May 19, 2007

Reconciling Homosexuality and the Mormon Church

From New York's Gay City News:

Mormon writer Carol Lynn Pearson's new play, "Facing East," beginning performances in New York following a sold out run in Salt Lake City, takes as its subject a married couple's graveside encounter with their dead son's partner. The searing family confrontation concerning the gay son's suicide would make compelling drama on its own merits, but has a particular resonance given Pearson's personal background.

In 1978, Pearson and her husband Gerald divorced, after a decade of trying as a devout Mormons to manage and come to terms with his homosexuality. Six years later, she would nurse him on her couch as he lay dying of AIDS. Her writing career was initially championed by Gerald - on their honeymoon he suggested publishing her first book of poems and their $2,000 investment would lead to sales of more than 150,000 copies - and later it became her way of processing his death.

From an interview with Ms. Pearson:

In the 20 years now since I published "Goodbye, I Love You," about our relationship, I've been privileged to be the repository of hundred of stories, especially those of Mormon gay people and their families.

We know that the intersection of religion and especially conservative religions and homosexuality is one of the huge painful arenas that has to be addressed. As Gerald was going through his enormous struggle, the anguish was between his love of the Church and what he felt was the Church's condemnation of him. For his own sanity, he withdrew from the Church, which is the case with most gay Mormon men I know of.

I'd like to all of us to say, wait, we seem not to be doing this right. What are we missing here? Let us look again at scripture, at our own personal history. Let us invite in gay people and their families to tell us their stories. Let's open up new avenues of thinking on this, because there is still so much pain and we aren't where we need to be.

We're still not in the Promised Land.

What a wonderful way to work through the grief of losing a spouse. Ms. Pearson has doubtlessly had a positive impact on others who share common experiences with her and is hopefully causing some in the Mormon church to reconsider their views of homosexuality.

Thanks to gay & lesbian news blog for the tip.

Gay Culture Thriving in the Heart of Texas?

That's what the story, "The Lavender Heart of Texas," in the current issue of Time Magazine says. Even more surprising to me, someone who still associates the city with the 1980's television show featuring oilman J. R. Ewing, the hot spot appears to be the Big D itself, Dallas.

Gays have played an important, less noticed role in Dallas' evolution. Over the past decade, a large and politically powerful lesbian and gay community has emerged. Both the Dallas sheriff and the county judge--an Old West title meaning chairman of the county commissioners--are openly gay. The district clerk is gay too, and Dallas is home to what is said to be the largest gay church in the world, the Cathedral of Hope, which has 3,500 members, a full choir, a violinist and long-stemmed roses in the bathroom. Dallas' fund-raising dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington-based gay group, is the largest in the nation, drawing 3,300 and raising more than $1 million for HRC and local gay organizations. And according to the gay group Lambda Legal, Dallas' is the only school district in Texas that includes teachers in its antidiscrimination policies.

So how gay is Dallas? Gay population figures are difficult to estimate because even accepting communities have a closet. But according to the Williams Institute, a gay think tank at UCLA, Dallas has the ninth largest concentration of same-sex couples in the nation. As the Dallas visitors bureau gurgles, "[Dallas] has left behind stereotypes of big-haired women and rowdy cowboys--that is, unless you count sassy drag queens and strapping gay rodeo champs."

This is not the Texas of the American imagination. Or is it? Ensorcelled by strivers and status, Dallas has always tried hard to be sophisticated. And the city knows a mathematical equation about American city life: urban sophistication requires gay civilization. Gays have gentrified once crumbling neighborhoods like Oak Lawn in Dallas; many gays have relocated to the city to work at companies like American Airlines that have a significant gay customer base.

Ironically, Dallas is believed to be the next destination for President Bush once his term is mercifully up, and that is also where his presidential library is expected to be built.

I wouldn't expect to see a rainbow flag flying from that building, but fortunately there are already plenty of GLBT friendly spots in a thriving gay community down there.

Click here to read the Time magazine article.

May 18, 2007

A Majority in U.S. Support GLBT Inclusion in Hate-Crimes Bill

From The Advocate:

A new Gallup poll indicates that a majority of Americans support the hate-crimes bill now before Congress.

"This new national poll continues to reiterate how incredibly out of touch right-wing organizations are with the will of the American people and underscores the need for the Senate to pass the bill," said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese in a written statement.

"I hope President Bush will look at this poll and realize how unbelievably out of line a threatened veto of this critical crime-fighting piece of legislation is with a majority of Americans."

According to the HRC, when the poll was broken down by self-identified demographic subgroups, 60 percent of Republicans; 69 percent of independents and 75 percent of Democrats support passage of the hate-crimes bill.

Regular churchgoers' support of the bill was less strong than others, but even they polled 64 percent in support. Seventy-three percent of people who attend church seldom or never said they support the bill.

Here is a direct link to The Gallup Poll site so you can peruse the results youself.

Fred Phelps Tops Himself This Time

When you're a whack job like Fred Phelps and his family/congreation at Westboro Baptist Church, you've set the bar so low that you're the only one who could possibly lower it.

Amazingly, I believe they're getting ready to do just that.

According to the church's website, they plan on protesting outside Rev. Jerry Falwell's funeral next Tuesday. If you're like me, you probably find that surprising. I surmised they would have had more views in common than those on which they disagreed, but apparently Falwell wasn't quite stringent enough in his bigotry to satisfy the folks at Westboro:

On its Web site, Westboro says it will "preach" outside the funeral "of the corpulent false prophet Jerry Falwell, who spent his entire life prophesying lies and false doctrines like 'God loves everyone.'"

In attacking Falwell the church says he "warmly praised Christ-rejecting Jews, pedophile-condoning Catholics, money-grubbing compromisers, practicing fags like Mel White (of Souflorce), and backsliders like Billy Graham and Robert Schuler, etc."

We all should aspire to being a "backslider" like Billy Graham.

Here is a related story from the Fort-Worth (TX) Star-Telegram that tells the story of the funeral the Westboro cult skipped so they could get to Falwell's.

Dealing with Gay Youth Homelessness

From the New York Times:

One girl said she started living on the streets after her mother beat her for dressing like a boy. Another said she ran away from home after her father pulled a gun on her for hanging around with so many “tomboys.” A third said she left home after a family acquaintance raped her because she was a lesbian and he wanted to “straighten her out.”

But gathered at Ruth’s House, a 10-bed emergency shelter for gay homeless youths here in east Detroit, they all said that for the first time they felt safe.

Ruth’s House is one of a small number of shelters for gay youths that have opened around the nation in the past four years, reflecting an increasing awareness among child welfare advocates of the disproportionately high number of gay youths in the homeless population and the special problems they face.

Five years ago, such shelters were rare, but now there are more than 25 nationwide.

Many experts estimate that while gay men and lesbians make up 3 percent to 5 percent of the general population, more than 20 percent of homeless youths under age 21 in many urban areas are gay, according to recent surveys of street youths and shelter workers published in peer-reviewed academic journals, and a study released in January by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Once on the streets, advocates and researchers said, gay youths may be avoiding group homes, shelters and the foster care system because they are afraid they will face violence and harassment.

Some gay youths have said they were beaten in full view of shelter staff members who did nothing to help. Others said they were forced to wear distinctly colored jumpsuits so they could be identified easily in the shelter population.

Apparently there are homophobes among the homeless and those who work at shelters. Amazingly, there are places where GLBT people aren't even treated as equals to those without their own home.

Click here to read more from the New York Times article.

May 17, 2007

Rev. Mel White Shed Tears For Falwell

You may not have known this, but while he was still in the closet, Rev. Mel White, one of the co-founders of Soulforce, was the ghose writer for "Falwell, An Autobiography," published in 1987. That gave him a unique perspective among GLBT advocates of the man who he calls "the face of homophobia." He shared some thoughts on Jerry Falwell's recent passing with The Advocate:

I knew there would be just a huge hole in Virginia and in Lynchburg, and I felt for those people. But at the same time I was feeling more strongly that now we’ll never have a chance for Jerry Falwell to say, “I was wrong. I did wrong, and I said wrong, and I’m sorry. God creates gay people and loves them just like she created them. I’m not going to say anything more against gay people because I was wrong.” Imagine the consequence that would have had for so many people.

As far as the future of the religious right, Liberty University will graduate 3,750 little Falwells this month. Liberty will have a school with more students than UC Berkeley or UCLA within 20 years. That’s the kind of foothold Falwell has on education. He’s got an accredited law school, like Pat Robertson’s Regent University. They’re both turning out lawyers who are wiggling their way into politics and government. An entire generation is coming up that really loves Falwell, and I’m afraid they're all going to be antigay. We gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are really missing it when we think the older generation will pass and the newer generation will save us. A whole new generation of people is being prepared to condemn us.

Click here to read about Rev. White's relationship with Falwell and more of his thoughts on the religious right.

Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Don't Want "Gay Cooties"

Yes, I said gay cooties. It's not an original phrase, though. I found it in this editorial from the Pawtucket (RI) Times. Titled "Opponents of same-sex marriage display bigotry," the editorial does a good job of backing up that claim:

Anti-gay prejudice is the only reason that the law will not allow same-sex marriage. The opponents, for many of whom religion is either a reason or an excuse, don't want to get gay cooties all over "their" sacred institution. What else does a so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) - which essentially defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman - defend marriage against?

That position is childish. Not child-like, with its implication of innocence, wonder and acceptance, but childish, as in selfish, petty and small-minded.

In many ways, including its connection to religion, the gay marriage issue is like the abortion debate - there is no room for compromise. No middle ground. Just about everybody's mind is made up, and those opinions are polarized. Unless you are the guy who stands up and says, "how about civil unions?" In which case you get the hairy eyeball from BOTH sides.

Gays resent civil union because it is half-a-civil-rights-loaf. It still makes them "other" and "less than," even though to a smaller degree. And it will not effectively confer many of the rights and privileges of marriage, particularly on the federal level, that they are looking for and deserve. The opponents, on the other hand, don't want it "because...because...well, because they're a bunch of queers. That's why, dammit." I don't want to imply that religion equates with anti-gay bigotry. To the contrary, there were several clergymen, some wearing clerical garb, testifying in favor of the same-sex marriage bill. One provided a list of approximately 100 clergy from churches all over the state endorsing the bill.

There's plenty more I didn't excerpt here. I recommend checking out the entire editorial. Be ready to laugh, and then probably nod your head in agreement.

May 16, 2007

Former President Carter Supports End of "Dont' Ask, Don't Tell"

Showing in yet another way he is an outstanding ex-president, Jimmy Carter has spoken out against the U. S. Military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" regarding gays in active service. From Billerico, quoting Carter:

"It is my long-held belief that every human being deserves dignity and respect. I often heard that phrase during my years at the United States Naval Academy, I carried it out as Commander-in-Chief, and it continues to animate my human rights work around the globe today. The nation's commitment to human rights requires that lawmakers revisit 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the current policy that prevents lesbians, gays and bisexuals from serving openly in our armed forces.

"...there are great differences in public opinion on social issues today compared to twenty years ago. When I served as President, the majority in our country did not support equality for gay Americans, but that has now changed.

"The estimated 65,000 gay men and women who currently are serving our country honorably deserve respect. America has always been a beacon of hope for those who believe in human rights and individual dignity. The brave and dedicated men and women of our armed forces also must benefit from this fundamental ideal."

Dignity, respect, and ideals; what a concept!

An Honest Reaction to Falwell's Death

Posted from Street Prophets:

Tyranny is truly successful when the oppressors so warp the oppressed that the latter does the former's work for them. Internalized homophobia is a prime example, and in the end is nothing more than induced self-hatred.

Mr. Falwell heaped abuse upon GLBT folk, going so far as to blame us for 9/11. There are may queer folk still so convinced of their own worthlessness that at some level, they believe this heinous lie and all the others, too, that we're abominable in God's eyes.

Healing from abuse and its consequent self-hatred begins with the excruciatingly painful awareness that yes, the abuse was / is REAL, and that one does indeed hate oneself. The next step is raging fury - ugly, but necessary - at the abuser(s) who well deserve it.

So there are many today who are gleeful that Falwell is dead; I am one of them. It's a shocking thing to behold, but required for healing. The trick to moving past this hatred is to know in one's heart that there is yet more growth, and that peace / release from pain can indeed be won.

So rather than vilifying those of us who dance on Falwell's grave as part of the cost of healing from wounds he helped inflict, please consider praying for us instead, that we might step deeper into grace and finally into forgiveness, of ourselves, and ultimately of Jerry.

I personally appreciate the raw honesty expressed here and will gladly honor the request to pray for grace and forgiveness. I'm sure there are a lot of people who had similar reactions to Falwell's passing, and hopefully this piece can encourage them to look deep inside and start dealing with the pain that lies directly below it.

May 15, 2007

Thoughts Around the Nation on the Passing of Rev. Jerry Falwell

Today, Rev. Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority, founder and Chancellor of Liberty University, one of the leaders of the religious right, and one of the staunchest opponents of GLBT rights and acceptance in society, has died at the age of 73.

Here are some samples of recations to his death and life. I've balanced the different viewpoints because I feel when someone of importance passes on, he deserves the whole of his life to be viewed, not just one aspect no matter how abhorent that part might be. I'll share a few thoughts of my own at the end.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State executive director Rev. Barry W. Lynn:

“Jerry Falwell politicized religion and failed to understand the genius of our Constitution, but there is no denying his impact on American political life. He will long be remembered as the face and voice of the Religious Right."

“Americans United extends its condolences to members of Dr. Falwell’s family, the congregants of Thomas Road Baptist Church and the students and staff of Liberty University.”

Exodous International (Ex-Gay ministry) President Alan Chambers:

“Rev. Falwell will be remembered for his consistent emphasis on the truth that Jesus Christ loves and offers salvation to every individual regardless of their past. No doubt, many have come to a personal relationship with Christ through his ministry. Our thoughts and prayers are with Rev. Falwell’s wife, Macel, their three children and his friends and colleagues in Lynchburg, Virginia.”

Soulforce (GLBT advocacy):

Today, the staff and board of directors of Soulforce observe the passing of Rev. Jerry Falwell and offer our sincere condolences to his family, the members of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and the students at Liberty University.

"While Soulforce has a long history of nonviolent direct action at Jerry Falwell Ministries, our adversary was never Jerry Falwell, but rather the misinformation about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people espoused by Falwell and so many others," said Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes.

Upon hearing the news of Rev. Falwell's death, Rev. Dr. Mel White said "It breaks my heart to think that Jerry died without ever discovering the truth about God's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children. I sincerely hope that one day his school and his church will have a change of heart."

Don Wildmon, Chairman, American Family Association:

Wildmon says Falwell was passionate about serving the Lord. "His life is reflective of what can happen to a person who commits himself to the Lord and keeps going straight ahead and never looks back from the plow," says the ministry leader. "He will be missed."

Falwell would want Christians to stay active in the culture war, adds Wildmon.

Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen:

“It is with great regret that Rev. Jerry Falwell never moderated his position on homosexuality,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “While our hearts go out to his family, we can’t help but to reflect on his life and think about all of the families he’s torn apart and teenagers that committed suicide because he made them feel inferior. He never missed an opportunity to kick our better angels to the curb and capitalize on our lesser demons to advance his career.”

Liberty Counsel, the legal activist arm of Falwell's organization:

Rev. Falwell loved God and he loved people. His convictions in biblical principles were matched by the depth of his compassion for people. He made you feel like you were the most important person in a room, even though it was filled with dignitaries. He cared for each person and he loved the students at Liberty University.

We have never known a man who had so many important obligations and commitments and yet who always had time for people. As pastor of a mega-church with a myriad of ministries, too many to mention, Chancellor of the world's largest evangelical university, founder of several national parachurch ministries, husband, father and grandfather, he always took time to stop and greet people with a genuine smile, a firm handshake (or sometimes a friendly punch in the rib cage) and a deep voice filled with wisdom and uncanny insight.

Rev. Falwell's legacy will live on in the millions of people he touched, and his vision will carry on through his family and the graduates of Liberty University. While we are missing a beloved pastor, leader and friend, his family is missing a beloved husband, father and grandfather. Our prayers are with his wife, Macel, his children, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Jonathan Falwell, and Jeannie Falwell Savas, and his grandchildren.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman:

“The death of a family member or friend is always a sad occasion and we express our condolences to all those who were close to the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America’s anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation’s appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins:

He was a pioneer whose legacy, marked by courage and candor, blazed the trail for all men and women of conviction to engage--boldly--on the great questions of our day. But he was first and foremost a husband, a father and a pastor. Our prayers today are with the Falwell family, in particular his wife Macel, his children, his grandchildren and the congregation of the Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Triangle Foundation (Michigan) Executive Director Jeffrey Montgomery:

"Our condolences go out to Rev. Falwell's family. Whether the family is straight or gay, the passage of a loved one is always a challenging and difficult time."

"In the wake of Rev. Falwell's passing, it is our strong hope that his followers transform their misunderstanding and attitudes regarding their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. It is a sad thing that Rev. Falwell spent so much of his time and energy while alive as a leading voice in the struggle against LGBT civil rights. We can only hope that the death of such an anti-gay voice will eventually lead to a healing of the fear and hostility against us that Rev. Falwell actively promoted."

Focus on the Family Chairman Dr. James Dobson:

"Our hearts and prayers go out to Jerry’s wife Macel, his children Jerry, Jonathan and Jeannie, and his church. This is a tragic loss for them – and for all Americans. Jerry’s passions and convictions changed the course of our country for the better over the last 20 years – and I was proud to call him my friend."

"Because Jerry, and his Moral Majority, were the first ones out of the trenches in the culture war, they got shot at repeatedly by the national media and by liberal church leaders. But he always weathered the onslaught, permanently stamping the conservative American church with respectability on social action.

"It was my honor to share the front lines with him in the battle for righteousness in our nation. We will continue that fight, in his honor, until our mutual goals are achieved."

Sojourners President and Executive Director Jim Wallis:

I was saddened to learn that Rev. Jerry Falwell passed away this morning at age 73. Rev. Falwell and I have met many times over the years, as the media often paired us as debate partners on issues of faith and politics. I respected his passionate commitment to his beliefs, and our shared commitment to bring moral debate to the public square, although we didn’t agree on many things. At this time, however, what matters most is our prayers for comfort and peace for his family and friends.

CBN's Pat Robertson:

My wife and I have sent our condolences to Macel Falwell and her family. Jerry has been a tower of strength on many of the moral issues which have confronted our nation. Liberty University is a magnificent accomplishment and will prove a lasting legacy. Jerry’s courage and strength of convictions will be sadly missed in this time of increasing moral relativism. I join with the tens of thousands of his friends to mourn the passing of this extraordinary human being.

I have written extensively here about the late Dr. Falwell and his efforts to shove GLBT people back into the closet and prevent them from obtaining equality in any aspect of our society and see no need to put together a summary of my issues with his views today. As you can see by some of the comments from GLBT activists, the anger against Falwell ran so deep it spilled out even on the day he died. You can also see from the comments of religious right leaders like James Dobson that any day is a good day to campaign for your agenda, even using the death of someone you call a friend to do so.

I join those who offer their condolences and prayers to those who lost a husband, father, grandfather, pastor, and chancellor today. I also offer up a prayer that those who fill the leadership voids created by Falwell's passing take more of a New Testament view and focus on the love and acceptance that Jesus taught instead of Old Testament judgmentalism.

Open House Sunday at BCF

I'm happy to announce that my church, Believers Covenant Fellowship, is holding an open house this Sunday, May 20 at our new facility from 2-5 PM with a brief dedication service at 3:30.

Although fairly small in number, our congreation stood strong in faith while the Lord led us through logistical and financial obstacles to see our building renovation through to completion. We are very proud of the work He has done through us to establish a warm, welcoming place to worship, study, and fellowship.

If you live in the Northern Virginia area and are seeking an open and affirming Christian church, or you're just curious to see what I've been writing about for nearly two years, I invite you to join us. Check out our website at the link above for directions or more information.

May 14, 2007

Newsweek Cover Story: "Rethinking Gender"

I use the acronym "GLBT" here frequently, which most of you know stands for "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender." I don't write a lot about transgender issues because, quite honestly, I don't understand a whole lot about them beyond the fact that they are people too and deserve the same rights I enjoy and often take for granted.

In their newest issue, Newsweek delves into the issue of gender in some depth. The cover story is titled, "Rethinking Gender," which goes into some of the basics about transgender issues, defining them and going through some of the different stages of the different situations.

Beyond that interesting article, Newsweek also features these pieces this week:

"Making a Difference," a former male Air Force sergeant running for office in Colorado.

"I Had To Fix My Life" a former male NASCAR driver is now a woman trying to get back behind the wheel competitively, with little success so far.

"None of Us Are Safe," actor Alexis Arquette on the politics of gender in America.

"It Stuns Me," sportswriter Christine Daniels on her transition. I wrote about here recently, the writer from the LA Times.

"No Big Deal," a corporate vice-president talks about how big companies are leading the way in helping transgender social reform.

There will also be an online chat on the Newsweek website on Wednesday at noon, EST.

There's a lot of information and insight in these articles (some of them are exclusive to the web site) and I find it very encouraging that one of the major mainstream news publications has devoted so much space and energy to helping people understand about transgender issues.

A Loving Family Has Everything a Child Needs

That's the conclusion reached by Peggy Drexler, a gender scholar at Stanford University who has studied the issue of same-sex parent adoptions in great depth. She writes about it in this Huffington Post column:

It's the family, stupid!

Of all the political statements in the current surge of political statements, my favorite has to be from New York's Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer on his plans to introduce legislation that would legalize same sex marriage."We will not ask whether this proposition of legalizing same-sex marriage is popular or unpopular," he said.

"We will not ask if it's hard or easy. We will simply ask if it is right or wrong."

That's exactly the right question.

When you are part of the thicket of legalities and political calculations, what you find is a family. And when that family has taken full responsibility for a child's sense of well being and belonging, lawyerly debate and political maneuvering seem absurdly beside the point.

The U.S. Census shows that almost 30 percent of same-sex couples in this nation have a child under 18 living with them in their home. You'll find same-sex couples raising children in 96 percent of all of the 3,141 counties in the U.S.

All evidence from studies of these families points clearly to the same conclusion: good parents and the kids they produce have nothing to do with being straight or gay. It has everything to do with care, affection and involvement.

For the children of same-sex marriages, that sense of their place in the world is greatly influenced by the current laws that say: There are real families. And then there is your family."

Ms. Drexler gets it. Families are put together by love, not blood.

May 13, 2007

Book Review: "Calling The Rainbow Nation Home"

As I read more books about homosexuality and Christianity, I have seen two primary methods of telling stories and teaching views of God’s word. Writers generally emphasize experiences along their own personal, and often bumpy, walk with the Lord, or they take a more scholarly approach in reviewing and explaining scripture.

In her book “Calling The Rainbow Nation Home” (2005, iUniverse, 200 pages), Elaine Sundby does an excellent job of mixing both methods. First, Rev. Sundby, the founder of Faith Full Gospel Church and, writes about her struggle with accepting the fact she was a lesbian. In the second half of the book, she explains how she reconciled that with her Christianity in a way that encourages other GLBT people to walk similar steps and reach the same destination.

During a difficult childhood, Rev. Sundby had a “come to Jesus” moment as a teenager, but that did not instantly turn her life around because she was still a girl living in a negative situation. Gradually, as she moved away from home and went to college, she began to find out who she was. Despite struggling scholastically in high school, she plowed her way through college and discovered that God had given her athletic gifts. She was coached in how to throw the javelin and became one of the best in the country and also won a national championship as a softball player.

During this time, she also began to understand that she was attracted to women. As with so many young Christians, it was drilled into her head that homosexuality was a deep, dark sin and a desire that could NEVER be acted upon. Rev. Sundby poured over her Bible and spent hour after hour in prayer asking for God to reveal His will to her. The answer came suddenly and clearly:

…..the Holy Spirit asked me a simple question: “Elaine, how is someone saved?”

“What?” I replied, “That’s not what I’m asking.”

Not to be deterred, the Holy Spirit gently asked again: “How are you saved?” At that moment, the famous passage in Scripture came to mind:

John 3:16 (NIV): For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The simplicity of the truth hit me. I had been asking the wrong question. The issue was not sin, but salvation! God had told us that “whosoever” (King James translation) believes in his son would not perish. “Whosoever” did not exclude anyone; instead, it included everyone. There was simply no group of people who would—or could—be excluded from accepting God’s salvation.

For Rev. Sundby, that resolved part one of a two-part issue. She was now clear that she would not be sentenced to Hell for being a lesbian, but would she be sinning if she allowed herself to develop a relationship with the woman she was strongly attracted to? Were homosexual relationships by their very nature a sin? Here’s how she answered that question.

It depends is my answer. Being gay or straight has nothing to do with it. The issue is really about the quality of the relationship we have with God, with others, and with ourselves. God simply asks us: “Is your relationship based on, and operating in, My love or not? Does it encourage both people to spiritually grow and deepen their union with God? Is it loving and healthy for both parties?” If your relationship encourages and enhances these things, then it most assuredly is not a sin.

Having that resolved, Rev. Sundby allowed herself to embrace the love of her life, Pam, and they are still happily together. She also answered the call to ministry and became the founding pastor at Faith Full Gospel Fellowship in San Leandro, California. She moved forward with Pam with this foundation:

God and sin simply cannot coexist together: it is impossible.

2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV): For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

Therefore, my personal conclusions about what sin was, and was not, really didn’t matter. If being with Pam was a sin, it would cause a separation between God and me.

I found this a particularly important section where Rev. Sundby explains her understanding of why GLBT people are ostracized by so many Christians.

Fear is not from the Lord; it operates in Satan’s kingdom (1 John 4:18; Rom. 8:15), yet we build complete belief systems around our fears and prejudices, and people fight change. There is no getting around the fact that it’s far easier to understand how one can be gay and Christian when one is gay and Christian.

I have also found it common for those who consider homosexuality an “abomination” to “prove” their cause by quoting every Scripture they can find pertaining to sexual sin and promiscuity. It is important to understand that Christians in the gay community are also adamantly against sexual sin. The difference lies in the fact that we do not believe God has singled out any particular community or nation of people as “evil” or “sinful,” believing instead that God’s edicts are applied without prejudice to all people and communities—homosexual and heterosexual alike.

Rev. Sundby also wrote a section titled “Remain in the State in which You Were Called.”

Like the Gentiles before us, God has never asked us to change who we are in order to receive his salvation or the spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 7:24 (Amplified): “So, brethren, in whatever station or state or condition of life each one was when he was called, there let him continue with and close to God.

In closing, Rev. Sundby has a message for how GLBT Christians needed to move forward:

Our priorities seem reversed at times. We seek first for acceptance, and then for fellowship. The problem is that protesting, picketing, and attacks through the press only serve to drive the two parties further apart. This is not the witness Christ wants us to be demonstrating to the world. Our humanism is on display rather than the character of Christ.

…..We need to focus first on reaching out to the lost within our own communities and then on building relationships with others within the Christian community. The best witness they have that God has accepted homosexuals—is us! But there can be no witness if there is no relationship.

I often criticize leaders from the religious right for trying to force their will on legislators and even as amendments to the United States Constitution. While I encourage GLBT advocacy in the public square, the approach Rev. Sundby is also very important and, I believe, severely under-utilized.

“Calling the Rainbow Nation Home” is a wonderful book that I highly recommend to all GLBT people and heterosexuals who are interested in understanding the difficult path a gay person has to walk to reach God, and how to reconcile that with what they have been previously been taught about the sinfulness of homosexuality.

'Why It Matters Every Day"

I saw this on Pam's House Blend and decided to copy the entire post here without comment. None is really needed.

This is why living an out gay life, every unassuming day after every unassuming day, is so important.

My partner and I have lived in this small Mississippi town since 2002. While we haven't flown the rainbow flag, the old home we restored on the main drag made it pretty clear. Every day that we have lived here we have just been a part of this community in the same important, boring ways as everyone else.

Sure, we've had a few insults yelled at us and even had our house paintballed once. But the rest of the town got to see us give something back to this town, to have family members share in the joy of our lives, to have friends sit on the front porch and just watch the town go about its business.

Everyone recognized us, me especially because I took my walks right through the heart of town. At one particular house down the street I found a lonely married lady, crippled by mental and emotional issues, who rescued greyhounds. Everyday that I walked by, I waved and smiled. Later, she would come to the porch, and I would speak to her, the dogs, or her son. Finally, she stopped and asked me to have conversation.

I don't remember much about that first conversation, but I found her to be a bright, if troubled, young woman. And I always spoke, checked on her if she were absent, and just behaved neighborly.

Fast forward three more years and a big abandoned lot became available right beside her house. It was her husband's family place and he needed to sell it. We made an offer. And we began building our new house.

During this entire construction time, I and my partner and she and her husband dealt with each other on a more personal basis, with questions about fence allowances, adjoining trees, etc. We even worked out a way for our dogs to play together until the finishing touches on our fences could be made. In essence, we became more than neighbors; we became friends.

Just yesterday she came over to visit, "to have conversation," as she put it. She told me that that very first day that I walked by and waved had changed her life. That because of my constant friendliness she began to grow out of her depression and seclusion. And she so hoped that the man who wanted the lot would be my partner.

Her husband was leery, at best. But she told me she finally got him to see us as just people--people who would make the best neighbors. He relented and has since told her it was the best thing he ever did.

So today she wanted to come to tell me the impact I had on her life. And, with tears streaming down her face, to apologize for her cruelty to me personally in voting for the Mississippi Marriage Amendment.

Every day we make a difference. We must remember that.