Thursday, August 14, 2008

Courage, or the Lack of

An example of what it is and an example of what it is not

Whatever your belief structure you've discerned from Scripture, I think there is one lesson upon which we can all - Conservative or Liberal, Catholic or Protestant - agree regarding the ministry of Jesus. He was the epitome of Courage. He preached a message that was in direct opposition to the keepers of religion of that time. And did so knowing such "heresy" would cause his life to be taken by these same keepers of "truth".

This week, I've found two stories - one that demonstrates the lack of courage found so often in today's religious leaders (and you can reference the entry about Archbishop Rowan Williams about that as well). The other provides hope that there are people of the cloth willing to stand for their principles and let happen whatever consequences ensue.

A story from the Sydney Morning Herald [click on link to read] from Australia reported on the effort of a Baptist minister Mike Hercock who called upon his fellow clergy of all denominations to sign a pledge apologize for the way the Christian church has treated gays and lesbians (and presumably us transfolk as well). The "100 Revs" were then asked to march at the Sydney Pride event. And it was then that the cold feet went frigid. Pastor Hercock reports receiving many calls from those wanting to withdraw from the march and the pledge. Some were honest - they'd received threats from parishioners and/or hierarchy jeopardizing, at the very least, their calls and ordinations. Some were dishonest cited some mythical "conflict of dates" excuse. Pastor Hercock is to be commended for his courage. The cowards are the ones who ran and hid. Those who have the "heart" but not the "backbone" are, to me, lower than those who have the integrity to be open about their hate.

The picture you see is that of Fr. Roy Bourgeois who attended and offered an homily at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska. For many denominations, ordaining a woman is quite welcome. Fr. Bourgeois and Priest Sevre-Duszynska are Roman Catholics. Fr. Bourgeois found the sexism in his church to be untenable - "I feel this is something I had to do in conscience in the context of my own faith journey. I feel very much at peace with it". He is the first male priest to attend the ordination of a woman priest. He knew their would likely be repercussions and he has been called on the carpet by his religious superiors to "explain himself". How often was Jesus called before the Pharisees to "explain himself"?

Again, my admiration for Fr. Bourgeois isn't so much his support for ordaining women - which is something I do support, but each faith has its own right to establish those standards - as it is his willingness to stand for his principle in the face of expected retribution. Indeed, it is quite likely he will be defrocked. Jimmy Creech, now of Faith in America, lost his ordination by performing a same-sex commitment ceremony - and he, too, knew his principle might end his career.

My censure for those who cowered in the face of adversity isn't based so much on my support for my gay, lesbian and transgender brothers and sisters in faith, but by the lack of courage they displayed in abandoning their principle.

Prayers for Fr. Bourgeois and Thanks to Pastor Hercock - you are shining examples of the Courage of Jesus.


Anthony Venn-Brown said...

Ps Mike is a wonderful example of what a modern day Jesus would look like Donna.....and those who opposed his efforts possibly reminded us of the pharisees of old. Too concerned about the rules and missed an opportunity to reach out to the people they are called to.

You can see some videos here if you like.

Donna said...

Hi Anthony,

Thank you so much for the links to the videos of the Sydney March by the 100 (down to 35) Revs.

I am aware of your good efforts as well and commend you for your integrity and your work to provide a more caring faith experience for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender peoples.

Peace be with you!

(Of course, now I have to go purchase your book "A Life of Unlearning: A Journey to Find the Truth"!) :-)

Anthony Venn-Brown said...

I"m sure you wont be disappointed......readers tell me its a page turner....hehe

You can always check some of it out here first if you want Containing 3 chapters of the new edition of 'A Life of Unlearning'
1. The Confession - a Pentecostal preacher dies
2. Devils in Bible College - exorcising my gay demons
3. Rehab with a Twist - my ex-gay experience