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


Soulforce, Dignity, EPF, Jimmy Creech

Jimmy Creech has officially joined Soulforce as Chairperson of the Board. Dignity/USA and Soulforce have joined their voices for the November 12-14 non-violent action in Washington, DC to protest the exclusionary policies of the Catholic Church toward GLBT Catholics, to ask the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) to stop spiritual violence against sexual and gender minorities, and support the inclusion of GLBT Catholics into all aspects of church life. Equal Partners in Faith is co-sponsoring the event and will host training sessions at National City Christian Church.

In a letter to Dignity members, Mary Louise Cervone, President of Dignity/USA, said: "Through our actions, we are seeking an end to the teachings that demean and exclude us from full participation in our church as whole and holy people, without having to hide or deny who we are."

Registration information for the D.C. action, as well as press releases and copies of correspondence between Soulforce and Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, D.D., President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, are available at www.soulforce.org.

Nebraska Defense of Marriage Act

A full page ad appeared in the Omaha World-Herald from various religious leaders urging Nebraskans to vote "No on 416" (the Defense of Marriage Act). The ad was signed by Roman Catholics, United Methodists, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ, Unitarians, Presbyterians, Jews and members of the United Church of Christ. The ad lists moral, legal and economic reasons why the signers oppose the act. The ad concludes, "One of the worst evils in history was human slavery, although the Bible never condemns it. One of our greatest moral ideals is democracy, although the Bible never suggests it. But religious reform communities led the fight to end slavery and to promote democracy, even while religious extremists argued passionately that the Bible mandates slavery and obedience to royalty. The Bible remains the unique source and authority for our lives, but God's revelation is not limited to the page--God is still talking. Let us continue a dialogue in mutual respect for all sides and stay open to new insights."

The World-Herald reported that Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss was unhappy that Roman Catholics, including a retired priest, put their names on the ad; and that the Bishop would be "contacting each of those individuals." The World-Herald also reported that "three Nebraska television stations won't run a commercial by opponents of the proposed gay-marriage ban because it uses a swastika." The commercial concludes with an announcer warning: "...things like 416 have happened before. Let's make sure they don't happen in Nebraska."

Fifty-nine United Methodists had an anti-DOMA letter published in the Lincoln Star Journal, which concluded: "History shows that whenever fear takes priority over the Great Commandment of love for God and neighbor, a drastic series of events is likely to follow. So in the spirit of the German Confessing Church, 'We accuse ourselves for not witnessing more courageously, for not praying more faithfully, and not believing more joyously, and for not loving more ardently.'"

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Presbytery of New York City adopted an overture to the 213th General Assembly requesting deletion of G-6.0106(b) ("Amendment B") from the Book of Order, and passage of a new authoritative interpretation to end discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Presbyterians.

Religious Right Donations?

The Miami Herald, New York Times, Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, and gay.com reported a gift of $8 million from AOL Chairman Steve Case and his wife Jean to Jean Case's high school alma mater, Westminster Academy, founded by religious right leader Rev. D. James Kennedy, head of Coral Ridge Ministries and the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ.

Rev. Kennedy's organizations are major producers of anti-gay, anti-reproductive-freedom, pro-church-state entanglement, and anti-ACLU material, and organized the 1998 anti-gay, pro-ex-gay national ad campaign. Westminster Academy's website calls it a "division of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church." The Herald quoted Jean Case: "The gift was not given to benefit Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church or its programs...in no way was the gift intended to send a message of intolerance. Steve and I strongly oppose discrimination in any form. We have worked to ensure that the Internet medium has given a voice to all communities--including the gay community." The Herald reported that Kennedy said he had nothing to do with school operations.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, $7.2 million of the gift will go toward construction of a new building for the high school. According to gay.com, the Steven Case foundation also donated $100,000 to the McLean Bible Church, which lists the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family on their website's links page as two of four "Christian Resources on the Web."

GLAAD is urging people to contact Jean Case to express their reactions to the Westminster Academy gift. You can write to Jean Case, c/o the Stephen Case Foundation, 1650 Tyson Blvd., Suite 610, Mclean, VA 22102.

Maine

The Bangor Daily News reported that about fifty Roman Catholics protested at the Portland Diocese headquarters over the Church's support for the antidiscrimination ballot initiative which includes sexual orientation but exempts religious institutions. According to the paper, the protesters chanted: "We're here. We're Catholic. We're faithful. Get used to it." Speakers at the protest warned that the law would lead to the passage of civil unions in Maine. Focus on the Family later reported that Maine Catholics had protested their Bishop's support for same-gender marriage.

United Church of Christ

North Raleigh United Church, a new congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC) was denied membership in the local Eastern North Carolina Association because of its Open and Affirming designation, despite a non-binding denominational policy in favor of churches being Open and Affirming, and the presence of three Open and Affirming congregations in the 132-church association, according to the Raleigh News and Observer. Unfortunately, because a majority of congregations in the association are predominately African-American, the News and Observer chose to portray the theological disagreement in the association as a race issue. The Southern Conference of the UCC, which includes the Eastern North Carolina Association, had a story about the congregation's first anniversary prominently displayed on their website.

Episcopal Church

The Episcopal News Service reports that the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, NC, and St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Atlanta have publicly decided to offer blessings for committed same-gender couples, despite the refusal of the General Convention in Denver to authorize such rites. Later reports indicate that St. Bartholomew's has been instructed by the diocese not to offer such blessings.

Focus on the Family ran a story on their website called: "Conservative Congregations Defect from Episcopal Church," which only mentions one congregation, St. Mathias, in Monument, CO, which has joined the new Anglican Mission in America (AMIA). On October 4, the Associated Press reported that "the oldest Episcopal congregation in Alabama" had joined AMIA, and that AMIA had "17 congregations in at least 13 states."

Traditional Values and the Girl Scouts

The Traditional Values Coalition, in an article that appeared to be attempting to warn their readers about the Girl Scouts (who do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or religion), quoted Mary Jo Kane ("a spokesperson for one of the Girl Scouts councils"): "I can only imagine the energy and leadership that would be unleashed in society if we spent our time and resources encouraging our girls and everyone to be visible, authentic, and bring 100 percent of themselves to all their experiences."

Religious Right and Church/State Separation

According to PlanetOut.com, a federal judge rejected an attempt by the American Family Association (AFA) to block the Lexington, MA school system's support for an interfaith community program for National Coming Out Week on the grounds that it violated church/state separation. No school funds or facilities were used, but the Lexington School District was listed as a cosponsor. The district's attorney also said there was no religious message, content or activities in the program, although some events took place on church grounds and involved clergy. U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro concluded October 12 that "The weight of the evidence before me is that this is a secular event without any religious purpose or activity." According to PlanetOut, the district's attorney noted that the AFA is usually fighting to get more religion into schools.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter's October 19 announcement of his resignation from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) received a great deal of media coverage, and was generally portrayed as a disagreement over women's ordination. On October 24, the SBC's Baptist Press published an October 20 interview with President Carter, headlined, "Carter states affirmation of homosexual ordination," which quotes the former president as saying: "...if we did have a homosexual in our church who wanted to be ordained, it would be decided not on sexual preference." Carter also said: "Jesus never singled out homosexuals to be condemned. When the Southern Baptist Convention started singling out homosexuals as a special form or degree of sinfulness, I didn't agree with it. Now, that target has shifted to the subjugation of women."

Philadelphia Life Partnership Upheld By Court

The Philadelphia Life Partnership ordinances, which many Philadelphia clergy, congregations, and religious organizations support, has survived the first round of court challenges from the Urban Family Coalition's William Devlin. According to a press release from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, Devlin says he will appeal, and that "the silence of the clergy and the mayor influenced the Judge's decision." Center Director Andrew Park said: "We continue to hope that judges make decisions based on legal merit, not on...influence exercised by politicians and community activists.... [Devlin's hope] that the mayor and clergy would... influence...the judge shows how shallow his legal arguments are."

The Oregonian

On October 5 the Oregonian ran an excellent story on religious disagreement over Measure 9, a proposed state law to ban "promoting or sanctioning homosexuality in schools." The story begins: "They worship the same God. They read the same Bible. Yet even in the nation's most unchurched state, Christian leaders and groups are emerging as central figures in the emotionally charged battle over Measure 9..." The story has extensive quotes from supporters of the measure and from members of People of Faith Against Bigotry. An opponents of the measure mentioned in the article is the Rev. Paul Davis, an openly gay minister who was ordained into the United Church of Christ at Tabernacle United Church (IWG letterhead). The article also provides background information on opinions about sexual orientation among Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists.

Letterhead Updates

We've added four new clergy this month, bringing us to a grand total of twenty-two congregations and religious organizations and seventy-six clergy, for a total of ninety-eight names on the letterhead. This month's additions are the Rev. Paul Hull and Rabbis Sandy Parian, Leah Richman, and Ben Richman. Welcome to all of you and thank you for your support! Are there two congregations or religious organizations or clergy folk out there who would like to push us up to one-hundred? We do double check all requests for listings, so when we contact you by phone or email in response, please answer!


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