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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
July/August 2004


Anti-Gay Constitutional Amendment Senate Vote This Month

The Family Research Council sent email to their supporters on June 16 saying that they were informed by the U.S. Senate leadership in a conference call “with a handful of pro-family leaders” that there would be a vote on the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution during the week of July 12. A similar email was sent by Focus on the Family. The official announcement of the vote date and the first mainstream press report (in an AP article) came on June 18. As late as June 4, the AP was reporting a “reticence” in Congress and that a vote on the amendment this year was “uncertain.”

Reportedly the vote will be on the second version of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which says, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the Constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.” But as three other anti-gay amendments have been proposed this year, things could obviously change.

Americans United helped organize an anti-amendment letter to Congress that was signed by twenty-six religious organizations: Alliance of Baptists; American Friends Service Committee; American Jewish Committee; Anti-Defamation League; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Christians for Justice Action; Disciples Justice Action Network; Episcopal Church, USA; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Guru Gobind Singh Foundation; Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; Loretto Women's Network (LWN); Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; National Conference for Community and Justice; National Council of Jewish Women; National Sikh Center; Metropolitan Community Churches; Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office; Protestant Justice Action; Sikh Council on Religion and Education; The Interfaith Alliance; Union for Reform Judaism; Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries; and Women of Reform Judaism. A June 4 AP article focused on (and partially misidentified) the Protestant organizations; lumped together “seven Jewish groups, led by the Union for Reform Judaism, two Quaker groups and three Sikh groups” and included anti-letter, pro-amendment, pro-discrimination quotes from Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Rev. Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals. A Focus on the Family article about the letter was titled “LIBERAL CHURCHES OPPOSE FMA: Who are they and what are their reasons for rebelling?”

The Christian Coalition reports that the Federal Marriage Amendment has 124 cosponsors in the U.S. House. As we have noted before, more than three fourths of the states have already passed similar language. We strongly suggest that you call your Senators now.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

A June 23 press release from That All May Freely Serve says, in part "Today, we are grateful to the witness and prophetic actions of our brother Paul Peterson, who at the June 22nd meeting of the Detroit Presbytery was, by his request, released from the exercise of ordained office. In so doing, Paul set aside the false privilege of heterosexuality now conferred to him and others by the idolatrous mandate of G-6.0106b in our constitution."

The General Assembly is meeting in Richmond, VA from June 26 to July 3. The theme for this year is "That All May Have Life in Fullness." Nine overtures relating to sexual orientation and human reproduction will be considered, along with the “Transforming Families” report that was sent back to committee last year for an anti-gay rewrite. The AP pre-General Assembly article was titled “Presbyterians to Wrangle Over Gay Clergy.”

Elder Rick Ufford-Chase, a former youth minister at Tabernacle United Church and founder and director of the Tucson, AZ non-profit educational organization BorderLinks, was elected Moderator of the denomination until the next General Assembly in 2006. According to a report from More Light Presbyterians, “Ufford-Chase distinguished himself as the candidate willing to say the words ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender’ and to speak about people he knows who are LGBT and desire so strongly to serve our church,” though he promised not to advocate against G-6.0106b.

Focus on the Family Puzzled

Focus on the Family (FoF) distributed an article titled “Falling Teen Suicide Rate Puzzling” in which they reported that teen suicide had dropped 25 percent in the last decade, and that “CDC researchers had no immediate explanation for the numbers.” While the FoF expert cited in the article makes the reasonable assertion that “we should be focusing on troubled children, not statistics” there is no indication anywhere in the article that the drop in the suicide rate is a positive sign, nor is there any mention in the article of previous studies that showed extremely high suicide rates among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, or the role that abusive religious beliefs have played in those suicides, though they do note that “ the problem is many suicidal teens fail to see their worth and value in God's eyes.”

Perhaps the slow but steady improvements in social and religious acceptance of GLBT people in general and youth in particular that FoF vociferously opposes are finally starting to help.

Episcopal / Anglican News

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of The Diocese of Los Angeles blessed the union of the Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd and his partner of 20 years, Mark Thompson, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Bishop John Chane of the Diocese of Washington, DC blessed the relationship of the Rev. Michael Hopkins, past president of Integrity, and his partner John Bradley. The blessing of Hopkins and Bradley was reported in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Baltimore Sun. The service leaflet and the text of the sermon by current Integrity president Susan Russell are available at integrityusa.org.

The Diocese of Vermont has developed a liturgy for “Blessing Same Gender Relationships.” There is a quote from Bishop Thomas Ely on the web page of the task force that developed the liturgy: “The ministry of gay and lesbian persons, lay and clergy alike, is significant in our diocese and for that I give thanks. Likewise, it is pastorally important for us to move forward with clarity about the church’s blessing of those who wish to be joined in civil unions in our congregations.”

The AP reported that the Anglican Church of Canada delayed blessing same-gender couples until 2007 but affirmed the “integrity and sanctity” of same-gender relationships in general. The delay was supposedly intended to help prevent an Anglican split, but the affirmation lead to angry reactions from anti-gay Anglicans anyway. On June 7 the London Daily Telegraph reported that the Global South primates were calling for the expulsion of both the United States and Canada from the Anglican Communion.

ChristianExodus.org

The Christian Exodus web site, which first came to our attention through an article in WorldNetDaily, lists a very specific plan of action for moving waves of volunteers into South Carolina in order to take over the state legislature and change the state constitution to outlaw abortion, “regulate and legislate against” same-gender relationships, and allow for community government religious expression “consistent with the majority of their citizens.” They also have statements “against racial discrimination and hatred” and against “persecution of other faiths.” Should it be necessary to secede from the United States to achieve these goals, they plan to do so by 2016. There is no indication on the web site of how many volunteers they have so far but their plan calls for 12,000 by the end of 2006.

Civil Marriage Legal Challenges

On June 5 the AP reported that the Sandoval County NM Clerk would start issuing licenses again based on her attorney’s opinion that “temporary restraining orders cannot be extended indefinitely.” On June 9, 365gay.com reported that District Judge Louis McDonald had ruled that she was still temporarily constrained.

On June 8 the New York Times reported that Justice E. Michael Kavanagh of State Supreme Court in Ulster County, NY had issued a permanent injunction barring the mayor of New Paltz, NY from performing marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples. On June 10 the AP reported that New Paltz Town Court Justice Jonathan Katz had dismissed charges against the mayor and ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove that the law he was charged with violating was constitutional. But since the injunction against him was issued by a different judge, it still stood. On June 17 the AP reported that a deputy mayor had started performing marriages on the strength of the mayor’s acquittal. On June 26 the Poughkeepsie Journal reported that preliminary arguments in the trial of Unitarian Universalist ministers Revs. Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey had been heard by New Paltz Town Justice Judy Reichler and that no decision would be announced before July 7. On June 13 The Journal-News of White Plains, NY published a profile of Rev. Sangrey. On June 24 the AP reported that the Liberty Counsel had filed suit in Judge Kavanagh’s court asking for the invalidation of the 180 marriages performed in New Paltz and that Kavanagh had signed a restraining order preventing all village officials from conducting any more weddings and had set a July 19 hearing date. A spokesman for the Liberty Counsel said they could not seek injunctions against clergy.

On June 8 the Billings Gazette reported that the Alliance Defense Fund is suing Montana on behalf of the Canyon Ferry Baptist Church in East Helena over election laws that they are under investigation for violating by holding a rally and distributing petitions in favor of an anti-gay state ballot initiative without registering with the state.

On June 9 the Contra Costa Times reported that all California marriage cases would be consolidated and heard in San Francisco.

Two lawsuits have been filed against Massachusetts to overturn the 1913 law preventing out-of-state marriages that is only being applied to same-gender couples. One was filed by couples who were denied licenses and the other was filed by town clerks who do not believe they should be forced to discriminate.

Christian-Underground.com

The Traditional Values Coalition has been advertising an organization called Christian Underground, which has an anti-abortion, anti-GLBT “moral code” on their web site that says in part “We oppose the normalization of sodomy as well as cross-dressing and other deviant sexual behaviors in our culture.” A recent email from Christian-Underground.com indicated that they are accepting applications from people interested in being state leaders who will “motivate and organize the churches (leadership and laymen of all denominations) prayer groups and other Christian bodies in their state.”

Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention met in Indiana in June. They passed a resolution supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment, and voted to leave the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) because the BWA accepted the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship into membership.

Approximately 80 Soulforce volunteers stood vigil outside the convention for three days, singing songs, talking about the spiritual violence of Southern Baptist rhetoric and policies, and handing out literature including a new 48 page study geared toward Southern Baptist youth titled “Christian Youth – an Important Voice in the Present Struggle for Gay Rights in America.” This was the 5th year in a row that Soulforce has been at the SBC.

On the final evening of the convention, Rev. Steve Gaines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gardendale, AL said "God characterized homosexuality as an abomination in Leviticus 18, and He sandwiched it right between adultery, child sacrifice and having sex with an animal." He also urged Southern Baptists to contact their congress people to lobby for approval of the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Helms School of Government

Jerry Falwell has announced the formation of the Helms School of Government at Liberty University (yes, Jesse Helms) “to train the next generation of conservative local and state leaders, U.S. representatives and senators, governors, judges, public administrators, diplomats and law enforcement officials.”

United Methodist Church

The Rev. Beth Stroud, Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG), came out to the congregation in a sermon on April 23, 2003. Because she came out, Rev. Stroud has been involved in a process of supervision and consultation with Bishop Peter Weaver for the past year. That process has now moved into a judicial phase, with a hearing by the Committee on Investigation scheduled for later this summer. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether there is enough evidence, under current church law, to send her case to a church trial. Such a trial could result in her losing her credentials as an ordained United Methodist minister. FUMCOG’s leaders have assured her that her employment at FUMCOG is secure, regardless of what happens to her ordination credentials. For updates on the case, see www.bethstroud.info.

Bishop Elias Galvan of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference is appointing the Rev. Katie Ladd, an out lesbian, pastor of Seattle's Woodland Park United Methodist Church, according to the Seattle Times.



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