CTICR: A Lack of Transparency and Credibility. Part 2.

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

Ever since I heard a member of the CTICR quoting anti-gay hate-monger Paul Cameron I have been concerned about the sources the LCA’s theological think tank rely on for their investigation into matters that drastically affect the lives of the LGBT members of our Church. I have talked about my request for access to their background material and their refusal in Part 1 but let me remind you of the astounding refusal email. (I still shake my head every time I read it.)

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.

Over the last 5 months I have received information from various reliable sources that has shown me that the CTICR’s modus operandi is indeed cause for concern and deserves much greater scrutiny despite their “longstanding (unwritten) policy”, “conventions” and “truisms”.

  • The CTICR only meet twice a year. During those meetings  their agenda is so full that there is never adequate time to address the issues at hand. The matter of sexuality is only one of the matters on their agenda. And the question of the church’s statement on homosexuality is only one part of 3 being considered in the broader issue of sexuality in general. I was given the impression that the time devoted to the question of homosexuality is about one-third of definitely not enough.
  • The scope of the investigation is too narrow to give due consideration to the question even if the time were available to discuss the issue adequately. I was told that the scope of investigation is purely “theological” and does not include any recent medical, psychological, genetic or sociological findings. One of the essential principles that my seminary lecturers taught me was that theology is never independent of the environment in which it is placed and into which it speaks. Do the new breed of lecturers seriously believe that this no longer applies? Or is this more because of the unreasonable time constraints?
  • One of the members of the CTICR, very early in the investigation, stated that there would be a status quo outcome. Some members of the commission expressed alarm at such a statement. It seems that the Council of Presidents (CoP) were  concerned enough about the statement to express that it was not appropriate for that to be expressed in the Commission. Despite this the one who issued the highly prejudiced statement has not been held accountable. That person remains on the Commission, making decisions about the lives of the LGBT members of the Church. Surely, any  fair assessment of the situation would say that the person has forfeited the right to be a continuing part of the discussion.
  • Even though the CoP  are supposed to have expressed dismay at the premature statement of a “status quo outcome” it seems that is precisely what has occurred. It was reported to me that the CTICR will be restating the existing position expressed in the Church’s horrible 1975 statement. It seems that this had already largely been decided a full 2 years out from the next General Synod. There will, however, be changes in the “Pastoral Statements”. So… “Don’t worry gay people. You are still considered to be disordered, diseased and sinful and you can’t express yourself sexually or live and grow old with the person you love but…we will make sure we tell you that really nicely”.

I know that the members of the CTICR are good people who believe that they are serving their God and their Church. What continues to surprise me is the capacity for good people to do bad things seemingly without being aware of it. Is it possible that the members of the Commission are unable to see the injustice of what they do? Is it possible that they get so used to discussing theological matters on a theoretical base, then forwarding neatly worked papers on to pastor’s conferences, that they forget that their decisions dramatically affect the real lives of real people.

I tried to make this point in one of the emails that I sent to the CTICR.

Can you imagine what it is like to be, say, a gay teacher in the LCA? You have struggled with this issue for over 20 years, You have lived the struggle intimately every day of your life. You have theological training because of your career. You know that you are likely to be at least as well read as any of the Church theologians on the subject because you have been reading everything you can get your hands on for years. You have been through a series of counsellors and programs and prayer ministries and all of it secretly because you know that your career advancement will be drastically effected if ever you came out. You know those things that have helped you and those things that have nearly destroyed you. You know that you have always been this way and that you always will. You hope that you can somehow find love with a life’s partner and still serve the church that you love in the career that you love.

You hear that the Church is re-assessing its statement. You have heard that the pastors have discussed it in their District Conferences. You know that the pastors have been discussing it at the National Conference…and now you are at General Synod because you made sure that you would be your congregation’s representative because this matters more to you than anything else in your life.  And it is presented in a 40 minute session along with marriage and singleness and celibacy. And status quo is presented and you vote “no” and you realise it was all a sad waste of time. Most of all you realise that even though it was all about YOU and YOUR life you were powerless and voiceless and didn’t matter at all  in the process.

I say again, the work you do on CTICR is for him and that 40 minute session is not all that he deserves. The CTICR has a responsibility to take him on the journey with them, to make available to him every document and paper that has been presented and to seek his input in the process.

Unless that happens, unless the CTICR take my gay friend along with them in the process, then they fail in their task.

My recent excursus into the workings of the CTICR has made one thing very clear to me. Those who have concerns about justice for the LGBT members of our church, those who hope for a fair-minded, thorough, public and accountable investigation into the question of homosexuality can no longer have faith in the work and processes of the CTICR. I believe that in this matter they are now without credibility.

I believe that the only reasonable way forward for our church is for the investigation to be taken out of the hands of the CTICR. The responsibility should be given to another group who can give it the careful consideration that such a vital issue deserves. And such a group should operate in a completely open, public, and accountable manner so that all interested parties, particularly the LGBT members of the church, can be involved in the process.

And I challenge you, any member of the CTICR,  to come out from behind the unholy secrecy and darkness in which you operate and prove to my gay friend why he should trust one word of your prematurely status quo document.