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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
December 2002/January 2003


Roman Catholics Denied Eucharist by Bishops, Jailed

During the annual United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, three life-long Roman Catholics were arrested as they knelt in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C. asking for one of the bishops to serve them the Eucharist. Kara Speltz of Oakland, CA, Ken Einhaus of Arlington, VA, and Mike Perez of Seattle, WA had attended the Bishops' Mass the previous evening at the National Shrine, where they were denied the Eucharist without explanation. Prior to her arrest, Speltz stated, "It is so ironic that Monday began with a speech by Bishop Gregory calling the Bishops to comfort their people and on Monday night, I was refused the Sacraments. So today, I am holding the Bishops accountable by kneeling in the lobby of their hotel and risking arrest in hopes that they will 'see' their mistake."

The three, who were in Washington to participate in the silent Soulforce vigil outside the hotel, were held in a DC jail for thirty hours before being released. Speltz, a Eucharistic minister described by Soulforce as a sixty-five year old grandmother who has been arrested over a dozen times for civil disobedience-related charges said, "There were no mattresses, no blankets, no pillows, and very little to eat. It was the hardest jail time I ever served."

A press release from DignityUSA quoted their executive director Marianne Duddy: "What happened to these three people is symbolic of what gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics have experienced for decades. Church leaders have banned us from Catholic churches and ordered priests not to say Mass for us. Bishops have used the Sacraments as a weapon to intimidate us into staying in the closet. They don't want us to speak out about the fact that we find our sexuality to be a blessing and a gift, and our relationships to be holy. We support our sisters and brothers of Soulforce, and are deeply sorry for the pain that they feel due to our Church leaders' callous refusal of Communion to them. We believe that Jesus invites all to the table, and this is our practice whenever Dignity meets to celebrate Eucharist."

The arrests received a great deal of media attention, though most stories left out the denial of the Eucharist at the Bishops' Mass. The story received good coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which has previously not covered protests at national religious conventions. There were long and thorough reports covering both the denials and the arrests in the National Catholic Reporter and the Detroit Free Press. According to the Free Press article, the priest who had refused the Eucharist thought they were members of Rainbow Sash, though none of them were wearing sashes, and only two of them had small rainbow crosses. Both Bishop Gumbleton of Detroit and the communications director of the Paterson, NJ Diocese told the Free Press that the denial was wrong, but there has been no official apology from the Conference of Bishops.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Baltimore Presbytery announced an official policy of non-enforcement of G-10106B (the sexual ordination restriction), and then voted down a motion from several churches to rescind that policy; the Presbytery's Permanent Judicial Commission voted to agree with the recommendation of the investigating committee not to bring charges against the Rev. Don Stroud of TAMFS (That All May Freely Serve) resulting from the complaint of heresy filed by Paul Rolf Jensen, (who has filed complaints against more than twenty ordained Presbyterians across the country). The Synod of the Mid-Atlantic has formed a panel to review the dismissal of charges against Rev. Stroud. The head of the Presbyterian Forum (one of several national anti-GLBT Presbyterian organizations) says that the Baltimore Presbytery is in schism. In response to claims from anti-GLBT organizations that an announcement of non-compliance with the Constitution was equivalent to an announcement of renunciation of the authority of the denomination (i.e. resignation), the denomination published a clarification of the process required to remove people from office. The California elder who has been pushing to reconvene the General Assembly to deal with clergy, congregations and presbyteries that have publicly announced non-discriminatory communion, ordination, and marriage policies announced that he has more than the required number of signatures to force a special meeting.

The session of Christ Church, Burlington, VT, which had set aside its statement of dissent just before last summer's General Assembly, has now issued a 1,702 word "statement of compliance with G-60106b," which concludes: "With full confidence that we are abiding with the Constitution, including the provisions of G-6.0106b, the Session of Christ Church, Presbyterian vows to continue welcoming persons living singly or in committed relationships, regardless of sexual orientation, into the life, membership and leadership of this congregation on an equal basis, including eligibility for election and ordination as a ruling elder or deacon."

Marriage Equality New Jersey

A New Jersey chapter of Marriage Equality has been formed, and organizers say they'd like to hear from supportive people of faith. They've already had a nice article in the East Brunswick Home News Tribune, and have announced a three-week mall tour culminating Feb. 12 (Freedom to Marry Day). To explore ways you can help educate the public about equal marriage rights, send email to marriageequalitynj2002@yahoo.com

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

In a long article headlined "Lutherans Express Concerns About Sexuality Issues," the ELCA News Service reported on the anti-gay "Conference on Christian Sexuality" in Kansas City sponsored by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, which has a five point statement on their website which was produced at the conference. The article highlighted the statement's conclusion, which said that the denomination is becoming "schismatic and sectarian." The article also summarized the presentations of the speakers, which included a comparison of sexual behavior outside mixed-gender marriage to "faceless parts coupling and uncoupling like so many boxcars;" a comparison of "same-sex relationship blessings to ritualizing death;" and a claim that national mental health organizations, academic institutions, the media, the courts, and public schools are "limiting information to a single point of view."

Kentucky Gay Straight Alliance

An attempt by thirty students to form a Gay Straight Alliance at a 990-student high school in Boyd County, KY, has led to a walkout by 400 students and a protest by 2,300 people organized by Rev. Tim York, pastor of the Heritage Temple Free Will Baptist Church in Cannonsburg, KY, and president of the Boyd County Ministerial Association. The Lexington Herald Leader quoted Scott Lively of Abiding Faith Ministries in Sacramento, CA, who addressed the rally, suggesting that the school have a class that would teach tolerance while "helping to understand why homosexuality and related alternative lifestyles are wrong and harmful" and a free speech club with T-shirts that say, "free to speak against homosexuality, against abortion, against evolution."

Bayard Rustin

Controversy in West Chester over Bayard Rustin and the West Chester Area School District decision to name a new High School after the gay Quaker civil rights leader have spawned an AP story and articles, letters and commentaries in Philadelphia-area newspapers. Most of the articles do not even begin to cover the extent of his public service in the United States, India, and South Africa with such organizations as the American Friends Service Committee, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Congress of Racial Equality. A biography is available online at www.rustin.org, which is mostly dedicated to the film Brother Outsider, scheduled for broadcast on PBS on January 20 (check local listings).

Germantown Mennonite

On Saturday, November 2, Germantown Mennonite Church, a congregation that accepts and affirms sexual minorities, was removed from membership in the Eastern District by a vote of 85-30, and is no longer a member congregation in the Mennonite Church USA.

Conservative Rabbi at Beth Simchat Torah

On November 19, The North Bergen Times (NJ) published an article about Rabbi Ayalet Cohen, a heterosexual Conservative rabbi who was installed in September at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the world's largest GLBT synagogue in New York City. The article focuses on controversies over sexual orientation within the Conservative movement, and the decision by the movement to allow Rabbi Cohen to work at Beth Simchat Torah even though the congregation is not part of the movement.

Atlanta

The DeKalb County School District has suspended and reprimanded Danny Buggs, their youth motivational speaker, for anti-gay religious remarks to an audience of 500 male students. There have been extensive reports on the controversy in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. One opinion piece noted that Mr. Buggs is paid $74,200 a year by the school district, and that he told the boys at the assembly, "God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve," and that he hoped there were no gay students in the audience. The Journal-Constitution also reported on the baseball-bat beating of a student at the all-male Morehouse College by another student who thought he was looking at him in the shower. The paper quoted a friend of the student charged in the attack, as saying that he thought the beating was deserved, but that the use of the bat was "a little extreme."

Moore Ordered to Remove Commandments

Americans United reports that U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson ruled on November 18 that Judge Roy Moore must remove his two-ton granite sculpture of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building within thirty days. The ruling was the result of a suit filed by Americans United, the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Hate Crime Bill Passes in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania legislature has passed, and the Governor has signed, a bill adding ancestry, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity to the Ethnic Intimidation law. Stacey Sobel, of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, said that the Center "can now better assist victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes. Law enforcement officials who were unable to fully prosecute or even investigate many of these incidents in the past will finally have the tools they need to aggressively prosecute these crimes and assist victims in Pennsylvania."

Religious Right reaction to the passage and signing of the bill was even more extreme than usual. The Culture and Family Report quoted the Urban Family Council's Bill Devlin: "We would strongly encourage pastors, churches and church leadership across Pennsylvania to obtain some very good liability insurance and contact an attorney if the pastor intends to continue faithfully preaching the Word." And the Washington Times quoted a Church of the Brethren pastor who said that passage of the law "brings about what Christ spoke about how Christians are going to be hauled off and slaughtered for their beliefs."

Orlando and Exodus

The Orlando City Council passed a non-discrimination ordinance 4-3. As part of its coverage, the Orlando Sentinel published a long article about Alan Chambers, the President of the ex-gay umbrella organization Exodus International and a leader in People for a United Orlando, the organization opposing the ordinance. The article says Chambers "became involved in the City Hall fight as an individual, not as a representative of Exodus," but a prominent note on the Exodus web site encouraged people to write to the Sentinel for a copy of the article.

Miami

According to an editorial in the Miami Herald, Broward County school district members have appointed two anti-gay activists to the district's diversity committee, including one who says she will use her appointment "try to protect Broward children from harmful pro-homosexual propaganda."

National City Christian Church

The Washington Post reports that the board of elders of National City Christian Church, a 600-member Disciples of Christ church in Washington, DC, voted unanimously to allow weddings for same-gender couples in the sanctuary. The Post briefly quoted National City's Rev. Alvin O. Jackson, who called the vote "a really special moment," but the bulk of the article was devoted to reactions from other religious leaders, including the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition who predictably said that the congregation had "left behind Christianity and the Bible."

Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

The Boston Globe ran an opinion piece and reported on a press conference held by the Episcopal Bishop, Suffragan Bishop and Bishop-elect of Massachusetts denouncing anti-gay-priest comments from the Vatican. The article quoted Bishop Shaw, who noted that Matthew Shepard was an Episcopalian, and said, "I'm really concerned about hate crimes and homophobia that comes from supposedly responsible people making statements like this." The opinion piece said in part:

"The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts has been enriched by the ministry of gay and lesbian priests and deacons, some of whom are celibate and some of whom are committed to faithful relationships. They serve in parishes and in other capacities. Along with their heterosexual sister and brother clergy, their commitment and care is visible in extraordinary ways. We affirm the ministry of all baptized people as well as those lesbian and gay priests and deacons who faithfully live out their vocation in this diocese."



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