Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama Delivers on Support for the LGBT Community


Support for the LGBT Community
"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."
-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.

Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.

Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.

Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.

Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.

Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"ELCA has a service or liturgy of blessing of same-sex couples"

Shrimp here.

Maine State Senator Dennis Damon has introduced a bill in the state Legislature entitled “An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.” Writes Senator Damon, “This bill will allow couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, to marry and to enjoy the same legal rights and responsibilities of marriage as do married couples now. The bill respects and thus retains the religious freedoms now held and does not require religions opposed to same-sex marriages to sanction those marriages.”

The Herald Gazette of Camden and Rockland, Maine, published on Saturday an article, "Midcoast clergy respond to Damon's same-sex marriage bill" and among those interviewed was a local ELCA pastor.
Nativity Lutheran Church in Rockland is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "The policy of the ELCA at this time is that we recognize marriage as between a man and a woman," Pastor Jerry LiaBraaten said Thursday.

LiaBraaten said the ELCA has a service or liturgy of blessing of same-sex couples. "We cannot solemnize a relationship but we can offer a blessing," he said. While there have been no such blessing ceremonies in Maine, he said he is open to performing one.

"I would visit with the couple to determine their hopes and dreams and to see if this was a long-term commitment, just as I would with any couple," he said. "Then I would visit with the church council and agree on an approach."

One of the questions that would need to be discussed is whether to make the ceremony a private or public event.

"I would support it and agree with the public nature," he said, adding that such occasions are good for the community. He said his sect only considers baptism and Communion as sacraments, that marriage is called a rite in the Lutheran Church, and that he prefers all such events to be done with the witness of the community.

Personally, LiaBraaten said, he has no objection to giving same-sex couples the rights, privileges and responsibilities of those in traditional marriages. "They ought to be the same whether gay, lesbian or straight," he said.
Even in the light of New England Synod Bishop Margaret Payne's communications here and here from 3 years ago, we're surprised to learn that the ELCA has a same-sex blessing rite since officials keep insisting otherwise. We're hoping the reporter didn't quite understand Pastor LiaBraaten.

But if not, where can we see this service? How long is "a long-term commitment?" And is the ELCA aptly described as a sect?

Shrimp out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

That's Some Reformation! (redux)

Shrimp here, with an update of sorts to our That's Some Reformation! entry on the extraordinary call to Jay Wilson, who had "transitioned female-to-male in appearance while living" and matriculating at Luther Seminary. Referring to a particular old Forum Letter article, we had written,
Naturally, our copy of that particular issue is (we think) currently "filed" in one of several chests labeled "stuff to be filed" and Forum Letter wasn't online then, so we can't fill you in with (or direct you to) all the gory details.
Well, Forum Letter wasn't online then, but ALPB Forum Online was online and already included a Selected RePrints section. And we just discovered (okay, rediscovered) that the articles we were looking for in our earlier post were right there all along.

So, we invite you to read Learning Deficiencies at Luther from the November 2004 Forum Letter (here's a taste):
Take, for example, a current internship assignment from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. This year Luther has placed an intern with Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Sacramento, CA. Let us say up front that we do not mean to suggest that this case is at all comparable to Thomas’ case in terms of physical danger to children, nor do we believe that the intern involved in any way poses such danger. Still, as you will see, there are other reasons to question the seminary’s placement. Indeed, the issues surrounding this situation are so numerous it is hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start with the candidate herself (and we are withholding her name purely out of sympathy for her as an individual, and because her personal situation is not really the primary issue here). She, it seems, is a transgendered person. She had been a “she” entering Luther, but now on internship she is a “he.” We won’t begin to speculate what the nature of this change may entail, but the category of transgender in current usage refers to a continuum of persons dealing with gender ambiguity. (If you really want to know more, check out ). Let us simply note that this student is confronted by some heavy duty personal issues, issues that maybe are just a bit beyond the usual fare for seminarians.

Perhaps the best way to give you a sense of this is to quote a few words from the student herself. Writing a signed article last year in Luther’s student publication Concord, she related, “When I came out as queer, I realized slowly that I didn’t have to try to be woman enough anymore. I could be masculine and there was a place for that. But I still called myself woman. . . . But one of the insistences [sic] of queer women is that they are fully woman, and there is less and less space for masculine women. As I started to let myself dress the way I wanted to and express myself in more masculine ways, I realized that woman enough to be a woman . . . didn’t fit me. . . . Having discovered this I realized that my identity is congruent with my genderqueer body and style, I’ve been joyfully experimenting to see what works the best for me.” “Genderqueer,” as we understand it, is the new politically correct term for “transgender.” Some days we just wish everyone would settle on one lexicon.

So yes, you bet, there are some personal issues for this seminarian. Or to put it as Luther’s contextual education director Randy Nelson did in a recent conversation with Forum Letter, this student is in a process of “discernment,” both about whether she/he is being called to the office of the holy ministry, and whether it is as a “he” or as a “she” that she/he is or isn’t being called. Discernment? Well. We hardly know what to say, but before saying anything at all let us again express our honest sympathy for the student, who obviously, as we said, has some real issues to resolve, and is apparently struggling with them honestly and openly.
and Luther Internship Redux from December 2004, which begins:
A number of correspondents have observed that our article about Luther Seminary and one of its internship assignments made little mention of the role the synodical candidacy committee may have played in approving the student in question (“Learning Deficiencies at Luther,” FL:33:10 ).

Naturally, there is a reason for this. The seminary official most responsible for the internship declined to tell us which candidacy committee was involved, and when we did find out — from another seminary official — it was too late to incorporate it into the story. Should you wonder, the committee is the Intersynodical Candidacy Committee serving, among other places, the Greater Milwaukee Synod, apparently this intern’s home synod. But knowing that, as we found out, changes little.

Among our correspondents were those who would excuse the seminary and scapegoat the candidacy committee. It was suggested to us that once the committee has endorsed a seminarian for internship, the only possible reason a seminary might deny it would be the lack of an available site.

Not quite. We will concede the candidacy committee itself bears a good deal of the responsibility, but it is not the chief culprit in this business. Even should the committee approve an internship, as it evidently did in the instance we reported, the seminary itself is not obligated to place a seminarian on internship. As we pointed out in the piece, a great deal of effort was made to find an internship site for the student, even to the extent of ignoring or overlooking several key points in the ELCA’s policy on internships. Only an active ignorance of the policy permitted the seminary to accept as supervisor a pastor who is out-of-compliance with ELCA policies.
That last sentence returns us to this from the first article:
It seems to us Dr. Nelson went above and beyond the call of duty here, and proactively sought out a congregation which might welcome such an intern. He hit the jackpot in Our Redeemer, a so-called Reconciling in Christ congregation whose pastor, Robyn Hartwig, is a lesbian who has publicly admitted to being out of compliance with Vision and Expectations, the ELCA’s statement of standards for ordained ministers. You can read about her disagreement with the church at some length at
Not unexpectedly, that Sacramento News & Review article isn't at that link. But Robyn Hartwig showed up on Lutheran (True!) Confessions last week with a report of her call and installation as associate pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Beaverton, Oregon.

Where Oregon Synod Bishop David Brauer-Rieke preached,
I said, “Robyn, what’s wrong?” She looked at me and said, “Huh? Oh no, nothing, I’m OK.” And I said, “You still feel called to parish ministry, don’t you?” The embers kicked in a little bit and she said, “Oh yes, absolutely,” and then they died away again. And I said, “So what’s wrong?” And Robyn looked up at me for a moment and then looked back at the ground and she said, “It’s hard to be rejected for who you are rather than embraced for what you have to offer.” “I’m not sure I’m ready to risk that again.” Risk that again being bread and butter reality for people who are gay or lesbian as Robyn is. Or just women who are looking for professional roles in the world. Or perhaps people who are marginalized because of race or social class or whatever. It’s hard to be rejected for who you are rather than embraced for what you have to offer.
Read it all here, or listen to the Bishop exercising "restraint."

Shrimp out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Me timbers shiverin'!

Arggh, mateys! Cap'n Bill here. Ye wish to know why I prefer to be avast in the wide Sargasso Sea that sit portside? Besides it be me job to try and save derelct ships? Because it is safer out in the sea with typhoons that sitting having tea with the Bishop or Governor.

Talk about dangerous bishops, here is one who is even a danger to his own self:

"Bishop Robinson said he had been reading inaugural prayers through history and was “horrified” at how “specifically and aggressively Christian they were.”

“I am very clear,” he said, “that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that."

Well, let me be clear, Bp Robinson, I think ye be just the man to be able to do that.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Radical Welcome in the ELCA

Cap'n Bill here: Har-r-r-r Mateys! What say ye to the new emphasis in the ELCA, "Radical Welcome"? Haven't heard of it yet? You will. Check this out. This book by an activist Episcopal priest has its own blog on the ELCA web site: Radical Welcome Blog . And it be hosted by the priestess herself! Today's sample?

Friday, January 9, 2009

A thought for January: Radical welcome -- a risk worth taking!
From the outset of Radical Welcome, I tried to make clear that this ministry is risky, but that the risk is worth it.If we seek to truly welcome the gifts, power and presence of The Other, and even to note who The Other is, then there will be changes, and you might not initially like them. Changes in how we have imagined church, changes in how we do church, changes in who holds power in church, on and on. But they're worth it. Because we make these changes hoping that the one who has come to our churches and experienced a closed door -- closed to their presence, but also closed to their cultural experience or to their generational perspective -- will finally experience openness. Think of it as the "wideness of God's mercy."That's why I shared my own story of feeling welcomed at the Episcopal Cathedral in New York City and some Episcopal and Lutheran churches, and my experience of frankly feeling less than welcomed in other churches. Because I hope we can all get in touch with the joy of experiencing and sharing God's welcome and the pain of seeing lack of welcome ... and that once we know those emotions, we will feel compelled to go through the changes necessary to make sure no one feels anything less than welcomed in our congregations and ministries.I wonder: When have you felt welcomed in a congregation or ministry -- like your gifts and your voice, your contribution and your culture, your perspective and your power were all welcome at the table? Has that ever happened in a space where it really surprised you (THEY actually want to hear from ME? How wonderful!)?What did it feel like? What got stirred inside you? What happened as a result?I wonder again: And when have you felt unwelcome -- that there wasn't room for your voice, for your hopes, for your culture, for your perspective? Think about church, but also about the many spheres in which you move or have moved: school, family, work, etc. What did it feel like to be held at the margins, or told to leave some part of yourself (your class, your culture, your race, your gender, your sexuality) on the fringe? What did it cost you? What got shut down in you?May God bless us with the grace to heal wounds and welcome where we least expect it ... whatever the cost.

Rev. Stephanie Spellers

Well , we certainly wouldn't want to be leaving our sexuality out, would we?

Here she is hosting a web board with the Women of the ELCA (WELCA).

WELCA be rolling out a every-member book study. I can't tell you how bad this is. This book is as "intentional" as can be. It means to brainwash every last member in the ELCA to go beyond tolerance, beyond inclusion, beyonf incorporation of the gay agenda: Radical Welcome means to incarnate gayness into the fiber of the ELCA being.

What does it say about the book on the ELCA web site? Nothing about what makes this so radical, not a word about gay liberation theology. But what will the book clubs in the church basement be reading about? How about "conversion of the congregation." "Transformation." Or we could call it what it is, brainwashing.

Hey, don't take my word for it. Read an outside source, Faithfully Liberal blog.

Radical Welcome — A Review
By Pastor Bob Cornwall

Stephanie Spellers, Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation. New York: Church Publishing, 2006. xi + 180 pages.

Every church wants to be known as the “friendly church” or the “welcoming church,” even if they are neither friendly nor welcoming. Many a time a person has entered the doors of a congregation to find the welcome mat withdrawn or at least absent. Even churches that seek to live out their slogan of friendliness and welcome can fall short of expectations. Stephanie Spellers, an African-American woman Episcopal priest offers churches that seek to be truly welcoming an important resource and a strong challenge. It is a challenge to become more than an inviting and inclusive community faith to become one that is “radically welcoming.”

Radical Welcome is, according to our author, a spiritual practice. It’s not merely a means to an end; it is a fundamental aspect of being Christian and church. Radical Welcome “combines the universal Christian ministry of welcome and hospitality with a clear awareness of power and patters of inclusion and exclusion” (p. 11). In the course of writing this small book Spellers emphasizes the issue of power, or more specifically the willingness to cede power in the process of creating a space where “the Other” might find a home. It is an attempt to create a space for mutuality, and for this to happen, it must be done intentionally.

Radical Welcome involves conversion – on the part of the church itself. It is rooted in a theology that assumes that God is seeking our transformation and seeking to be in relationship with us. Our call to welcome “the Other” is rooted in God’s identity as the God of Welcome. God we learn is one who reaches out to all and not just to us. God is the one who seeks out the Prodigal – this is not a passive God, but one who actively loves.

This isn’t a along book, but it covers a lot of ground. It deals with matters of theology and practice. It illuminates our points of resistance – that is our fear of change and fear of “the Other.” It shines light on our discomfort with letting go of power. Radical Welcome moves beyond inviting, which seeks to bring others in through assimilation. “The Other” is invited in, but the expectation is that they will change, not us. They will, in the end become us. It also moves beyond inclusion, which Spellers defines as “incorporation.” A place is offered to the other to dwell safely, but the institution doesn’t change. Radical Welcome, on the other hand, is best defined by the term “incarnation.” It is a process where we enter into mutually transforming relationships. This is the goal of Radical Welcome.

To accomplish this goal, a church must be clear in its mission and vision, it must understand it’s identity, and discern not only what it is, but who is missing. Ministries must be designed so that they aren’t paternalistic. While leadership issues center on power, questions of worship will focus on finding ways to exhibit the diversity present.

Becoming a church such as the one described by Stephanie Spellers will require much of a church. She recognizes that such a community won’t emerge over night. In fact, it will likely come in stages, moving from inviting to inclusive and finally to radically welcoming others. There are important obstacles that range from tradition to power structures. The most important obstacle, however, is fear. Our fears are natural, even instinctive. In a world of constant change, many look to the church as a point of stability, and so change is not welcomed.

There is another fear that Spellers names and its one we tend to skirt, and that is the “fear of ‘the Other’.” The answer that many of us propose is relational. If we get to know each other we discover that we’re more alike than different. Spellers challenges that assumption. It is true that underneath we may be all the same, but in many ways we are all very different. Our cultures, languages, expectations, are very different, and these differences have to be accounted for. To accomplish we must create what she calls a “holding environment” – places that allow us to build trust and contain the stresses of change.

The book begins with theory, moves to identifying the issues, and then offers guidelines for accomplishing the goal of creating churches that are radically welcoming. The book is rooted in a project launched by Spellers in conjunction with the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, which she serves as Minister of Welcome at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. The objects of her study are Episcopal congregations around the United States that have sought to become “radically welcoming.” Their stories and their struggles are chronicled here, and they give depth to her words of wisdom.

In the closing pages of the book, the reader will find a lengthy list of online resources – resources the author has created for the purpose of taking the journey. These resources include questionnaires, workshop outlines, bible studies, lists of practices, and assessment tools. Following that is a significant bibliography. Everything, it seems, that’s needed, is provided. It only requires of us a commitment to follow God’s leading and become the body of Christ.
To read the book is to hear a call of God on the church to become more than it is. If you’re like me, you will discover that while you’re on the way, you’re a long ways from the finish line. But this resource will spur you on and it will help you discern the path. If you are white and part of a predominantly white church – as I am – then you will be challenged by the call to give up power, to share power, all of which requires us to take risks that can be painful. But, the end result will be worth taking the journey.

If you are seeking to become a truly welcoming congregation then this book is essential reading. It was recommended to me while I was attending the Disciples of Christ General Assembly. I had visited the booth of the “Gay and Lesbian Affirming Disciples” (GLAD) and when I asked what I needed to read, this was the book that was suggested. It’s not just about issues of homosexuality, though inclusion of gays and lesbians is part of the conversation, but it is bigger than that. It is a process of broadening and diversifying the church so that all voices are authentically welcomed and all who participate in the community are transformed by the encounter. Essential reading, that’s the conclusion.

My conclusion is these folks won't be happy until the last light is turned out.

The Mind-numbing Effect of Liberal Bias

Cap'n Bill here: Aye Mateys! Me timbers shiver when me read the news--especially the New York Times, what they call "Opinion." That Frank Rich, whew! Scary what being so liberal can do to a person, man o man, even turn on their new leader who had the most liberal voting record of any senator. Why? Not gay friendly enough. No sirree, what right thinking, magnanimous and humble politician would allow a Pro Prop 8 person on the presidential platform:

Unlike Bush, Obama has been the vocal advocate of gay civil rights he claims to be. It is over the top to assert, as a gay writer at Time did, that the president-elect is “a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot.” Much more to the point is the astute criticism leveled by the gay Democratic congressman Barney Frank, who, in dissenting from the Warren choice, said of Obama, “I think he overestimates his ability to get people to put aside fundamental differences.” That’s a polite way of describing the Obama cockiness. It will take more than the force of the new president’s personality and eloquence to turn our nation into the United States of America he and we all want it to be.
Obama may not only overestimate his ability to bridge some of our fundamental differences but also underestimate how persistent some of those differences are. The exhilaration of his decisive election victory and the deserved applause that has greeted his mostly glitch-free transition can’t entirely mask the tensions underneath. Before there is profound social change, there is always high anxiety.
The success of Proposition 8 in California was a serious shock to gay Americans and to all the rest of us who believe that all marriages should be equal under the law. The roles played by African-Americans (who voted 70 percent in favor of Proposition 8) and by white Mormons (who were accused of bankrolling the anti-same-sex-marriage campaign) only added to the morning-after recriminations. And that was in blue California. In Arkansas, voters went so far as to approve a measure forbidding gay couples to adopt.
There is comparable anger and fear on the right. David Brody, a political correspondent with the Christian Broadcasting Network, was flooded with e-mails from religious conservatives chastising Warren for accepting the invitation to the inaugural. They vilified Obama as “pro-death” and worse because of his support for abortion rights.
Stoking this rage, no doubt, is the dawning realization that the old religious right is crumbling — in part because Warren’s new generation of leaders departs from the Falwell-Robertson brand of zealots who have had a stranglehold on the G.O.P. It’s a sign of the old establishment’s panic that the Rev. Richard Cizik, known for his leadership in addressing global warming, was pushed out of his executive post at the National Association of Evangelicals this month. Cizik’s sin was to tell Terry Gross of NPR that he was starting to shift in favor of civil unions for gay couples.

Agendas. Cizik has earned a spot on the victims Halle of Fame for sacrificing his love of pushing global-warming for the adoption of the gay union agenda (Rich is wrong, Cizik resigned, he wasn't pushed out).

Oh well, it's all old news. But it was new to me, what me being out here on the high seas and only got this message in a bottle.

Best wishes for the New Year, mates! Har-r-r-r-r!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

From the City of Brotherly Love...

Shrimp here, welcoming you to the Year of Our Lord, twenty-oh-nine, and in the Year of Our ELCA, twenty-one.

New year; old news. Three weeks ago the word began to go out that another ELCA congregation has called as a pastor a candidate of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. This particular candidate, Steve Keiser, has been serving the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion as "pastoral associate" for some nine years. On December 8, that congregation voted to call him as pastor. According to Lutheran (True!) Confessions, the extra-ordinary ordination has be set for January 25.

That would make Mr. Keiser, who seems to be a regular teacher at the Faith and Life Institute of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (which describes him as an "LTSP alum and Biblical Scholar"), the object of the eighteenth "ordination extra ordinem" since the practice was inaugurated in 1990.

Happy New Year! Shrimp out.

The good ship ELCA...

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