January 20, 2007

Exodus Has a New Branch in Texas

B. Joe Cline, a 75-year old grandfather, has started Lighthouse Freedom Ministry in Waco Texas. He has announced the ministry with billboards near interestate highways in Waco and the Houston area that has messages like, "I questioned homosexuality. Change is possible. Discover how."

Sadly, there will be homosexuals who have been browbeaten by their churches and/or family and grown to hate themselves enough to drive them to Cline's "ministry." This from the report in the Waco Tribune:

The Rev. Charley Garrison, pastor of the gay-friendly Central Texas Metropolitan Community Church From the Heart, said he was relieved to hear from a reporter that Cline’s ministry is not geared toward those who are comfortable with their orientation, only those who want to change it.

“Because that means I won’t have to worry about him picketing my church or supporting others to do the same,” Garrison said. “You see, we worship a God who loves unconditionally, with no strings attached.”

Central Texas MCC is part of the almost 40-year-old gay-friendly Christian denomination founded because so many churches rejected homosexual worshippers.

“Unfortunately, there are people who claim to speak on behalf of Jesus Christ, when in fact, our Savior had nothing to say about homosexuality. However, Jesus did condemn those people who have a predisposition to point out the speck in other people’s eyes when there is a log in their own (Matthew 7:1-5) ,” Garrison said.

Very well stated Rev. Garrison.

January 19, 2007

Seminary To Host Transgender Conference

From Beliefnet.com:

BERKELEY, Calif. (RNS) The first Transgender Religious Summit to be held at a Christian seminary will bring together 50 activists, transgender members of faith communities, academics and religious leaders this weekend (Jan. 19-21) at the Pacific School of Religion here.

"Transgender people are emerging from the spiritual closet," said Justin Tanis, program manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality, a Washington-based advocacy group that is co-sponsoring the summit with the seminary's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry.

The summit is designed to create dialogue among transgender people and their allies in faith communities who are concerned with human rights and social justice issues. Tanis said the program will empower people to speak about transgender matters in churches and the public sphere. Participants come from Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and pagan faith communities.

"Something like this conference would have been unheard of 12 years ago," said the Rev. Erin Swenson, a transgender Presbyterian pastoral counselor.

Organizers said the transgender community is gaining momentum and is organizing itself as a movement. In addition, more religious communities are realizing that transgender people are part of their congregations, Swenson said.

Response, however, has been mixed. In 2003, the Catholic Church banned transgender people from religious orders while Unitarian Universalists and the United Church of Christ have begun ordaining transgender ministers. Swenson said transgender people have many gifts to offer to their congregations and society at large. She said these gifts include having a deep sense of personal integrity and an ability to be honest about who they are.

Transgender people also can help faith communities emphasize love, self-respect and human dignity as "central core values."

While conservative religious groups have opposed steps to protect against gender discrimination, none were invited to the summit. Tanis, however, said dialogue between transgender people of faith and conservative groups is a "worthy goal."

January 17, 2007

"A Dangerous Fraud"

Wayne Besen continues to reveal the manipulative lies so often propigated by "ex-gay ministries." His latest piece tells this story:

The anti-gay gro ups, the American Family Association and Americans for Truth should be immediately shut down for committing wanton and craven acts of fraud. They are unabashed con artists duping their own members by selling a product both groups have admitted was misleading.

The first question tactics like this bring to mind is, why do aleged Christain organizations, especially one with the word truth in its name, have to lie to influence people? I believe the answer is because what they are trying to sell is itself a lie.

What twisted version of Christianity do these folks subscribe to, then? Or is that description just another lie to gain influence and relieve people of their money?

How do you think God feels about that? I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that one--he's pissed!

January 16, 2007

Seminars on Civil Unions in New Jersey

Garden State Equality, a GLBT advocacy group in New Jersey, is offering two seminars to help people understand all of the legal implications of the new legislation passed in the state legalizing same-sex civil unions.

The first one will be held on January 23 at 7:oo PM at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. The seminar is free, but you must call 1-800-FREE-LAW to register or ask any questions.

For those New Jersey citizens unable to attend the seminar on the 23rd, Lambada Legal is offering a conference call on February 6th at 7:00 PM.

Please check the Garden State Equality website for more information. Please remember the information pertains only to the state of New Jersey.

"Wide Berth Allowed on Teaching About Homosexuality"

Montgomery County, Maryland (where I live) is moving forward this spring with field tests of a new sex education cirriculum that introduces students to sexual orientation and transgenderism in grade eight and ten. Since the teaching will not be an outright condemnation, there are legal challenges already in the works.

Congratulations to the school board for having the courage to take this step forward, and the activist group "Teach The Facts" that has tirelessly lobbied and made this progress forward. They still have a lot of work ahead of them as this cirriculum is rolled out, but I'm proud to live in one of the more progressive counties in the nation.

Here is the Washington Post article on this development.

Former Marriage Equality Foe Now Lobbying For Civil Unions

From the Washington Blade:

A woman who once led the charge against gay unions in Hawaii is now lobbying for their passage.
Debi Hartmann is working with gay activists and Democratic leaders in Hawaii to enact civil unions that carry the same rights as traditional marriage. The move represents a stark change for Hartmann, who once led Hawaii’s Future Today, a conservative group of Mormons, Catholics and others who opposed gay unions. In that role, the married mother of three railed against gay marriage.

Hawaii’s Future Today dissolved after a 1998 vote granted state lawmakers the authority to ban gay marriage.

But in an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade, Hartmann said she now believes that Hawaii should enact civil unions to protect gay couples and their children.

See, some people DO eventually open their minds and allow a change of heart.

Click here to read the rest of the Blade articie.

January 15, 2007

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Honors Dr. King

This is a press release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 — Today is the federal holiday honoring the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“Today we honor and reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Coretta Scott King, who died last January. In their lives, Dr. King and Mrs. King bent the arc of history toward racial and economic justice. In the years following her husband’s murder, Mrs. King became an unwavering supporter for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and she was a keynote speaker at our own Creating Change Conference in 2000.

“Those who walked beside them have continued their vision, including Mrs. King’s belief in justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. We hold up with gratitude the members of Dr. King’s family and those who fought beside Dr. King while he was alive:

‘Homophobia is hate, and hate has no place in the beloved community.’ --Martin Luther King III, August 2003, at the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

‘When I am asked, “Are gay rights civil rights?” my answer is always, “Of course they are.” Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives –– the right to equal treatment before the law. These rights are shared by all. There is no one in the United States who does not –– or should not — share in these rights.’ — Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 10th Annual Miami Recognition Dinner, November 4, 2006

‘Rather than divide and discriminate, let us come together and create one nation. We are all one people. We all live in the American house. We are all the American family. Let us recognize that the gay people living in our house share the same hopes, troubles, and dreams. It’s time we treated them as equals, as family.’ — Representative John Lewis in the Boston Globe, October 25, 2003

“At the same time, we call upon all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to recommit ourselves to the Kings’ work of ending racial and economic injustice. That work is far from over; in fact, scant progress has been made in many areas. As reported by the NAACP, in 1958, the typical African-American family had 60 percent as much income as the typical white family; 46 years later in 2005, that figure was — shockingly — just 61 percent. At this slow rate it will take more than 100 years to close the black-white income disparity. Unemployment among African-Americans is more than twice the rate for whites — a greater gap than in 1972. One-third — more than 6 million — of working African-Americans lack health insurance coverage during all or part of the year. Educational opportunities remain vastly unequal, and the progress toward truly integrated schools has not only stalled, but is going backwards. Steps to remedy the legacy of slavery and racism remain under attack on many fronts, including voters in Michigan overwhelmingly approving a ban on affirmative action in November.

“Clearly, we can and must do better. For Dr. King and Mrs. King, for Bayard Rustin, for those in the broader civil rights movement who have stood beside us for so long, and for all of us and our nation, let us renew and redouble our work.”

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is debate going on in the GLBT community and also among its allies on how closely the push for equality should mirror the civil rights movement of the 1960's, which advanced the cause of African-American equal rights. You've seen that debate featured on this blog periodically, but today is a good time to remember why both efforts unquestionably share some commonality. On this day as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King and his leadership in the fight for civil rights, I borrow this quote from David W. Shelton's piece, "Justice: A Message Fit For a King" from Dr. King's widow, the recently deceased Corretta Scott King:

According to Reuters, She said in 1998, “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice.” But she didn’t stop there. “But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

This was not a popular stand she took, but like her late husband, she did so not to win friends but because she thought it was right.

GLBT activists aren't going to lose more friends than they make fighting for the cause of equality, but we need to keep our eyes on the prize because in our hearts we know it's the right thing to do.

I encourage you to read David Shelton's piece for more thoughts on the legacy of Dr. and Mrs. King and their application to the GLBT community.

January 14, 2007

Jim & Tammy Faye's Son A GLBT-Friendly Minister

Many of you probably remember Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, who led the PTL ministry and later fell HARD in disgrace. Their som Jay encountered his own hard times, having issues with drugs and alcohol after his parents suffered through their debacle. Jay has bounced back, however, and has a ministry of his own. A primary target of his outreach is to punk rockers. He is also reaching out to the GLBT community, which automatically makes him a target of those who have not received the enlightenment.

J. Lee Grady is one of those folks and has written a column for Charisma magazine (1/12/07 in archives) where he takes a very condescending and dismissive attitude torward Jay Bakker and gay affirming Christians in general. He writes:

Jay has made it clear that he embraces what he calls a “gay-affirming” gospel. He told Mother Jones magazine that he came to the conclusion that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle by “looking deeper in the Bible” and by visiting a gay-affirming church. He also admitted that one of his biggest ministry donors stopped supporting his work when he embraced this radical new theology.

I don’t mean to pick on Jay. As a child he was the innocent victim of appalling religious hypocrisy. But he’s a big boy now, 31 to be exact, and if he’s going to be in the game with the adults he needs to play by the rules.

I’m blowing the whistle. Consider this an official apostasy alert.

Grady added:

It (GLBT affirming doctrine) welcomes everyone with a polite “come as you are” mantra—but in the end is incapable of breaking the power of addiction or sexual dysfunction. It uses feel-good words such as “tolerance,” “acceptance” and “grace,” terms that sound hip and sexy in today’s permissive culture. It is a golden calf, shiny and seductive, forged by those who think they can rewrite God’s word and start a new religion.

This gay-affirming “gospel” is a toxic heresy that must be addressed boldly from our pulpits in 2007. I pray there is enough moral backbone left in the church to face the challenge.

When did words like acceptance and grace become "feel-good words?" God's grace is one of the main themes in the Bible, hardly some hip and sexy phrase symptomatic of a permissive culture. These are words of love, not intollerance like the Phairasees in Jesus' time displayed.

I pray there is enough moral backbone amongst GLBT Christians and their allies to stand up in the face of such intollerant ministers who think they have it all figured out but come up woefully short regarding the place of gay and lesbian people in God's kingdom.