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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
March 2000


Judaism and Marriage

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) will vote on a resolution from the Women's Rabbinic Network to officially approve blessings of same-sex couples. CCAR already supports civil marriage for same-gender couples, but has no official policy on religious blessings. The CCAR annual convention will be March 26-29 in Greensboro, NC.

The pre-Pesach issue of New Menorah, ALEPH's quarterly, covers same-gender marriage from many perspectives; with articles by Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and renewal-oriented rabbis and teachers. Send $36 (or more) for a membership, or $9 for one issue to ALEPH, 7318 Germantown Ave., Phila., PA 19119. Send a self-addressed 9"x 12" envelope pre-stamped with $ .77 postage.

Fox Family Channel Protest

According to Soulforce press releases, twenty-six Southern California Christian and Jewish clergy announced a national campaign against "Fox-Anti-Family programming." After a press conference they tried to present their case to Fox Family Channel executives, but found the headquarters' doors locked and guarded. The clergy formed two groups, locked arms at the building entrances and sang, "We Shall Overcome," blocking entrances for over an hour, while being shoved and cursed at by guards. "For eighteen months Fox executives have refused to meet with us," said the Rev. Dr. James Lawson, Pastor-Emeritus, Holman United Methodist Church and Co-Chair, the Committee to Bring Truth to Pat Robertson and the Fox Family Channel. With Pat Robertson featured three hours a day, "...their 'family channel' is no longer safe for America's families. We aren't trying to embarrass or censor Fox Family or Mr. Robertson. We just want them to hear the truth, that homosexuals are God's children, too. Mr. Robertson's anti-homosexual campaign is not only untrue, it leads to discrimination, suffering, and even death."

For more information, go to http://www.soulforce.org/foxaction.html. Send letters to Richard Cronin, President/CEO, The Fox Family Channel, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024, asking him to meet with the Committee.

National Religious Leadership Roundtable

The National Religious Leadership Roundtable held "A Call to Action: People of Faith Say No to CA Proposition 22," at Irvine United Church of Christ in Irvine, CA. The Rev. Dr. James Lawson, civil rights leader, colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, and co-chair of the Committee to Bring Truth to Pat Robertson and the Fox Family Channel [see above] preached to the 400+ crowd. Other speakers included Rabbi Denise Eger, Congregation Kol Ami (West Hollywood); Dr. Robert Goss, author of "Jesus Acted Up" and professor of religion at Webster University in St. Louis, MO; Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, United Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches national headquarters in Southern California; and Rev. Elder Nori Rost, Pike's Peak MCC, Colorado Springs, CO.

United Methodist Church

The California/Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church will not try the sixty-seven clergy who conducted a holy union service in Sacramento for two women. Three right-wing UMC-oriented groups (Good News, Institute on Religion and Democracy, and Confessing Movement) formed the Coalition for United Methodist Accountability. A Confessing Movement statement said: "....a determined minority of the Church...is committed to forcing the rest of the Church to accept and approve homosexual practice as moral.....If the United Methodist Church follows the example of Bishop Talbert and the California/Nevada Conference, it will break its apostolic tie with over 98% of Christendom."

The UMC General Conference meets May 2-12 in Cleveland; delegates rank "homosexuality" as one of the top two issues facing the church. In a sermon released on the Called Out News Service, Bishop Jack Tuell, who presided at Rev. Greg Dell's trial, said: "God is revealing new truth in many areas of life. One which is increasingly clear is that He is speaking to us in the issue of homosexuality.....many people are uncomfortable even mentioning this matter and wish it would just go away. I am aware of that, because I have felt exactly the same way."

Dr. Laura

The Washington Post says Paramount has signed up 85 percent of the country's television markets for a one-hour daytime studio audience show hosted by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. The Los Angeles Times writes that Paramount and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) issued a joint statement following a "marathon session, which Schlessinger did not attend," saying the program will "offer many points of view." This resulted in numerous complaints, including letters in papers across the country. The Traditional Values Coalition said, "Her conservative views based on biblical principles threaten gay activists because she takes a firm stand against the homosexual agenda." The Conservative News Service said Peter LaBarbera (president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality), asked for a meeting with Paramount to discuss "the media bias on homosexuality," along with the Family Research Council's Chuck Donovan and Robert Knight. The Horizons Foundation, Child Welfare League of America, National Mental Health Association and GLSEN are running full page ads in major papers headlined: "The problem with Dr. Laura's anti-gay rhetoric is, it doesn't stop even after you turn it off."

Episcopal Church

In Singapore, a South Carolina Episcopal priest and a former Pennsylvania seminary president were ordained as bishops by Rwanda's and Southeast Asia's Anglican archbishops and "released to minister in the United States." The Birmingham News said that the new bishops intend to "restore a traditional view of biblical teachings, such as opposition to homosexuality," and that Alabama Episcopalians passed a statement from Integrity of Alabama calling for "more dialogue and no new church laws."

In an open letter to all bishops, the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church USA, said: "...there are significant disagreements among us regarding human sexuality. We have been seeking to deal with those different points of view in a gracious and respectful way with a view to deepening the unity we share, and honoring the fact that scripture is read and interpreted from different perspectives--all seeking to be faithful to the mind of Christ." The Seattle Times contrasted a meeting with the new bishops and a conservative group, First Promise, in South Carolina with the February installation of the Rev. Robert Taylor, a gay priest from South Africa, as Dean of Seattle's St. Mark's Cathedral, in a service attended by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. According to MSNBC, the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina "rejected a resolution denouncing homosexual marriage and ordination."

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Philadelphia Chapter of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians (opposed to Amendment B) is having a pot luck dinner at Overbrook Presbyterian Church (City Line & Lancaster) at 5:00 pm March 12.

Overtures about orientation, ordination, marriage ceremonies, and a potential split in the denomination will be considered at the 212th General Assembly (GA) in Long Beach, CA, June 24 to July 1. Beaver-Butler Presbytery is asking the GA to declare that the PCUSA has has reached an impasse in eight areas; it is also asking for a task force to explore how congregations that can't accept the ordination restrictions (Amendment B) may leave the PCUSA with their property. Baltimore Presbytery wants ordination restrictions extended to candidacy certification. Tampa Bay Presbytery wants to give the PCUSA an anti-same-sex blessing rule like the UMC (neither clergy nor church property may be involved in commitment ceremonies). And the New England Presbytery wants to strike Amendment B from the Book of Order.

More Ten Commandments Legislation

According to a February 3 Press Release from Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), Ten Commandments legislation is being considered in ten states, and has made progress in three. In Indiana, the State Senate passed a measure 38 to 9 authorizing "display of the Ten Commandments on real property owned by the state." The State House is expected to pass its companion bill. In South Dakota, the State Senate passed a bill 33 to 0 empowering school districts to permit "any classroom teacher or school administrator" to post "a copy of any religious document or text." The State House is considering it. In Colorado, the Senate Education Committee passed "America's Moral Heritage Act," by a vote of 4 to 2, and the State Senate is considering this legislation mandating silent prayer before school and posting a specific version of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms and entries. Bills are also being considered in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma. According to AU's Legislative Department, measures may be considered in Minnesota and North Carolina.

Soulforce University

An opportunity for nonviolence training and direct action will be held May 6-12, 2000 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, OH. Sponsored by Soulforce, Inc., it will be concurrent with the General Conference of the United Methodist Church at the Cleveland Convention Center. People from any faith tradition may come to all or part of this FREE seven-day event. Some activities: poetry reading, film festival, meetings with living icons of nonviolence, jazz concert, walking the Labyrinth, spiritdrama, drumming, vespers, dance, nonviolence training (negotiation, direct action and civil disobedience), and workshops on networking with justice/peace groups, the media, teaching soulforce principles locally, and applying the principles in our communities. Some who attend may opt to be certified as Soulforce teachers and organizers. Clergy may get continuing education credits. Delegates must sign a nonviolence pledge before direct action. Housing is available in the Cathedral and with local families on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Soulforce will be there...to help our United Methodist friends see the truth and act upon it or to confront and condemn their untruth if they do not," said co-founder Mel White. Some delegates will fast, hold vigil, and keep the flame of truth burning at the convention center; others will help pro-GLBT groups within the UMC. Attendees may prepare for a major nonviolent direct-action near the end of the week if the UMC continues or enlarges its anti-gay policies [see page 2]. Contact: sfu@soulforce.org

Gay-Straight Alliances

The Baton Rouge, LA Advocate said a student protest against a proposed Gay-Straight Alliance erupted at Baton Rouge's McKinley High School and a clergy group asked the principal not to allow the club. The school board came within one vote of approving a policy to give all clubs equal access to high schools. One board member wanted to get rid of all clubs to prevent the Alliance.

In California, a US District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction against the Orange Unified School District, ordering it to let a student Gay-Straight Alliance club meet at El Modena High School. The school board voted unanimously not to allow it, despite allowing a Christian Club. Students received support from the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network (GLSEN), and their lawsuit was supported by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and People for the American Way Foundation. The February 21 issue of Time ran an article on Gay-Straight Alliances, why students form them, and opposition, especially in Orange County.

SIECUS Statement Update

The Philadelphia Inquirer and our last issue omitted that Nancy Krody of the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns, Southeast PA Conference Chapter (an IWG-supporting organization), signed the SIECUS statement. We reported 850 endorsements; there were 1,371 by February 15. Thanks to all who have responded. If you are clergy and signed the statement, think about signing up for the IWG letterhead as well. We list clergy, congregations and religious organizations supporting equal rights for sexual minorities, reproductive freedom and separation of church and state.

Mennonites

A Welcoming Open Letter on "Homosexuality" signed by almost 700 members of Mennonite churches ran as an ad in the February 17 Mennonite Weekly Review. The letter says in part, "We are a historic peace church trying to find our way amidst the swirl of emotions and accusations in the larger society. We believe God is calling all of our congregations to a thorough study of 'homosexuality' and related issues of church discipline, reconciliation, and nonviolence. If in this process we disparage the faith and integrity of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers, can we expect to have an authentic peace witness in other areas of life?" and "We believe the church should bless monogamous relationships of same-sex couples and affirm covenant vows between persons who pledge mutual lifelong fidelity and support to one another."

IWG News

We welcome Interfaith Action, Monroe County, PA, and Rev. Catherine Horn of Cherry Lane UMC and Analomink UMC (Monroe County) to the letterhead. Rev. Dwight Lundgren has left First Baptist and has been removed. Co-coordinator Chris Purdom represented the IWG at the National Religious Leadership Roundtable [see page 1], talked about the IWG at Thomas Paine Unitarian Universalist (Collegeville), and spoke about faith-based gay-rights movements at PFLAG Philadelphia.

Reserve Sunday, May 21 at 4:00 pm for Marching in the Light 2000. We still need a Center City Philadelphia space. We also need performers, ticket sellers, ushers, ad salespersons, reception organizers, and phone callers. Call 215-235-3050 or email (iwg@iwgonline.org).


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