Thursday, December 07, 2006

Conservative Rabbis Decide on Gay Issues

There was a significant story on page A-17 of The Post this morning.
NEW YORK, Dec. 6 -- A panel of rabbis gave permission Wednesday for same-sex commitment ceremonies and ordination of gays within Conservative Judaism, a wrenching change for a movement that occupies the middle ground between orthodoxy and liberalism in Judaism.

The complicated decision by the Conservatives Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards leaves it up to individual seminaries whether to ordain gay rabbis and gives individual rabbis the option of sanctioning same-sex unions. Reform Judaism, the largest branch of the faith in the United States, has ordained openly gay men and lesbians since 1990 and has allowed its rabbis to perform same-sex commitment ceremonies since 2000. Orthodox Judaism does not countenance same-sex relationships or the ordination of gay rabbis.

Like many Protestant denominations, Conservative Jews are divided over homosexuality: torn between the Hebrew scriptures' condemnation of it as an "abomination" and a desire to encourage same-sex couples to form long-lasting, monogamous relationships.

Though stopping short of endorsing same-sex marriage, the rabbis wanted to allow commitment ceremonies "because in Jewish sexual ethics, promiscuity is not acceptable either by heterosexuals or by homosexuals, and we do in fact have both a Jewish and a social and a medical need to try to confirm those unions," said Rabbi Elliot Dorff of Los Angeles, one of the authors of the change. Conservative Rabbis Allow Ordained Gays, Same-Sex Unions

Weird, it sounds so sensible, you wonder why everybody doesn't see it this way. How can it not make sense to encourage gay people to form long-lasting monogamous relationships?
After years of discussion and two days of intense debate behind closed doors at a synagogue on Park Avenue, the law committee accepted three teshuvot, or answers, to the question of whether Jewish law allows homosexual sex. Two answers uphold the status quo, forbidding homosexuality.

But a third answer allows same-sex ceremonies and ordination of gay men and lesbians, while maintaining a ban on anal sex. It argues that the verse in Leviticus saying "a man shall not lie with a man as with a woman" is unclear, but traditionally was understood to bar only one kind of sex between men. All other prohibitions were "added later on by the rabbis," Dorff told reporters.

The Post does us Gentiles a favor by explaining how important this change is, and how it works in Jewish tradition.
The issue has been particularly difficult for the Conservative movement, which claims about 2 million members worldwide, because it does not lightly depart from traditional Jewish law, or halakha. Conservative Jews generally keep the kosher dietary rules and observe the Sabbath, though perhaps not as strictly as Orthodox Jews do.

Since the mid-1980s, however, the Conservative movement has departed from traditional law in several ways, including ordaining women, permitting Jews to drive to synagogue on the Sabbath, and eliminating special treatment of "illegitimate" children.

Some Conservative Jews argue that the reconsideration of homosexuality is no more significant, in terms of Jewish law, than these other changes. But Rabbi Joel Roth, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary who was among those who resigned from the law committee, said he considers the change to be "outside the pale of acceptable halakhic reasoning."

Rabbi Jerry Epstein, chief executive of the association of 700 Conservative synagogues in North America, said he did not know whether any of them would leave the movement in protest. He said he believes that they are about evenly divided for and against allowing same-sex ceremonies.

As the Conservative rabbis met in New York this week, they were conscious that they were not only deciding an important matter for their constituency but were also contributing to a national debate on the status of same-sex couples. Dorff said he hoped that the adoption of two optional, conflicting positions would serve as a model for other religious groups of how to handle deep disagreements, "so movements don't have to split up over these kinds of things."

How sensible.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good news! The pendulum is swinging in Canada. The prime minister wants to end same-sex marriage, cutting in half the universe of possible marital partners for Canadians.

He couldn't get it through the legislature this time out but he says he'll be back next year. We're getting there.

December 08, 2006 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, of the four main branches of Judaism, only Orthodox and Messianic Jews remain faithful to scripture.

December 08, 2006 7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And if you are wearing blended fibers, you are not remaining faithful to scripture.

December 08, 2006 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I threw that in with you in mind, Dr.

I don't think Orthodox Jews are all that close-minded. They have more in common, certainly, with Messianic Jews than Reformed ones.

You should go back and insert "Jesus" into every prophecy about the Messiah. You'd be astonished how well it fits.

December 08, 2006 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Go ahead and ask any Orthodox Jew what he or she thinks about Messianic Jews (aka, Jews for Jesus) and you will get an earful. "Messianic Jews" are people who have converted to Christianity. Fine. That is their choice. But for them to pretend that they are still Jews makes no more sense than to say that all Christianity is simply a branch of Judaism.

The fundamental theological divide between Christians and Jews is over whether Jesus Christ was or was not the Messiah. Christians say yes, Jews say no.

Now this theological divide is entirely different from what I would call the moral divide among different Christian and Jewish demoninations. And it is important for us to understand that theology and morality are not precisely the same thing. For most Americans, morality may be rooted in theology, but it is not absolutely controlled by it; we do use the common sense God has given us.

On the hot-button moral issues of the day, Reform (and Conservative) Jews generally have a lot more in common with the United Church of Christ, the majority of Episcopalians (as evidenced by their recent positions), and a very significant percentage of Methodists and Presbyterians than they do with Orthodox Jews. And, on these issues, those Christians have a lot more in common with Reform (and Conservative) Jews than they do with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church.

On the other hand, on issues of economic justice and how America handles itself in the world, the Roman Catholic Church has a lot more in common with progressive Jewish and Christian groups than it does with Protestant Fundamentalists.

But, as the flap at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church recently demonstrated, there are fissures among Protestant Fundamentalists (or at least Evangelicals) regarding a wide range of issues, which further complicates efforts to divide everyone up into opposing camps.

Maybe we are entering an era in which most people in the United States will be able to enter into real conversations about tough issues. In the course of those conversations, we will all learn a lot, and we will all be the better for it.

December 08, 2006 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But for them to pretend that they are still Jews makes no more sense than to say that all Christianity is simply a branch of Judaism."

This is what I've been trying to tell the doctor. If we can have a rational conversation and look at the evidence, we'll see that Jesus fulfills the prophecies and Judaism is identical to Christianity.

"But, as the flap at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church recently demonstrated, there are fissures among Protestant Fundamentalists (or at least Evangelicals)"

What flap is that, David? Warren is sometimes criticized for talking to people he disagrees with but unless he takes some errent postion, there's no problem. Most evangelicals believe in engaging the culture rather than shunning it and it always has been so. Evangelicals seek nothing more than chances to hold their beliefs up to comparison with other beliefs. If he has the president of Act Up over to see his AIDS clinic, he isn't violating any religious beliefs.

December 08, 2006 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Maybe we are entering an era in which most people in the United States will be able to enter into real conversations about tough issues. In the course of those conversations, we will all learn a lot, and we will all be the better for it."

I hope you're right, David. It would help if liberals would stop efforts to exclude religion from the public square.

December 08, 2006 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What flap is that?"

Take a look at this article from Nov. 30:
Church Is Urged to Disinvite Obama
By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 30, 2006; A04
Antiabortion groups are assailing one of the nation's most influential evangelicals, the Rev. Rick Warren, for inviting Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to speak at a conference on HIV/AIDS at his Southern California megachurch this weekend.
In a statement, 18 antiabortion leaders called on Warren to rescind the invitation because Obama supports keeping abortion legal.
"You cannot fight one evil while justifying another," says the appeal, whose signers include Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, Judie Brown of the American Life League and Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association.
Warren, author of the bestseller "The Purpose Driven Life," responded yesterday by asserting that he and his wife, Kay, are "staunchly pro-life" and "completely disagree" with Obama's position in favor of abortion rights.
Obama was one of 60 speakers invited to "share his views on AIDS, not abortion or any other issue," the Warrens said in a statement issued by their Saddleback Valley Community Church. They added that Obama and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) will "present two different political perspectives" at the weekend "Summit on AIDS and the Church."
"Our goal has been to put people together who normally won't even speak to each other," the Warrens' statement said. "We do not expect all participants in the Summit discussion to agree with all of our Evangelical beliefs. However, the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by Evangelicals alone. It will take the cooperation of all -- government, business, NGOs and the church."
A spokesman for Obama said he has no intention of withdrawing from the conference, where he is expected to take a public HIV test.
"While we will never see eye-to-eye on all issues, surely we can come together with one voice to honor the entirety of Christ's teachings by working to eradicate the scourge of AIDS, poverty and other challenges we all can agree must be met," a statement from the senator said.

And take a look at this column by E.J. Dionne a few days later:

Message From A Megachurch
American politics took an important turn last week at a church in the foothills of Southern California's Santa Ana Mountains.
When Rick Warren, one of the nation's most popular evangelical pastors, faced down right-wing pressure and invited Sen. Barack Obama to speak at a gathering at his Saddleback Valley Community Church about the AIDS crisis, he sent a signal: A significant group of theologically conservative Christians no longer wants to be treated as a cog in the Republican political machine.
For his part, Obama, the former community organizer from Chicago, showed why he is this moment's hottest commodity in 2008 presidential politics, even though he has not entered the race yet.
For a quarter-century since the rise of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, white evangelical Christians have been widely seen as a Republican preserve. No one did a more comprehensive job of organizing them than President Bush, and he carried the white evangelical vote in 2004 over John Kerry by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1. Many of the most politically active evangelical leaders have insisted that the morally freighted social issues -- abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage -- took priority over all questions.
Enter Warren, or Pastor Rick, as he likes to be known. Warren is no political liberal. On the contrary, his views on the hot-button issues are reliably conservative, and he has said that members of his sprawling Orange County congregation probably vote overwhelmingly Republican.
But Warren speaks for a new generation of evangelicals who think that harnessing religious faith too closely to electoral politics is bad for religion, and who are broadening the evangelical public agenda to include a concern for global poverty and the scourge of AIDS.
Warren is also the most gifted religious entrepreneur since Billy Graham. Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life" has sold in the tens of millions, and his specific model for the megachurch has spread all over the country. He is not building a new denomination. He is building a new network, and it's powerful. Warren and his wife, Kay, have made alleviating the AIDS crisis in Africa one of the central components of their mission.
And thus it came to pass that when Warren called a conference at his church last Friday on World AIDS Day, among those he invited were two potential presidential candidates. It was unsurprising that one of them was Sen. Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican and a loyal social conservative who has taken up the AIDS issue with passion and commitment.
But when the other invitee turned out to be Obama, parts of the old evangelical political apparatus went after Warren as a heretic. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, declared that Obama's views on abortion -- Obama is pro-choice -- represented "the antithesis of biblical ethics and morality" and insisted that Warren had no business inviting him to Saddleback.
Warren's church issued a statement reaffirming its strong opposition to abortion, but Warren did not back down. Indeed, he seemed to revel in rejecting the old evangelical political model. "I'm a pastor, not a politician," Warren told ABC News. "People always say, 'Rick, are you right wing or left wing?' I say 'I'm for the whole bird.' "
When it came his turn to speak, Obama took on the moral message of evangelical AIDS activists -- and then challenged them.
"Let me say this and let me say this loud and clear: I don't think that we can deny that there is a moral and spiritual component to prevention," he declared. "In too many places . . . the relationship between men and women, between sexuality and spirituality, has broken down and needs to be repaired."
Then Obama got to what "may be the difficult part for some," as he put it, that "abstinence and fidelity, although the ideal, may not always be the reality."
"We're dealing with flesh-and-blood men and women, and not abstractions," Obama said, and "if condoms and potentially things like microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, then they should be made more widely available. . . . I don't accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence."
That Obama received a standing ovation suggests that Warren is right to sense that growing numbers of Christians are tired of narrowly partisan politics and share his interest in "the whole bird." In their different spheres, Warren and Obama are both in the business of retailing hope.
One more thing: If you read Obama's speech, you'll realize he demonstrates a much truer Christian spirit than the GOP masterminds who have recently tried to push people away from Obama by pointing out that his middle name is Hussein.

December 08, 2006 11:39 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

December 08, 2006 1:12 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous said "Good news! The pendulum is swinging in Canada. The prime minister wants to end same-sex marriage, cutting in half the universe of possible marital partners for Canadians.

He couldn't get it through the legislature this time out but he says he'll be back next year. We're getting there.

Your delusions are getting to be hilarious. The motion to re-open the question of equal marriage for same sex couples was defeated by a much wider margin than when the law was passed in the first place. An increasing majority of Canadians supports the equal marriage law and and opposes revisting the issue. There most certainly is not a pendulum swing towards undoing equality, all the evidence shows that equal marriage in Canada is more firmly entrenched than ever. The Conservatives and Harper have been consistent in stating that this vote ends the debate of the marriage issue. Regardless of what they think, they are now behind in the polls and given that and that almost every Canadian jurisdiction has ruled that equal marriage is the law there is virtually no way equality will be undone. Hooray for Canada! A shining beacon to the world of fairness, equality, and justice.

December 08, 2006 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hooray for Canada! It may be cold but bugger contracts are available.

December 08, 2006 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to Maple Syrup City

Gonna have some fun

I'm going to Maple Syrup City

Gonna freeze my buns

Two potential partners for every, um, person

Maple Syrup City


December 08, 2006 4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, OK, randi.

I was just yankin' your chain.

You must admit, I got a growl though.

December 08, 2006 4:26 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous, just look at your hyporcritcial self. You claim no one is persecuting LGBTs and in the next breath you go out of your way to disparage and harass us. Fatuous describes you perfectly.

December 09, 2006 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I didn't know about the pro-life guys trying to get Obama disinvited but I would side with Warren. It was a conference, not a church service, and he is a U.S. Senator. Jesus told his disciples to render unto Caesar, who was infinitely worse than the pro-murder politicians.

Also, I agree with Warren that churches should stay generally non-partisan. Billy Graham always did. That's the traditional evangelical position.

Still, as usual, E.J. Dionne is off-base in over-emphasizing the importance here. Pro-life politicians have spoken at church--sponsored events before and the people protesting are aware of that. The whole idea was probably to highlight to voters that this increasingly popular poitician is on the wrong side of one of the major moral issues of our time. I guess anyone who was paying attention won't forget that now.

December 09, 2006 5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I do hope Anon is able to find me one orthodox Jew who agrees with him. I'd love to meet him."

There's something happening here and you don't know what it is.

Do you, Dr D?

December 09, 2006 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooo! A guessing game!

Can anybody play or just Anon and Dana?


December 09, 2006 9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I have to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down,gonnerman,1077,1.html

December 09, 2006 9:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home