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