March 07, 2009

GLBT News and Political Roundup 3/7/09

Here's some of the news items that impacted the GLBT community this week:

From the Washington Blade, the Obama administration plans to boost domestic AIDS spending in 2010.

Proposition 8 had its day in court on Thursday. The reports indicate that the court seemed to lean toward upholding the validity of the referendum, but leaving marriages legally performed prior to its passage as valid. Here are reports from the San Francisco Chronicle and Time Magazine.

HRC President Joe Solmonese called out Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele in this essay in Politico.

This is a time for a new direction, not more of the same old, same old when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered America and the Republican Party. Most voters are dead tired of rhetoric that vilifies one group of Americans, or diminishes one family over another, or says to one teenager, “You’re OK” and to another, “You’re not.” And those lines are not drawn by a level of civic participation, scholastic aptitude or family values; they’re drawn by age-old prejudice that has no place in the uncertain world we all live in today.

Chairman Steele would do well to look closer at where America is headed on these issues of family, heart, and basic fairness and to lead his party forward. Hip-hop, after all, is about authenticity, if nothing else. This three steps forward, two steps back approach not only won’t win elections; it won’t win many new party members, either.

On a trip to Brussels, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spoke out very clearly in support of GLBT rights.

In an answer to a Moldovan gay rights activist who was wearing an 'I Love Hilary' tshirt, she said:

“Human rights is and always will be one of the pillars of our foreign policy. In particular, persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something we take very seriously.

"I can only hope that we all live long enough to see the end to this kind of discriminatory treatment and recognition that human rights are the inalienable rights of every person no matter who that person loves."

Former NLGTF Executive Director Matt Foreman says GLBT advocates need to get more personal.

“I believe that if every LGBT person in California had a heartfelt discussion about Proposition 8 with three people they knew, we would have won,” Foreman said. “The personal is essential to the political. We can’t look to Equality Texas or Equality Maryland to do this for us if we can’t do it for ourselves at home.”

March 04, 2009

Finding Jesus

The National Council of Churches issued this disturbing report recently:

The 77th annual edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, long a highly regarded chronicler of growth and financial trends of religious institutions, records a slight but startling decline in membership of the nation's largest Christian communions.

Membership in the Roman Catholic Church declined 0.59 percent and the Southern Baptist Convention declined 0.24 percent, according to the 2009 edition of the Yearbook, edited by the National Council of Churches and published by Abingdon.

This year's reported decline raises eyebrows because Catholic and Southern Baptist membership has grown dependably over the years. Now they join virtually every mainline church in reporting a membership decline.

Click here to read the entire report

This report comes out at an interesting time in our ministry, since Brenda and I recently
left our church and are currently unaffiliated.

I have been a member of four churches in my life; two Southern Baptist congregations, one Roman Catholic, and recently an independent Charismatic fellowship. I left the first one when I was ostracized following a divorce, the second when I was fired from employment there, the third out of disinterest, and most recently Brenda and I left BCF due to a difference in the direction of our ministry compared to that of the church leadership.

I offer that information as my credentials to talk about why people leave churches.

People who switch congregations are not the issue, in my opinion, because they are still seeking connection, still seeking a place to worship, still seeking a place to be spiritually fed.

The much bigger problem is the people who leave the church experience completely.

Here's some insight, a quote from the book "Jesus Wants to Save Christians," by Rob Bell and Don Golden:

"A church's authority.....comes from how we've been broken open and poured out, not from how well we've pursued power and lobbied and organized ourselves to triumph. This is why when Christians organize politically and start flexing that muscle, making threats about how they are going to impose their way on others, so many people turn away from Jesus.

Jesus' followers at that point are claiming to be the voice of God, but they are speaking the language of Caesar and using the methods of (the Roman Empire)."

Jesus came to aid the weak and disenfranchised, yet many churches are led by those who seek strength by accumulating power and wealth.

Jesus came to earth as a living sacrifice to die for us, yet many churches ask their members to sacrifice to sustain the church.

Jesus didn't brag about how many people came to hear Him speak, yet many churches measure their success by counting heads in the congregation and/or baptisms they perform.

Jesus never had a home base, never built a facility, yet many churches focus much of their members' energy in obtaining, growing, furnishing, and maintaining buildings.

Jesus reached out to people at the lowest rung of society, yet many churches reject people who aren't dressed "properly", aren't the right color, or who love someone of the same gender.

Jesus kept the focus of His short time on earth toward ministering to those who needed Him and training those who would follow in leadership, yet many churches have most of their focus on sustaining itself and meeting the needs of people already in their congregations at the expense of those outside the walls who truly need love and sustenance.

You can find many churches without any trace of the real Jesus.

You can connect with the real Jesus without stepping foot in a church.

You can find Him in your living room.

You can find Him at a park bench.

You can find Him while breaking bread with other seekers in a restaurant.

Sometimes, you have a better chance of connecting with Jesus beyond the walls of the church.

That's where most of the people He originally came to save can be found.

That's beyond the politics, power struggles, financial concerns, committees, and drama that often take the place of ministry and worship in what should be the Lord's House.

The church is growing in China through a network primarily focused on house churches, small groups meeting in someone's home.

The house church movement is starting to grow in the United States. Groups like DOVE Christian Fellowship International are facilitating that growth.

People are still seeking Jesus.

More people are looking outside the box, namely the walls of the church, to find Him.

Sometimes that can be the purest form of worship, just praising Him without a band, stereo system, and video display.

Simply a small group making a joyful noise because they love the Lord.

Just like they did in the early Church as recorded in the Book of Acts.

Perhaps we should get back to the basics.

If you've been rejected by the church, there are alternatives.

Sometimes something can be so simple, so pure, we completely miss it.

Just because the door of the church has been slammed shut in your face, don't close the door on Jesus.

He's still ready to welcome you with open arms and love you.

Just as you are, right where you are.

Pioneers in GLBT Faith: Rev. Robert W. Wood

From the LGBT Religious Arcihves Network:

Wood was ordained in the Congregational Christian denomination on June 17, 1951 in Fair Haven, Vermont. He served on the staff of Broadway Tabernacle in New York City for two years and then as pastor in Spring Valley, New York, for 11 years; in an inner-city congregation in Newark, New Jersey, for 13 years; and finally in Maynard, Mass. for eight years. During this time, he served six years on the United Church of Christ's Board for Homeland Ministries and another six years on the Board for World Ministries.

Robert engaged Christian attitudes toward homosexuality throughout his ministry. In 1956 he wrote an article entitled "Spiritual Exercises" for a gay physique magazine Grecian Guild, in which his photo in a clerical collar appeared. After meeting Donald Webster Cory, author of the ground-breaking 1951 book The Homosexual in America, Robert started writing a book on Christianity and homosexuality. Christ and the Homosexual was published in 1960 by Vantage Press. Wood's photo appeared on the dust jacket and his congregation was identified in the book. All 5,000 printed copies were sold. A review in ONE magazine said: "Sparkling, intimate, compassionate and well-informed--this book is among other things probably the best and most readable description of gay life currently in print...This is the first book written by a responsible clergyman to welcome homosexuals into the Church without demanding that they give up the practice of homosexuality." Wood was honored with Awards of Merit from the Mattachine Society and The Prosperos that year. In August, 1962, Wood was a featured speaker at the Ninth Annual Conference of the Mattachine Society. He was the only clergy among 18 gay men and 7 lesbians who picketed in front of the Civil Service Building in Washington, D.C. on June 25, 1965, in a protest organized by Frank Kameny.

Click here to read the rest of the profile for Rev. Wood.

March 03, 2009

Advocacy Group: Faith in America

The advocacy organization "Faith in America" sets the bar pretty high with their mission statement--"Ending the Harm Caused by Religious-Based Bigotry."

From their website:

Faith In America's mission is to educate the public about the harm caused when religious beliefs are used to promote and justify prejudice, discrimination and violence toward gay Americans with emphasis on the negative impact on youth. The goal of this education process is to end the advance of religion-based bigotry and prejudice toward gay citizens and to marginalize those groups or individuals who bring that harm to bear on good, decent and law-abiding Americans simply because of sexual orientation.

We have injected a new voice into the national dialogue on full and equal rights for gay Americans. No longer will the Tony Perkins, James Dobsons or Frank Tureks of the world be allowed to justify and promote attitudes of rejection, condemnation and violence with impunity.

No longer should gay and lesbian individuals have to hear themselves called sinners and unworthy by media spokespersons, elected officials, religious leaders, or any advertisements stemming from pro-LGBT initiatives.
It simply no longer can be acceptable or tolerated because of the immense emotional, psychological and spiritual violence it brings to bear on our families and communities, gay and straight.

We will not agree to disagree when it comes to young lives being wrecked.

Making people aware of that harm and helping them understand the pain is of course the reason Mitchell Gold, our founder, in Sept. 08 published the book "CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America" Crisis." (reviewed at this blog a few weeks ago) It is changing a heart and a mind of someone in America. CRISIS is perhaps the single, most effective educational tool that exists in the public discourse today when it comes to our message.

Almost daily, we receive a personal story from someone who has been impacted by Mitchell Gold's book. It is allowing parents, teachers, counselors, pastors and others to see the true face of the harm caused by religion-based bigotry and in doing so gives them the reason to move away from a position that promotes such harm.

We hope you'll join us in ensuring that more and more Americans in 2009 will come to see that the harm caused by religion-based bigotry and prejudice toward gay and lesbian Americans is indeed one of the greatest moral failures of our day.

Touching on one of my key concerns, Faith in America has demonstrated a willingness and established a track record of collaboration with other GLBT advocacy organizations to fulfill their common missions.

I encourage you to check out their website.

March 02, 2009

Are You Straight?

Here is a link, thanks to the Houston Chronicle's religion blog, that asks the question in a way all too many of you may be familiar with.

Don't worry, it's nothing to be ashamed of. After all, God made us that way.

March 01, 2009

Sunday Worship 3/1/09

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 me.

Worship Music--sing along and make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Beautiful One

Friend of God

I Could Sing of Your Love Forever

Live Worship Services--all times Eastern

Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore, WA 1:30 PM Eastern (also archives of pervious services)

Recent Recorded Worship Services

Rainbow Community Church of Vancouver, BC

Church of the Holy SpiritSong, Fort Lauderdale, FL