oh Church by Carlo Carretto

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.

No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely. And where should I go? To build myself another Church?

But I could only build one with the same defects, because they are mine; defects which I have inside myself. And if I built one, it would be my church, no longer the Church of Christ. I am old enough to understand that I am no better than other people.

If you are in south Africa and want to support Ecclesia and it’s consequential ripple effects in the gay community then the following mail I received may interest you:

This is to inform you that Ecclesia‘s appeal against her verdict and sentence will be heard on Monday the 8th of February at 10:00 (GMT +2) at the Bedfordview Methodist Church.

We are appealing for a strong show of support for Ecclesia in Bedfordview and at main centres across the country on that day. The aim of the show of support is in solidarity with Ecclesia and to call for her to be found not guilty and to be reinstated in her current position. We are appealing to you to commit yourself for one hour to attend one of the events and to bring a friend or family member along with you. We would like you to wear black or dark clothes with a rainbow flag or a pink triangle on your lapel. At Bedfordview especially we would like a large group to gather outside the venue for an hour in a dignified and peaceful manner to show their support for Ecclesia.

We are calling for volunteers from across the country (and even internationally) who would be willing to coordinate one of the events. The event that you coordinate may take the form of a prayer vigil in a Church or a show of support outside a Church. We will produce the wording for the pamphlet that can be copied and handed out at the various venues. Please inbox me if you are willing and able to be one of the coordinators and I will place the event on the events board.

Please publicise the event in your area as widely as possible. Please ensure that Ecclesia‘s issue is raised and spoken about in your particular sphere of influence. Please invite all your friends and family to join our Facebook Group. Please share Ecclesia‘s issue with those who are not on Facebook by emailing them the details, by posting it on your blog and by talking about it. Continue to hold Ecclesia and Amanda in your thoughts and in your prayers.

With your love and support we are confident that Ecclesia‘s appeal on the 8th will be successful!

Ecclesia

I’m not sure if any of you have heard about the controversy brewing in the Methodist Church at the moment. I write this feeling a bit sad about the situation and thought I would share it. I have been following it on facebook and while I don’t know the minister involved personally I feel a kinship as her journey could so easily have been mine.

Ecclesia is an ordained Methodist minister serving in a church in the Western Cape. She has, by all accounts, proven herself as a competent minister with a love for the people she ministers to and the God she feels called to serve as a full-time pastor. But, she is a lesbian. She has been involved with a woman for a while and at the end of last year she and her partner entered into a civil union to affirm their partnership legally.

She was then placed under suspension pending a disciplinary hearing after she was charged by her superintendent minister for contravening the disciplines of the Methodist Church of South Africa (MCSA).

The hearing happened last night, while a group of us took part in a silent prayer vigil (some at the church where the hearing was happening), praying for wisdom, strength and God’s love to prevail whatever the outcome.

The verdict was delivered a half hour after the trial and Ecclesia was suspended from the Methodist Church. She has no station to minister and will be without income until the Church has resolved the homosexual “issue” and decided on whether gay and lesbian people have a place in their Church, more specifically as leaders in the church.

Now, I obviously have an opinion in this.

I understand that Ecclesia broke the rules. She works for a religious institution (for want of a better phrase) that has ruled that ministers may not enter into a same-sex civil union until the church has decided if gay people are actually really welcome in the church. They may say that gay people are welcome to attend services on a Sunday, but at this stage gay people are not welcome to play an active role in the life of the church. So, in essence, we can add to their numbers (and help them play affirmative) but not to their direction and mission to actively work with others as they journey in relationship with Christ.

The cruel part of the verdict is that they have offered, what seems to be, a glimmer of hope – that she will be able to be a minister when they make a decision on gays and, obviously, only if that decision is pro-gay. The reality is that they have cut her off from the church with no income to wait for a decision that will probably still take a number of years to debate and finalise. Personally I find this cruel and inhumane.

I remember a minister going through a divorce in the Methodist church. He was suspended with full pay, given counselling and allowed back into the fold. I’ve seen it with a few ministers. I’ve seen Ray McCauley (granted he is not a Methodist minister but an apparently religious man) marry his second wife who had a few husbands before him.

And the church wonder why we cry foul.

I understand she broke the rules. But what you have, in essence, done, dear wise ministers of the church, is ostracised a group of people who are longing for a place in your community. Instead of taking a legalistic approach, you could have offered at least some support so that God’s love could prevail, not the laws of a church.

I have looked at the facebook wall and these kind of responses sadden me. And I hope people from the Methodist church read them, because this is no longer just about Ecclesia. It is about a group of people who never chose their sexuality but want to live a life that is honest, transparent and open. Clearly you prefer repression, silence and dishonesty. Or maybe the back of the gays that are quite obviosuly giving you a headache right now.

These are a few of the responses:

Maybe religions should establish a motto along the lines of “challenge and we will damn you”…. I gave up church a long long time ago, the continuous flow of double standards and hypocrisy just made me ill.

…we all “know” racism is a far worse crime than homophobia… why would they care about a bunch of “deviants” and “sinners” like us?

We are hurt and angered by the outcome of yesterday’s hearing. God loves each one of us EQUALLY, who are these human beings to think that they can play GOD? How can they call themselves Christians if their hearts are so wrong? How can we have respect for a Church, if they show no respect towards us?????

This is exactly the reason why I don’t want to go to church anymore! Incidentally I’m also a Methodist.

God is love. You know, the day I turned my back on the church is the day I came closer to God. How can any living being decide what God’s understanding of love is.

What happened to Nelson Mandela’s wonderful words at his inauguration: “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another”? How is it not oppression to insist, simply because of sexual orientation, that people who love each other may not get married (or even “joined in …a civil union”) until the Church may or may not allow it ? What happened to the Church that once fought so bravely for Nelson Mandela to be able say those powerful words as President of a land that once reduced him to a 2nd class citizen?

This is an opportunity for the MCSA to resolve this internal conflict and do what is right – to recognize our dignity and equality and our worthiness as people. A time to say – “more than ‘tolerance’ – we accept you and we love you as our equals

I could continue, but I do hope that the Methodist church see the significance in their decision. What you do to Ecclesia has ripple effects for a whole number of people who want to be an active part of the church, and as Ecclesia and a number of others (including myself) have proved, we have a lot to offer and a deep love for God that we fight daily to maintain.

You tell us we are not welcome. We believe in a God who says “come all”. We will not keep quiet until you are open to that. But until then, I personally will not set foot through one of your doors.

Monday has a silver lining…

Monday and I have resumed our fight to the death once more and today it feels like Monday is winning. Monday usually wins, so that’s nothing new. Monday’s a lot bigger than me and has a lot more experience in defeating others than I do so I’m not ashamed of the defeat. I’ve worked out that (if all goes well and nothing CSI-like happens) then I have about 40 years left of challenging Monday. That’s 2 080 more Mondays left to face. Next week makes it 2 079 and counting…

I will win yet.

Monday does have a potential silver lining though. On Friday I returned home to FJ sitting in a darker than normal house and a look of concern on his face. It wasn’t a look I had seen before – it was a mixture of concern, dread and sorrow. Like he was going to tell me devastating news that would have me howling in the corner throwing ash over myself while I whipped my back to a pulp. so naturally, seeing his dread I thought he was going to tell me that Shakira was releasing a new album. That always invokes the weeping in a corner look from me. Any singer who makes goat-giving-birth-like noises with a howl in between should not be allowed to record. Her and any of the South African idols.

Annnnnnyyyyywwwwwwwwaaayyyyy…

I saw the “you-ain’t-gonna-like-this-look” face and put my bag down to sit next to FJ in the cold (well, it was warm, but I’m trying to be dramatic here) house. He clasped my hand and said something under his breath.

FJ: *muffle whispered gobbly-de-gook*
Rambler: It’s that Shakira isn’t it?
FJ:(with an even more sorrowful look) No, it’s not…
Rambler: *gasping* Worse than Shakira?
FJ: *nods*
Rambler: (ripping shirt with bare hands) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO (imagine it in slow motion if you will)
FJ: Settle…
Rambler: Worse than Shakira? Gareth Cliff has been given a second season?
FJ: *looks at Rambler oddly and shrugging…*
Rambler: What then? Nothing can be worse…
FJ: *muffle whispered gobbly-de-gook*
Rambler: *sounding hysterical* okay this is bad… what is it? Another ABBA cover done by Amor? What? What? WHAT? *ripping rest of shirt off*
FJ: the DSTV is broken…


There was no reason to live after that. I spent an hour on the flooring lashing my bare back (I had ripped my shirt, remember?) with a rolled-up dish-towel while contemplating a weekend of having to entertain myself with things like talking, reading, walking the dogs, planning a wedding and seeing friends for coffee. The vicious thoughts were beaten out of me. I refused to move from the corner (I call it the wailing wall and use it often when attention-seeking. As one does.) and gnashed my teeth in hysteria until FJ trotted over. Well, he doesn’t really trot. He’s more of a determined I’ll-fix-anything-because-I’m-a-farmer kind of guy and strutted over. No, strut is wrong. That’s too John Travolta (by the way, have you heard Olivia Newton-John is going to play a lesbian icon). He, um, walked over and cooly whispered in my ear.

FJ: I spoke to the people in the estate and it’s the communal dish which is broken. It will be fixed on Monday.

If it isn’t fixed by the time I’m home, then I may become really (I mean, really) hysterical.

Hope you all had/have a fabulous Monday! Only 2079 to go (for me!)