July 05, 2008
We are deeply blessed to be renting a home that is large enough to provide us the opportunity to do things like this. We asked for this as we prayed while we were seeking our new home and that, like so many of our prayers, was answered.
We always find it, well, really neat, to watch people interact at gatherings like this--christians and non-christians, friends and church members, people who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to break bread together and share a conversation. You just never know how hearing a different perspective from someone might change their own outlook on life.
Anyway, that's all from us until Monday. Have a great weekend everyone. For our American readers, if you haven't done so already, please take a few moments and appreciate the freedoms we enjoy (although they have been diminished over the last few years) and how great this country still is, despite the efforts of our leaders.
July 04, 2008
The UK's advertising regulator has decided not to investigate Heinz's "male kiss" TV ad, despite 215 complaints from viewers that it was offensive and "inappropriate to see two men kissing".
Heinz's TV ad for its new Deli Mayo line, which features two men sharing a brief kiss, has caused an international furore after the food company decided to pull the ad off air after less than a week.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority said today that it will not launch a formal investigation into the complaints about the TV ad.
"The ASA council considered that while some viewers may have personal objections to any portrayal of same sex kissing there was nothing in the content of the advertisement what would constitute a breach of the advertising code," said a spokesman for the ASA.
The Heinz TV ad carried an "ex-kids" restriction, meaning it cannot be shown in or around children's programming, because Heinz Deli Mayo falls foul of Ofcom's TV ad restrictions relating to junk food products.
However, the ASA received a number of complaints saying the ad was inappropriate for children to see or that it prompted awkward conversations about same sex relationships between parents and their kids.
"Even if the ad had not been subject to HFSS restrictions, the ASA would still not have investigated it," said the ASA spokesman.
Heinz UK received around "30 to 40" complaints about the ad and moved to take it off air on Friday June 20, less than a week after it launched on British TV.
Gay advocacy groups, including Stonewall and Gaydar Radio, launched campaigns to have the ad put back on air, urging people to boycott Heinz goods.
In the US, the American Family Association, a powerful Christian group, sent an email alert to its 3.5 million members encouraging them to swamp Heinz's US headquarters with complaints.
Heinz US put out a statement the day after the AFA mobilised its members apologising for its "misplaced attempt at humour", accepting "that this ad was not in accordance with our longstanding corporate policy of respecting everyone's rights and values" – even though the Heinz Deli Mayo commercial was never broadcast on TV in America.
A spokesman for Heinz said that the company had no comment to make on the ASA's decision not to investigate the TV ad.
He added that despite the ad being cleared of breaching the advertising code the company had no plans to put the Heinz Deli Mayo TV commercial back on air.
The mission of the American Foundation for Children with AIDS is to improve the lives of children and youth struggling with the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We provide cost-effective relief, services, medical and social support, education and advocacy to help these victims achieve their full life potential.
The American Foundation for Children with AIDS currently partners with four hospitals in East Africa, providing much needed anti-retroviral and chemotherapy medications, as well as medicine to treat opportunistic diseases for children aged birth-19 who are HIV+ or who have AIDS. We also provide medication for the parents or guardians of these children, as we do not want to create more orphans by ignoring their need for medication and medical care.
AFCA is focusing its support on Sub-Saharan Africa because it has been identified as one of the areas of greatest need. Nearly two-thirds of the world's HIV-positive people live in sub-Saharan Africa, although this region contains little more than 10% of the world's population. With few organizations focusing their efforts to help children affected by HIV/AIDS, AFCA has taken a stand to help in sub-Saharan Africa and remains committed to helping children live fuller and healthier lives.
You'll love this one. It's just another example of how silly the results of right-wing propaganda can be.
Is the American Family Association anti-gay... and anti-'Gay'?
OneNewsNow, the "Christian news service" covertly owned by the AFA, receives syndicated content from providers like the Associated Press and edits instances of the word "gay" to read "homosexual." Although the site is registered to the conservative, anti-gay organization, the fact is not disclosed anywhere on the site.
An article posted Sunday night about Olympic track and field star Tyson Gay was no exception.
"Tyson Homosexual easily won his semifinal for the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials," the article read, "and seemed to save something for the final later Sunday." The headline read "Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic events."
"On Saturday," it went on, "Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat and had to scramble to finish fourth, then in his quarterfinal a couple of hours later, ran 9.77 to break the American record that had stood since 1999."
"Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: 'A little fatigued.'"
This morning, OneNewsNow changed its stance on 'Gays' (but not 'gays') and changed the article back to the way the AP had first written it. As late as 9:45am ET today, the online version below referenced the runner as "Tyson Homosexual"; by 10:06am ET the headline and story text had been edited to reunite Gay with his original name.
AP spokesman Jack Spokes said he could not comment without first reviewing the information first brought to him by PageOneQ. Cindy Roberts of the American Family Association said she would "take a look" at the news post. A follow-up message seeking comment on why the ownership of OneNewsNow is not disclosed on the site has not been returned.
To view the original posting, corrected version or the domain registration, click here.
July 03, 2008
For the past eight years, James Dobson's brand of Christianity has been normative in the land. Dobson has preached a Christ acceptable to the present Bush administration. When George W. Bush and company get down on their knees, they pray to the same Christ to whom Dobson turns for guidance in making moral decisions.
Not surprisingly, Dobson has never--to the best of my knowledge--criticized Bush's policies, legislation or actions as being unchristian. And why should he? For both share a brotherhood in worshiping the same Christ.
This is a Christ who has remained silent in the face of human-right violations, atrocities and institutional violence. The Christ whom Dobson and Bush believe in is a Christ that has nothing to say about water boarding; torture of prisoners in United States; care or transporting them to nations for more extensive torture; bearing false witness to start a war; Christians dying in the desert, because they happen to be undocumented immigrants; or the poor, who since 2000 has gotten poorer.
The Christ they bear witness to resembles and justifies their power, privileges, biases and status. It is a Christ that may be affirming to a certain elite in America, but one that brings literal death to those residing on the margins of Bush and Dobson's privileged spaces.
To be a Christian who follows the teaching of the Gospel is to wage war against the Christ offered to us by Dobson and Bush. For their Christ has legitimized and normalized the social, economic and physical genocide of the world's disenfranchised. To be a Christian is to wage this war against all the forces of Satan, who have traded the liberating message of the gospel for 40 pieces of silver, and all the power, recognition and privilege that silver can buy.
Those of you who have written off Christianity, and as a result God Himself, because of how it is practiced by phairasees like James Dobson need to read the rest of this essay for more about what true Christianity resembles.
“Fearless” is the name of the photography series I started almost 5 years ago about “out” high school and collegiate athletes who openly self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Since 2003, I’ve photographed almost 60 athletes across the United States. In 2006, I began exhibiting the project at various high schools and colleges as part of what I named, “Fearless Campus Tour.” So far, the project has been seen at over twenty five campuses around the country.
The project is still ongoing (my goal is over 100 athletes before it will be published into a photobook next year) so please contact me at jeffsheng@jeffsheng(dot)com, if you are an athlete on a high school or college sports team that wishes to be photographed for “Fearless,” or would like more information about the project.
-- Jeff Sheng
Taking an HIV test in the pulpit Sunday morning was itself simple.
At Spruce Street Baptist Church, one of Nashville's oldest and most established predominantly African-American congregations, a public health worker opened the test kit and handed the swab it contained to the Rev. Raymond Bowman.
Bowman opened his mouth and, well, swabbed.
In the two minutes that it took, there was awkward silence. There were murmurs. Musicians broke into a low-volume instrumental, usually reserved for moments of prayer.
That scene, or something like it, was repeated Sunday in 26 other predominantly African-American churches around Nashville.
The tests and the messages from pastors that followed about the value and ease of HIV testing, the opportunity for a free test and the need for every adult to know their status were part of a Metro Health Department effort to harness the power and influence of black churches to slow the spread of HIV.
"Sexuality has always been discussed in the black church," said Bowman, after the service. "It's just that with what is going on in the world today, it has got to move from the back burner to the front. We are going to continue to talk about abstinence. But if we want our daughters and our sons to be healthy enough to marry the people that they love, we are going to have to talk about testing, too."
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate at least 250,000 people in the United States are infected with HIV and are not aware of it. And in the 27 years since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began, African-Americans have come to contract HIV and die of AIDS at disproportionate rates.
While only 13 percent of the U.S. population is black, black men and women account for more than 49 percent of AIDS cases. AIDS is the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34 and the second-leading cause of death for black men ages 35 to 44.
In Nashville, where about 27 percent of the population is black, 55 percent of AIDS cases involve black patients.
I hope more African-American churches follow this lead. Failing to address this issue doesn't make it go away--it only allows it to fester and grow worse.
Click here to read the rest of the article.
July 02, 2008
I had the pleasure of meeting TEN President Todd Ferrell in January at the Gay Christian Network conference and found him to be of like minds in his desire to minister to those in the GLBT community who had been shunned and hurt by mainstream churches, to show them that God loves them where they are and will accept, affirm, and heal them.
TEN recently held their annual conference in Phoenix and they have posted highlights from the informative speakers and workshops offered there. The speakers included Justin Lee, Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network, GLBT ally Rev. Evelyn Schave, Anthony Venn-Brown, Co-Founder of Freedom 2[B]e, a global network of GLBT people from Pentecostal and Charismatic backgrounds based in Australia, and others.
Here is the link. I highly recommend taking time to check it out.
The Problem: Imagine being so poor that you must struggle just to get enough good-quality food through the year to live a healthy, productive life. This devastating human experience is known as chronic hunger, and about one billion people live this way, including children, who are extremely vulnerable to illness made worse by malnutrition and who often die very young.
So what causes chronic hunger? You may be surprised to learn that it has little to do with food shortages. Global supplies of food far outstrip demand. Chronic hunger affects more than 800 million people in the world and it is, in and of itself, a potentially deadly condition.
Far more people die from causes related to chronic hunger than to famine. Chronically hungry people are exceptionally vulnerable when famine strikes. They have fewer resources to protect themselves and their families and are already living on the margin of survival.
Our Solution: Unlike famine or periodic hunger due to war or natural disasters, chronic hunger is a persistent and insidious condition that can affect generations of people in a geographic region. Those living with chronic hunger face a host of problems that go beyond lack of food or money.
To alleviate this condition, efforts must address root causes, be sustainable (that is, programs must pay for themselves), and they must be implemented by local people for the long term. Freedom from Hunger's Credit with Education program is just such a strategy. Freedom from Hunger and its local partners give small groups of women access to a loan and offers them a safe place to save a little money.
The loans are called “microcredit” because they can be as little as $5 or as much as $300. The loans transform women into entrepreneurs who run home-based businesses, such as making food products or crafts to sell. No longer forced to scrape together whatever money they can earn, these women generate a regular income, along with a new sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.
But increasing incomes is only the beginning of this self-help process. Freedom from Hunger’s Credit with Education program also provides vital education to women at their weekly meetings. As women gather to pay back their loans, they learn about health, nutrition, family planning and sound business practices. Using the additional income they earn from their businesses, the women act on this knowledge and begin to break the cycle of chronic hunger and poverty.
Women in developing countries are hardworking and eager to make life better for themselves and their families. Freedom from Hunger ensures they have the resources to do just that.
To learn more about Freedom from Hunger's programs, please go here.
Last year Barbara Walters spoke with the families of three transgender children who agreed to share their story. Now, one year later, "20/20" has reached out to the families again to learn what's happened since the original episode aired. All three families said that the story helped change their world for the better. Advocacy groups also report a significant surge in young transgenders coming out. Read below to find out more about a transgender youth called Jazz.
From the moment we're born, our gender identity is no secret. We're either a boy or a girl. Gender organizes our world into pink or blue. As we grow up, most of us naturally fit into our gender roles. Girls wear dresses and play with dolls. For boys, it's pants and trucks.
But for some children, what's between their legs doesn't match what's between their ears — they insist they were born into the wrong body. They are transgender children, diagnosed with gender identity disorder, and their parents insist this is not a phase.
"A phase is called a phase because it is just that. It ends. And this is not ending. This is just getting stronger," Renee Jennings told ABC News' Barbara Walters. The Jennings asked that "20/20" not disclose their real name in order to protect the identity of their transgender daughter, Jazz, who was six years old at the time of the show taping.
Most transgender children still live in the shadows, hiding from a world that sees them as freaks of nature. Rejected by their families, many grow up hating their bodies, and fall victim to high rates of depression, drug abuse, violence and suicide.
Today, hundreds of families with transgender children — who have found each other over the Internet — are taking a dramatically different course. They're allowing their children to live in the gender they identify with in order to save them from a future of heartache and pain.
Click here to read the rest of this important story.
July 01, 2008
HIV/AIDS infection rates are growing among intravenous drug users, prostitutes and gay men around the globe but they are often viewed as outcasts and refused treatment, according to a report issued on Thursday.
The report, from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, also called on governments and humanitarian agencies to pay more attention to AIDS in their response to natural disasters and armed conflicts.
"HIV is a long-term and complex disaster on many levels ... For marginalized groups across the world -- injecting drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men -- rates are on the increase," said the Geneva-based humanitarian agency.
Those groups, living on the fringes of society in many countries and especially in the developing world, "often face stigma, criminalization and little, if any, access to prevention and treatment services," it added.
The 248-page study, an annual World Disasters Report, gave no new figures for AIDS sufferers but cited United Nations statistics that 2.1 million died from the disease last year.
Folks, this is a serious and avoidable problem. It is almost unforgivable that people on the margins are shunned and denied services that could help them.
Anyone who has even casually read the New Testament Gospels knows that most of Jesus' personal ministry on Earth was focused on just these type of people; lepers, prostitutes, the poor and destitute.
Those who deny health services to these people are acting in clear violation of the example of Jesus and the will of God--in other words, the ultimate definition of sin.
Isn't it interesting that those discriminating against those perceived as "sinners" are, in fact, sinning by doing so. Just one of the many paradoxes of true Christian faith.
Click here to read the rest of the New York Times article.
I signed up and encourage you to consider doing the same.
James Dobson doesn't speak for me.
He doesn't speak for me when he uses religion as a wedge to divide;
He doesn't speak for me when he speaks as the final arbiter on the meaning of the Bible;
James Dobson doesn't speak for me when he uses the beliefs of others as a line of attack;
He doesn't speak for me when he denigrates his neighbor's views when they don't line up with his;
He doesn't speak for me when he seeks to confine the values of my faith to two or three issues alone;
What does speak for me is David's psalm celebrating how good and pleasant it is when we come together in unity;
Micah speaks for me in reminding us that the Lord requires us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him;
The prophet Isaiah speaks for me in his call for all to come and reason together and also to seek justice, encourage the oppressed and to defend the cause of the vulnerable;
The book of Nehemiah speaks for me in its example to work with our neighbors, not against them, to restore what was broken in our communities;
The book of Matthew speaks for me in saying to bless those that curse you and pray for those who persecute you;
The words of the apostle Paul speak for me in saying that words spoken and deeds done without love amount to nothing.
The apostle John speaks for me in reminding us of Jesus' command to love one another. The world will know His disciples by that love.
These words speak for me. But when James Dobson attacks Barack Obama, James Dobson doesn't speak for me.
Thank you for over 10,000 signatures!
For people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses, the battle is far from over. We just make sure no one has to face it on an empty stomach.
Along with nutrition counseling, Food & Friends prepares, packages and delivers meals and groceries to more than 1,400 people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses throughout Washington, DC, 7 counties of Maryland and 7 counties and 6 independent cities in Virginia. Since 1988, Food & Friends has provided food and companionship to our clients, their loved ones and caregivers.
As a Pastor-In-Training at our church, Believers Covenant Fellowship, I head up our "Helping Hands" ministry which includes collecting food to donate to Food and Friends and also helping deliver meals one Saturday a month. I believe in what they are doing, find them to be a very efficient yet genuinely caring organization, both for their clients and volunteers--I've never been more appreciated in working for anyone than for the little I directly do for Food and Friends.
I'm sharing this with you because they need some help. More from the organization's website:
Food & Friends initially received a reduction in DC Ryan White funds, a budget shortfall of $484,000. Through vigorous efforts, Food & Friends has already been able to off-set a portion of the $484,000 loss. We succeeded in obtaining a $181,000 restoration of Ryan White funding from the District of Columbia Department of Health. The Council of the District of Columbia will augment our funding by $200,000, effective October 1, 2008 (the Food & Friends fiscal year, that of the District government and the Ryan White funding cycle do not coincide). Councilmember David Catania, Chairman, Committee on Health, is supportive of our work and understands the shortfall handed to us on short notice.
Through the careful management of our personnel-related expenditures, we anticipate saving approximately $85,000 by December 31. We also plan to reduce various administrative, and other non-salary, expenditures by $27,000. To this we will add reduced expenditures for client services totaling $223,000. It is this last category of expenditures that are the most troubling, though necessary.
Although the loss of funds from public sources is exclusively from the District of Columbia Ryan White funds, impacting HIV/AIDS, we think it only fair to spread the reduced service more broadly. Most charitable funds contributed to Food & Friends are for the benefit of all clients. The limitation of reduced spending, if applied only to persons living with HIV/AIDS in the District, would truly devastate the level of care we provide. This burden must be shared by HIV/AIDS clients and those living with other life-challenging illnesses so that we may sustain our core commitment to the battle against HIV/AIDS while we continue to provide for persons with other illnesses on an equal basis.
How can you help, even if you don't live in the Washington, DC area? Here is their suggestion:
With rising fuel prices, this funding shortfall hits Food & Friends particularly hard. Our delivery vehicles drive more than 1,300 miles each day (that's more than 32,000 miles each month!), and you can help ease the burden by volunteering to deliver meals.
You can also help to offset our budget shortfall by making a tax-deductible gift to Food & Friends -- every dollar helps! To make a recurring gift, contact Alicia Toles to join Food & Friends' Bread & Butter club.
I have been truly blessed by reaching out to people who need it, both by collecting food and delivering it. I'm going to try and mobilize support within my church, but I'm also asking you to consider helping out in any way you can.
Rising expenses are hurting more people than not these days, and I realize you are probably receiving more appeals like this than you really care to. If you have received any blessing or encouragement from the work of this blog, however, supporting Food and Friends would be a good way to show your appreciation.
Thanks in advance for your thoughtful and prayerful consideration.
June 30, 2008
Many outside the city limits consider Barry, who did jail time after an arrest on drug charges in 1990 and has subsequently been charged with tax violations, drug posession, and DUI, an embarrasment to the city, but he still has strong support inside the lines, particularly in Ward 8 which he currently represents in the city council.
Barry has been considered a friend of the GLBT community, however, and I suppose influential friends are always good people to have on your side.
Raging Fire Ministries is a non-denominational church that welcomes ALL people. We do not discriminate against race, religious background, sex, disabilities, national origin, or sexual orientation. We believe the gospel and love of Jesus Christ is for ALL people. It is our mission to love not judge. We worship every Sunday at 1:00 at Raging Fire Ministries, 606 Mercer St., Princeton, WV. You can send us a message if you would like to know more or visit our website at: www.ragingfireministries.homestead.com
I know most of us love an opportunity to get together with friends and have a good time. Many of you head out to the clubs on the weekends....looking for a place to relax, be yourselves, and enjoy friendships with those who understand who you are. Just wanted to let you know that you can find all that and more at our weekend celebration.....July 11, 12, and 13.
We are celebrating our 1 year anniversary! God has been good to us and our church and I am excited to see what's coming up in our 2nd year! We have lots of details about the weekend of events on our official website at www. ragingfireministries. homestead. com We have much planned including 3 worship services, a workshop, and a picnic on Sunday. Go to our site and check it all out! It's gonna be great! You ought to come......it would be good for you in more ways than you know! Hope to see you all soon.
Love and Prayers, Pastor Sherry
The issue of same-sex marriage is a prime example of this practice. This article from The Guardian (London, England) adresses the ever-changing view of marriage, both in society and in churches and offers the opinion that acceptance of same-sex marriage is the next logical step in that evolution. (hat-tip to Freedom to Marry)
Our evolving understanding of what marriage is leads, of necessity, to a re-examination of who it is for. Most Christian denominations no longer teach that all sex acts must be open to the possibility of procreation (hence, contraception is permitted). Nor do they hold that infertility precludes marriage. The church has deepened its understanding of the way in which faithful couples experience and embody the love of the creator for creation. In so doing, it has put itself in a position to consider whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
Opponents of gay marriage may raise other objections - that it is unsuitable, for instance, to raise children with two mothers or two fathers. I believe these arguments are easily refuted, but they are arguments about effective social policy, not sound theology. Christians who want to deny others the blessings they claim for themselves should not assume they speak for the Almighty.
Click here for the rest of the article, as the writer walks through some of the changing views of marriage over time.
June 29, 2008
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s highest governing body voted Friday in favor of a proposal that would allow for the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians.
The 218th General Assembly, meeting in San Jose, Calif., this week, voted 380-325 to send the overture – that would delete the requirement that clergy live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness" – to the denomination's 173 presbyteries for approval.
Adding to the blow to conservatives, the Assembly also adopted a supplementary authoritative interpretation of the PC(USA) constitution that would allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object the current "fidelity and chastity" standard and the local ordaining body to discern whether the declared objection is disqualifying.
The vote comes a day after the Assembly approved a proposal to begin revising the Heidelberg Catechism – a document of the Reformed Christian faith – which would include removing the reference to "homosexual perversion" among a list of sinful behaviors.
Click here to read the rest of the story. I suggest you skip the comments below--the Christian Post attracts a lot of conservative readers and I found some reactions to this story quite objectionable.
Q: I've heard people say that all I have to do to get to heaven is to believe in Jesus. Well, I think I believe in Jesus, but down inside I'm not at all sure I'll go to heaven when I die. In fact, I kind of doubt if I will. What am I missing? - V.S.
A: I'm thankful you've taken the time to write and ask this question - because the most important decision you will ever make is where you will spend eternity. The Bible warns, "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3). What you've heard is right: All we have to do to get into heaven is to believe in Jesus. Jesus Himself said, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (John 3:36). But what does it mean to "believe" in Jesus? Does that mean simply to believe that He existed, or even that He came down from heaven to save us?
No, to believe in Jesus means far more than this. It means first of all that we understand who He is: the only Son of God, sent from heaven to save us from our sins. It means we also understand what He did for us: He died on the cross to take away our sins. The Bible says, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10).
But to believe in Jesus also means to trust Him as our Savior, and commit our lives to Him as our Lord. In other words, to believe in Jesus is to turn our lives over to Him - completely and without reserve. And this is what I urge you to do. By a simple prayer of faith commit your life to Jesus Christ today.