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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
May 2004


Civil Marriage Update

Despite legal maneuvering in Massachusetts, town clerks will start issuing licenses to same-gender couples on May 17. A judge in Oregon ordered Multnomah County to stop issuing marriage licenses for 90 days, but also ordered the state to accept the licenses already issued. Asbury Park, NJ has joined the marriage suit by seven New Jersey same-gender couples as a plaintiff.

The Marriage License Non-Discrimination Act passed out of the California Assembly Judiciary Committee 8-3 on April 20. The day before the vote 365gay.com reported that 40 Unitarian Universalist, Baptist, United Methodist and MCC clergy lobbied for the bill. According to a report from Focus on the Family (FoF) “Pro-family analysts believe the legislation has a decent chance of passing the Assembly and the Senate.” FoF is urging their readers all over the country to call the Governor and urge him to veto the legislation if it reaches him.

Religious Right organizations have been sending emails to their supporters all month asking folks to call their senators about the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Three ELCA congregations have appointed “two gay men and a lesbian to serve as pastors” according to an April 15 Los Angeles Times article. Rev. Jay Weisner will be installed at Bethany Lutheran in Minneapolis in July, Rev. Daniel Hooper was installed at Hollywood Lutheran on May 2, and the Rev. Jennifer Mason was installed at Central City Lutheran Mission in San Bernardino in April. The article noted recent divisions in the Episcopal Church (over Bishop Gene Robinson) and the United Methodist Church (over Rev. Karen Dammann).

Rev. Mason’s installation was covered in an extensive and favorable April 19 article in the Riverside Press Enterprise, which described the church as taking “an unorthodox approach to attracting potential converts whether they be drug addicts, prostitutes or gangsters” and noted that Rev. Mason had “served as a missionary pastor in Santiago, Chile from 1991 to 2001” before being removed from the roster for being in a relationship with another woman. The article quoted Greg Egertson, co-chairman of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, who noted that the church “is risking being thrown out of the denomination,” and a protestor from Las Vegas (one of a small group of hecklers), who yelled “You’re a disgrace to Christianity” at people entering the service.

United Methodist Church

Pre-General-Conference articles and columns from the AP, the Religion News Service, the Scripps-Howard News Service, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Omaha World Herald all focused on expected debates over sexual orientation and ordination policy.

Pro-GLBT Religious Media Coverage

In an article headlined “Clerics demonstrate in support of same-sex marriage” that began “They stood shoulder to shoulder, men and women, gay and straight, their robes blending to represent the colors of the rainbow,” the Seattle Times reported on a march and demonstration by “dozens or religious leaders” (identified as Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist) who “presented a statement of support for same-sex marriage that was signed by 158 religious leaders from across the state.”

The St. Louis Dispatch reported on the Rev. Daniel O’Connell of Eliot Unitarian Chapel in Kirkwood, MO who filed an affidavit with the St. Louis County Clerk that he had solemnized the wedding of two women.

The Rocky Mountain News reported on a presentation by gay Orthodox Rabbi Steven Greenberg (author of the new book “Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition”) at the Jewish Community Center in Denver organized by Mosaic: the National Jewish Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

The Syracuse Post-Standard reported on the coming out sermon of the Rev. Fred Daley, a celibate Roman Catholic priest in Utica, who received a standing ovation from his congregation following the sermon.

Media General News Service distributed an article about one individual’s spiritual journey called “Man finds peace in being Christian and gay.”

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, SC ran an opinion piece from Rev. Tom Summers (UMC retired) criticizing religious beliefs and practices that encourage society’s reduction of gay people to their physical sexuality and refusal to acknowledge their “heart and soul.”

A Dallas Morning News columnist reported on the opening of the Eddie and Velma Dwyer Community Center, the new headquarters building of the Waco chapter of PFLAG and the first PFLAG-chapter-owned headquarters in the country. Rev. Eddie Dwyer is a Baptist minister and retired professor of religion at Baylor University.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette ran an article titled “Gay parishioners find welcoming churches” about congergations in Eastern Iowa, that featured interviews with clergy and members from Faith UCC in Iowa City, and Peoples Church UU and Faith UMC in Cedar Rapids.

The AP distributed a profile of Unitarian Universalist ministers Dawn Sangrey and Kay Greenleaf (self described as “two little old lady ministers”) who were charged with solemnizing marriages without a license in New Paltz, NY.

The Detroit Free Press ran a profile titled “Michigan Perspectives: Black, Christian and gay” about a couple at a marriage rally in Detroit who attend the New Covenant Assembly of Justified Believers, a primarily GLBT African-American congregation in Ferndale.

The Chicago Tribune ran a profile of Mary Lou Wallner, a fundamentalist Christian author, speaker and Soulforce volunteer who founded TEACH Ministries (To Educate About the Consequences of Homophobia) with her husband after her lesbian daughter committed suicide in 1997.

The Los Angeles Times reported on an interfaith Bible study for 160 rabbis and priests led by gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson and gay Orthodox Rabbi Steven Greenberg.

In an article titled “Gays make quiet showing at mass,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that “about two dozen members of Dignity Twin Cities, Soulforce of the Twin Cities and Rainbow Sash Alliance" received communion while wearing rainbow sashes at a mass “celebrated by Archbishop Harry Flynn and five of the seven U.S. Cardinals.”

The San Francisco Chronicle covered the religious marriage of retired Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles and Felipe Sanchez Paris at St. Gregory’s of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Bradenton (FL) Herald reported on a public marriage ceremony for two couples from the Church of the Trinity, an MCC congregation in East Manatee. The couples applied for marriage licenses at the Sarasota County Courthouse, and then exchanged vows in a religious ceremony in the courthouse courtyard after their application was denied.

The Philadelphia Daily News covered the announcement of the formation of The Gay Lesbian Alumni/ae Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities

The Detroit News reported on a religious marriage for a lesbian couple conducted by the Rev. Deb Dysert of Divine Peace MCC in Clarkston, MI at the Oakland County Courthouse following the county’s rejection of their application for a marriage license.

Promise Keepers

Promise Keepers, which has been operating on a smaller scale and recruiting among military chaplains and veterans is now promising to expand into broader social activism, a step that critics predicted when the organization was first formed. Focus on the Family reports that “the ministry plans to expand its focus to include social issues such as the fights against abortion and gay marriage.”

Jewish Media Marriage Articles

The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle summarized the policies of the Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements on civil and religious marriage for same-gender couples, and included quotes from one person who was married in a Reform ceremony and from rabbis in the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements whose views were consistent with their movement’s official positions.

The Baltimore Jewish Times ran an article titled “Same sex, divergent views” which quoted individual gay and lesbian Jews; Orthodox, Reform, and Secular Humanistic rabbis; Harold Goldman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; and Scott Gansel of Keshet Ga’avah (the World Congress of GLBT Jews).

RAC Responds to Unborn Victims of Violence Act

Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism issued a statement in response to the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act which says in part:

Potential life is sacred, and the loss of a pregnancy is tragic, but the Unborn Victims of Violence Act exploits these issues in an effort to undermine the foundation for legal abortion in this country. By not passing the Murray amendment, which would have given women further protection from domestic violence, the bill's supporters failed to provide real protection for victims of violence. Instead, they focused their efforts on elevating the status of a potential human life to that of a woman, a strategic step forward in the anti-choice hardliners' crusade to deprive women of their Constitutional right to reproductive choice.

Furthermore, in bestowing upon a fetus, zygote, or embryo the same rights and protections as the law gives a living human being, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act delivers a blow to religious liberty in this country. There is no scientific consensus on when human life begins, and different religious traditions offer different answers. The view that human life begins at conception is contrary to Jewish tradition and to the teachings of other religions, but the Unborn Victims of Violence Act would write that view our nation's laws. That the bill's supporters rejected the Feinstein amendment, which sets up similar penalties but avoids entangling Congress in religious debates, reveals a determination to establish religious opinion as legal fact.

Pictures from the March for Women’s Lives

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has pictures of religious marchers and the interfaith service in Washington, DC on their web site.

Focus on Village Seven Presbyterian

Focus on the Family (FoF) recently highlighted Village Seven Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian Church in America congregation in Colorado Springs. An FoF newsletter article titled “Churches asked to weigh in on issues” quoted Dr. Doug Hammerstrom, “who heads the Political Action Committee at Village Seven.” According to the article “committee members get frequent encouragement from the pulpit.” Dr. Hammerstrom says the committee deals with “things that we really see the Bible speaking to. Politically (that) would be the homosexuality issue, the abortion issue.”

Open Prairie UCC

A letter from the Rev. Curran Reichert on the web site of That All May Freely Serve describes the difficulties that the new Open Prairie UCC congregation has been experiencing in Princeton, IL. According to Reichert’s letter the congregation has been refused worship space by all the local congregations, including PCUSA, UMC, and Disciples, and the UCC camp where they were worshiping was threatened. The congregation began worshiping in a public building, but the city government then decided not to allow public worship services in public buildings. A local newspaper article accompanying the letter describes the cancellation of an annual charity fund-raising choir concert because of the refusal of other congregations in the area to participate in the event with Open Prairie. Open Prairie was formed as an Open and Affirming congregation by former members of Hampshire Colony Church of Christ after that congregation decided not to call Rev. Reichert because of her orientation.

TVC and GLSEN

In all of their recent emails to supporters, the Traditional Values Coalition has been focusing on the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, which they claim “targets children for recruitment into the homosexual lifestyle as well as cross-dressing/sex change operations through GLSEN chapters that sponsor hundreds of Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs on junior high and high school campuses across the United States.” As part of their anti-GLSEN campaign, TVC has started a new web domain: glsen.traditionalvalues.org. The real GLSEN web site is at www.glsen.org.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Mid-Atlantic Synod voted 19-15 to review the policies and procedures of the Baltimore Presbytery regarding the admission, validation and oversight of ministers following the Presbytery’s decision not to file heresy charges against the Rev. Don Stroud.



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