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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Bishop Egertson Asked to Resign
On May 23 the Los Angeles Times reported that
Bishop Paul W. Egertson was asked to resign by the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's
Presiding Bishop, H. George Anderson. According to the Times,
when Egertson was elected Bishop he promised "to
resign if he ever felt he must defy church law as a matter
In "An Open Letter to the Rostered Ministers and Synod Council
Members of the Southern California (West) Synod, Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America," Egertson writes that "the overwhelming majority" of
those he spoke to "vigorously opposed the idea" of his resignation. The
letter (on the web at www.socalsynod.org) includes the full text of a
resolution passed by the Synod Council, which he calls "the most
moderate response I have received," and which says in part:
BE IT RESOLVED that the Southern California (West) Synod
Council expresses its consensus that Paul W. Egertson, Bishop of
the Southern California (West) Synod, should not be removed
from office or be required to resign as a result of his participation
with others as an act of conscience in the irregular ordination of
Anita Hill at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, should Bishop
Egertson choose to resign his office as a further act of protest over
what he and many others within this Synod and the Church at large
con- sider to be an unjust policy, the Synod Council, with regret,
fully supports any such de- cision by him and further acknowledges
that his willingness to accept the consequences of his actions is in
keeping with the finest traditions of the Lutheran Church,
consistent with the maintenance of Church order and in advancing
the dialogue within the Church on this difficult issue about which
honest disagreement exists.
Egertson also summarizes what his resignation "does and does not
mean" for him:
First, it does not mean I recant or wish to diminish the protest I
made by participating in Anita Hill's ordination. On the contrary,
resigning intends to put an exclamation point after it.
Second, it does not mean resignation is now a precedent to be
applied to others who commit acts of conscientious disobedience in
protest of unjust policies in this church. It may be a precedent for
those who make a prior promise to resign, but not for others.
Third, it does not mean that I admit to any particular violation of
my installation vows or provisions of the constitution of this
church. Since no such charges have been stated, no such admission
can be inferred. That "some lines were crossed," incurring a
penalty, is clear. Exactly what those lines were is not so clear.
Fourth, this resignation does mean that I have come to the place
where I cannot in good conscience carry out the responsibility of
this office to enforce the ELCA's policies in regard to homosexual
persons as set forth in Vision and Expectations. Until the
invitation to participate in the irregular ordination in St. Paul
arrived, I had not faced an occasion requiring me to act. If I had
faced some of the cases other bishops have had, I don't know what I
would have done. But now, without calling into question what the
conscience of others has or will lead them to do, I know that I
cannot enforce a policy that is so hurtful to people and to this
Fifth, this resignation does mean that I recognize and affirm my
accountability to good order in the church and my responsibility to
assume the consequences of my actions. If I had not made my
promise, I would not be resigning but I would be accepting some
other appropriate penalty.
Disciples of Christ Offers DP Benefits
The Board of Directors of the Pension Fund of the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
voted to provide
coverage under the Churchwide Health Care program for
domestic partners of church employees covered by family
insurance. Program administrators and attorneys are developing the
precise definitions, plans and procedures necessary for coverage
implementation, which could take effect by January 2002.
The change applies only to health
care coverage, not the Pension Plan or other programs.
Orientation and Change in the News
On May 8, AP reported that Dr. Robert L. Spitzer released what they
termed "an explosive new study," based
on several hundred phone interviews, in which
he concluded that some individuals had changed their sexual
orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Following
this, newspapers and magazines all over the country ran
articles, columns and letters (generally balanced between
pro and con opinions) about ex-gay programs.
The American Psychiatric Association
"there is no published scientific evidence supporting the
efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change
one's sexual orientation," and "The potential risks of
reparative therapy are great (including depression, anxiety
and self-destructive behavior) since therapist alignment
with societal prejudices against homosexuality may
reenforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."
Focus on the Family
immediately jumped on the story,
quoting Dr. Joseph Nicolosi of
NARTH: "This is clearly
a historic event in the history of psychiatry's
understanding of homosexuality."
In a May 23 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal,
Spitzer himself wrote, "I did not conclude that all gays
should try to change, or even that they would be better
off if they did....However, to my horror, some of the
media reported the study as an attempt to show that
homosexuality is a choice, and that substantial change is
possible for any homosexual who makes the effort."
According to a GLAAD
news release, Cathy Renna
and Spitzer "discussed the problematic news coverage"
and the lack of acknowledgment of bisexuality in both
the coverage and the study. "We're pleased that Dr.
Spitzer has acknowledged the inaccuracy of the media's
coverage of his study," Renna said. "But I'm frankly
surprised that he can't see the connection between
inaccurate, sensationalistic media coverage and the problematic
methodology of his own study."
NRLR Comments on Ex-gay Programs
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable released a long statement
on conversion therapy. Excerpts
are included here. The entire statement is available
by email from the IWG.
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR) affirms
that gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) individuals are an intentional
and blessed part of Creation. Therapies to "convert" or "repair" a
person's orientation are misguided and should end. Such therapies
deny the inherent holiness of GLB people...
Much of the debate about conversion therapy has centered on
the question of whether GLB people can become heterosexual. This
question is irrelevant. Sexual orientation is intrinsic, powerful and
sacred. As such it should be honored as a gift from God to be
celebrated, not a problem to be "fixed." In fact, research has shown that
trying to force change can cause serious harm.
Research has demonstrated that sexual orientation exists on a
spectrum from absolute homosexuality to absolute heterosexuality.
Some people live on the polar ends of that spectrum and are likely
to be immune to change. Others--some studies say the vast majority
--live between the poles. Those who embrace this blessing often
identify as bisexual. Those who live in this place of possibility but
aren't supported in its holiness may well be those most vulnerable
to "conversion" attempts.
As people of faith, we understand and rejoice in our knowing
that sex and gender cannot be reduced to biological "givens," but
are fluid social, cultural, and spiritual constructs that can change in
the lives of many (but not all) individuals and peoples over time.
We welcome the blessings and learnings conferred upon us by this
beautiful variety and complexity....
There are political implications of the research race to prove
whether one is born gay or can "change." A recent study claims a
high "success rate" of so-called conversion therapies and [some] insist
that if anyone CAN "become heterosexual," then everyone MUST. This
false argument has been used to undermine non-discrimination and
hate crimes laws that cover lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
We offer an alternative view and suggest that an analogy
between sexual orientation and religion helps illuminate the spiritual
violence inherent in the thinking described above.
We are free and unfettered in our religious affiliations and must
be similarly so in our intimate and significant relationships. Just as
our right to religiously affiliate does not require that our faith
practice be biological or life-long, our sexual orientation does not need
to be biological or life-long. Those who are called to love others of
the same gender, whether as gay, lesbian or bisexual, should be
honored and protected, for these are paths full of grace, integrity
and loving kindness.
We have hope that those who fear the grace inherent in same-sex
loving can themselves seek change, and come to accept and
appreciate our blessing.
For all who believe that gay, lesbian and bisexual orientations
and transgender identities are sanctified, we ask that you join us in
creating welcoming and affirming beloved communities in all faith
traditions. Together we can ensure that our holy GLBT brothers
and sisters will never again feel the pain and condemnation of the
call to "convert."
In the States
The Oklahoman reported that the Association of
Professional Oklahoman Educators' executive director spoke
against a National Education Association
teach students "to appreciate gay and lesbian students
and families" at a "Pro-Family" rally in the state capitol.
The Governor of Texas signed the James Byrd Jr.
Act, allowing for enhanced penalties for crimes less than
murder motivated by prejudice based on race, religion,
color, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation, age or
national origin. The Fort Worth Star Telegram quoted the
president of the
Texas Eagle Forum, who complained:
the law "is not only infringing upon persons' thoughts,
and attitudes and behaviors being controlled and dictated
in the state, but we're going to take innocent children
and teach them about immoral and unhealthy behavior."
The Governor of Arizona signed a bill repealing his
state's bans on cohabitation and consensual sex, stating
in a letter reprinted in the Arizona Republic: "The laws
that are repealed by HB 2016 are unenforced and
unenforceable. Keeping archaic laws...does not promote high
moral standards...it teaches the lesson that laws are made
to be broken. Moral standards are set by families and
those they turn to for guidance, such as religious and
community leaders. We learn much more from watching
their behavior than from any written laws or rules."
Presbyterian Church (USA) About to Meet Again
A May 8 Presbyterian News Service (PNS) release started: "Will
schism happen in the
Presbyterian Church (USA)? Most
observers think not, but the 213th General Assembly will
address a number of issues related to what the church's
constitution calls 'the peace, purity and unity of the
Another background piece from PNS mentions that
four presbyteries have submitted overtures dealing with
abortion, including the
Presbytery of Donegal, in
Lancaster County, PA, which "is asking for a biblical and
theological study of the issue of abortion, arguing that
previous policies have been developed on the basis of
sociological and public policy concerns."
The Presbytery of San Joaquin has proposed that the
national ministries division "offer transformational
resources to those who struggle with sexual purity."
There are a large number of overtures related to
G-6.016b (the rule designed to forbid ordination to those
who engage in sexual behavior outside of mixed-gender
marriage). The Presbytery of Memphis has proposed
adding G-6.016c: "The provisions of G-6.0106b and this
G-6.0106c shall not be interpreted to permit the
ordination of practicing, self-affirmed, non-repentant
homosexuals." The Eastern Korean Presbytery has proposed a
moratorium on issues of sexuality and ordination. The
Presbytery of Denver has proposed the formation of a
commission to make recommendations to recognize the
anti-gay positions of the church as the church's "teaching
position," while leaving ordination decisions to the
examining bodies. The Presbytery of Baltimore has
proposed that the General Assembly recognize that
"reasonable Christians" can conclude that the portions of the
Book of Order forbidding discrimination, listing
ordination as a right of membership, giving congregations the
right to elect their own elders, and forbidding ordination
to some people on the basis of orientation are in conflict.
The Presbytery of Santa Fe proposes leaving the existing
language intact, but adding a conscience waiver. The
Presbytery of the Hudson River proposes an application
process for conscience waivers. The Presbytery of
mid-Kentucky, the Presbytery of the Western Reserve, the
Presbytery of Chicago, the Presbytery of the Heartland,
and the Presbytery of Newton have proposed four
different amendments striking the existing G-6.006b and
adding language leaving ordination requirements to the
examining body. The Presbyteries of Northern New England,
Elizabeth, and Boston have proposed striking
G-6006b. The Presbyteries of New York City,
Cayuga-Syracuse, Long Island, Northern New York, and
the Twin Cities Area have proposed striking both
G-6.0106b and any anti-gay interpretations of the Book
of Order that preceded it. The Presbytery of Milwaukee
has proposed that the General Assembly declare:
"1. homosexual persons are as qualified and capable of fulfilling
the requirements of the Book of Order, G-6.0106 as are
heterosexual persons; and 2. loving and faithful relationships
between persons of the same sex are recognized as
worthy of Christian honor, in the same way that such
relationships are honored between persons of opposite
sexes." The Presbytery of Hamni has proposed concluding
that "resolution has been reached on the matter of
human sexuality related to eligibility for ordination."
Soulforce in New Orleans
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
will meet at
the Superdome in New Orleans in June. On June 12 and
will conduct vigils 8 am-6 pm. There will
be a jazz funeral 11:30 am-12:30 pm and non-violent
civil disobedience and arrests 12:45-2:00 pm.
to Dr. James Merritt, president of the
SBC, Mel White said of the jazz funeral: "This New
Orleans tradition flows out of a saying that dates back to
slavery: 'We weep when a child is born into this cruel
world. We sing and dance when the good Lord takes
someone home.' Soulforce volunteers will use the jazz
funeral to tell your Messengers and through the media, to
tell the world why we weep when a gay child is born into
one of your Southern Baptist families or becomes a
member of one of your Southern Baptist churches."
Roman Catholic Church and AIDS
calling on the
Roman Catholic Church to "to engage in a serious
Examination of Conscience about how they have treated AIDS
and people with AIDS and HIV." Dignity President Mary
Louise Cervone noted: "Over 20 million people
world-wide have died of AIDS in the past 20 years. Nearly 36
million people are currently infected with HIV. Over
14,500 people get infected with HIV every day. This
disease has affected the lives of millions of God's
children. Our Church should be using its enormous moral,
political and financial resources to fight for them.
Instead, our leaders have been reluctant to get involved."
Dignity specifically asks the Church to
- Make a public statement recognizing the 20th Anniversary of
AIDS, honoring those who have lost their lives to the disease,
pledging support to people currently living with HIV an
committing Church resources to work for the eradication of the
- Call on pharmaceutical companies, philanthropic institutions
and governments of developed nations to make treatment of
HIV/AIDS more widely accessible in poor countries, especially
- Use Vatican funding to purchase AIDS medications and
distribute them to impoverished people.
Immediately cease public opposition to measures that reduce or
prevent transmission of HIV.
- Institute Masses for people with HIV, their families, caregivers
and survivors of those who have died of AIDS in every US
diocese and every parish in the world.
- Apologize for attitudes and actions that have demeaned people
with HIV/AIDS and their families and have led people to avoid
seeking pastoral care from the Catholic Church.