January 13, 2007

Concerns With Exodous' Youth Ministry

Peterson Toscano is a familiar name to many of the readers here. Peterson is what could be called an ex-ex gay, meaning he went through therapy to "cure" his homosexual orientation, then recanted that and went forward embracing life as a gay man. Peterson has stayed close to the "ex-gay" movement, and currently involved is working with the leading ex-gay organization, Exodus International, to resolve some concerns with their youth "ministry."

Here is an excerpt from Peterson's blog:

On June 26, 2006 I initially left voice messages for Alan Chambers of Exodus International and another national ex-gay leader about inappropriate incidents that affected youth at an Exodus member ministry. I will not go into the details at this time, but I shared three specific situations that happened within the previous year. The shocking details of the third situation compelled me to contact Alan and this other national leader. In my initial messages I said that I would rather discuss this privately, but if they did not wish to talk, then I would initiate a public discussion.

Peterson is at somewhat of an impasse with Alan Chambers and Exodos, so he has begun to go public with this issue. There will be some of you that will question Peterson's methods, wishing he directly and aggressively confronted them, but I appreciate the approach he has used here and pray that it is effective.

Click here to read more about concerns regarding Exodus' work with youth on his blog. There is also an update to this story.

January 12, 2007

Supporting Religious Freedom

One of the alarmist tactics used by opponents of same-sex marriage is to claim that it is a threat to religious freedom. The line is that activists seek to force churches to perform these ceremonies even if it goes against their doctrine. This is a claim not based in fact, as illustrated by this press release from Garden State Equality, an organization that advocates for the GLBT community in New Jersey.

Statement from Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality, cell (917) 449-8918:
Today New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner issued written advice to the State Registrar of Vital Statistics concluding that, once a New Jersey law authorizing civil unions takes effect on February 19, members of the clergy may legally decline to perform civil union ceremonies if doing so would conflict with "sincerely held religious beliefs."

Though we at Garden State Equality have received many calls from journalists in the past hour, this is a nonstory. Garden State Equality agrees with the Attorney General's opinion.

National and statewide LGBTI rights organizations have always maintained -- even with regard to 100 percent marriage equality for same-sex couples, which we will achieve in New Jersey through by passing legislation within the next two years or less -- that clergy have the option not to perform whatever ceremonies they don't wish to perform.

In fact, the Garden State Equality-supported bill introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), which would establish 100 percent marriage equality instead of civil unions that are separate, unequal and discriminatory, specifically states that clergy do not have to perform ceremonies they don't wish to. This has always been a tenet of the national marriage equality movement.

All that said, allowing clergy not to perform same-sex ceremonies is entirely different from allowing government officials from refraining to perform same-sex ceremonies if they do perform opposite-sex ceremonies.

Government officiants like mayors do not have any right to discriminate against same-sex couples under both the New Jersey Constitution and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. We're pleased that Attorney General Rabner's opinion today reiterates this strongly.

Some mayors in New Jersey are now opting not to perform any ceremonies because of their opposition to same-sex marriage. That is their legal right. Discrimination, at least in New Jersey marriages, are not.

January 11, 2007

"Why We Left the Episcopal Church"

Today's Washington Post featured an op-ed piece co-authored by the rector of one of the churches that recently severed ties with the Episcopal Church.

Here are a couple of excerpts followed by my comments:

The core issue in why we left is not women's leadership. It is not "Episcopalians against equality," as the headline on a recent Post op-ed by Harold Meyerson put it. It is not a "leftward" drift in the church. It is not even primarily ethical -- though the ordination of a practicing homosexual as bishop was the flash point that showed how far the repudiation of Christian orthodoxy had gone.

Episcopal revisionism obliterates the very identity of faith. When the great truths of the Bible and the creeds are abandoned and there is no limit to what can be believed in their place, then the point is reached when there is little identifiably Christian in Episcopal revisionism. Would that Episcopal leaders showed the same zeal for their faith that they do for their property. If the present decline continues, all that will remain of a once strong church will be empty buildings, kept going by the finances, though not the faith, of the fathers.

In the disagreement, and in some cases full-blown war, over the place of homosexuals in God's kingdom going on in some major religious denominations, variations of the arguement in the last paragraph often surface. I have come to learn, however, that God is NOT limited to what's written in the Bible, and certainly not to any one person's interpretation of it.

God's revalation is a gradual one. Look at how knowledge of Him grew from the beginning of the Old Testament to the New Testament. Do you really think that all of God's wisdom can be contained in any book? The Bible is a guide to God, not the literal answer to every question. The writers of the op-ed piece in the Post appear to be limiting themselves to the written word, lacking the courage to seek understanding beyond it.

There is sooooooo much God wants to show us and teach us. We simply have to listen and be willing to learn.

January 10, 2007

"Can You See the Kingdom"

David Shelton from the wonderful blog "Skipping to the Piccolo" alerted me to this piece he posted yesterday. I thought is was an excellent post and want to share it with the readers here.

One of the greatest struggles a person can have in their Christian walk is with themselves. Whether I’m counseling someone or just providing an ear, the daily struggles we all face over our own actions, attractions, or distractions, seem to be paramount. These struggles consume us. Sometimes, they even define us.

Click here to read the rest of "Can You See the Kingdom"

January 09, 2007

UK Faith Groups Fight For Right to Discriminate

No, really, they do. According to this report from Reuters, numerous faith groups got together in London to deliver a petition against a group of proposed laws that would extend current discimination protection based on race, religion, and several other factors to homosexuality.

From the report:

Christian opponents argue the laws are a major threat to their freedom of conscience and that they should not be penalised for acting according to their beliefs.

Gay rights campaigners say the proposals would simply extend existing anti-discrimination laws to homosexuals.

"It would not be acceptable in the areas of race, disability, age or religion or belief, and is not acceptable here. Either we hold human rights to be universal or we do not," said Andrew Copson, of the British Humanist Association.

Thomas Cordrey of the Laywers' Christian Fellowship, which organised the rally, said the regulations did not strike the right balance and denied the group was homophobic.

"Christians have no desire to discriminate unjustly on the grounds of sexual orientation, but they cannot and must not be forced to actively condone and promote sexual practices which the Bible teaches are wrong."

Can someone explain to me what JUST descimination is? To the group mentioned above, it appears to be that directed toward GLBT people. I missed the part in the Bible where Jesus discriminated against, well, anyone.

January 08, 2007

Gays Out of the Closet in Hollywood

The religious right loathes Hollywood these days, and its leaders will be more that happy to tell you that. Probably one of the driving forces behind that is the attitude Hollywood takes toward gays. This from the LA Daily News report:

Recently, the hinges of Hollywood's closet door have been oiled with three high-profile performers coming out as gay men and several lesbians currently enjoying mainstream success on television.

What is most remarkable, entertainment industry observers say, has been the lack of backlash faced by "How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris, "Grey's Anatomy" cast member T.R. Knight and former 'N Sync band member Lance Bass since they came out within months of each other during the second half of 2006.

"The general public is not freaking out about these actors coming out and they haven't stopped watching their shows," gay producer Paul Colichman ("Gods and Monsters") said recently. "Nobody really cares that much."

Hooray for Hollywood and open minds.

January 07, 2007

2006 Welcoming Church Survey

Courtesy of GayChurch.org, here is an overview of where the gay Christian movement stands in the U. S. and Canada regarding participation of churches across denominations (and those not afiliated).

This is a very interesting report, reviewing the recent history of gay Christianity in organized religion and showing data of the increased buy-in the GLBT population is receiving. It also referrs to some of the organizations taking a leading role in the assimilation of gays into mainstream Christianity along with the development of independent gay-affirming churches (like mine).

Here is an excerpt from the report.

The gay Christian movement has undergone massive growth over the past few years with no slowing in sight. Currently the growth is taking place primarily in the UCC congregations, Catholic groups and across Canada (Anglican and United Church of Canada). Non denominational and UMC continue to grow as well. In addition the movement is spreading across numerous denominations and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon especially with the thawing political climate.

Not only is an increasing portion of the GLBT community coming out of the closet, there walking through the doors of a church and hopefully finding a path where they can walk with the Lord.