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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
October 1998


Steve Sabin Loses Appeal

An appeals committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has ruled against the Rev. Steve Sabin of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ames, Iowa, telling him to renounce his relationship with his partner or be removed from the clergy rolls. The congregation may decide to keep him as their pastor anyway. Should they decide to keep him, it is not yet clear what action the Bishop will take.

National Coalition for Abstinence Education

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) reports in its Summer 1998 Advocates Report on the formation of the National Coalition for Abstinence Education (NCAE), a group of 60 national and regional organizations including the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Traditional Values Coalition New Jersey Family Policy Council, and Pennsylvania Family Institute which issued report cards to state governors for the state-wide abstinence-education programs funded by Welfare Reform. State programs automatically received an F from NCAE for reasons including promoting abstinence instead of abstinence-until-marriage, referrals of youth to comprehensive health providers, and use of such phrases as "fact-based," "non-judgemental," "respectful," "culturally relevant," or "not fear-based" in program descriptions.

Emergency Contraception Becomes Available

The National Right to Life Committee has expressed approval of Emergency Contraception, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that 800,000 abortions could be prevented annually through its use, according to the September 22 Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report. Locally, the Urban Family Council disagreed, releasing a statement from William Devlin saying "Let no American woman be fooled, this newly approved drug does cause abortion and thus prevents a human life from developing."

Planned Parenthood plans to make emergency contraception available over the phone for women in some parts of the country who cannot come to a Planned Parenthood clinic within the 72-hour limit for using the pills. They will also provide counseling and education about the method and call in the prescription to a local pharmacist. Planned Parenthood already provides this service for established patients, but now will do so for new ones as well.

Christian Coalition

During the Christian Coalition's annual Road to Victory conference last month, People for the American Way gave daily internet reports. The conference centered on the president, abortion, and upcoming elections. Laura Montgomery Rutt (Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom) also reported on Pat Robertson's speech on germ warfare and the need for America to get back to being a "Christian Nation." Rutt also attended the Pennsylvania Caucus, focusing on distribution of voter guides in churches, and workshops on preserving "traditional marriage," and "defunding the arts" with Robert Knight (Family Research Council). She also received a free copy of "7 Ways to Recruit-Proof Your Child" wherein author Scott Lively uses "homosexualist" for gay rights supporters of all orientations.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State formally requested the IRS to rule on the CC's tax status, and sent a letter to churches reminding them that the IRS has not ruled on the CC, the Christian Broadcast Network (another Robertson outfit), has lost its charitable status, and churches distributing the CC voter guides could lose their tax status. Meanwhile, Scientific American ran a humor piece about Robertson's meteorological abilities and understanding of science, characterizing him as a televangelist. They failed to note that as head of the Christian Coalition, he actually has some influence over what is taught in many public school districts.

Presbyterian Service at Bryn Mawr

On September 20, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian's chapel was packed for a service of hope and solidarity sponsored by congregations opposed to the new section of the Book of Order (Amendment B) which prevents sexually-active gays and lesbians from being ordained (elders or clergy). Sponsoring Congregations: Bryn Mawr Presbyterian; Central Presbyterian, Norristown; First Presbyterian, Philadelphia; Gladwyne Presbyterian; Grace Church, Jenkintown; Ivyland Presbyterian; Norriton Presbyterian; Old Pine Presbyterian; Overbrook Presbyterian; Reeve Memorial; Summit Presbyterian; Tabernacle United; and Valley Forge Presbyterian.

Services and Conferences Around the Country

On September 19, Bishop Matthew Clark presided at a Mass at St. Mary's Church in Rochester, NY, for 600 delegates to a national conference on gay ministries. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that between 65 and 70 Catholic protesters were outside.

About 100 people attended a service of support for same-gender marriage on September 15 at First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco, including 28 clergy from a dozen faiths. The organizers want it to be an annual event, reports the San Francisco Examiner.

Sally Lowe Whitehead, author of The Truth Shall Set You Free: A Family's Passage From Fundamentalism to a New Understanding of Faith, Love, and Sexual Identity (Harper Collins, 1997) was featured at "Reclaiming Our Faith," sponsored by the Maine Council of Churches and the Maine SpeakOut Project, reported the Religion News Service. The Maine Civic League responded, "It's misleading and irresponsible...to suggest...that Christianity affirms homosexuality."

Abortion Vote

The Senate fell three votes short of overturning a veto of legislation opponents called sufficiently vague to outlaw all surgical abortions, and supporters called a first step toward outlawing them altogether. After the vote the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) issued a statement supporting the veto, quoting Rev. Meg Riley, director of the Unitarian Universalist Office for Faith in Action, and Rev. Dr. Jay Lintner, director of the Washington Office of the United Church of Christ, and noting that Mark J. Pevalin (Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism) presented a letter to the Senate signed by more than 700 rabbis, supporting the veto.

Operation Rescue to Picket Churches?

On August 23, Operation Rescue (ORN), which used to blockade women's clinics and has shifted to Disney, bookstores, and public schools, held a press conference outside Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. Their press release (on their web page) calls Cathedral of Hope "The Gates of Hell" (also how they describe public schools). In the press release the UFMCC denomination is called a "heretical sect." The release also says that "Christianity and homosexuality do not go hand in hand" and "any institution that claims to be a church and yet proclaims that one can practice homosexuality and Christianity at the same time must be confronted with the truth."

A Truly Awful Letter

A letter from Anthony Falzarano of PFOX and Transformation Ministries (an ex-gay group) warning of an influx of gays and lesbians into Northern Virginia appeared in the Alexandria (VA) Journal. His language could apply to any minority; he never lists specific things folks should worry about, other than a possible trend toward domestic partnership benefits and the repeal of sodomy laws. He cites real estate listings and establishment of houses of worship as evidence of a "prolific assault" by a group "insidiously gaining strongholds" partly through "books and newspapers... subtly being placed on the shelves of our public libraries." He says activists are "working like termites beneath the floorboards" to overturn laws preventing them from moving there. Unless the "invasion" is stopped, you will be "living in the basement." And yet, he adds, "they have every right to have a place to live and work."

Colorado Report Attacked

Governor Romer's commission (headed by Episcopal Bishop William J. Winterrowd) asked that same-sex couples be given the rights and responsibilities of marriage, resulting in a 300-page response from eight groups: Colorado for Family Values, Christian Coalition of Colorado, American Family Association of Colorado, American Jewish Assembly of Colorado, Colorado Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America of Colorado, Family First and Exodus -- Where Grace Abounds according to the Rocky Mountain News. The groups said such legalization would be "a declaration of war on the traditional family," and "The amoral--or immoral--position of the commission is rejected by faithful Christians and Jews.

AIDS Torah Cover

A Plantation, FL woman is making a Torah cover for Temple Beth Israel, a Conservative congregation in Sunrise, FL, from 100 five-inch square patches clothing of AIDS victims, according to the Miami Herald. The temple will display the cover, then launch a program to teach children and adults about the disease.



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