LGBTQ Ordination (a follow up to my Te Kaea interview)

Five Minutes of Fame.

Well, it seems my all too brief and not very illustrious career as a commentator on Church issues has hit its first speed bump!

With General Synod underway in Fiji and issues around our LGBTQ whanau having some prominence, it was only natural that the media would pick it up as a story, and so the lot fell to me to be interviewed. In an attempt to ensure 100% clarity I elected to be interviewed in English for the Māori language news, Te Kaea. The interview went well and I was pleased with the overall experience, until I saw the subtitles.

In the interview I was asked if I thought there was a barrier to the ordination of LGBTQ people to which I responded in the negative. I went onto say that there is, in my opinion no theological or tikanaga reason why LGBTQ people who are living in a loving relationship or are celibate cannot be ordained. This is not a view I apply uniquely to our LGBTQ whanau, but one I apply to any ordained person, or indeed candidate for ordination. The subtitle, however said “…I don’t see why any celibate gay man or lesbian woman cannot be ordained.”

Whanau, I believe that sexuality in its entirety and the physical manifestation of that sexuality between two people who love each other is one of the great gifts of God. It alarmed me therefore to see that the subtitle indicated or inferred anything other than that position. To demand anyone, LGBTQ or otherwise to exist in a state of celibacy as a prerequisite for ordination when they are involved in a loving relationship not only denies the couple perhaps the most intimate manifestation of love available to humans, but also denies the fullness of the candidate’s identity to be lived out. Of course there are some who choose to live a celibate life, and I support them 100% in that calling. I, however draw the line at demanding celibacy as an enforced way of life.

Whanau, although this post largely takes the form of an explanation, it is also a statement of support and solidarity from myself to our LGBTQ and Takataapui whanau everywhere, not only those in the Church.

Arohanui.

Please note that this isn’t an attack on Maori TV, Te Kaea or the reporter. Sometimes these things just happen.

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Sermon – Pentecost 4 – Ordinary 12 – Mark 4:35-41

Peace Be Still. By He Qi.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, remain acceptable in thy sight

O LORD my rock and my redeemer. AMEN.

 “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

 You know Whanau, I feel lucky this morning, and its not because I won Lotto last night. As if preaching here, and being with you all this morning isn’t enough, when I looked in my lectionary last week to see what the readings were, I found the reading we have this morning is one of my favourites in the entire bible.

                Here we have Jesus and some of his disciples out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Mark tells us that they are on their way to the town of Gerasa, and while they are on their way, Jesus falls asleep. Whanau, that right there is why I love this reading. Here we have Jesus, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and what is he doing? He is sleeping. In this moment, this brief instance we are given an insight into Jesus that we don’t often get, that is an insight into his humanity and indeed his human vulnerability. Here we are reminded of the human nature of God, the fact that God sent his son into the world for us. Not simply as conqueror, or some sort of super-human entity, but a fully human manifestation of God, what a beautiful thing. He got hungry, he got angry and he even got sleepy sometimes. Jesus experienced life just as we experience it and in that knowledge there is a sense of comfort for those of us who continue to struggle through life’s challenges, through life’s ups and downs. That comfort is the knowledge that Christ himself experienced these struggles, and continues to experience them with us.

As our reading continues, we see Peter, perhaps hysterically, attempting to wake up Jesus. There is a huge wind on the water and the waves are pounding the boat, fearing that the boat will sink, Peter puts it to Jesus, “Do you care?!?” So, in what seems like a dramatic shift, from a sleeping, fully human Jesus, we see a change to a wind and rain stopping Son of God.

I think a lot of us here can relate to what must have been going through Peter’s mind at that very moment. Here he was, literally facing death as the boat was being swamped and where is Jesus, the Man who can make it all go away? He is sleeping! I remember in 2010, my older sister, the oldest in our family of 7 kids, was very sick. She was having seizures and blacking out all the time and the doctors didn’t quite know what was going on. She had MRI Scans, she had tests but still, they didn’t know why these things were happening. It wasn’t until mid 2010, after a series of CT Scans that they found a tumour in her brain that was growing just behind her ear. In that moment, at that time, it felt to me as though Jesus had fallen asleep, and my whanau and I were alone, facing the devastating news that my sister had Cancer.

We all have moments like this, Whanau. Times where it can seem as if we are at it alone and we cannot see Christ or God in anything we are doing. When children are beaten and killed by their whanau, when loved ones pass away well before their time, when we look at the Newspaper and it seems as if there is war and suffering all around us, these are moments where we can all be forgiven for perhaps thinking that we are alone, and Christ has fallen asleep, unaware of the pain we are experiencing. But whanau, in our reading is the remedy for this feeling, all along, Jesus was with the disciples in the boat, and every step of the way, Christ is with us. Christ’s response to Peter after having calmed the storm holds the answer for us, Christ said “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Faith, Whanau, the answer is faith.

Of course this reading is all about faith, and faith, along with love and hope, is one of the most important aspects of our callings as Christians. This doesn’t mean that we are always 100% sure of ourselves or our lives; it doesn’t mean that we don’t have moments of doubt, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be times where we think Jesus, or even God has fallen asleep on us. Faith means that despite those times, we remain strengthened and empowered in our calling as Christians to love and to serve. Faith provides the foundation that allows us to live lives of service informed by love, and if we do it properly, faith means that our love becomes real and transforming not just for us, but for everyone around us.

I believe that as humans, we are called to love. Nowadays, love is word that gets thrown around all the time, it seems we have almost gotten too familiar with it as a word that we no longer feel it as the deep and powerful emotion that it really is. We live in a world where the important thing in a marriage isn’t love, but your sexual orientation. We live in a world where we use love to explain the way we feel about food, we use it to explain how much we like a song or music, we even use it to say how much we like a pair of shoes or jeans or a stunning dress, as Christians, I believe that we are called to a much deeper love than that.  The Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote a lot on his ideas around grace, his main whakaaro was that we should avoid what he called ‘cheap grace’ and strive for ‘costly grace’ I think the same thing applies to love. It is easy for us to love those who we like, those who we are close to, but that sort of love is easy for us; it is a cheap love that costs us nothing. It is much harder to love those who no one loves, to stand with those who are being persecuted, the lost, the lonely, the outcast. When we refuse to ignore injustice, when we choose to speak out prophetically in love rather than remain silent, that is when we are exhibiting the love that all Christians are called to show. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but with the faith that Christ talks about in our reading this morning we are all the more ready to show that love when the time or situation demands it.

Our Gospel reading this morning alerts us to issues of faith, it is a reality of the Christian life that there will inevitably be times where we question our faith, where even the most faithful among us will be tested, the thing we are reminded of in our reading this morning is that even when those moments come and it seems as if our faith is getting smaller and smaller, we must remember that Christ is with us, even if like in our reading this morning it seems as if he is sleeping, he is there nonetheless, and that knowledge alone is enough for even us to command the wind to cease and storm to stop.

And so I leave you with those thoughts in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.         AMEN.

We Are The 99%

My inspiration for this post.

Perhaps one of the most prevalent themes of the Gospel story is that of justice. Not just a superficial, forced type of justice, but a justice that permeates everything we do, a justice that is lived out and a justice that causes change. It is for that reason that Christ quoted from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

“We are the 99%.” This slogan has become somewhat of a house hold term over the last month. It is, of course is the catch phrase of the Occupy movement that is currently spreading all over the world. Beginning in America, Occupy has spread  from South Africa to Japan, to the Czech Republic to Brazil, the Occupy movement is truly a worldwide event, and since the 15th of October Occupy has made itself at home in New Zealand.

According to their Facebook page, Occupy Aotearoa New Zealand exists as “…an expression of solidarity with the people occupying Wall Street as well as many of the other occupations around the world. We support the assertion that endless corporate greed compromises the political system and holds too much influence over our everyday lives. We stand for a truly democratic society of freedom, equality, justice and equity.” At first glance I was, at least in principal supportive of the Occupy Movement, but as the days and weeks have progressed I find myself less and less in support of Occupy. For me as an indigenous person, I find it very hard to reconcile the Occupy cause with that of my own people and indeed, that of native people the world over. Occupy’s slogan is largely based on the disparity between those who have the majority of the worlds wealth and their influence. It is largely regarded as fact that 1% of the world’s population control 40% of the world’s wealth, and in the eyes of Occupy that also means power. So far, so good, I have no issues with that as a basic issue that should be brought to light. My reservations come in on a more fundamental level, that being the baseline foundation of the movement and their mode of protest.

My people, our people have been occupied, formally at least, since 1840 and so when a movement springs up in New Zealand proclaiming the occupation of the country until we see a return to democracy and equality, I am sure you can understand why I would be a touch hesitant to stand in solidarity with the said movement. Our people have been fighting for the last 170 odd years for our very existence as Māori. Not for financial gain or in protest at a financial deficient, no, our needs are far more fundamental than financial. We have been fighting for our language, our histories, our culture, our land. We have been fighting for our very lives. All of those things that make us who we are, we have been fighting for. As an indigenous person in Aotearoa New Zealand I feel marginalised, sidelined and ignored as a result of the Occupy Movement.

At a very fundamental level, the Occupy movement is effectively an import. We imported the slogan, we imported the mode of protest, and we even imported the chants. In doing so, the organisers of Occupy Aotearoa New Zealand have introduced yet another tool of colonisation to this country.

While the protesters march down Queen Street, Māori are making up more than 50% of the Prison population. While the protestors are pitching their tents in Aotea Square, over 50% of Māori are living in the 3 highest deprivation deciles. While the protestors occupy Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, Māori are still fighting for rights to our Ancestral Lands.

I have said it before in my blog posts and I will say it again, as Christians our calling to love and to serve means that we should be concerned with injustice in whatever form it takes and wherever it occurs. A part of that responsibility is to ensure that our response to injustice doesn’t cause more hurt and pain and therefore simply perpetuate the cycle that injustice creates. This is where I feel Occupy Aotearoa has come up short. I must confess, like I said earlier, at first I thought Occupy was great. Finally, a response to corporate greed and power, but when I looked beyond the surface and reflected on the implications of the protest, especially on indigenous people I began to realise that this protest doesn’t in fact, empower the already weak. It doesn’t liberate the marginalised or release the captives. It doesn’t restore sight to the blind or let the oppressed go free. What it does do is highlight just how off the radar and unimportant issues of justice, especially justice for Māori, is in Aotearoa New Zealand, even among those who fight for better equality and justice. Perhaps if nothing else, that realisation for me is a worthwhile outcome of the Occupy Movement.

My Name is Christopher Huriwai, I am indigenous and I am the occupied.

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