Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gay Priest To Lead Lutheran Congregation In SF


A Lutheran church in San Francisco installed an openly gay priest as its lead pastor, setting itself up for a possible confrontation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

With prayers and hymns, the Reverend Robert Goldstein took over as lead pastor of the Saint Francis Lutheran Church on Sunday.

The 61-year-old Goldstein says the Lutheran churches in the United States are polarized over whether openly gay and lesbian ministers who are sexually active should serve as pastors.

The denomination does ordain openly gay and lesbian clergy, but requires them to remain celibate.

Martin Luther ended celibacy as a requirement for priests when he founded the church in the 16th century.

"It's part of a struggle. Today it's also part of a celebration,” Goldstein told KCBS reporter Henry Mulak after the service.

The pastor expects that in the end, the entire denomination will follow the example being set by St. Francis, which holds that the national body’s double standard on celibacy violates one of the founding principals of the faith.

"This congregation's been a leader in that, and because it was a leader, it was removed from the roster of congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” Goldstein said.

St. Francis was expelled from the denomination for ordaining a gay man and a lesbian in 1995.

Goldstein still a member of the that body and could face expulsion for serving in the San Francisco church.

“Serving this congregation is a way of bearing witness to the larger church that one of your pastors is here, serving this congregation with joy and faith and confidence,” Goldstein said.

Joe Rogers
(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Robert Goldstein has posted comments to the story below about his installation. You may engage him there or if he posts here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Work launched on guide to reading, understanding the Bible

Shrimp here: Nod, nod, wink, wink, work under way, alright! Work to end our way of life as we know it (or remember it fondly).

Please don't take this the wrong way Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and Professor Craig Nessan. I am sure you are principled human beings, love Jesus and all that, and you really believe in the causes for which you are true crusaders. I am glad you want to feed the world and understand that part of human righteousness. However, you are about to make a mess of hermeneutics in the Lutheran church and give unpricipled nut jobs an authority to point to, so they can give the National Man Boy Love Association permission to meet in the church basement.

And, because almost no one can see this except us crustacaens, The Lutheran magazine happily is pressed into serive in its April 2006 edition. Do read every word carefully. You humans can still read, right?

"Work is under way on a major resource to help ELCA members read the Bible with understanding and in a Lutheran approach, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson told the Conference of Bishops gathered March 2-7 in Lake Geneva, Wis.

“Book of Faith: Lutherans Read the Bible” will be developed over the coming year with an anticipated introduction at synod assemblies in spring 2007, the bishop said.

“We are increasingly a biblically illiterate church,” he said, one in need of such a guide.

The 2005 Churchwide Assembly authorized the project as an examination of how “word and witness go together,” Hanson said.

To help the bishops, Craig L. Nessan, academic dean and professor of contextual theology at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, presented a 20-page paper, “The Authority of Scripture.” He noted that biblical literalism developed in the late 19th century as a way of defending the authority of Scripture against other interpretations.

Today, he said, “in an era where many people are searching for something reliable to stand upon, literalist teaching about the Bible and its authority has proven very attractive and durable.”

Martin Luther took a different view, Nessan said, quoting him: “It is not enough simply to look and see whether this is God’s word, whether God has said it; rather we must look and see to whom it has been spoken, whether it fits us. That makes all the difference between night and day."

For the sake of the people of God, somebody stop these people. Go here to verify that this butchery and misdirection and misuse of Luther actually happened in a publication that has Luther as the base of its name. More importantly, go here to read the paper that Hanson had Nessan present to the Council of Bishops (damage has already been done).

Yes, damage has already been done, but if this thing becomes an official document of the ELCA, said body is doomed.

Revisionists have hammer and tongs. They are shaping the ELCA to fit their dreams of the perfect social agenda agency. As someone said over at alpb, Hanson will be able to do what Griwold only dreamed of...

The Meaning of Marriage (Part 1)

Interview With Princeton's Robert George

PRINCETON, New Jersey, MARCH 20, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Debates about the institution of marriage are often characterized as clashes between religious adherents and secularists, which imply the debate is one between faith and reason.

However, a new collection of essays from across the academic disciplines argues that marriage need not be defended solely through appeals to religious authority or tradition.

Robert P. George is co-editor with Jean Bethke Elshtain of "The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market and Morals" (Spence). He is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and serves on President George Bush's Council on Bioethics.

George shared with ZENIT some of the arguments presented in the book as to why marriage is an "intrinsic good." Part 2 of this interview will appear Tuesday.

Q: What compelled you to compile this book of essays on the meaning of marriage? What is so special about this collection?

George: These essays are important because they demonstrate that marriage isn't a sectarian issue or even a narrowly religious one.

Quite the contrary, the essays demonstrate the public importance of marriage and our ability as rational people to grasp the meaning, value and significance of marriage even when we do not invoke or appeal to special revelation or religious tradition.

Last December, Jean Bethke Elshtain and I hosted a three-day conference, sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute, that brought together leading scholars from across the academic disciplines -- history, ethics, economics, law and public policy, philosophy, sociology, psychiatry, political science -- to discuss marriage.

Scholars presented papers on their academic discipline's contribution to our understanding of marriage, and each of the disciplines offered profound insights into the importance of marriage both for individuals and for the nation.

The papers did not invoke revelation, religious authority or sectarian reasoning. This was the best of what's been termed "public reason" at work.

And the conclusions from everyone at the conference were that: a) marriage matters; b) marriage is in crisis; and c) we could be facing the virtual abolition of marriage if we go down the road of same-sex "marriage."

Professor Elshtain of the University of Chicago and I decided to compile these essays into a book because the information and arguments we were fortunate enough to have heard at the conference need to be disseminated throughout our nation. Every American who cares about civil society, child well-being and the condition of marriage in our culture needs to know about the scholarly findings reported in this collection.

Right now there is a public debate going on about marriage, but all too often it has devolved into shouting matches about same-sex "marriage" alone.

Our project tried to avoid this pitfall, and to examine the entire range of social problems at stake in the discussion of marriage: fatherlessness, cohabitation, divorce, out of wedlock childbearing, etc.

While I cannot mention every chapter in the book, there are three essays written from a social science perspective that I will mention.

Don Browning of the University of Chicago and Elizabeth Marquardt -- author of "World's Apart" -- have a fascinating essay, "What About the Children? Liberal Cautions on Same-Sex Marriage."

Maggie Gallagher, the president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, has an insightful essay entitled, "(How) Does Marriage Protect Child Well-Being?"

W. Bradford Wilcox, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, concludes the book with a reflection on marriage's impact on the least well off in society, in his essay, "Suffer the Little Children: Marriage, the Poor and the Commonweal."

Other essays include an argument on how the acceptance of same-sex "marriage" would erase the grounds of principle for rejecting polygamy and polyamory, that is, multiple partner sexual unions; an illuminating discussion of how "no-fault divorce" -- unilateral divorce -- has weakened marriage as an institution, and how the lessons learned from our mistake in embracing "no-fault" divorce might make us cautious as we contemplate even more radical changes; and arguments about the importance of marriage for the legal, political and economic welfare of our society.

When a generation ago people began to discuss "no-fault" divorce, few even considered whether allowing Adam to more easily divorce Eve would have anything other than positive effects on marriage and society as a whole.

In hindsight we can see how the introduction of "no-fault" divorce altered -- for the worse -- people's understanding of the meaning of marriage, with profoundly damaging social consequences.

That experience should make us very skeptical of claims that we can recognize the relationship of Adam and Steve as a "marriage" without further eroding a sound public understanding of what marriage means and what it truly is.

Q: Turning from the book as a whole to your particular contribution, a chapter on practical philosophy and marriage: What do you mean in your essay when you say that marriage is an "intrinsic good"?

George: I mean that marriage is properly understood as more than a means to ends that are extrinsic to it.

The value of marriage is not merely instrumental. Marriage is a basic human good -- an irreducible aspect of the well-being and fulfillment of a man and woman who unite themselves to each other as spouses.

When one understands marriage properly as the permanent and exclusive union of sexually complementary spouses whose comprehensive, loving and faithful sharing of life is founded upon their "one-flesh" bodily unity, one sees that marriage provides a reason for action whose intelligibility as a reason does not depend on further goals or objectives to which it is a mere means.

In uniting a man and a woman at every level of their being -- the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual -- marriage is intelligibly choiceworthy as an end in itself.

Just as the most fundamental point of non-marital friendship is friendship itself, and not other ends to which friendships may be useful as means, the most fundamental point of marriage is marriage itself.

Q: You note that much of the confusion about sex and marriage in our culture finds its roots in the thought of 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume. How is this so?

George: I don't want to place too much of the blame on poor old David Hume.

As I point out in my chapter of "The Meaning of Marriage," Hume himself held rather conservative views about marriage, recognizing it as a profoundly important social institution, one which needs and deserves support and protection by the formal institutions of society and by the customs and mores of the people.

The problem is not in what Hume taught about marriage; it is in what Hume taught about practical reason and moral truth.

As I've observed, a sound understanding of marriage recognizes it as an intrinsic good, or what, following Germain Grisez, I have called a basic human good -- something persons have reason to choose precisely because they grasp its worth as an irreducible aspect of human well-being and fulfillment.

But Hume teaches that there are no basic human goods, no more-than-merely-instrumental reasons for choice and action. Rather, Hume supposes, all of our ends are given by subrational motivating factors, such as feeling, desire, emotion -- what Hume called "the passions."

Reason, then, is reduced to a purely instrumental role in the domain of deliberation, choice and action. Reason cannot identify what is intelligibly desirable and thus choiceworthy; its role, on the Humean account of the matter, is merely to identify efficient means by which we can achieve whatever ends we happen to desire.

As Hume summed up his position, "reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and may pretend to no other office than to serve and obey them."

To the extent that Hume's teaching has been accepted, whether formally or merely implicitly, by contemporary men and women, it has led them to adopt a form of subjectivism -- sometimes called "moral non-cognitivism" -- that undermines a sound understanding of marriage and other basic human goods.

This is particularly damaging in the case of marriage, because marriage is the kind of good that can be participated in fully only by those who, however informally, understand it properly. Its capacity to enrich our lives as spouses -- and, where the marriage is blessed with children, as parents -- is significantly dependent on our understanding it and grasping its more-than-merely-instrumental value.

[Tuesday: Public reasons for defending marriage]

The Meaning of Marriage (Part 2)

(from zenit.org)

Interview With Princeton's Robert George

PRINCETON, New Jersey, MARCH 21, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Proponents of same-sex "marriage" often claim that allowing same-sex couples to marry cannot possibly harm anyone else's marriage, as the relationship is distinctly private.

This argument prompted scholars from across the disciplines to gather together to offer distinctly "public reasons" for the preservation of the institution of marriage as a male-female union.

Their results have been gathered into a new book, "The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market and Morals" (Spence), co-edited by Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain.

George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and serves on President George Bush's Council on Bioethics.

The scholar shared with ZENIT why the ability to choose and meaningfully participate in marriage is dependent upon legal and cultural institutions that support that choice.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Monday.

Q: You describe the good of marriage as a "one-flesh communion of persons." Is that a distinctly religious concept?

George: No. The intrinsic value of marriage, understood as a comprehensive, multilevel sharing of life founded upon the bodily communion of sexually complementary spouses and naturally ordered to procreation and the upbringing of children, can be grasped, and has been grasped, by people of different faiths and by those of no particular faith.

The teachings of most, if not all, religions extend to marriage in one way or another, but the good of marriage can be known, and is known, by reason, even when unaided by revelation.

Even when it comes to providing a critical reflective account of marriage, John Finnis has made the point that the greatest philosophers of ancient Greece and jurists of pre-Christian Rome were able to articulate the foundations of a sound understanding of this great human good.

Of course, the language of "one-flesh union" derives from the Hebrew Bible and is powerfully reaffirmed by Jesus in the Gospels. For Jews and Christians, revelation reinforces and illuminates a great truth of natural law.

Q: Section 1652 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "By its very nature, the institution of marriage and married love is ordered toward the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory." The Catechism thus appears to describe marriage in purely instrumental terms. Can you clarify how your position is consistent?

George: Sure. I have already remarked that married love and the institution of marriage are naturally ordered toward procreation and the upbringing of children.

But this is not to say that children are extrinsic ends to which marital union, in its sexual dimension or otherwise, is a mere means. "Ordered toward" does not mean "is merely a means to."

Perhaps the best evidence that the Church recognizes the intrinsic value of marriage and does not treat it merely as a means to procreation is her clear and unwavering teaching that people can have reason to marry, and may legitimately marry, and can be fully and truly married, even when the infertility of one or both spouses renders procreation impossible for them.

Marriages of infertile spouses are true marriages. They are not pseudo-marriages. They are not second-class marriages.

Because human beings are constituted as they are, thus constituting the human good as it is, it is intrinsically fulfilling for men and women to unite in a form of communion apt for -- "ordered toward" -- procreation and the upbringing of children even where, in their particular case, they will not be able to conceive or rear children.

Spouses truly become "one flesh" in their marital intercourse even when temporary or permanent infertility means that conception will not take place. It is worth noting that for Jews and Christians marriages are consummated by completed sexual intercourse, not by achieving the conception of a child.

However, nothing in the affirmation of this great truth contradicts the equally great truth that children conceived as the fruit of marital communion are indeed the "crowning glory" of marital love.

Children are not operational objectives of the sexual union of spouses or of the institution of marriage; rather, they, are gifts supervening on marital love to be welcomed and cherished as perfective participants in the community -- the family -- established by their parents' marital communion.

Q: Does the Church's recognition of the validity of infertile marriages contradict its teaching that marriage is necessarily the union of a man and a woman, rather than a union of any two persons, including persons of the same sex?

George: No. The key thing to see is that the Church, consistently with what we know by the light of natural reason, understands marriage as fundamentally and irreducibly a sexual relationship.

Any two -- or more -- people can live together, caring for each other and sharing each other's lives in many dimensions. But for a marriage to be brought into existence and be completed, a comprehensive, multilevel sharing of life must be founded on the bodily -- biological -- union of spouses.

A man and woman pledged to permanent fidelity to each other must become "one flesh" by virtue of the consummation of their union by intercourse in which they fulfill the behavioral conditions of procreation -- whether or not the non-behavioral conditions necessary for conception to take place happen to exist.

In the absence of true biological union, persons cannot be sharing each other's lives in the uniquely marital way; their sharing of life cannot be a comprehensive sharing, one in which their communion at other levels is founded on their bodily communion.

It is by performing marital acts -- acts that are procreative in type, whether or not they are reproductive in effect; and even if, due to disease, defect or a woman's age they cannot result in procreation -- that a man and woman pledged in permanent fidelity to each other consummate and renew their marriage as a one-flesh union.

This is why marriages cannot be between more than two persons, however fond they are of each other and however committed to the group each may sincerely be; and it is why marriages cannot be between persons of the same sex.

Once we understand marriage as truly a one-flesh union, we see that sexual activity between or among members of polyamorous groups or between partners of the same sex, however much they may desire it or find it satisfying, is inherently non-marital.

Whatever one makes of claims that sexual play can enhance the emotional bonding of participants in polyamorous or same-sex relationships, plainly it cannot unite the sex partners maritally. Whatever its motive, objective or point, it cannot be biological, "one-flesh," unity -- the very foundation and defining principle of marriage.

Please note, by the way, that the Church's teaching here reflects her understanding of the body as fully participating in the personal reality of the human being, and not as a mere subpersonal instrument for achieving ends or inducing satisfactions desired by the conscious and desiring aspect of the self -- considered, as in dualistic theories, as the real person who inhabits and uses a body.

The biological union of spouses in procreative type acts can be true personal communion, precisely because we are our bodies -- though, of course, we are not only our bodies -- we are body-soul composites. We are not non-bodily persons -- minds, souls, consciousnesses -- residing in, or supervening on, and using non-personal bodies.

Q: If marriage is so self-evidently good, then why does the state need to intervene to preserve it? Couldn't it be preserved in churches and religious communities where it is celebrated and lived in the fullest sense?

George: This is a superficially appealing proposition.

Its appeal fades, however, the moment we consider both: a) the importance of marriages, and thus marriage considered as an institution, to the well-being of society and the state; and b) the vulnerability of marriage as an institution to social pathologies and to ideologies hostile to marriage that weaken the institution's immunities to these pathologies.

The most powerful and basic reason for the public's interest in marriage and its institutional health is its unique suitability for protecting children and rearing them to be upright people and responsible citizens.

As Brad Wilcox, Maggie Gallagher and other social scientists who have contributed to "The Meaning of Marriage" have shown, few things are as important to the public weal -- and in our current circumstances almost nothing is more urgent -- than creating and maintaining a set of social conditions in which children being raised by their moms and dads is the norm.

Certainly religious communities and other institutions of civil society have an indispensable role to play, but law has a role to play, too. The law is a teacher.

It will teach either that marriage is a reality in which people can choose to participate, but whose contours people cannot make and remake at will -- e.g., a one-flesh communion of persons united in a form of life uniquely suitable to the generation, education and nurturing of children -- or the law will teach that marriage is a mere convention, which is malleable in such a way that individuals, couples, or, indeed, groups, can choose to make of it whatever suits their desires, interests or subjective goals, etc.

The result, given the biases of human sexual psychology, will be the development of practices and ideologies that truly tend to undermine the sound understanding and practice of marriage, together with the development of pathologies that tend to reinforce the very practices and ideologies that cause them.

Oxford University philosopher Joseph Raz, himself a liberal who does not share my views regarding sexual morality, is rightly critical of forms of liberalism which suppose that law and government can and should be neutral with respect to competing conceptions of moral goodness.

In this regard, he has noted that: "Monogamy, assuming that it is the only valuable form of marriage, cannot be practiced by an individual. It requires a culture which recognizes it, and which supports it through the public's attitude and through its formal institutions."

Of course, Professor Raz does not suppose that, in a culture whose law and public policy do not support monogamy, a man who happens to believe in it somehow will be unable to restrict himself to having one wife or will be required or pressured into taking additional wives.

His point, rather, is that even if monogamy is a key element in a sound understanding of marriage, large numbers of people will fail to understand that or why that is the case -- and therefore will fail to grasp the value of monogamy and the intelligible point of practicing it -- unless they are assisted by a culture that supports, formally by law and policy, as well as by informal means, monogamous marriage.

What is true of monogamy is equally true of the other elements of a sound understanding of marriage.

In short, marriage is the kind of good that can be chosen and meaningfully participated in only by people who have a sound basic understanding of it and choose it with that understanding in mind; yet people's ability to understand it, and thus to choose it, depends crucially on institutions and cultural understandings that both transcend individual choice and are constituted by a vast number of individual choices.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The United Methodist Church: Weeping for Tammuz

The United Methodist Church: Weeping for Tammuz
Paganism in Our Churches, Part II
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Lee Duigon » Bio
March 13, 2006

[God] said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here [in the Temple], that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.

And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall …

And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.

So I went in, and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about …

Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz [a pagan deity] …

Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here?…

Therefore will I also deal in fury.

Ezekiel 8:6–18

[T]here be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:7–8

Today Paul Woodall is the pastor of the fastest-growing church in the town of Gove, Kansas.

Three years ago, Pastor Woodall and his flock seceded from the United Methodist Church, lost their building, and had to transfer their worship services to a small, struggling Baptist church nearby. The UMC dismissed Woodall from its ministry, and he soon dropped out of a legal battle over possession of the church building.

Why did Woodall and his people leave the UMC?

Because, he said, the denomination was rife with paganism and anti-Biblical practices — “same-sex unions, homosexual ordination, Sophia worship, goddess worship, Wicca worship, pagan practices, anti-trinitarianism, opposition to the virgin birth and the deity of Christ,” as reported on the UMC’s own website [http://archives.umc.org/umns/usnews_archive.asp?story={BC93801A-41D9-454A ...].

And why did he make that accusation?

“Because I saw it with my own eyes,” he told Chalcedon. “As a pastor, I encountered these things. So did members of this congregation. It was going on in a UMC church right down the road from us.

“We went there one night and saw what was supposed to be a ‘Christian healing service’ — with Tibetan prayer bells, a Baha’i prayer, and a chant. The chant went, ‘Come, Lord Jesus … Ommmm.’” [ “Om” is a Buddhist incantation.]

“We researched the matter and found a great deal of information on the Internet. We were shocked to find out this was going on in most of the mainline denominations today; and it was really bad in the UMC.

“So we left the UMC. That was the stand we took. And today our church [the Gove Community Bible Church] is exploding with new members.”

The rest is here.

Lutheran warns Church of Norway could split over homosexuality

Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
20 March 2006

Lutheran warns Church of Norway could split over homosexuality

By Oivind Ostang
Oslo, 20 March (ENI)--The head of the (Lutheran) Church of
Norway's doctrinal commission, Professor Torleiv Austad, has
warned that the denomination may split over the issue of

The commission was divided when it drew up a report in January as
to whether people living in same-sex relationships should hold
consecrated office. This led to suggestions that the church might
choose to have two equally official views on the matter,
something rejected by Austad.

"The situation is such that those caring for ecumenical
fellowship and for the unity of the Church of Norway should not
enforce decisions putting the two views side by side and allowing
the practice of both," Austad wrote in Luthersk Kirketidende (the
Lutheran Church Times), a quarterly theological publication.

The commission was evenly split on the proposal with a 6-5
episcopal majority in favour of same-sex cohabitants holding
consecrated office.

Austad told the daily newspaper Vart Land earlier in March, "My
hope is that one will see that the two understandings of
homosexuality are so different that both cannot simultaneously be
practised in liturgy and church order. One will simply have to

He said that before the matter reaches a general synod meeting in
2007, the Church of Norway national council ought to initiate a
thorough theological study of what practical consequences might
be drawn from the commission's report.

A Church of Norway bishop, Odd Bondevik of More diocese, has said
he might resign if the church introduces a liturgy for same-sex
partnerships or formally accepts homosexual cohabitants holding
consecrated office.

In a mid-February lecture, Bondevik said, "I am uncertain where
to draw the exact line in this matter. However, putting
homosexual partnership on the same footing as marriage, is in any
case heresy."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What is going on in Sierra Pacific?

Thanks to our amazing advances in technology you are now able to visit Ebenezer Lutheran Church (ELCA) and ask Pastor Stacy, "We just moved into the neighborhood and we are looking at ELCA churches. We want to find one like back home where our faith was fed through Word and Sacrament. How would you describe Ebenezer?"

To which pastor Stacy says, (go here)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hold the presses!

Shrimp here: Now me very happy that "religious" and "secular" glbt see that they have NO differences...

MARCH 13, 2006
1:12 PM

CONTACT: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Institute for Welcoming Resources Join Forces

Program is umbrella for more than 1,300 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender welcoming congregations, seminaries and campus ministries

Unprecedented joining of secular and faith-based organizing efforts

WASHINGTON - March 13 - The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced today that the Institute for Welcoming Resources (IWR), an umbrella organization for leading Protestant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) welcoming church programs, has merged with and will become a program of the Task Force. The move, an unprecedented joining of LGBT secular and faith-based organizing, is designed to provide new resources, training and strategies that will increase the number of people of faith supporting equality for LGBT people.

"We are extremely proud the Institute for Welcoming Resources, an essential leader in the effort to win support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in key denominations, is joining forces with us," said Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman. "The more than 1 million individuals in the 1,300 congregations supported by IWR are some of our movement's most valuable allies in the fight to reclaim 'moral values' from those who try to justify anti-gay bigotry as 'deeply held religious beliefs.'"

IWR works with the welcoming church movement in seven mainline Protestant denominations: the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Community of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the American Baptist Churches. Through this movement, congregations decide — through a formal vote — to offer an unconditional welcome to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and their families. To date, more than 1,300 congregations — with more than 1 million congregants — have adopted statements that explicitly welcome LGBT people to full inclusion in the life and ministry of their congregations.

"Those of us in the welcoming church movement see it as our job to proudly claim the witness and language of our faith traditions," said the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, executive officer of IWR. "Unfortunately for those of us who are Christian, some of that language has been hijacked by the radical right and used to attack and abuse LGBT folk. We are determined to change that." Voelkel, a minister in the United Church of Christ, will continue to lead the IWR program as a member of the Task Force staff.

With new resources and expertise resulting from this move, IWR expects to place faith-based field organizers across denominations in strategic locations around the country; produce new resources for welcoming congregations, seminaries and other settings, train clergy and lay leaders to work for LGBT equality; and exchange lessons learned between faith-based organizing in the mainline Protestant churches and progressive people of faith in other religious traditions. As part of the Task Force, the IWR program will continue to organize the "Witness Our Welcome (WOW)" conference as the national convening of welcoming people of faith. It will also continue the outreach work of the Shower of Stoles project, a visual and liturgical representation of the leadership gifts of LGBT people of faith and the loss that occurs when they are banned from leadership.

"We are confident our becoming part of the Task Force will help us grow this critical movement and take us to a new level of participation and effectiveness," said Voelkel.

Faith-Based LGBT Activism — A Parallel Stream

Like the Task Force, which was founded in 1973, many of the organizations with which IWR works have been in existence since the early 1970s, with a substantial history of LGBT organizing. This "parallel stream" of faith-based LGBT activism has grown alongside the secular political movement. For instance, Lutherans Concerned/North America, an organization of LGBT and allied Lutherans, has been working within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada since 1974. Over the years, these faith groups have given spiritual strength to LGBT people, bound up wounds caused by religious abuse, and advocated for full inclusion of LGBT people within their denominations and in society as a whole. In the process, they have won hundreds of thousands of dedicated heterosexual allies in their churches and achieved significant institutional change.

While extraordinary progress has been made within Protestant denominations, including the United Church of Christ's recent General Synod resolution endorsing marriage equality for same sex couples, it has been done on a shoestring. A recent report released by the Task Force National Religious Leadership Roundtable, David v. Goliath: A Report on Faith Groups Working for LGBT Equality (and What They're Up Against) found that pro-LGBT faith organizations were out-spent by their anti-gay opponents by an average of 8 to 1.

"Much of the most important and heroic work to win hearts and minds on LGBT issues has been within religious denominations," Foreman said. "It's long past time for the secular and faith-based wings of our movement to share resources and expertise and advance as a united movement."

IWR as part of the continuing interfaith outreach of the Task Force

Working with faith leaders is not new for the Task Force. Since 1998, the Task Force has convened the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, an interfaith collaboration of more than 40 faith organizations from across the spectrum of American religious traditions. National Religious Leadership Roundtable members act as spokespeople, educators and citizen advocates in order to change the public dialogue on religion and LGBT issues. In addition to the denominations represented in the IWR, the National Religious Leadership Roundtable includes Episcopal, Metropolitan Community Church, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Missionary Baptist, Unitarian, Quaker, Mormon, Seventh-Day Adventist, Eastern Orthodox and spiritualist representation.

A Muslim member of the Roundtable, Imam Daayiee Abdullah, spoke about the value of the Task Force working more closely with the Institute for Welcoming Resources. "A rising tide lifts all boats," Abdullah said. "As churches become more welcoming, there becomes less of an idea that all 'people of faith' oppose LGBT equality. I'm glad to work with my brothers and sisters in the welcoming congregations and learn from them, and I think they, too, will learn something from me."

To find out more about the IWR, including a comprehensive and geographical list of all the welcoming congregations around the country, visit www.welcomingresources.org.
IWR partner organizations include:

* More Light Presbyterians (Presbyterian Church USA)
* Open and Affirming Program(United Church of Christ)
* Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodist Church)
* Reconciling in Christ (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
* Gay and Lesbian Acceptance (Community of Christ)
* Open & Affirming Ministry (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
* Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (American Baptist Churches)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Desperately seeking ... media attention!

Gay Rights Group Targets Christian Colleges
Schools' responses to Soulforce's Equality Ride will vary widely.
by Sarah Pulliam | posted 03/09/2006 09:00 a.m.

• Related articles and links

For the next seven weeks, the group Soulforce will test the hospitality of Christian colleges. Some schools have decided withdraw the welcome mat for the national pro-gay activist group, while others are accommodating the protesters with housing and events.

Sixteen Christian colleges are preparing for the uninvited guests from what Soulforce is calling Equality Ride. The seven-week bus tour launching today will take 35 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and straight 18- to 28-year-olds to colleges with behavior codes that Soulforce calls discriminatory.

The religious schools Soulforce is protesting specifically ban homosexual behavior along with other non-marital sexual activity.

Soulforce will visit 12 members and three affiliates of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. CCCU president Bob Andringa told CT he has not seen protests at colleges like this in his 12 years heading the council. "I knew that none of our campuses would welcome that kind of outside [message]: 'We're coming, whether you want us to or not.'"

College presidents "are not afraid of violence, but more afraid of outside organizations intercepting [the protesters] on or near the campus," Andringa said. "Christians who are anti-gay will try to confront the riders, and that may cause unanticipated conflict."

Each college is taking a different approach. Some colleges are not allowing Soulforce on their campuses. Others are permitting the riders to hold panel discussions. One college is paying for the group to stay in a hotel, and another college is inviting them into their homes. Andringa said the CCCU is not recommending any particular approach to the schools.

"They would love to have good dialogue, but I think they fear the motivations of some of the riders that will be visiting the campus," he said. The protesters, he said, "may be looking for confrontation, even arrest, in order to get media attention. … Our hope would be that they would keep it an educational visit."

In addition to demonstrations at colleges, Soulforce will hold a March 31 rally at the CCCU's International Forum in Dallas, Texas.

"I understand they received a permit to have a demonstration just outside the hotel's property, and that would be fine," Andringa said. "If they wanted to register a few people to attend our forum, they could do that. If Equality Ride wants to schedule a dialogue, we would make an announcement, and those interested could go to a site nearby that they arrange."

Seeking media attention
Equality Ride leader Jacob Reitan said one goal is to raise public awareness of the colleges' policies by using the media.

"We also hope to send out a clear message to gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender students that God loves them as they are," Reitan said. "Today, it's gay and lesbian people who are the outcasts of the church, and later the church will have to repent from it."

The article is at Christianity Today.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More news from the front!

Dear Friends,

I am making a special appeal to those of you I know are concerned about the greater churches' need to be more inclusive in welcoming Gay/Lesbian members and clergy.

Even though some of you may not be Lutheran or Christian [!!!!!!!!], if you support GLBT causes, you probably recognize that organized religion cannot remain a hiding place for sexual discrimination.

Please read carefully the invitation below and let me know if you can attend...Please make a special effort to join me that evening...

to a "One Voice Campaign House Party"

(see details below)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 7p.m. - 9 p.m.

to the home of

Pastor Phil Trzynka
Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran
Parish Parsonage (3rd floor)
602 E. 9th St. (Corner of Ave. B, top buzzer)
NYC , NY 10009

We are at a tipping point, a critical juncture of change within our church, where increased financial support will help us move boldly into the future; we invite you to participate with us in an historic collaboration to reform the Lutheran Landscape.

We have a common vision of the Lutheran communion that embraces and actualizes the full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Building on history of faithful presence, profound witness and extraordinary acts, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Wingspan Ministry of St. Paul-Reformation have entered a new era in which their faith and
commitment to this common vision have compelled them to engage in a joint strategic initiative-- One Voice .

"One Voice" is a $2,000,000 joint appeal that will support the individual and cooperative work plans of all three organizations. Already the campaign has raised nearly $1,000,000! Between now and the end of March the New York Metropolitan area is seeking gifts from folks such as yourself. These funds will be used for the staffing,
programming, volunteer training, rapid response, and technological advances needed to catalyze and sustain the momentum for change in the Lutheran Church.

A series of informal gatherings have been scheduled throughout the New York City area to explain and encourage major gifts toward this effort.

Come join others on March 8th a 7pm as we hear from Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned/North America about how you can share in this effort. Please RSVP if you are able to attend...bring a friend...


Phil Trzynka, Rick Erickson, Barbara Lundblad, Dick Miller, Jim Sudbrock, Ann Tiemeyer

Again, just posting news, folks. I'm tying to keep my Lenten discipline. Yegads!?!! Do let me just point out one thing, I wonder who is going to be leading Lenten study and prayer in all the congregations where the pastor is off to the GLBT powwow? That is, who in God's name would call a meeting for 7 PM Wednesday during Lent?

Monday, March 06, 2006

God used a movie about gay cowboys to release me from the burden of my past. (!)

"Homosexuality has been like a ghost, hiding in the shadows of my shame, telling me I can never reach my full potential as a Christian. As strange and contradictory as it may sound, seeing Brokeback Mountain helped me bury that ghost and begin moving forward.

"What I saw in Brokeback Mountain tore my heart apart. I cried with Alma when she discovered the truth about Ennis and Jack. I also cried for the countless wives in real life who know that their husbands are leading a secret existence. I cried even harder for the men, more in number than we realize, who are trapped in sexual sin and don't know how to escape it. And as I wept, I wondered if God could use me to help reach some of them with his grace and delivering power."

Read it all at CT

I don't think the the GLBT advocates or our bishops have a clue to how many of our members have turned their back on this lifestyle and can never go along with a church who blesses this because they have wounded consciences. They don't believe it becasue one of their core beliefs is that ex-gay ministrys are a sham.

Friday, March 03, 2006

When John Kaufman, a Lutheran church pastor, pledged his lifelong fidelity to Tom Wortham in a church ceremony last week....

Gay union clouds pastor's future
Ministerial post at local Lutheran church imperiled
By Marshall Allen Staff Writer

ALTADENA - When John Kaufman, a Lutheran church pastor, pledged his lifelong fidelity to Tom Wortham in a church ceremony last week, it was more than a public declaration of love.

Kaufman, 53, has been openly gay for decades, but entering into the relationship started him on a journey that could end in his removal from ministry.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the denomination to which Kaufman belongs, requires gay pastors to be celibate and does not endorse same-sex unions. Depending on one's perspective, the two men joining in lifelong union could be seen as a progressive breakthrough of outdated taboos, an endorsement of sin or a new offensive in the culture wars.

Gay pastors in relationships and the blessing of same-sex unions are causing deep division in many mainline denominations. The controversies involved run deeper than sexual orientation. They are rooted in different interpretations of the Bible. Those who advocate for the ELCA maintaining its current standards say Kaufman should resign.

In an interview before the ceremony, Kaufman said pledging his life to Wortham feels radical and "in your face" because it's so controversial. But it's the truth that he and his congregation at Christ the Shepherd Lutheran Church in Altadena have experienced, he said.

"Lying and living a lie, and living in the dark, is destructive," Kaufman said. "It's destructive to the human spirit and ultimately I think it's really destructive to the spirit of the church. We in the ELCA are really struggling with wanting to live together. That unity does not necessarily mean uniformity."

The sanctuary of Christ the Shepherd was packed for the Feb. 18 Holy Covenant celebration. The event was much like a wedding - with pre-ceremony jitters, vows, rings and a kiss - though the men didn't call it a marriage.

The ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Terry Tuvey Allen, senior pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Pasadena. During her sermon she said the broader society and the church don't understand same-sex relationships, and some might say accepting openly gay pastors is "the proverbial `slippery slope."'

But sometimes, God's direction "is over the edge and down the slope," she said.

A gay pastor uniting with another man is controversial in most churches because the traditional interpretation of the Bible says that homosexual behavior is sin. And sinful acts should never be openly endorsed by clergy, who are called to a high standard of moral conduct.

In the 2,000-year history of Christianity, it's only in recent decades that liberals in mainline denominations - including the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Methodist Church - have sought a change of views.

The Rev. Roy Harrisville III is an ELCA pastor and was leader of a conservative advocacy group called Solid Rock Lutherans formed for the 2005 Churchwide Assembly. He said the controversy over homosexual behavior pits two different theologies against each other. One is a theology of transformation, which says Jesus Christ liberates people from sin, he said. The other is a theology of affirmation, which says God affirms people for who they are, he said.

"The denomination needs to practice tough love," Harrisville said of Kaufman's situation. "We feel for these folks who are truly in a terribly difficult spot, emotionally and spiritually."

The debate about homosexual behavior often boils down to differing interpretations
of the Bible. For those holding to a traditional stance, the clearest passage relating to homosexual behavior is Romans 1:26-27, said Harrisville, who has his Ph.D. in biblical interpretation. In the passage, the Apostle Paul writes that "men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

Harrisville said he does not know Kaufman, but the pastor promised at his ordination to teach in accordance with the Bible and the Lutheran Confession.

"He has broken that vow," Harrisville said. "If he wishes to break that vow then that means he should no longer be a pastor in the ELCA."

Kaufman's stance is natural to him and his parishioners, and it's even in line with the personal beliefs of Bishop Dean Nelson, who leads the Southern California Synod of the denomination. Nelson said his duties as bishop may require him to mete out discipline that doesn't conform to his personal beliefs. The ELCA constitution says practicing homosexuals are precluded from ministry in the church.

A panel of five people will meet in the next month to interview Kaufman and others at his church, and then recommend discipline to Nelson. At this point, Nelson said the three options for discipline are private censure and admonition by the bishop, suspension and removal from ministry.

The synod is going through the same process with a gay pastor in Santa Monica, though it is quite rare. The only other time Nelson could remember such a situation, about a decade ago, the pastor was removed from ministry. The bishop said the decision should be made this spring.

Kaufman offered his resignation to his congregation in October, but its members voted 49-1 not to accept it. He said he was "born to be a pastor." He personally knows and respects "fine pastors with loving hearts" in the ELCA who disagree with his decision to live out his homosexuality.

"But for me, homosexuality is a given," he said.

Kaufman said he takes the Bible very seriously, but has a different interpretation of passages that seem to call homosexual behavior sin. When Paul wrote Romans, he did not have a "glimmer of understanding of homosexuality as we understand it in the 21st century," Kaufman said. Also, Paul's references to same-sex conduct refer to a pagan religious context, not people in committed relationships, he said.

Kaufman said he relates to the Bible story in which Jacob wrestles with God and won't let him go until he gets a blessing.

"I'm pretty scrappy and that's always been kind of an archetypal story for me," Kaufman said. "I feel kind of that way with the church: `I'm not going to let go of you until you bless me."'

Just reporting the news this time. This one is going to be another important case. I don't want to comment on it: not only am I keeping my fast, we don't want to give anyone any ideas! Do pray that God's will be done and that all these individuals (including ourselves) come into a more authentic realtionship with our Maker.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...