Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome, Lutheran Church of the Reformation!

Today we are blessed to receive the members of the congregation of Lutheran Church of the Reformation into our midst as our newest Reconciling in Christ congregation. As a small taste of their message to members, visitors and all people, read their beautiful Affirmation of Welcome:

Our congregational mission statement is clear and succinct:
Making a difference in our community by bringing the story of Jesus to life.

At the core of that story is the gospel from the apostle Paul:
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 2 Cor. 5:19

So stunning is God's reconciling love that Paul would also write:
there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28

In a world broken by human sin, the church has been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Christ leads us into this ministry of healing.

Because gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons are often scorned by society and alienated from the church, we wish to make known our caring and concern. For this purpose we affirm that:

- people of all sexual orientations and gender identities share the worth that comes from being unique individuals created by God,

- people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are welcome into the membership of this community of the baptized upon making a common, public affirmation of faith,

- as members of this community, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are expected and encouraged to share in the sacramental and general life of this congregation.

God's peace be with you, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, and welcome!

Edina Community Celebrates RIC, Establishes "Good News Award"

News from our friends at Edina Community Lutheran (Edina, Minnesota).

This year, Edina Community Lutheran Church (ECLC) is celebrating 25 years as an Reconciling in Christ congregation publicly welcoming persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. As leaders in the welcoming movement, we invite you to join our congregation as we commemorate this anniversary with both a celebratory worship and picnic in the park on Sunday, September 19th.

We hope you will join us for all or part of this special day, which includes:

• 8:15 or 11: Worship

• 9:45-10:45: Forum from Ross Murray, Deputy Director of Lutherans Concerned/North America.

• 12:00: Catered lunch in Arden Park (Minnehaha & 52nd St in Edina, MN)

• 12:45: Program including presentation of the ECLC Good News Award to the City of Edina for the creation of a Domestic Partner Registry in 2010.

As a commemoration of a significant event in the life of this congregation and of the larger welcoming movement, we hope you will be able to join us to celebrate. If you are able to attend the program portion of the event, we will recognize your participation at that point. Please do let us know if we can plan to expect you.

For more information, a press release regarding this event is provided below.

Thank you for your support as we celebrate,

Lauren Morse-Wendt
Mission & Ministry Developer (lwendt@eclc.org)


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

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact:
Edina Community Lutheran Church, 952-926-3808
Rev. Erik Strand, Pastor (estrand@eclc.org)
Lauren Morse-Wendt, Mission & Ministry Developer (lwendt@eclc.org)

EDINA CHURCH AWARDS CITY INAGURAL “GOOD NEWS AWARD” FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP REGISTRY

(August 26, 2010) -- EDINA, Minn. -- The City of Edina will receive the inaugural “Good News Award” from Edina Community Lutheran Church (ECLC) on Sunday, Sept. 19, in recognition of the City’s June 1, 2010, establishment of a registry for domestic partners.

Mayor Jim Hovland will accept the award on behalf of the City and several City Council Members and Human Rights and Relations Commissioners will attend.

The 12:45 p.m. presentation is part of ECLC’s larger celebration of the 25th anniversary of its declaration to become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation that fully welcomed gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people as vital members and leaders in the church. The event will be held down the hill from the church at Edina’s Arden Park, 5230 Minnehaha Blvd. The church is located at 4113 West 54th St., Edina, two blocks west of France Ave. S.

ECLC established the Good News Award in 2010 in conjunction with its 25th Anniversary festivities. As pioneers in the struggle for inclusion, the congregation wanted to honor other organizations or individuals who are blazing trails to expand respect, dignity and equality. ECLC Pastor Erik Strand said, “The Good News we speak of in our church is a message of God’s abundant welcome and respect for all humanity. The City of Edina was chosen as the recipient of the 2010 Good News Award because it, too, is sharing Good News of welcome and respect for all of its citizens.”

Edina’s Human Rights & Relations Commission recommended that the City of Edina establish a registry for domestic partners; the change was approved June 1, 2010. The action also ensures that all public venues operated by the City include domestic partners and their families within existing family or household memberships, registrations and fees for City programs and services.

The City indicated that state law prohibits the city from offering health benefits to the domestic partners of its employees but the City’s personnel policies have been updated to allow City employees sick and bereavement leave to care for or mourn their partners.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Anita Hill, Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart to be Received onto ELCA Clergy Roster: Rite, Celebration Dinner on Sept. 18

All are invited to attend a historic service of worship and celebration.

An ELCA Rite of Reception to the clergy roster of the ELCA for Pastors Anita Hill, Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart will be held on Saturday, September 18, 2:00 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 285 N Dale St., St Paul, Minnesota. Party after the service at the church.


Rev. Ruth Frost
Rev. Phyllis Zillhart
Rev. Anita Hill

The Reverend Peter Rogness, Bishop, Saint Paul Area Synod of the ELCA, will preside. The Reverend Barbara Lundblad, Union Theological Seminary, New York, will preach.  Clergy and rostered leaders are welcome to vest and process. Green is the color of the day.

Sponsorships of the day's festivities may be donated online at http://www.stpaulref.org/ (use the blue donor button in the bottom right hand corner) or by check designated "Rite of Reception" payable to St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church.

A Celebration Dinner/Dance will be held at the Saint Paul Hotel, beginning with conversation and cocktails at 6 p.m. Dinner served 7 p.m. with brief program followed by dancing. This is a ticketed event and will benefit the Wingspan Ministry of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, Lutherans Concerned/North America, and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, for the ongoing ministry of expanding the welcome of Lutheran congregations.

Tickets at $50 per person may be purchased online at http://www.stpaulref.org/ (use the blue donor button in the bottom right hand corner) or by mailing your check and guest list to arrive by September 12 to St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, 100 Oxford St., Saint Paul, MN 55104.

Monday, August 23, 2010

See MN Public Radio's "A Church Divided, Together"

Logo for "A Church Divided, Together"
Minnesota Public Radio, working with Public Insight Network, has put together a fascinating collection of stories in response to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly’s decision to allow for the rostering of ministers in same-gender relationship. The stories of "A Church Divided, Together" include responses from both those who favor and those who don’t favor the new policies.

The project is a work in progress. Additional stories will be added as the larger story in the ELCA unfolds. You are encouraged to provide your own response. We hope you do!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Achieving Marriage Equality in the Heartland: Lessons from Iowa

This past weekend, Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) was fortunate to participate in a conference called Achieving Marriage Equality in the Heartland organized by Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (P-FLAG). Ross Murray, LC/NA Deputy Director, and Kathy Shattuck, Region 5 Coordinator for LC/NA, both traveled to Decorah, Iowa to participate in the conference. Many LC/NA members were conference planners or attendees, with a lot of others attending from Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Nebraska.

The goals of the conference were to preserve marriage equality in Iowa, expand marriage equality to neighboring states, and to build alliances and support for achieving marriage equality throughout the Heartland. Keynote speakers included Harry Knox, Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, Sharon Malheiro, the attorney who helped lay the groundwork for Iowa’s marriage equality lawsuit, and Patrick Murphy, Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives.

Ross Murray gave a presentation as a part of a panel on principles of “Graceful Engagement” and how to work effectively within the faith community. He talked about the current situation in the ELCA regarding marriage and same-gender relationships. Ross also met individually with a number of participants about work within their congregations, synods, and beyond. Many people are interested in the work that Lutherans Concerned is doing, and more want to join in the movement.

George and Jean Huffey
A highlight of the conference was the award given to LC/NA members, Jean and George Huffey (see photo), for their years of work and dedication in the P-FLAG community. Upon receiving the award, Jean commented on her work with Lutherans Concerned and Soulforce.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reflection and Prayer for August 19

On August 19, 2009, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly recognized and affirmed the centrality of family in the lives of its LGBT members. Two days later, the assembly made provision for the service in ministry of LGBT ministers in committed, lifelong, same-gender relationship.

Today, Lutherans Concerned acknowledges the one-year anniversary of those momentous decisions. With God’s help, we work to recognize the full effects of the church’s actions and strive to see the ELCA in its true complexity, even as we confess that, at best, each of us sees but through a dim glass of partial understanding.

We confess that August 19, 2009, does not mark the beginning of alienation between believers. The assembly did not marshal in a new era of pain and suffering—these we’ve had with us since nearly the beginning. It should therefore be no surprise that, in the Bible reading assigned* for today (Hebrews 12:3-17), we read of a people who have endured hostility and trials, who are exhausted from being put to the test, who are just plain sick of constantly running the race when the finish line seems so distant. Through all this, God’s people are told they should endure, that their suffering is educational, that what feels like abuse is, in reality, done for their own good.

So who are the “Hebrews” of today’s ELCA? Are the Hebrews those whose hard feelings about the assembly decisions persuade them to disengage or to leave? Are they those for whom the new policies present an open door for the first time—but the door still seems not open wide enough?

Or, instead, are the Hebrews those who feel like the decisions have set them up as targets for the same old aggressions as before—only intensified: Heretic, bigot, apostate, literalist?

Surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses we pray: Gracious God, help us lift our drooping hands and strengthen our weak knees. Give us the courage to pursue peace with everyone and the strength to let no bitterness spring up and cause trouble. Grant that your church may proclaim good news and reconciliation to the ends of the earth, through Jesus Christ our savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen


*Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Central FLorida Chapter Event - Update on Law and Legal Issues of the LGBT Community

On behalf of the Central Florida Chapter of Lutherans Concerned:

The Central Florida Chapter of Lutherans Concerned/North America invites you to attend a presentation by ELIZABETH F. SCHWARTZ, ESQ. OF MIAMI An Update on the Law and Legal Issues of the LGBT Community in Florida Get current information about your legal rights and wrongs — and what you can do about them.

2 P.M. SATURDAY, SEPT. 11, 2010
ST. PAUL’S LUTHERAN CHURCH
407 S. SATURN AVE., CLEARWATER
(727) 446-7718

Admission free. Refreshments.

If you plan to attend, please email the chapter so organizers know how many people to expect. No need to give your name.

Attorney Elizabeth Schwartz represents the LGBT community in family formation (adoption, insemination, surrogacy), estate planning, probate matters and dissolutions. She lectures nationally on the importance of gay couples protecting their loved ones through estate planning and contract. She is a member of the Collaborative Family Law Institute and the National Family Law Council of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She co-chairs South Florida’s Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association and this year was named by the National LGBT Bar Association as one of the nation’s best LGBT Lawyers Under 40. She has been honored by the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Dade County Bar Association and City of Miami Beach Commission for Women, which named her a 2010 Woman Worth Knowing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lutherans Concerned/Chicago Film Festival

Save these dates for Lutherans Concerned/Chicago’s (LC/C) Second Annual Film Festival. This year the films will be showing in three locations—Holy Trinity, Chicago; Our Saviour, Arlington Heights; and St. Paul, Wheaton. Each church will present a film on three different Sundays—October 17 and 24, and November 7. LC/C's film festival is designed to educate and to stimulate discussion that will promote a better understanding of the CWA 2009 decisions. The three films to be shown are:

THIS obedience: Follow the congregation of St. Paul–Reformation Lutheran Church from their decision to commit "ecclesiastical disobedience" by ordaining the Rev. Anita C. Hill, through the decisions at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly that made it possible for Pastor Hill to be approved for reception as an ELCA pastor.

Almost Myself: This film portrays 15 or so women from different backgrounds who transitioned at various points in their life from men to women. It explores the truth that the transgendered community is more diverse than most people realize: many people fall along the entire spectrum of sexual identity and sexual presentation. The film explores the place of spirituality in the lives of the participants and sheds important and peaceful light into lives along that spectrum of transexuality.

Fish out of Water: In this spirited Chicago-produced documentary, filmmaker Ky Dickens explores seven Bible passages used to condemn homosexuality and justify marriage discrimination. With a cartoon narrator, animated recollections of Bible passages and witty illustrations, Fish makes this polarizing subject accessible and nonthreatening. Listening to the country’s impassioned speech on this divisive issue, Ky speaks with ministers of all denominations and records the experiences of the oppressed.

The films will alternate locations and dates, as listed below:

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
1218 West Addison, Chicago


October 17, 4:00 PM: Almost Myself
October 24, 4:00 PM: Fish Out of Water
November 7, 4:00 PM: THIS Obedience


Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church
1234 N Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights

October 17, 2:00 PM: Fish Out of Water
October 24, 2:00 PM: THIS Obedience
November 7, 2:00 PM: Almost Myself


St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
515 S Wheaton Ave, Wheaton

October 17: 4:30 PM: THIS Obedience
October 24, 4:30 PM: Almost Myself
November 7, 4:30 PM: Fish Out of Water

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bishop to speak at Banquet held in Washington DC

For those in the Washington D.C. area on September 17, you will want to check out the Lutherans Concerned banquet hosted by the Metro DC chapter of Lutherans Concerned. The speaker will be Bishop Richard Graham. Social hour begins at 6:00 p.m. with banquet to follow. Tickets are $25 per person ($40 for patron status). There will also be a silent auction.

Please reply to Philip Moeller at international@lcna.org to make your reservations.

Lutherans Concerned Banquet
Friday, September 17, 2010   –   6:00 p.m.
Lutheran Church of the Reformation
212 E. Capitol Street NE
Washington, DC
202-543-4200

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Prop 8 Stay Not Permanent: Marriages of Same-Gender Couples May Resume August 18

This news just in from the Los Angeles Times:

A federal judge today refused to permanently stay his ruling overturning Proposition 8's ban of gay marriage but extended a temporary hold to give supporters time to appeal the historic ruling.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who overturned the measure on Aug. 4, agreed to give its sponsors until Aug. 18 to appeal his ruling to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Walker said that same-sex marriages may resume at that time unless a higher court blocks them.

Walker said the sponsors of Proposition 8 do not have legal standing to appeal his order because they were not directly affected by it.
Please see the whole story here.

Last week, Judge Walker ruled Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional. Enacted by a small majority of California voters in November 2008, Prop 8 had limited marriage to be between one man and one woman in California and has been at the center of debate for several years. The judge's decision on the stay does not diminish the likelihood that Prop 8's overruling will be appealed to higher courts over the next several months.

Lutherans Concerned thanks all those who have worked for full participation in the church and in the larger society. We offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the overruling of Prop 8 and for each one of you who continue to help make this work possible.

ELCA Policy Change celebration pot luck and worship

If your'e in the Austin, Texas, area on August 22, check this out!  Living Word Lutheran Church in Buda, Texas, is celebrating the first anniversary of the policy change ending the ban of partnered lgbt pastors in the ELCA. Bring a supper-type dish to share. Dinner at 5:00 pm and worship at 6:30 pm ("Unfailing Light" with Holy Communion).

Invite friends!

Living Word Lutheran Church
August 22 · 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
2315 RM 967
Buda, Texas

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

LC/NA loves camp!

LC/NA loves camp! Bible camp, that is. More and more folks are hearing about and experiencing camps for LGBTQ youth. Check out our earlier post on this topic, where the Naming Project, Wonderfully Made, and Spiritual Pride camps are described. And see the recent post about Bible camps on the Spirit of a Liberal blog.


And while you’re at it, check out this award-winning movie (pictured at left) about the LGBTQ Bible camp experience.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

People of the Pacific Northwest--or those who wish to travel there--this is for you!

Perhaps you are a leader (lay or ordained) in a congregation which is considering becoming welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (lgbt) persons. Perhaps you are committed deeply to helping other congregations in your denomination become more welcoming of lgbt folks. Either scenario means that this training will be very helpful to you in honing your skills and gaining more knowledge about how to help congregations through those tough conversations toward a more fully inclusive church. Join the growing list of committed Christians who are working together across North America to foster the expansion of the welcoming church movement!

Hosted by LC/NA and The Institute for Welcoming Resources, a Building an Inclusive Church training event will take place in Spokane, Washington at Bethlehem Luthearn Church from Friday, September 24 to Sunday, September 26, 2010.

Please see the LC/NA website for more information.
Spokne not in the cards for you? See our events calendar for info on further training events in New York City, Houston, and Philadelphia.

And be sure to see our earlier blog post to learn about an extra special opportunity to Believe Out Loud in Orlando, Florida!

It’s Time to Believe Out Loud

Believe Out Loud Power Summit
October 9-11, 2010
Doubletree Resort, Orlando, Florida

Faith-based community organizing helped change hearts and minds in the ELCA. Through RIC/Building-an-Inclusive Church trainings, our storytelling, our faith-filled commitment to Scripture, and graceful engagement, the change we've sought has begun. Our members and our supporters have done amazing things with the skills they have learned at these trainings.

But we all know that full participation is not yet a lived reality in the Lutheran Church (or even in the ELCA). We have achieved tolerance, at best. In order to move closer to full participation, we need to take our efforts to the next level. To get there, Lutherans Concerned is collaborating with the Institute for Welcoming Resources and our ecumenical partners to present the Believe Out Loud Power Summit, October 9-11 in Orlando, Florida.

Believe Out Loud is an advanced training for leaders and organizers in Lutherans Concerned/North America and the welcoming church movement. Participants will learn concrete skills-building in key areas of organizing and movement building. We will practice building effective teams for work within the denominations of the Lutheran Church seeking to foster full participation in the church and the larger society.

Much of the Power Summit will be developed into tracks: Leadership Development, Church and Secular Organizing, Board Development, Resistance and Conflict, and External Communications. Running across all of the different tracks will be through-lines including: scriptural affirmation, a look at race, bisexual and transgender inclusion, cultural power and political power, and our different identities as individuals, how we are connected to our local church, a part of our denomination, and our relationship to the larger Welcoming Church Movement.

Lutherans Concerned has secured places for 100 Lutherans at the event, so our space is limited. This event is intended for those who have demonstrated leadership in the movement, whether that be within congregations, synods, or on the national level. For those who want to learn the basics about faith-based community organizing, we invite you to one of the many Building an Inclusive Church trainings happening this fall (see calendar). However, if you are really passionate about making the policy change a reality in the Lutheran Church, then be sure to be at the Believe Out Loud Power Summit with us in October, as well.

For more information or to add your name to the list, contact Ross Murray.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Same-gender Lutheran clergy couple featured in video message on marriage

One the same day that Prop 8 was overturned, the Reverends Bradley Schmeling and Darin Easler were featured in a video sponsored by Georgia Equality.

Rev. Schmeling says in the video,
Every time I do a wedding, I think about the irony that the state will allow me the authority to marry others but doesn’t trust me enough to make that choice for myself.

See the full video.

California Prop 8 ruled unconstitutional by the federal court


Lutherans Concerned / North America rejoices in the news that Proposition 8 has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge yesterday (August 4).  Prop 8, enacted by a small majority of California voters in November 2008, limited marriage to be between one man and one woman in California and has been at the center of debate for several years.

Vaughn R. Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, ruled that Prop 8 is contradictory to the due-process and equal-protection clauses of the United States Constitution. In his ruling, he said that same-sex couples “seek to have the state recognize their committed relationships, and [their] relationships are consistent with the core of the history, tradition and practice of marriage in the United States.”

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned/North America said of yesterday’s decision: “We are heartened indeed that equal protection under the constitution has been upheld for LGBT families. There is a sense that we are reaching the tipping point in both church and state as justice is indeed rolling down like waters. We know that the Prop 8 controversy will not end here. Still, we believe that the changes in our church are affecting society, just as marriage equality, as the law of the land, would, over time, assist the church in its willingness to support all our families.”

The judge’s ruling states that California authorities are permitted to begin issuing marriage licenses again. The ruling notes that California authorities did not defend Prop 8 in this court case. The ruling also specifically forbids California authorities from enforcing any of the provisions of Proposition 8.

Although a significant step toward marriage equality, the ruling is expected to be appealed to higher courts over the next several months. It is also expected that those supporting Prop 8 will ask the higher court to stay the provisions of the ruling while it is being appealed. Lutherans Concerned is committed to continuing the work for equality in the church and in the larger society in which the church works. This is another step in the journey we share together toward our goals of full inclusion and equality. We offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for this ruling and for each one of you who are making this work possible.

For more news about the decision, see the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

Phil Soucy
for: communications@lcna.org

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

LC/NA Calls upon All to Renew Commitment to Reconciliation

Nearly a year ago, on August 19, 2009, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly recognized and affirmed the centrality of family in the lives of its LGBT members. Two days later, the assembly made provision for the service in ministry of LGBT ministers in committed, lifelong, same-gender relationship.

As we approach the one-year anniversary marking these momentous decisions, Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) calls for a renewed commitment to the values and principles of the first and most important of the four "resolveds" of the policy recommendations adopted by the assembly: to love the neighbor, to bear one another's burdens. Overwhelmingly, the assembly agreed to stay in relationship, to live together faithfully amidst our disagreements, and to work for reconciliation; LC/NA calls everyone to do the same.

In the spirit of that commitment, LC/NA initiated a program called “First Resolved,” calling upon all members of the ELCA to reach out to at least two people regarding the decisions made at the 2009 assembly, including someone whom you know has felt confused or hurt and someone who has been made to feel alienated by the church's previous exclusionary policies and teachings.

During the month of August 2010, LC/NA asks again for all to love the neighbor by holding the ELCA in prayer, asking God to grant us the grace to live in unity, mutual understanding, and joy.

We invite you to share your prayers in the comment section below.

(Go here for more details about how you can participate further in the “First Resolved” campaign.)