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Franciscan bits & pieces picked up by Ted Witham tssf

Archive for the tag “advocacy”

Jesus and a mule


It is clear from the New Testament that Jesus valued animals. He commended animal-owners for pulling their oxen out of a well even on the Sabbath. He noticed dogs playing around the table of the foreign woman. The story below comes from the Coptic tradition. It is historically true? Probably not. But it does encourage us to see Jesus as concerned for all of the Father’s Creation.

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Jesus and the Mule

They came across a man with a pack-mule. But the animal had fallen because its load was too heavy, and the owner beat it so much it started bleeding. So Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, why are you beating your animal? Can’t you see that it is not strong enough for its load, and don’t you know that it feels pain?’

But the man replied, ‘What is that to you? I can beat it as much as I want to, because it is my property and I paid a lot of money for it.’ …

But the Lord said, ‘Can’t you see it bleeding? Can’t you hear its cries of pain? ‘

But he said, ‘No. Can’t hear a thing.’

And the Lord was sad and exclaimed, ‘That’s bad news, that you can’t hear it complaining to its Creator in heaven, and crying to you for mercy. Very bad news for those it complains about in its distress.’ And the Lord touched the animal. It got up – its wounds healed!

Jesus then said to its owner, ‘Now carry on your way and don’t beat the animal anymore, so that you too will find mercy.’

–          Roderic Dunkerley, Beyond the Gospels, London: Pelican, 1957, 143-144 (Quoted in Hobgood-Oster, The Friends We Keep,  108-109, and rendered into modern English by Ted Witham

Christians in Favour of Gay Marriage


A petition organized by the Australian Christian Lobby can be found at www.australianmarriage.org.

The view on that website is clearly against legislating for gay marriage, and this view point is presented by some homosexual Christians as well as a broad range of (presumably) heterosexual Christians.

The Australian Marriage website does not present the argument for gay marriage. There are, however, Christians who support gay marriage and equally deserve a voice. I know Franciscan Tertiaries whose children are married to same sex partners. I know Tertiaries who wish they could marry their same sex partner. I know also that for some Tertiaries, mine will be a challenging viewpoint: let’s argue the case with respect and love!

If you wish to send a message to the ALP delegates in favour of gay marriage, you may wish to make use of the points below. Send your letter to your local ALP branch, to your local member if she or he is ALP, or to the ALP Senators in your State or Territory.

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Some thoughts on gay marriage from a Christian perspective

Christians who support gay marriage agree with the secular arguments that to oppose gay marriage is discriminatory and that all civil rights should be extended to people who are not heterosexual.

However, as Christians, they also argue from Genesis 2 for gay marriage. It is clear in Genesis 2 that the man (Adam) is seeking intimacy and companionship and finds that with the woman who is created from him. Heterosexual marriages are normal and usual! But it is not then necessary to assume that gays are excluded from marriage as Genesis 2 describes it. A woman can find intimacy and companionship with another woman in ‘flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone’ relationship, and surely find it blessed by God.

St Paul in Galatians 3:28 makes a strong case that ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ Quite clearly, Paul does not mean that in Christ the distinctions are meaningless; there continue to be Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, and males and females. The point he is stressing is that these categories are not important ‘in Christ’: at some levels, it doesn’t matter to Christ whether you are male or female. This is a radical teaching, asking us not to be so accepting of socially constructed roles that we stop seeing the basic humanity of people.  In a relationship, it is not your sex that counts. It is your ability to give and receive love.  It doesn’t matter in Christ whether your partner is male or female.

In Ephesians 5:24-30, Paul carefully outlines the connection between marriage – the love of spouse for spouse – and the love of Christ for the Church; Christ as bridegroom, Church as bride. In the Anglican prayer book tradition this is given as the first reason for marriage . It has a sacramental import. The first aspect is that the love Christ has for the Church empowers the married couple. Their love derives from His. The second aspect is that marriage then becomes a picture of Christ’s love for the Church. When you look at a married couple, you see Christ’s love illustrated plain.

In real life, we see gay marriages which are strong and tender and are pictures of Christ’s love for the Church. It is difficult to argue that the love expressed in these gay marriages is not provided by Christ.  Where else would such love come from? Why are these relationships less illustrative of God’s love than some fragile heterosexual marriage?

For these and other reasons, I as a Christian support gay marriage.

Eugene Rogers’s Christian Century article is helpful in exploring these arguments.

Ted Witham
November 2011

Waiting on a Promise


WEEK ONE:  2009

ADVENT

[Third Order, Society of St Francis, Australian Province)

A journey, a couple, a star, shepherds, a birth, and a child.   We pause to remember a story that is thousands of years old, and which echoes the hopes and longings of many peoples and places.  It is not a nostalgic reminiscence of times gone by, but a dynamic, divine challenge to enter into the mystery of God’s desire born among us.  Walter Brueggemann, Scripture scholar, calls it prophetic remembrance:  we look back to remember in such a way that we are compelled to live differently into the future.

God’s promise is revealed not only in the serenity of the child in the manger, or in the wonder of angels and stars, or shepherds and sheep, since to look only at the externals we risk missing the explosive enormity of the event.  Rather, our remembrance of the birth of the babe in a cattle stall is an invitation to reflect again on the greatness of God’s gift to us and for us.  As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, we cannot forget that it is our story too!  We too are called to bring Christ’s reign of justice and compassion to birth in our own lives.

Mary and Joseph lived at a time when the Israelites were an oppressed people longing for that new world that God had promised. They waited in hope for liberation, for a world where lion would be at peace with lamb, where the lowly would be lifted, and the hungry fed. They longed for a world where the desire for power and control, wealth and possessions, self-fulfillment and pleasure would be transformed to a world where equality, inclusion, justice and peace prevailed.

They longed for more than the birth of a child. They longed to see that new creation born of God’s dream for all.  They waited on a promise.  We too wait for God, and God waits for God’s promise to be fulfilled in us, and God’s reign to embrace with peace every corner of our world.  With St Francis we come to know that we are the mothers of Christ when we bring him forth in lives that are gift for the Other. Christ is born again and again in our world, and God’s gift is enfleshed each time we participate in an act of birthing a new humanity, a new world, and a new future.

Now is the time to turn our eyes to see the oppressed; our ears to hear the cries of hundreds of millions living in extreme poverty. Now is the time to reach out our hands to draw back those excluded and marginalized.  Now is the time to proclaim the Good News not only with our lips, but in the choices and decisions of our everyday lives.

What is the promise that you wait to see fulfilled?

What is the promise that you will fulfill in your life?

India Waits for a New Tomorrow.

In the towns and villages of India God’s people are oppressed and bend low beneath the weight of grief, suffering and fear.  They long for God’s promise to come true.  They long for a new world where justice and equality, peace and inclusion are more than dreams.

The government of India has failed to protect vulnerable communities including Dalits, tribal groups, and religious minorities. Since 2008, supporters of Hindu militant groups in Orissa have attacked Christians, many of them tribal minorities or Dalits. The militants have burned churches, beat priests and nuns, and destroyed property. Several policemen were suspended for dereliction of duty after a nun alleged that she was raped. At this time at least 40 persons have died in the violence, with scores injured and thousands displaced.

Failure to secure justice for the 2002 Gujarat riots-in which more than 2,000 Muslims were killed following an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims-has fueled anger amongst Muslims who face discrimination in access to housing and jobs.  The Indian government does little to protect them.

Despite a scheme launched four years ago to provide universal education, millions of children in India still have no access to education and work long hours, many as bonded laborers. Many children continue to be trafficked for marriage, sex work, or employment. Others languish in substandard orphanages or detention centers.

Human Rights Watch Report, 2009.

Recently, in a joint statement read at the General Assembly of the UN, Franciscans International spoke out on behalf of the persecuted and suffering peoples of India, making known their story: On 1 August, seven Christians including women and children were burnt alive, several dozens injured and around 177 houses were looted and destroyed mainly by fire using special chemicals. These killings and widespread violent attacks happened on unsubstantiated allegations…..The administration repeatedly failed to protect minorities …

Franciscans International, is an NGO working with the United Nations in the name of the whole Franciscan Family.  It is a voice speaking to the powerful decision makers of the world bringing about the change we long to see in our world.  For over 25 years Franciscans International has worked to fulfill God’s dream, facilitating systemic transformation in the world on behalf of the most vulnerable and our wounded planet.  Franciscans International works for that justice without which there can be no enduring “Peace and Earth”.


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