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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
April 2001

Misusing and Abusing Surveys

On March 14, Reuters Health reported that data from the National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey suggests that "positive media images of gay life" are "helping spur an increase in gay sexual activities among Americans." According to Reuters, the survey found that men who "recently had gay sex" rose from 2 to 4% and for women from 0.2 to 3% from 1988 to 1998. Cathy Renna, news media director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, indicated to Reuters that the study reflected more honesty in responding to questions about sexual activity as much as more sex. Unfortunately, that part of the interview was omitted, and the quotes used appeared to reinforce the assertion that sexual behavior between women rose fourteen-hundred percent.

Efforts to accurately determine what percentage of the population is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) are complicated by a lack of consensus on whether to measure same-gender attraction, same-gender behavior, or self-identity; a lack of consensus on definitions of sexual behavior and sexual attraction; different legal, medical, and cultural definitions of gender; and willingness to accept labels or answer questions truthfully in a society that is often hostile to sexual minorities. This has not stopped anti-GLBT organizations from using the survey for political purposes. Focus on the Family has used the 1998 National Opinion Center results as a footnote to the statement "homosexuals comprise only 2-3 percent of the population," and in their March 26 CitizenLink John Paulk asserted: "Even the 4 percent figure that's cited in this study is far below what gay activists put forth as 10 percent of the population is homosexual." He also said that the study demonstrated that "homosexuality is not genetic, but instead is behavior that is chosen" (confusing attraction and behavior). The March 16 Traditional Values Coalition Message to Pastors and Lay Leaders cited the Reuters article, saying: "TV shows like 'Will and Grace,' and 'Ellen,' are contributing to a rise in the numbers of people getting involved in homosexual sexual activities." The Family Research Council (FRC) continues to cite studies using earlier National Opinion Center results; pro-discrimination documents on their website consistently state that "homosexuals make up less than two percent of the general population." When Dr. Laura was criticized for using FRC materials in her column, on her website, and on her radio and television shows, FRC's Robert Knight defended her by pointing out that "Congress uses Family Research materials."

Congratulations to Collenbrook United Church

Collenbrook (Drexel Hill) is the second More Light congregation in the Philadelphia Presbytery and the fourth Open and Affirming congregation in the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Anglican Primates Meeting

The Anglican Primates took no action on disagreements over sexuality within the Communion at their recent North Carolina meeting, but the pastoral letter and call to prayer released afterward includes the following: "We have been reminded of alienated groups within the Church's own life. Some of our number spoke of the difficulties of those who are estranged from others because of changes in theology and practice--especially with regard to the acceptance of homosexual activity and the ordination of practicing homosexuals--that they believe to be unfaithful to the gospel of Christ. We have committed ourselves to seek for ways to secure sustained pastoral care for all in our Communion. We also resolved...to show responsibility toward each other, and to seek to avoid actions that might damage the credibility of our mission in the world."

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

On March 5, the San Antonio Express-News reported on the meeting of the Conference of Bishops in a story entitled "Lutheran Bishops see no change in teachings on homosexuality." On March 9, the ELCA News Service reported that the bishops "affirmed a decision not to initiate a study on the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian people and supported an action to decline to develop a study process regarding exceptions to the church's standards for ordained ministry." But on March 25, the Kansas City Star reported that Abiding Peace Lutheran Church had been subjected to censure and admonition by Bishop Charles Maahs, but not derostering, despite having called the Rev. Donna Simon, a lesbian pastor who refused to take an oath of celibacy. The Star concluded their coverage with a quote from Bishop Maahs: "The ELCA encourages this dialogue. I know the chief purpose of their calling and ordaining this pastor is really to be in mission and ministering. The thing that is important in all of this is that they have shown themselves to be people of good faith."


We're still looking for the 100th name on the letterhead. Call 215-235-3050 or send email to iwg@iwgonline.org (leave a phone number).

Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell

Congratulations to Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, who has been named the new Regional Director of the Pennsylvania Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Emergency Action for Women's Lives

The National Organization for Women has announced an Emergency Action for Women's Lives in Washington DC on Sunday, April 22, 11 am, Constitution and Delaware Aves., NE. Cosponsored by the Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the National Black Women's Health Project, Catholics for a Free Choice, the National Asian Women's Health Organization, the American Medical Women's Association and the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. Call 202-628-8669 (extension 0), or email march@now.org.

United Methodist Church

A standing committee of the United Methodist Church General Council on Finance and Administration has found that the November/December edition of Christian Social Action did not violate the UMC prohibition against funding promotion of the acceptance of homosexuality [February, 2001]. Nebraska Bishop Rhymes Moncure announced February 25 that the Nebraska Conference Committee on Investigation has decided not to try the Rev. Mark Kemling for officiating at a ceremony for two men at Omaha MCC [June, 2000].

The Parents Reconciling Network is a new organization of United Methodist parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children. Contact Jamie B. Stroud, PRN national coordinator, jstroud@sprintmail.com.

Henderson, Kentucky

The Henderson, Kentucky, City Council voted 3-2 to repeal an ordinance "protecting gays from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations." At the hearing concerning the ordinance, the Rev. Jerry Greenlee, director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance Religious Organizing Project, testified that council members who opposed the ordinance "needed to be worried about their eternal salvation for not being more tolerant," according to the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
The Other Side

The May-June issue of The Other Side magazine will focus on transgender Christians. The Traditional Values Coalition has already sent out a stern warning about this issue to the 43,000 congregations they say support them.

Atlanta Baptists

According to the Baptist Press, the Atlanta Baptist Association voted to change its bylaws to say that "an affiliated church does not include a church which knowingly takes, or has taken, any action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior." However, they voted once again not to expel gay-friendly Oakhurst Baptist Church and Virginia Highland Baptist Church [March, 2001].

Soulforce 2001 Direct Actions Announced

Soulforce has announced plans for vigils, teach-ins, and possible acts of non-violent civil disobedience at the Southern Baptist Convention, to be held June 11-13 in New Orleans; at the Evangelical Lutheran Church National Convention, to be held August 10-12 in Indianapolis; at the Mormon Church National Convention to be held in Salt Lake City, October 5-7; and at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, to be held November 12-15 in Washington DC.

Ronald Gay

The Roanoke Times reported that they received a letter from Ronald Gay, accused of killing one person and wounding six others in a gay bar in Roanoke last year. According to the Times, Gay refers to himself in the letter as a "Christian Soldier" and explains that he was humiliated by his last name, which three of his sons had changed.

Presbyterian Church (USA)
Keeps Same-Gender Ceremonies

In the Presbyterian Church (USA) Amendment O (which officially would have banned union ceremonies by PCUSA clergy or in PCUSA churches) has been rejected by a majority of the Presbyteries (67-92 as of March 20), thus being effectively defeated. Under current rulings, blessings of same-sex couples may be performed if they conform to certain terminology and liturgical restrictions. The wording of the amendment could have made it possible to use it to to ban any pro-GLBT event.

More Light Presbyterians co-moderator Mitzi Henderson said: "If the church is serious about the importance of faith to family life, to wholeness of relationships, it cannot continue to ignore the commitments of same gender couples. The public blessing of love and fidelity, before family and friends, has a profoundly spiritual significance."

The Presbyterian Lay Committee response said in part: "The loss of Amendment O has inflicted a deep wound in the life of our church. Offended by 'same-sex union ceremonies' in some of our churches and the failure of our highest court to prohibit them, faithful Presbyterians who uphold the sanctity of marriage are now questioning their continued membership in a denomination that will not affirm the clear teaching of Scripture."

The official Covenant Network reaction concluded: "These same issues will be before the upcoming General Assembly, in the form of over thirty overtures seeking to delete or change G-6.0106b, the recent amendment that has continued to be a source of divisive conflict. We are hopeful that the Presbyterian Church (USA) will reaffirm, as it has in its vote on Amendment 00-O, the historic role of local governing bodies and church officers to discern the will of God in guiding the life and ministry of our congregations and presbyteries. Some have suggested that the defeat of this amendment brings closer an inevitable split in the Presbyterian Church. We strongly disagree. And we pledge ourselves and our network to work with renewed dedication for the common mission we share with all our colleagues in ministry, whatever our views on issues of sexuality. This is a time for Presbyterians to recommit ourselves to the love, respect, and mutual forbearance that characterize Christ's church."

Members of the Presbyterian Renewal Leaders Network issued a statement which concluded: "The issue addressed by Amendment O is far from over. It will be before us again - notably at the General Assembly in June - in efforts to remove fidelity and chastity requirements from our denomination's ordination standards. Until and unless God's people take a definitive stand against them, these efforts will not cease until that union instituted by God and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ has been stripped of all special honor and recognition. As leaders of renewal organizations in the Presbyterian Church (USA), we declare that the lordship of Jesus Christ and his requirement that we obey the moral law are not negotiable. Church leaders who openly defy Biblical faith and ethics are pushing our denomination perilously toward schism. We confess that we cannot - and we will not- compromise the integrity of God's Word."

Marching in the Light 2001

Our fourth annual benefit concert will be held on Sunday, May 20, 4 pm at St. Luke and the Epiphany, 330 S. 13th Street, Philadelphia. Tickets will be $10. Advertising rates in the program (based on a 6x8" page) are: $20 (1/4 page), $40 (1/2 page) and $80 (full page). Sponsorships available are: $25 (Friend), $50 (Contributor), $75 (Benefactor) $100 (Angel), and gifts over $100 (Archangel). Starting at the $50 level, free tickets are given to sponsors: 1 ticket at the $50 level, 2 at $75, 3 at $100 and 4 tickets to sponsors donating over $100.

Music directors, musicians and singers interested in donating their time and talent should leave a message for Barbara Purdom at 215-235-3050. We are particularly interested this year in a capella pieces or works with organ or your own portable instruments (such as guitar) so that we could avoid moving a piano into the performance space. Please mark the date on your calendars. We look forward to seeing you all there.

501(c)(3) Status

We are pleased to announce that the IRS has informed us that our exempt status under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) is still in effect, and that they have determined that we are an organization of the type described in section 509(a)(1) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi).

Jerry Falwell, Muslims, and Charitable Choice

The Faith-Based Initiatives proposal continues to generate controversy and animosity. The Washington Post reports that portions of the plan have been delayed. In an interview on beliefnet.com, Jerry Falwell expressed reservations about federal money going to various religious groups (particularly Muslim groups). In response to the Falwell interview, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism released a statement from their director, Rabbi David Saperstein, which said in part: "The religious bigotry and divisiveness of Reverend Falwell's statement should be a wake-up call to President Bush that his program is dividing the nation along religious lines. The idea of America's religious groups fighting over the limited public money to be made available, arguing over which religions are deserving of support and which are not, takes us down the road towards the kind of sectarian competition that has torn so many nations apart, and which our tradition of separation of church and state has spared us. That one prominent religious leader says another religious group should be 'out the door before they knock' (as Falwell said of Muslim groups) is only the tip of the iceberg of sectarian strife lurking below the surface of the President's initiative."









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