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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
June 2003

Kennett Square

The Kennett Square (PA) borough council president, also a minister at Kennett Square Bible Methodist Church, spoke against a proposed public assembly ordinance with a nondiscrimination clause (it passed 5-2), saying, "I personally have a problem with sexual orientation," and, "if you include morals, you can't include sexual orientation." He added, "Nobody should be hated by anybody." The story was reported in The Kennett Paper and the West Chester Daily Local News, which had a pro-church-state-separation, pro-free-speech editorial as well as our letter thanking them for it, in which we noted that religious organizations participate in pride parades and banning them would be religious discrimination.

New Jersey Marriage Coverage

The New Jersey marriage lawsuit is still generating positive coverage. A Newark Star-Ledger editorial in favor of rights for same-gender couples noted, "Meetings to support same-sex marriages are drawing hundreds of people to packed church basements," and also, "to discriminate against people on behalf of religious vision or cultural habit is not in this country's best democratic tradition. Our state and federal constitutions spell out individual rights precisely to prevent the majority from using its control of government to restrict the rights of a minority." The Press of Atlantic City had a very favorable article about the Cape May town meeting. The Jersey (City) Journal reported that a poll conducted by New Jersey City University found that 55.6 percent of Hudson County residents favor legal marriage for same-gender couples, including 60.4 percent of Roman Catholics and 30 percent of Protestants. The poll supervisors expressed surprise and said they had thought "residents would be strongly against gay marriage."

Thirty-Seven Anti-Marriage States

Texas is now the thirty-seventh state to legally ban marriages of same-gender couples. In Focus on the Family's May 6 CitizenLink, it is noted that if one more state follows suit, three-quarters of the states will have anti-marriage laws, making it that much easier to pass a federal constitutional anti-marriage amendment. A federal marriage amendment was reintroduced on May 22.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The General Assembly was held in Denver May 24-31, too late to get results into this issue. A full report is on the web site. Business before the assembly included overtures to invite other (and presumably even less GLBT-friendly) denominations to observe and advise the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity; to deny payment for abortions by the Board of Pensions except when they fit into denominational social policy guidelines; to remove incest and rape from the circumstances allowed for late-term abortions; to offer moral counsel to "protect mothers and their babies late in pregnancy;" to remove the anti-GLBT ordination ban (G6.0106b); to support synods in their oversight of violators of G6.0106b; to create an authoritative interpretation of G6.0106b; to increase the required number of signatures for a special meeting (thus preventing anti-GLBT special meetings); to return to annual meetings; and to appoint a pastoral group whose primary concern would be GLBT people and their families in local churches. A new publication titled "Living Faithfully With Families in Transition" was also considered, and had generated the most pre-Assembly commentary from anti-GLBT organizations within the denomination.

Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken has, as promised, officiated at a wedding for another same-gender couple. Anti-GLBT members of the Cincinnati Presbytery have threatened to call for a vote on whether Van Kuiken has renounced the authority of the denomination. Paul Rolf Jensen has charged the Rev. Rob Martin of North Carolina with heresy, thereby preventing the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, a More Light congregation, from installing him until the charges are resolved.

Episcopal News

Integrity Integrity president Rev. Michael Hopkins, and Rev. Susan Russell (executive director, Claiming the Blessing), met with the president and media officer of the American Anglican Council and agreed that representations of the groups at the General Convention would be respectful and avoid characterizations, generalizations, and assumptions about intent and motivation. Episcopal Divinity School gave an honorary Doctor of Divinity to Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches. A story in The Advocate quoted school president Bishop Steven Charleston, who called Perry one of the most important Christian church leaders in recent decades. Rev. David Moyer of Forward in Faith called the degree an "in your face" message to conservatives.

Another Baptist Expulsion

McGill Baptist Church (Concord, NC) was expelled from the Southern-Baptist-Convention-affiliated Cabarrus Baptist Association (CBA) for baptizing two gay men. In a statement to the CBA touching on Baptist traditions (soul competency, priesthood of the believer, and local autonomy) Rev. Steven Ayers said, "I feel blessed to be a part of a church who will continue to baptize all who come to us and profess that Jesus Christ is Lord of their lives. We will welcome them into our Lord's church, for after all it is His church and we trust in His grace and mercy for the final judgment. Jesus told the church to bring them in not to judge them. We are on very precarious grounds when we forget our task and assume God's." The Charlotte Observer attempted to educate their readers on religious diversity by interviewing several clergy from different Christian traditions regarding their attitudes toward sin and baptism. Sadly, they did not interview anyone who was pro-GLBT.

South Carolina Allowed to See Patient Records

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a South Carolina law that will permit state regulators to see, copy, and store abortion patient's records without stiff requirements that the records be kept confidential. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told the court that its members cannot comply with both the law and the organization's code of conduct.

Contraception/Abortion Coverage Loses in Florida

An email from the Liberty Counsel announced that mandatory coverage of contraceptives and abortions by employers passed the Florida Senate with only one no vote, but that the Liberty Counsel, the Christian Coalition, the Florida Catholic Conference, and the Florida Baptist Association worked with the Florida House Speaker to ensure that the bill did not pass the House.

Patricia Ireland and the YWCA

Radical Religious Right organizations sent out many alerts last month asking supporters to warn the YWCA not to hire Patricia Ireland as executive director. The Traditional Values Coalition said, "Ireland is likely to finalize the YWCA's evolution into a radical feminist and pro-homosexual organization that will promote abortion on demand, cross-dressing, lesbianism and other sexually deviant behaviors."

Nebraska Lawsuit

Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging Nebraska's Section 29 on the same grounds the Supreme Court used to overturn Colorado's Amendment 2. Nebraska's law says, "The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska." Two plaintiffs said their state senators told them they could not even talk to them about the legal difficulties of their relationship because of the law. An Omaha World Herald story characterized the plaintiffs as "attorneys, ministers, software developers, therapists, and professors," naming and describing all five couples and why they joined the lawsuit. The Rev. Nancy Brink of North Side Christian Church of Omaha is a plaintiff. The Lincoln Journal Star report did not name names nor mention that a plaintiff is a clergywoman and had extensive quotes from the governor pledging to defend the state constitution, and from the director of the Nebraska Family Council, who said that the state may discriminate in marriage on the basis of "behavior."
Love the Sin

We highly recommend Love the Sin, Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance by Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini (New York University Press, 2003), a short and very readable work discussing mainline Protestant influences on the American legal system and cultural understandings of religion and sexuality, concentrating on religious and gay-related Supreme Court rulings (especially opinions of Justice Scalia) and mainstream media reporting of some events we have discussed in KTF, including the murders of Matthew Shepard and Dr. Bernard Slepian, and the anti-gay, pro-ex-gay ad campaign. IWG supporter Rabbi Rebecca Alpert's work is mentioned several times and the book is recommended by Rabbi Alpert; Urvashi Vaid, former director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute; Margaret R. Miles, former dean of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley; and Laura Levitt, director of Jewish Studies at Temple University.

Many of the book's suggestions for discussing identity, behavior, sexuality, and religious liberty are consistent with IWG practices for the last eight years. Whether or not you agree with all of their conclusions regarding a need for the broad application of free exercise and disestablishment to both religion and sexuality, the arguments and analysis are both interesting and useful.

U.S. House of Representatives Opening Prayer

Key West Police Officer and Chaplain Rev. Steve Torrence led the opening prayer at the House of Representatives on May 1 ("National Day of Prayer"). According to a Key West Citizen story, it was the first time that "an openly gay MCC clergyman has delivered the opening prayer before the U. S. House of Representatives."

Canadian Rabbis and Marriage

Canadian Jewish News reported on a factorum presented to the Ontario Court of Appeal by the Canadian Coalition of Liberal Rabbis for Same-Sex Marriage, a group of twenty-five Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis from across the country . The rabbis noted that, "In liberal Judaism, religious traditions and understandings of social institutions such as marriage are open to interpretation in accordance with community values and individual morality," and that there is "certainly no single spokesperson for Jewish law and its interpretation." The rabbis disagreed with the Interfaith Coalition on Marriage and Family that marriage legalization would destabilize their religious freedoms, any more than laws allowing interfaith marriages or the sale of non-Kosher food, but that "the current state-enforced prohibition of same-sex marriages prevents liberal Jews from acting in accordance with their conscience." In a subsequent article the publication reported on the testimony of an Orthodox rabbi opposed to marriage legalization, and the testimony of gay Orthodox rabbi Steven Greenberg.

Transgender Inclusion

Transgender lawyer Phyllis Frye sent a response to her email list to a question about whether it makes sense to include gender identity in non-discrimination law, saying that fourteen jurisdictions passed legislation that included gender identity last year, while this year seven jurisdictions, including New Mexico, "have passed non-discrimination bills with gender identity in it." Frye noted that similar legislation has passed in a variety of locales, such as Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Detroit, and even "smaller places such as York, PA, Peoria, IL, and Monroe County, FL." Victories have been noticeably lopsided. "Adding up all the votes on the fourteen local ordinances that passed in 2002," Frye says, "the aggregate was 204 to 27. Boston's vote of 9 to 1 was typical."

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson told a South Dakota pastors' conference that ELCA members face a challenge to "talk openly with one another, to disagree with one another about human sexuality and, more particularly, the place of gay and lesbian people in our congregations and ministry," according to the Los Angeles Times.

The ELCA's Fortress Press has released Faithful Conversation: Christian Perspectives on Homosexuality with contributions from four seminary professors.

The ELCA News Service reports that the Sexuality Task Force met with a panel of scientists, including Dr. William Stayton of the Human Sexuality Program at Widener University, who pointed out that no more than ten percent of the population is at either end of the Kinsey scale continuum in the United States, meaning that ten percent are exclusively homosexual in attraction and ten percent are exclusively heterosexual in attraction.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer (Minneapolis) installed Rev. Mary Albing, a lesbian with a partner, despite the Bishop's refusal to sign the call, and Pilgrim Lutheran (St. Paul) is now a Reconciling congregation.

Delaware Interfaith Statement

Eighty-two Delaware religious leaders from eleven religious traditions (Jewish, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, UCC, Baptist, MCC, United Methodist, Unitarian Universalist, and Earth Centered) have signed the following statement, managed under the auspices of the ACLU of Delaware's Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Project. If you are a Delaware resident and a clergy person or spiritual leader of a group in a tradition without clergy and you would like to add your name, call Douglas and Corey Marshall-Steele at 302-684-1032.

Love for and respect of one's fellow human being is perhaps the most prominent and universal core value of the many spiritual and religious traditions that have ever existed. While sometimes differing markedly in many other ways, spiritual and religious persons and groups can at least agree with this tenet: "We have a deep and abiding obligation to love and respect others." Indeed, not treating others respectfully or as we would want to be treated is seen by the various faith traditions as moral failure.

As leaders representing a wide variety of spiritual expression in the State of Delaware, we strongly support the full civil rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons and see such support as being very consistent with our shared belief.




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