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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
December 1997

Lutheran Case

We ask that your prayers and good wishes be with the Rev. Steven Paul Sabin of the Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ames, Iowa, and with all sexual minority clergy who follow their call to service despite the opposition of official denominational policy. The Rev. Philip L. Hougan, bishop of the Southeastern Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has requested that a discipline hearing committee impose upon the Rev. Sabin the disciplinary action of removal from the ordained ministry because he "has persisted for more than five years in an active homosexual relationship with a male partner."

Religious Right Attacks Troy Perry in Press

President Clinton invited Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, to the November 20 Presidential Breakfast for Religious Leaders. The Family Research Council, the Institute on Religion and Democracy and Americans for Truth asked the president to uninvite him (he went). The FRC news release, "President Clinton to Honor Homosexual Minister Who Advocates for Sadistic Sex," said the UFMCC and Perry "celebrate violent and degrading sexual practices." The UFMCC response:

Los Angeles, November 19, 1997 -- We are deeply saddened by the hostile attacks by the so-called Religious Right upon the only gay Rev. Troy D. Perry, founder and moderator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, in response to the White House's invitation to participate in the Presidential breakfast for American religious leaders on Nov. 20 at the White House. This is another instance in which the Religious Right is simply wrong.

The news release issued by the Family Research Council and Americans for Truth is full of misstatements and untruths which are designed to inflame and divide the American public. For the past three decades, the Rev. Mr. Perry and the churches of the UFMCC have offered positive, affirming Christian spirituality to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons.

The Rev. Mr. Perry's work and ministry have been recognized by awards from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign and numerous civil rights organizations. He served with distinction on the Los Angeles Human Rights Commission. His pioneering work in the field of gay spirituality has furthered a a dialog of understanding within mainline Christian and Jewish faith communities.

The more than 42,000 members of the UFMCC, and the 225,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons who find hope, faith, and spirituality within UFMCC congregations each year, are eloquent testimony to the Rev. Mr. Perry's mission.

Attacks of this nature remind us why the churches of the UFMCC are often referred to as "spiritual outposts" for the gay community. As Rev. Perry's participation last week in the White House Conference on Hate Crimes confirmed, gays and lesbians comprise one of the last minority groups in America for which hate and discrimination are still socially acceptable by too many of our citizens.

This Month's Editorial Debate

This month's theological wrangling over sexual orientation in the columns, letters, and editorials of many of the nation's newspapers was brought on by the White House conference on hate crimes and the President's speech to the Human Rights Campaign. Meanwhile letters about Catholic policy (Always Our Children) were still being published, especially in cities like Philadelphia with socially conservative bishops, where official local clarifications to Always Our Children were published, followed by responses to the clarifications.

Marriage and United Methodists

Emory University has come up with a compromise plan regarding the use of its chapel for same-sex union ceremonies. There was some controversy over the question because Emory is a United Methodist institution and such services reportedly may not be performed by United Methodist Clergy or in United Methodist churches. The new policy states that clergy affiliated with the university belonging to denominations that permit same-gender ceremonies will be allowed to hold such ceremonies for individuals who are also affiliated with the university. According to the AP, the Emory chaplain said that this would effectively mean that only the local Reform Rabbi and United Church of Christ pastor would be allowed to conduct unions.

In Omaha, the Rev. Jimmy Creech reports that Bishop Martinez has suspended him from all clergy responsibilities for sixty days effective November 10 for performing a covenant ceremony. Rev. Creech believes the suspension is due to negative pressure from within the Nebraska Conference and around the country. He is uncertain what will happen after the 60 days are up.

Meanwhile, Edgehill United Methodist Church in Nashville has decided that until the United Methodist Church allows gay marriages, no marriage ceremonies will be permitted in their chapel. The AP story about the church also mentioned the same-gender marriage policies of other Christian denominations and quoted the Rev. Jan Nunley an Episcopal Priest in Rhode Island and contributor to the IWG web page) who performs marriage ceremonies but will not sign licenses until civil same-gender marriages are legalized.

Bishops Not Overly Excited

The Catholic News service interviewed Catholic Bishops about their reaction to ABC's Nothing Sacred. The Catholic League and the American Family Association are boycotting the critically-acclaimed but low-rated hour-long drama because they say it defames Catholics specifically and Christianity in general. Most of the bishops couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, and some of them really liked it. They also said they were moved by the overwhelmingly positive response to their pastoral letter.

More Picketing

According to the St, Paul Pioneer Press, members of Wisconsin Christians United have held informational picketing on the subjects of abortion and homosexuality on two separate occasions outside two high schools in Eu Claire, Wisconsin because "these young people have the right to hear the other side of the argument." Signs carried outside Memorial High School reportedly said "Homosexuals -- repent or perish." The students' reaction was characterized as "angry."

The Family Research Council, which issues press releases for all occasions, used the Hate Crimes Conference as an opportunity to point to Fred Phelps as an example of hate, as opposed to those (like the FRC) who only oppose homosexual activism (and disparage Troy Perry and UFMCC in press releases -- see story above). Phelps picketed Philadelphia churches this summer during the Episcopal Convention, and was expected at the President's speech to the Human Rights Campaign, the Hate Crimes Conference, and the Catholic Bishops Fall Meeting as well.

Exodus 2000

Exodus 2000 is being bandied about as a plan to pull the children of all conservative Christians out of public school by the year 2000. It was mentioned in passing at the Concerned Women for America conference and Cal Thomas wrote about it in his syndicated column, which was his response to the President's call for diversity education. Those interested in the ongoing battle over terminology will note that public school opponents, including Thomas, are now using the phrase "government schools."

The Journal-Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana, ran an editorial on the same day as the Thomas column, condemning his "subtle semantic attack" against public education, and saying "If these social conservatives have their way, the free, public education system that built the world's most influential democracy and its strongest economy will be lost in a snit over the teaching of evolution and of tolerance for gay people."

Exodus 2000 has been endorsed by Cal Thomas, D. James Kennedy, and Tim LeHay. The founder is E. Ray Moore Jr. of South Carolina, who bills himself as a Bible Teacher, Army Reserve Chaplain, and Campaign Consultant for Dan Quayle, Pat Robertson, and others.

Call Your Congressman?

The American Family Association and the Christian Family Network, possibly alarmed by the thought that Congress might have useful business to attend to, sent out alerts urging folks to call their elected representatives because Ellen DeGeneres was a guest host on the PBS children's shows Sesame Street and Storytime.

Federal Benefits Bill

Rep. Barney Frank has introduced HR-2761, which would change the laws regulating the Federal Employees Health Benefits and Federal Employees Group Life Insurance programs to provide coverage for for same-gender partners who certify that they are in a "committed, intimate relationship" with their partner. The Christian Family Network alert listed 11 major organizational endorsers, including the United Church of Christ, followed by the warning "If this bill is made law, our nation will have unequivocally condoned this form of immorality and we will have effectively turned our back on God."

Family Circle

Family Circle ran an article by Karen Santorum (wife of Senator Rick Santorum) about her faith-based decision not to abort a pregnancy that almost cost her her life. Catholics For a Free Choice suggested to the editors that since this is a complex issue about which there is a diversity of religious opinion, they would be doing their readers a great service by letting them read the story of a religious family who reached a different conclusion. CFFC even provided a testimony that Family Circle could use.



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