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Title: There's No Heaven Credit: Craig Young Comment Sunday 22nd November 2015 - 1:30pm1448152200 Article: 17570 Rights
 
Why are LGBT religious institutions so weak in New Zealand?  Are we necessarily missing out on  any aspects of LGBT culture though not having such dimensions within our own community? For example, take the Metropolitan Community Church, a specific LGBT Christian denomination, founded in the United States in 1968. MCC now has 222 churches in over thirty seven countries, so it is fulfilling particular community needs in those contexts. MCC has observer status within the World Council of Churches and participates within other national ecumenical mainline church bodies. It has a specific focus on LGBT rights and given the arrival of marriage equality across most of the western world, it has been among the first to conduct marriages among its parishioners. It is also involved in international fair trade and antipoverty campaigns.  It is open to feminism- a lesbian, Reverend Nancy Wilson, is the current Church Moderator and was an early adopter of women's ordination and inclusive gendered language in church liturgy.  Given all that, why does it only have two congregations in New Zealand, within Christchurch and Auckland? Part of that may be due to the existence of inclusiveness within mainline Anglican and Methodist congregations and the existence of LGBT networks within mainline Protestant churches such as Galaxy. For that reason, some LGBT Christians have told me that they consider MCC too "Pentecostal or evangelical" in theological expression, which is "off-putting" to those who have had negative experiences with evangelical or fundamentalist Protestant churches, although MCC encourages a diversity of theological expressions outside the evangelical/Pentecostal framework as well. Outside Christianity, LGBT synagogues also exist, although many religiously observant LGBT Jews tell me that they're similarly quite comfortable within Reform Judaism, the largest denomination within Judaism, and LGBT Buddhists feel similarly accommodated within western Buddhist sangha for the same reasons.  Added to which, however, New Zealand is now a highly secularised society, and LGBT individuals are a more highly secularised community than most.  Feminist Wicca and neo-paganism also attracts many lesbians, bisexual women and transwomen, given its women-centred worship of an immanent Goddess/goddesses, although such networks are ephemeral and transient.  Similarly ephemeral and transient is the "post-Catholic" phenomenon known as the Sisters (or sometimes, Order) of Perpetual Indulgence, an order of drag nuns (as well as some lesbian monks and even a lesbian Cardinal Sin at one point!).  Like Galaxies , there was once a mostly gay male Catholic network known as Ascent in New Zealand. Many New Zealand lesbian and gay Catholics got fed up with the backwardness and retrograde motion of the institutional church during the overly long pontificates of John Paul II (1978-2005) and his successor, Benedict XVI, and walked out in anger and disgust. The motivation for dressing up as nuns is two-fold. In some cases, it is out of earnest admiration for the more positive aspects of Catholic women religious and their commitment to social service and social justice. In others, it is correspondingly negative experiences of slap-happy and sadistic Catholic teaching order nuns who seemed fond of the use of rulers, canes and the use of punishment.  However, even during the era of Patricia Bartlett, the former SM (Sisters of Mercy) nun and anti-gay/pro-censorship campaigner of the seventies, eighties and nineties, only sporadic appearances of the sisterhood have been recorded in New Zealand. Perhaps the smaller institutional base of New Zealand Catholicism has meant that New Zealander's are not as likely to be interested in subversive re-appropriation of Catholic dress and parody of repressive pre-sixties Catholic gender norms as is the case in Australia and the United States. By contrast, we seem to have "resisted the habit" here in New Zealand.  However, while we are more secularised down here, it hasn't taken the form of active affiliation to rationalist, humanist and atheist organisations. While co-belligerency and mutual support may exist among rank and file LGBT individuals and members of such organisations in New Zealand, organisations such as the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists and the New Zealand Humanist Society haven't taken much interest in LGBT concerns outside decriminalisation of male homosexuality in the mid-eighties, unlike the British and American Humanist Associations and the American Atheist Association.  Given the steep decline of Christian religious observance, we don't seem to have the existential or psychological need to form post-christian (or post-muslim, post-buddhist or post-hindu) secular, humanist or positive atheist organisations as responses. Even although I'm an ex-fundamentalist, I'm beginning to wonder if the name of this very column, "Politics and Religion", should be altered to something more appropriate, perhaps "Politics and Society?"  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find examples of New Zealand anti-gay religious social conservatism as time goes on and as our society becomes increasingly multicultural and secularised.  What do you, our readers, think? Recommended:  Universal Fellowship of MCC: http://www. mccchurch.org Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence: http://www. thesisters.org Beth Chayim Chadashim LA: http://www. bcc-la.org World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews: http://www  wcglbtjews.org Arrow River: Marriage Equality: http://www. arrowriver.ca/ torStar/samesex.html George Takei: "Being Gay, Being Buddhist" Lions Roar: 17.06.2015: http://www. lionsroar.com/ being-gay-being-buddhist- george-takei/ Galva 108: Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (Hindu): http://www. galva108.org S.Venakataraman and H. Voruganti: "A Hindu Approach to LGBT rights": Swarajya: 04.07.2015: http://www. swarajyamag.com/ culture/a-hindu-approach-to- lgbt-rights/ Humanist Society of New Zealand: http://www. humanist.nz Craig Young - 22nd November 2015    
 
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