Monday, November 05, 2007

Speaking of Monogamy


So the other morning I was having breakfast with a clergy colleague and the subject of monogamy came up. It came up in the in context of a conversation about his concern (my clergy colleague's, that is) that we (the LGBT lobby, that is) had been "ambiguous" about what it was we were asking for in terms of the blessing of same-gender unions.

"Really?" I said. "What have 'we' been 'ambiguous' about?"

"Well, monogamy," he said.

"Monogamy?" I echoed -- thinking of all the things we could be accused of being ambiguous about that isn't one I'd have come up with on my list.

"Because monogamy means something different in the gay community," he said. (I think it fair to note here for clarification that my breakfast colleague was a straight, white, male, rector of a neighboring congregation.) "And if you're going to be clear about what you want from the church you have to be clear about what you mean."

I'm going to spare you the rest of the conversation, except to say that I did tell him I must have missed a meeting at Gay Central because I never got the memo that we'd adopted a new definition for monogamy and he said we needed to be "clear about that" and I made a joke about fundraising to take out a full page ad in the New York Times to "clarify" and he laughed and we moved on.

And now, a week later, I decided since I have neither the time nor the inclination to fund raise for a NYTimes ad I'll just blog about it instead.

So here is as non-ambiguous a definition of monogamy as I could find:
Monogamy is the custom or condition of having only one mate in a relationship, thus forming a couple. The word monogamy comes from the Greek word monos, which means one or alone, and the Greek word gamos, which means marriage or union.

One mate. A couple. Two people. Clear? Non-ambiguous? Sounds that way to me. But then so did C051 -- the resolution passed in 2003 at the Episcopal Church General Convention outlining the standards for holiness in relationships that rose to the level of being blessed by the church:

That we reaffirm Resolution D039 of the 73rd General Convention (2000), that "We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God," and that such relationships exist throughout the church ... [and] we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.

Hardly the "anything goes" we keep hearing about, is it? Actually, the ONLY thing that "goes" is heterosexist privilege -- and it's about time!

Now, are there those in the LGBT community who are not attracted to these standards: to monogamy, fidelity and all the rest? Of course there are. And here's a news flash: there are straight people who aren't either! And those aren't the relationships we're talking about blessing! How's that for clarity?

One more thing: it's funny what you find when you start digging back into the archives. Who remembers this part of Resolution C051:

That we commit ourselves, and call our church, in the spirit of Resolution A104 of the 70th General Convention (1991), to continued prayer, study, and discernment on the pastoral care for gay and lesbian persons, to include the compilation and development by a special commission organized and appointed by the Presiding Bishop, of resources to facilitate as wide a conversation of discernment as possible throughout the church.



I wonder what ever happened to that commission? I wonder if it had been convened -- if resources had been prepared to facililate as wide a conversation of discernment as possible throughout the church -- if my clergy colleague would have been asking me the same questions at breakfast last week?

Maybe so. He DID also tell me he didn't think we'd "done the theology" -- and so he has a nice thick packet of the theology we've done on the way to him in the mail as we speak so that NEXT time we have breakfast he can tell me about the theology he doesn't agree with ... not the theology we "haven't done" ... which is a WHOLE different conversation!

But since it's entirely possible that no matter how clear we'd been about monogamy he wouldn't have thought we'd "done" that either just for the record, here it is again:

Monogamy is the custom or condition of having only one mate in a relationship, thus forming a couple. The word monogamy comes from the Greek word monos, which means one or alone, and the Greek word gamos, which means marriage or union.

.
=======

UPDATE: Per the request of a commenter on this thread, here's what I sent off in the post (a tip of the iceberg, but at least it's a start):

To Set Our Hope on Christ -- published by the Episcopal Church
Study Guide for To Set Our Hope on Christ -- published by Integrity
Claiming the Blessing Theology Statement
"Voices of Witness" -- video produced by Claiming the Blessing
Study Guide for Voices of Witness -- written by Gary Hall
.... and a link to this blog.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

You think he'll get it? I don't think he'll get it. He wouldn't have asked if he had been REMOTELY paying attention.

Non-monogamous gays are not the ones trying to get married. They aren't even a large number. but the monogamous faithfully partnered gays don't show up on the evening news and on the hit lists of the haters. Those of us who go to the boring suburban supermarket and pay the property taxes and go to the PTA meetings and mow the lawn and read the paper and vote are not even on the periphery of this guy's radar.

Because all he hears when he hears "gay" is San Francisco bathhouses. Not the huge increase in gay COUPLES in the midwest and small US cities.

Kinda like all some of us hear when we hear "Christian" is hating homophobic right wing Republicans from Southern megachurches. Not quite accurate, though, is it?

IT

tray said...

i guess i missed that memo in the "lbgt tymes".. i'm glad you posted it here! i mean.. geeeeze. the english language can be soooo confusing sometimes...

/sarcasm

but seriously... it's such a shame that the non-lgbt community can have such misinformed and incorrect information... and how many rely on that information as "fact". *sigh* we have a long way to go.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

This "we haven't done the theology" thing keeps coming up in my conversations, too. It appears to be raised by the people who just don't like the kind of theology that we do; who might call it bad theology because it either isn't done the way they do it or doesn't arrive at the conclusions we do.

Thank you for calling attention to it.

And, just to be clear, it seems to me that there is a difference between agreeing on a specified theology to support an outcome and agreeing in community to an outcome itself. That, to me, is a huge part of the Anglican via media-- the difference between trying to create windows into human souls as Elizabeth I warned against in the formation of the church or creating a via media which can tolerate diverse theological perspectives.

Anyway - I'm off my soap box now. Thanks for the post.

j

Jack Sprat said...

Okay, admittedly I'm no scholar, but hasn't polygamy been around for a long time -- based on straight men having multiple female partners? I'm thinking of Hebrew scriptures and possibly some current cultures where men can do as they please.

Of course, in those cases, women are chattel.

The (very few) gay people I know who talk about non-mongamy are mostly speaking of breaking a patriarchal paradigm, not wanting to be trapped in relationships based on falsehood and inequality.

They're not the ones advocating for gay marriage. But what if they were? How would that stop anyone else from having their own monogamous relationship be validated?

-J

Timotheos Prologizes said...

It seems to me that the rector in question has a point.

Monogamy means "one marriage." For heterosexual couples, that is easy enough to identify. If they have been married (at the church or the courthouse) at least once, but not more than once, then that couple is monogamous in the traditional sense of the word.

Currently, homosexual couples cannot get married, either at the courthouse (in most states) or at most churches (including the Episcopal Church). So they cannot be monogamous unless that term is redefined or used differently.

So what would make a couple monogamous?

When they first date?

When they first consider themselves a couple?

When they first present themselves to the world in a common-law type of relationship?

When they have some kind of public commitment ceremony?

These are all possibilities, but which one?

Also, what is bisexual monogamy? And what about those like you, Susan, and Bishop Robinson who have been married, divorced, and have committed to a same-sex partner? Is that monogamy ("one-marriage")? And if so, which marriage is the real one and which is the fake one? Or is monogamy interpreted to mean being married to only one person at a time (but possibly several over a lifetime)?

I cannot say that I have an unambiguous understanding of your definition yet. Perhaps you can elaborate further.

Jim said...

Recently, at a dinner (what is it about eating together?) I was told that gays should not be priests. This in a parish that has a gay rector! I sometimes think the single most obvious characteristic of straight people is self deception!

I am heterosexual. I found the rest of the freak'n galaxy! It was not even hard.

I hope your colleague gets it. We need to make the point over and over again that saying we have not done the theology is simply wrong, that claiming the election of +Gene was a surprise is a right wing lie, that in fact there is an actual faith basis for what we do.

I do not expect everyone to agree with TEC's (lurching, reluctant, inconsistent) direction. But at least we could have an honest disagreement.

FWIW
jimB

Christopher said...

I recommend you point him to Fr. Haller's blog where an excellent series continues to unfold.

Given the number of extramarital affairs among heterosexual couples, perhaps it is he who needs to get less ambiguous.

Anonymous said...

This will automatically be interpreted as hatred by some who seem to have that as an automatic reaction to anything that doesn't fit their conceptions and agendas, but here goes anyway. What's happened is that there is monogamy in the gay community in the sense of stability for a few years on the average but hardly any faithfulness. The instances of faithfulness are so few as to be statistically insignificant. Therefore, having a theology about it is like having a theology about red zebras, because if something hardly exists there's no point in theologizing about it, and this is just as true in places like the Netherlands where homosexual couples and marriage or similar arrangements have existed for years. It is time to place greater emphasis, not less, on supporting mother-and-father families for the sake of the next generation. -- j

Paul B said...

I do believe we are not talking about monogamy but "serial" monogamy, and, if we are honest, this is not a gay problem. It's a people problem.

Everybody but adulterers and daters are monogamous at any particular time.

The concern is that, in a lifetime, some people are monogamous with SO MANY other people. Only one at a time, but many times partnered. It's these people's "serial" monogamy that is problematic.

Whether straight or gay, many people go from one relationship to another, living with people in a "monogamous" relationship, mostly without benefit of marriage, to discard it after a few years and move on to the next monogamous relationship.

I think this is a people problem, and really doesn't only apply to gays.

bruno said...

I would say your breakfast companion is a "victim" of our culture, a culture where if it is on TV it must be true, and experiencing life via the TV is a valid substitute for experiencing the real thing.
We LGBT are guilty of accepting, and indeed praising networks and studios anytime there is a representation of our folk on the tube or in film creating a sort of LGBT "black face" that is what many people accept as who we are.
So our "black face" for your companion may be that of "Queer as Folk" or "Will and Grace". While all the while he Knows faithful couples who lead normal exciting lives of marital bliss, but dismisses them (you and us) as exceptions to the rule.
I suspect it is not theology he is thinking we did not do the work on, rather public image where he wants more work done. I am sure he would be horrified by the "spring break" series of magazines and videos, or the "girls gone wild" or "boys gone wild" videos advertised on late night television and would argue that the representation is of only a small "disturbed" segment of heterosexual youth. I am sure also that he would argue that the church should put a stronger emphasis on strong "Christian examples" of married life as an example for our youth and the greater civilization. That we should be a "healing" example to the imbalance that these youth are responding to.
The sad reality is, that all of these "exclusionary christians" know of a youth who is going through the turmoil of trying to fit who God made them into a church that says there is no room for them to live their truth. They are willing, indeed some are rabid to make sure that these youth have no example of a spirit filled same gender relationship to model after.
No room at the Inn, Indeed

Anonymous said...

OK, here's the perspective from at least part of straight America. Yes, when we here "gay," we generally think first of San Francisco bathhouses and "Pride" parades. And, why shouldn't we? That's what is presented to us as the "gay" lifestyle.

And what about those parades? Dykes on Bikes, gay nuns, etc. Why do you think it upsets so many straight Episcopalians to see our bishops riding on floats surrounded by the leather fetish group on one side and the cross dressers on the other? The first thing that comes to mind is NOT that the Church is just going to where the sinners are, as Susan said a while back; the thought is that the bishops and the Church are endorsing the most outrageous end of the gay continuum because they're choosing to be part of it and join in the celebration.

Sure, we all know about the gay or lesbian couple down the street that pays taxes, goes to PTA meetings and wants the same thing out of life that everyone else does. But, fair or not, you are going to be judged by the company you keep, and if that company is Dykes on Bikes, you're going to have to continually explain why you're all about something different.

If you want to make any progress over with the people who might lean towards Stand Firm, I suggest the Church stay away from "Pride" parades just as it would not go looking for straight sinners by setting up a booth at swingers parties or singles bars. You're not promoting your message of faithful monogomy by being there, it only looks like you're joining in the wild party and, in the process, you're giving the bigots at Stand Firm better material than they could ever generate on their own.

Anonymous said...

Funny, at the local gay pride I attend, there are lots of families, and at the festival, lots of church booths amongst Indian cottons and cheap silver jewelrey. I believe there is a "sex section" but you have to go there with an ID and who cares.

I think your Christ even hung out with the prostitutes. wasn't that part of what all the "respectable" people complained about him?

Dykes on bikes: a buncha women in leather on a harley. What's so offensive about them???

And as for the one who claims that an infinitesimal number of gay people are faithful, horsefeathers. Just because you believe it doesn't mean it and I bet you don't even know any gay people (because why would a gay person "come out" to one so judgmental?). of all my gay friends, I know one unpartnered guy who is probably playing the field. The rest of us are couples who have been together anything from 5 years to 25 years.

And yes, raising children. Who studies show are doing just fine, thanks, and no more likely to be gay than anyone else's children.

Just like our straight friends, in fact.

Maybe you people should stop telling us what our lives are like, and listen for a while instead.

IT

Suzer said...

I personally love Dykes on Bikes. I think they're cool. I love motorcycles and, though I'm scared to death to ride one, what's the problem with a bunch of women riding motorcycles?

I know that sometimes individuals in Dykes on Bikes will go topless, but "painted" -- you know, with some fancy paint design covering their torso. I didn't see any this year, though I might have missed it.

I've seen that also at the local sci-fi convention -- in fact, there are often several nude "painted" women walking around downtown Atlanta during that convention, but I hear no outcry about that from conservative Christians. So what's the difference?

Marching in a Pride Parade (heck, marching in any parade -- even a 4th of July parade) doesn't necessarily mean you embrace every single thing that parade represents. There are some things I disagree with that happen at Pride, but overall the experience is a positive one.

Anonymous said...

Susan,

Is it possible for you to post the "nice thick packet of the theology" on your website? Or tell us where to go on the internet to access it?

Anonymous said...

The core of it all is illusion. Many people are clever about trying to create the reality that happens to fit their selfish desires. Read the testimony of the guy who spend a lot of time in a lot of places pursuing the illusion that is at the heart of the Episcopal homosexual agenda, namely that there is a life for homosexuals that approximates the normal married state:

"For twenty years, I thought there was something wrong with me. Dozens of well-meaning people assured me that there was a whole, different world of homosexual men out there, a world that for some reason I could never find, a world of God-fearing, straight-acting, monogamy-believing, and fidelity-practicing homosexuals. They assured me that they themselves knew personally (for a fact and for real) that such men existed. They themselves knew such men (or at least had heard tell of them from those who did). And I believed it."

He tried cyberspace, only to find the same sordid reality. He tried a denominational group for those with same-sex attractions and found the same thing. He moved to Europe and sampled the gay scenes in London, Amersterdam, Paris, and Berlin, and found the same thing. He listened to the talk about how same-sex marriage would change everything and he found the same thing in the places where they have that. He became acquainted with couples who were featured in newspaper articles as examples of monogamous same-sex unions, and he learned that they secretly exemplified the same thing. He became acquainted with two clergymen who were articulate advocates for the acceptance of homosexuality in the church, and he found the same thing in their personal lives by their own admission. More than two decades passed in which he pursued what he now calls a scam -- the nonexistent realm of monogamous same-sex couples. He finally took seriously the definition of insanity that says it's doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. He found an exit. Isn't it the task of our clergy to counsel such people to likewise find an exit? If they don't do this, how can they say they have no blood on their hands? -- j

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

done in an "update" on the blog post.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

timotheos -- a quick reply on the run (tuesdays are staff meeting days around here):

To be really reductionist about it, it seems to me that whether the church or the civil authorities or anybody else is involved at its most simplistic to sign on to be monogamous is to commit to one partner to love and to cherish, etc.

The bisexual thing is a red herring ... bisexuality is an orientation, not a loophole.

As for divorce, my position on that comes directly from one of my mentors in seminary: we DO believe that marriage is until death do you part ... but sometimes what dies isn't one of the partners but the marriage itself. When that happens, you grieve what has died and, if you are given the grace to find life and love on the other side of that death and grief, you embrace it.

All the elaboration I have time for. Off to All Staff Meeting ...

Jim said...

I ride. When I stop riding, someone should toss some dirt on the box cause I am done. I have ridden with some dykes on bikes. Bikers share the same roads.

Nice folks and good riders. They always show up at our toys for tots ride with lots of goodies for the children. That is by the bye one inclusive event. Last year I had coffee waiting for the ride to start with a CM pastor, a chap in red leathers with heals and green hair and several DoB riders.

I personally think of Harley's as tricycles looking for another wheel. I ride much hotter. But they are entitled to their Harleys.

DoB ladies can hold their own on their chosen rides, do no harm (would that we could say that about the holy people!) and are nice folks to join for coffee when there is a wide spot in the road. They pay their taxes, plates and insurance.

What exactly is your objection to them, me, the Christian Motorcyclists?



FWIW
jimB
(Yup I ride standard / street fighter, why?)

Jim said...

Note to Suzer:

Next time we are in the same town, I invite you to ride with me. After a half an hour, you will be looking for a better helmet, a bike and an MSF class.

Roads are wasted on (gak) cars.

FWIW
jimB
Chicago

Anonymous said...

Enough with the bisexual thing. For the last time, conservs, please pay attention:

Bisexuals simply admit to being attracted to both genders. That does NOT mean they want to have "threeway" sexual act.

Put in straight terms, it's like a guy saying he's attracted to both blondes and redheads.

That does not mean he wants to sleep with both a once (although from what I've heard about some straight guys, he might!)

IT

Anonymous said...

While we're on the subject of parades, I will assume that IT's family oriented Pride parade doesn't feature the same topless women on motorcycles that Suzer finds so inoffensive. My point is that if the Church is really about promoting loving monogomous relationships for gay people, it shouldn't participate in parades with drag queens, BDSM groups and the like, any more than it should promote heterosexual marriage by going to Spring Break and selling Girls Gone Wild videos.

Most straight people don't care about the gay "couple" down the street who mow the lawn and get the trash can off the curb on time. They do care, however, when they hear about their bishop riding on a float in the same parade that celebrates men dancing in thongs and others with whips and chains.

You want to end homophobia?
Stop giving middle America so much to be scared about.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

anonymous 12:02 ... OK. You get Hugh Hefner, Britney Spears, and all the other icons of heterosexual values in line on your side of the aisle and I'll work on the ones on my side.

Honestly.

As for the bishops in parades, GOOD FOR THEM! I'm back to where I started: the shepherd goes where the sheep are. And in Los Angeles, on the second weekend in June, they're lined up along Santa Monica Boulevard.

Suzer said...

Anon 12:02 -- I didn't say I found it inoffensive. I just asked why it might be pointed out in a gay pride parade as opposed to a sci-fi convention. If a person dislikes outrageous behavior, then her or she should be against it across the board. But the conservatives don't seem to complain about the outrageousness of nudity at a sci-fi convention, whereas they do during gay pride. It was the hypocrisy I was pointing out, not whether or not I find public nudity offensive.

I don't particularly like public nudity, nor do I like public displays of affection (homo or hetero) much beyond a quick kiss and holding hands. I'm rather prudish that way. While "offensive" might be a bit strong to describe how I feel about it, "highly inappropriate" might better describe my feelings.

I have no problem with transvestites, cross-dressing, etc. The leather crowd is something I don't really understand nor wish to be a part of, but I am also not going to judge their choices (and the leather crowd, as I'm sure you are aware, includes both homo and hetero).

Pride parades push the envelope a bit for folks who are not used to seeing what might be termed as "queer" in our society. People who don't dress, think or act like we do sometimes make us uncomfortable. These, however, are my brothers and sisters in Christ, they have been kind to me and shown me love when many Christians have not. So, I reiterate, while there are some aspects of Pride celebrations that I may not personally agree with, I see the event as a generally positive one.

Joe Perez said...

Personally, I think Russell's response and the conversation in the comment boxes miss the mark. Russell's definition of monogamy as "one mate" doesn't really answer any of the subtle yet important questions raised primarily in relationships of two men. At any given time, gay men may be in relationship with a partner. However, among partnered gay men, sexual monogamy (exclusive sexual relations) becomes more and more rare as years pass. After five years in a relationship, the majority of gay men have one degree or another of "openness" in their relationships. At that point, the relationship may continue as a single pairing (monogamous) but sexually non-exclusive according to the negotiated terms between the partners.

Russell's response seems to feign ignorance of this very real phenomenon, and this very real concern. Would she exclude gay partnerships between two men (or any two persons) that are long-term, emotionally exclusive, stable, and healthy from a "blessing ceremony" because the partners have chosen to allow a limited and defined amount of sexual non-exclusivity (for example, by sharing a "three-way" with another man on occasion?)

Obviously, Russell doesn't want to look at this issue head on, and I don't blame her. If her answer is that relationships between men should not be blessed if they are open to any degree then she should come out and say so. There are plenty of partnered gay men who will be surprised to learn that in her view their relationships aren't worthy of a blessing.

What constitutes fidelity in a relationship? What is a healthy and emotionally loving and nurturing response? On the one hand, a heterosexual couple who have vowed to monogamy, but who in practice cheat on the other spouse, lie about it, and then ask God for forgiveness? According to conventional speech, their relationship is still "monogamous". On the other hand, you may have a gay male couple who have vowed, say, to a period of monogamy followed by a potentially open relationship. After the monogamous phase of their relationship is passed, they want to stay together, but would prefer to allow a limited amount of sexual non-exclusivity so long as it is done with honesty according to mutually agreed upon terms. According to conventional speech, their relationship is "non-monogamous" or "open". Apparently, Russell's theological view is that only the heterosexual couple's relationship should be blessed, and the gay male couple should receive no blessing.

Needless to say, in my view, such opinions haven't yet done the theology, and their claims to have done so are really dubious. My own view, described in Soulfully Gay, is that monogamy is a stage in relationships that may or may not be best made into a permanent agreement, and the best covenant between the partners is one appropriate for their level of sexual and emotional maturity. Such a view doesn't easily translate into sound bites like "monogamy is one mate, case closed" but at least my view stands a chance at taking into account the very real complexity and richness of gay men's lives, and openness to the Spirit as it is revealed therein.

- cross posted at -

http://gayspirituality.typepad.com/blog/2007/11/susan-russel-as.html

Anonymous said...

I'll grant that bisexuality is a red herring. So are Brittany Spears and Hugh Hefner. Conservatives can no more clean up Brittany and Hefner than you can get the Drag Queens to put some clothes on. Until then, a bishop shouldn't be riding in a parade with either.

I think we have beat this horse to death. All with love and respect, of course, as you know.

Suzer said...

And let me add...

What I do find offensive, and much moreso than public nudity at gay pride parades, are things like (in no particular order):

- children going to bed hungry

- people unable to get proper medical care for lack of money

- elderly people who are lonely and stuck in nursing homes to die alone

- anyone who is told they are unworthy of God's love, for whatever reason, and thereby kept from relationship with Him

- innocent men, women and children killed in violence and war

- friends in Sierra Leone who lost their limbs for our lust for diamonds

- politicians inciting hatred against a class of people for political gain

- corporate and personal greed

- mega-church pastors who own $5 million dollar homes and expensive automobiles

- children who are abused, neglected, and unloved

- students unable to get a good education because they are poor

I could go on and on, but you get the point. There are so many things so much more offensive to me than nudity at a gay pride parade, I could hardly list them all. And even I struggle to keep it all in perspective at times.

JimB -- I'll take you up on that ride sometime, but hope I don't cut off your airway as I cling to you in panic!

(And sorry Rev. Russell, as I know this has gotten way off topic!)

Hiram said...

Andrew Sullivan wrote a book, Virtually Normal that was published in 1996. I have not read the book, but I have read excerpts of it, in which Sullivan speaks of same-sex marriage as a way to open up the concept of marriage to a wider idea of monogamy.

In the marriage ceremony in the BCP, and other Christian churches, and in civil law, the couple makes a promise of fidelity that says, "forsaking all others." The promise is to restrict sexual activity in complete faithfulness to one's partner in marriage. (Some decades ago, it was expected -- although certainly not always observed -- that a person would not have sexual intercourse before marriage, so that monogamy meant that one would have one sexual partner in a lifetime. And even for those who had sexual relations before marriage, it was almost always with the person they did marry.)

Sullivan, however, spoke of marriage faithfulness not being so much, "You and you alone," but as "You, and you most of the time." The idea that one might have side-relationships was part of his vision, as long as both partners understood and accepted this idea.

There have been studies done by the Center for Disease Control that show many homosexual men having hundreds of sexual partners, some with over 1,000 partners.

Between that and Andrew Sullivan's new vision of marital fidelity, it is no wonder that we reasserters wonder what is meant by "monogamous."

bruno said...

Sorry Susan, but I have to respond to those who object to Bishops riding in parades, or to reaching out to those who need to hear the good news.

One of the most powerful moments in the gay pride parade is when the church groups march down the parade route. If you dare, stand among the people on the side of the road ,you will notice a LOT of people wiping tears from their eyes. Why? well it is because they are hearing that the good news is for them too. That indeed there is a group that cares enough to say God LOVES you, and wants you to be whole, wants you to be healed. We are people who have lost friends and family and have been told God does not love us (just look at the protesters who attend the parades who delight that their god wants us to burn in hell, to witness the other message we get)
When the people who are on the side of the road see a float made by a church with the bishop of that church taking the time to come down and celebrate life with them they have hope.
I have seen people begin to sob, when they see the church contingent come down the street, body shaking sobs, that friends is a gospel moment.
When people complain about the topless DOB, or the chap wearing men in the parade, or whatever their "problem" might be with these events (and I have a few also) I can only say remeber the church exists not to heal the healthy but to bring health to those who are not whole, and I dare say, many of the people they and I might complain about are more whole than some of the more "rightous" people I have encountered.
I guess it all boils down to the old Moat and Plank question.

Anonymous said...

Well, anonymous,

Maybe middle american needs to meet some REAL gay people. Actually, Middle America already has. Numbers of gay couples are rapidly increasing in middle America, and to be fair, some middle Ameircans have figured it out.

Maybe the rest of middle America should stop staring slack-faced at the media hoopla, and look at those two nice women down the street who live together. They aren't really that scary, are they?

of course, in some parts of middle America, the response to those anything-but-scary otherwise invisible women is to yell "dyke" at them, or not let the children trick-or-treat there lest the Gay Germs jump into the chocolate bars, or to stare threateningly at them everytime they back out of their driveway, or walk slowly past their house looking in the windows, or dump garbage on their lawn. I think some of you call that "being Christian" and "sharing Jesus' love".

Spare me.

IT

Anonymous said...

anon or anons: try using a consistent nom de blog. Then we won't confuse anons.

There's a certain amount of b.s. here. The guy who claimed he looked the world over for a "wants monogamous relationship" man surely didn't look too thoroughly. And if he did the looking mostly by the bar scene, well, duh, straights don't find most of their marriage-interested partners at bars either. I am betting that this guy is a fake. Surely he couldn't be this clueless and honest.

You'd be surprised how many respectable married people have little secrets in their backgrounds. Even faithful religious types. DNA typing doesn't lie, and often turns up these little secrets when testing for heritable diseases (not to worry, info not disclosed). Really, some of these panicked "sanctity of marriage" types shouldn't be allowed out without a legal guardian if they believe that most religious het. couples haven't slipped at one time or other. Would you like to buy the Brooklyn or the Triboro Bridge, sir? But - the het. protocol for such is to LIE ABOUT IT until caught, and never admit to it thereafter. I'd rather have the "oops, goofed, how to avoid this next time?" forgiving and problem-solving talks among the couple rather than the pecksniffish "WE'D never do such a thing" attitude a certain type of religious heterosexual has.

NancyP

Anonymous said...

BTW, I wasn't interpreting anon's statements as hatred - merely naivete or self-deception.

NancyP

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

hiram -- which is why I went to such pains to be clear for myself

Anonymous said...

Joe Perez has described the prevailing reality -- open relationships. Then he tried to get the Holy Spirit into the act. All this openness is the reason that STDs spread like wildfire among gays, and you have to get very creative with your theology before you sprinkle holy water on those. -- j

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Let me repeat:

"Now, are there those in the LGBT community who are not attracted to these standards: to monogamy, fidelity and all the rest? Of course there are. And here's a news flash: there are straight people who aren't either! And those aren't the relationships we're talking about blessing!"

Let's all take a deep breath and look at this "text" (this particular blog) in "context" (a particular conversation with a particular moderate over a specific question).

The question is what do "we" -- the LBGT "lobby" who support the language about relationship ratified at the 2000 & 2003 General Conventions -- "mean" by the word "monogamy."

What Andrew Sullivan or Joe Perez or Sherrie Chardonnay mean is interesting but not germane.

Caminante said...

"He DID also tell me he didn't think we'd "done the theology""

Without reading the 34 comments that appear before this, all I can do is shake my head. How many times have we heard this phrase? How many years have we been talking about this? Puleez.

Anonymous said...

I know there is a part of gay subculture that is sexually non-monogamous. HWOEVER, it doesn't count as monogamy jut because your partner agrees to it. I mean, come on! Monogamy = one spouse, and that means one and only one. All the time.

As for Andrew Sullivan's prior views, I wonder whether that has changed now that he is married (he lives in Massachusetts)--but again, not relevant here.

in any event, as Susan says: some gays as well as some straights do not believe in sexual exclusivity. In some cases with the knowledge of their partner, in other cases, not. What works for them is their business, but it AIN'T called monogamy.

And if "the rules" expect monogamous faithful and exclusive partnerships for straights in order to call it marriage, then the same rules should apply to gays. Otherwise, call it a union, call it a partnership, call it spinach. (this is BTW why I find the "domestic partner" and "civil union" terms so offensive. Darn right I want ALL the rules to apply!)

Call me an old-fashioned lesbian atheist, but I believe in those old-style rules for my marriage too. I live them.

IT

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

J -- you're done.

thanks for sharing!

Ann Marie said...

In all honesty, I don't know where people are hanging out that they don't see homosexuals being monogamous. I can't name one of my gay or lesbian friends that isn't monogamous right now.

As far as defining monogamous, I would say that my friends would define it as Susan has defined it. Pulling out one author out of many or broad examples to support the idea that GLBT's are not monogamous as a group is like reaching for straws (or whatever the expression is).

It is painting with broad strokes based on a small sample. It is also deliberately closing one's eyes to the reality that is out there to be seen and only seeing that which supports an already preconceived world view.

I'm sorry but I really do get tired of these broad brush strokes when I think of all the wonderful people that I know and love being hurt by those painted, false icons.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Wormwood's Doxy said...

So much of this discussion reminds me of the racist assumptions of my community of origin.

"Everyone knew" that black people (usually referred to by the N-word) were lazy, smelled bad, and stole things. ("Everyone," in this case, meaning white, middle-class Southerners)

Well, except the black woman they hired to raise me while they worked.

And the men who worked for my grandfather for 20+ years.

And...

Well, the ones we KNEW weren't like that. But all the rest were. Right?

Because if we admitted that the African Americans we knew and loved were representative of the larger population, we would have had to face up to our unjust privilege and the fact that we were racist exploiters of other human beings.

And no one wants to admit that, do they?

Same thing here. Racism. Heterosexism. It's all the same.

You use the stereotypes, or the antics of those at the tail-ends of the bell curve, to make you feel better about your shabby treatment of some other group of human beings created in the image of God.

It's so easy to point to the leather guys or Dykes on Bikes at Pride Parade and say "See how awful they are, flaunting themselves like that?! We don't have to treat them as if they were like us!"

If you are doing this, you are choosing to focus on a few people who are just having some fun and not hurting a soul---and characterizing them so that you don't have to treat them, or anyone even REMOTELY like them (as in those having the same sexual orienation) as God's beloved children.

You might as well be saying "Look at those _____! They are lazy, smell bad, and steal things."

Don't kid yourself that you are doing anything different.

Anonymous said...

Actually, one of the most public-spirited of the local lgbt community is a leatherman who 99% of the time sells insurance and does political coalition work with other progressives. It's fine by me if he's asked to be parade marshall.

And one of our vestrypeople is a transgendered woman.

And one of the more stereotypical-looking overweight butch lesbians in town has been a minister, an anti-poverty worker, a local politician speaking for the poor immigrant district she lives in, and has been with her partner (another minister) since seminary.

There's a huge variety in the community, just as there is in the rest-of-world.

Anonymous said...

Joe Perez,

We should not bless either of your examples. A blessing, like a marriage, is between TWO persons, not the original two and anybody else they want to include thereafter. Where's the moral compass there? If that kind of thing is taking place in the gay community or the straight community, then it should be condemned, or at the very least, not to be expected to be blessed by the church. No wonder the conservatives and moderates can't support such behavior. Guess what....many in tha gay community don't support it either!
Fred

Jim said...

I know all the objections to annecdotal data but.

Last week, Sue-z and celebrated our 40th annivesary. A nice (really) loving (really) sexual (really) relationship that neither of us would ever leave. OK, we are straight, this is supposed to be the norm, unless one is a network leader. But(!) the only couples we know that have been together longer are not straight.

Our parish has a couple that has been togehter longer, two amazing, loving men. We know several others.

FWIW
jimB

Josh Indiana said...

It would be interesting to see a community forum someday between LGBT Episcopalians and the wider LGBT community.

"MONOGAMY:
Why It Makes for the Best Sex
and the Best Relationship"

After all, that is our belief as Christians. For many of us, that's also our experience.

I'm not sure we'd win a popular vote after such a debate, but I'd like to see us engage in it - not to win people over or uphold "traditional morality" (which is always suspect, given its history), but to witness to our own experience of Gospel within faithful relationships.

There really is something special about commitment, and I wonder if there aren't some party girls and boys out there who don't think so too, after having tried (and even perfected) hedonism.

I think such a forum could be a service to people. As Christians who are LGBT, we need to engage our subset of society where they live.

There are many voices in the community, especially commercial interests who profit off sexual desires, to promote the anything-goes mentality. Does this lead to health, stability and human growth?

Can we be both critics of our Tradition and of pop/commercial sex culture?

Of course a lot of LGBT folk believe Pat Robertson and the Pope are the definitive spokesMEN for Christianity, and such folk won't be able to get past what they've heard and seen in the media. But I'd really like to unleash a few Susans and Genes to counter those notions.

As LGBT Episcopalians, our own community is our proper mission field. I hope in years to come we engage our own people more and more, and our Church structures less and less. We've already "converted" most people within the Church; now it's time for respectful, smart and funny dialogue in WestHo, the Castro, the Short North and Chelsea.

Josh Indiana said...

For the record: I was in the car with Marc Andrus, the Bishop of San Francisco, and Davis Mac-Iyalla, the Nigerian Anglican LGBT activist, during the LGBT Pride Parade last June. I was there. We were NOT surrounded by topless women, nuns in drag, Dykes on Bikes (may all their names be praised), naked men or whips 'n' chains.

By the Parade organizers' rules, we were in the Christian contingent. Our section of the Parade was the tamest thing you ever saw.

What I remember were the heartfelt cheers when Davis and Marc drove by. The crowds appreciated their Christian witness for a beleaguered, despised and stereotyped minority, especially in a dangerous place like Nigeria.

John the Baptist wore leather and Jesus rides a motorcycle.

Fran said...

This post particularly struck me because I come from the queer community that celebrates all kinds of relationships, from long-term monogamous ones to polyamory. (A young, radical community in LA/NY/SF/Chicago that is home to poor folks, trans folks, people of color, and other outcasts.) Rev. Russell should know that this community is out there. I believe that we should be careful to not consider them lesser than those who do choose monogamy. Once we as queerfolk start creating heirarchies, we are no better than those who impose such imaginary structures on us.

In the queer community where I spent my 20s, I found a lot of what I used to get from the church as a child and teenager. When I came out at 17 I had a really hard time understanding why who I loved amounted to a rejection of Christ, but after so much hate from my Christian family I came to the conclusion that Christ had rejected me.

Years later I have found fellowship with Christ once again at All Saints, which is a good thing. As a self-identified queer person of color, though, I have to say that the "LGBT" ministry there is a little intimidating. I think that it is Susan's well-meaning, but conservative reaction to the idea of there being a real (if small) community of folks who explicitly do not choose monogamy is a litmus for why I get that vibe..

And of course, membership has its privileges. It's okay for Joe P. and me to draw attention to it, but we'd rather not have a straight white male rector think he has an inside scoop.

What this ultimately comes down to is that as a church, it would be great if we would embrace all people, regardless of what they do in their bedrooms or in the bars. Still, I don't believe that the church should go outside of theological or doctrinal justification to bless unions. And I doubt that the anonymouses should be too worried. Most of my queer friends are bemused by my church-going. It will be a long time (and many meetings of the bishops) before they set foot in a church, much less ask one to bless a union.

I, on the other hand, would like that very much. My partner and I are indeed “forsaking all others” and will be married in her hometown in Canada next summer. For us marriage is on one hand extremely personal--a commitment we want to make to each other, and on the other hand about our community. It's about bringing our families and our chosen family together to witness and support our relationship. I say that just to say that it has nothing to do with what a homophobic rector thinks. Or, the “Church” for that matter, whatever their position is on it these days. Furthermore, and more importantly, my relationship with God has nothing to do with them.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not so sure that the "wider GLBT community" would find that so hard to take, Josh.

Because I'm thinking of my gay and lesbian friends, who have been together for years and years, and nearly all of them are poster children for faithful marriages.

And none of them are Episcopalian. Or in many cases, even Christian.

My point is that most people "get" what marriage is regardless of the Christian side. I don't think Joe P is typical.

Actually, it's not the GLBT community you have to convince, it's the straights.

IT

Davis said...

This is a fascinating conversation. Thank you for starting it.

It brings to mind a conversation I had years ago with a monk who told me that his order, which shall remain nameless, had "re-defined celibacy" to not commiting to anyone in particular.

I didn't buy it then and I don't buy this re-definition now. I know I'm hopelessly out of date, but to me and to my partner, I assure you, monogamy means we are an exclusive couple - all of the time and have been from the beginning some 28 years ago. And there's not be a moment, not one, when I'd have changed that.