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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Presbyterian Church (USA) Takes First Step
On June 15, the General Assembly voted 317-208 to
lift the ban on ordaining sexual minorities. From now
until next General Assembly the Presbyteries will vote on
the measure, which requires a simple majority to pass.
The amendment lifts the constitutional prohibition
(1997), and the "authoritative interpretation" of 1978,
reaffirmed in 1993; and adds a statement to the Book of
Order: "...suitability to hold office is determined by the
governing body where the examination for ordination or
installation takes place, guided by scriptural and
constitutional standards, under the authority and
Lordship of Jesus Christ."
More Light Presbyterians,
That All May Freely Serve
Shower of Stoles Project
joint statement, Rev.
Janie Spahr said "...the church has taken a step toward
justice for God's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
people. We are looking forward so much to being in the
presbyteries so people can see us for who we are as
people of faith, to share our faith, to share our stories...." The
in part: "We
welcome this substantial step toward restoring health and
peace to our beloved church." The
a vote for the amendment "would return the church
to our historic Presbyterian principles of mutual
forbearance and freedom of conscience on non-essential
"recommending that the denomination abandon the
biblical, historical, and confessional standards of fidelity
and chastity for those who are ordained to church
office, is a very real threat to the peace, purity and unity of
what is already a very fragile body."
A Focus on the
subtitled "Ministers cheating on their
wives, homosexuals being ordained that's the new
vision from the national leadership of the Presbyterian
Church USA," claimed that "the presentations of those in
favor of ordaining homosexuals left more conservative
Presbyterians - and other Christians - scratching their
The Washington Post focused on whether unrest
would increase or be quelled. The Dallas Morning News
and St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlighted local PCUSA
post-vote services. The Indianapolis Star focused on
local gay rights/AIDS activist Rev. Howard Warren; the
Omaha World Herald spotlighted local gay rights activist
Cleve Evans; and the Birmingham News focused on
local anti-gay activist Rev. J. William Giles (executive
coordinator, Presbyterian Coalition). An AP report said
"...homosexuals aspiring to preach" had "inched closer
to the pulpit;" later the AP wrote about clergy presenting
the issue to congregations. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
interviewed clergy on both sides and quoted Rev. Paul
Roberts, whose congregation started the
Movement: "We're going to have another year of
fighting. It doesn't matter who wins, it will be horrible,
with more blood being spilled on the presbytery level."
Unitarian Universalists and Home Depot
Home Depot moved on May 11 to amend its equal
employment opportunity policy to prohibit discrimination
based on sexual orientation in response to a shareholder
resolution filed by the
Unitarian Universalist Association
calling on Home Depot to "amend its written equal
employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit
discrimination based on sexual orientation and to substantially
implement this policy."
United Methodist Church
The Rev. Mark E. Williams of
Woodland Park UMC, Seattle
came out on June 16 after giving a report to the
Annual Conference as chair of the Legislative Committee
on Church and Society, Domestic. The media has
reported on his congregation's wish to keep him, and the
possibility that he will continue to preach there but not as
the pastor. In his
Williams says, "I realize that
the Church is prepared to accept me as a pastor only as
long as I remain closeted and silent. It makes me sad to
think that I may face rejection and the denial of my call to
ministry from the community that's nurtured me all my
life. I'm confident that I won't be rejected and my gifts
won't be denied in the gay community. The spirit of
grace and acceptance is present there in a way that
should put the Church to shame."
Rainbow Sash Movement
Rainbow Sash Movement
announced that their
members wore sashes to Roman Catholic mass on
Pentecost Sunday (June 3) in Chicago, Rochester,
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas, Melbourne, Sydney, and London.
"By wearing the Rainbow Sash we are entering God's
house honestly, no longer hiding our faces in the Catholic
Closet, and seeking Holy Communion. The Church
should be engaged in making room at the Eucharistic
table for everyone God sends. It's a Eucharistic meal to
which we are all worthy, simply because we have been
invited," said Joe Murray, US Convenor. The Rochester
Democrat and Chronicle reported that the six sash
wearers there received communion "without incident," though
the paper reported that one parishioner called it "a public
display of anti-Catholicism," and was planning to send a
videotape of them being served to the Vatican and the
New York City Archbishop for review.
Libraries, Pride and Censorship
The Anchorage Daily News has been filled with
articles and letters regarding the mayor's decision to
remove a public library Pride display sponsored by
PFLAG and the
local MCC congregation.
In one statement, the
mayor cited church/state grounds, though the reports do
not mention any overt religious content. According to the
paper the library "regularly allows outside exhibitors and
has included sensitive topics before, including rape
awareness." The Salt Lake Tribune reported on protests
against a local library branch for a display of books by
and about GLBT people, and editorialized against the
contention that the library was "hiding
behind the first amendment."
Boy Scouts of America
Eight urban scout councils, including Philadelphia,
BSA to drop their anti-gay policy.
The American Medical Association
voted to "ask youth-oriented organizations to reconsider exclusionary
policies that are based on sexual orientation," while not
specifically referencing the BSA.
reaction to the PBS broadcast of the documentary
Honor was extremely negative. The
American Family Association
Scout's Honor "a
shameless attack on the character and integrity of the
Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which will strengthen the
resolve of parents nationwide to support the Boy Scout
policy banning homosexual men as leaders;" and also said
"the BSA continues to be the target of a radical group of
whiners who refuse to accept a Supreme Court ruling
against them." The idea that the Supreme Court's
decision in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America somehow
validates the BSA viewpoint rather than classifying them as
a discriminatory organization with a right to hold and
enforce a discriminatory viewpoint has increasingly been
appearing in columns and letters to editors as more
institutions have chosen to dissociate themselves from or
openly criticize the BSA.
Another argument (which ignores the existence of gay
scouts) is that dissociation from a discriminatory
organization is equally discriminatory. The Waterbury (CT
Republican-American editorial "Closed and Denying"
criticized the Stamford Jewish Community Center and the
Union of American Hebrew Congregations for
dissociating themselves from the BSA, since "...Boy Scouts are
created in the image of God, too..."
conducted nonviolent protests at the
Southern Baptist Convention,
held at the Superdome in New
Orleans June 11-13. Soulforce supporters were trained in
non-violence, stood vigil in front of the Superdome, and
participated in a Jazz Funeral to mourn the suffering of
gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Southern Baptists.
After a press conference, supporters tried to take a coffin
with letters from/about those hurt by Southern Baptist
teaching into the Superdome, but were stopped by police
and ordered to leave. Thirty-four people were arrested,
but the City Attorney dropped all charges. The protests
received excellent media coverage.
Author and internet commentator
Rev. Rembert Truluck,
who was arrested,
Spirit of God that was so evident to me in Soulforce
people and actions is also in many Southern Baptists. The
Spirit moves among and within us and brings us into
understanding and awakening. Nothing is impossible with
God. Even the most obstinately anti-gay religious group
in America can change: one by one. The Holy Spirit is
still working in all of us long after the convention and the
demonstrations and the speeches are over. All that we
can do is to testify to and demonstrate our truth in
confidence and love. Then leave the results to God."
Soulforce will be in Indianapolis August 10-12 for the
Evangelical Lutheran Churchwide Assembly.
Thank you to the folks from
Tabernacle United Church who joined
us with banners for this year's Philadelphia Pride Parade.
Welcoming Congregation brochures the
length of the parade route. Please join us next year, and
help us provide a diverse pro-GLBT religious presence.
Out of the Closet Into Our Hearts, edited by Laura
Siegel and Nancy Lamkin Olson (Leyland Publications,
2001) has 51 short essays "Celebrating Our Gay/Lesbian
Family Members" by a wide variety of people including
Gene Shalit, Rhea Murray, Rev. Kurt Olson, Rev. Bob
Hawthorne, and Dennis Shepard. There's a specific faith
section with nine essays in it, but most of the essays have
some religious aspect to them, and the recurring theme is
of the writers being radicalized. This excellent book is
available online and in bookstores.
Censorship and Sex Education
The National Coalition Against Censorship,
Pro-Choice Research Center,
and SIECUS have launched a
"public education campaign to inform legislators,
educators, policy-makers and others about the threat to First
Amendment principles from publicly funded 'abstinence-only' sex education."
joint statement has been
endorsed by many organizations, including the
Unitarian Universalist Association,
Justice and Witness Ministries of the
United Church of Christ,
Catholics for a Free Choice.
Some statement sections
are: Abstinence Only Education is Censorship,
Abstinence Only Education Affronts the Principle of
Church-State Separation, Abstinence Only Education Silences
Speech about Sexual Orientation, and Censorship of Sex
Education is Ineffective and Unnecessary.
The statement says: "Material on contraception,
sexually transmitted disease, and sexual orientation has been
razored out of textbooks. Articles about sexuality have
been censored in the student press. Teachers have been
warned against talking about certain topics, and cannot
answer students' questions fully or candidly. Some have
been disciplined or threatened with lawsuits for speaking
frankly about sexual matters. Many teachers
understandably avoid discussing sexuality at all."
Family Stories: Journeys of Spirit in Mixed Orientation Families
"documents the transition of Roberta Kreider
and Mary Lou Wallner from devastation to
empowerment when confronted with the myriad of issues
that resulted from the deaths of their gay and lesbian
family members," and is introduced by Rev. Peter
Gomes, Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard
Divinity School. The video can be purchased for $29.95,
along with a study guide. Send checks to: John Davis,
PO Box 164, Wayne, PA 19807, or call (610) 989-0198.
Profits will go to new ventures promoting equality for
God's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children.
Funding and support were provided for the video by
Central Baptist Church (CBC)
and its members. For
more information go to
PA Ethnic Intimidation Act
The Pennsylvania Senate passed legislation to amend
the state's Ethnic Intimidation Act by adding actual or
perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender,
mental and physical disability, and ancestry to the existing law.
According to the
Statewide PA Rights Coalition
(SPARC), "this legislation is the most inclusive language
of any hate crimes bill in the country." The bill has been
passed to the state House for concurrence where it will
probably be voted on in the fall. A statement of support
for inclusive hate crime laws is available on the web at
Surgeon General's Sexuality Report
The U.S. Surgeon General's "Call to Action to Promote
Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior"
drew different responses from the
Religious Coalition for
Reproductive Choice (RCRC) and the
Family Research Council (FRC).
RCRC president Rev. Carlton W. Veazy
called it "an important step in encouraging religious
communities to break their silence on sexuality" and said that
the recommendations respect "the great diversity of
beliefs and opinions about sexual behavior among religious
communities." The FRC
criticized the Surgeon General
for meeting "with individuals across the ideological
spectrum on the issue of sexual health" and felt "a call to
destigmatize so-called sexual orientation is perhaps the
most disheartening component of the report."