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


Civil Marriage Law

On September 17, Canadian citizens Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, married January 14, 2001 at MCC Toronto, were traveling to Georgia to speak at a Gill Foundation event about their marriage being recognized by the Canadian government. They were stopped at the border by U.S. Customs because their marriage is recognized by the Canadian government. As instructed, they had filled out "one written declaration per family" but were told by U.S. Customs that because their marriage was not recognized by the U.S., they had to fill out separate forms. Joe Varnell wrote in his report on the incident at www.samesexmarriage.ca: "I thought about the event we were about to miss. It was being opened by Coretta Scott King whose husband had rallied the nation in support of an African-American seamstress who refused to move to the back of the bus. It wasn't the paperwork, it was what the paperwork represented. We informed the Immigration Supervisor that we would not be entering the country and with disappointment, and frustration, we made our way home."

The United States Senate has held a first round of hearings on "the defense of marriage." In its press release about the hearings the Traditional Values Coalition's Lou Sheldon made it clear that he believes the amendment should outlaw all legal recognition of same-gender couples, claiming, "The final best hope for marriage and religious Americans who respect it is an amendment to the Constitution which states the obvious - marriage can occur only when it is between a man and a woman. It is important that the amendment not allow loopholes to create 'classes' of marriage or cheap imitations of America's most important institution. Domestic partnership, civil unions all attempt to mimic valid marriages. They are no substitute for marriage and the amendment should be clear on this detail." Despite claims by some supporters of the amendment that it is to prevent courts from granting couples the right to marry, Sheldon specifically cites the "radical homosexual-controlled" California Assembly's passage of AB 205, which grants more rights to Domestic Partners.

The Boston Globe reported that the Massachusetts Family Institute has sent 1,400 invitations to "pastors from many different religious traditions" for a Summit of October to Save Marriage featuring Roman Catholic Archbishop Sean O'Malley. The Globe also reported local reactions to Senate testimony in favor of the amendment by Rev. Ray Hammond of Boston's Bethel AME Church, who said, "I am not accusing gay and lesbian people of being responsible for the breakdown of the American family" and, according to the reporter, he "cannot fathom" why anybody could read his testimony as anti-gay. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on a pro-amendment Alliance for Marriage press conference, with extensive quotes from Patricia DeVeaux of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who said, "This is not about being anti-gay. I would never, ever, try to do anything negative against any segment of the population."

Copies of the IWG brochure Religious Support for Equal Marriage Rights are available on request.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The anti-GLBT Confessing Churches Movement has asked people on their email list to respond to a document on their web site outlining a proposal for a four year moratorium on constitutional changes followed by a formal split of the denomination into two new distinct denominations. This plan, which they are calling "Gracious Separation" is also on the agenda at the anti-GLBT Presbyterian Coalition's convention in early October.

Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken has been reinstated into the Presbytery of Cincinnati by order of the Synod pending the resolution of his appeal. The Presbytery had voted June 16 to presume his renunciation of jurisdiction for officiating at the Christian marriage of two women after his official rebuke by the Presbytery in April.

The Layman Online reported that the Presbytery of Hudson River has accepted the recommendation of its investigating committee not to bring charges against the Revs. Joseph Gilmore and Susan De George, co-pastors of South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry, NY, based on the October, 2002 complaint from Paul Rolf Jensen. South Church has publicly stated that Gilmore and De George have conducted marriages for same-gender couples and presided at the ordination of “self-affirming, unrepentant, practicing homosexuals."

Paul Rolf Jensen was reportedly preparing complaints against 350 clergy to be delivered by late August, but by mid-September only one complaint, against the Rev. Jim Rigby of St. Andrew's in Austin, TX, had been made public. The session of St. Andrew's has stated that it "re-affirms its faith in and support of Rev. Jim Rigby and intends to fully support him throughout this process" and "stands by the Mission of St. Andrew's, '...proclaiming God's grace and love, while working to advance the justice and compassion of Christ in society.'"

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) mailed about 18,000 copies of "Journey Together Faithfully, Part Two: The Church and Homosexuality" on September 5 to the pastors and lay leaders of the church. A task force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality compiled the 49-page study guide and its background essays to help the ELCA's 5 million members consider how the church will respond in 2005 to specific questions about blessing same-sex relationships and accepting lay and ordained ministers in such relationships. The material is online in PDF format at www.elca.org/faithfuljourney/.

Episcopal Church, USA

The upcoming early October meeting of the American Anglican Council in Plano, TX has been mentioned positively in the regular reports of several radical religious right organizations. The American Anglican Council claims to represent "mainstream Anglicans" (i.e. anti-gay Episcopalians), took credit for one of the accusations that temporarily delayed Bishop Robinson's confirmation, and has the same mailing address as the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

The second-ranking official in the Diocese of Central Florida, who voted against Bishop Robinson's confirmation, resigned his position in the Diocese because he believes the diocese will leave the denomination over Robinson's confirmation, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Since the confirmation of Bishop Robinson last month we've started seeing stories in the mainstream media about the anti-gay minority in the Episcopal Church. The Birmingham News ran a long article about anti-gay priest Rev. Paul Zahl and his concerns about the future of the denomination. The Washington Times covered the resignation of the Rev. Steven R. Randall of Catonsville, MD following an August sermon in which he compared the denomination to a hijacked airliner. The Day of New London, CT reported on a meeting between Bishop Andrew D. Smith and more than 350 people, described in the article as "deeply distraught and openly angry." The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran a similar story about a meeting with Bishop J. Neil Alexander, in which the crowd was described as "tense and angry." Fourteen Episcopal priests took out an ad in The Tennessean criticizing Bishop Robinson's ratification. An article in the paper about the ad mentions that the signers "do not include some of the oldest and largest local Episcopal congregations" and opens with the explanation that one of the priests signed the ad because it was heart-breaking "to hear his denomination referred to as a 'gay church.'" The Washington Post ran an article about anti-gay Episcopalians around the country including a story about a priest in Nebraska who lowered the Episcopal flag to half-mast because he "wanted to do something that would help people in the congregation face their friends in the community." The AP distributed a story about a special convention to be held by the Diocese of South Carolina next month to consider resolutions to be sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Bangor Daily News reported on local Episcopalians debating whether to join The Anglican Church in America, which split from the Episcopal Church over the ordination of women. The Charlotte Observer ran two articles about the Episcopal Church including a report on reactions of various priests and congregations in the Carolinas, which ended with a quote from a priest who said, "However controversial all this is, our church has done the right thing. And even though this right thing may bring confusion, anxiety, and fear - it is still the right thing."

James Dobson's Peculiar Alabama Speech

Chief Justice Roy Moore's two-ton Ten Commandments monument has been removed from public view in the Alabama state courthouse. The other eight justices all voted to obey the order of federal judge Myron Thompson after Moore said he would defy it. According to a Focus on the Family report, FoF head James Dobson spoke at a rally in Montgomery, urging people to get involved in "the great moral struggle" against "the kind of judicial tyranny that Christians can no longer tolerate." Dobson said that the courts "are determined to control more and more of our personal lives" citing the removal of the monument, Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and possible future rulings in favor of same-gender marriage. It was not clear from the article how removing an exhorttation to worship a particular God on a particular day, allowing women more control over their own bodies, preventing the states from arresting people in their own homes for consensual sexual activities, and allowing more people to get married could be construed as examples of the courts exercising more control over people's personal lives. According to GLAAD, James Dobson recently appeared as a solo hour-long guest on the Larry King Live Show for the fourth time in two years.

According to Americans United, HR 2045, the "Ten Commandments Defense Act," which currently has seventy sponsors in the U.S. House, orders federal courts to leave decisions about the display of the Ten Commandments to the states.

Letterhead

The Rev. Doug Fauth has left the area, and the Rev. John Steitz has returned. We need the visible support of clergy, congregations, and religious organizations in Eastern and Central PA, New Jersey and Delaware who favor equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people; reproductive freedom; and separation of church and state, especially as anti-GLBT religious organizations and individuals get more and more attention while denying that they are anti-gay. Please contact us now if you are interested in being listed.

D. James Kennedy Gets Worse

D. James Kennedy's rhetoric has always been extreme, but he reached a new low on his September 21 show, seen locally on Channel 17 on Sunday mornings. He told his viewers that the gay rights movement was "the greatest threat to religious liberty in America," and showed clips of people saying things like they believe God will destroy America if homosexuality is accepted.

Harvey Milk High School

Harvey Milk High is an eighteen-year-old New York City public school described on their website as a collaboration between the Department of Education and Hetrick-Martin Institute to provide a safe environment for GLBT and questioning students "who are in crisis or at risk because of physical and/or emotional harm caused by their peers in a traditional educational environment." The school suddenly became national news this summer when plans were announced to expand to 170 students by the end of 2004. The school has a 95% graduation rate and a 60% college placement rate.

The New York Times reported that on the first day of school this year, about a dozen protestors, "waving signs and Bibles," were met by about 250 counter-protestors. The Times interviewed one protestor, a construction worker from Los Angeles, who said: "This is a historical moment, and this school is a blemish on our Society. It's my duty as a Christian to share Jesus' take on all this." According to a story on 365gay.com, the school is the subject of a lawsuit by the New York Hispanic Clergy Association and the Liberty Counsel, who claim that the money should go to schools that have high numbers of minority students even though a majority of the students at Harvey Milk are Hispanic or African American.

Radical Religious Right Turnover

The Family Research Council has hired Louisiana state representative Tony Perkins as their new president. According to the FRC, Perkins "crafted legislation to regulate the state's abortion clinics [and] sponsored bills to install internet filters on public school computers and increase the participation of faith-based organizations in state prisons." He also authored the state's two-tier marriage system, in which couples can choose a marriage from which it is harder to get a divorce. Perkins has announced that the Federal Marriage Amendment will be the FRC's primary focus.

Peter LaBarbera, the main anti-GLBT writer for Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, is now executive director of the Illinois Family Institute. As a result, the Culture and Family Report has suspended publication; CFI Director Robert Knight will be spending his time on the marriage amendment.

Jerry Falwell to Concentrate on Marriage

Jerry Falwell has announced that he will concentrate on the marriage amendment through his new One Man One Woman Campaign. He recently invited Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, a member of the Assemblies of God and the sponsor of the amendment, to speak at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg. In his email about Musgrave's visit, Falwell said, "I agree that the only way to put marriage out of reach of fanatical judges and militant lawmakers is to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, period." Soulforce will conduct a silent vigil outside Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday, October 12, carrying pictures of families. IWG Co-coordinator Chris Purdom will speak at a Soulforce-sponsored marriage panel on October 11 in Lynchburg, along with representatives from GLAAD, DontAmend.com, and People for the American Way.



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