Archive for the ‘GLBT’ category

PresbyMEME: Why I am voting yes on Amendment 10A

November 2, 2010

Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian minister and Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), has provided an opportunity for people to engage in a conversation online about why we are voting yes on Amendment 10-A.


Shall G-6.0106b be amended by striking the current text and inserting new text in its place as follows:


Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.


Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

Questions for the PresbyMEME:

  1. Name, City, State
  2. Twitter and Facebook profiles
  3. Presbytery and 10a voting date
  4. Reason ONE that you are voting “yes” on 10a is…
  5. Reason TWO that you are voting “yes” on 10a is…
  6. Reason THREE that you are voting “yes” on 10a is…
  7. What are your greatest hopes for the 10a debate that will take place on the floor of your Presbytery?
  8. How would you respond to those that say that if we pass 10a individuals and congregations will leave the PC(USA)?
  9. What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10a passes?
  10. How does your understanding of Scripture frame your position on 10a?

I’m Sonnie Swenston. I’m a member and Clerk of Session of the First Presbyterian Church of Baldwin Park, California. I live in neighboring Covina.

My Twitter name is @HeySonnie. I have livetweeted a number of Presbyterian-related events, including #ga219 and #revjanie. On Facebook, I’m Sonnie Swenston-Forbes. I’m also on the board of That All May Freely Serve, serving as webspinner and as one of the social media coordinators for that group (Facebook, Twitter).

We are in the Presbytery of San Gabriel, and the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii. Our vote on Amendment 10-A is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

The first reason I am voting yes on 10-A is that it is a return to historic Presbyterian values about ordination.

The second reason I am voting yes on 10-A is that it gives us an opportunity to set right something that has been so wrong about the church and ordination standards.

The third reason I am voting yes on 10-A is that so many who have been called by God to serve the church in ordained capacities will be able to do so.

My greatest hopes for the 10-A debate on the floor of my presbytery are: (1) that we will actually have a debate on the floor of presbytery, since there are some on council who would prefer that we move directly to a vote without any conversation prior to the meeting or debate on the floor; (2) that the tone be decent and in order rather than the horrid hateful homophobic rhetoric we have often heard in the past; and (3) that the debate not be a rehashing of the same old points given by the same old voices who we’ve heard from in the past, but that we hear from at least some people who haven’t spoken up on this before. (I particularly would like to hear from some elders. I’d also like to hear from some younger people, but our presbytery is pretty typical in that we just don’t have younger people who are commissioners to presbytery.)

How would you respond to those that say that if we pass 10-A individuals and congregations will leave the PC(USA)? Individuals and congregations have already been leaving the denomination. Some of these are the conservatives, of course, because there has been a lot of their self-generated publicity about this. I am quite sure that there is also a large number of progressives who have left more quietly, unable to abide what they consider to be the unhealthy, hypocritical state of the denomination. Honestly, I believe that holding the church together is not necessarily what we are called to do when the cost is the church causing so much pain to LGBT people and their family members and friend — and others who are of various “outsider” status.

What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10-A passes? Loving God, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.

How does your understanding of Scripture frame your position on 10-A? To make this quick, I have to state this more as a negative. I believe that the current form of the Book of Order’s G-6.0106b are very unscriptural. The exclusive imposition of sexual orientation as THE standard for ordination is absurd, given that Jesus said nothing about same-sex relationships or orientation. Joyful submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life is both far more biblical and far more reformed — and far healthier for both individuals and the church.

Feel free to contact me for more detail, or to engage in conversation.


Metropolitan Community Churches: Special: Clergy Against Bullying (CAB)

October 18, 2010

Special: Clergy Against Bullying (CAB)




Released: 13 October 2010

Today, as leaders of Christian communions and national networks, we speak with heavy hearts because of the bullying, suicides and hate crimes that have shocked this country and called all faith communities into accountability for our words or our silence. We speak with hopeful hearts, believing that change and healing are possible, and call on our colleagues in the Church Universal to join us in working to end the violence and hatred against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.

In the past seven weeks, six young and promising teenagers took their own lives. Some were just entering high school; one had just enrolled in college. Five were boys; one, a girl becoming a young woman. These are only the deaths for which there has been a public accounting. New reports of other suicides continue to haunt us daily from around the country.

Read more: Metropolitan Community Churches: Special: Clergy Against Bullying (CAB).

Out October: My Transgender Life

October 1, 2010

This isn’t my post. It’s from my online friends at The New Civil Rights Movement. With the rash of young queer suicides in the news, please read it. Remember: these are just the suicides we hear about. There are many, many more.


I created “Out October” as a month-long series dedicated to sharing stories of hope and strength. Stories that highlight people finding their way. Stories that tell everyone, but especially LGBTQ youth, that you can make it, that there is always hope, that there is always a way.

Here we have our first story to kick off “Out October.” I choose this story to start out the series because of its power, the strength of the individual and the message it sends to all who see it. Each weekday I will be adding to the list of stories, some are videos, some are written letters, but they all highlight the courage and strength it takes to “Take the next step.”

This documentary describes Erin’s feelings of growing up in the wrong body, how she dealt with it and how she is dealing with it. She tells of her feelings and her emotional responses. Erin Winter is a pillar of strength, and in her weak moments she knows she has people in her life she can turn to, like her partner, also transgender and a lesbian. These words don’t define them, they are a part of them but do not make them who they are.

Read the rest of this article at The New Civil Rights Movement.

Follow-up: Response from Lawry’s

September 21, 2010

I posted my open letter to Lawry’s Restaurants VIP program last week. I was upset about the way that Melinda and I were addressed (“Mr. and Mrs. Forbes”) in their invitation to us to share our upcoming anniversary at one of their locations.

Here is their response that I received by email today:

Dear Ms. Forbes,

I apologize we did not get back with you sooner. Richard Frank is currently on vacation, and rather than wait until his return, I wanted to respond to your email below.

I’d like to say that we are quite concerned and frankly embarrassed that we have overlooked an issue like this. This is the first time this issue has been brought to my attention and I can certainly understand why it would upset you. We are truly sorry that we put a damper on your special day. These mailings are intended to thank our guests for their loyalty and to bring joy, certainly not anguish. I hope that you will accept our apology.

Now, to fixing the problem. Once I became aware of your concern, I immediately contacted our agency that manages our VIP program and mailings to inquire about what could be done to rectify the issue. Of course, it seems nothing is ever easy as the systems that are in place do not allow for multiple last names to be addressed on these mailings. What would seem like a simple fix is actually very complicated and will take revamping the entire system. That said, I think we have a solution that will allow us to have a more general way of addressing our guest (i.e. “The Forbes” or “Forbes Family”) rather than “Mr. & Mrs.”. This would have to be done for all addressee’s as that is a requirement of this specific system. While not a perfect solution, we hope that it will at least help in the short term while we work on a longer term fix. We are planning a revamp of the VIP Rewards program in 2011 and my hope is that we can find a more appropriate and permanent solution at that time.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. Feedback like this really does help us continue to improve our VIP Rewards program to meet our guests’ needs.

If you choose to celebrate with us in the future, please let me know as we would like to make it up to you in some way.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Kind regards,

Rich Cope Director of Marketing Lawry’s Restaurants, Inc.
(626) 440-5272 ext. 55
(626) 440-5232 fax

—–Original Message—–

From: Allan Guarino
Sent: Monday, September 20, 2010 1:29 PM
To: Rich Cope
Subject: FW: Lawry’s Contact Us


This message came through the contact us page on the website. Thanks.


– – – – – – – – – –

I appreciate the way that they worded this response. I knew the solution wasn’t easy, since I worked in an IT capacity for some time, but just because it can’t be done today is no reason to say that it can’t be done. I’ll be keeping my eye on them to make sure that they live up to their promise. I think that since he said that they are “concerned and frankly embarrassed,” they will make it happen.

We’ll certainly go back now, and we will contact them about “mak[ing] it up to us in some way”!

Open letter to Lawry’s Restaurants:

September 16, 2010

Richard R. Frank
President and CEO
Lawry’s Restaurants

Mr. Frank:

We are happy to be Lawry’s VIP members; however, as a legally-married same-gender couple, we weren’t happy to receive our anniversary coupon and see it addressed to “Mr. & Mrs. Forbes.” When we filled out our application, it had spaces for both of our names, and we filled it out that way.

Anniversaries are special times, and this misgendering and lack of recognition makes it less likely that we would spend our special day with you at one of your restaurants.

By the way, this not only insults us, but it also insults the gay servers who have waited on us when we’ve dined with you.

The time for silence by LGBT people is past, and it’s time for you to recognize that — even in something as “simple” as this.

Sonnie Swenston and Melinda Forbes

Jesus, Harvey Milk, and Us: That All May Be One

May 16, 2010

Jesus, Harvey Milk, and Us:
That All May Be One

A More Light Sunday Message

Elder Sonnie Swenston
First Presbyterian Church
Baldwin Park, California

Gracious God of all peoples, we pray today for the church:
not just our congregation,
but all of your followers all around the world.
Help us all to proclaim the good news about Jesus
to everyone we meet.
Help us to get along with one another and, when we disagree,
to still respect one another and to celebrate our differences.
Help us to live our lives the way Jesus lived his,
loving and forgiving others,
that the whole world might know that Jesus is your beloved child,
and that you love all people. We pray in Jesus’ name.   Amen.

Whole People of God

Today is a day of celebration for this church. Twenty-one years ago this small congregation made an active choice to affirm our welcome for all persons, regard­less of sexual orientation. Although most of us weren’t a part of this congregation at the time, it is still “our” decision. We reaffirm this decision each week by printing the excerpt found on the back of our worship bulletin. We reaffirm it by claiming our identity as a More Light church in a designated service of worship each year. You may remember that last year we heard from Michael Adee, the Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians. Today you get me. John Calvin, the founder of Presby­ter­ianism, thought that all elders—both teaching elders and ruling elders—should preach from time to time, so I’m here in the pulpit to deliver the message this morning standing on his shoulders.

More Light Presbyterians is a coalition of congregations and individuals in the Presbyterian Church (USA) committed to increasing the involvement of all people in the church, regardless of sexuality. More Light churches endorse this mission statement:

Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is the full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry, and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

We of this church also reaffirm this decision with our financial contributions to the inclusive church-related organizations of the denomination: The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, That All May Freely Serve, and More Light Presbyterians. Melinda and I are proud to be a part of this congregation, and when we got legally married there was no place else that we wanted to be on that special day than here.

Not all churches share our celebration; not all churches share our belief that God created us with a variety of gifts—including the gifts of sexual orientation and gender expression. Not all churches would want to hear the words “gay,” “lesbian,” bisexual,” and “transgender” spoken from the pulpit in an affirmative, joy-filled way.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to do that this morning. Know that the whole world is celebrating with us, as tomorrow is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Being a More Light church, being welcoming of anyone and everyone who finds their way here, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Nanette Sawyer, a minister in Chicago, has written, “when we make choices to become more hospitable, we find that we become more whole ourselves—open to the world, to life, to relationship. Living centered in hospitality is living centered in love, trust, possibility, and hope. When we allow God and true self to come together in our inner core, we find ourselves filled with a love that we can’t help but share.” Isn’t that the Good News that we want to share with the world?

The official policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is to allow same-gender-loving people to join the church, but to exclude us from leadership positions: the ordained positions of Deacon, Elder, and Minister of the Word and Sacrament. Again, this congregation has disagreed with that position, and has chosen to ordain the people who God has called to leadership, regardless of sexual orientation. While enforcement of this prohibition is becoming a thing of the past—particularly in the cases of Elders and Deacons—it is still on the books. The upcoming national convention of the church, the General Assembly, to be held in July in Minnesota, will once again have the opportunity to pass an overture to remove this prohibition from the church’s constitution.

Again, thank you. Our financial gifts help contribute to that work, and I will again be attending as part of the TAMFS contingent to work for the cause of an inclusive denomination in whatever way I can—on your behalf.

Today is the seventh and last Sunday in the season of Easter. Easter is the time when we Christians emerge from the bleak darkness of Lent into the beautiful light of the Resurrection. Listen to these words from the Rev. Janet Edwards, Co-Moderator of More Light Presbyterians, from her message, “Easter Hope Is an Action”:

Easter dawns; the tomb is empty. The women rush to tell the other disciples that Jesus has risen. Then He comes to them on the road, in the workplace, in the upper room. The hope this experience inspired in Jesus’ followers powerfully reverberates into our lives this Easter [Season].

So what does it mean to hope?

… [The renowned theologian] Rudolf Bultmann summarizes our common understanding of Easter hope: “If hope is fixed on God, it embraces at once the three elements of: expectation of the future; trust; and the patience of waiting.”

But hope is not only patiently waiting and trusting in the future. It is an action. Indeed, in the Gospels, hope is only used in its verb form. If Jesus’ disciples had lived their hope by patiently waiting, none of us would know of, and embrace, Jesus as [the Christ, our Savior], now thousands of years later.

For those things over which we have no control, no possibility of impact, trusting in God and patiently waiting is the way in which we must hope. But in this beautiful world, given to us by God’s grace alone, we have infinite ways to make an impact and so, as God’s arms and legs in this world, we are compelled to act on our hopes. We create God’s Realm here and now, where we are, among ourselves, and invite all we meet to join in. That’s exactly what the disciples did starting on Easter.

Hope. Hope as an action. We are called to “live into hope,” as the hymn says. Although I love all of this hymn, my favorite verse is its last:

Live into hope of captives freed
From chains of fear or want or greed.
God now proclaims our full release
To faith and hope and joy and peace.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a strong proponent of hope, said, “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” Being a More Light church, an inclusive church, is being a part of that struggle. Hope is a vital element in all civil rights and justice movements, part of what motivates us to move forward in a positive way. Each movement has its own leaders, but each leader expresses hope. Think of Frederick Douglass, of Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez. Each of them filled with hope for a better world—not just for one cause, but through their focused causes, for everyone.

The State of California has a new holiday this week. This year, and each year from now on on May 22nd, we remember a civil rights leader who served the people of the City and County of San Francisco as an elected member of their Board of Supervisors. This man’s name is Harvey Milk. You may have seen the movie based on his life that came out a couple of years ago. Harvey Milk was a world-changer who was assassinated—murdered—by one of his fellow Supervisors in 1978. Harvey Milk was a gay man.

Not unlike Jesus and Dr. King, Harvey Milk knew that his very being was a threat to the established order of things, and he knew that there was a great likelihood that he would be killed. He wrote letters to friends and sealed them in envelopes marked, “to be read in the event of my assassination.”

Even so, Harvey Milk lived into hope, and encouraged LGBT people—and all of us—to live into hope.

Harvey Milk was an orator, a street statesman. One of his most famous speeches is called The Hope Speech. (Some of you will not remember Anita Bryant, who he mentions. She was a beauty queen and a spokesperson for Florida orange juice; she also was a strong opponent of the gay rights movement.) Hope was a theme that Harvey Milk constantly reiterated. Toward the end of this speech, he said:

And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect … more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.

Hope. Hope based on action. Hope that moves the world forward.

These are words that will be spoken and taught in schools, community meetings, in our State Capital in Sacramento—and even from some pulpits in churches and synagogues and other houses or worship—during the coming week. Sadly, those who most need to hear them are those who object to the establishing of this commemoration, those who see LGBT people as evil or as lesser beings, and they will likely never hear these words.

The Presbyterian Church has two parts to its Constitution. One is The Book of Order, the “rules and regulations” part. The other is The Book of Confessions. When a person is ordained to serve as Minister of the Word and Sacrament, Elder, or Deacon, she or he takes vows “to be obedient to Jesus Christ, to place themselves under the authority of Scripture, and to be guided by the confessions.” Some of these confessions go back a long time, to the 1600s, while others are much more contem­porary. Hear these words from the most recent of the confessions, A Brief Statement of Faith, adopted in 1991:

In a broken and fearful world, the Spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of people long silenced and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

I love these words. In one short paragraph, we hear so much about what the church is called to do: pray without ceasing; serve as witnesses to Jesus Christ; unmask idolatries; to hear the voices of people long silenced; to work for justice, freedom, and peace. Wow! These are words that we are pledged to be guided by, folks! These are those hope-in-action words.

Let’s return for a minute to our scripture reading for today. This passage is part of a long sermon, a dissertation by Jesus, as he prepares to go to Jerusalem to his death. Some time, sit down and read the whole thing, preferably aloud. It’s quite a sermon. A little bit earlier than today’s reading in chapter 16 is one of my favorite passages in all of the bible, where Jesus says,

I have much more to tell you,
but you can’t bear to hear it now.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
she will guide you into all truth.
She won’t speak on her own initiative;
rather, she’ll speak only what she hears,
and she’ll announce to you
things that are yet to come. [John 16:12-13]

Just like the words from John Robinson that we said in our Call to Worship this morning, Jesus is saying in his own way that God has yet more light to break forth from the word. We don’t know what it is that God is going to say, but we need to be open to more—because Jesus himself said so. Our UCC friends say “never put a period where God has placed a comma.”

But back to today’s passage. In it, Jesus talks about unity, about oneness. He’s asking God to consecrate the disciples—just simple, everyday, trying-their-best-to-get-by folks like you and me—and to make them holy. Even while preparing for his own execution, Jesus is talking about hope, because he knows that his message will be carried forth even after he isn’t able to say it himself. Jesus isn’t naïve, of course. He’s watched these followers for a few years now. He knows their human frailties: the brashness of Simon Peter, the ambition of James and Andrew, and the upcoming betrayal by Judas Iscariot. But Jesus is hopeful, calling on God to make them as one. He says, “To them I have revealed your Name, and I will continue to reveal it so that the love you have for me may live in them, just as I may live in them.” Hope. Hope in action, hope in love.

Let me conclude with a story. This is a story that most of you haven’t read, but it is a beautiful story about this very church. It’s part of a book of stories, Called Out: The Voices and Gifts of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Presbyter­ians. This could be a bitter story, but instead, it is told through love, and through hope.

Robert and Eddie are no longer here, having moved to Massachusetts a number of years ago, and our dear Helen Sloss is now 98 years old, living in Yorba Linda in Orange County to be closer to her family. The greeter mentioned is Cheryl Holland. Also, the very composition of our church has changed for the better since we have become much more multi-everything.

With that little aside, listen to this part of our own story, part of our history:

The Baldwin Park Mouse That Roared
by Elder Robert Ochoa-Schutz

The warm sanctuary packed with Presbyterian clergy and elders sat in stunned silence on that March day in 1994. Elder Helen Sloss, a diminutive figure of intense resolve, had just informed the San Gabriel Presbytery that the Session of First Church of Baldwin Park would not comply with the Presbytery’s request to rescind my ordination as elder because of my gayness.

That evening our small church from Baldwin Park roared at the Presby­tery mightily. Baldwin Park, in Southern California, is by no means a haven for the gay and lesbian community. In a city of 70,000, a majority of whom are blue collar Latinos, First Presbyterian Church of Baldwin Park is a remnant of Anglos who twenty years ago began their exodus to other com­munities. They are steadfast in another way as well. This congregation of silver-haired angels—most over sixty—have become our guardians in the fight against the injustices towards lesbians, gays, and bisexuals done in God’s name.

Flashback: the First Sunday of Advent, 1990. I had decided to visit this “More Light” congregation, to confirm a friend’s claim that this small Presbyterian church welcomed ALL people, including gay and lesbian peo­ple. This meant that gays and lesbians would be fully accepted as members, elders, deacons, and ministers of Word and Sacrament in the life of the Church.

I was skeptical. It’s one thing, I reasoned, to issue a statement on prin­ciple and another if gay and lesbian folks actually begin to attend. But I de­cided to give this church the benefit of the doubt. It was crisp and cool that Sunday morning as I got into the car and headed for the church. As I ap­proached, I became very nervous.

“What if this is a mistake?” I thought. After all, I REALLY didn’t have proof that this congregation was a More Light church. What if my friend had unintentionally misinformed me about her church’s outreach to the gay and lesbian community?

My body began to tremble slightly. Fortunately, my friend was serving as greeter that morning. “Hi!” she cheerfully welcomed me at the door. “It’s so good to see you.”

Her smile and warm embrace calmed my nervous soul. All the same, I chose to sit in the pew closest to the rear entrance for a quick getaway should the pastor decide to make any negative statements about my people. But as I read the program of worship, my mouth dropped open. Tears clouded my vision. Written for the world to see was the “More Light” statement.

“Acknowledging that, because of the reality in the Church, as well as in society at large, gay and lesbian persons may have justifiable reason for un­certainty as to their reception, we act here, in this statement, to make clear, explicit, and real, our genuine welcome of all persons. This explicit wel­come, we believe, is warranted and right.”

To my amazement, however, I was the first “avowed” gay person to walk over the threshold and into the lives of these good folks. It was not my last visit. In my small city I was blessed to find a congregation willing to accept me and my spouse Eddie as a couple (we had been together 11 years at that time). They took us in fully and without reservation. In my city of Baldwin Park! I wept.

Four years later, at the San Gabriel Presbytery; a motion was made to affirm and commend Baldwin Park’s ministry. We braced ourselves, know­ing that the motion would certainly fail, but heartened that it was made in the first place.

After a few speeches about homosexuality as sin just like murderers, thieves, and drunkards, the motion was tabled for two months so that Pres­bytery members could study the report issued by our church.

Flashback: Fall 1991. One year after my first visit, in the presence of family and friends, I knelt as Pastor Donn Crail and members of the congregation surrounded me and another person for the laying on of hands. As we rose from that gift of empowerment, I felt a surge of joy: I was now an ordained elder! My mother, sisters, nephews, and nieces, and most impor­tantly my mate, Eddie, witnessed and celebrated this special event.

After serving a year as elder, Eddie and I were introduced to two won­derful women. Sonnie and Melinda radiated warmth, and we were immedi­ately connected in a common bond of love and commitment. As a lesbian couple, they were overjoyed to have found home—especially Sonnie, who grew up at First Church Baldwin Park. But our home was soon under a state of siege. Our church was accused of committing an “irregularity” in the allowance of my ordination. The struggle of conviction and prayer led us up to this Presbytery meeting, where Sonnie and I sat, both tense and proud of our small, fierce congregation.

Regardless of the outcome, our ministry in the San Gabriel Valley will repeat the victorious message that God’s people includes ALL people, and that the redemption through the death and resurrection of Christ is claim­able by all within our lesbian and gay community.

As for me, the VICTORY came when Helen read these words to the San Gabriel Presbytery on March 8, 1994: “In good conscience, the session voted unanimously to re-affirm its action of January 9, 1992, in finding Robert Ochoa-Schutz fully qualified for the office of elder and that the con­gregation should proceed with his ordination and installation to that office.”

A roar was heard throughout the Presbytery of San Gabriel.

We are, indeed, the “mouse that roared.” Let us continue to roar! Happy 21st anniversary, everyone, and many happy returns. Continue to be beacons of light in this often-dark world. The world needs it—needs us—and it is who Jesus calls us to be.

Eternal One, You created us b’tzelem Elohim, in Your image, filling us—as You are filled—with hope, hope that we might yet bring to fruition Your vision of cooperation and harmony, of wholeness and peace. You imagined such a world, Holy One, and then instilled within us the ability to imagine it too. You hope even now for such a world, Holy One, knowing You created us with the desire to give each other hope like Yours, hope that tomorrow will find us finally ready, finally able, to bring Your imagined world into being. Blessed are You, Hopeful One, creator of hope and of those who bring it to the world.

Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Beth Chayim Chadashim, Los Angeles

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