Wednesday, December 23, 2009

LC/NA condemns the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill and calls on the ELCA to do likewise

Lutherans Concerned/North America condemns in the strongest terms the Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently under consideration by the Ugandan government and calls on the ELCA to publicly oppose the legislation as well.


While the Ugandan government already treats LGBT people as criminals, this legislation is tantamount to declaring life-threatening ''open season'' on LGBT people and anyone else conveniently accused of being LGBT. The proposed legislation also makes it a criminal offense to advocate for LGBT people, or to write anything about homosexuals or homosexuality that sounds positive and supportive. The bill provides that "a victim of homosexuality shall not be penalized for any crime committed as a direct result of his or her involvement in homosexuality." This is an open invitation to violence and murder. The bill provides for anonymity of the "victims"/accusers of homosexuality, with penalties for revealing anything in the media about who the accuser is. The bill also provides for closed trials, no media, whenever the court thinks it is appropriate.

LC/NA calls on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to end its strange silence on this outrage and to condemn this legislation in no uncertain terms. It should not be possible that a Christian church which includes and welcomes its LGBT members and pastors could remain so silent.

LC/NA Executive Director, Emily Eastwood, said, "Prior to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA opposed violence and discrimination in society against LBGT people. In 2008 the ELCA supported the Hate Crimes Bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with official letters to the members of the House and Senate. It is frankly astonishing that since the August passage of a social statement which is abundantly clear on issues of violence and employment, the ELCA has withheld its support of both bills and its condemnation of the proposed horrific legislation coming forward in Uganda. The White House, the Secretary of State, the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, the Canadian Prime Minister and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada as well as numerous other governments, denominations and organizations including LC/NA have denounced the Ugandan legislation. The ELCA social statement provides the platform and permission for the ELCA to speak on these issues, and speak, it must. In this case, especially, our silence will most assuredly equal the imprisonment or death of LGBT people and their allies in Uganda and beyond.

"LC/NA was a signer of the ecumenical statement against the Ugandan legislation presented at the United Nations and sent to Uganda Minister of State of Ethics and Integrity Dr. James Nsaba Buturo expressing deep concern about allegations in Uganda ''wrongly associating sexual minorities and human rights defenders with sexual abuse of people.'' The more than 300 organizations and leaders signatory to the letter ''hold that all people, of all sexual orientations, are created in the image of God and are loved by God.'' And, ''further [they] believe that the responsibility incumbent upon people of faith and good will across the globe is to respond to hate with compassion, charity, and love.''

"Despite our best efforts at inquiry, education and direct request, the ELCA has continued to choose silence."

The full text of the Ugandan bill can be seen here.



What can we do?

Email or call your synodical bishop. For those of you in Canada email Bp. Susan Johnson with your thanks. For those members of the ELCA request that the bishops take up this issue and ask that the ELCA make an official response condemning the legislation. The bishops meet next in their annual academy retreat the first week of January.

Join us in praying for the LGBT people in Uganda, for the aid workers who support and treat those among them who are ill, and for the courageous heterosexual people who rise to support, welcome and affirm them. They are all at lethal risk.

Write to the Ugandan ambassador, His Excellency Professor Perezi K. Kamunanwire, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, 5611 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011. Tell him you are dismayed at the backward step on human rights his country is about to take.

Contact your U.S. Representative and Senators to tell them of your disgust and ask them to voice opposition publicly. Ask them to question continued governmental and commercial ties to a country that would have such a law.

Contact Rebecca Larson, Executive Director of the ELCA Unit for Church in Society, (Rebecca.larson@elca.org) asking what the ELCA''s public stance is on the criminalization of people for being LGBT, calling on the Presiding Bishop to speak out plainly and strongly in opposition.

Contact the White House (www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/) to ask the President to be crystal clear in his remarks to the coming Ecumenical National Prayer Breakfast that criminalizing LGBT people is unacceptable and a big step backwards for any nation that calls itself civilized.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas from Lutherans Concerned/North America

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.


In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see -- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

- Luke 2:1-20

As Advent wraps to a close, and we prepare for the coming Christ Child, all of us at Lutherans Concerned/North America would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas. May Christ be made truly incarnate in your hearts and in your lives this year and always.

We give thanks for the blessings (and the struggles) of 2009, and we look with egar anticipation the joys to be revealed in 2010.

We pray for blessings upon you, those you love and care for, for the communities in which you live, the congregations where you worship, and all those who are blessed to know you.

Amen. Come Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LC/NA Founder and Iowa Activist, Marie Kent, Dies

It is with sadness tempered by our shared faith and the comfort of resurrection hope in Jesus Christ that we report to you the death of Marie Kent at the Mifflin Care Center in Mansfield, Ohio, on Friday morning, December 11. She died in her sleep, ending a long and difficult battle with cancer.

Marie was one of the six original founders of Lutherans Concerned/North America and a driving force in Iowa for LGBT equality. We will remember her passion and determination as we continue on the path toward full inclusion in the church for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities that she helped set us on in 1974.

A visitation for Marie's family and friends will be held on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 from 5-8pm at the Wise Funeral Home in Bucyrus, Ohio. A service celebrating her life and eternal life will take place at the funeral home on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 10:30am, Rev. Matthew Wheeler of First Lutheran Church, Galion, Ohio, officiating. Interment will follow at the Nevada Cemetery in Nevada, Ohio.

Following the committal, friends and family will gather for a luncheon at the congregation Marie attended early in life, St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Bucyrus.

Please keep her family in your prayers as they mourn Marie's death.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holden Village Seeks Pastor

Holden Village, a Lutheran center for retreat and renewal, seeks a pastor to proclaim the gospel, facilitate daily worship and weekly Eucharist, and serve as a spiritual/theological leader for the village.

The pastor should be ordained on the roster of the ELCA, LCMS, or denominations with which the ELCA is in full communion. An understanding of and commitment to Lutheran theology and traditions in worship is required. The pastor should be an outstanding preacher, and be flexibly creative in worship expression. Competence in pastoral care is also desired. Start: August-September, 2010 for a two-year term. Interested applicants should contact the Holden Village Directors at director@holdenvillage.org.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

LC/NA Offers Prayer for Human Rights Day


In 1950, the United Nations established December 10 as "International Human Rights Day." Since then, communities all over the world have been encouraged to recognize the ongoing need to work for the social and civil rights of all. This year’s theme is “non-discrimination,” where, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
 
One of the recent commitments the ELCA has made to working for dignity and rights is reflected in the recent social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, adopted by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. This commitment has received far less press than other aspects of the document, and so it bears highlighting here. The ELCA pledges to
attend to the need for equal protection, equal opportunities, and equal responsibilities under the law, and just treatment for those with varied sexual orientation and gender identity. Such individuals are disproportionately and negatively affected by patterns of stigma, discrimination, and abuse. Likewise it will attend to the particular needs of children and the families of those with actual or perceived differences in sexual orientation or gender identity because they are especially vulnerable to verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse.
This pledge reflects a church’s broader commitment made in 1991, when the ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective. This was the first social statement adopted by the ELCA and provides the foundation for all social statements to follow. In Church in Society, the ELCA confesses that
In witnessing to Jesus Christ, the church announces that the God who justifies expects all people to do justice. God's good and just demands address people in the obligations of their relationships and the challenges of the world. Through the divine activity of the law, God preserves creation, orders society, and promotes justice in a broken world.
To our knowledge, the ELCA doesn’t formally recognize Human Rights Day—but it has indeed done much good work that indicates its commitment to the principles of December 10.

Our hope and prayer for today is that God grant the ELCA, its leaders and all its members, the wisdom and strength to remain watchful for opportunities to engage the powers and principalities of the world that stand in the way of justice, love, and mercy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A message from Herbert W. Chilstrom and H. George Anderson

The following message urging unity and support of the ELCA has been circulated by two former presiding bishops of the ELCA, Herbert W. Chilstrom and H. George Anderson.

-------------

Dear friends in Christ and brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

We write today to invite you to join us in prayer and action for the mission and ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Like you, we became children of God in the waters of Baptism. And, like you, we have found our primary identity with this church through local congregations, including the ones to which we now belong. This is where we receive Word and Sacrament that keep faith alive. We have also been blessed through the other two expressions of this church: our synods and the churchwide organization of the ELCA. All are gifts from God. Through them:
  • Our faith was nourished in Sunday church school.
  • Our gifts for leadership were nurtured in youth ministry.
  • Our education at our colleges and seminaries enhanced our witness and service.
  • Our vocations to serve Jesus Christ as pastors and leaders have been opened for us.
  • Our call to minister to the poor and hungry and those treated unjustly is fulfilled.
  • Our connection to believers in companion churches around the world has enriched us.
All of this, and much more, has happened because we have been part of the ELCA, a church whose roots reach all the way back to the beginning of Lutheranism in this country.

In recent months, our society and this church have been sailing through rough waters. Personal income is down for many; some are unemployed. We recognize that some sisters and brothers in Christ were disappointed in the decisions regarding human sexuality at the churchwide assembly, although we believe they were the right decisions. As a result, some have withdrawn or reduced support for our mission. The consequences of these events are painful. This church's mission and ministry have been diminished.

Our troubled world needs the Good News of the Gospel and all that flows from it. Our differences must not divide us at a time like this. We are absolutely certain that we can continue to live together and serve as one family in the ELCA.

This is why we are calling on you, our brothers and sisters in the faith, to pray daily for the unity of this church and its mission.

We ask you to join us as we step up our support of the ELCA with a generous gift. You may wish to do so before the end of the year and on occasion in the months to come. You may make your gift to the ELCA's Vision for Mission in one of three ways:

+ Online at http://www.elca.org/supporttheelca

+ By check made payable to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and sent to:
          Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
          PO Box 71764
          Chicago, IL 60694-1764

+ By credit or debit card by calling 800-638-3522.

This effort is entirely through the Internet. We urge you to send this e-mail message to your friends who share our concern for this church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Herbert W. Chilstrom, ELCA presiding bishop, 1987-1995
H. George Anderson, ELCA presiding bishop, 1995-2001

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reconciling In Christ Sunday to Be Celebrated January 31

The winter holiday season is always a busy and stressful one, especially for Christian churches and communities dealing with not just the commercial side of Christmas but the liturgical one as well. Before everyone gets too caught up in their own plans for travel and celebration, we at LC/NA wanted to remind you of a great opportunity to support the full inclusion movement in your own home churches coming up in January: Every year, the welcoming community designates the last Sunday in January as Welcoming Sunday, which for us Lutherans means Reconciling in Christ Sunday, January 31, 2010.

On this day, you’re all encouraged to join other welcoming congregations from various denominations in celebrating the witness to God's love for persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. This year the Rev. David Eck, pastor of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Fairview, North Carolina, has compiled some fantastic resources for us to share with you, including suggested readings, liturgy, prayers, hymns, and even MP3 music files to help in preparation. If you church has already planned something for the last Sunday of January, you can feel free to use this materials at some other time.

We also provide a bulletin insert that shares meaningful individual stories as well as information on the RIC and Reconciling Lutheran programs.

Check out the full info and links to resources.

This is a fantastic opportunity for your congregation to focus on the real meaning of reconciliation at a time when other welcoming churches across the country and the world will be doing the same thing. We hope you’ll join us in making RIC Sunday a great one this year!

"Building an Inclusive Church" Trainings Set for 2010

Sometimes being an ally of the welcoming church movement can feel isolating and lonely, especially in certain locations where it seems like no RIC congregations or resources exist. But here at LC/NA we’ve put together an exciting schedule of Winter and Spring trainings for 2010, and we hope to be able to reach both old friends looking for support as well as new ones.

We’ve scheduled thee-day "Building an Inclusive Church" training sessions in:

   - Charlotte, NC on February 26–28, 2010.

   - Birmingham, AL on March 12–14, 2010.

   - Denver, CO on April 16–18, 2010.

And we’ve got an additional one-day session for Duluth in the works.

If you’ve been wondering how to best start the conversation about full welcome and inclusion in your church, the Building an Inclusive Church trainings will give you specific techniques on utilizing the best resources your congregations have to offer: The congregants themselves. If you live in the Charlotte, Birmingham, or Denver areas and you’re trying to find a network of like-minded folks, the trainings will give you the opportunity to meet up with other welcoming church advocates.

For more information and directions for registration, head here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Over ninety gather at ELCA church to see "For the Bible Tells Me So"

On November 15th, over ninety people gathered at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, Minnesota, to watch the movie For the Bible Tells Me So, an award-winning documentary by Daniel Karslake. The screening was sponsored by Visions of Hope in Action (VOHIA), a local chapter of Lutherans Concerned/North America.

For the Bible Tells Me So tells the stories of five Christian families, including those of former U.S. House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Through these stories we discover how people of faith handle, or sometimes tragically fail to handle, having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, the movie offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

Following the movie, the audience was polled as to how many knew an LGBT individual. More than 80% present responded “yes.” Even so, many commented that, as a result of seeing the movie, they had learned new things about LGBT people and had come to a new understanding of some of the scriptural issues. The audience also spent time in smaller groups, responding to discussion questions provided by VOHIA. (See the movie website for group study guides.) Within the groups, individuals had a chance to share their stories and comment about the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Many attendees voiced concerns about some of the negative responses to the churchwide assembly vote coming from certain segments of the church. It was noted that not only do the negative responses often hurt LGBT individuals and their families—it hurts to be seen as a symbol of heresy—but they also diminish the greater church.

By the end of the meeting, a number of attendees inquired about how to get a copy of the movie and how to go about leading discussions with their families and congregations. As a result of this event, two congregations have engaged further with VOHIA, asking for the chapter’s help in leading faithful conversations about welcoming and including people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

LC/NA, ELCA Recognize World AIDS Day Today

Today is World AIDS Day, a day set aside to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to remember those who have lost their lives to the illness.

Many governments, religious bodies, health organizations, and other entities take time every December 1st to extol the fight for prevention and treatment of AIDS. For LC/NA, World AIDS Day has a special significance: As an organization dedicated to fighting oppression in all its forms and in all its intersections, we know too well how widespread homophobia, racism, sexism, and economic and political injustice have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS and the stigmatization of those who live with it.

We stand united with the ELCA and other entities that face the challenge of improving the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS on a global scale. Although no true cure yet exists, the medical community continues to make major steps forward in treatment options. With the work of the people of the ELCA and others like them, such treatments, as well as the education and resources to prevent HIV infections, will soon begin to find their way to all those affected by this disease, not merely those privileged with access to word-class healthcare.

In these post-Thanksgiving days we still find reason to give thanks for the work of those who seek to help and to heal the sick; we give thanks for the opportunity for our own lives to be enriched by knowing the beautiful children of God who live with this disease; we give thanks for the courage of bodies like the ELCA that look beyond false controversies towards real tools of healing. Most of all we give thanks for our Creator God and the joyful responsibility of stewarding God’s creation in Jesus’ name.

Learn more about the ELCA’s commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS here.

ELCIC National Bishop Speaks Out Against Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), has written a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada urging the Canadian government to oppose a proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Act” in Uganda.

Lutherans Concerned/North America thanks Bishop Johnson and the ELCIC for their witness to the continued need to work for the civil rights and dignity of all.

See the full text of Bishop Johnson’s letter below.

The bill is particularly draconian. As summarized by Jim Burroway on the blog Box Turtle Bulletin, the proposed bill would: 
  • Reaffirm the lifetime sentence currently provided upon conviction of homosexuality, and extends the definition from sexual activity to merely “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
  • Create a new category of “aggravated homosexuality” which provides for the death penalty for “repeat offenders” and for cases where the individual is HIV-positive.
  • Criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
  • Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
    • Add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
See the full text of the Ugandan “Anti-Homosexuality Act.

For additional info, see the Amnesty International report.

See also Lutherans Concerned in Canada.

-----------------------------------

The Right Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
 
November 26, 2009

RE: Proposed Ugandan Anti-homosexuality legislation
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
 
I am writing to express dismay and concern over the draft proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently before the Parliament of Uganda.
 
The proposed Bill would severely restrict the human rights of Ugandan citizens both at home and abroad by infringing freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, freedom of organization, and legitimate advocacy of civil rights. It would impose excessive and cruel penalties on persons who experience same-sex attraction as well as those who counsel, support, and advise them, including family members and clergy.
 
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada affirms that our baptismal covenant requires us to respect the dignity of every human being and to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbour as ourselves. We note a 2005 motion by the ELCIC in convention asking “that our church's leaders, congregations and Pastors ‘seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3) rejecting all words and actions hostile to gays and lesbians in our churches and communities,” (NC-05-27). We recall the 1978 Lutheran Social Statement on Human Rights: Doing Justice in God’s World, states that “Although persons differ as to endowments and circumstances, they are of equal worth before God. They are equally entitled to the things and protections they need to live in meaningful relation to God and neighbour.”
 
In the Winnipeg Free Press today, I read the following statement from Peter Kent, minister of state for foreign affairs,  
Our position is that the proposed Uganda law is reprehensible, vile and hateful and it's appalling that such legislation would be brought to the parliament of a Commonwealth democracy," said Kent, who's scheduled to leave for the meetings Thursday. 
At the Commonwealth summit, we'll convey Canada's position that if that law is in fact passed, Canada would consider it unacceptable and a gross infringement of human rights in Uganda.
As Bishop of this church, I support the position stated above. I encourage the Government of Canada to carry on with its intention to convey to the Government of Uganda a deep sense of alarm about this fundamental violation of human rights and, through diplomatic channels, to press for its withdrawal.
 
Yours in Christ,
 
The Rev. Susan Johnson
National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada