CTICR. A Lack of Transparency and Credibility.

A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

 

Some of the long term readers of this blog will remember that I approached the CTICR (Lutheran Church of Australia’s Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations) to request access to the papers, articles, presentations and books that have made up the background to their investigation into homosexuality. I have just been refused access to this information. The relevent section from their refusal email reads as follows.

The Executive discussed your request at its last meeting and decided against providing the data you are looking for, in keeping with long-standing policy. Behind that policy stands the convention, based on a truism, that those who provide background material that feeds into final documents will not do so openly and honestly if they know that their material is to be used more widely. They write it for those who are working on the documents that are to be finalised and made public at a predetermined time and occasion, in this case the General Pastors Conference next year.

The refusal took me by surprise. I had expected that these documents, this information, would be available as a matter or course. That such an important matter which so dramatically affects the lives of the LGBT members and employees of the church  could be discussed in secret with no accountability on those people involved in the discussions is simply astounding. The reason for the refusal is an even bigger surprise to me. It seems that  the members of the theological think tank of the church will only contribute “openly and honestly” if they know their work will not be open to public scrutiny. I have made my feelings known on the increasingly secretive nature of the church and its processes in previous posts. This takes the cake.

In my email correspondence I had asked the CTICR, if they were to decline my request, to provide a basis for that decision. What synodical ruling or constitutional statement  would give them the authority to refuse such a simple and basic request? Did you notice the answer, Reader? It is in keeping with “long standing policy ” and “convention” based on a “truism” (?). I don’t know about you reader but my interpretation of this is as follows:

We haven’t got a valid reason but we don’t want you to see the documents.

Perhaps I  shouldn’t be so surprised at the CTICR refusal. My correspondence with some of the members of the group over the last few months has shown that they may have good reason not to want their work publicly scrutinised.

I became concerned about the CTICR after I was involved in a discussion with a member of the commission on the LCAi email discussion forum. Against all recent scientific findings and accepted norms by geneticists, health care professionals and sociologist, he persisted in promoting the idea that people’s sexuality is not something that forms in the womb. While his out-dated ideas were of concern, his use of anti-gay hate monger Dr Paul Cameron to source his theory was downright alarming.

There are no words to describe how truly bad this man’s ideas are. In a recent interview on US Christian Radio program “Crosstalk”, Cameron stated that President Obama (who, according to Cameron, is probably involved in homosexual sex) will not rest until “every little boy grabs his ankles and every little girl gives it a try”. A 5 minute segment of the radio program can be heard here

The American Psychological Association dropped Cameron from their membership because of ethics violations. The Nebraska Psychological Association formally dissociated itself from the representations and interpretations of scientific literature offered by Dr. Paul Cameron in his writings and public statements on sexuality.

The American Sociological Association (ASA) adopted a resolution which asserted that “Dr. Paul Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism” and noted that “Dr. Paul Cameron has repeatedly campaigned for the abrogation of the civil rights of lesbians and gay men, substantiating his call on the basis of his distorted interpretation of this research.” The American Sociological Association officially and publicly states that Paul Cameron is not a sociologist, and condemns his consistent misrepresentation of sociological research.

The Canadian Psychological Association stated that Dr. Paul Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism and thus, it formally dissociated itself from the representation and interpretations of scientific literature in his writings and public statements on sexuality.

The icing on the cake is the fact that Cameron has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. They are a US based nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. The SPLC is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups. They produce public facts sheets and, where possible and necessary, take legal action against such individuals and groups. In their sights are  holocaust deniers, white supremacist, black separatists, KKK Leaders, the infamous Westborough Baptist Church and…Dr Paul Cameron. (References for all of the above are listed in an earlier post)

Suffice to say that Cameron has been WIDELY discredited.  The only platform that people like Paul Cameron have is that which is provided by ultra conservative American religious groups, the head of the LCA’s CSBQ and, apparently, the CTICR.

The member of the CTICR who was quoting and defending the work of Cameron, even after all of the above was pointed out to him, went on to mention that he had distributed a paper to the members of the CTICR on the question of Homosexuality. I asked him to make the paper public. He was unwilling to do so.

At about the same time I was given a book to read that had come recommended by members of the CTICR. The book is “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” by Robert Gagnon. The book is a horribly one-sided anti-gay document which also uncritically draws on the work of Cameron.

My concern about the apparent reliance on the work of Cameron caused me to contact the CTICR. A section of my email follows.

21 Dec 2011.

…In short, I am concerned that there may be material presented to CTICR that is prejudiced and runs the risk of being accepted at face value without anyone on the group having the time or the inclination to check sources or the authenticity of the material presented. I would like to have copies of all the material that has been presented to the CTICR on the matter of reviewing the Church’s statement on homosexuality so that I can do my own research on those papers and to make them available particularly to the LGBT readers of my blog should they request them. Rigorous analysis of the presented material by means of public exposure can only serve to strengthen the church’s continued investigation into this matter. Secrecy and fear of public disclosure will surely only weaken the process and detriment the reliability of the final outcome.  

The work that the CTICR does is work done on and behalf of the Church. The work that any of the members of the CTICR does is work done on and behalf of the Church. Any documents presented affect everyone in the Church. In this matter it will strongly effect the LGBT people of the LCA. Those papers and opinions cannot therefore be the private reserve of a select few on a committee. They are the property of the whole LCA.

 I am not aware of any synodical ruling that precludes this request and believe that it should be a matter of course and not something out of the ordinary.  

I look forward to your favourable response in due course. 

I repeat the relevant section from the CTICR response.

The Executive …decided against providing the data you are looking for, in keeping with long-standing policy… based on a truism, that those who provide background material that feeds into final documents will not do so openly and honestly if they know that their material is to be used more widely.

Excuse me for being unsympathetic. I’m one who thinks something and then puts it “out there”…publicly…as widely as possible…as loudly as possible. Why? Because I believe what I am saying. Because I think it matters. Because I really DO believe in transparent processes. Because I am not embarrassed by what I am saying. Because I welcome scrutiny, examination, questioning challenge and debate. Because I have nothing to hide.

Processes that are not open to scrutiny have nothing to do with freedom of discussion for the purposes of discovering the truth. They have everything to do with protecting people in positions of power and responsibility who may make misleading, unsubstantiated or prejudiced statements. They do nothing to protect or bring justice to the LGBT members of our church.

It is truly sad that members of the church, especially the LGBT members can have little faith in the work that has been done on the question of homosexuality. These are matters that affect their very lives, their occupations, their family relationships and their ongoing involvement in the work of the church. And these matters are being decided by people who not only appear to be drawing from completely discredited sources but are unwilling to be accountable to the rest of the church for the manner in which they have conducted their research. Do the CTICR still deserve to hold the trudt of the Church for the job they do? I’m not so sure anymore.