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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Protests at the UMC General Conference
On May 10, during a nonviolent protest led by
more than one-hundred eighty people were
arrested for blocking the driveway to the convention
center where the
United Methodist Church General
Conference was being held. On May 11, twenty-seven
people were arrested on the floor of the conference for
disrupting the meeting, including Bishops Susan Morrison
and Joseph C. Sprague. May 10 protesters included
Yolanda King, Arun Gandhi, Rev. James Lawson, Rev.
Bob Graetz, Dr. Rodney Powell, Rev. Mel White, and
several bishops, including Bishop Sprague, who was one
of those arrested.
The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, former President of the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference signed the
United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church
[see Keeping the Faith, May 2000]
(an anti-gay UMC group) reported
on the protests, ignoring the presence of Civil Rights
leaders, while the
Traditional Values Coalition
Pastors mentioned them prominently. Soulforce has announced their four-year strategy to help end
discrimination against sexual minorities by the United
Methodist Church, called
"Relight the Flame,"
which will culminate in one-thousand arrests at the General
Conference in 2004.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Permanent Judicial Commission of the General
Assembly announced the results of two cases from the
Synod of the Northeast: they are permitting the
Presbytery of the
to continue to allow
same-gender union ceremonies as long as the difference
between union ceremonies and marriages is clarified, and
they are permitting the
West Jersey Presbytery
to accept a gay candidate for ordination.
announced planned civil disobedience
for June 25 in Long Beach, CA during the
Assembly (from June 24 to July 1).
That All May Freely Serve
joint statement supporting individual Presbyterians who
decide to participate in the Soulforce action.
The General Assembly will consider at least seventeen
overtures dealing with orientation, ordination, marriage
ceremonies, and a potential schism.
Media Coverage of the UMC General Conference
Before the conference, the Dallas Morning News ran a
story on May 2 which mentioned debates about sexual
orientation in several religious traditions, and which
Soulforce meeting with Jerry Falwell as an
example of "reduced rancor" between the two sides,
failing to say that
Soulforce would be in Cleveland. That
article was in contrast to the Associated Press and
Religion News Service's pre-conference theme of potential schism. AP reports during the conference referred to
"the Soulforce gay-straight alliance;" Scripps-Howard
News Service ran a story on one couple's anguished
reaction to the protest on the floor of the Conference.
Publications that ran stories about local delegates and
protesters and the debates over gay-related issues included the
Sioux Falls, IA Argus Leader, the Arizona
Republic, the Bergen County, NJ Record, the Brookings
(SD) Register, the Chicago Sun Times, the Des Moines
Register, the Detroit Free Press, the Indianapolis Star,
the Lincoln Journal Star, the Omaha World Herald, and
the Rocky Mountain News.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on a local
United Methodist family whose gay son was participating
in the Soulforce protest. The Rutland Herald reported
Bishop Morrison's arrest. The Tacoma Morning News
ran a story about First United Methodist Church, which
hosts a gay and lesbian congregation and lobbied the
General Conference for a change in policy. U.S. News
and World Report ran a story on "Christian Doctrine and
Gays." The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on
protests and gay-related votes. The Los Angeles Times
focused on "'60s-style civil disobedience." The Chicago
Tribune and Akron Beacon Journal
had extensive coverage on debates and protests.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
interviewed one gay and one ex-gay United Methodist. The
San Francisco Chronicle reported on potential
long-term results of the conference, both nationally and in
Northern California. The Orange County Register
focused on possible Soulforce protests at Orange County
United Methodist churches. The Cincinnati Inquirer ran
stories juxtaposing the sexual orientation debates in the
UMC and in other religious organizations with the
same-sex union law in Vermont.
The Lancaster (PA) Sunday News
ran Laura Montgomery Rutt's
on her experience in Cleveland as a
United Methodist and media coordinator for Soulforce.
Coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia
Daily News, and the Metro (SEPTA's new free paper)
was virtually non-existent.
GLBT Votes at the UMC General Conference
Votes on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues
compiled from United Methodist News Service stories
imply that General Conference delegates were divided into at least three
groups; almost every vote for change
(pro or con) lost by two to one, and proposals to clarify
or keep policy passed by the same margin. The vote was
615 to 312 against a proposal by anti-gay congregations
in the California-Nevada District to establish an Evangelical Missionary Conference in the Western Jurisdiction.
Seventy-eight percent voted against creating a denominational program for "persons who seek to leave or not
start the practice of homosexuality." The vote was 705 to
210 against a stipulation that before pastors could be assigned to a church they must sign a statement: "I do not
believe that homosexuality is God's perfect will for any
person. I will not practice it. I will not promote it. I will
not allow its promotion to be encouraged under my authority." They voted 640 to 317 to retain the restriction
that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" cannot be ordained; they voted 646 to 294 to retain the language:
"Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not
be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted
in our churches;" and voted 670 to 222 to change the restriction against same-sex unions from a principle to a
more clearly binding rule. They retained language to restrict church funds from being used "to promote the acceptance of homosexuality," and added a sentence to the
Social Principles: "We implore families and churches not
to reject or condemn their lesbian and gay members and
friends." More than eighty percent approved a petition to
continue a dialogue about homosexuality. The dialogues
will be organized by the United Methodist Commission
on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.
After the vote to continue the ban on same-gender
ceremonies, a ceremony was announced for Omaha, NE
on June 3 to be conducted by the Rev. Mark Kemling.
The Columbus Dispatch announced that the West Ohio
Conference wants to "dismiss a central Ohio minister because he is
gay and won't promise to stay celibate."
We are saddened by the passing of Kiyoshi Kuromiya,
Critical Path AIDS Project,
which among other things, provides internet access and an
server to the IWG. His obituary was on page one of the
Inquirer. The memorial service May 23 at St. Luke and
the Epiphany was led by
IWG supporter Rev. Jim Littrell.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA
committed relationship be defined as one where there is
love, quality, faithfulness and endurance and mutual uplifting of spirits," and that the Synod "recognizes and affirms the blessing of such committed same-gender relationships by pastors of this synod after counseling with
the couple seeking such a blessing."
On the synod website,
Bishop Peter Rogness writes:
"I am hopeful that one result of all this might be greater
consideration to biblical authority and interpretation. We
are a church of the Word. At our best, we anchor our
moral deliberation in the Word. Though some accuse our
action of setting the Bible aside, they often overlook the
ways they too selectively interpret or set aside neighboring portions of the same Levitical passages, for instance,
that they are so insistent must be followed.
To say we follow the Bible doesn't end the discussion."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the reaction
Lord of Life
Lutheran Church of Oconomowoc (not
the one in Ames, IA), which passed a resolution: "While
the resolution passed is non-binding, it nevertheless implies
what one could call 'guilt by association.'" The
paper quoted pastor R. Dean Smith, who said, "Although
Lord of Life members want it known that their church
will not perform ceremonies blessing gay and lesbian
unions, the church welcomes all people to worship there."
On May 24, the Detroit Free Press reported that the
Southeast Michigan Synod
had followed the lead of the
PA hate crimes laws currently protect those targeted
because of race, color, religion, national origin, disability,
and ancestry; Senate Bill 553 will add "real or perceived
sexual orientation" to this list. If passed, malicious intention will be defined as "the intention to commit any act,
the commission of which is a necessary element of any offense…motivated by hatred toward the actual or perceived race, color, religion [or], national origin, disability,
ancestry or sexual orientation of another individual or
group of individuals." Crimes of this nature will be considered hate crimes, the sentencing of which "shall be
classified as a misdemeanor of the third degree if the other offense is classified as a summary offense. Otherwise,
an offense under this section shall be classified one degree
The Statewide Pennsylvania
Rights Coalition (SPARC)
is launching a campaign to educate legislators
about the hostile climate in Pennsylvania for sexual minorities. "The fate of this bill now depends upon the urgent response by concerned citizens," declared SPARC
Co-Chair Stephen Glassman. "Hate crime incidents are on
the rise in Pennsylvania against sexual and gender minorities. Although as a coalition we agree that this bill is
not inclusive enough regarding gender identity, we will
work with the Senate and we will continue to educate
people on full inclusion of all sexual minorities," stated
Dr. Sue Rankin, co-chair of SPARC.
Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report says the
legislature's Pro-Life Caucus is mustering support for a
budget amendment to ban state money from health centers that provide abortions or abortion referrals. Pennsylvanians should contact their state legislators and let them
know how they feel about this proposal.
Marching in the Light
raised over $1,000. Thanks to
those who brought tickets, who attended, to our advertisers
(Tabernacle United Church,
First Unitarian Church
Cy & Lois Swartz,
and the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns), our sponsors (Rev. Al Krass,
Rev. Peter Skelly, Ginny Beier, Rev. Bruce Baker, Revs.
Helen Naglow & Mike Dunfee, Rev. Art Brandenburg,
Marie & David Jack, Lynne Major & Rev. Lynn Lampman, Dr. Mark Ratkus, Nancy Krody, Al Richardson, and
Pat & Roger Harless), and our performers (Wilbert
Boone, Bill Bloom and Voices 4 Peace, Dan Howe, Patrick Evans and the
choir of Hanover Presbyterian Church,
Rev. David Funkhauser, Dave Reppert and Lavinia Wu).
Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention
is expected to vote
in June to stop ordaining women as pastors. "It is deplorable
that a committee of white, heterosexual men would
lead people of faith back to the barbaric ages of patriarchal
oppression of women," stated Rev. Steven Baines,
Southern Baptist minister and executive coordinator of
Equal Partners In Faith.
"Women within the denomination
should be insulted that mere men would deny the call of
an inclusive God in the lives of thousands of women serving the church.
People of all faiths should be alarmed
and speak out against this 'spiritual rape'...."
Colorado Council of Churches/UFMCC
Universal Fellowship of
Metropolitan Community Churches
has been approved as a member of the Colorado Council of Churches
(CCC). The Rocky Mountain News
reported that the
Roman Catholic Archdiocese
is reconsidering participation. A
UFMCC press release
said the CCC is the fourth statewide ecumenical body to accept the
denomination as a member. The others are in
Hawaii and California.
"Voices of the Religious Left: A contemporary
sourcebook," edited by
Interfaith Working Group supporter
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, is now available from Temple University Press.
The dust jacket says, "Containing insightful perspectives of adherents to
many faiths, Voices
of the Religious Left makes it clear that there is a group
dedicated instilling the values of justice and freedom."
List price (paperback): $27.95. Call 1-800-447-1656.
Other UMC Votes of Interest
Delegates voted not to withhold funds from groups
for or against abortion; called for an end to "partial birth
abortion...except when the physical life of the mother is in
danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in
the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life;"
affirmed the UMC's tradition of school support even as
"public education has become a political battleground;"
and cited the church's moral responsibility to strengthen,
support and reform public schools.
The First Split?
American Baptist Churches (ABC)
of the Northwest
voted "with deep regret" to "restructure the regional
body" by May 2002 due to differences over orientation,
The Seattle Times quoted Rev. Daniel Weiss,
General Secretary, as saying it would be "a good idea" to
split the region. "Some people have a very low tolerance
about being in relationship with people who disagree with
them. But they...are members of a wider national denomination
and...this problem won't go away."
Texas, Gender, and Marriage
Texas is operating under a legal definition of gender
inconsistent with medical opinion and all other states
since the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal
Christie Lee Littleton.
Lower courts withdrew recognition of her
seven-year marriage after her husband
died, assuming (without tests) that she had an XY chromosome pair and
ignoring her previously-recognized legal
gender change. The case will be appealed to the U.S.