August 22, 2009

Encouraging Words 8/23/09-Questioning God Could Be the Beginning of Godly Wisdom

So many of us who grew up attending church were taught that the wrath of God would directly fall on us if we dared to question Him. Actually, the opposite is true. God wants us to engage Him is discussion, even debate. It is be asking/seeking that we can learn what God truly meant in the Bible and what his will is for our lives.

Here is a site, Gay Bible Christians, that encourages people to question teachings like the one I mentioned above and endeavors to help direct people to engage God and His Word in a way that helps them find answers. Here is their vision:

Are you Gay and..
.. barred from or having to hide to stay in straight churches & groups? Or,
.. feeling empty or even grossed out in your local Gay churches or groups? Or,
.. wondering if the Christian message really has anything to do with you after all? Or,
.. worried that you aren't and can't be saved by Jesus, unless you stop being Gay? Or,
.. so disgusted with Christianity or Christians that you've left everything "Christian" behind?

If so..
Do you realize you may have come to this point in your life precisely to bring you closer to the real God, and the real message, and the real love, of Jesus Christ?

Do you realize that most of what's been put forth as "Bible Truth" in the last 2,000 years is completely false, according to the Bible -- and that the Bible predicted it would be so?

Do you realize that questioning what's put forth as "God's Truth" in your life can be where godly wisdom truly begins? is a safe place for you and your questions -- whether you are a Gay Christian in love with Jesus, a Gay atheist who hates Christianity, or someone else in between. (It's also a safe place if you are a straight Christian who is concerned about the salvation of a Gay loved one.)

The real God isn't afraid of your questions, and He isn't afraid of your scrutiny. He's also more loving and just than any mainstream or traditional church, denomination, leader, tradition, or Bible translation has ever painted Him to be. God is on your side!

We learned this ourselves, firsthand. We are Gay Christians (from a number of different denominational backgrounds) who've questioned God, and scrutinized His Word -- and we've come to more and more peace and trust in God, as we've come to understand the truth of the Bible (when it's presented as God gave it to all people, that is).

I encourage you to visit Gay Bible Christians and bring your questions. Come hungry to learn.

Encouraging Music 8/22/09-You Raise Me Up by Selah

Lutherans Affirm Partnered Gay Ministers

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America took significant steps toward affirming LGBT equality at their national convention in Minneapolis, MN this week:

From NPR News:

Leaders of the nation's largest Lutheran church voted Friday to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy.

Gays and lesbians are currently allowed to serve as ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America only if they remain celibate. The proposal to change that passed with 68 percent approval.

At 4.7 million members and about 10,000 congregations in the United States, the ELCA is one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations yet to take a more gay-friendly stance on clergy.

The final decision on whether to hire gay clergy in committed relationships will lie with individual congregations.

Some critics of the proposal have predicted the proposal's passage could cause individual congregations to split off from the ELCA, as has been the case with other Christian denominations, including the Episcopal Church.

This came on the heels of another vote earlier in the week. Here's an excerpt from an AP report posted on Google news:

Leaders of the country's largest Lutheran denomination have agreed to disagree on homosexuality, endorsing an official statement on human sexuality that says there's room in the church for differing views on an issue that's divided other religious groups.

Delegates to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's nationwide assembly in Minneapolis on Wednesday approved a "social statement on human sexuality." The vote was a prelude to a bigger debate Friday, when delegates will tackle a proposal that would allow individual ELCA congregations to hire people in committed same-sex relationships as clergy.

The 34-page social statement actually touches on homosexuality only briefly, and is intended as a sweeping definition of the ELCA's approach to matters of human sexuality. It also sketches out the church's approach to gender, friendship, marriage and children, cohabitation outside marriage, the commercialization of sexuality, and the global sex trade.

But it acknowledges what Larson described as an utter lack of consensus toward homosexuality and same-sex relationships across the ELCA's membership. She said the statement's drafters agreed that such differing views could be accomodated because the homosexuality issue is "not central to our faith," Larson said.

Wednesday's debate was interrupted briefly in the afternoon when severe storms and a possible tornado passed through downtown Minneapolis, damaging the steeple of an ELCA church across the street from the convention center. Delegates were allowed to remain in the convention hall, but a few jokes about God's wrath proved inevitable.

"We trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work," said the Rev. Steven Loy, who was helping oversee the convention.

Well known evangelical minister John Piper actually expressed the view that the tornado WAS a commentary on the goings on at the Lutheran convention:

The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

His blog post goes into much, much more detail that I won't take up your time with. It is also open to comments (495 when I wrote this) so feel free to join in.

August 21, 2009

Encouraging Words 8/21/09-"Was Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed for Being Gay?"

One of the clobber passages frequently used by fundamentalist Christians to condemn homosexuality is tied in with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, ostensibly because of rampant gay sex occurring there.

This video, hosted by Justin Lee, the executive director of the Gay Christian Network, gives a thorough explanation why that analysis is false and what actually happened in this early Old Testament story.

Encouraging Music 8/21/09-The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz

Is "Gay Culture" Getting in the Way of Gay Equality?

That's the provocative opinion offered in an essay on the LGBT news site Queerty. Here's an excerpt:

The gay rights movement is in the midst of a perfect storm. Hurricane Prop 8 has thrown our community into disarray. How we get out of this is the question that is on everybody’s mind. I propose that we start listening to and stop talking past each other as has been the case between the Pro-2010 versus the 2012 camps. As turbulent as it is while in the eye of the storm, we should keep in mind that there’s a rainbow after the rain.

Have we bothered to understand other people’s struggles without slight in the form of a dismissive arrogance of their point of view and minimizing their plight? If we can hold empathy, compassion and compromise in our hearts, we can truly engage and support each other in this Herculean task of winning marriage equality back in California.

At the very least, we must admit that the world does not revolve around the LGBT community, and, specifically, the burden of loss and the pain of having our civil rights stripped away is not the White LGBT community’s to bear alone. One would be hard press if we look at the Pro-2010 contingent with their go it alone at any costs mentality. The sacrificing of the most vulnerable of our community, people infected and affected with HIV and the POC LGBT community is a blind spot for most Caucasian LGBTs and is a demonstration of selfishness and self-centeredness to the extreme.

That, I think, is the root of our problems and a besetting weakness!

We all want and demand change, but CHANGE in and of itself is not some ethereal concept floating out there in space. Before we go demanding that people change their convictions, we have to change ourselves. That means that the gay culture has to change. Can we give up our tendency to be insulated and become a part of the larger society?

Strong words. What do you think?

Click here to read the rest of the essay.

August 20, 2009

Encouraging Words 8/20/09: Standing Up Against Homophobia

Well, if pictures are worth a thousand words here's a link that has more encouraging words than we've ever posted here.

This Is Oz is a website established to "Speak up for an inclusive Australia." They do so with photos of people that challenge "homophobia and/or celebrates diversity." Although the site is devoted to participants from Down Under, the message is clearly universal.

I encourage you to visit this site and soak in the wide variety of people, straight and gay, standing up and speaking out against homphobia. I particularly enjoyed the number of athletes who participate here, given that sports is still often a homophobic stronghold. One of them asks the question "All rugby players are boofheads?" I'd love to know what a boofhead is, but let's keep it family friendly please.

Click here to enjoy "This Is Oz"

Encouraging Music 8/20/09-Walk by Faith by Jeremy Camp

Wanda Sykes' "That's So Gay" PSA

This is excellent!

August 19, 2009

Welcome to Mid-Week Worship 8/19/09

This week, Brenda teaches about how Jesus promised that one day he would come back to take believers to be with him forever. Based on John 14:1-4.

Encouraging Music 8/19/09-Breathe by Michael W. Smith

Please Pray for Gay Iraqi Men Who Are Being Tortured and Killed

Gay men in Iraq could be an endangered species. Please hold them up in your prayers. Here is an excerpt from an NPR report:

Militiamen are torturing and killing gay Iraqi men with impunity in a systematic campaign that has spread from Baghdad to several other cities, a prominent human rights group said in a report.

Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government to act urgently to stop the abuses, warning that so-called social cleansing poses a new threat to security even as other violence recedes.

The bodies of several gay men were found in Baghdad's main Shiite district of Sadr City earlier this year with the Arabic words for "pervert" and "puppy" — considered derogatory terms for homosexuals in Iraq — written on their chests.

The New York-based advocacy group said the threats and abuses have since spread to the cities of Kirkuk, Najaf and Basra, although the practice remains concentrated in the capital.

"Murders are committed with impunity, admonitory in intent, with corpses dumped in garbage or hung as warnings on the street," the 67-page report said.

Reliable numbers weren't available, Human Rights Watch said, blaming a combination of the failure of authorities to investigate such crimes and the stigma preventing families from reporting the deaths. But it cited a well-informed U.N. official as saying in April that the death toll was probably "in the hundreds."

The campaign has been largely blamed on Shiite extremists who have long targeted behavior deemed un-Islamic, beating and even killing women for not wearing veils and bombing liquor stores.

Shiite militiamen have for the most part stopped their violence against rival Sunnis after radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's forces were routed by U.S. and Iraqi forces last year and declared a cease-fire. But the report indicated they were conducting a less publicized campaign of social cleansing.

"The same thing that used to happen to Sunnis and Shiites is now happening to gays," said a doctor who had fled Baghdad and was interviewed for the report. The doctor, who described himself as gay, said several of his friends had been killed.

An Iraqi Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue with the media, acknowledged there has been a sharp escalation in attacks against gay men this year by suspected Shiite extremists. But he told The Associated Press that the ministry does not have numbers "because in most cases the family members themselves are either involved in the killing or prefer to keep silent, fearing shame."

Wow, that last sentence struck me as the most chilling in the entire report. This is a society that thousands of our young men and women have died trying to free from dictatorship and then stabilize their government? Situations like this make that fact hard for me to swallow.

Click here to read the rest of the NPR report.

Here is a link from NPR to the detailed Human Rights Watch report.

August 18, 2009

Encouraging Words 8/18/09: "He Now Knows God.....Has Not Condemned Him to Hell

Here is a letter written to the editor of the Grand Rapids, MI Herald Review by the mother of a gay son. The link was provided by the gay son, Jeff Olson, at his blog assembloge.


For years, I couldn’t understand how homosexuality could possibly fit into God’s plan for this world. I trusted religious leaders to be experts on God’s Word and believed what they preached.

One day, I realized I had very little information about homosexuality, so I started reading and discovered gay people are not so different than the rest of us. For centuries, gay people have had to pretend to be straight in order to survive in this world. I also read about many young people who committed suicide and got involved in drug and alcohol abuse, because they felt afraid of being persecuted by society; many were disowned by their own families. God made each of us to be unique with different gifts; to deny who we are is to deny the purpose for which God created us.

During this time, my son had been struggling with pressures of life and often thought about suicide. He had many of the gay characteristics I was reading about. When I asked, he admitted to me that he is gay. He said he prayed constantly that God would change him so he wouldn’t “go to hell.” My son, who attended church regularly and prayed daily was saying the God he loved was going to send him to hell for being who he is.

Since “coming out”, my son has had his share of struggles, mostly due to the ignorance and judgmental attitudes of others. He was recently fired from his job as a police officer when they discovered his “alternative lifestyle”. But he no longer has to pretend to be something he’s not and I no longer worry about him harming himself; he knows I will always love him just the way he is. Even more importantly, he now knows God loves him and has not condemned him to hell.

There are so many misconceptions about homosexuality; make an effort to learn about it, and you will find that most people gay or straight seek very similar things in life……acceptance, love, happiness, and comfort in who we are. Two excellent films to watch are “Prayers for Bobby,” a true story, and “For The Bible Tells Me So”. The world will not end because of homosexuals; God is challenging us to see that love comes in many forms.

I challenge all parents to talk openly with your children (adolescent and young adult); let them know that NOTHING can change your love for them, even being gay. Please don’t repeat my mistake and assume a child of your’s could never be gay. Accept them as the wonderful and unique individuals they are. I could have been one of those parents that can only visit their child in the cemetery. I now believe that we are here to share God’s love as Jesus commanded us and leave the judging to God. May He open our eyes to our own sins and make us blind to the sins of others.

Amy Olson

Rural Hall, N.C.

Encouraging Music 8/18/08-Testify to Love by Avalon

How to Overturn Prop 8? Confusion Reigns

Confused about how the fight to overturn California's Proposition 8 is being handled? If not, you should be. Confusion and disagreement rule the day.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Equality California wants to wait until the 2012 election for a referdum initiative:

Leaders at Equality California announced Wednesday that next year's ballot may be too soon to gather the huge political organization needed to "change hearts and minds" of state voters on the issue of same-sex marriage.

"It takes time, commitment and lots and lots of volunteers to undo the untruths that our opponents have been telling," said Mark Solomon of Equality California. "If we do the work at the level we need, we can have the support we need by 2012."

But the decision was met with scathing criticism from other progressive organizations and gay rights groups.

Yes Equality will defy Equality California's decision and move forward with other groups to get the matter on the ballot sooner, said Chaz Lowe, who heads the group. "Any way we slice it, we find the (gay) community wants to move forward in 2010," he said in a telephone interview.

The 700,000-member Courage Campaign, meanwhile, said it is "pushing ahead to file a ballot measure" in 2010, when state voters will decide their next governor, and its officials said today they have raised $135,998 to invest in research, polling and focus groups in an effort toward repealing the ban next year.

In an editorial, the Chronicle supported the Equality California approach:

It's regrettable that the restoration of marriage rights to gays and lesbians has to be subject to strategic political calculation. But it's also hard to argue with the conclusion reached by Equality California, the state's largest gay-rights group, that the repeal of Proposition 8 would have a better chance in 2012 than in 2010.

Other gay-rights groups plan to push forward with a ballot measure in 2010.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said he agrees with the decision to wait. "There is much work to be done in winning the hearts and minds of California voters," he said, citing polls that showed public opinion has not shifted notably since November.

However, polls show an unmistakable correlation between voters' ages and their support for marriage equality, and each election cycle brings another wave of young voters. The issue also is advanced as Californians who may be instinctively uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage consider the effect of this discrimination among neighbors and colleagues who are denied the rights, responsibilities - and societal reverence - of marriage.

The delay is wise in giving advocates of marriage equality the time - and resources - to educate and motivate voters to remove this vestige of discrimination from the state constitution.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News reports that the lawsuit against Proposition 8 continues, and there is still disagreement over who should be allowed to participate:

As a federal judge this week tries to herd the legal challenge over Proposition 8 toward a trial, one of his tasks will be to sort through the simmering tensions over legal strategy within the pro-gay marriage movement.

The conflict, which until this summer percolated behind the scenes, went very public in recent weeks when the powerhouse group backing the latest lawsuit against Proposition 8 moved to block the direct involvement of gay rights groups that previously led the charge against gay marriage bans in California and other states.

In court papers filed Aug. 7, lawyers for the two same-sex couples suing to block Proposition 8 asked Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to bar the American Civil Liberties Union, Lamba Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights from being parties to the lawsuit. San Francisco city officials also are trying to intervene, but the plaintiffs appear neutral on whether they should be allowed into the case.

Walker is expected to decide the issue on Wednesday.

The gay rights groups had openly questioned bringing the legal battle over gay marriage into the federal courts at this point, primarily out of concern that it could eventually land before a U.S. Supreme Court that may yet be too conservative to back the legal right of same-sex couples to marry.

That did not sit well with the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group pushing the lawsuit with the legal team of former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson and famed lawyer David Boies. They believe the time is ripe to push the issue to the Supreme Court and still resent the criticism they drew from gay rights groups when they filed the federal suit in May, the same month the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8.

What's the old cliche, "united we stand, divided we fall." This doesn't resemble a united front, and without that I'm afraid victory for equality becomes much less likely.

August 17, 2009

Encourging Words 8/17/09-"The 'Post-Gay' Church"

This was originally posted on the blog "I'm Christian. I'm Gay. Deal With It!"

"The Gospel at its best deals with the whole person, not only the soul but the body...Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of people and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial." --Martin Luther King Jr.

I long for the day when the Church will be post-gay. By this I mean, I long for the day when being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered is no big deal. Some churches and church-related organizations seem to have the need to create a visible, identifiable enemy in order to rally the troops and raise funds. [Right now that enemy is the LGBT community, especially the issue of gay marriage.] Wouldn't it be great if all of God's people got passionate about the true evils in our world such as poverty, the AIDS pandemic and global warming? Wouldn't it be great if the Church could direct its energies and resources toward healing the divisions that exist between people and between nations instead of adding to the polarization that already exists in our world?

Being a post-gay world would be a good thing. I do not think it would be the end of civilization as some conservatives claim. In fact, I think it would be a step forward in our evolution as human beings. Believe it or not, I am not the enemy. I am not evil incarnate. I have the same hopes and dreams for my family as everyone else. I pay my taxes, volunteer in my community and try to be a good neighbor. I go to church, tithe my income and pray on a daily basis.

I have a dream that, one day, I will be able to work side by side with my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ. I have a dream that, together, we will put an end to the hate and animosity that exists between us, and spend our days bringing light and hope and healing to the darkest corners of the globe. With God, all things are possible so, perhaps one day we will become a post-gay world. I'm working toward that goal. How about you?

Encouraging Music 8/17/09-Come, Now Is the Time to Worship by Phillips, Craig & Dean

Reports From Great Nationwide Kiss-In

Saturday was "The Great Nationwide Kiss-In," which was observed by same-sex couples across the United States. Here's a summary from the AP through Yahoo News which focused on the Salt Lake City event as a way of tweaking the Mormon Church, known for their strong support of California's Proposition 8:

The Mormon church's vigorous, well-heeled support for Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California last year, has turned the Utah-based faith into a lightning rod for gay rights activism, including a nationwide "kiss-in" Saturday.

The event comes after gay couples here and in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, were arrested, cited for trespassing or harassed by police for publicly kissing. In Utah, the July 9 trespassing incident occurred after a couple were observed by security guards on a downtown park-like plaza owned by the 13 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The court case was dismissed, but the kiss sparked a community backlash and criticism of the church.

"I don't think that kiss would have turned out to be the kiss heard round the world if it were not for Proposition 8," said Ash Johnsdottir, organizer of the Salt Lake City Kiss-In.

Atali Staffler, a Brigham Young University graduate student from Geneva, Switzerland, said she joined the 200 or so people who filled a downtown amphitheater for the event because she has watched her gay father and many gay friends struggle to find their place.

The 31-year-old, who was raised Mormon but is not active in the church, said the church shouldn't be involved in Prop. 8.

"I encourage them to promote the values they believe in and to defend their religious principles in advertisements, but civil rights have nothing to do with religious principles," she said.

The site Queer, Isn't It has a post with links to videos from several Kiss-In locations across the country.

August 16, 2009

Exciting Worship and Celebration Opportunity in North Carolina

We are happy to share the following announcement. We will be participating in this exciting event and would love to meet you down there.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to walk in unity and love with one another. On September 11-13, glbt-affirming churches from across the southeast will be gathering in Granite Falls, NC to worship, celebrate, and grow in grace with like-minded brothers and sisters. This is not solicitation to join an organization, just an attempt to fulfill the prayer of Jesus in John 17, that we might become one even as He and the Father are one.

Hopefully you will come and bring your friends and family for a weekend of refreshing and renewed relationship with the Lord and His people.

For further questions, you can contact me at 828-638-0566. I look forward to hearing from you and will be praying for miracles in the coming days.

Your brother in Christ,
David Thomas, Pastor
Abundant Grace Church
Granite Falls NC

Sunday Worship 8/16/09

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

Can we pray for you? E-mail