2 New year greeting of 2009

2009 New Year Greeting!

I don’t usually send New Year Greetings, but certain experiences of this past year struck me that I am now ready to share.

I had some experiences last year that reaffirmed past experiences and beliefs, and that raise issues that presently challenge our churches, our families and our society: that of sexual orientation and our reactions and responses to it.  Our associate pastor called me to see if I would be willing to talk to a trans-sexual member of our church who wanted to change the name of his daughter, to whom he had given birth.  . . .  It was confusing, as you can imagine.  I didn’t know the circumstances, but I knew him to be a Christian, a spiritual person, loving, and a member of our Sunday School class.  So, I helped him.   We have a lesbian or two in our church (“don’t ask, don’t tell).

I remember a good friend in Omaha that taught band in one of the junior high schools.  I took piano lessons from Don on Saturday mornings.  Often, during the lesson, his boyfriend emerged from the bedroom.  I never felt threatened by Don, but genuinely appreciated him as a friend and for his musical talents.  I think of how Tchaikovsky tried to be “straight,” married a woman that he hid from in fear, and tried to commit suicide because he felt forced to be someone contrary to his nature.  Much beauty was created by that tormented soul.  And I think of a boy in elementary school who is quite effeminite in his behaviors.  What does his future hold?

I know the subject is divisive and I know many of the arguments on both sides. But they are only arguments that too often obscure real persons who, our Christian belief says, are loved by God.  I see in the Old Testament that homosexuality is an abomination, but so is eating shrimp or pork (which I love) and a host of other things; that the homosexual is to be stoned as, also, a recalcitrant son (not good for me to live then); that God commanded his people not to kill but then told them to kill certain others and even to exterminate people that they found already living in “their” Promised Land together with their children and even their livestock (that battle is ongoing and no one seems willing or able to stop it).  I note that in places Paul authorizes judgment of homosexuals as well as a number of other people, but that Jesus said not to judge lest we be judged, to love our neighbor, and not to be a stumbling block to those who believe.

I am hopeful that the Christian community and our society, generally, can stop judging people for sexual orientation, which they don’t understand and irrationally fear, and which does not affect them personally.  I hope that people, particularly those of the Church who claim Christ’s example, can genuinely appreciate and celebrate our many differences.

Then I think of C.S. Lewis’s book, “Surprised by Joy.”  I hope you are surprised by joy this year.

Love, Rob

 

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2 New year greeting of 2009

Bob and Betty Dorr’s Story

OUR STORY—BETTY AND BOB DORR, First United Methodist Church, Omaha

In the late 1950s, Betty’s brother was seen in a gay bar while serving in the Army.  He received a dishonorable discharge.  That was when we learned he is gay. Betty’s parents, especially her mother, never wavered in their love for their son.  Betty’s brother remained an important part of our family.  In the mid-1960s, Bob’s brother told us he is gay.  It didn’t matter.  He is loved and accepted in our family.

As we raised our family of three sons, we didn’t bring up the subject of homosexuality with friends because we didn’t want to risk jeopardizing her brother’s public school teaching job.  In 1992, our youngest son Michael came out to us at age 27 while in Omaha to attend his best friend’s wedding. He knew we would still love him because his two uncles were loved and accepted within the family.

Why did he wait so long to tell us he was gay?  He said, “Mom and Dad, I know that you love me, but when I walk out the front door who else will?  My church has told me that they feel it is wrong and so does society.”  Michael excelled in academics both in high school and college.  He rose to senior management at the Chicago-based Leo Burnett advertising agency.  However, his personal life took a bad turn.  He struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. He was diagnosed with bipolar mental illness.  In 2006 he died at age 41 in his Chicago apartment of cardiac arrhythmia, a heartbeat disruption.

After Michael came out to us, we joined the Omaha chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and for about a dozen years one or the other of us led our local chapter. We also became active in efforts to win equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in theUnited Methodist Church.  Betty testified in the defense of Jimmy Creech at his church trial for conducting a Holy Union commitment service for two lesbians at our church, First United Methodist in Omaha.  Creech was acquitted at that trial. Later he conducted a commitment service for two gay men. He was tried again and lost his ministerial credentials.  Betty served on the national board of Reconciling Ministries Network, which is committed to winning equality for GLBTs in theUnited Methodist Church, and also on the steering committee of the Parents Reconciling Network, a group affiliated with RMN.  She has retired from the board and the steering committee.

Along the way, we have helped many parents understand that their gay son or lesbian daughter still is the same person they always have loved. When we served as grand marshals of the Pride Parade in Omaha, Bob spoke these words for the two of us: “On behalf of all accepting parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children we say this, If your parents for whatever reason don’t love and accept you just as you are, think of us as your parents. We are honored to be your parents.”

Young GLBT people need to know that there are pastors and lay members who care for them and that they can come home to their church.

 

12 Discussion Strings concerning the Bible and GLBT Issueshttps://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/304

Bob and Betty Dorr’s Story

Fight For Justice

Today, I received an e mail concerning a federal suit that was filed in Minnesota to stop a school district’s passive response to GLBT bashing in the presence of, or reported to, school staff, which I post:

Southern Poverty Law Center July 21, 2011
Dear friends,


Today, we’ve filed a federal lawsuit to protect gay, lesbian and transgender studentsin a Minnesota school district where at least four LGBT students have died by suicide in the past two years.
The Anoka-Hennepin school district near Minneapolis is “ground zero” in our fight to stop the rampant bullying of LGBT students. Physical and verbal abuse has been allowed to flourish under the district’s so-called “neutrality” policy.
The misguided policy stigmatizes LGBT students — casting them as pariahs who are not welcome in the school community, a message that encourages their abusers.
This bullying has devastating consequences, as the heartbreaking suicides in Anoka-Hennepin and elsewhere illustrate.
You can learn more about the situation in the Anoka-Hennepin school district in a special CNN investigative piece scheduled to air at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 24.
Our work would not be possible without the support of people like you. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children who are suffering from bigotry and injustice.
Richard Cohen photo Sincerely,
Richard Cohen signature
J. Richard Cohen
President, Southern Poverty Law Center



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Fight For Justice

“Spiritual Violence”

I have been reading Gandhi’s Autobiography and Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You:  Christianity not as a Mystic Religion but as a  New Theory of Life.  The latter helped inspire in Gandhi the power of non-violent resistance to injustice, even state-sanctioned injustice. Then I thought of my friend who wrote to me of the “spiritual violence” of the organized church against the GLBT community.

I had addressed in this blog physical violence against the GLBT community in the post of February 9, 2011, entitled, “Publications Concerning Hate Crimes Relating to Sexual Orientation.”  The vast majority of the Christian community would not profess that their aversion to the GLBT community would justify criminal action against it.  But how many of us do spiritual violence by denying that God loves and accepts them as they are; that they can reflect the love of God as we hopefully do; that we need them as much as they need us; that they have the right to fully participate in our church organizations, both spiritually and in leadership?

Is “righteous hatred” of the GLBT community consistent with the true spirit of Christ?  Other than the obvious difference in social consequences, what really is the difference between physical violence and spiritual violence against another?  To what degree do our churches see the GLBT community as a threat and respond by marginalizing or even exclude them from the social and the spiritual life of the church?

The established church in all its forms and manifestations has a heritage giving rise to its present state.  Predominantly, it upholds the heritage that castigates members of the GLBT community, and it justifies that position by isolated biblical passages.  Tolstoy addresses this persistent reign of unexamined heritage:

The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow- witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.

Have we used our heritage to justify our idolization of God in our own image?  What are the fruits of our treatment of the GLBT community?  Do they fall from the tree of life and God’s love for all?  If the fruits are bitter for anyone, what shall we do with the tree that bears them?

 

Next blog post: We Understand and Mean the Lyrics That We Sing?               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/173

“Spiritual Violence”

“Clergy Call For Justice and Equality” by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

At the beginning of this year the state of Arizona experienced yet one more tragedy. We have had one tragedy after another in the way that our political leaders have treated immigrants, have failed the people of our state in providing leadership in a time of economic recession, and have contributed to a blatant revival of out and out racism. Then we had a shooting. Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords continues to struggle to overcome the impact of the shooting upon her body and her life. Six other people died. Several others were wounded.  The world looked upon Arizona and thought, ‘how much worse can it get?’

But on the day of the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Green, one of the shooting victims, when we heard that the gay-bashing Fred Phelps group was coming to town to bring their message of hate, people of every race and every culture, citizens and undocumented immigrants, and people of different sexual orientation and gender identity, made a human line on both sides of the street so long and so strong that it blocked the Phelps group from any and all access to little Christina’s funeral. It was an empowering and life-giving experience.  Out of a moment of deep sadness came the recognition that we are bound together in our humanity, and hate is not the way.

Our states and this country will find a way to build strong and healthy communities when we fully accept that in all of our diversity of sexual orientation, economic status, race and culture, and immigration status, we are all persons of sacred worth. Without exception we are all created in the image of God, and are all beloved of God.  Standing together we must denounce and deplore all acts of hate and violence in our communities.

As Christians we believe that God calls us to nurture human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We cannot be about this sacred task and allow hate and violence to stand. Hate and violence against persons, whether it is bullying in our schools, the taunting and violating of a person’s privacy to the point of humiliating that person and destroying his or her sense of self worth and belonging, to beatings and even murder on our streets or on the outskirts of our towns, all because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, cannot be left unchallenged or unconquered. Such violence against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers is a violation of all that is good within us, and destroys the inherent human dignity of all of us.

Violence also comes in the form of lack of full employment rights. Every person has the right to a job at a living wage. Employment is basic to the well being of persons and families. Gainful employment also makes possible persons’ contribution of their gifts, skills, and wisdom to our communities of faith and to society in ways that better our communities and our world. In a just society there is no room for employment discrimination. Employment discrimination undermines our human potential and our responsibilities in God’s world.

Finally, I have come to see the deep intersection of the work we must do together for justice for the LGBT and the immigrant communities. Both have for too long been the victims of hate and violence, and both struggle for the right to employment without prejudice. I am convinced, however, that together we can overcome hate and discrimination of every kind and build a nation and a world that will one day value all God’s people; a world of justice full of the love and peace we all long for. May God be our help.

I copied and pasted the above statement from http://desertsouthwestconference.org/churchmembers/bishopscorner/living_the_connection/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=219&cHash=76a827bb3e

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“Clergy Call For Justice and Equality” by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

It’s a Matter of Choice

It’s a Matter of Choice

We often hear of objections to the GLBT community: “It’s a matter of choice – to sin or not to sin.”  I believe the resolution of the conflict in the various Christian churches over full inclusion in the life of the church is a matter of choice, not of gender or sexual orientation, but of where we put our faith.

I note in the article concerning Rev. Amy DeLong , http://www.rmnetwork.org/trial-of-rev-amy-delong-approaches/, that it concludes that the trial is “incompatible with scripture . . . [and] with our larger Church Tradition . . .”  I do support Rev. DeLong in this matter.  But I think it is as mistaken to quote scripture as though it is definitive on loving inclusion of the GLBT community within our own  as are the various biblical arguments for judgment and exclusion.

To some degree faith is a gift; but it also involves choice.  I am reminded of Hans Kung’s book Does God Exist?  He proceeds through the proofs of God and concludes that there is no ironclad proof of God’s existence.  He then traces the proofs that there is no God to its ultimate conclusion of nihilism. He likewise concludes that it cannot be proven that there is no God, or that there is no purpose in life.  As I interpret my recollection of the book, one is left with a choice: choose God or no God and take the consequences: meaning in life or no meaning.

Eric Fromm, in Psychoanalysis and Religion asserts that a healthy religion is necessary to mental health.  Interesting coming from a person popularly categorized as an atheist and a humanist. He defines religion as that which gives us an object of devotion and a sense of orientation.  Rev. Bruggeman says that the command not to worship idols also means not to reduce God to our private purposes, as in church fund-raising.  Have we idolized God into the form of our image, our prejudices or our purposes?  That would certainly be contrary to the Jewish (Christian Old Testament) notion of the nameless God and the living God.

How does this apply to my view of GLBT issues?  We must accept that the Bible can be used to support almost any position, no matter how disparate.   We find the same of Jewish, Muslim and other sacred scriptures.  We like things to be black and white, right or wrong.  But, as our world is a mixture, from our individual point of view, of good and bad, so is our scripture.  The Wesleyan Quadrilateral recognizes this.  In this blog, I have attempted to set out the various biblical arguments used by some Christians to judge GLBT issues (sometimes politely distinguished as “discernment”) and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, I set out a homosexual’s biblical argument justifying his sexual orientation.

I suggest here and in the blog that we will not find clear, consistent answers in the Bible on the issues of gender, sexuality or sexual orientation.  We are in the same position Hans Kung found himself on the issue of whether God exists:  we must make a choice, and that choice will have practical effects: ranging from “life has meaning” to “it has no meaning;” or from, “I am the center and condition of all existence”  to “life is bigger than I am;” or “I am the author  of my fate” to “life is something that happens to me.”  My father, Rev. Edgar F. Wheeler, once put it to me this way, “People think Christianity is all about dying and going to heaven.  I say, ‘No.  It is about living a life of eternal significance.’”

For my part I choose for my object of devotion and sense of orientation Matthew’s quotes of Jesus: “Inasmuch as you did or didn’t do it unto others, you did or didn’t do it unto me;” “By their fruits you will know them.”  To paraphrase a great figure in another day and situation, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”  Life involves choice.  It just does.  Make your choice and see what kind of fruit it bears.  Does it bear hatred and exclusion or love, respect and inclusion?

In this blog, I note the biblical contradictions and I suggest that if you can find an honest way to both judge and to love unconditionally, to both judge the act and love the “sinner,” and if it bears good fruit, do it.  As for me, I must make a choice between the two.  I can’t hold onto judgment of another’s gender or sexual orientation, whether by choice or circumstance, and still love the person.  I choose to love unconditionally and share in the rich give-and-take of community.

 

Next blog post: “Clergy Call for Justice and the Quality” by Bishop Minerva C, Carconia               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/151

It’s a Matter of Choice

United Methodist Groups and Positions on Homosexuality

See http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_umc3.htm for an excellent article examining different churches and groups in the United Methodist denomination, both positive and negative on the issue of homosexuality.

Discussion

What if Rev. Juillart were a Methodist clergywoman?  What should she have done when she met the woman and discovered that she had “feelings” for her?

What should she have done when the relationship developed into a lesbian relationship (whatever that means?)

If she lived with that woman in a loving, but nonsexual relationship, would that make a difference?

What effect did the much later lesbian relationship have upon Rev. Juillart’s teenage call to the ministry, if any?

What reaction do you have to “the Sacramento 95?”

What is the significance of acts of Civil Disobedience?

Why should the fact that there were so many ministers involved in the service of union performed by the Sacramento 95 make a difference in how the UMC applied its Discipline?

Why should the outcome of that union service be different from that of Rev. Jimmy Creech?

What significance do you see in the act of Rev. Jimmy Creech?  In the UMC’s discipline of him?

What is your opinion of the Reconciling Congregations?  Pros and cons?

What implications do expenditures for reconciliation have concerning the Discipline provision prohibiting expenditures for promotiing the acceptance of homosexuality?

What of the Transforming Congregations?  Pros and cons?

Do you see the conflict over homosexuality in the UMC as different from “ordinary” bias against bi-sexuals or trans-sexuals?

Do you see any way to resolve the conflict other than splitting the church?

 

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United Methodist Groups and Positions on Homosexuality