Friday, October 9, 2009

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton – Advocate for LGBT people – New Ways Ministry

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton's courageous and compassionate voice has resounded through the Church for over a generation. Whether the issue was Latin American politics, world hunger, nuclear weapons, the Vietnam War, or American hostages in Iran, Bishop Gumbleton has been speaking, with his words and with his life, the Gospel message of unconditional, non-violent love. Photo

In the arena of gay/lesbian issues, Bishop Gumbleton has preached that same gospel message that God's love can break down barriers of ignorance, discrimination, hatred and fear. At the 1992 New Ways Ministry Symposium Bishop Gumbleton first spoke out about his own journey of acceptance. "When I recall my first years as a priest, I wonder how I could have spoken as I did many times in the confessional to gay people. Not very long ago my own brother, Dan, wrote a letter to our family in which he declared that he is gay. He and his partner have a very good relationship. It is humbling for me to acknowledge that I would not even deal with this letter for several months. I simply refused to respond."

But, of course, he did respond, reaching out to his own family and now, to families throughout the Church. In October, 1995, he was a featured speaker at a national retreat for parents of gay/lesbian sons and daughters. He proposed that the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family Life issue a statement about ministry to families with gay/lesbian members. The committee is now implementing this proposal. In 1994, on a speaking tour of parishes in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, Bishop Gumbleton, wearing a miter adorned with a cross, a pink triangle, and a rainbow ribbon, encouraged gay and lesbian people to share their experiences with the Church. "Your experience," he told a questioner, "can contribute to the understanding of the church and could contribute to the articulation of theology.... So I think your experience is very important." Read complete articleNew Ways MinistryBridge Building Awards

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In 1992, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit surprised U.S. Catholics at a New Ways Ministry Symposium by telling the personal story that one of his brothers, Dan, is gay. He touched the crowd of 500 people gathered in Chicago by talking frankly and movingly about his own struggle to understand and accept his brother. Gumbleton's life was radically affected by that talk. He has since become the "point bishop" for this issue, criss-crossing the nation, talking to Catholic groups about gay and lesbian issues.

In 1995, New Ways Ministry recognized the gifts of this courageous Church leader by presenting him with a "Bridge Building Award." The award was given at a public reception during the fall meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC. Over 200 people including nine bishops packed the reception room, probably the largest gathering of gay/lesbian people and their allies ever to attend the bishops' gathering.

In 1997, our twentieth anniversary year was a banner year for the ministry. In March, we sponsored the Fourth National Symposium, entitled "The Church Teaching/Teaching the Church: A National Dialogue on Lesbian/Gay Issues and Catholicism." Over 650 Catholic leaders and pastoral ministers gathered in Pittsburgh for a weekend-long in-depth and extensive discussion of topics ranging from same-sex marriage, family relationships, civil rights, homophobia, heterosexism, pastoral care, and lesbian nuns.
 [This was the Symposium that Fr. Marty Kurylowicz attended and afterwards felt compelled in good conscience to "come out" publicly in order to draw attention to the harm caused to very young children by the Vatican's unsubstantiated antigay teachings, who grow to grow up gay.]

At that meeting, Bishop Gumbleton made another historic statement: he called on all gay and lesbian Church workers--"including priests and bishops"--to come out of the closet and acknowledge their sexual orientation. Little by little, awareness of gay and lesbian Church personnel is becoming a reality in Catholicism…

New Ways Ministry played a key role in the development of this letter. In 1993, the organization petitioned the bishops to include on their agenda a statement supportive of gay and lesbian people. New Ways was told that only a bishop could make such a petition. When Bishop Gumbleton learned of this response, he stepped in and requested such a statement, enlisting 16 other bishops to support such an initiative. As the document was drafted our co-founder, Fr. Nugent, and a board member, Mary Kilbride, served as readers of early drafts.

On the grassroots scale, New Ways staff spends a significant portion of time providing day-long workshops for church personnel across the country. Entitled "Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Christians and the Church," these programs offer positive information on Church pronouncements, Scripture interpretation, lesbian/gay spirituality, and pastoral outreach. Many gay and lesbian people and their family members, as well, attend these programs. The structure of the workshop allows for story-telling and dialogue, so many walls of ignorance and fear are broken down, and bridges are built right in the course of the workshop. Read complete article New Ways Ministry - History

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