Archive for August 2008

Teenagers have mixed views on gays – and they’re OK with that

August 28, 2008

From the Los Angeles Times

Sandy Banks 
June 17, 2008

Kye D’Aguilar doesn’t have a traumatic story to tell about coming out. The 18-year-old said he’s always known that he is gay. “My mother told me she knew when I was born.”

“She was like, ‘Whatever.’ “He mimicked her, waving a beefy hand in the air. His mother is a lesbian.

His dad — who has another wife and new set of kids — wasn’t quite as sanguine. “Take the pink out of your life,” he wrote on Kye’s MySpace page. Kye responded with a diss of his own. “I blocked him,” he said.

I met Kye at a Hollywood shelter run by the Los Angeles Youth Network for runaways, homeless and foster teenagers, just a few hours before Los Angeles County pronounced its first Mrs. and Mrs.

I wanted to talk to the generation that stands to benefit most from this historic civil rights advance: gay kids who will come of age knowing that a hookup could eventually lead to a marriage proposal. Just like their straight friends.

Of the 10 teenagers I talked with, three said they were gay. I found the group as philosophically divided as adults, but more comfortable with dissension. They shouted, insulted and defended one another, then settled back in to watch television.

‘I don’t like it,” said David, twirling his skateboard wheels and shouting over the others. “Nothing personal, but two dudes ain’t natural. . . . I’m not tripping; just keep it in San Francisco.”

“Hel-lo!,” responded Jazz Lepe, an in-your-face 17-year-old who straddles gender boundaries. “This is Holly-wood.”

Tall and slim with delicate features, Jazz was a boy when she reached adolescence. Now she’s transgender. Or bisexual. Sometimes she’s not sure.

When I visit, she’s wearing tight jeans and a rhinestone-trimmed pink T-shirt. She has long black hair with a dramatic red streak, pink nail polish on slender fingers and eyebrows so perfect I’m dying to ask who did them.

She grew up in group homes and foster families, was taunted at school and on the street. I get the feeling she’s not one to wait on the state’s permission for anything.

“I always had crushes on boys,” she announced, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. Her mother wasn’t bothered when she came out at 15. “She just doesn’t want me to be a slut.”

I asked if she’d heard about Lawrence King, the Oxnard middle-schooler allegedly killed by a classmate in February for flaunting his homosexuality. She hadn’t. But she had heard about “this other guy that got killed . . . . They tied him to a fence. It was a big deal.”

Jazz couldn’t remember his name, but I could. Matthew Shepard. He died 10 years ago, before Jazz probably knew what “gay” meant.

His death publicly sensitized the nation to discrimination against gays; sparking hate crime laws and public outrage. But it seems not so much has changed in our private relations.

I’m stunned to read that one-quarter of gay teens say that coming out to their parents got them kicked out of the house, or led them to run away.

“The law doesn’t change anything,” said Jenette Hurst, 17, who landed in the Hollywood shelter three weeks ago when she came here from Seattle.

“We’re always going to have this discussion. I’m not a lesbian, but if they want to get married, why can’t we just be happy for them.

“It’s just like blacks and whites,” she said. The older generation “grew up saying things about each other because you didn’t know anybody like that. But we know.

“Like me and Jazz. She’s trans, she’s bi, whatever. I’m not. But I like her. She’s a person, he’s a person . . . whatever. I like her for who she is. Or he is.”

Mercy Molina didn’t say a word during our discussion. From across the room, I couldn’t tell if she was a girl or boy, lounging on the couch with her close-cropped hair, baggy clothes and black piercings hooked through her eyebrow and lip.

Up close, she looked and sounded much younger than her 17 years. She had a soft voice, perfect teeth and a rainbow-colored yarn bracelet neatly braided around her wrist.

Her parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and reject homosexuality, she said. When she told them she was gay two years ago, “they told me to leave. Then they said ‘If you go, we’ll call the cops.’ “Confused, she stayed.

But when she brought her girlfriend around, the arguments started. So the two ran away, stayed with friends, then wound up living in separate shelters.

Mercy was a tomboy all her life, she said. “I played sports and never liked dressing up or doing girlie things. My friends and my teachers, they were OK with it. I don’t know how my parents didn’t know.”

I asked her what she thought of gays’ right to marry. She smiled and looked away from me. “Me and my girlfriend, we’ve been together for three years. We say we’re engaged.”

She laughed, and when she looked up I saw that same glow in her eyes I see when my daughter talks about the young man she loves. “I don’t know . . . but yeah, maybe we’ll get married.”

And I don’t see a gay kid, but a 17-year-old romantic.

Wait a while, I tell her, thinking like a mother. And hoping, come November, voters don’t take the choice from her.





Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times,0,6146666,full.column

Why LGBT Equality Leads to a More Missional Church

August 15, 2008

The 218th General Assembly in San Jose did a remarkable and wonderful thing. The commissioners discerned a way for theological conservatives and theological progressives to co-exist. Moreover, they found a way for all of us to move forward together in mission as one church. Now you probably didn’t hear that in the news reports from the Assembly which focused on who won and who lost and what’s next. However, I think we will look back on this assembly as the start of a new era in the denomination.

The two big themes to come out of the Assembly were the emphasis on creating a missional church and the passage of several overtures to grant equal rights to our church members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

Those who see themselves as theological conservatives want us to be a “missional church.” Indeed it is clear from the Assembly that this goal is widely shared across the denomination. But what exactly does it mean to be a missional church? Well for one thing it means to be evangelical – to share the gospel of Jesus with others. “Missional” also means that the church should be woven into the very fabric of the community.

The most recent General Assembly made several important moves towards becoming a more missional church. The Assembly took steps towards adopting a new Form of Government with the goal of becoming more missional at every level of the denomination. The national leadership in Louisville has embraced a missional approach through hiring several leading evangelicals who are dedicated to creating a missional church. Indeed, the General Assembly Council has renamed itself the General Assembly Mission Council and has committed to working with congregationally-based local leadership to find new ways to work together in missions. Creating a more missional church is exactly what we should be doing. It reflects our deepest values and brings us together in a common focus. I believe it will be invigorating for the denomination and life-giving for our communities and the world.

Yet, what was extraordinary about this assembly is that collectively the majority of commissioners seemed to recognize, on some level, that in order to create a missional church we have to grant equal rights to our members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The two issues are interconnected. Think about it – if the goal is for the church to be woven into the very fabric of society – we can’t have preconceived notions about our neighbors. We have to go out with open hearts to preach and practice the message that we are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Affirming the equality of all God’s people is a prerequisite for reaching out in Christian service to all God’s people. So the GA approved overtures to grant equal rights to people who are
LGBT and also approved steps to create a more missional church. In so doing, I believe the Assembly found a new way forward.

Now this conversation moves to the Presbyteries to either affirm or reject the practical compromise crafted by the Assembly. If a majority of Presbyteries vote yes to approve the revised language of G-6.0106b, I believe we will finally be able to move forward together again as one family in mission. I would encourage everyone in the denomination to read the text of the Boston overture (item number [05-09] from the Church Orders and Ministry Committee) which was approved by the Assembly. Consistent with the Reformed tradition, the revised text affirms the essentials of our faith:

“Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the Constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions…”

I believe this revised text regarding ordination puts the focus exactly where it should be – on Jesus, the Scriptures, and the Confessions – the essential values at the center of our theological tradition.

Look, I understand that there are going to be some who are resistant to change. That will be true of any change. But after 30 years of discussion, study, and prayer, I believe this GA has come up with a workable compromise that incorporates the best of the conservative and progressive approaches to theology. I think it offers the best hope in a generation for this church to finally move forward together in mission. I sincerely hope that a majority of Presbyteries will vote yes and embrace the opportunity to move forward together once again.

Jack Rogers
Moderator, the 213th General Assembly
August 07, 2008


Let California Ring!

August 15, 2008

This ad has been showing during the Olympics–at least on my Southern California Direct TV-fed television. Awesome!

LA Times Editorial: Reneging on a right

August 9, 2008

Reneging on a right

ENDORSEMENTS 2008: By banning same-sex marriages, Prop. 8 would create second-class citizens.
August 8, 2008

It’s the same sentence as in 2000: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Yet the issue that will be put before voters Nov. 4 is radically different. This time, the wording would be used to rescind an existing constitutional right to marry. We fervently hope that voters, whatever their personal or religious convictions, will shudder at such a step and vote no on Proposition 8.

The state of same-sex marriage shifted in May, when the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22, the ban on gay marriage that voters approved eight years ago, and ruled that marriage was a fundamental right under the state Constitution. As such, it could not be denied to a protected group — in this case, gay and lesbian couples.

What voters must consider about Proposition 8 is that, unlike Proposition 22, this is no longer about refining existing California law. In the wake of the court’s ruling, the only way to deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples is by revising constitutional rights themselves. Proposition 8 seeks to embed wording in the Constitution that would eliminate the fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

It’s a rare and drastic step, invoking the constitutional-amendment process to strip people of rights. Yet in California, it can be done with a simple majority vote. All the more reason for voters to weigh carefully what would be wrought by this measure.

Supporters of Proposition 8 insist that the measure is in no way intended to diminish the rights of gays and lesbians, but instead means to encourage ideal households for the raising of children and to put a stop to activist judges. Besides, they say, domestic partnerships provide all the same rights as marriage.

In a meeting with The Times’ editorial board, supporters argued at length that children are best off when raised by their own biological, married mothers and fathers. Even if that were true — and there is much room for dispute — this measure in no way moves society closer to such a traditional picture. Gay and lesbian couples already are raising their own children and will continue to do so, as will single parents and adoptive and blended families. Using the supporters’own reasoning, it would be better for same-sex parents to marry.

Proposition 8 supporters are right that domestic partnerships come exceedingly close to guaranteeing the same rights as marriage, as the state’s high court recognized. Still, there are differences. Some are statutory — domestic partners must share a residence, while married couples can live separately — and others are pragmatic — studies have found that domestic partners do not receive the same treatment or recognition from hospital staff, employers and the public as spouses do.

But it was Ronald M. George, chief justice of the California Supreme Court, who cut through to the essence of the issue in the May 15 opinion he wrote: “[A]ffording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples.”

In other words, the very act of denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry — traditionally the highest legal and societal recognition of a loving commitment — by definition relegates them and their relationships to second-class status, separate and not all that equal.

To be sure, the court overturned Proposition 22, a vote of the people. That is the court’s duty when a law is unconstitutional, even if it is exceedingly popular. Civil rights are commonly hard-won, and not the result of widespread consensus. Whites in the South vehemently rejected the 1954 Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools. For that matter, Californians have accused the state Supreme Court of obstructing the people’s will on marriage before — in 1948, when it struck down a ban on interracial marriages.

Fundamental rights are exactly that. They should neither wait for popular acceptance, nor be revoked because it is lacking.,0,1229155.story

Wedding update

August 8, 2008

Things went really well at our wedding, and it was so much fun. About 140 people were present in our relatively small sanctuary. People who cried, people who laughed, people who listened, people who loved us and were so supportive. Family, friends, neighbors, church and church-related people.

The reception was at our home. Almost everyone came over. Some said that they’d come, but just stay “for a little while.” And almost everyone–including those “little while” folks–stayed for hours. We tried to get around to see everyone, but we couldn’t–so it was great to see people from all aspects of our lives talking together and enjoying each other’s company as if they were old friends. When I talked with my brother afterwards, he said, “You have such cool friends. It was such a good party that you didn’t even need to be there!”

Our theme was sort of Hawai’ian, since we love Hawai’i so much. I ordered the cake from a little locally-owned independent bakery here in town.

This was our beautiful wedding cake

This was our beautiful wedding cake

It was a day that we’ll always remember.

So, please–if you live in California,