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Gender, sexuality perception has roots in religious history

Even today issues regarding sex, gender and sexuality and religion are still hot topics around the holy water, Rev. Cameron Partridge from St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s Church in Allston said Wednesday night.

Partridge, a Harvard Divinity School graduate, addressed a small group at the College of Arts and Sciencesin a talk about gender issues of both the early and modern Christian church. Boston University’s Episcopal Student Organization organized the talk.

Gender issues in religion are common today, Partridge said. Just six years ago, Gene Robinson’s election as an openly gay bishop in the Episcopalian Church of New Hampshire ignited debates over whether a gay man can also be a bishop, Partridge said.

‘It’s hard to understand why we’re fighting about it now,’ Partridge said. ‘I come at it from a gay positive standpoint. I’m not going to try to be neutral, because I’m not.’

Although many of the church’s current issues today regard homosexuals, the church was also not as progressive when it came to ordaining women as priests, Partridge said. Women were only first ordained as priests in the Episcopalian Church, with other Anglican churches following afterwards, about 30 years ago.

The first woman to be ordained a bishop did not occur until 1989. Anna Howard Shaw, who became the first female Methodist minister in the US, graduated from the BU School of Theology in 1876. As a member of the transgender community, Partridge said he identified with the story of those women.

‘I tell this story because it is real for me,’ he said.

During those times, there was a lot of fighting about the presence of women, similar to the struggle going on now about sexual orientation in the clergy, Partridge said.

‘The Episcopal Church is negotiating its identity through a sense of gender and authority,’ Partridge said.

People have questioned what roles are appropriate for women and men throughout history, Partridge said.

‘What it means to be a woman now is very different from what it meant to be a woman in 200 C.E.,’ Partridge said.

Gender issues are found in many early Christian texts, Partridge said. Reading these texts can enhance the modern understanding of sex, gender and sexuality, he said.

‘These noncontemporary conversations are by no means out of nowhere,’ Partridge said. ‘These conversations of sexuality are related to conversations that have been happening in Christianity since its origin.’

Today, religious communities are redefining their identities by reexamining sex, gender and sexuality, Partridge said. However, while it may be difficult to understand where theses prejudices come from, Partridge said they have stemmed from sexism since ancient times. Also, when people read the Bible, they do so with their own presuppositions, he said.

‘We already have an idea of what it means to be human or gendered,’ Partridge said. ‘We bring all this stuff to the text.’

The tough part will be breaking through these layers of built-up prejudice within religious communities, Partridge said. Not all of the churches will agree, but Partridge said he hopes that they can all work together and move forward.

‘Despite the fact that we’re making huge gains, there is still a long way to go,’ Partridge said.

School of Theology graduate student Rhoda Serafim said she agreed with Partridge. These issues of sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and class have one thing in common, she said.

‘All of these things culminate in [a person’s religious] identity,’ Serafim said.

STH graduate student Liz Douglass said because everyone is different in terms of religion and sexuality, people should not be fearful of what they don’t know, Douglass said.

‘There is always more to the picture,’ Douglass said.

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  1. AMPisAnglican…do you honestly think that posting very abrasive remarks on this type of article is going to get you anywhere. I’m a member of the BU Episcopal chaplaincy where i served on the council until i went abroad, was a member of the Episcopal Student Leadership team, and am a cradle Episcopalian. I have studied the Church’s literature and beliefs for as long as I can remember and your comment makes me sick. Gene Robinson is a good Bishop. The people of New Hampshire had the opportunity to reelect another bishop if they had a problem with his sexuality and they reelected him. <br/>And women actually happened to be the first people to spread Christianity in its first generation and many scholars have credited women, not men, with the survival and accomplishments of Christianity. <br/>And the Bible was not written down by Jesus, or even by His disciples…it was written down at earliest 60 years after His crucifixion. Therefore it is subject to interpretation. And everyone reads it with their own presupposition. The fact that you deny that shows how ignorant you really are to the whole situation. No human has the power to truly let go of their own opinions and bias while reading a religious text. <br/>The Anglican Church is an old Church with core beliefs and theologies that have withstood the test of time, while allowing the more specific beliefs to change as mankind begins to learn more about ourselves and where we come from.<p/>please think before you spew anti-Christian messages at people while claiming to be a Christian. remember, Jesus befriends tax collectors, prostitutes, and drunkards…do you really think that He would approve of your discrimination?

  2. I can’t tell if you’re serious or not AMPisAnglican, but yes you are included in that. Also, could you tell me what passages in the bible you’re referencing please? <br/>Thanks.

  3. To the person who wrote the last comment. <br/>Since you believe the Bible as it was written, you are saying that you believe in slavery. You believe in the origins of marriage, that a man should marry as many women as he can afford and treat them as they are, his property. You believe it is an abomination to eat shrimp. You believe that wearing clothing of mixed fabrics is a sin. You believe that planting more than 1 type of crop in a field is a sin.<br/> While the Bible is written with divine inspiration, it was none the less written by men. It reflected their predjudices of the time. Jesus did not turn anyone away from his word, but you feel that you can judge who can serve the Lord and who can’t. I don’t believe for a minute that Jesus intended you to turn people away from him and tell them that they are not good enough to serve. We are ALL made in God’s image, not just the people who are like you.