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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Presbyterian Church (USA) Becomes Even More Contentious
The investigating committee appointed by the
Presbytery of the Redwoods
announced on Dec. 4 that they have voted not to bring charges against the
Rev. Katie Morrison or anyone involved in her ordination, despite complaints
from Paul Rolf Jensen, whose heresy complaint against the Rev.
Don Stroud was recently
officially ignored by the
On Jan. 14, elder Alex Metherell presented
Moderator Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel with signatures from fifty-seven commissioners
to last year's 214th General Assembly (GA) calling for a special reconvening
of the GA in order to deal with the growing number of congregations and clergy
who have publicly announced non-discriminatory ordination and marriage
policies. Fifty signatures are required to force the meeting. Proponents of
the meeting disputed Abu-Akel's opinion that the meeting could not be called
for 120 days, which would have put it just before the already-scheduled 215th
GA. Meeting proponents were also upset that he wrote to each of the
signatories, saying, "I implore you in the name of Christ and for the good of
the Presbyterian Church (USA) to reconsider your decision." On Jan. 16 the
from the Stated Clerk of the
on their web site suggesting that the proposed business for the meeting
should simply be ruled out of order. On Jan. 21
The Layman Online
Westminster Presbyterian (Canton, OH)
had filed a complaint with the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission
against Abu-Akel and PCUSA Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, asking them to
order Abu-Akel and Kirkpatrick "to cease all efforts to interfere with
recalling the 214th General Assembly into session." The
Presbyterian Outlook published a Jan. 21 letter from Metherell to
Abu-Akel threatening to sue Abu-Akel in civil court if he had not called the
special session by Jan. 27. On Jan. 27 Abu-Akel announced that thirteen of
the fifty-seven signatures had been invalidated and that he would not call a
On Jan. 18
Des Moines Presbytery
passed (47-32) an overture to the 215th GA to delete the ordination ban
from the Book of Order and overturn the related definitive guidance. A
similar overture passed the GA in 2001 but was voted down by the presbyteries.
Twin Cities Area Presbytery
took no action on the same overture on Jan. 11, apparently because some who
had previously supported it feel it is politically inexpedient this year. On
Jan. 23 the anti-GLBT
Confessing Church Movement
made a preliminary announcement regarding the formation of a more formal
organization to be called "The Confessing Church of the PC(USA)," stating in a
letter from the Communications team that they are seeking to "BE THE CHURCH
within the PC(USA)."
So far these controversies have not attracted much media attention. The AP
released three short articles, and the
mentioned a possible upcoming vote to rescind the ordination ban in a long
article about a visit by Georgia-based transgender Presbyterian Minister Rev.
Erin Swenson to California to speak to Presbyterians who wanted to learn more
about gender issues following the murder of Gwen Araujo.
New Jersey Town Meetings
and forty-five other organizations, including the new
New Jersey chapter,
are holding town meetings throughout the state from January through May
titled, "Supporting All Roads to Justice: Marriage Equality in the Courts,
Domestic Partnership in the Legislature." A communication from Lambda lists
the following religious cosponsors:
Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry,
Union of American Hebrew Congregations,
Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church,
First Presbyterian Church of
Ethical Culture Society-Bergen,
United in Grace,
New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Havurah,
Unitarian Churches across New Jersey,
More Light Presbyterians.
A complete list of meeting dates and locations is available at
The meeting at the
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
was well-covered in
which quoted extensively from the speakers, including the Rev. Mark Lewis.
Lewis, who, along with his partner (also an
priest) is a plaintiff in the New Jersey marriage suit, said,
"The state of New Jersey believes we are perfectly fit to officiate at wedding
ceremonies. But it says we are not fit to be married ourselves. It's saying,
'You're good enough to work for us, but you're not good enough to receive what
we have to offer.'"
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The ELCA News Service reports that the Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the
Saint Paul Area Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA),
announced January 15 that he had lifted sanctions imposed in 2001 on
St. Paul-Reformation Church
and another congregation by his predecessor, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson,
now ELCA Presiding Bishop. St. Paul-Reformation was censured for calling
and ordaining the Rev. Anita Hill. The censure remains in place but the
sanctions, which forbid participation in synod activities, have been lifted
from both congregations. Bishop Rogness' statement said that the
congregations "have exhibited vigor and growth that suggest they have much to
offer the wider church." Bishop Hansen responded that Bishop Rogness' action
"...should not be interpreted as presupposing any changes in ELCA policies."
THIS obedience, a film following the Rev. Anita C. Hill and
St. Paul-Reformation from the decision to commit "ecclesiastical disobedience"
through the decisions made at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, is available (VHS)
Southern Baptist Convention Pressure
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
is putting pressure on the city government of Nashville, headquarter city of
the SBC and host city for the 2005 convention, not to add sexual orientation
or gender to the Fair Employment and Housing ordinance. According to the
Baptist Press, the letter from the SBC to the Convention and Visitors
Bureau said in part, "...our constituents are telling us today that they do
not want to meet in cities where our meeting has to constantly deal with these
issues." A Washington Times article indicated that the concern was
motivated by last year's
protest in St. Louis, and is somehow connected to the decision not to bring
felony charges against the protestors.
Pro-GLBT Reconstructionist Publicity
Under the headline "Jews reach out," the
of Attleboro, MA published an extensive article about a "Keshet Initiative to
publicly welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews" by
Agudas Achim, headed by former Philadelphia-area
resident/IWG supporter Rabbi Elyse Wechterman.
The interview with Rabbi Wechterman touches on the
history of non-discrimination and encouraging diversity; Jewish understandings
of sexuality; the holiness of same-gender marriages; and the rainbow as a
symbol of God's covenant with all creation, and therefore as an appropriate
symbol for the gay and lesbian community. Rabbi Wechterman says of her
congregation, "Families may look different, but they are all Jewish families.
We want to make sure that every family is welcome, and make sure their kids
are welcome, no matter what their families look like."
Janet Parschall, former head of D. James Kennedy's
Center for Reclaiming America
and organizer of the
1998 national anti-gay,
pro-ex-gay ad campaign,
has disappeared from the Center's web site. She is now president of
a new organization described as a group where "people of faith become people
of action, working together to win the cultural war for life, liberty, and the
family." The areas of concern listed on the web site are "abortion,"
"homosexuality," "pornography," "evolution," "liberty," and "family." The
first project listed is an anti-abortion ad with the face of a fetus, the
phrase "I am an American," an American flag, and the tag line, "America, it's
time to protect your children again."
The main page lists
Concerned Women for America,
National Right to Life, and
Focus on the Family
Anglicans and Marriage
The Birmingham News ran a long article reporting that the pastor of
Birmingham's largest Episcopal church was one of four prominent theologians
who wrote a nationally distributed letter opposing rituals for same-sex
unions. According to the article, the letter says a proposal to sanction
blessings "flies in the face of the univocal teaching of Hebrew and Christian
Scripture." The AP released a story saying that the
is expecting "a wave of defectors" if the blessings are adopted, but that
growth through schism is not the Mission's goal. The
Canadian National Post and the Vancouver Sun
reported on the
Anglican Church of Canada's
Diocese of New Westminster
which had to cut its budget twenty percent after eight parishes stopped paying
assessments because of other parishes in the Diocese which are going ahead
with plans to perform union ceremonies for same-gender couples.
Family Research Council Quote
In an email note to "Friends of Family Research Council"
President Ken Conner responded to the awarding of $500,000 by
Special Master Kenneth Feinberg to the lesbian partner of a Pentagon employee
killed on September 11, 2001, by saying in part: "Increasingly we are seeing
taxpayer dollars doled out to special interest groups that seek to advance a
radical anti-family agenda."
Advocate Refers Readers to KTF
Advocate.com, the online version of The Advocate,
posted a story on January 10
about Rev. Rhett D. Baird, the Fayetteville, AR UU Minister whose personal
marriage proclamation we published in
May, 2002. The Advocate
article links to the
online version of that issue.
All the issues
since May 1998 are now
and we're slowly working backwards through the older issues.
Baptist Church - United Church of Christ
has been disfellowshipped from the
American Baptist Churches
for ordaining the Rev. Gene McAfee, a gay man who joined the church as a
student and is now leading a congregation in Edinburgh, Scotland, according to
an article in the Bloomington Herald-Times.
Disciples of Christ
The Religion News Service reports that
will try to pressure the denomination to speak out against
National Christian Church
performing union ceremonies for same-gender couples.
Disciple Renewal is listed as a member organization of the
Institute on Religion and Democracy's
Association for Church Renewal,
though the web site pointed to by the IRD says the organization is named
Disciple Heritage Fellowship.
Eucharist Trial Update
reported that the jury trial for three gay Roman Catholics arrested in
November during the
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
[see last issue]
was postponed until January 29. Originally scheduled for January 24, a jury
was unavailable that day, and the prosecutor's witnesses were unavailable on
January 27 and 28. "I flew in from Seattle for the trial, and I am so
exhausted and stressed out from all of this. I am willing to wait until
Wednesday for the jury trial we are entitled to under the law because I
know we are doing the right thing," said Mike Perez, one of the defendants.
"If only the church had done the 'right thing' and served us communion when
we asked the first or the second time, none of this would be taking place."
The three were charged with unlawful entry for refusing to leave the Hyatt
Regency lobby without being served, and face up to six months in jail and
up to $350 in fines.
Federal Aid for Your Building Campaign?
Americans United (AU)
reports that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will
allocate federal money for religious entities to construct buildings for
worship as long as sections of the structures are used for social services.
Predicting that the policy will prove unworkable, AU Executive Director
Rev. Barry Lynn asked, "How is the government to determine when there's too
much religious activity in a taxpayer-funded building? My guess is that
once these facilities are built with tax funds, no government inspector is
ever going to come around and check."
That's One Way of Looking at It
According to a
Focus on the Family
year-end review in CitizenLink: "Homosexuality received several key
endorsements from organizations and personalities in 2002." The organizations
and personalities listed were the
American Academy of Pediatrics,
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
National Education Association.
Conservative Jewish Movement to Reconsider Ban?
The Jewish Week has two articles in their December 27 issue about a
possible reconsideration of anti-GLBT marriage and ordination policies in the
Rabbi Leonard Gordon, of the
Germantown Jewish Centre,
described in the article as "an active Rabbinical Assembly member who is
trying to move the movement toward reconsidering its policy," is quoted
saying, "Over the past ten years we've seen a serious increase in the number
of committed gays and lesbians who are taking active roles in Conservative
communities. People who are bringing in questions about raising children,
supporting families with same-sex parents, about weddings. This was not
the case a decade ago." On January 3 the AP distributed an article saying
that Judy Yudof, president of the
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,
would ask the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards to reconsider the
question. The AP story also mentioned Orthodox and Reform policies.
Other articles about a possible policy change appeared in the
Chicago Tribune and Austin American-Statesman.