Bishop Withdraws from Maine Council of Churches Over LGBT Equality

Bishop Robert Deeley

A Catholic diocese will withdraw from a state ecumenical coalition at the end of this month, in part because of LGBT issues and a disagreement about the coalition’s response to the 2016 massacre at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.

The Diocese of Portland will withdraw from the Maine Council of Churches after the coalition made a procedural shift from having all eight member churches’ approval on issues of public advocacy to seeking only majority approval. More specifically, the seven Protestant members want to become public advocates for LGBT equality given their own communities’ expanding inclusiveness while the diocese remains more limited. The National Catholic Reporter quoted from Bishop Robert Deeley’s open letter explaining his decision:

“‘Our continuing participation could result in me advocating for two different, and even contradictory, positions,’ writes Portland Bishop Robert Deeley in an open letter published by the Portland Press Herald. ‘What I advocate for cannot be simply determined by a majority vote. It is expected that my advocacy is grounded in the teachings of the Church. Any other position would be contrary to my responsibility as the bishop of Portland.'”

Tensions began in 2016 after the massacre at Pulse Nightclub when the Council delayed issuing a statement. America Magazine explained the delay:

“[S]ome members of the Maine Council of Churches wanted to issue a statement expressing support for the victims and calling for an end to homophobia. . .Eventually, the group did release a statement, but in it they tried to ‘walk the line’ between signaling support for L.G.B.T. rights and condemning violence against the community, the group’s leader, the Rev. Jane Field, told America, upsetting some members who resented needing to be so cautious in their language at a time when the L.G.B.T. community was grieving. . .’That felt like a tipping point for me personally, where a number of our representatives said, “This can’t go on like this anymore.”‘”

The Diocese of Portland encompasses the entire state of Maine.

More recently, there was contention over a bill in the Maine legislature to ban “ex-gay” therapy. While the Council testified in support of the ban, the Diocese opposed it and was not listed on the Council’s testimony. Field said this disagreement was not the reason the Diocese is withdrawing.

America Magazine provided context that Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, recently withdrew from that state’s Council of Churches. The Diocese of Raleigh and Charlotte similarly exited the North Carolina Council of Churches in 2013. Overall, few Catholic dioceses participate in such coalitions.

Ecumenical networks are important faith advocates on a number of social justice issues, and the Catholic Church, for many reason,s should become a more active participant. But once again, a Catholic bishop has disrupted good works of charity and justice because withholding support for LGBT people was deemed to be more important. Bishop Deeley and other bishops who make such choices cast a wide net in causing harm, including against not only LGBT people, but the cause of Christian unity and the most vulnerable people in their communities.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 8, 2018

3 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    With behavior like this from so many Roman Catholic bishops throughout the world, it is a wonder that any LGBTQ people at all go to church or participate in a church in which so many of its leaders are so hostile and are indeed enemies of their very human rights and human dignity. There is something deeply pathological about a doctrine and actions that call love hate, and discrimination just.

  2. Richard Boyle, OSM
    Richard Boyle, OSM says:

    Really, this is just “same old, same old,” and no one ought to be shocked or surprised. Remember when so many derided the “Christian logic” of “love the sinner, hate the sin”? The bishop’s position just emulates that “position” in all its absurdity by forwarding (hiding behind?) the incredibly myopic overall approach to human sexuality in the RC Church’s moral theology. Once more the LGBTQ community just faces yet another aspect and instance of the Church’s institutionalized homophobia, and, sadly, thereby implicitly (“silently”) consents to various types of violence against us.

  3. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Odd that some Protestant leaders have been more interested in Social Justice than the Catholic Church, since that was the almost exclusive agenda of Catholicism for so long.


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