May 17, 2008

The Next Step in Soulforce's "Great American Outing"

This might be the best initiative Soulforce has undertaken since I've been involved in GLBT ministry.


The American Family Outing now prepares to visit Bishop T.D. Jakes who has graciously agreed to share food and conversation with us on Sunday afternoon, May 18th. Our families also look forward to attending worship services at The Potter's House. Several dozen families making the visit will be led by Pastor Troy Sanders of Atlanta, Georgia, and other clergy leaders.

Pastor Troy says, "I've joined the American Family Outing team because I have a passion to see us engage in healthy, holistic dialogue around sexuality and faith. I have experienced oppressive theology first hand and I see the damage it does to men, women and children on a daily basis. I am constantly in contact with people who have lost faith in church and spiritually because of the damage done at the hand of individuals who think they are doing God's will. We are quickly approaching a time in our community and culture where we can no longer avoid having these type conversations. I look forward to fostering the kind of environment with American Family Outing that lends itself to peaceful discourse with clergy and families without the fear of being badgered or imposed upon."

The American Family Outing is a nationwide fellowship effort which aims to connect one-on-one and family-to-family with congregants at six prominent mega-churches. Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, and Hope Christian Church in Maryland, have also agreed to meet lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families and we approach these opportunities with the belief that it is possible for families to have meaningful conversations in spite of perceived differences. Rice University Professor Stephen L. Klineberg's data can confirm the impact of simply getting to know someone who is gay or lesbian:

"One of the most powerful predictors of area residents' attitudes toward gay rights, as powerful among religious fundamentalists as it is for the more secular respondents, is the simple question, 'Do you have a personal friend who is gay or lesbian?'"

"It seems clear that the opportunity to get to know someone who is homosexual helps to break through the stereotypes and fears, and to reinforce the sense of common humanity," says Klineberg, who is a Professor of Sociology and the founding-director of the Houston Area Survey (1982-2008), which has tracked Houston's demographics and public attitudes for the past 27 years.

"Support for gay rights (e.g., allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, or to teach in the public schools, or to be legally permitted to adopt children) has continued to increase steadily and consistently among Harris County residents over the past two decades," Klineberg continued.

Please join me in praying that these efforts result in understanding which leads to acceptance, just as Jesus accepts ALL of His children.

May 16, 2008

Tomorrow is International Day Against Homophobia

The Canadian organization Foundation Emergence is promoting the 5th annual "International Day Against Homophobia." Here is their press release describing their goals:

In addition to the International Day Against Homophobia, Fondation Émergence, the pioneer of this event, is launching its annual campaign against homophobia for the year 2008. Entitled Homosexuality is NOT a sickness! this new campaign, which will reach its highpoint on May 17, when the Day is held, aims to reach healthcare workers as a priority. Also, it was on May 17, 1991, that the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Unfortunately, though, prejudice is deep-rooted since some people still think that being gay or lesbian is a mental disorder while others mistakenly believe that homosexuality can be “cured”.

As it does each year, Fondation Émergence proposes an attention-grabbing image found on its posters, on pamphlets, and on its website at A hand, in a blue medical glove, holds up a syringe but the word STOP, in large print, reminds us that “Homosexuality is not a sickness!” The pamphlet describes the evolution of health professionals’ viewpoints on homosexuality, calls on workers involved to use non-biased language with consulting clients, and encourages the latter to feel comfortable talking about their sexual orientation to healthcare professionals. The posters and pamphlets are available at, where people can also find a large number of listed resources. This material can be ordered free of charge from the website.

The fight against homophobia requires workers involved in all communities that must participate in this effort. A large range of efforts can be undertaken such as putting up posters in waiting rooms, providing pamphlets, posting an International Day Against Homophobia banner on websites, distributing emails, asking one’s municipal board to adopt a resolution to support the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17, organising activities, colloquia, conferences, reporting anti-LGBT behaviour and speech, suggesting reports to the media, and participating in the national plan to raise the Rainbow Flag for the Day on May 17.

Set up in 2000, Fondation Émergence was an initiative by Gai Écoute – a help center and info and listening line. Fondation’s mission is to fight prejudice and, for the International Day Against Homophobia, an event that it began, launches an annual campaign to fight against homophobia.

Let's hope their efforts spread understanding and acceptance again this year.

You can find out more at the offical website.

May 15, 2008

More on the California Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Here are some reactions to today's California Supreme Court ruling that declared the state's law against same-sex marriage unconstitutional:

Los Angeles Times report

Lambda Legal
It's an unforgettable day for same-sex couples and advocates of fairness and opportunity across the nation! The California Supreme Court has ruled that the state may no longer exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage. We are so proud.

Lead counsel NCLR, Lambda Legal, the ACLU and Equality California have been fighting for this victory for four years and today we have made history! But we must all do what we can to make sure that discrimination is not written into the state constitution in California through a ballot initiative.

Liberty Counsel
Today, the California Supreme Court abandoned the rule of law and common sense when it handed down a 4-3 decision that rewrote the definition of marriage. This ruling will unite the people of California and will propel their efforts to amend the state constitution. Liberty Counsel represents the Campaign for California Families (CCF) in the defense of the state’s marriage laws.

On March 4, 2008, Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, presented oral argument at the California Supreme Court in defense of the marriage laws. The court hearing lasted more than three hours, as each side debated the issue. Liberty Counsel became involved in February 2004.

Commenting on today’s ruling, Mathew Staver said: "This ruling defies logic. It is a gross departure from the rule of law. It is outrageous. Traditional marriage is common sense. Yet, this decision is nonsense. No matter how you stretch California’s Constitution, you cannot find anywhere in its text, its history, or tradition that now, after so many years, it magically protects what most societies condemn. Same-sex marriage is not part of our history nor is it woven in the fabric of fundamental freedom. The California Supreme Court has defied logic, undermined the will of the people, and weakened our future. This decision will ignite California voters to amend their state constitution to protect marriage and prevent judges from wrecking marriage."

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
This is an extraordinary victory for Californians and all Americans who hold fairness and opportunity as fundamental American values. Today, once again, California is leading the way in affirming the inherent dignity of all people. Today, in our hearts, we are all Californians."— Rea Carey, Acting Executive Director

Truth Wins Out
“We are thrilled to be a part of history and experience a monumental victory for marriage equality,” said Wayne Besen,’s Executive Director. “The court made a bold decision and confirmed that all relationships, regardless of sexual orientation, are equal in California.”

“Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest,” the court said in a majority decision. “Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional.”

The California court also said that the right to marry in the state’s constitution
“guarantees same-sex couples the same substantive constitutional rights as opposite-sex couples to choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship.”

“This ruling is a devastating blow to ‘ex-gay’ cults, because it undermines their propaganda, which claims that same-sex relationships don’t work,” said TWO’s Besen. “The images of happy couples marrying undercut their efforts to recruit vulnerable people.”

The ruling will take effect and marriages will begin in 30 days. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement that said he will “respect the court’s decision and will “uphold its ruling.” He also said that he “will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

Family Research Council
"It's outrageous that the court has overturned not only the historic definition of marriage, but the clear will of the people of California, as expressed in Proposition 22." said FRC President Tony Perkins. "The California Supreme Court assumed the powers of a legislative body by imposing same-sex 'marriage.' However, in 2000, the people of California spoke loudly and clearly on the value of marriage when 61 percent of voters approved Proposition 22."

"The California Supreme Court has taken a jackhammer to the democratic process, and the right of the people to affect change in public policy. Four judges discarded the votes of 4,618,673 Californians who approved the state's 'Defense of Marriage Act.' Voters understand that children should not be deprived of a mother or a father," added Perkins.

FRC urged Californians to support a marriage amendment to the state's constitution, which is slated to appear on the ballot in the November election. "Anticipating this ruling from a court of activist judges, over 1.1 million California voters signed petitions placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November. The California Marriage Protection Act will provide voters with the opportunity to correct this exercise in judicial activism and to permanently protect the definition of marriage," said Perkins.

"This decision put marriage at risk all across the nation and again highlights the need for a Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution so that this divisive campaign for the oxymoron of 'same-sex marriage' will be ended once and for all."

The Christian Post
Matt Barber of the pro-family Concerned Women for America believes the ruling by the California Supreme Court was the “worst kind of judicial activism today” and represented a rejection of the court’s supposed role “as an objective interpreter of the law.”

"So-called 'same-sex' marriage is counterfeit marriage. Marriage is, and has always been, between a man and a woman,” he said in a statement shortly after the court’s decision.
Although pro-family groups were undoubtedly disheartened by the court’s decision, they were adamant that citizens would vote positively on a constitutional amendment to ban gay “marriage” during this year’s election in November.

Over 1 million signatures have been collected to place the measure on the ballot for the public to vote on. The initiative is still being processed by the State Registrar.

If a majority of state residents vote positively on the ban, the amendment will overturn and nullify the decision by the California Supreme Court.

"The majority of Americans recognize the fact that legitimate marriage and family are cornerstones of a healthy society,” CWA’s Barber noted.

Ron Prentice, executive director of the Sacramento and Riverside-based California Family Council, stressed the importance of the November vote after Thursday’s high court decision.

"We have not been able to count on the legislature or the courts of California to adhere to the will of the people," Prentice told the Los Angeles Times. "This is yet another example why the people need to go to the polls in November to defend the historic and natural definition of marriage."

Matt Daniels, president and founder of the Alliance for Marriage Foundation, called California “ground zero” in the battle to protect traditional marriage. “[T]he fight in California must now be joined in the Congress,” he said.

The two sides seem to agree on one issue: California is now THE battleground state for same-sex marriage. Right-wing opponents have shown they WILL NOT stop fighting to restrict GLBT peoples' rights. We'll soon find out just how deep the resolve is in the GLBT community and among their allies to gain equality.

Join me in praying that enough people dig deep and look inside their hearts to determine what is the right thing to do and

BREAKING NEWS: California Court Says Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

I don't try to post breaking news very often, but this one is huge:

Calif. Supreme Court rejects gay marriage ban

This puts the issue front and center once again, and could impact the upcoming election.

There will be much, much more to come on this story. I'll post more about it tonight. The war is not over by any stretch, but today is a battle decided in the favor of true equality for ALL people.

The Gay Evangelical

I found this interview on I was drawn to it because I met Mel White 10 years ago when I joined Soulforce in going to Jerry Falwell's church in Lynchburg, Virginia to try and speak with him and his congregants about religious bigotry against the LGBT community. I think the interview was well done and really shows you who Mel White is. Hope you enjoy it.


"The Rev. Mel White served the Religious Right until he came out as a gay man. Here he discusses the reconciliation of his politics, his faith, and his sexual orientation.
Rev. Mel White penned the life stories and speeches of conservative Christian superstars like Pat Robertson. His religious leaders publicly and vehemently condemned gays and lesbians, and White tried to overcome his homosexuality with exorcisms and electric shock therapy. In 1993, White came out as a gay man and denounced the politics of hate in the evangelical church. Now, 15 years and two books later, White spearheads Soulforce , an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender acceptance in religious communities.

Here, White discusses the latent power of the Religious Right in the forthcoming presidential election, his antipathy toward civil marriage, and the rationale behind the Religious Right’s homophobia..."

For the rest of the article, refer to the web link I have at the beginning of this post.

May 14, 2008

Pastors are Being Encouraged to Preach Politics, Dare IRS to Investigate

From the Christian Post:

Conservative legal advocates are recruiting pastors nationwide to defy an IRS ban on preaching about politicians, in a challenge they hope will abolish the restriction.

The Alliance Defense Fund, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., will ask the clergy to deliver a sermon about specific candidates Sept. 28. If the action triggers an IRS investigation, the legal group will sue to overturn the federal rules, which were enacted in 1954.

Under the IRS code, churches can distribute voter guides, run voter registration drives, hold forums on public policy and invite politicians to speak at their congregations.

However, they cannot endorse a candidate, and their political activity cannot be biased for or against a candidate, directly or indirectly.

The Alliance Defense Fund said Friday that the regulations amount to an unconstitutional limit on free speech and government intrusion into religion.

"It certainly does have a chilling effect," said Mike Johnson, senior counsel for the fund. "I think that there is a lot of fear and intimidation and disinformation about the parameters that do exist."

Johnson said about 100 pastors have expressed interest in participating so far.

The IRS has stepped up monitoring of nonprofit political activity during the 2008 election. Punishments can range from a financial penalty to loss of tax-exempt status.

IRS investigations are confidential and the agency does not discuss the cases.

However, the United Church of Christ, which counts Sen. Barack Obama as a member, has said that it is under IRS review because of a speech given by the Democratic presidential candidate at the denomination's national meeting last year.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an advocacy group in Washington, monitors church political activity and consistently files complaints with the IRS. They said Friday that they will notify the agency of any pastor who participates in the ADF campaign.

Some religious groups support keeping politics out of the pulpit.

J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in Washington, which advocates for religious freedom, said churches should be involved in public issues, but partisan activity can "compromise the essential calling to spread the Gospel."

"The church can't raise prophetic fist at a candidate or at a party," Walker said, "when it's locked up in a tight bear hug with that candidate or party."

I post this here for a couple of reasons. The idea of preaching politics is not restricted to the religious right, but right-wing groups like the Alliance Defense Fund are the staunchest advocates of it, now even encouraging what amounts to civil disobedience. These groups are the among the most strident opponents to any rights for GLBT people, and the politics they want to preach would only further inflame the anti-gay rhetoric.

I believe the claim to restriction of freedom of speech is tota bogus. These people can say whatever they want...unless they want their churches to be tax-exempt. The constitution absolutely proetects their freedom of speech, but not their freedom from taxes. I don't think my tax money should subsidize any type of political activity, whether it be campaigning for a right-wing republican or for democratic presidential candidate Barrack Obama.

If you belong to a church that participates in this initiative, I strongly recommend you walk away and don't look back. Find a ministry that is focused on preaching God's word and is annointed with the Holy Spirit, not one that is more interested in annointing political candidates.

May 13, 2008

So Where DOES Joel Osteen Stand on Homosexuality?

It's interesting to see how different sources can spin the same story different ways. This morning, Sharone posted about the Soulforce version of the meeting Jay Bakker had with Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen. Tonight, I'm linking to and excerpting from the story on The Christian Post, where the headline is "Joel Osteen Maintains Homosexuality Is a Sin."

Interestingly, Joel Osteen is not quoted in this article. Instead, a church spokesman stated Lakewood's position without directly quoting his pastor:

The group of 30 met with Osteen after service as the megapastor was greeting hundreds of visitors. The Osteens – including the pastor's mother, Dodie, and wife, Victoria – welcomed Bakker and the guests from Soulforce, according to Lakewood spokesman Donald Iloff, who added that the church does not turn visitors away.

Joel Osteen, his brother, Paul, and Iloff then met privately with Bakker and there they discussed faith, family and LGBT people.

"It was a very cordial, very nice meeting," Iloff told The Christian Post on Tuesday. "But ultimately through our conversations, we continued to disagree with Soulforce and Jay's position."

Iloff says Bakker, whose mother is somewhat of a legend in the LGBT community, and the groups involved in the pro-gay campaign want the megachurches not to see homosexuality as sin.

Although Osteen and leaders at Lakewood open their doors to all visitors, Iloff says they "believe homosexuality is sin" and that "it is disobedience under God."

He further affirmed that they will maintain that position.

Here is the closest this article could come to quoting Osteen:

Osteen, who authored bestselling book Your Best Life Now, had remained largely mum about the issue of homosexuality but indicated in public interviews that he doesn't agree with it.

"I will say we don't see homosexuality as the worst sin," Iloff commented. "Sin is sin."

While I give Osteen credit for being cordial and taking time to meet with Jay Bakker and other Soulforce representatives, I can't help but get the feeling he has intentionally placed himself safely on the fence here.

I have seen Joel Osteen preach numerous times on television, and found his message to be positive and uplifting, but I've never been sure how much depth was behind it.

Call me cynical here, but I wonder if Osteen is intentionally placing himself in a position where nobody is mad at him and, dare I say, would stop buying his books, CDs, etc.

I'm thankful a pastor of his popularity and public speaking skills is not an avowed enemy of the GLBT community, but he's not much of a friend either.

Wake me up when he takes a stand.

Joel Osteen meets with GLBT advocate

There is a Soulforce movement to meet with mega church pastors and congregations to try and foster some understanding of each other. Apparently, this Sunday, Jay Bakker got the ball rolling with one of the most popular television ministers right now. Good for him. To read the entire story, go to and click on the news item at the left.


American Family Outing Begins Dialog with Lakewood

(Houston, TX) -- On Mother's Day, Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, brought a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families to worship at Lakewood Church -- the largest mega-church in the U.S. After the service, Bakker met privately with Lakewood's pastor, Joel Osteen, to talk about faith, family, and LGBT people.

The visit is part of a nationwide fellowship effort called The American Family Outing, which aims to create dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches. Several prominent mega-churches, including Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, and Hope Christian Church in Maryland, have agreed to meet lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families.

Earlier in the week, Lakewood officials had expressed an unwillingness to meet with Bakker and The American Family Outing. A tip from a Lakewood Church member led Bakker to seek out Osteen after the Saturday evening service, during the time when the pastor greets new visitors to Lakewood. The two exchanged remembrances of Bakker's late mother, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, and arranged to meet privately the next day.
Bakker's conversation with Osteen came just a day after The American Family Outing hosted a picnic in a Houston park for families from Lakewood Church. A handful of Lakewood members attended the picnic and expressed their appreciation for the effort to start an open conversation about the status of LGBT people at Lakewood...

May 12, 2008

Memior of a Bishop's Daughter Riles Up the Episcopal Church


Six months after the death of Paul Moore, the Episcopal bishop of New York from 1972 to 1989, his daughter Honor got a phone call. It was her father's birthday, and she was at home unpacking boxes of his belongings. The caller introduced himself as an old friend of her father's; it was a name she had not heard until it appeared in the bishop's will some months before. Moore began to talk with him, eager for insight into the man who had loomed larger than anyone in her life but had been a difficult, impenetrable figure. The caller repeatedly mentioned how close he had been to Paul for 30 years, and Moore finally asked if her father had ever confided in his friend about his sexual life. The man's answer was immediate. "I was his sexual life," he said.

The revelation, Moore writes in her new memoir, "The Bishop's Daughter," was startling but not entirely surprising. Her father's bisexuality was an "open secret" that she and her eight younger siblings had known for years, and that had been hinted at in the press and by members of the church. Still, the publication of an excerpt from her book in The New Yorker in March, detailing her father's sexuality, created a minor scandal. In a letter to the magazine, two of her siblings wrote, "Doesn't it matter, even when someone is dead, that his most fervently held private life, and the unnecessarily explicit details of his marriage, are exposed against his wishes? We believe that it does matter, and that both of our parents' good legacies have been damaged." Others applauded Moore's candid portrayal of her father. An Episcopal priest from Maryland wrote, "This story illustrates the necessity for our church to struggle honestly with the issue of healthy sexual behavior—gay or straight."

This is a difficult issue, but I suspect (I have not read the book) that there is value in this story being told besides selling books. Most major religious denominations continue to force gay christians to choose being one or the other and, as a result, they must deny a part of who they are.

God sent his Son down to earth to give people a chance to become whole and appreciate the fullness of the gifts He has given to them, not to deny a major portion of who they are. As people understand what that can do the life of a leader of the faith like the late Bishop Moore, perhaps they will be less likely to force someone like him to lead two seperate lives, which by its nature diminishes them both.