Mr Ruddock is also reported to have said that Mr Stanhope had been "duplicitous". "He has said 'we're dealing with civil unions . . . it's not a marriage', and yet if you go through his bill, time and time again you will find references to a civil union being equated with marriage,", Ruddock said.
Prime Minister John Howard says the ACT is using its civil unions bill to give same sex relationships the same status as marriage. Mr Howard says under the plan, the civil unions would be marriage in every way but in title. He says that would contravene the Marriage Act. "There is a special place, Australian society for marriage, the institution of marriage as historically understood and we do not intend to allow that in any way to be undermined."
Mr Stanhope says he believes the objections are a smokescreen for the Government's real intentions to oppose gay and lesbian unions anywhere in Australia. "We will now look at the implications of creating our own roll of civil celebrants for the purposes of the civil unions act that will overcome the stated or identified objection," he said. (ABC news 30 March)
"One has to pose the question of whether or not the real reason (for Mr Ruddock's stance) is that there is no place in John Howard's Australia for homosexuals," Mr Stanhope said.
Stanhope said Thursday he was "both outraged and deeply saddened" by the federal government's threat. "Why does the federal government believe that loving and committed same-sex relationships are any less deserving of society's recognition and the law's protection than loving, committed relationships between men and women?"
ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries says it is only fair that the Federal Government step in and override the territory's civil unions bill. He rejected a call by the ACT's Labor senator and Labor MPs to support the plan and says that there does not appear to be any difference between marriage and what the ACT Government is proposing as a civil union.
"To that extent I think it [the ACT] is going beyond its power as a territory, it's going beyond the power that any state would have to legislate in that way and if that's the case the Commonwealth is quite within its rights to say, 'you're not entitled to do this, you won't be allowed to do it'," he said.
The peak body representing Australia's civil celebrants fears the range of services offered by their members may be eroded if the Federal Government overrides the ACT plan for civil unions. The Federal Government says the bill contravenes the Commonwealth Marriage Act and it does not want civil celebrants to officiate at the civil union ceremonies. But the president of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants, Roger Thomson, says he is concerned the Commonwealth will move to impose further limits. He says many celebrants already conduct commitment ceremonies for same sex couples. "The Federation's rather concerned that the Attorney-General may be looking to limit some marriage celebrants as being the ones registered with the marriage celebrant section," he said. (ABC news 31 March)
Press statements by the Hon Jon Stanhope, MLA, Chief Minister and Attorney General of the Australian Capital Territory
30 March 2006
Civil unions to deliver equality, not sameness
Legislating to ensure that civil unions were accorded the same protection under law as marriages was not the same as seeking to make civil unions and marriages identical or indistinguishable, any more than legislating for legal equality between men and women rendered men and women identical, Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said today.
"It is preposterous for the Federal Attorney General to say that just because the ACT's civil union Bill openly states that civil unions are to be treated equally under the law with marriages, it follows that we have somehow changed or challenged the meaning of marriage," Mr Stanhope said today.
"How on earth could the ACT be expected to deliver functional equality under the law for same-sex couples without setting out the thing -- namely, marriage -- with which you seek equality?
"The purpose of the Bill is to extend the same legal rights and legal responsibilities to all types of domestic partnership, not to conflate those different types of partnerships, or to homogenise them. The Bill is concerned with the legal effects of marriage, not with the institution of marriage itself, which remains a matter wholly for the Commonwealth, and which the ACT has no desire to change or challenge.
"Surely the Federal Attorney General must understand that according different groups of people equal rights does not make those groups identical."
30 March 2006
Threat to nobble civil unions outrageous, sad
An apparent threat by the Federal Government to legislate to change or overturn the ACT's Civil Union legislation was both outrageous and saddening, Chief Minister and Attorney General Jon Stanhope said today.
"I am both outraged and deeply saddened by the apparent threat of the Federal Attorney General to stymie legitimate legislation, legitimately introduced by an Australian jurisdiction," Mr Stanhope said today.
"The Federal Government has complained that that the legislation now being considered by the Legislative Assembly would create a parity with marriage. Civil Unions are not marriage and I have been at pains throughout the debate to make that point plainly. Legislating for marriage is the province of the Commonwealth, not of the States and Territories. The civil unions proposed for the ACT would, however, deliver functional and legal equality with marriage under ACT law -- a fact from which I do not resile for one instant. That is the intent of the law, and that will be its effect, once it is passed.
"I am still uncertain which provisions of the ACT Bill the Federal Government believes are unacceptable and I keenly await more explicit information from the Federal Government on this question.
"I also call on the Federal Attorney General to articulate the Federal Government's real concerns with offering equality under the law to same-sex relationships. Why does the Federal Government believe that loving and committed same-sex relationships are any less deserving of society's recognition and the law's protection than loving, committed relationships between men and women?
"In what way does extending the protection of the law and the recognition of society to one group of individuals diminish or erode the protection and recognition that is already extended to another group? It does not. It cannot.
"It is astonishing that the Federal Government would threaten to take legislative action to prevent celebrants officiating at ACT civil union ceremonies. It borders on the unbelievable that it could threaten to go even further, suggesting that it may legislate to overturn the ACT's civil union scheme entirely."
Mr Stanhope said the ACT's proposed legislation was not remarkable legislation by any measure. It was in line with legislation now in force in a number of jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, many European nations, and a number of states in the United States.
Joint media release by ACT Senator Kate Lundy, Bob McMullan, Member for Fraser and Annette Ellis Member for Canberra
30 March 2006
Humphries must support the ACT
Bob McMullan, Member for Fraser, Annette Ellis, Member for Canberra, and Senator Kate Lundy [all of the Labor Party] have today called on [Liberal Party] Senator Gary Humphries to support the ACT government against the attempts of Attorney-General Ruddock to intervene in ACT affairs. The three local ACT representatives are outraged by what they see as unwarranted interference by the federal coalition government in the ACT.
"We support the moves by the Territory government to recognise same sex partnerships. We believe it is discriminatory and contrary to human rights obligations not to formally recognise these relationships. As the Chief Minister has said, a civil union will allow a couple to establish a domestic partnership by making a formal declaration of their intention to do so.
"Under Territory law, a civil union will be treated in the same way as a marriage however the Chief Minister has made it plain that a civil union is not a marriage. It will give couples long needed functional equality under ACT law. This is a very significant piece of legislation and a great step forward for equality for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex members of the ACT community. In proposing this legislation, the Territory government is in agreement with many other jurisdictions worldwide.
"We are particularly outraged by the arrogance of the Attorney-General in giving his letter -- which threatened the ACT government with a federal veto -- to the media before sending it to the Chief Minister.
"This arrogant, highhanded and bullying behaviour should not be tolerated. We want to know what [Liberal Senator for the ACT] Gary Humphries is going to do to represent the views of the ACT community that elected him. It will require legislation for the Commonwealth to override the ACT measure. We call on Gary Humphries to speak out against the actions of the Attorney-General and to support the legislation of the majority elected government in the ACT.
Nicola Roxon MP, Shadow Attorney-General
Thursday, 30 March 2006
Media release: Ruddock rides roughshod over ACT
News that Mr Ruddock is interfering again in the law-making of states and territories comes as no surprise in a bad week for the Government. Instead of answering the concerns of working Australians, Mr Ruddock has flagged his intention to override the ACT Civil Union Bill -- introduced only on Tuesday and not even law yet.
It seems the Howard Government is not content to ride roughshod over just the federal parliament -- it wants to ride roughshod over the states and territories as well.
Labor's starting point is that states and territories should be allowed to make their own laws for their own communities. And they don't need the Howard Government interfering in their law making process. I'm sure Liberal Senator Gary Humphries, a former ACT Chief Minister, will agree with us and he should pull his Government back into line.
In the ACT a civil union will be a "legally recognised relationship that . . . may be entered into by any 2 people, regardless of their sex." It is "treated for all purposes under territory law in the same way as a marriage." (This includes both statute and common law in the Territory jurisdiction). However civil unions are not marriages and will not be recognised under federal law (at least while the present conservative government remains in power). The extent of recognition in other Australian states and territories will vary.
Each party to a civil union must be unmarried and neither an ancestor, descendant, sibling, nor half-sibling of the other party. The parties must give a month's written notice to an authorised celebrant. The civil union ceremony will include a simple formal declaration before the celebrant and at least one other witness. The civil union will be registered with the Registrar-General (who also registers births, deaths and marriages, land titles, etc.).
The Canberra Times newspaper commented that,
[T]here appears to be broad community acceptance of the need for legal equality for homosexual couples, which has probably firmed since the Liberal-National Party Coalition used its constitutional powers to disallow same-sex marriages in 2004. With the sanctity of marriage now seemingly protected, there seems little reason why fair and right-minded people, and governments like the ACT, should wish to continue denying homosexual couples the rights and privileges now taken for granted by other Australians.Interestingly, an "authorised celebrant" of civil unions will be anyone who is an authorised celebrant under the federal Marriage Act 1961. Besides civil celebrants and assorted state and territory officials, this includes ministers of religion who are authorised to perform marriages (which is most of them). How many ministers of religion will feel able to perform a civil union ceremony? At its 2004 General Synod, for example, the Anglican Church of Australia decided that
34.7 - Recognising that this is a matter of ongoing debate and conversation in this church and that we all have an obligation to listen to each other with respect, this General Synod does not condone the liturgical blessing of same sex relationships.James and I would obtain many advantages from a civil union, but we are not certain yet that we want more than the simplest official ceremony. After nine years of committed life together, anything more would seem a little redundant.
Meanwhile, the Canberra Times (30 March) reports that the federal government is threatening to veto the civil unions legislation. It can do this as the ACT is a federal territory, the self-government of which can be overrulled by the federal parliament. The federal parliament has only overturned laws in an Australian territory once before, when it blocked the world's first voluntary euthanasia legislation in the Northern Territory in 1997.
In a written rebuke to Chief Minister Jon Stanhope last night, federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock warned that the legislation would be blocked unless it was redrafted to distinguish civil unions from marriage.The issue has caused division within the federal government polical parties. Queenslander Warren Entsch, supported by several others, intends to introduce a private member's bill seeking to enact civil unions into federal law.
Mr Stanhope reacted to the threat with "outrage and deep sadness" and demanded a further explanation. [. . .]
In his letter, Mr Ruddock wrote that although the Federal Government usually considered issues concerning same-sex relationships to be matters for the states and territories, he would oppose any legislation that reduced the status of marriage. Because the draft ACT laws allowed celebrants who are authorised under the Commonwealth Marriage Act to perform civil union ceremonies, Mr Ruddock said the legislation implied an "equality or parity of civil unions and marriage".
"If the Bill were enacted as it is presently drafted, the Government would take appropriate action, including the introduction of legislation to prevent this from occurring," he wrote.
The Chief Minister angrily rejected the claim that his proposed laws confused civil unions with marriage and called on Mr Ruddock to explain his "real concerns".
"Civil unions are not marriage and I have been at pains throughout the debate to make that point plain," Mr Stanhope said. "Why does he believe loving and committed same-sex relationships are any less deserving of society's recognition and protection than loving, committed relationships between men and women?"
He said he was astonished by the Federal Government's threat to prevent celebrants from officiating at civil unions.
"It borders on the unbelievable that it threatens to go even further, suggesting that it may legislate to overturn the ACT's civil union scheme entirely," he said.
The old building was extraordinarily cramped as it had been built in 1927 as a temporary home for a much smaller and simpler Parliament. The upper picture shows the main reading room of the Library; my 'office' was a desk crammed into the alcove shown in the lower picture. The old library is now used for the National Portrait Gallery, which will also soon have its own permanent building.
After several years, I moved on to another job, but I'm glad I've stayed in Canberra. It's a fine place to live.
The show has only a small number of John Constable's large pictures, including Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds (1822-23), A boat passing a lock (1826) and The Vale of Dedham (1827-28). But it has many of his quick, on-the-spot sketches, such as Rainstorm over the sea c.1824-28 and a large group of his sky studies, each with the time of day, date, wind direction and weather conditions under which they were painted.
Sebastian Smee reviews the show in The Australian (18 March). "When you look at a Constable", he says, "you are not just looking at a picture, you're looking at the making of a picture. It is something alive, like the weather it responds to, in a state of flux and continual becoming."
Of the large pictures, I especially like this one, The Vale of Dedham. Once there were many kitsch reproductions of Constable's work -- literally on chocolate boxes, as well as on shortbread tins and such. But most of the prints I've seen are murky and dark. There's so much fine detail in the Constable's big landscapes, some details just a couple of millimetres in scale, within of a two metre picture. As well there are dark areas that are luminous when seen 'in the flesh' but dull in reproduction. So with The Vale of Dedham; there's wonderful life, movement and detail, far reaching perpective and intimate, close, human detail.
Frequently provocative commentator, Humphrey McQueen writes in The Bulletin (7 March) that exhibition of 108 works "will appeal to those who turn to art for reassurance."
Yet Constable's work, McQueen notes, was innovative and his subject matter,
which now looks tranquil, was at the intersection of political, economic and religious upheavals. . . . Moral purpose saturated Constable's landscapes, which were propaganda for Tory landholders in their struggle against the Liberal free-traders to remove the duties on grain imports. His cornfields are therefore not innocent pastorals but assert the rights of the squires, including his own brother. Constable sided with the landowners against the riotous labourers and with both against urban capitalists. Similarly, his treatment of cathedrals affirmed his attachment to church and crown, in opposition to the emancipation of Papists.I had never thought of Constable as being political!
. . . The pleasures from Constable are both visual and intellectual. His canvases tell us stories about the elements and of social conflict. Yet his storms and rainbows were never symbols for revolution and peace, but reminders that all is flux.
Meanwhile, the conservation of the Vale of Dedham and Stour Valley as an area of natural beauty is very much an active project.
These some of my choices of interesting athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne -- my home city. Despite all the hoopla, however, James and I found the opening and closing ceremonies too long, too full of irrelevancies and tedious as a result.
Matthew Cowdrey, winner of two gold medals for EAD swimmers
John Steffenson celebrates victory in the 400m
Mathew Helm and Robert Newbery competing in the men's synchronised 10m platform final.
Kerry McCann, gutsy Marathon winner.
Australian competitors won about 30% of the medals on offer, including about 34% of the gold medals, many more than the English (15%), Canadians (12%) and Indians (7%). This is more than can be accounted for by 'home ground' advantage. What puzzles me is why? Why do Australian sportsmen and women do as well as they do on the international arena? (Australia didn't win any medals; countries don't win sports medals, people do.)
|Years ago, I had the privilege of working for two years as an Australian Volunteer Abroad, as Head of the English Language Division of the Sabah State Library [ Perpustakaan Negeri Sabah ]. It was a wonderful, life changing experience. Information technology was almost non-existent. But now the library is automated and Sabah is on the web.|
Kota Kinabalu City Library
Low's Gully, Mt. Kinabalu
Although the argument in Anglicanism centers on matters of principle, the atmosphere in which it has been conducted has been toxic from the start. Liberals and conservatives have all too often been eager to believe the worst about each other. They have frequently parodied and mocked each other's deeply held convictions, shown scant respect for consciences that differ from their own, and even attempted to impose unacceptable solutions from the top down on unwilling parishioners.I said in a comment on Titusonenine that,
"this is the essential cause of our problems . . . a pervasive lack of humility, an unwillingness to even consider the slightest possibility that one may be mistaken."
Obadiahslope commented in reply: "At one level it is easy for me as an evangelical to concede I may be wrong. My reading of the bible is always provisional, I must be open to someone pointing out that I have misread the scriptures. But for you as a gay man, my fellow Australian, it must be more difficult to say "I might be mistaken"?
On the contrary, I am quite willing to say (and replied to Obadiah) that I may be mistaken. I believe, hope and pray that I am not entirely wrong, but I it is is unlikely that I am infallible! I must try to walk conscientiously in the Spirit and according what I understand to be right, trusting that our Lord will be gracious and merciful where I am mistaken. I must "take chance on God", in other words. What I should not do, is despise those who disagree with me, simply because they do disagree.
Obadiah's response: "In general perhaps. Yet if I am mistaken on sexuality I do not have a relationship I would have to break. So I guess it would be harder for you to say "I am mistaken" on whether gay relationships are sin than I to recant my opposite view. That being said, from across our diocesan boundary, you are not despised. far from it." Thanks Obadiah.
Presbyterian Church of the USA's Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church recently completed its final report. The Task Force found that its study of human sexuality "yielded several major insights":
If we can deal with our arguments as well as this Task Force has done, acknowledging each other's genuineness and letting irreconcilable disagreement rest with God, we will do well.
[. . .] [W]e were all able to agree that perspectives on questions of sexuality, ordination, and same-gender covenantal relationships are rich and complex, and our fellow task force members who hold these views are sincere, faithful, and guided by Scripture. Therefore, we believe, the church should seek constructive, Christ-like alternatives to the "yes/no" forms in which questions about sexuality, ordination, and same-gender covenantal relationships have been put to the church in recent decades.(602-607)
- The theological and biblical literature on human sexuality in general and same-gender sexuality in particular is diverse, subtle, and complex. It could not readily be divided into the two categories--either approval or disapproval of same-gender relationships and practices--that are assumed to anchor much of the conflict in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today. In one session, a member of the task force offered a typology of six positions. Each position conveyed a distinctive view of sin, reconciliation, and redemption. We acknowledged that other analysts might approach the material differently and provide alternative interpretations.
- Methods of biblical interpretation, theological traditions, and policy conclusions did not line up neatly in the work we studied. As the resource, "Same-Gender Relationships in the Church: Six Theological Viewpoints", demonstrates, scholars and writers who reached different conclusions often based their work on similar theological premises. [The forthcoming paper, "Same-Gender Relationships in the Church: Six Theological Viewpoints," will be posted on the Web at www.pcusa.org/peaceunitypurity.]
- Further, opinions about ordination and sexuality did not always correlate precisely with particular theological positions. Writers associated with a particular theological perspective sometimes reached conclusions different from what is often assumed to be their party's "line" on the witness of Scripture; the morality of covenantal, same-gender relationships; and the permissibility of ordination. For instance, some writers who believe that same-gender relationships are wrong nevertheless believe pastoral acceptance should be extended to gay and lesbian couples; some writers who believe that the full witness of Scripture supports the possibility of covenantal relationships between persons of the same gender nevertheless acknowledge that where Scripture speaks explicitly of same-gender acts it disapproves them. These were only two of a number of combinations and permutations of theological, biblical, and polity perspectives on the broad topic of sexuality and the narrower one of same-gender relationships. (520-546)
The Prayer of the Bee-- from Prayers from the ark by Carmen Bernos de Gasztol, translated by Rumer Godden. New York: Viking, 1962.
I am not one to despise your gifts.
May You be blessed
Who spreads the richness of Your sweetness for my zeal . . .
Let my small span of ardent life melt into our great communal task;
to lift up to Your glory this temple of sweetness,
a citadel of incense,
a holy candle, myriad-celled,
moulded of Your graces
and of my hidden work.
In ancient time Xerxes, the king of kings, looking down upon his myriads, wept to think that in a hundred years not one of them would be left. Where will be [the] millions of today in a hundred years? But, further than that, let us ask, where then will be the sum and outcome of their labour? If they wither away like summer grass, will not at least a result be left which those of a hundred years hence may be the better for? No, not one jot! There will not be any sum or outcome or result of this ceaseless labour and movement; it vanishes in the moment that it is done, and in a hundred years nothing will be there, for nothing is there now.-- Richard Jefferies. The story of my heart (1883)
Here he is campaigning for re-election, accompanied by his younger son, Pete. It's unusual in Thailand for a Christian leader to also be a politician. Kriengsak has made trenchant criticisms of the present government's spending policies.
The Hope of God movement began in 1981 when a Kriengsak returned to Thailand after completing a doctorate in econometrics at Monash University. While studying in Melbourne, he became a Christian and in time became an inspiring leader and an elder of the Waverley Christian Fellowship, where I had the honour of working with him for several years. Kriengsak set out to plant churches, beginning with the Hope of God church in Bangkok and affiliated churches in Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur. Soon there were many churches in many places, including dozens in Thailand. In this picture he is preaching at a conference in Melbourne in the late 1980s.
Meanwhile, Kiengsak launched an academic and business career as well. I think Professor Chareonwongsak is the smartest and hardest working person I have ever met. I wish him well.
"And I pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
. . . food for thought for journal keepers!
I like part I of Ash Wednesday (below). But the remainder of the poem, parts II to VI, I still find completely impenetrable. I appreciate fine poetry, including much of Eliot's, but wonder why it is that poets sometimes write as though they deliberately want the reader not to understand.
Because I do not hope to turn again-- T. S. Eliot Ash Wednesday; part I (1930)
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And I pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
We always used to think it was one of the elementary rights of man that he should be able to plan his life in advance, both private life and professional. That is a thing of the past. The pressure of events is forcing us to give up 'being anxious for the morrow'. But it makes all the difference in the world whether we accept this willingly and in faith (which is what the Sermon on the Mount means) or under compulsion. For most people not to plan for the future means to live irresponsibly and frivolously, to live just for the moment, while some few continue to dream of better times to come.--Dietrich Bonhoeffer (d. 1945) Letters and papers from prison (ET, 1953), p.24f.
But we cannot take either of these courses. We are still left with only the narrow way, a way often hardly to be found, of living every day as if it were our last, yet in faith and responsibility living as though a splendid future still lay before us. 'Houses and fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this land', cries Jeremiah as the Holy City is about to be destroyed, a striking contrast to his previous prophecies of woe. It is a divine sign and pledge of better things to come, just when all seems blackest. Thinking and acting for the sake of the coming generation, but taking each day as it comes without fear and anxiety that is the spirit in which we are being forced to live in practice. It is not easy to be brave and hold out, but it is imperative.
The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality."Prompt reaction" to what?
Should an "idea" and a "moral position" alone be sufficient grounds for criminalising a personal relationship?
Curious this, as I believe that it's not long ago that Arcbishop Akinola said that there were no homosexuals in Nigeria.
After some doubt as to whether the Church officially supports the oppressive views expressed by some of its senior members, it has now nailed its colors to the mast. On the other hand, in this statement at least, the Church does not comment on the provisions of the proposed legislation that deny freedoms of speech and assembly to gays and lesbians. Yet again, if the Church was opposed to those provisions, it could have said so.
On 2 March 2006, commenting on a post at Thinking Anglicans Canon Akintunde Popoola ('Tude'), spokesman for the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), disputed another person's comment alleging that Archbishop Akinola "recently threw his prestige and resources behind a new law . . . .". In hios 2 March comment, Canon Akinola said that the Archbishop "had not done that." "Do you have reference to such?" he asked. "Very soon, Abp. Akinola may make out time to address the issue. Everyone knows where he stands but it is still wrong to make the assumption into a fact."
Meanwhile, on 22-25 February 2006, the Standing Committee had made its decision, which was subsequently published in an undated announcement over Archbisop Akionola's signature and using his letterhead.
A cagey game is being played here.
Related earlier posts (newest first):
Nigerian church turns to policies of the Inquisition
Dr Williams, please act now
Compelled to ask whether the global Christian community has lost not only its backbone but its moral bearings
Mwamba's message of maturity
Open letter from Changing Attitude to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to the ACO and to ACC officials
Signaling the existance of gay Nigerians
Stoning and power
|Stabat Mater is a thirteenth-century hymn in Latin attributed to Jacopone da Todi. Its title is an abbreviation of the first line, Stabat mater dolorosa, "The sorrowful mother was standing".|
One of the most powerful and immediate of extant medieval poems, it meditates on the suffering of Mary, Jesus Christ's mother, during his crucifixion. Read the text and English translation
Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-1736) was an Italian composer, violinist and organist. His setting of Stabat Mater is his best-known sacred work.
Both are wrong, unless you regard a qualifying period of 12 months celibacy as "temporary". Controversy continues in Australia. The Australian Red Cross Blood Service says that it does not accept donations from men who have had sex with men in the previous 12 months.
State and Territory legislation and requirements of the Code of Good Manufacturing Practice for Human Blood and Tissues mandate donor selection on the basis of certain risk behaviours. The exclusion of men who have had sex with men in the past 12 months is based on the statistically higher incidence of some blood borne diseases amongst such groups, and on the existence of 'window period' infections. In this context, the 'window period' is the time between contraction of a disease and the capacity of testing to detect it in the human body. Such deferrals are in accordance with international practice.Hmm. I'm perfectly happy to keep my O+ blood. But some of it might be useful to someone in need.
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service is motivated only by the requirement to supply the safest possible blood to the Australian community. There is no other judgement being made, and we urge all who are precluded from participating as blood donors to consider other ways of serving the community through voluntary activity with the Australian Red Cross.
Otto Dix was one who understood this ambivalence. He was both horrified and fascinated by his experiences of the 1914-18 war. The National Gallery of Australia is currently showing its copy of Otto Dix's war portfolio Der Krieg of 1924, a collection of 51 etchings with aquatint -- a truly great twentieth century masterpiece, which the gallery acquired in 2003. This is Zerfallender Kampfgraben [Collapsed trenches] (30cm x 24.4cm plate on a 47.5cm x 35.3cm sheet).
"Consciously modelled on Goya's equally famous and equally devastating Los Desastres de la Guerra. [The disasters of war], the portfolio captures Dix's horror of, and fascination with, the experience of war. It mixes the nightmarish and the horrific with a strange sensuousness in a work that has been described as one of the most powerful anti-war statements in modern art."
Dix's terrible images reminded me of this photograph, which won first place for Stephen Dupont in the Magazine spot news category of the 2006 Pictures of the Year International. Titled War on the mind, it shows members of the U.S. 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade burning the bodies of dead Taliban fighters following an ambush on their convoy outside Gonbaz village in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on 1 October 2005. While the bodies burned, anti Taliban/Islam messages were broadcast.
War is always horrific.
It's amazing the attention generated by the withdrawal of Ian Thorpe from Australia's Commonwealth Games team, due to severe illness. (Grant Hackett is another popular figure unable to take part, in his case due to injury.) Even the Prime Minister has commented sympathetically. Thorpe is no wimp and thoroughly merits every good wish for his quick recovery.
David Frost: It does look [as if] to bring those two points together does seem to need a miracle really. Now, there's no one better at miracles than God, obviously, but, but what can you do?I very much agree with what Revd Tobias Haller BSG says about this. He says that Archbishop Rowan is wrong in saying that people aren't listening. Rather, the point is that many have listened carefully and with understanding, yet still disagree with each other.
Rowan Williams: Well you pray a lot.
David Frost: Yes.
Rowan Williams: I can try, I think, to find ways, as long as possible, of getting these two sides to make sense of themselves to each other. The biggest problem is people don't listen very much. ... [T]hat's human nature, and the church is no exception. And so long as people are still trying to -- so long as people are aware that they've enough in common to disagree, rather than just to tear it all up, so long as that's true, it's worth working at. Now the point may come where people say well we no longer have enough in common and we may reach that point -- I don't know. Meanwhile, my first priority is to try and keep the conversation going, to say, "Do you understand why this matters?"
David Frost: And, as you say, it may, it has to walk apart, as one quote said. And I mean, if in fact this issue led to a situation where a new formula was created that, let us say, was more of a federation, more of where each country, in addition to the freedoms they have now, would have a doctrinal freedom as well and Nigeria could have a different doctrine, perhaps, definitely, than American or whatever ... Now would a federation, or an umbrella, be practical?
Rowan Williams: I think we have to wait and see on that. There are other world churches, the Lutheran Reform Churches, which get on with a federal pattern. There's always been, I think, a higher expectation in the Anglican Communion, that we, we have more, more at stake than that. And of course what that means is that if there is rupture, it's going to be a more visible rupture, it's not just going to settle down quietly into being a federation. And, I suppose my anxiety about it is that if the Communion is broken we may be left with even less than a federation.
David Frost: Even less than a federation.
Rowan Williams: And there will have to be an awful lot of bridge-building, absolutely decades to restore some sort of relationship there.
David Frost: Yes. . . . at the moment is that . . . majority of the Anglican Communion are quite clear that active gay relationships should not be blessed in church and actively gay clergy should not be ordained and that these are unwelcome new developments in America. I mean that would be the common view, wouldn't it?
Rowan Williams: Very much the majority view and I think on a matter of real substance like this, a matter that effects the interpretation of the Bible, the discipline of clergy and lay people, what actually the Church will bless in God's name; for a change on that I think we would need, as a Communion, to have a far greater level of consensus than we in fact have. Which is why the American determination to go it alone is, is worrying.
David Frost: And is the, is the convention in June likely to be that moment of decision?
Rowan Williams: A lot rides on that and people have projected lots of expectations. I'll wait and see.
Where the Archbishop is 'spot on' [Haller says] is in the question of how we deal with the disagreement. This is where we can choose to act in a gospel fashion, or not. Do we have enough in common to hold the church together in spite of strong disagreement about the rightness of same-sex relationships, and, whether right or wrong, how important is this particular aspect of a person's life in terms of ordained ministry? Can those who disapprove accept the full participation of those of whom they disapprove in the church -- in all orders of ministry? -- that is the question for the "reasserters." The question for the "reappraisers" is not (or ought not to be) "Will you stop doing this?" but "Can you live with this lack of full approval -- is acceptance enough?" In short, can we maintain our unity in spite of a difference of opinion: even if it means various impairments in the communion, and juggling of episcopal oversight to accomplish it?Yes, yes and Amen.
Ultimately, we have no control over others accepting us, only over who we accept. The Gospel way, for me, is the way of acceptance, not of "being accepted" -- in fact, Jesus promises rejection in the short run for those who follow him. And it seems this is precisely what we are seeing: churches that are welcoming and accepting are getting a tongue lashing for not being restrictive enough. And if we criticize those calling for restriction for being restrictive -- they say we don't "accept" them!
What can we do in response? I say, keep preaching the Gospel! And remain open and welcoming even to those who disagree -- that is crucial, I think. I can say, "I hear what you are saying, but I disagree with you; but you are welcome to worship with me -- if you want to."
Acceptance in this sense need not mean approval -- on either side. Rather we should acknowledge that we are all to some extent in error, but "accept one another as Christ accepted us" -- with all our imperfections, and not as a sign of approval, but as an act of salvation.
I am not entirely convinced that the very existence of an "Anglican Communion" is all that important.
It could take centuries to reach a common understanding on homosexuality and faith. We may never reach a common understanding. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." (Prov.13.6) Therefore we must find ways to be in fellowship (as in ecumenism) despite permanent disagreement. I would prefer this. But if it is not possible, then let's call it quits now and go our separate ways as amicably as possible.
This affords opportunity for some awful puns on 'rupture' and 'rapture', but I'll refrain.
The Archbishop's remarks were made in a long interview with Sir David Frost on the BBC, broadcast on 5 March 06. The Times' writer Ruth Gledhill has posted the full transcript. See also the reports in The Telegraph and in The Guardian.
I have the greatest respect for Dr Williams, but as to the fate of the world-wide Anglican communion, I'm not sure that I care any more. Sigh.
In the words of David Lewis, writing in the Courier Mail and elsewhere, "Forget the floats and feathers of Saturday night's gay and lesbian Mardi Gras, the most eye-catching show in [Sydney] town was the grand final between Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners."
Sydney defeated the Mariners 1-0.
I'm not a great sports fan. But I'm happy that the A League has restored sucess and sanity to top-level football in Australia. Next, the World Cup!
Since there's no Canberra team, I am a bit sorry that the Melbourne Victory ended up second-last on the ladder. (New Zealand Knights were last and Adelaide topped the home-and-away series.)
But you'd have to say the Mardi Gras parade had its moments, too! (SMH photo.)
The Vanguard asks:
. . . do homosexuals not have the right to make their choices as to who they want to spend their lives with as husbands and wives, or as boyfriends and girlfriends even if they are of the same sex? Or how should the government handle this matter that is catching on globally and threatening to tear the entire world apart?The Anglican Bishop of Lagos, Dr. Ephraim Adebola Ademowo responds:
As a matter of fact, we commend the Federal Government for the bold step it has taken thus far on the issue and we hope it will go the whole hog to make the National Assembly complete the process by enacting it into law which will be completed to the letter.In a piece on the website of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) the Rt. Rev. David Onuoha, Bishop of Okigwe, trots out the usual arguments based on Leviticus and Romans and badly misunderstands Genesis 19. Much more dangerous, however, is his advocacy of action by the state to enforce his (and the Church's) ill-formed views.
It is an unhealthy practice and every normal human being will boldly tell you it is not part of the traditional African culture. But above all, the Bible is very clear on the issue. It described it as an abberation and should not be seen among men who are called of by the name of God.
So, we totally commend the Federal Government for its initiatives and we will continue to pray that the National Assembly will enact the law and the judiciary will follow suit to interprete the laws when the time comes in order to forestall any breach of the law.
There is no doubt that advocates of gay marriage are motivated by the need to preserve the rights of those who are inclined to live perversely. There is nothing wrong in preserving ones right. Human right ensures that man lives as he ought to and not as he likes to.The rights and wrongs of faithful same-sex relationships can be debated until the end of time. What is at stake here, however, is whether the Christian church should be encouraging the state to enforce a code of morality in a way that violates internationally established norms of civil and political rights.
It is very clear that if everyone is allowed to live as one likes to live, there will be chaos and anarchy. This is why the law is there to guide ones life as one ought to. Man, at creation, has his freewill which guarantees freedom of choice and action. He is free to choose between good and evil, right and wrong etc.
Since man is created in the image and likeness of God and is also dependent on Him, his laws must be derived from those of God. When therefore there is a conflict between 'human right' and 'God right', the former must judge and redefine itself by and from the latter in order to live in true freedom.
Our conclusion therefore is that same sex union in whatever guise it may manifest -- homosexuality, lesbianism, sodomy, sexuality, gay, civil partnership -- is unnatural, unbiblical, unreasonable, unethical, ungodly and unAfrican.
The question is not simple. We would accept a church exhorting the state to legislate against child abuse, child pornography, rape, etc. In the Nigerian case, however, the church is asking the state to punish consenting unharmful activites between adults (presumably in private). Further, the Church is supporting the Government's proposal to make illegal any organised meeting of gay and lesbian people, completely removing their rights of assembly and free speech. The onus is on the Nigerian churches to make out a much better case for this than it has done so far. In fact, I believe, it is impossible morally and ethically for it to justify its stance.
The leaders of the church of Nigeria are entitled to say what they believe Scripture to mean. I may disagree. I may even think their interpretation to be contrary to the Gospel. But they are entitled to express their views, subject to the disciplines of the church of which they are members -- it's called free speech.
However the disciplines of the church require those who proclaim the word to do it well and do it faithfully. I genuinely doubt that the Nigerian leaders are rightly dividing the word of truth.
Archbishop Akinola and his fellow leaders have every secular right to say that that gay relationships are sinful, (though I may disagree by saying that not all gay relationships are sinful). What they should not do in the name of the church is advocate denial of free speech and free assembly to people who are merely supporting a moral opinion that differs from their own. Nor should they advocate punishment by the state of those who simply differ from them in their opinions.
The state should only punish those who impose objective harm on others. One cannot say in fairness that consenting non-violent sexual behaviour in private between two adults is imposition by one of objective harm on the other.
Because of my connections with Korea, I am attracted to a series of twelve photographs of North Korea by Christopher Morris of VII and Time -- "The Hermit Nation". Alongside regimented aspects of North Korea's closed society, Morris catches ordinary folks, like these North Koreans fishing on the outskirts of the capital Pyongyang.
There are more of Morris's pictures of North Korea on the VII site (click the features tab and then select Christopher Morris).
It was the first time I'd seen or heard Les Misérables which has been showing in London for over 20 yrs.
There was a some fine singing. Yet I was restless for much of the performance. The plot was long and complex, and I had to read the program notes to follow it -- but that's no different from many operas. The seats were too close together and uncomfortable -- but that's no different from many concert halls. I like almost every kind of music, though I haven't seen very many musicals -- perhaps five or six. I prefer concerts.
I agree with City News reviewer Jorian Gardner who found the stage direction to be "flat" but I also agree with Gardner's praise of the singers, especially the stand-out performance of Michael Politi as Javert. Fiona Sullivan as Fantine and Daniel Wells as of Marius were also superb.
I'm used to hearing good singing without electronic amplification. During the large production numbers, it was hard to tell which person was singing. All the voices seemed to come from all the speakers. In some scenes, it almost seemed as if the singers were miming, though I'm sure they weren't! It didn't sound any different from a recording. For the same reason, I find it difficult to see the point of a pop concert. The recordings always sound better and the artists are so far way you can hardly see them.
However, I eventually figured out that Les Misérables didn't quite gell for me because I wasn't comfortable with serious, even heavy, ideas portrayed in light music.
The National Gallery of Australia recently acquired this untitled 1977 55cm x 75cm landscape by Fred Williams (1927-1982), Australia's finest C20th landscape painter. It depicts the low rounded hills of the Yass area, dotted by eucalypts, and the vast open sky. Yass is near Canberra. I love Williams' work as I have a deep love of the Australian landscape.
Open letter sent by Inclusive Church raising the position of Changing Attitude Nigeria and Integrity Uganda
The Archbishop of Canterbury,
Lambeth Palace, London SE1
21st February 2006
Inclusive Church and its Partner Organisations welcome the establishment of Changing Attitude Nigeria and as legitimate voices of gay and lesbian Africans within our Anglican Communion. We are deeply concerned at the hostility and aggression that those who belong to, and those who support these organisations, have met from their respective Anglican Churches and ask that they be affirmed as members of the Anglican family with the right to be heard and respected.
Successive Lambeth Conferences have called on the Anglican Communion to engage in dialogue with gay Christians and to listen to their experiences. Integrity Uganda and Changing Attitude Nigeria provide ways of responding to this call. We believe that all Anglicans should welcome the establishment of these groups and seek to assist them in their difficult and dangerous situations. To deny them a legitimate place in the life of the church is reject the call of the Lambeth Conference resolutions.
We are deeply concerned that in Nigeria in particular the Anglican Church appears to be encouraging the State to engage in active persecution of gay people and those who speak for them. We hope that you will encourage all Anglicans to support these vulnerable Christians and to encourage the Churches in Nigeria and Uganda in particular to recognise the members and supporters of these groups as part of our Anglican family, and to desist from denigrating them even denying their existence as committed and active Anglicans.
We recognise how very difficult it is to raise this concern in the current climate of conflict within the Anglican Communion but the dire situation of these Anglicans can not wait for the Anglican Communion to resolve its internal difficulties, the physical dangers that they face are, we believe, being exacerbated by the actions of our own church. We earnestly hope that you will be able to recognise their situation and encourage all concerned to cease the campaign against them and recognise the Christian duty to protect, not persecute, these vulnerable Christians.
Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, President
Rev. Giles Goddard, Chair
Nicola Roxon MP, Shadow Attorney-GeneralAt last some action. The ALP is still light years behind the Australian Greens on these topics, but better than the Government.
Tanya Plibersek MP, Member for Sydney
Joint media release, 1 March 2006
Labor recommits to gay and lesbian law reform
This week the Labor Caucus endorsed a plan to actively campaign on gay and lesbian law reform and pursue the Howard Government on its failure to make good its promises.
As part of Labor's campaign, Nicola Roxon will introduce a private members' bill to combat discrimination, harassment and incitement to violence based on sexuality or gender identity. Parliament needs to send a strong message that homophobic violence, intimidation and discrimination are unacceptable.
Labor will also step up pressure on the Howard Government to fulfil its promise to end discrimination against same sex couples in the area of public sector superannuation.
Further, we have committed to making sure that same sex couples are included when the Family Court jurisdiction is extended to cover property disputes of de facto couples, a change which is expected this year. The Howard Government has indicated that it will limit the extension to heterosexual couples, leaving same sex couples the stress and expense of negotiating both state and federal courts in the event of family break-up.
Labor will commence consultation on the models for a system of formal recognition of same sex relationships, such as civil unions. We look forward to discussing this issue with gay and lesbian groups across Australia.
Federal Labor looks forward to building on our achievements and working constructively with the LGBT community to bring an end to discrimination.
Jimmy was interviewed by the excellent Phillip Adams on the award winning Late Night Live show on ABC Radio national on 20 February. (You can get a podcast, MP3, or streaming audio from the LNL site.)
The 1990 Singles collection is so well known that its almost a cliché but, even though he's an atheist, Jimmy Sommrville's songs were very encouraging to me around the time when I was puzzling over the The Big Red Pill
I read Annie Proulx's short story in the 1997 New Yorker original. (It's also in her collection of fourteeen short stories, Close range: Wyoming stories (Scribners, 2000).)
"Brokeback Mountain" is a spare story, economically written. It made me feel that the film story might be rather gloomy -- as it was in parts -- and I don't like gloomy movies. I was reluctant to see it. But I was completely convinced by its skill, beauty and economy as cinema, even while I felt dismay and frustration at the content of the story. The flat, dry, physical and spiritual emptiness of the plains towns and ranches where Jack and Ennis live with their families contrasts with the greenness and beauty of the mountainscape where they find each other's love.
One needs to separate the film's achievement as a work of fine film making from opinions of the morality or otherwise of the film's characters. Brokeback Mountain superbly portrays two men who are romantically and erotically attacted to each other (without once mentioning 'love') and their struggle to understand. But the film does not celebrate their adultery, unfaithfulness and lies. Rather, it shows the harm done and the social and emotional pressures that brought them to do these things in social circumstances oppressive of gay men.
I like Anthony Lane's review in the New Yorker (12 Dec 05).
The Advocate runs an interesting Associated Press interview with Annie Proulx about the short story and the film.
"I thought [the performances of Ledger and Gyllenhall] were magnificent, both of them. Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist . . . wasn't the Jack Twist that I had in mind when I wrote this story. The Jack that I saw was jumpier, homely. But Gyllenhaal's sensitivity and subtleness in this role is just huge. The scenes he's in have a kind of quicksilver feel to them. Heath Ledger is just almost really beyond description as far as I'm concerned. He got inside the story more deeply than I did. All that thinking about the character of Ennis that was so hard for me to get, Ledger just was there. He did indeed move inside the skin of the character, not just in the shirt but inside the person. It was remarkable."
That the Senate --I am astonished that only the Australian Greens supported this resolution. The Government and the Australian Labor Party joined together to vote it down and the Australian Democrats abstained. How could Australians possibly support further extension of conflict in the middle east?
(i) that the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors will meet on 6 March 2006 to consider the resumption of aspects of Iran's nuclear program,
(ii) the recent media reports that suggest the United States of America (US) and Israel are considering a military strike on Iran, and
(iii) the recent report by the Oxford Research Group that found that as many as 10,000 people could die in such an attack; and
(b) calls on the Government to:
(i) support diplomatic initiatives to prevent Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons,
(ii) encourage all parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to pursue its requirements for nuclear disarmament, and
(iii) rule out Australian support for a military strike on Iran by the US or Israel.