Posted tagged ‘LGBT’

#Orlando #Pulse #Heroes

June 13, 2016

Yesterday morning I was still in bed, lying next to my wife as she slept. As is my habit, I grabbed my iPad to check the news. The headlines read something like “20 Dead in Nightclub Shootings,” [a few hours later we learned that the number was 50] and these early articles neglected to mention that the bar, the patrons, the bartenders, were queer people. But they knew… and I knew. 

Queer people have magical powers. Among those is invisibility. Sometimes we make ourselves invisible for various reasons (including basic survival), and sometimes it’s other people, and society in general, who can’t / don’t / won’t see us. But one of the things about this magical power is the ability to see levels of reality that haven’t been fully expressed. We frequently can see through others’ invisibility — and through attempts to make us and our lives invisible. Thus, I read through the invisibility cloak cast by the New York Times and other media in their earliest submissions. So did some of my friends in their posts: “Please, God — don’t let this be at a gay bar!” even while, on some level, knowing that it was.

Once upon a time, a long time ago in a world far away, I was a bartender. I worked in a place much like Pulse. The weekend clientele was 75% gay men, 20% lesbians, and a few straight people. Mostly the latter were there with friends, and a few others who just liked the music and the vibe. But there were the occasional ones who were motivated by less-noble factors. Often the bartenders would notice, sometimes a patron would point out someone acting odd, and sometimes it would be a bouncer who knew that this person needed to go. A quiet-ish conversation between bouncer and customer, an arm in the person’s elbow to escort them to the door, and they were gone. And the party continued.

Knowing from my own experience that bouncers are strong, mostly silent heroes, it didn’t surprise me when I read that one of them had knocked down a wall or partition. Behind this wall was an employees-only area — and an exit to the outside, to safety. Unnamed in the story, maybe this was Kimberly “K.J.” Morse — one of those who died. (Or maybe not.)

I hated that the media was already turning to the evil, to the perpetrator, focusing on the “terrorism” (by which they meant a dark-skinned “radical Jihadist” because those are the only terrorists, right?) aspect of the story. That, and guns and other angles can and will be the subject of other conversations. But just then I wanted to know something different. I wanted to see hope. I wanted to see humanity. I needed to see the heroes.

By then I was up, flipping through the TV channels.

There was this guy, the guy in the hat on the left. He was interviewed (I think on CNN, but I was in a channel-flipping blur, so I can’t be sure), and he talked about escaping, running to safety — but then he saw someone else bleeding, so he stepped out of his safety zone to help carry this person to the back of a pickup truck to be taken to the hospital. All the ambulances were full.


NY Daily News photo gallery

Next I heard a story about a man who came to the scene to see if he could find news about his brother. He managed to get closer, inside the crime tape barrier, nearer to where there was still an “active shooter” situation. Even while searching for his loved one, he too helped to transport a messy, bleeding person away from the scene.

Then I heard this hero’s story:

Other heroes and sheroes include the many people who stood in line in the hot sun for hours so that they could donate much-needed blood. Some of these were people visiting DisneyWorld; some were Muslims during their Ramadan fasting time. No one did it for the accolades.

It took some hunting behind the story that the media was intent on telling, the story of the bad guy. But I loved these stories of ordinary people, queer and not, who found themselves in ugly, extraordinary circumstances and stepped up — some even in the face of danger.

In the introduction to David Copperfield, Charles Dickens wrote, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” Even in our times when it often seems like darkness prevails, there are stories of light — stories of ordinary people who do the right thing, thus becoming our heroes, and the heroes of their own lives.

GA 220: Intertwining our lives

June 27, 2012

But those who wait For Yhwh
find a renewed power:

they soar on eagles’ wings,
they run and don’t get weary,
they walk and never tire.

Isaiah 40:31
The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation
Priests for Equality


“Wait” in Isaiah 40:31 is the transliteration from the Hebrew qavah, which can mean to twist, to bind, to braid like a rope. This verse reveals the active nature of intertwining one’s life with the life of God. When this intertwining is being done, that person is made strong. Those who “wait” upon God—intertwine their lives with God’s—are made strong.

To “wait” for God can also be seen as the cultivating of an attitude of hope and patient expectation—the very definition of faith. Hebrew words often have multiple meanings. The verb qavah can also be a waiting for God to act, to bring vindication or to rescue the people from oppression; here, however, it is more a kind of quiet inaction: by waiting for God’s empower­ment instead of relying on one’s own resources, one receives an inexhaustible supply of strength.

How often do we in the church hear the words “I’m tired” or “we’re tired”? I remember at the last General Assembly in Minneapolis when the Committee on Marriage and Civil Unions report came to the plenary: almost immediately, a commissioner came to a microphone and proclaimed, “Friends, I’m tired: we’re tired,” followed by a motion to table everything that came out of that committee’s hard work throughout the week.

I wonder:
How often do the words “I’m tired: we’re tired” really mean
“I’m afraid: we’re afraid”?

What must it have felt like to have served on that committee to then have their work disregarded like that?

The Assembly then adjourned with prayer and the singing of John Bell’s hymn, “The Summons”:

  1. Will you come and follow me
    If I but call your name?
    Will you go where you don’t know
    And never be the same?
    Will you let my love be shown,
    Will you let my name be known,
    Will you let my life be grown
    In you and you in me?
  2. Will you leave yourself behind
    If I but call your name?
    Will you care for cruel and kind
    And never be the same?
    Will you risk the hostile stare
    Should your life attract or scare?
    Will you let me answer pray’r
    In you and you in me?
  3. Will you let the blinded see
    If I but call your name?
    Will you set the pris’ners free
    And never be the same?
    Will you kiss the leper clean,
    And do such as this unseen,
    And admit to what I mean
    In you and you in me?
  4. Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
    If I but call your name?
    Will you quell the fear inside
    And never be the same?
    Will you use the faith you’ve found
    To reshape the world around,
    Through my sight and touch and sound
    In you and you in me?
  5. Lord, your summons echoes true
    When you but call my name.
    Let me turn and follow you
    And never be the same.
    In your company I’ll go
    Where your love and footsteps show.

I wonder how many of the commissioners thought of those impacted by their refusal to deal with the issues before them—LGBT people and our relationships—as they sang the words, “will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?” Not many, I think.

That was pretty much it, and we all went home. On the way out the door I talked with a heartbroken minister who lives and serves in a state where same gender marriage is legal; she expressed her deep disappointment in what had taken place, saying “We need guidance from the denomination; we feel like we’re out here on our own.”

And so we wait. We wait for the start of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Some are commissioners, some are advocates for overtures or AIs, some are behind-the-scenes workers or committee staff, some are observers. (I’ll be there as an observer and part of That All May Freely Serve.) As we wait, let’s all take some time to reflect on our lives being interwoven—braided together as one with God and with one another.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20, 2011


We all have friends. Some, of course, are closer than others. Some are close enough that we call them our chosen family.

I had a friend named Greg who was like that.

Greg was transgender. More accurately, Greg was bi-gender–the only person I’ve ever known to use that terminology. Ze (a gender-neutral pronoun often preferred by transgender people) was also Delia (deh-LIE-a) but the personal expression that I knew best was Greg.

[I know this sounds weird. That’s because I don’t have the right words, not because of the person I knew and loved. Greg/Delia wasn’t a multiple personality. Ze flowed freely back and forth, but was mostly integrated into one being. It’s hard for me to explain, but I never had a problem with it because of the human being who ze was. But since I knew Greg best, I’ll use Greg for this post.]

Greg lived in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. Ze had a great old apartment at Geary and Leavenworth. The Tenderloin is a very rough-edged place with its obvious homeless people, substance users and sellers, and sex workers, but it’s also very real, with many charms (even if they’re a bit frayed). From the street, the building looked run-down and funky, but as soon as you crossed through the solid wood door you were in a beautiful place built in the 1930s. To get to Greg’s apartment you walked up two sweeping round staircases with thick carpeting and polished wooden bannisters. It was a world unto itself. (Go here for a fascinating look at the Tenderloin.)

We spent many hours in hir (gender-neutral possessive pronoun) apartment. This was in the mid-1980s. I lived in the Castro, but Greg wasn’t as comfortable there–and Delia definitely was uncomfortable there. We cooked and ate together, we laughed and told stories. We went to the movies. We often went to a bar on the corner of hir block–the Hob Nob Lounge.

The Hob Nob was a mostly male-to-female transgender bar but there were some older gay men who hung out there too. This was the kind of place that opened at 6:00a.m. and stayed open until 2:00a.m. There was a little bar with about five barstools, and about four tables: the capacity of the place had to be around 20 patrons. This was the epitome of a Tenderloin dive bar. The bartenders were all very protective. I’m not petite by any measure, but the one who was there most often when I went in absolutely dwarfed me. I certainly wouldn’t mess with hir! It was best to walk in with someone who was a regular customer–someone like my friend. Unlike in the Castro, drinks were cheap and they were strong. I mostly knew the daytime clientele, since I didn’t often stay in the Tenderloin after dark unless Greg and I were having a slumber party. I was busy living my wild lesbian life in those days, but I probably averaged a trip to the Tenderloin once or twice a week.

Greg had come to San Francisco from Dallas. He (and I use that intentionally here) had grown up in a small West Texas town that a queer kid can’t wait to get away from. Ze had a strong Texas accent and a great laugh and a twinkle in zir eye that made you want to know the story behind it.

But, as with all of us, there was baggage. The worst part for Greg was being estranged from family of origin. It was “bad enough” for them when Greg came out as a gay man, but when ze came out to them as transgender/bi-gender, they just couldn’t listen any longer, so ze left and they never talked again. Greg wanted to be a happy-go-lucky person, so that was what ze projected, but there was so much more that wasn’t let out that it led to self-medication. Not just the alcohol consumed at the Hob Nob, but ze also got into drugs–marijuana, then both speed and heroin. And then Greg got AIDS and quickly died.

I miss Greg. I miss Delia. I’m only reminiscing. There’s no lesson here. Well, I guess there is: people are people, and you never know how wonderful someone is until you take a risk and get to know them. This is true no matter what their worldly condition is. I’m just glad that I once had Greg in my life.

+ + + + +

Transgender Day of Remembrance is on November 20. For more information go to http://www.transgenderdor.org/.

Matthew Shepard

October 7, 2011

Just before going to church on Sunday, October 9, I checked my email. Included was a message from Fenceberry, telling about the beating of a young man in Wyoming. His life hung in the balance at that time. I went to church and cried. Fortunately, this was at an LGBT-inclusive church, the kind of place where I could share this during the Prayers of the People.

I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said by so many others. I’m just remembering Matthew, and thinking about his parents–particularly about his mother Judy, who has become such a strong advocate and spokesperson, despite and because of her deep, deep loss.

God Made Me Queer

August 10, 2011

I grew up in church. I’m of that post-WWII Baby Boomer era when just about everyone went to church. My parents didn’t, but they thought that we kids should, so one of them took us to church and dropped us off and then picked us up afterwards. They — especially Mom — said that it was optional (but we knew that it pretty much wasn’t). We went to the Presbyterian church because the lady up the street invited us to go there, and she had taken us for awhile until they moved away. My family was pretty much poor, but she drove a beautiful gray 1953 Cadillac that I loved riding in. I guess that’s the foundation of my theology.

I took church and religion and God and Jesus seriously as a kid. The pastor invited me to use his office — his “study” — and I got to sit alone in this wonderful book-smelling semi-dark room and explore his library. I don’t remember when this was, because I always went to Sunday school and I always went to worship. It’s just one of those vague memories without a particular framing. But I got to read and look at his religious art books and feel the Spirit.

How’s that for growing up queer?

Then life happened. Yeah, high school and all that in the late 1960’s. War, foment, assassinations. No wonder we took drugs. And all the while a feeling that I was …different — a feeling without a name.

My plan was to go to college, then seminary, and then to become a minister. I’d never met a minister who was woman at that time, but that didn’t matter: I felt God’s strong call.

But first, a break. I left high school to go on the road for awhile. I hitchhiked around and worked here-and-there and saw the country and looked for myself, trying to figure out that …difference. I went off to college having not figured it out, my plan delayed but still intact. As a matter of fact, I went to Sonoma State, only about 30 miles from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

And then… I fell in love. I’d dated a little, but it was always pretty much like going out with a friend or even a brother, with no special attraction or sexual feeling. But when I fell in love — and it was with a woman — all of a sudden, there was that zing! and I knew what that …difference had been about all along.

Sonoma State in the early 1970s was a relatively easy place to be queer — at least for lesbians. But when I came out to my parents, it wasn’t so easy. My mom — who hadn’t been a churchgoer through my childhood — went to the pastor of the church. I now believe that it was his ignorance due to they times, but in essence he tried to counsel me to be straight. Not in that evil, go-to-ex-gay-therapy kind of way, but in that heterosexual assumption kind of way. But despite my new queerness, I knew that I had finally found myself, so I knew that his suggestion was absurd.

I didn’t see my parents for the next three years. I didn’t see the inside of a church for the next twenty years.

[Fast forward…]

Well, needless to say, I didn’t go to seminary. After almost nine years in my coming out relationship, I was single again. I moved to San Francisco. This was in the early 1980s. I had a well-paying, dress-up corporate job by day; I was a wild party dyke riding a motorcycle by nights and weekends. And my best friend was a gay man. There was lots that was great about life at that time, but there was a newly-emerging reality: AIDS (even though it was an unnamed mystery disease at that time). We watched as it began to decimate the community around us. We saw it move into the circle of our friends. At that time AIDS was quick and it was deadly. So I got involved in meal delivery and hand-holding projects. But it wasn’t enough.

My best friend had also gone to church as a kid. He also hadn’t been in a church in many years. He too felt the void. So we decided that we would go to church together. After all, MCC San Francisco was only a few blocks from where I lived. But just thinking of it dredged up the old pain. So we talked about it but didn’t go. Finally, we decided this was the week. He came by and we walked up the street, only to find a sign on the door: “We’ve all gone to Sacramento. Come back next week!” So instead we went to brunch — a queer religious ritual in itself. The next week, when we approached the church, I read the sign out front: this time it said: “Preaching this week is Janie Spahr.”

For me this was a coming home. Janie was a Presbyterian minister. She had been on the staff of MCC-SF, but was then the director of Ministry of Light, an LGBT ministry in Marin.

I attended MCC for awhile, but it was never quite right. But what I loved about being there is the way that MCC does communion. First of all, it’s every week. Also, it isn’t just a little mumbo-jumbo say-the-magic-words and pass-the-plates ritual. Communion at MCC is a deep sacrament, a holy experience, which includes prayer and reconciliation. It’s a queer experiencing of connecting with the Christ.

[Fast forward again]

Another girl in my church youth group also felt …different. When I fell in love I came out to her. She was then married to a man and living in Ohio. Ten years after I came out, she came out; and, coming out and falling in love, she wanted me to meet her partner. They came up to San Francisco to visit me. I would see her, and them, and sometimes just her partner over the next number of years. It was a nice friendship.

And then my friend died. She went into rehab for alcoholism, but when they did the medical intake they transferred her to the hospital — and it was too late. I came to Southern California for her memorial service. During the process of mourning her death, her partner who had also become my friend and I fell in love. I returned to San Francisco, but it was only three months until we knew that we wanted to be together forever.

Melinda wanted to go to church. The church where I had grown up was close by; this was where her partner’s memorial service had been held. The pastor had told Melinda that it was a More Light church (Presbyterian for open and affirming, LGBT inclusive). After a couple of weeks we had the pastor over for tea and cookies, and then we joined the church.

In 2008 when we had the opportunity, Melinda and I got married. We’d never had a public ceremony of any kind, but we knew that we wanted to share this occasion with our family and friends, our neighbors and co-workers. We knew that it was more than a legality, but a Christian marriage as well — and we wanted it to be in our church. Our then-pastor officiated at the service, and we had around 30 ordained clergy and numerous elders attend. We had witnesses, and we were a witness.

So what is all this? It’s my crazy hodgepodge of a story. It wasn’t the post that I’d intended to write, but the one that ended up writing itself. Words. God. Words describing my life, a queer life inseparable from my experience of God. Me telling my own story for myself. No apologies.

And as we sang in my youth group all those years ago:

God likes me just the way I am.
I turned out just right.
But I’ll sing it again in case I forget,
And strange as it seems, I might.

Amen.


Queer Theology Synchroblog info and links to other posts can be found here.

Why Gay Marriage is a Bad Idea

July 24, 2011

No, not in this way…

But now that I used this cheap ploy to get you here, please stick around and read this post.

My wife and I are one of the estimated 18,000 same-gender couples that legally married in California before the enactment of Proposition 8. Days like today are tough. While we rejoice with and applaud the decision of New York State to allow same gender-loving couples to legally marry, there is a bittersweetness to it. I have faith that one of these days this horrendous provision will be overturned.

In the meantime, back to that “gay marriage” thing…

I sometimes joke (in an unfunny way) that we are gay-married. That’s the thing: we are. We’re legally married in the State of California (since Prop 8 didn’t invalidate our marriages), and our relationship is now accepted and recognized in New York. This is a good thing. What’s bad is that, as we travel around the country, some states say that we’re married, others say no; some say that our legal domestic partnership is legally valid (even when our marriage isn’t), while others don’t — and many states hold that we are legal strangers. This makes for complicated travel. What if we were in an accident? What if… well, what if lots of different scenarios that legally married heterosexual couples take for granted? (And, as a matter of fact, privileges that UNmarried heterosexual couples are granted, just because they are a male-female couple.) See? Gay married. See? Not funny… Not funny at all.

What we seek, and the only thing that makes legal sense and the only thing that is a true “fit” with the foundational ideas of the United States of America’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is MARRIAGE EQUALITY.

Conservatives call it gay marriage again and again and again until it's been ingrained in our psyches. The media has gulped the Kool-Aid on this because it's an easy shorthand term. But it's wrong, and we shouldn't use it! Words matter.

There are thousands of legal rights afforded to legal couples composed of a woman and a man. Various numbers are thrown around, but the truth is that no one even knows the exact number! Some of these are narrow and don’t apply to many people, but others are almost universal. These include the right to be taxed fairly and equally, the right to own property together, the right of survivor benefits — including Social Security, and on and on. The thing that’s common in these is that they are conferred by the federal government.

In order to have true, honest MARRIAGE EQUALITY, the federally-imposed Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has got to go. It’s legal bigotry, and it creates a separate class of people to discriminate against — a truly unAmerican law.

There is legislation that has been introduced in Congress called the Respect for Marriage Act. This would repeal DOMA. It would take us out of the status of being “gay married” and would provide for full legal MARRIAGE EQUALITY.

This bill has been introduced in the House by Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and in the Senate by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Both versions are the same, and both have a number of co-sponsors. If you’d like to know if your elected officials are among them, here is the House list (click on View Co-Sponsors) and here is the list of Senators. This would be a great time to contact yours and urge them to co-sponsor this legislation — or to thank them if they’re already on the list. We live in troubling times, and if you don’t actively participate in the system it will remain so. Know that those who oppose marriage equality are the ones who are the most vocal!

Thank you Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Representative Judy Chu!

By the way, President Obama has endorsed this legislation, so thanks to him too.

So, like many, I join my voice in saying INY today — but let’s not stop at celebrating this little victory and forgetting that there’s far more to do before we achieve true marriage equality.

Book Review: “Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965”

July 4, 2011

Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 by Nan Boyd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual, I finished this book a long time ago and forgot to review it…

I liked this book. It’s full of stories of people who lived queer lives well before Stonewall, well before I came out (in 1973). I’d recommend it to LGBT people and allies who are interested in what things were like “back then”. So many of those chronicled in this book have died. We need to know and appreciate their stories and what they did to create the world that is changing for the better so rapidly today.

View all my reviews

Why CAN’T we be friends?

June 27, 2011

Last Thursday evening I attended an event featuring Richard Mouw.

  • I didn’t take notes or livetweet it (something I often do).
    I tried to be fully present.
    I’m working from memory here, reacting in part–
    and I’m not pretending to be reporting on everything that was said.

I live in San Gabriel Presbytery, and Fuller Seminary is located “within the bounds” of the presbytery. He is a Presbyterian, not a member of San Gabriel, but of the neighboring Presbytery of Los Ranchos. Dr. Mouw is an important voice within the greater church; Fuller is a large non-denominational, ecumenical theological seminary.

  • San Gabriel is the presbytery which authored what eventually became section G.6-0106b, prohibiting the ordination of LGBT people (more below). When we voted on Amendment 10-A on the same night that it was ratified by Twin Cities Area Presbytery–the 87th required vote for it to become part of the Book of Order–the vote was a tie. This result was unexpected by anyone. (I’ve written another post about that.)

Our Executive Presbyter, Ruth Santana Grace, recently attended an event at Fuller, and she encountered Dr. Mouw while she was there, and that conversation resulted in her invitation to him to come and speak to the members of the presbytery and any other interested persons. There are several churches in the presbytery that are considering or who have taken actions to leave in some way, and Ruth is working to keep the church together.

Among many other things, Richard Mouw is involved with a group called The Fellowship which came together following the passage of the PC(USA)’s new constitutional provision on ordination standards (Amendment 10-A). The old language was written to prohibit the ordination of Ministers of the Word and Sacrament, Elders and Deacons who are in same-gender-loving relationships. The new language, approved by 97 of the denomination’s 183 presbyteries (local governing bodies comprised of an equal number of ministers and elder commissioners), allows for the possibility of ordination of those same people.

Unlike many (most? I think so) of the leaders of The Fellowship, Dr. Mouw is an advocate for the conservatives to remain in the PC(USA). The title of his talk was “The Unity of the Church.” On this subject, he has stated that conflict in the Presbyterian Church is nothing new, that one schism leads to further division, and that a greater church is more important than winning and losing. At a Fellowship gathering Mouw said, “It is too small a thing to crawl into our ecclesiastical corner and reduce the scope of our vision. We need to expand it.”[1]

This presbytery-wide event was well-attended. I find it somewhat telling that it took place at a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) church that omits “Presbyterian” from its name, San Marino Community Church. I didn’t count or even estimate the number of people there, but I know that there weren’t enough chairs set up for those in attendance and more were set up for everyone. There were some in attendance from the other nearby presbyteries: Pacific, Los Ranchos, San Fernando, and Riverside. This was also was attended by people representing the broad theological spectrum that constitutes our denomination–as well as old and young, and people of many varied ethnicities. Pretty much what the church should look like all the time.

Dr. Mouw talked about how he has been part of a Christian-Mormon conversation for several years, and another between himself as an “evangelical” Christian and an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi. Neglecting to mention that he had previously advocated for converting both Mormons and Jews to Christianity, Mouw talked about how those Mormon-Christian and Jewish-Christian conversations worked because they were never leading up to a vote. Unlike in our Presbyterian system, where our most important issues are only discussed when they are controversial, when a vote is impending. This was obviously important to him because he repeated it several times.

  • I too think this is important. For a time I was co-moderator of the Covenant Network chapter here in San Gabriel Presbytery. We tried to engage people on the “other side” in conversation or bible study or in some other way they proposed. We were denied, and it was heartbreaking.

Communicate. To have an interchange, as of ideas.

The emergent church was another subject he touched on as a positive–that some of our younger pastors and the congregations they lead are looking at ways in which church can be done differently.

  • I’m not an emergent, mainly because I haven’t had the chance to experience what this is–and it’s very experiential. I’m old enough that it sounds a lot like some of the things that we were doing in church in the 1960s. Being an avid part of the Facebook / Twitter world, I have many, many friends who are emergent Christians. My observation is that when this movement first started there was an element of misogyny and another of homophobia. Since then, it seems that these beliefs have changed, and the movement is greatly pro-woman and pro-LGBT. (Putting this into practice is another story, one with a long way to go, but that’s another blog post.)

Mouw also talked about what he called the Pan-Asian church here in Southern California (and elsewhere). This is based on the common experience of younger second- and third-generation Asians who grew up in immigrant churches and immigrant communities. They themselves grew up going to English-speaking schools. After college or university (and seminary for the pastors), returning to the immigrant churches of their parents and grandparents wasn’t what they wanted and needed, but–not wanting to fold themselves into dominant European-American congregations–they’ve come together in a new way as multicultural Asian-American Christians.

  • This isn’t new, but this was the first I’d heard of it, and I find it to be exciting. Another kinds of “emerging church.”

One of the primary reasons that Dr. Mouw stated and reiterated for staying together as a denomination is women in ministry. He stands side-by-side with “sisters in the faith,” and isn’t willing to back down from that. He reminded those in the room that the PCA and the EPC do not ordain women as ministers (and the EPC doesn’t ordain women as elders either). He has engaged in bible study, grappling with Paul and with contemporaries about the perceived misogyny in scripture–and his conclusion is that not only do women belong in ministry, but that the church is far better for having them as such.

Interestingly, he told a story about a man who had been a Fuller seminarian. An “evangelical” Christian, after graduation he took a position with the Scottish Reformed Church in The Netherlands. It wasn’t long until this man went through his own personal discovery process, and he soon came out as a gay man. He met another man with whom he fell in love. They soon married. His work with the church continues, and he and his husband have developed an outreach to the gay and lesbian people of The Netherlands–particularly to those deeply involved in self-destructive behaviors. When Phyllis and Richard Mouw traveled to The Netherlands, they spent time with this couple, socializing and learning of their work.

  • Observation: This is what friends do.

During the question-and-answer period, a question came up about “homosexuals.” Dr. Mouw answered in an evangelical and conservative way, expressing that he would like to see a proselytizing effort take place in “gay bars and gay bathhouses.”

  • As an openly lesbian Christian and Presbyterian elder, I found this to be very offensive and painful. The intimation is that this is primarily where LGBT people are found, this is what they do.

__________

COMMENTARY:

To me there was a clear disconnect in what Dr. Mouw said about his gay friend in Amsterdam and what he perceives to be the “lifestyle” of gay people, invoking “gay bars and gay bathhouses” as where (and what) we do. The message Dr. Richard Mouw was conveying is that his friend = one of “us” = okay DESPITE this man being openly gay with a spouse in a committed marriage; and those perceived more amorphous and generic gays who hang out in bars and bathhouses = enemies to be conquered = “other” = definitely NOT okay.

This is why communication is so important. We need to get to know each other. In getting to know those of us who aren’t heterosexual, it is impossible to characterize us purely as a stereotype. Survey after survey shows that people who know same-gender-loving people are less likely to have negative attitudes, and that friends and family members who love LGBT people are the ones who become our allies. This is exactly the same as Dr. Mouw’s positive attitude and unmovable advocacy for women in the church, but he just hasn’t met and worked with enough of us to realize this. And, as far as what the bible says, there is plenty of biblical scholarship that runs contrary to the traditional, evangelical reading of those so-called clobber passages.

Dr. Mouw, I would love to have the opportunity to sit and have a conversation with you. My wife and I would love to take you and Phyllis to dinner and be friends in Christ. The Jesus who we know and love spent the vast majority of his time hanging out with outsiders and just plain folks: that’s us. We’re here: we’re not going anywhere. You can find us in church.

__________

The coopting of the term “evangelical” bothers me, with its use by conservatives as if other Christians can’t also be evangelical in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. [back]

My One Minute Sermon

May 15, 2011

You have heard of the One Minute Manager, of course. Well, this isn’t about that. It’s about a one minute sermon.

WHAT?!?
A sermon in a mainline Christian church that only takes up one minute?
Whoever heard of such a thing!

Let me give you the context:

  1. This week the Presbyterian Church (USA) received the minimum number of votes required to ratify an amendment to the Book of Order part of the church’s constitution that has to do with the ordination of LGBT people (particularly those in relationships) as clergy and lay leaders (or more formally, Ministers of Word and Sacrament, Elders and Deacons); the old provision said no, the new provision says that local governing bodies (presbyteries) can ordain and install such ministers and churches can ordain and install such elders and deacons. It’s a return to the system that the denomination has had since the Reformation — that God calls and the person answers the call, and it is up to those who know the person best to affirm (or deny) that call. (The text of both is below if you’d like to read them.)
  2. I serve on the board of an organization dedicated to the full participation of LGBT persons in the church. This organization is called That All May Freely Serve. Because of actions by the denomination barring ministry by one person, The Rev. Dr. Jane Adams (Janie) Spahr, at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church of Rochester, New York, TAMFS is based at that church. Our board anticipated the date of passage of the new G.6-0106b and planned our Spring board meeting to coincide with this date. Fortunately, we were exactly right!
  3. Following our board meeting, we were invited to stay over and worship with DUPC on Sunday morning. Some of us (and other former board members and friends) were then invited to be worship participants. Since this is a momentous occasion — one that many of us have been working toward for many, many years — the church wanted to give us a chance to say a few of our own words, and not just be the ones to introduce different parts of the service of worship. Because there were so many of us, we were requested to keep our statements — our “sermons” — to one minute. (Most of us exceeded that, but … well, you know. The clock had to stop running when people cried tears of joy. More of these will be published on TAMFS’ Dreaming Church blog soon.)
Hallelujah!

Worship bulletin for today's service

Clearly my introduction of the context is longer than my one minute(ish) sermon itself, but I was the one who was asked to give the benediction.

Here it is:

It is so good to be among you this morning. I always appreciate being here in Rochester, and at this church, so deeply imbedded in progressive politics and religion for so long.

I come from a different place: from San Gabriel Presbytery, the presbytery that brought Amendment B to the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1996. As a matter of fact, the church that proposed Amendment B is in the town where my wife and I live, and the pastor of that church was the overture advocate for what became G.6-0106b at the Albuquerque General Assembly.

Over the years, some in San Gabriel Presbytery have brought charges against my little More Light church – one of only four in all of Southern California – for ordaining and installing publicly-identified gay or lesbian elders; some of these same people – Ministers of Word and Sacrament and Elders in our denomination – have been downright cruel, with the result being chasing the extremely gifted Katie Morrison out of the presbytery and, ultimately, to the UCC.

This past Tuesday night during our presbytery meeting, the expected vote result from the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area came to me and others who were monitoring Twitter and Facebook. Although there was no announcement at our meeting, word quickly passed through the room – with varied reactions, as you can imagine. This was just as our presbytery was debating Amendment 10-A.

I had prepared three two-minute floor speeches, but instead of standing in the line to deliver any of them, I listened to what other commissioners had to say. I was blessed by words from people like Jack Rogers and Dale Morgan, while I was cursed by words of some others.

Following the debate, in Presbyterian fashion, we prayed and then cast our written votes; we then adjourned for dinner. The results were announced following worship (which I don’t remember much of). Our moderator said, “Ladies and gentlemen, our tellers counted the ballots four times: the result was a tie, 92-92.”

In our system, a tie vote counts as a loss, but in my presbytery it was an unimaginable gain. Never before have we come close on an issue pertaining to same gender-loving people. Many have called it a miracle, and I can’t argue with them.

Despite the fact that it is a parliamentary “loss,” the lesson that I want to lift up going forward is that God has given us in San Gabriel Presbytery – and hopefully to the whole church – a reminder: that God loves each of us, and loves us equally. As Gene Peters says in The Message, Jesus said that we are to love God with all our passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and to love our neighbors as well as we do yourselves. This passage in Luke continues with Jesus describing “who is our neighbor” in the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, after which he concludes saying, “Go and do likewise.”

So this week, remembering that we are God’s face in the world for many people, let us go out and do likewise!

____________________

This was the question sent to the presbyteries by the 219th General Assembly.

Shall G6.0106b be amended by striking the current text and inserting new text in its place:
[Text to be deleted is shown with a strikethrough; text to be added or inserted is shown as italic.]
b. 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 (W4.9001), 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.
b. Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G14.0450) 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 (W4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

The case against the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr

March 24, 2011

NOTE: I am a member of the board of That All May Freely Serve, the organization co-founded by the Rev. Janie Spahr after another church court denied her call to serve at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. I am also a legally-married-to-a-same-gender-spouse-in-California who was married in church in a service officiated by an ordained clergymember. It is impossible for me to be unbiased, and I make no apologies for that.
__________

A lot happened today in the appeal of the verdict rendered last summer in the case of Presbytery of the Redwoods vsthe RevJane Adams Spahr.

I typically live-tweet or live-blog such events–something I did during the trial itself–but the (in my opinion) archaic policy of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific disallows the use of electronic communications of any kind while they are in session. Consequently, I was reduced to taking notes via pen-and-paper.

I will share what took place in today’s appeal, but I am making the very intentional choice tonight to not do so until after this body has rendered its verdict. Not that they will likely be reading (or be influenced by) the writing of a blogger who sat through the hearing, but you never know.

In the meantime, I have been thinking and praying about this case, about Janie and the myriad of charges that have been filed against her over the years. In so doing, I started where I often begin: with seeking a definition of the terms. So what is a trial? Here is what the dictionary says:

trial

–noun

  1. Law:
    a. the examination before a judicial tribunal of the facts put in issue in a cause, often including issues of law as well as those of fact.
    b. the determination of a person’s guilt or innocence by due process of law.
  2. the act of trying, testing, or putting to the proof.
  3. test; proof.
  4. an attempt or effort to do something.
  5. a tentative or experimental action in order to as certain results; experiment.
  6. the state or position of a person or thing being tried or tested; probation.
  7. subjection to suffering or grievous experiences; a distressed or painful state: comfort in the hour of trial.
  8. an affliction or trouble.
  9. a trying, distressing, or annoying thing or person.
  10. Ceramics:
    a piece of ceramic material used to try the heat of a kiln and the progress of the firing of its contents.

Some of these definitions go far beyond what we most often think of in terms of charges being filed and the courtroom-type process to come up with a verdict; and some of those words are so appropriate. Trying, distressing or annoying. Affliction or trouble. Subjection to suffering or grievous experiences.

Hopefully, having friends and colleagues who love Janie with her today provided that “comfort in the hour of trial” listed among the descriptions as well.

Also today, as the opposing counsel presented her arguments, I had a scripture passage, a psalm, echoing through my head. This passage is the favorite of the father of one of the women who testified at Janie’s trial; it was a favorite of God’s glorious gadfly, the Rev. Howard B. Warren, as well.

Psalm 139

1 Yhwh, you’ve searched me,
and you know me.
2 You know if I am standing or sitting,
you read my thoughts from far away.
3 Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching;
you are intimate with all of my ways.
4 A word is not even on my tongue, Yhwh,
before you know what it is;
5 you hem me in, before and behind,
shielding me with your hand.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
a height my mind cannot reach!
7 Where could I run from your Spirit?
Where could I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you’re there;
if I make my bed in death, you’re already there.
9 I could fly away with wings made of dawn,
or make my home on the far side of the sea,
10 but even there your hand will guide me,
your mighty hand holding me fast.
11 If I say, “The darkness will hide me,
and night will be my only light,”
12 even darkness won’t be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day—
darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You created my inmost being
and stitched me together in my mother’s womb.
14 For all these mysteries I thank you—
for the wonder of myself,
for the wonder of your works—
my soul knows it well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
while I was being made in that secret place,
knitted together in the depths of the earth;
16 your eyes saw my body even there.
All of my days
were written in your book,
all of them planned
before even the first of them came to be.
17 How precious your thoughts are to me, O God!
How impossible to number them!
18 I could no more count them
than I could count the sand.
But suppose I could?
You would still be with me!
23 Examine me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts—
24 see if there is misdeed within me,
and guide me in the way that is eternal.

This is the framework of my thinking and my prayers until we hear from the PJC. I invite you to join in continuous prayer for love and justice until their verdict is issued.

Grace and peace,
Sonnie

The Orange on the Seder Plate

March 1, 2010

The Orange on the Seder Plate

[Add an orange to the traditional items on the Seder plate. Then invite someone to ask “one more question,” “Why Is There an Orange on the Seder Plate?” and tell the following story in response:]

In our own day as in the ancient days of our tradition, an event becomes a story, a story is woven with new legends, and the legends lead the path into new teachings. So it is with the orange on the Seder plate.

To begin with, a woman in the far-flung American Diaspora asked a rebbetzin of the old tradition:
“What is the place of lesbians in Jewish life?”

She answered, “Lesbian sexuality in Jewish tradition is as troublesome as eating bread during Pesach!”

So the custom spread among some lesbian Jews to place a piece of bread upon the Seder table.

When another of our sisters heard the story, she said:

“Bread on the Seder plate would shatter the tradition. The presence and the teaching of gay men and lesbians in Jewish life transforms the tradition, but does not shatter it. So let us place on the Seder plate not bread but an orange — transformation, not transgression.”

So ever since that day, we place an orange on the Seder plate, for it belongs there as a symbol of growth and transformation.

Queer Theology: A Bibliography

February 27, 2010
  • Althaus Reid, M. Indecent Proposals: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and Politics. New York: Routledge, 2000.
  • Anzaldua, G. (ed.). Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1990.
  • Berger, “Prayers and Practices of Women: Lex Orandi Reconfigured.” In Susan Roll, AnneZe Esser and BrigiZe Enzner‑Probst (eds.), Women, Ritual and Liturgy, pp. 63–77. Leuven: Peeters, 2001.
  • Berger, T. “The Challenge of Gender for Liturgical Tradition.” Worship 82.3 (May 2008), pp. 243–61.
  • Bradshaw, P. “Difficulties in Doing Liturgical Theology.” Pacifica 11 (1998), pp. 181–84.
  • Butler, J. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1999.
  • Cohen, C. J. “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” In E. Patrick Johnson and M. G. Henderson (eds.), Black Queer Studies, pp. 21–51. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).
  • Haldeman, S. “A Queer Fidelity: Reinventing Christian Marriage.” Theology and Sexuality 13.2 (2007), pp. 137–52. doi:10.1177/1355835806074430
  • Jakobsen, J. R., and A. Pellegrini. Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance. New York: New York University Press, 2003.
  • Jordan, M. D. Blessing Same‑Sex Unions: The Perils of Queer Romance and the Confusions of Christian Marriage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  • KiZredge, C., and S. Zalmon. Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995.
  • Lathrop, G. “Ordo and Coyote: Further Reflections on Order, Disorder and Meaning in Christian Worship.” Worship 80.3 (May 2006), pp. 194–212.
  • Marshall, P. V. Same‑Sex Unions: Stories and Rites. New York: Church Publishing, 2004.
  • McClintock Fulkerson, M. “Gender—Being It or Doing It? The Church, Homosexuality and the Politics of Identity.” In Gary D. Comstock and Susan E. Henking (eds.), Que(er)ying Religion: A Critical Anthology, pp. 108–201. New York: Continuum, 1997.
  • Stuart, E (ed.). Daring to Speak Love’s Name: A Gay and Lesbian Prayer Book. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1992.
  • Viepues‑Bailey, L. Between a Man and a Woman: Making Sense of Christian Opposition to Same‑Sex Love. New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming.
  • Warner, M. Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.
  • Yoshino, K. Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights. New York: Random House, 2007.

Also see

Here I Stand (a cross-post)

February 22, 2010

This post is not mine. It is from a friend on Twitter (@hughlh), posted here with his permission. His blog is The Personal Weblog of Hugh Hollowell. I encourage you to read this, and to go to his site to comment. Thanks.

Here I Stand

Some people have recently said some things that lead me to think there is confusion about me and what I do – so I want to take a minute to clear things up.

I lead a group of people who minister to and love the very poor and homeless. And as long as that is all I talk about, then most folks have no problem with me or my work. But when I talk about gay issues, or gender issues or imply the church ever did anything wrong, folk become very concerned. And tell me that if I stray off homeless issues, they won’t support me. Or even be associated with me. In fact, some have actively tried to stop me. One guy called churches that I work with and told them I was a false prophet and heretic. (As we say in the South, “bless his heart”.)

Let me be loud and clear about something. The same thing I see in Jesus that leads me to have concern and love for the very poor and homeless puts me squarely on the side of anyone who is on the margins.

Let me be even more clear:

I have only one desire, one mission, one calling. It is to reach out to those-

who are broken
who are hurting
who are marginalized
who feel forgotten
who are passed-over
who are weeping
who are unloved
who have been so hurt they are afraid to love
who have been told they are outside of God’s love
who have been hurt in the name of God
who are not sure there is a god
who want to give up
who are so lonely they ache
who have only seen God used as a weapon
who have serious questions they are afraid to voice
who are afraid to hope anymore
who have been told their sexuality or gender separates them from God
who  have been been made to feel less than fully human –

and to tell those people that God is on their side.

Jesus called them the poor in spirit. And he called them blessed.

And said they get the Kingdom of Heaven.

If you have this God thing figured out, if you’re convinced that you do all the right things that make your God happy, if you have no questions, no doubts, no fear – you aren’t poor in spirit – you’re rich in spirit.

And Jesus doesn’t have much of anything to say to you.

Sorry. I know that isn’t what you wanted to hear.

But that is what I am here to say… and shout… and live out.

If you are on the margins – God is on your side.

If you’re on the margins, this is good news indeed. The early followers of Jesus called it Gospel (which is just a Greek way of saying “good news”). If, however, you’re the one putting people on the margins – with your actions, your attitudes, your privilege, your assumptions, your power – that is anti-gospel… or anti-Christ. And you should repent (which is just a religious way of saying reconsider your position) – because you’re working against the stream. Against the way the world now works. Against the very will of God.

I’m an extrovert and I like to be liked. I want to not offend people, and I want people to agree with me and I want people to continue to support the work I do so I can feed my family. I want all of that.

But at some point, I had to accept that either Jesus is Lord – or he isn’t. Either he was telling the truth, or he wasn’t. And if he is, and if he was, well, then that requires certain sacrifices on my part. Like giving up being liked by everyone. Or being popular. Or being financially secure.

No matter how scary that is. But secure in the knowledge that being scared and unsure brings me closer to the very heart of God.

If you are offended by the way I reach out to the marginalized, if I don’t use the right code words to let you know I belong to your club or I spend what you think is too much time on the issues of people you would rather I not focus on – in short, if my carrying out my faith has offended you – well, I am sorry, but I cannot in good conscience do otherwise.

And if this causes you to think I am a false prophet, or mistaken, or deluded or heretical or beyond orthodoxy or whatever – well, I understand. And if this means you don’t want to be my friend or you don’t want to be associated with me or support my organization or you want to tell the whole world what an evil person I am and how I am leading folks to hell – well, you do what your faith leads you to do.

And I will go where mine leads me.

After all, we all sacrifice ourselves to one God or another.

Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

October 17, 2009

Powerful statement from John Shelby Spong, who was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years before his retirement in 2001.

Thursday October 15, 2009

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on over you!” Time waits for no one.

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a “new church,” claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by “fair-minded” channels that seek to give “both sides” of this issue “equal time.” I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world’s population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a “mobocracy,” which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture’s various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the “Flat Earth Society” either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church’s participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.” I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

~ John Shelby Spong (http://johnshelbyspong.com/)