Thinking Anglicans

What happened in Riga

Last week the Church of England Newspaper reported on an event that happened in Latvia, at the Anglican Chaplaincy of St Saviour’s Riga where the Chaplain is The Reverend Dr. Juris Cālītis who also is Dean of Theology at the University of Latvia.

The article as originally written appears below. (The version published by CEN was slightly shorter.) The author George Conger writes:

This isn’t a story about the issues that divide: blessings or ordinations, but about simple human decency on the part of a small Church of England parish in Riga, Latvia.

Picture here

The Bishop in Europe, the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell, has rebuked the chaplain and parish council of the Church of England parish in Riga for hosting a gay pride service following a violent street march through the old city of the Latvian capital.

Approximately 100 marchers celebrating “Riga Pride 2005” on July 23 were pelted with eggs and tomatoes and threatened with violence during the country’s first ‘gay pride’ march by several thousand onlookers. While neo-Nazi skinheads and Russian nationalists played a prominent role in peppering the marchers with abuse, the majority of the mob were Christians from Latvia’s mainline churches: Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Orthodox the Rev. Juris Calitas, Riga’s Anglican chaplain stated.

Controversy over the march began shortly after Riga’s city council granted permission for the march on July 8. MP’s from the Green and conservative parties as well as the heads of Latvia’s Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist and Orthodox Churches protested. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis stated on July 20 a gay pride parade was “not acceptable” as “Latvia is a state based on Christian values”, prompting Riga’s mayor to cancel the parade.

An emergency appeal to an administrative court restored the permit and the parade took place under the protective police shield. The hour-long paradebegan and ended at St. Savior’s [Church of England] and was followed by an ecumenical Anglican-Lutheran worship service.

Parade participant, Maris Sants reports that to enter St Savior’s the marchers had to pass through a hostile jeering crowd, including one woman standing at the Church door holding an icon and crucifix. “While trying topress people to kiss” the relics, Mr. Sants stated, she “eventually gave slaps to some participants”.

A spokesman for the Bishop in Europe told The Church of England Newspaper, “St Saviour’s Riga had not requested any permission for such a service to take place and the bishop was concerned at reports of such a service occurring”.

“Bishop Geoffrey believes it is inappropriate that, as churches wrestle with the proper pastoral care for those of homosexual orientation, a church service to be used in what would seem to be a lobbying and confrontational way and has made this clear to the Chaplain and Church Council.”

Martin Reynolds of the Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement stated he was “amazed” at these remarks, writing to Bishop Rowell on Aug 8 “Your chaplain and congregation exhibited bravery and compassion”.

Dean of Theology at the University of Latvia, Dr. Calitis—-a priest of the Church of England and pastor of the Latvian Lutheran Church—-noted the mobs reminded him of the anti-Jewish pogroms of the war years. “It was scapegoating,” he stated. “It’s hard to understand how Christian people with the least understanding of their mandate can be involved in mobs like this.”

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Tim
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Let’s put this one way: I’m not homophobic, I have at least one gay friend that I know of. But I do occasionally wonder about the concept of “gay pride”. If it’s legitimate, and the surrounding environment is mature enough, you wouldn’t need to go on marches to be “proud” about it. At that point, it becomes an act of aggression against the local community. But where on earth does the Bible tell people to judge others, to throw things at others, just like a mob we would expect in the rest of the world? If you see homosexuals as… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Jesus told us we would be hated for the sake of the Gospel.

More painfully ironic, is that those doing the hating would also *claim* to be acting on behalf of the Gospel. 🙁

Lord have mercy.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I think its more ‘pride’ in the sense of being happy with yourself, accepting what you are – not being ashamed which is how many of us have been made to feel.

In countries such as latvia, emerging from years of Soviet domination, where the gay community is still small and frightened, it is particularly important.

I am pleased that the Anglican church was able to help and offer support, [ad hominem deleted]

IT
Guest
IT

Well, yes, “pride” can be offensive to the locals. These days that says more about the locals. Pride is also a statement that we are here, and we matter. That we won’t be driven back into silence pretending to be something we aren’t. Silence, as the slogan goes, = death. We aren’t going to be complicit in our own silence any more. It’s hard to convey to someone who doesn’t have to live our odd lives of semi-invisilibity how important this reclamation is. In my own large American city, Pride is a community day. Can you imagine how freeing it… Read more »

Rodney
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Rodney

So much for bishops following Lambeth resolutions and all the other statements about homophobia being “anathema”. I would have hoped that someone with Bishop Rowell’s background and connections could have been more, well, sympathetic at least. But it’s just this sort of thing that has taken me out of the institutions of Christianity. Maybe one day they’ll get over themselves.

Nadine Kwong
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Nadine Kwong

Tim, you write: “Let’s put this one way: I’m not homophobic, I have at least one gay friend that I know of. But I do occasionally wonder about the concept of “gay pride”. If it’s legitimate, and the surrounding environment is mature enough, you wouldn’t need to go on marches to be “proud” about it. At that point, it becomes an act of aggression against the local community.” Allow me to take a stab at explaining for you and perhaps others why LGBT people celebrate “Gay Pride”: It’s easy for people who are part of a majority that is and… Read more »

matt
Guest
matt

It is not in the least bit surprising to me. It looks like every authority in those people’s lives (all except the council and the ‘CofE’ church in question, it seems) was teaching that homosexuality is incompatable with christianity, decency and the wider social good in some way or another. Acceptance of that teaching is at or above a point of ‘critical mass’ within the culture in question, where the common mind now perceives such mob persecution of a minority as not only socially acceptable, but even heroic. ‘Prophets’ of our day (in OUR towns and OUR churches) continue teach,… Read more »

David Ould
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David Ould

I’m sorry, I don’t understand the point being made.
The bishop of Europe was against the use of the church for a parade that he considered was “lobbying and confrontational”. That’s not a strange position for him to take given the church’s stance on the issue.

At the same time, members of the public including (according to the report) congregants at various churches engaged in behaviour that we would all consider (if the reports are correct) wrong.

but what’s the link? The Bishop’s not endorsed the apparently offensive protest, he’s just expressed an opinion on the wisdom of the church supporting this rally.

Tim
Guest

Nadine wrote: “To consider a Gay Pride march “an act of aggression against the local community” is to blame the victim, deny the equal citizenhood of a despised minority group, and excuse the tyranny of a majority;” While I agree entirely with your “pendulum swing” approach, no it’s not. Aggression is exactly the right word for it, in the same way as I’d describe using shoulders & elbows to shove through a crowd as aggressive, whether you have an objective right to be further in front than others or not. And as you say, it shouldn’t be needed. My point… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I think that sometimes you have to stand up and be counted, Tim.

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

Matt wrote: “What non-homosexual, ‘re-asserting’ people don’t understand is that the ‘stoning’ mentality is bubbling under the restrained, polite and ‘loving’ cultures of most societies and churches around the world from London to Kuala Lumpur to Missouri to Abuja to Riga. It doesn’t take much to get to the tipping point.” And *that* is what scares me the most about the ‘re-asserting’, ‘love the sinner, but hate the sin’ people in my own country. There’s just no way I’d trust them not to bend over and pick up those stones should the “right” opportunity arise. The tipping point to violence… Read more »

ruidh
Guest

Let’s edit this a bit: “Let’s put this one way: I’m not racist, I have at least one black friend that I know of. But I do occasionally wonder about the concept of “black pride”. If it’s legitimate, and the surrounding environment is mature enough, you wouldn’t need to go on marches to be “proud” about it. At that point, it becomes an act of aggression against the local community.” I could have edited it to be Irish or Orangemen or some other group. But I still fail to see how *any* group celebrating its pride in itself is an… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

The problems with David Ould’s analysis are these: He has framed the events in reverse order. The violence done to the marchers by the Christians and Neo-Nazi’s had happened by the time the bishop in Europe made his comments. He was briefed about all that had happened.. I am sure of this because I have spoken at length to the bishop’s officer since, believing that he could have only made such a statement if he was not in possession of all the facts. I know that his office had all the information because I sent them the material and it… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Its interesting that it appears to be an unholy coalition of ‘Christians’ and the far right.

I don’t think all the citizens of Riga or Latvia hold the same views – but once again, the Church is the centre of and focus for reactionary bigotry.

Lets stop making excuses.

I would rather have an entirely secular society than one with this sort of church holding any influence.

Nadine Kwong
Guest
Nadine Kwong

Tim, you replied to me as follows: “While I agree entirely with your “pendulum swing” approach, no it’s not. Aggression is exactly the right word for it, in the same way as I’d describe using shoulders & elbows to shove through a crowd as aggressive, whether you have an objective right to be further in front than others or not. And as you say, it shouldn’t be needed. My point is that this march was provocative, the whole affair being a bit imbalanced. You’ve got deviation-towards-extremity on *both* sides where neither should be needed. It takes a degree of maturity… Read more »

jim lodwick
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jim lodwick

God bless St. Savior’s Anglican parish in Riga! They seem like the true Christians in the place. The statement of the local hierarchs condemning the parish’s welcome to Latvian gay and lesbian people is notable both for its theological and its linguistic illiteracy, not to mention a complete lack of Christian compassion. Shame on Geoffrey Rowell for rebuking the parish rather than his fellow hierarchs!

Kevin_M
Guest
Kevin_M

There is most definitely a connection between the gay pride march in Riga (and other places) and the civil rights marches in the American South back in the 1950’s and ’60’s. Of course, this march in Riga was an aggression against the local community just as MLK, Jr., and all those others were a bunch of outside agitators stirring up trouble and trying to wreck our Southern way of life that had worked so well for decades. They should be dealt with just as we dealt with those trouble-makers in Birmingham and Selma. . . . I do hope people… Read more »

David Ould
Guest
David Ould

I still don’t get it. The bishop didn’t endorse the crowd’s behavior, he simply restricted himself to commenting on the propriety of the Anglican church in Riga supporting the march.

Why is that unreasonable?

IT
Guest
IT

Nadine….

you GO, Girl! Great post.

DGus
Guest
DGus

Dear Matt: I think I understood your whole post, except the fifth paragraph, which seemed to be a quotation of something. It began with “Watch out for false prophets…” and ended with some sort of citation: “Matt 7:15-20 (NIV)”. You seem to quote this source as if it has authority that commends itself to our belief. Apparently this source warns against “false prophets”, and you think people should agree with you, because you, too, warn against “false prophets”. What is this source, which has authority, which we should consult to find what is true, and which we should cite to… Read more »

Mark Beaton
Guest
Mark Beaton

Pride marches are fairly common in European and North American cities, also Sydney. In places like Berlin their associated with displays of kissing and public near-nudity. is this ok? Where do we draw the line?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

His silence speaks volumes, David.

IT
Guest
IT

I wonder if there were similar disapprovals of the Institutional Church against those clergy who were involved in the civil rights movement? Does anyone know?

Christopher Calderhead
Guest
Christopher Calderhead

IT,

Read Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Here’s a link:
http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

I know some conservative voices howl when gay rights are compared to the Civil Rights Movement, but the dynamic of the two times and places is certainly similar. And the insitutional Church often opts for the status quo.

Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

As I was flipping through the latest issue of Anglican World, which arrived in my mailbox today, I noticed a picture of a Corpus Christi procession by an Anglo-Catholic parish through a shopping district in downtown London. The caption noted that members of the congregation were passing out flyers to bewildered passers-by. Was this not a form of “Christian Pride” parade? The attempt of a minority (and churchgoing Christians are a minority in any Western city) to assert and take pride in their identity in the midst of an indifferent or hostile society? Look closely enough, and just about any… Read more »

Rodney
Guest
Rodney

Good point, Jim P. Was Geoffrey Rowell carrying the monstrance? He would have had he been asked. The parish in Riga was right to support the marchers. The Bishop was wrong to censure their actions. Had permission been asked no doubt it would have been refused. The parish would have been right to disregard the Bishop’s refusal.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Dgus, People have several different views on how to view, interpret and apply the received and translated Christian Bible (from which I quoted), as you know. I think, judging from your deliberately obscure posting addressed to me, that you seem to think that of those differing views, it is only reasonable to hold either one of only two of them: a) That it’s a load of old hooey and it has no ‘authority’ or b) That it is the absolute, pure, clear and perfect, literal utterance of God, every word of which should be rigidly applied to modern circumstances in… Read more »

DGus
Guest
DGus

Matt: OK, I won’t say “Dear Matt”, since it offends you, but I assure you I DO often use that convention (and see it used) on this site. I used it simply to be conventional, and with no intended irony whatsoever–but since my post was otherwise ironic I see why you might wonder. On an Internet blog, you complain about “rhetorical ‘traps’ baited with sarcasm”. Come on. At the beach, do you complain about the sand? Civility and good humor are mandatory for Christian discourse even on the Internet, but this does not preclude pointed commentary and attempts at wit.… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

David Ould remains unconvinced. While I have a feeling he may remain obdurate, I wonder what level of violence he would think necessary for the bishop to have moved his concern from the lack of permission for the service to a place where he recognised the bravery of his priest and people in the face of such appalling hostility. Perhaps two gay teenagers hanging in the square, as we recently saw in Iran, might have been more convincing than the six people from the violent mob arrested by the police in Riga. Who can tell? What we can say is… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

DGus ; accepting that not all of the Bible is applicable for a very different age is not explaining it away.

It is saying it, or at least those parts of it is wrong. Simple as that. And I have no problem at all in saying that – after all, far from being coherent, it is a collection of different books, written by different human authors, with many contradictions, brought together for largely political reasons.

Which is why we need reappraisal.

DGus
Guest
DGus

Dear MM: If your characterization of the Bible were correct, then it would not really need reappraisal, any more than the Koran, or War and Peace. Instead, it could be safely ignored, and we would just discern the truth from the sources we do consider reliable — mostly our own intuitions — and then as to the Bible (as with any other book or source) we would approve of the parts that were congruent with truth, and we would disregard the rest. Like every other book, the Bible would be subject to our logically prior determinations of what is true,… Read more »

David Ould
Guest
David Ould

I think the only people measuring the bishop’s apparently deliberate silence as tacit approval are people here who seem to have a desire to present him in the worst possible light.

I thought liberalism was all about acceptance and not judging people?

matt
Guest
matt

Dgus, I’m glad that you have made your point more clearly and openly; it saves a lot of time and hassle and misunderstanding. I know that it will take a miracle for you to accept that many people actually regard the application of biblical quotes, such as the ones you refer to, to all modern examples of ‘homosexual’ behaviour and inclination as being as inappropriate and meaningless as you regard me using the Matt 7 quote in the way I did. It is clear that you have a passionate contempt for any approach to the Bible that is not exactly… Read more »

DGus
Guest
DGus

Matt: You describe the incident at Riga as something that “has happened because of ‘conservative’ beliefs”, and ask for my views on that. In particular, you ask whether “conservative” Christian teaching against homosexuality causes, or partly causes, violence against homosexuals. In a word, I would say no, and at more length I would say this: Let’s begin by observing that fallen humans, regardless of race, creed, color, or sex, are capable of terrible acts, and that violence breaks out in every sort of group, whether traditionalist or revolutionary. Hindu mobs commit Hindu-flavored violence; Muslim mobs commit violence with Islamic labels;… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I can only speak for myself here as to David Ould’s assertion of willful malice behind the assessments of the Bishop in Europe’s statement found on this site. I refute this absolutely. I have already said that I foresaw this development, and warned the bishop’s advisors strongly to avoid this situation. I have no wish to cast any fellow Christian in a “bad light” – it is inimical to the spirit of our faith – I believe it is my duty to point out where there may be problems and help my brother – and so I did. I repeat… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear DGus, Well said ! I’m can’t believe that folk really have thought through this “teaching that something is sinful is causing persecution of sinners” arguement. If someone really believed it they would never teach that anything was a sin, just in case. Neither would they throw hyperbole at conservatives, in case it caused us to be attacked physically! I was, mischeivously, wondering whether this arguement might be used against the atheists like Richard Dawkins who regularly attack and try to rubbish Christianity. Many clergy in the UK are physicaly attacked every year (on average I think inner city priests… Read more »

matt
Guest
matt

Yes, Dgus, well said. Thank you for putting such a clear and well explained case. It’s so much more enjoyable (and persuasive) than previously. This discussion is forcing me to think more closely on the issues and I think I’m becoming clearer as to where our disagreement may be coming from. I think essentially, that there are two important differences between the list of sins you describe and homosexuality. First: There are clearly identifiable ‘bad’/anti-social consequences to each of the listed (and the rest) sins, but there are no clearly identifiable ‘bad’/anti-social consequences to homosexual acts in a committed, mutually… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I agree, Matt. I think the problem is that the Bible has no concept of sexual orientation, and the separation of orientation and practice is actually a product of contemporary conservative theology, as is the idea that being gay is OK but not acting on it. This differentiation clearly does not exist in the Bible, because there is no biblical concept of sexual orientation. Whilst it is not yet possible to firmly account for why someone’s sexual orientation is as it is, it is overwhelmingly agreed within the relevant professions that sexual orientation exists and that it is largely fixed… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Comments are wandering off the matter at hand again: this item is about events in Riga. If you don’t write about Riga, don’t expect us to approve your comments.