gays

Can InterVarsity leaders seek doctrinal unity with staff and volunteers? On sex, CBC says 'no'

Can InterVarsity leaders seek doctrinal unity with staff and volunteers? On sex, CBC says 'no'

It’s summer time, which means that its camp time for many children and the adults who run zillions of camps around the United States and Canada.

Many such camps are run by Christian denominations and parachurch ministries, not the least of which is InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), which has always focused on reaching out to college students.

It turns out that the huge sex debate that has embroiled InterVarsity here in the States has reached up into Canada where IVCF runs a string of summer camps for youth.

Although this piece by CBC Radio-Canada ran two months ago, it pertains to how culture wars on human sexuality are very much being fought this summer.

A group of alumni from one of Ontario's largest Christian summer camps is fighting to end an anti-gay policy that requires staff to condemn "homosexual and lesbian sexual conduct" if a camper asks them about it.
Volunteer and paid staff at Ontario Pioneer Camp in Port Sydney, Ont., must sign a code of conduct that says "homosexual and lesbian sexual conducts are not to be practised" and staff "should not in any way espouse, endorse or imply acceptance" of what the policy says "should be avoided." 

So there are several words that are missing in this news report so far. Can you guess what they might be? 

"This very narrow, firm stance on homosexuality is wrong," argues Michelle Dowling, a former camper and staff member.
She helped start OnePioneer, the group pushing for LGBT inclusion at the camp they otherwise love.
"It really held me back for a number of years in accepting myself," Dowling told CBC Toronto. The 28-year-old was wrestling with her own sexuality the last time she signed the contract in 2011.

It’s 14 paragraphs into the story when we get a quote from an InterVarsity official.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

When a 12-year-old Mormon says she's gay, CNN is all over it. But is this really a news story?

When a 12-year-old Mormon says she's gay, CNN is all over it. But is this really a news story?

Just in time for Pride Week or Pride Month, we have a story from CNN about a 12-year-old girl coming out to her Latter-day Saints congregation. On May 7, a girl named Savannah stood up during a service to give a brief speech about being a lesbian.

After about three minutes, the leaders turned off her mic and asked her to sit down.

Since then, the story of the girl from Eagle Mountain, Utah, has spread, culminating in an article on CNN a few days ago.

There are all kinds of journalism challenges in this story: The big questions are whether the CNN team is actually interested in what is going on right now, in terms of Mormons adapting some -- repeat, "some" -- of their doctrines to the LGBTQ age. Also, there is this: How stable is the sexual identity of a 12-year-old female?

Let's work our way through this:

(CNN) Savannah, 12, made a decision this January; she was going to come out as lesbian at her Mormon Church. Nothing was going to stop her.
She's a normal almost-teenage girl in Utah: She loves to draw and make art. When she grows up, she wants to be a Disney animator. Her favorite bands are Imagine Dragons and Fall Out Boy.
On June 22, 2016, one day after her birthday, Savannah came out to her parents as lesbian. Mom had suspicions and knew that day might come.
"I looked at her and said, 'OK, I love you. And I'll support you no matter what you do,'" said Heather, her mother.
The family felt strongly that they didn't have the right to prevent Savannah from telling her story publicly, including sharing it with CNN, but asked that their hometown and last names be withheld to give them a measure of privacy.

The story went on to describe -- quoting printed documents, of course -- Mormon policy on same-sex relationships.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

RNS produces good but flawed update on gay controversy in United Methodism

RNS produces good but flawed update on gay controversy in United Methodism

"Defiant clergy are refusing to abide by what they regard as unjust prohibitions."

Whoaaa, strong language -- perhaps even pejorative -- for a mainstream media story on gays and the old mainline Protestantism. Usually, gay activists are portrayed as freedom fighters, and those who hold out for the traditional moral stance are seen as restrictive and prejudiced.

Not so in this story from the Religion News Service on a new alliance to oppose mainstreaming homosexuality in the United Methodist Church.

At an organizational meeting today, the Wesleyan Covenant Association plans to "outline their expectations for a soon-to-be-appointed denominational commission to discuss the conflict over sexuality," RNS says.

The article does a good job of introducing us to the controversy and the traditionalist pushback, but it doesn't get reaction from more liberal church members. It also doesn't answer a couple of questions about the movement's prospects. Apparently, it doesn't even ask them.

The fast-moving narrative opens on a note of urgency:

(RNS) Undoing the election of the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church will be a primary goal when 1,500 Methodist evangelicals gather this week in Chicago to found a new renewal group, according to organizers.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Anti-gay arrest in Russia: AP blows a minor incident into a major issue

Anti-gay arrest in Russia: AP blows a minor incident into a major issue

Don’t read this yet. Get yourself a chair. Put down that cup of whatever you're drinking.

The Associated Press reports that -- Dun-dun-DUNN! -- Russia doesn't like gays. And especially pro-gay-rights churches.

I know, right? That might have knocked your socks off.

AP learned this terrible truth as a missionary of the Metropolitan Community Church was arrested, then ordered out of Russia. Try to get through this without fainting:

MOSCOW — Jim Mulcahy was sitting with some Russian friends, munching cookies and talking about Roman mosaics, when the Russian police came and took him away, claiming he was planning to perform a same-sex marriage. Hours later, the American pastor was ordered to leave Russia.
Mulcahy’s arrest this month in the city of Samara braids together several of Russia’s most acrimonious issues: gay rights, alleged Western meddling in Russian affairs, and missionary work by religions that don’t have state approval. It attracted particular attention because the arrest was filmed by state-controlled channel NTV, whose reports often take an especially truculent, pro-Kremlin stance.

As the Eastern Europe coordinator for the pro-gay Metropolitan Community Churches, Mulcahy said he was visiting Samara, Russia, at the invitation of a gay rights group called Avers. He says it was a mere Q&A session at their offices, but the Russian station NTV said he was "performing unspecified ceremonies for homosexuals," AP says. 

The station also said he had "converted to Orthodox Christianity," which he denies. That should have been easy to verify or falsify, just by checking with the Russian Orthodox Church, no?

But no, AP is more interested in milking this story for drama, whether the drama is there or not:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

That religious freedom law in Mississippi: Newspapers struggle to clarify basic issues

That religious freedom law in Mississippi: Newspapers struggle to clarify basic issues

Of all the stories I've seen on Mississippi's new religious freedom law, the one in the Jackson Free Press is one of the few that remembers what the debate is really about: the First Amendment. Specifically, the Establishment Claus versus the Free Exercise Clause.

Not that the newspaper delivers totally on its promise to cover all bases. It stumbles and wanders and omits in places.  Here are the first two paragraphs:

JACKSON -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." How those words affect the language in House Bill 1523 could lead to a historic Establishment Clause ruling this week when U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves decides whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction to keep HB 1523 from becoming law on July 1.
Pastors, priests, advocates and other Mississippians named as plaintiffs in two lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of the bill claim that it advances a certain religious view, discriminates by favoring three particular beliefs and favors religion over non-religion, specifically targeting LGBT citizens.

It's a tantalizing start for anyone who still cares about religious rights, and how far the law should protect them.  In a time when people can be fined and shamed for not photographing a wedding or not decorating a cake for one, legal matters can take a painfully personal tinge. And several states, from Florida to Indiana, have passed various versions of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to cope.

As the Free Press points out, HB 1523 brings in New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan, who helped bring down Mississippi's law on same-sex marriage. The two argue that the pending state law "favors three particular religious beliefs over others." Those beliefs are that "marriage should be recognized between one man and one woman, sexual relations are reserved to that marriage and that gender is assigned at birth."

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

So you thought Pope Francis began a storm of news 'n' views three years ago, when he said, "Who am I to judge" gays? Well, brace yourself for the summertime blizzard of news and commentary with his latest remark -- that the church should apologize to gays, women, children, the poor and, apparently, anyone who likes weapons.

It was on another of those in-flight press conferences, like the one in 2013 when he dropped his non-judgmental bomb. Mainstream media love to pounce on Francis' off-the-cuff remarks, but few of them recognize the conversations flowing just under the surface -- even when they occasionally break into the open.

Yesterday, Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service asked Francis if the church should apologize to gays in the wake of Omar Mateen's shooting spree, killing 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando. She was asking because Cardinal Reinhard Marx had said the church had marginalized gays.

The pope answered with, well, an apology spree. Says the Associated Press:

Francis responded with a variation of his famous "Who am I to judge?" comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.
He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being "a bit offensive for others." But he said: "Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?"
"We must accompany them," Francis said.
"I think the church must not only apologize ... to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons" and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.

Does this signal the dawn of a "progressive" era in the church? Not according to a particular Dawn -- Catholic scholar and GR alumna Dawn Eden:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Gays in the Quran: NBC report raises issues but doesn't answer them

Gays in the Quran: NBC report raises issues but doesn't answer them

As I wrote on Friday, mainstream media in the wake of the shooting in Orlando are just starting to feel their way around the ultra-sensitive topic of Islam and homosexuality. NBC News also tried its hand, building a story as a Q&A, or maybe a FAQ file.

But the answers are frankly what you might expect from a secular liberal news outfit:  

Islam's approach to homosexuality has been in the spotlight since the massacre at an Orlando gay club — criminal or compassionate? Prejudiced or progressive?
While ISIS death squads enforce an extreme version of Islam that punishes gays with death, the religion's history is far more nuanced. And like most relationships, when it comes to Islam and homosexuality — it's complicated.

Among the questions posed are "What does Islam say about being gay?" and "Who says homosexuality is punishable by death?" But by skewing its sources, NBC clearly tries to nudge us toward the "right" views.

The network is alert for spotting a coverage trend. As I noted on Friday, the Associated Press and other media have begun looking at 50 gay Muslim organizations that have been seldom covered. NBC News honestly reports Islamic antagonism toward homosexual behavior, saying it overwhelmingly teaches that "same gender sex is a sin."

NBC notes also how some Muslim national leaders have denounced the Orlando shootings while their own homelands jail or kill gays:

"Middle Eastern and North African countries have denounced the Orlando shooting when at the same time they criminalize homosexuality with sentences ranging from years in prison to the death penalty," said Ahmed Benchemsi, communications and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch. "Those governments should repeal laws and abolish practices that persecute people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity."

But when the article asks, "What does Islam say about being gay?", it doesn't answer immediately. First it quotes a historian who says, "There is sexual diversity in Islam." It also says that "most scholars agree" (a close cousin to the blurring expression "sources say") that early Muslims like Al Dalal and Rumi were gay.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Gay Hispanics: Miami Herald stumbles in spinoff story from Orlando shootings

Gay Hispanics: Miami Herald stumbles in spinoff story from Orlando shootings

After gay rights, gun control and (more gingerly) Islamic terrorism, coverage of the mass shooting in Orlando gets subdivided in a weekend story in The Miami Herald, which examines the atrocity from the standpoint of gay Hispanics.

It's an interesting angle -- especially in Florida, the port of entry for many from Central and Latin America -- but it has some flaws. For one, it misses some religious "ghosts." The article brings up the topic of religion, then bounces off. Instead, it emphasizes twin themes:

Some want to make sure one fact is not forgotten: The vast majority of victims were Hispanics.
"This was not just an LGBT community," said Zoe Colon, director of Florida and southeast operations for the Hispanic Federation. "This was a Latino LGBT community."

Not that the tragedy doesn't call for a sensitive treatment. The newspaper appropriately tells the reactions of Orlando resident Edwin Lopez as he learned that 12 of the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub were personal friends.

Then the story launches rather blithely into a connection with a more general issue:

A difficult conversation has started about the struggle of being an LGBT person of color. For many Hispanics, a traditionally Christian culture laced with machismo and traditional gender roles could foster fear of rejection from one’s own family. That fear can prevent young people from coming out to their loved ones.
"You don’t want to be judged by your family. Those are the only people who have really been supportive of you your entire life," said Dominique Sanchez. The 19-year-old said she’s known people close to her who are reluctant to be open about their sexuality. "Your friends come and go. So if [your family doesn’t] accept you, then you don’t accept yourself."

We'll just note a few things in passing. One is whether Hispanics are people of color. I've met Cubans, Nicaraguans and others with skin lighter than my own, and I'm a white Anglo.

The Herald also offers no estimates on the number of gay Hispanics. Hence, we don't know the size of the social issue that’s the heart of this story.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Gays and Islam: Even after Orlando shooting, many news media skirt the hard questions

Gays and Islam: Even after Orlando shooting, many news media skirt the hard questions

After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, I suggested a story on the verses in the Quran that dealt with killing unbelievers, including how local imams interpret them. My editor hesitated and said, "I'd rather do stories about diversity in the community."

That looks like the attitude among most mainstream media, 15 years later. We know that Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay club, was Muslim and anti-gay. But what exactly does Islam say about homosexuality?

Many mainstream media seem to have been avoiding answering that, even when asking it themselves. They’ve chattered about how he checked Facebook and traded texts with his wife. They say he tried to buy body armor. And of course, they talk about gun control and homophobia.

But few have ventured into the minefield where Muslim communities border homosexuality. And of those that do, most concentrate on LGBT Muslims themselves.

In Florida itself, I could find only one newspaper -- my alma mater, the Sun Sentinel -- reporting on a "confused, broken community that lies at the intersection of the tragedy," as it calls them. One of its three subjects is college student Hytham Rashid:

There are not a lot of terms to describe gender identity or sexual orientation in Arabic, Rashid said. The word "transgender," for example, translates to "You are like a woman" or "You are like a man," which can be considered offensive, he says.  
As a gay Muslim, Rashid says he faces both Islamophobia and homophobia every day. He said in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, he doesn’t feel safe going to memorials and events.
"We can put up our stickers and wave around our rainbow flags in Wilton Manors, but the core issue is, there isn’t a safe space for us," he said.

The Sun Sentinel also imports a statement by the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity that there is "no religious justification or precedent in Islam for mass shootings targeting any population, regardless of identity." But it doesn't look at the Quran or the Hadith (the record of Muhammad's words and deeds).  Nor does it ask any leaders of the 15-20 mosques in its circulation area.

Please respect our Commenting Policy