August 01, 2009

Saturday Mini-Concert 8/1/09-Shawn Thomas

We are excited to present this mix of live performances and music videos by openly gay Christian musician Shawn Thomas:

July 31, 2009

Encouraging Words 7/31/09-"It Is Never Too Late For a Miracle

Enjoy this sermon from Pastor R. E. Hayes of the Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship in Winston-Salem, NC.

Mark 5: 25-42
Sometimes it seems that God is not moving fast enough for us. We believed at the beginning, but Gods delay has caused us to begin to lose faith. But if you will believe you WILL recieve.

It Is Never Too Late For a Miracle

Encouraging Music 7/31/09-Refiner's Fire

So How DOES It Feel to Be Gay?

If you are a straight person who has never tried, or made the attempt and failed, to understand what it is like to be gay, you need to watch this video (thanks to Gay Agenda for the link):

July 30, 2009

Encouraging Words 7/30/09-"Unity in the Body of Christ"

Brenda teaches that we are all one in the Lord. Jesus is the unifying bond. We are to protect this unity in the bonds of love and peace. Based on Ephesians 4:2-6.

Encouraging Music 7/30/09-King of Angels

A Transgender Person Becomes a TV Star.....In India

There are a lot of places I would have guessed the first transgender TV star (that I've ever heard of, anyway) would appear before I reached India, but an article from the Toronto Globe and Mail chronicles the bumpy road that pioneer is taking. Here's an excerpt:

The neighbourhood is choked with rickshaws, bullock carts, spice stands, saree shops and bangle stalls. It's India from central casting.

The TV star, not so much. With a long stride and a curvy sashay that sends her chiffon dupatta fluttering around her, Rose Venkatesan emerges from the dust and the crowd, more than ready for her close-up – but with a somewhat anxious air that suggests she is a bit worried about just what that close-up may bring.

Rose is, as she mentions at least once in every conversation, India's first transgender television star. Once an engineer named Ramesh, she began to transition to female six years ago, to the horror of her conservative family.

Today she is a star, both in India and in the Tamil diaspora, including the large community in Canada. Her first TV talk show had an audience in the tens of millions. She has helped advance the political agenda of transgendered people, typically reviled but recently afforded a rare degree of accommodation by the government in Tamil Nadu. Her second show – which she is producing and directing and writing herself, as well as hosting – has just hit the air and early signs are that it's a hit too.

Yet Rose, 30, also lives in a strange world of half-acceptance – sharing a home with a family that still calls her Ramesh and forbids her to wear a saree in front of them; hitting the town with her queer friends to flirt and party but insisting on a dark and empty restaurant when she meets a journalist to tell her story. “Weakness is death, strength is life,” she signs every e-mail – but strength, it would seem, can be exhausting.

Click here to read the rest of this fascinating feature.

July 29, 2009

Encouraging Words 7/29/09-"A Love That Has Never Faded"

This is simply an amazing story from the Sarasota, FL Herald-Tribune:

Yes, couples in their 90s still argue occasionally.

This is how it went recently for Caroline Leto and Venera Magazzu as they sipped lemonade on their couch in Dania Beach: "We're not going to have a party," said Magazzu, 97, insisting they are too old for such things.

"Oh, yes we are," responded Leto, 96, who noted the two can still polka. "This is a big one."

Indeed. A party celebrating 70 years together is a big deal for any pair. But a celebration of this couple's love takes on special meaning, considering they had to keep silent about it for decades.

"You just couldn't tell everyone we were lovers," said Leto. "You tell people we're friends, and some thought we were sisters."

Leto and Magazzu downplay their pioneering role in the gay and lesbian community. But many of their friends and relatives talk it up anyway, marveling at how their love was able to transcend a lifetime's worth of obstacles.

To mark their Aug. 17 milestone, members of Etz Chaim, a gay and lesbian congregation in Wilton Manors, are planning a party. They hope Leto and Magazzu will attend and show everyone how to do the polka.

"Honestly, I think they are more in love with each other than they were back then," said longtime close friend and congregation member Gayle Scott. "Look at straight couples. You are lucky if you are married after seven years. ... That is an amazing love story."

Boy, I'll say it is amazing! It would be for a straight couple, but having to live in the closet for so long and still having their love grow and last is about as encouraging story as I can find on this Earth.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Herald-Tribune.

Encouraging Music 7/29/09-Famous One

Prioritizing Religious Resources

I came across post on Gay Agenda which commented on an article from the Independent newspaper in Windham, ME, where there is a big push to repeal the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine. Here is an excerpt:

My niece, who attends parochial school in Lewiston, isn’t sure exactly what school she’ll be going to next year because for what seems like the third or fourth year in a row, the diocese has to shuffle things because of changes in enrollment (read: dropping). My mother is beside herself because the church she has been going to since she was a child will likely be closing soon because of the money it costs to operate it (read: too much). While there’s no money to keep a child’s education consistent or keep a person’s lifelong house of worship open, there’s plenty of money to defeat the real evil in the world: gay people getting married. The diocese has given at least $100,000 to the cause of repealing the law permitting gay marriage, according to published reports.

OK, you don’t like gays, we get it. Don’t let them marry in your church. But to take money that could be spent on your followers’ needs and diverting it to a political witch-hunt is unconscionable. When are you going to go after divorce and adultery?

Excellent question.


July 28, 2009

Encouraging Words 7/28/09-"Have you given up on God?"

Has your heart been wounded past the point of no return? Have you run away from organized religion and those who represent it? Maybe even God, too? Brenda has a message for you in her latest podcast.

Encouraging Music 7/28/09-In the Secret

People of Faith DO Support Equality

Pam Spaulding over at the outstanding blog "Pam's House Blend" took great pleasure in acknowleding the support of many faith leaders in the state of Washington who took a stand against the proposed repeal of the state's recently enacted domestic partnership law:

I've opined many a time that the religious allies of the transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay community are too silent, too reticent. Well, our faith community allies in Washington state are making me eat my words, and I can tell you that the taste is so very sweet.

Here's the statement that Pam is responding to:

The undersigned religious leaders, from across Washington State, have come together to speak with one voice for all Washington families.

Religious leaders before us have spoken to end slavery, and to ensure equal rights to all persons regardless of gender, nationality, religion, and race. Today, we feel compelled to speak out in support of Washington's domestic partnership law which provides essential protections to families throughout the state.

As people of faith, we oppose any effort to take away the rights and protections provided to families through our state's domestic partnership law.

As providers of pastoral care to families, we know that gay and lesbian couples form loving, lasting, committed relationships, raise children and grow old together. These couples and their children have the same needs and deserve the same rights as their heterosexual peers. We also know that the domestic partnership law provides important protections to non-gay couples where one partner is at least 62 years of age.

As faith leaders, we care about all Washington families. We have seen first-hand the burdens on a family facing death or illness without important legal and financial protections, from access to healthcare, to the right to visit a partner in the hospital, to the right to make medical decisions for one's own children. We have felt the worry that exists when a parent who is a firefighter or police officer goes off to work each morning knowing that if something happens to her, there won't be support for her family.

The domestic partnership law is about the relationship between the State and families. Clergy and faith communities will remain free, just as they always have been, and always will be, to determine for themselves their own religious matters.

We join as the signers of this statement, as a principled expression of our deeply held religious convictions. We stand in support of all of Washington's families.

I'm very happy to point out that one of the signers of this was Rev. Debbie George, pastor of Living Water Fellowship in Kenmore, WA and a good friend of ours. The lengthy list was a mix of straight and GLBT ministers, which is really the point here--people of faith regardless of their orientation standing up for the equality of ALL God's children.

July 27, 2009

Encouraging Words 7/27/09-"He Will Guide You"

Enjoy this sermon given by Dr. Rod Gaeta of Christ Chapel of Long Beach.

"He Will Guide You"

Encouraging Music 7/27/09-Break Free

"Gay Churches" Filling Up With Straight People

That's the interesting conclusion of a recent USA Today article:

Denver Schimming, 51, and his wife Sheila Hobson, 48, were in the market for a liberal-minded church in Nashville — "the buckle of the Bible Belt," he says — and knew they found something different at Holy Trinity Community Church, where 90% of its 350 members are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT).

"I laugh and say we're the token straight couple, but I kid you not, they treat us like royalty," said Hobson. "They are so loving and giving."

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others once called 11:00 on Sunday morning the most segregated hour in Christian America; indeed, sexual orientation can be just as divisive. Just as churches were split into white and black, they have also split between gay and straight.

Alternative faith communities that cater to GLBT believers, such as Holy Trinity and Bet Mishpachah, were an outgrowth of the gay rights movement that took root 40 years ago. "Inclusion" is the buzzword for many of these congregations.

Rabbi Toby Manewith, a straight woman who was recently installed as Bet Mishpachah's new rabbi, said the radical welcome grows out of "members' experience of being on the outside."

"Everyone who comes here, no matter their sexual or gender identity, religious affiliation or knowledge, everyone is welcomed with open arms," said Manewith, 43. "You'd hope that would happen in all religious communities, but the truth is it's not an easy thing to put into practice."

Some straight believers attend out of a sense of solidarity or social justice. Others wandered in by accident, or were invited by a gay friend or family member, and simply felt at home and decided to stay.
Even with the support, being the straight sheep in a gay flock is not without its predictable oddities. Ivan Zimmerman, 51, remembers congregants assuming he was gay during his early days at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, a renowned predominantly gay 700-member synagogue in New York City.

"I would joke and say I've come to terms with my heterosexuality," Zimmerman said.

While gay congregations crave growth and vitality, some wonder if an influx of heterosexuals might change the character of faith communities that were formed to minister to minorities.

The Rev. Nancy Wilson, the moderator of the MCC, says her churches aren't going out of business anytime soon, but life might get more complex.

"Who connects to and relates to this ministry is much more complicated than it would have been in the early '70s, when it was mostly gay men, and white gay men at that," she said.

Still, at the end of the day, a community of faith is more than labels.

Many denominations and their churches love placing labels on people, but the churches that are pressing in closest to the Lord don't waste their time with that-they simply reach out their arms and welcome everyone, just like Believers Covenant Fellowship did when a straight guy (Jim) wandered into their church several years ago.

Click here to read the rest of the USA Today article.

July 26, 2009

Sunday Worship 7/26/09

If you don't have a welcoming church near you, or you just can't make yourself step into one, we're bringing worship to you. Here are links to some worship music and services from open and affirming ministries (all times eastern). I hope you are blessed and take time out of your busy schedule to enter into the Lord's day.

Don't forget to click on the tab on the upper right of this blog and leave your prayer requests in the comment section so we can petition the Lord for your needs.

If you know of a service we should add to our list, please send an e-mail and share it with us.

Live Sunday Services (all times Eastern)
MI-Renaissance Unity Church, Warren, 10:00 AM
FL-Potters House International Fellowship, Tampa, 11:00 AM
VA-Believers Covenant Fellowship, Vienna, 11:00 AM
AL-Covenant Community Church, Birmingham, 11:45 AM
NC-Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship, Winston-Salem, 12:00 PM
OK-Diversity Christian Fellowship International, Tulsa, 1:00 PM
CA-Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, Long Beach, 1:00 PM
WA-Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore, 1:30 PM

Canada, Vancouver-Christ Alive Community Church, 10:15 PM
FL-Beacon of Hope Ministries, Dunedin (Living the Good Life radio program) 4:30 PM

Video Archive

AL-Covenant Community Church, Birmingham
CA-Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, Long Beach
FL-Church of the Holy SpiritSong, Ft. Lauderdale
FL-Potters House International Fellowship, Tampa
GA-Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Atlanta
MI-Christ Community Church, Spring Lake
MI-Renaissance Unity Church, Warren
NC-Church of the Holy Spirit Fellowship, Winston-Salem

OK-Expressions Community Fellowship, Oklahoma City
OK-Diversity Christian Fellowship International, Tulsa
TX-The One Church, Garland
WA-Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore

Audio Archive
AZ-Community Church of Hope, Phoenix
AK-Open Door Community Church, Sherwood
CA-Christ Chapel of Long Beach
CA-Christ Chapel of the Valley, North Hollywood
FL-Beacon of Hope Ministries, Dunedin (Living the Good Life radio program)
FL-New Hope Christian Center, Pensecola
GA-New Covenant Church of Atlanta
MD-Kittamaqundi Community, Columbia
NC-Revolution Charlotte
OH-Emmanuel Fellowship Church, Akron
OH-All Saints Community Church, Cortland
TN-Covenant of the Cross-Madison
TX-New Hope Fellowship Church-Dallas
TX-White Rock Community Church-Dallas
TX-Community Gospel Church-Houston
TX-Through Him Fellowship-Houston
South Africa-Deo Gloria Family Church