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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Unprecedented Positive Coverage
We have seen more newspaper coverage of pro-GLBT religious organizations,
congregations and clergy during the previous month than we can ever remember
Hendersonville (NC) Times News:
long letter from local PFLAG secretary inviting
affirming houses of worship in area to participate in Coming Out Day.
coverage of seminar conducted by
New Ways Ministry
(founded by Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Rev. Robert Nugent).
profile of Rev. Richelle C. Russell, lesbian senior minister of 600-member
First Unitarian Church.
Arizona Daily Star:
long article about
Luminarias de Cristo, new Tucson
More Light Presbyterians chapter.
profile of host of Whosoever with Dr. Selma,
local Christian lesbian TV talk show.
Cleveland Jewish News:
report on eighteenth anniversary of
GLBT Reform congregation
San Antonio Express-News:
pre-event story about participation of pro-GLBT United Methodist minister in
interfaith forum on "Homosexuality in the Word of God" at San Antonio's
First Unitarian Universalist
Ohio University Post:
articles about Coming Out Jewish and Coming Out Christian services on campus.
New Orleans Times Picayune:
report on National Coming Out Day service at
First Unitarian Universalist Church
of New Orleans.
report on opposition to Nevada's anti-marriage ballot Question 2
by fourteen "Reform Judaism, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran,
Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Unitarian Universalist" clergy.
National Catholic Reporter:
report on meeting of
Gay and Lesbian Alumni of the University of Notre Dame and
St. Mary's College.
report on religious panel organized by
Rainbow Alliance of Southeast Missouri State University.
North Texas Daily:
report on public discussion of "homosexuality in the afterlife" between
Harvest Metropolitan Community Church
Denton Bible Church.
story about Rev. Greg Dell appearing at University of Tennessee to discuss
"The Controversy over Same-Sex Marriage and the Church."
long article about Rabbi Brad Bloom of
Congregation B'nai Israel,
his repentance for not being welcoming enough,
and events at synagogue to welcome gay and lesbian Jews,
including two special services and screening of
Trembling Before G-d.
New York Times:
announcement for commitment service at
St. Peter's Episcopal Church
led by Roman Catholic priest.
Tacoma News Tribune:
report on disagreement between pro-GLBT
of Tacoma-Pierce County
Tacoma Ministerial Alliance
over effort to repeal Tacoma's sexual orientation non-discrimination law.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:
story about Reformation Sunday service for pro-GLBT Presbyterians at
Calvary St. Andrew's Parish.
St. Petersburg (FL) Times:
Shower of Stoles
Lakewood United Church of Christ.
Journal News (White Plains, NY):
report on pro-GLBT Reformation Sunday service at
South Presbyterian Church
in Dobbs Ferry.
Soulforce Returns to Lynchburg
On Saturday, October 26, the
Interfaith Working Group
participated in the
"OUT and ABOUT in Lynchburg," the first ever pride event in Lynchburg, VA.
Other organizations participating in the event included the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
People For the American Way,
Planned Parenthood of Lynchburg,
Christian Church of Richmond,
Lynchburg Friends Meeting,
First Christian Church in Lynchburg,
Roanoke Chapter of PFLAG,
Equal Partners in Faith, and
for Separation of Church and State.
The event was preceded by a press conference with Art Scott, an
"out and proud" graduate of
Jerry Falwell's Liberty University;
Rev. Roger Zimmerman, pastor of First Christian Church
(the host church for the Soulforce weekend in Lynchburg);
Rev. Mel White of Soulforce, and Faisal Alam, founder and director of
Al-Fatiha. Soulforce and Al-Fatiha had previously issued a joint statement
denouncing Falwell's accusations against Muhammad on CBS's 60 Minutes.
During the event a crowd of hundreds, including dozens of students from
Lynchburg area high schools and colleges, heard numerous speakers and
entertainers, including Christian Country and Western Singer Scott Schoen;
an MCC member from Austin, TX;
Peggy Campolo of
Central Baptist in Wayne, PA;
Rev. Steven Baines,
People For the American Way;
MCC Gospel singer
Rev. David North,
from Washington, DC; transgender activist Judy Osborne;
Philadelphia-area poet Laurie Pollack;
Rev. Dr. Lisa Wilson Davison, Professor of Old Testament
at Lexington Theological Seminary; Mary Lou Wallner,
an evangelical Christian whose daughter committed suicide in 1997;
and Christian de la Huerta of
who led the crowd in a closing
About a dozen protestors carrying anti-gay signs and armed with a bullhorn
harangued the crowd from the perimeter of the event for most of the afternoon.
The Lynchburg News and Advance
identified two protestors as clergy, including the pastor of
Grace Presbyterian Church.
On Sunday From 7:30 am until noon, 150 people stood in prayerful vigil across
the street from Jerry Falwell's
Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC).
The line of Soulforce supporters, wearing Soulforce shirts and carrying
banners and Stop Spiritual Violence signs, stretched for two blocks along
Thomas Road and one block along the side of the TRBC complex. Several
Soulforce volunteers in suits and dresses stood directly outside the church
greeting people as they arrived. Soulforce supporters came from as far away as
Hawaii, and included at least five people from the Philadelphia area,
including three from Central Baptist and one from
Tabernacle United Church.
A banner with a quote from Gandhi was at one corner:
"Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good."
Mounted directly across the street from the front door of the church was
another banner that said "Southern Baptist teachings are killing God's gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender children."
Two counter-protestors carrying a giant cross and "repent"
signs stood quietly near the church facing the Soulforce line. Three other
counter-protestors stood within a few feet of the Soulforce line with a
large yellow and black sign that said "homosexuality is a sin,"
and spent most of the morning screaming about "sodomites" and
"judgment day." They also called two young women who came out from TRBC to
offer donuts to the Soulforce people "sodomites." One told the
News and Advance that "he might have been a little carried away"
when he screamed "God hates you."
During the course of the vigil several people from the neighborhood talked to
the Soulforce supporters, and after the service about a dozen of the estimated
4,000 people in attendance shook hands and said hello. "The purpose of the
weekend events was to alert, educate, and begin to mobilize the residents of
Lynchburg to stand up and speak out against the toxic rhetoric spoken by
Christian fundamentalists like Rev. Jerry Falwell," said Rev. Mel White.
"The pride event celebrated who we are and who God created us to be.
The vigils called attention to the fact that fundamentalist rhetoric leads to
violence and suffering for God's GLBT Children." Two thousand pamphlets titled
What the Bible Says - and Doesn't Say - About Homosexuality,
were distributed at the event on Saturday, in front of
Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday,
and in a door-to-door campaign earlier in the week.
The weekend's events were covered by local television and newspapers,
the Liberty University Press, the Roanoke Times,
and the Associated Press. There was a large paragraph on page 3 of the
USA Today, and the entire pride festival was filmed by the PBS show
Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.
Quote from a Lynchburg Resident
The following quote from an anonymous resident of Lynchburg was sent to a
Soulforce-related email list, and is reproduced here with permission:
Being one of the semi-closeted Lynchburg residents I just wanted to thank all
you who have supported this action. I have talked to many of my GLBT friends
and through this experience many of us have been empowered to be more open and
honest with our lives. I have struggled with this for many years knowing that
the majority of my friends and family are very strong Christians with a very
Fundamentalist doctrinal bent. So through these past few years I have lost
most of my friends and family since they so strongly disagree with my finally
living the life that God intended for me. So this past weekend gave me the
chance to see that there are many people who were willing to sacrifice time,
money and themselves to help my small city and I. It also allowed me to
experience what it could be like living "Out and proud" and gave me numerous
examples of people who are living their lives fully as themselves. So again I
thank you for all that Soulforce has given to Lynchburg.
News from Americans United
The U.S. House voted against the House of Worship Political Speech Protection
Act 239-178, a bill backed by the
American Family Association,
Family Research Council,
Focus on the Family,
Concerned Women for America,
American Center for Law and Justice,
National Right to Life Committee,
and Dr. Richard Land
(iSouthern Baptist Convention).
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that a "demonstration
grant" has gone to Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing from the
Compassion Capital Fund. In February of 2001 Robertson
said on the 700 Club that he was opposed to government
funding of religious groups.
Murder in California
Gwen Araujo, a Newark, CA transgender seventeen-year-old, was murdered at a
party, allegedly by a group of guests who had discovered that she did not fit
their gender definitions. The case has been reported by the AP and received
extensive coverage in California papers. In general, news reports have been
consistent in placing the attack in a context of ongoing anti-transgender
violence, but extremely inconsistent in their use of gender pronouns. Several
papers noted that the local high school was working on a production of
The Laramie Project at the time of the murder, but Araujo's murder
has not resulted in the level of religious reaction that
did. A press release from the
UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns
The members and friends of The UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns are deeply
saddened and angered as we have learned of the fearful, hate motivated and
cruel circumstances of the untimely death of Gwen (Eddie) Araujo of Newark,
In our prayers we reach out in love and sympathy to Gwen's family and friends.
In our prayers we reach out to hold in our hearts all the youth in the Bay
area, in the world, that they might know such cruelty and injustice is not
the last word; that there is reason to hope for a world transformed by
love and understanding.
In our prayers we reach out to those who perpetrated this crime and others who
have done likewise, that they might take responsibility for their actions, and
that their punishment be just and humane. In our prayers we ask God to heal
the feelings of revenge and fury; to transform our response to this horror
into a passion for change and reconciliation among all people.
It was 1997 when the United Church Coalition for Lesbian & Gay Concerns
adopted the name by which we are now known, The United Church of Christ
Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns. In these five
years we have gained even greater understanding than we had then about the
call for us and for our churches to truly welcome people of all gender
identities, as well as lesbian, gay and bisexual people. We've also become
clearer about the necessity of the church to speak out immediately to
protect transgender people and to extend civil rights protections to
include transgender persons. The lives and well being of other human beings
are at risk and cannot wait until the rest of us understand fully our
prejudices and fears.
We are supported in our stance by the President of the
United Church of Christ,
Rev. John Thomas and other national UCC leadership who have said about this
crime "Gwen's death is a shocking reminder of the fear, prejudice and
ignorance that fuel the power of hate to diminish and destroy life. These
events also cry out to us that this is not what God intends. There is much
work to be done before we attain the vision of God's community - This is not
a time for silence, indifference and complacency. It is a time for speaking
out and listening; it is a time for compassion and solidarity; it is a time
for learning, advocacy and risking new ways of being community."
Gwen (Eddie) Araujo is the 26th person to be killed since last year's Day of
Remembrance held in November 2001. This is double the number killed last year
and substantially higher than the annual average of transgender people
murdered over the past decade for being themselves. The Day
of Remembrance is an annual event held in more than 40 cities across the
nation to memorialize those transgender persons killed during the
preceding year. This year Remembrance services will be held in most
participating communities on Wednesday, November 20, 2002.
We will not be part of the silence which allows such violence to grow. We will
not stand by while versions of hate proliferate, too often justified by
interpretations of Christian scripture and faith which do not represent what
we believe, nor the faith of most Christians. There are resources that can
help us learn and respond, such as the "Transgender Pocket" of the "Open and
Affirming Study Packet" which we have published
Transgender Good News by Pat Conover and other books on this subject
published by Pilgrim Press
It is our hope that everyone in this country would take to heart these final
words, quoting again from the letter from our church's leadership,
"There is no reason to remain in the dark about the transgender realities
among us. We can learn, we can grow and we can act."
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Judicial charges have been filed against four more Presbyterian clergy in
New York State.
An elder from the Los Ranchos Presbytery is attempting to declare an official
constitutional crisis and force a reconvening of the General Assembly to deal
with the growing number of congregations and clergy who have publicly
announced non-discriminatory ordination and marriage policies. The Book of
Order requires that he collect signatures from a geographically diverse group
of fifty commissioners to the previous General Assembly. In early November
he announced that he was "breathtakingly closes" with forty-four.
The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly sent a letter to all
commissioners asking them not to sign.
nationwide, over twenty congregations held Reformation Sunday services to
"offer support and recognition to individuals and congregations who continue
to heed God's call to inclusion despite threats of discipline and invitations
to lead the denomination." At
South Church in Dobbs Ferry, NY,
a regional celebration for churches and individuals from the Presbyteries
of New York City, Hudson River and Southern New England included
a reaffirmation of the ordinations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
Demonstrating Christian Diversity?
A debate between
on the question "Does God hate
homosexuals?" was held at the Open Bible Church of Casper, WY on the fourth
Matthew Shepard's murder.
According to an AP article,
"the debate was organized by local pastors as a way to show that Phelps does
not represent Christians on homosexual issues."
Both Phelps and Rankin are anti-gay.
Father Paul Washington
Father Paul Washington died Monday, October 7, at the age of 81. Father
Washington is remembered for his involvement in many causes, but we
especially remember him as one of the first clergy people to sign on to the
and for his willingness to make personal appearances at press conferences,
services, panels and talk shows in favor of domestic partnership benefits and
marriage for same-gender couples.