Friday, December 17, 2010

A Victory for Transgender Youth

Lutherans Concerned/North America, along with dozens of other organizations, signed the Gay Lesbian  and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) letter supporting the addition of a question to look at gender identity and transgender youth during the next Youth Risk Behavior Survey. We learned today that this survey, administered primarily by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will include an optional question about gender identity in 2013. As the letter states,
Transgender students are among the most victimized and vulnerable youth populations in our nation. Often stigmatized and harassed in school by peers and educators, rejected from their family homes, and driven to illegal or unhealthy risk behavior, transgender youth have few programs aimed at addressing transgender youth risk disparities is available to facilitate outreach and programming to target these vulnerable youth.
This change will begin to provide much needed data to help transgender students who are at risk or experiencing harassment. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coverage of the ELCA Rite of Reception and Sermon Text

“Thank God you did not give up, when you could have,” the Bishop [Rev. Claire Burkat] said to Wiesner, referring to the long process he and others have experienced when the call they perceived from God was not recognized by their church. “Your faith and your perseverance have been multiplied by God” through this journey, she said.
See the great coverage of the ELCA Rite of Reception for Rev. Jay Wiesner on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod’s website.

Also, see the full text of Ross Murray’s sermon below.

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December 12, 2010

Sermon for ELCA Rite of Reception for Rev. Jay Wiesner
Texts: Isaiah 35:1-10, Luke 1:46b-55, James 5:7-10, Matthew 11:2-11

Ross Murray preaches at Reception
Rite for Rev. Jay Wiesner.
(Photo by Richard W. Garnett)
 Many of you might be looking at your bulletin and recognizing that I’m not Anita Hill. You would be correct. People are saying that the winter storm that passed through Minnesota exceeded the great Halloween Blizzard of 1991. Those of us who were there and old enough to remember know that is a big deal. I was fortunate to get out a day early. I’m also very happy to help and support my friend, Jay, on this day in any way I can. So, I am your preacher for the morning, Ross Murray.

Wow. Today is so…so…Advent-y. It’s mid-December! Everything is decked out in blue. I’ve heard that Jay will have a fabulous blue chausable to wear when we get to communion. In our texts, we hear all the themes of advent placed before us, like a cliff notes of the season. We hear glorious images of some special day in the future when we will see deserts breaking into bloom and the blind receiving their sight and the lame leaping up like dear. We hear the need for patience. We even sing the Magnificat with Mary, proclaiming how God is lifting up the lowly and humbling the proud.

Hope. Joy. Expectation. It’s all in there!

ELCA Rite of Reception for Rev. Jay Wiesner (Photo by Richard W. Garnett)
 The advent theme gets heightened even more by the context surrounding this worship. We are celebrating the rite of reception for Pastor Jay Alan Wiesner. Jay was ordained and served two congregations, following the call he discerned from God, but without the recognition of the larger church. Today, that recognition will be granted. The reconciliation between the church and those who want to live out their callings within that church seems to be at hand. There certainly has been expectation and hope leading up to this day for many years for Jay, the people of UniLu, Bethany Lutheran Church, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, Lutherans Concerned/North America and for all of us.

When I was preparing for today, I noticed the gospel text from Matthew looks at expectations, and how they are set on people. Who is going to be the one that can fulfill our expectations for a messiah? Is it John the Baptist? Is it Jesus? Is it someone else completely?

John the Baptist is someone who seemed to understand God’s calling for his life. He was fully aware that he was not the messiah, but he seemed to know his role as precursor to Christ. His words and his actions agitated the crowds, called people to repentance, angered the authorities, got him arrested and eventually killed, and yet…John would be the first one to tell you that he is not THE ONE that the Israelites are waiting for. He always pointed beyond himself, to someone much bigger, and better, and more amazing, and even more radical than he was. When John spoke of the messiah earlier in Matthew, he said that he was not worthy to carry the messiah’s sandals. John spoke of the difference between his own baptism with water, and the baptism with Holy Spirit and fire that the messiah would bring.

Of all the people seeking the Messiah, John was at the forefront. As someone who was seeking the messiah, John knew to explore every possibility. In the text we heard this morning, John hears rumors about the work that Jesus is doing, and he needs to check those rumors out. Since he is in prison, John sends his disciples to do the scouting work for him.

This is where we get to the major question in our gospel text: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” This is an incredibly loaded question. It’s being asked by the people who have been waiting with longing and expectation for a savior. It is being asked by a nation that has been under occupation by foreign empires for years and years. It is being asked by people who have been let down over and over again by charismatic fanatics who have claimed to be the messiah, just to fail and be killed and leave the Israelites in an even worse condition.

If you listen carefully enough, you can hear the questions that are NOT being asked:

“Are you going to dash our hopes, just like all the others?”
“Can we endure having our hearts broken again?”
“Will all this healing and spectacle run out when the going gets tough?”
“Are you someone who is more concerned with your own glory than the salvation of the people of Israel?”

These are questions being asked by folks who have been burned over and over again. They hold the vision from Isaiah in the back of their heads. They want to see the deserts breaking into bloom, the glory of Lebanon, and the majesty of Carmel. They want to travel that on the Holy Way where no one goes astray. They want SO BADLY for things to finally go their way…but they don’t want to put their heart and soul and energy into another zealot who will fail at an attempt to seize self-glory.

So, they ask the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Jesus answers them back out of that very same vision from Isaiah that they hold in their hearts. Jesus tells them to recall what they have seen: the blind can see, the lame can walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, even the dead are raised.

Jesus is drawing images from that very text from Isaiah. He is confirming for them that their vision is not in vein. He is letting them know that he has already started to fulfill that vision.

In his answer, Jesus helps them to figure out the difference between Jesus and all the others who have gone before…Jesus spends less time convincing people that he is the messiah. Instead, he spends all his energy on living out the call of a messiah. He is actually healing and giving sight and preparing the Holy Way, not getting into drawn-out power struggles with the religious leadership. These are not actions of self-glory, but glory that can only come from emptying one’s self for the sake of the world. Jesus doesn’t have to prove that he is the messiah, because he is BEING the messiah.

Then…and this is important…Jesus affirms the role and the purpose that John fulfills for Jesus’ ministry. John is not the messiah. John said that himself. But Jesus lets people know that there needed to be a messenger, a prophet, in the midst of the people. John’s role at announcing the reign of God, and how incredibly close it is to the Israelites (AND TO ALL OF US) was essential to prepare people for the role and ministry of Jesus. And Jesus publicly affirmed the role that John filled.

So here we are today, at the Third Sunday in Advent and the Rite of Reception for Pastor Jay Alan Wiesner. What does that mean for us here in this space? Certainly on a day like today, when Jay’s calling and ordination and ministry is being recognized and affirmed by the church that he has served for so many years, it is easy to apply these texts to Jay as an individual, or maybe even to the struggle for full participation that has gone on for years before you were even aware of your call.

It might be tempting to ask this same question to you, Jay: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Even today, that is still a loaded question. The implied questions are just as filled with expectation:

“Is Pastor Jay the one who is going to make UniLu a shining beacon of ministry?”
“Does today’s Rite of Reception signal the end of dissention and disunity in the ELCA?”
“Does this mean that our church is one and whole again?”
“Are we done fighting about sexuality?”
“Will everything be rainbows and unicorns and high-fives from Jesus?”

Jay is smart enough to know how to answer that question. No, he is not the messiah. Jay doesn’t perform miracles. He cannot raise the dead or give sight to the blind. His role is more that of John the Baptist, someone who will point and direct people to the miraculous, saving, and reconciling work of Christ. Don’t get me wrong, Jay’s ministry is vital. He is certainly a servant of God. He is living out his call. And today, we get to witness the reconciliation of his call from God to his call from the ELCA. For that, we should be thankful.

But let’s be clear, this is not salvation. The work of reconciliation cannot be completed in a liturgical rite for one hour on a Sunday morning (I’m sorry to break it to you, Bishop Burkat). The brokenness of the world requires more than just Jay, or you, or me. It can only be a calling that we live out together, following Christ. Ultimately, it is Christ who will make the vision from Isaiah a reality.

The one that we are waiting for is one who will open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, and make the lame leap like a deer. The one we seek will flood the desert with water and forge a Holy Way for us to follow. And we shall return to Zion with singing with everlasting joy on our heads. We will have joy and gladness.

And for that we can say, “Thanks be to God.”


- Ross Murray

(Photo by Richard W. Garnett)

LVC remembers Joel Workin

The Reconciling in Christ designation outlined so clearly in the previous post can be applied not only to congregations but to organizations. The Lutheran Volunteer Corps became RIC in 2000 in large part due to their connection with a volunteer with connections to Lutherans Concerned: Joel Workin.

Joel Workin died of AIDS in 1995, and this year while remembering leaders during a fall meeting, LVC recalled an article written by Michael Wilker in 2007 when a new intentional community was named in Joel's honor. He had a huge impact on the organization's move toward greater inclusivity:
Joel's action and the actions of other LVCers did activate a much needed open reflection within LVC about how open and supportive LVC could be to GLB and Questioning volunteers. That year we changed the prospective volunteer interview script to acknowledge that there may be gay men or lesbians in the LVC household communities. The next program year, 1988-89, 10% of the volunteers told their housemates they were gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Thank you, LVC, for your ongoing work to be supportive of all members of your community no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, and thank you for remembering and honoring Joel. You can read the full article here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The RIC Position: Effective Welcoming

It has been brought to our attention that a news piece referenced in a blog post from last week contains a mistake. The article from the WauwatosaNOW states that “the ELCA adopted the RIC position in 2009." The article is in error. Sadly, and perhaps understandably, it’s easy for harried news reporters to miss some of the nuances in ELCA policies.

In fact, the ELCA as a churchwide body has not adopted a statement or policy that specifically mentions the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) program, which is sponsored by Lutherans Concerned/North America. However, since 2002, the ELCA has officially recognized Lutherans Concerned/North America as an “Independent Lutheran Organization,” most recently through relationship with the ELCA’s Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission (EOCM) Program Unit. The EOCM affirms LC/NA’s work in the areas of “hospitality to gay and lesbian persons” and supports LC/NA’s work in “reaching out to persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.”

What did the ELCA adopt in 2009? Speaking through the Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA adopted at least two things unprecedented in the history of our church body:
1. The assembly, for the first time, affirmed the centrality of family in the lives of its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and couples. (See the social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust)

2. The assembly allowed LGBT ministers in committed, lifelong, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders in the church.

Both of these actions have been seen by many as signs of deepening welcome to the LGBT community. For some, this newly heard welcome has seemed strong enough to lead them to wonder if the passing of the social statement on sexuality and the changes in ministry policies means that congregations no longer need to intentionally welcome people of all sexual identities and gender identities through the RIC program. Others have responded to what they perceive as a new “permission” from the national church body to express with their mouths the welcome and encouragement they’ve long felt in their hearts.

Our message to all is this: the need to provide a clear welcome to people of all sexual orientations and gender identifies is as important as ever. Especially now, with the numerous reports of anti-LGBT bullying and youth suicides, it remains crucial for LGBT people and their families to know the message of the love of God in Christ Jesus in their lives. Even though the ELCA has called on congregations to welcome LGBT people and their families, in all too many instances that welcome has yet to be concretely extended.

Especially troubling are congregations that claim to be welcoming but, in actuality, are not. A recent example is illustrative. As a response to the ELCA allowing for support of same-gender realtionships and to the changes in its ministry policies, a large suburban congregation called a special congregational meeting to vote about whether it should remain part of the ELCA. During the Sunday worship service just prior to the vote, the senior pastor urged the congregation to sever its ties with the ELCA, saying that to remain in the ELCA would be to “let Satan win.”

LGBT people and their families need to know they are welcome, and they need to know it congregation by congregation. The social statement and ministry policy changes are a beginning, not the end, of our ministry to and with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. There is still a great need to change practice as well as policy. This can happen only if we continue to work for reconciliation, spreading the message of the Gospel and Christ’s love for the sake of the world.

As with any issue about welcoming and hospitality, the proof is more in the impact than in the intent. Holy Scripture is not heard in a vacuum. Instead, Scripture is heard in community (“where two or more are gathered . . .”).

So what does it mean for a community to offer an effective welcome? The reality is that we live in a time where the voices of fear and misunderstanding often dominate the public discussion of human sexuality. Tragically, these judgmental voices of fear are often all that are heard—and are sometimes taken to be definitive of what it means to be a Christian. In fact, Lutherans Concerned continues to learn of Lutheran churches that shun LGBT people. Sometimes, even parents and family of LGBT people are vilified.

As a result, it is assumed by many LGBT people that they are not welcome in any church unless told otherwise. Because even a general statement of welcome is heard as really meaning "everybody but me," it takes a special effort to communicate that a congregation is sincere in its welcome. The RIC Program seeks to make clearer the policy of congregations where all people are welcome as full members, regardless of their sexual orientation or their gender identity, or that of their children, siblings or friends.

Go here for a sample statement of Affirmation of Welcome, which many RIC congregations have adopted. Other RIC congregations have adopted similar statements (go here for additional samples of welcoming statements). Any Lutheran group that adopts a statement which includes the naming of LGBT people as welcome to full participation is eligible to be designated as Reconciling in Christ after review by Lutherans Concerned.

The Lutheran church has been given an evangelical opportunity. RIC can help in meeting that opportunity. To do so, congregations need to make their welcome clear and concrete. Beyond adopting an Affirmation of Welcome, here are just a few ways to express a welcome to members and visitors within your congregation:
  • Honor the anniversaries of couples of all sexual orientations in the same way in bulletin or newsletter listings or when mentioning during the prayers of the church.
  • Include pictures of couples and their children in your congregational directory. List the names of both people together in the directory.
  • Receive same-gender couples and their families together as they join as congregation members, just as you would for other couples and families
  • Mention long-term relationships in sermons when appropriate.
  • Celebrate ceremonies of blessing or marriage for couples of all sexual orientations and gender identities. See here for liturgical resources.
Here are some ways to share the reconciling love of Christ beyond the walls of your church:
  • Post the RIC Rainbow Heart Logo or a Rainbow flag or other rainbow symbol outside your church.
  • Prepare a web page that easily identifies your welcome to the LGBT community.
  • Place a notice in the local LGBT, secular and/or church press indicating that your church is RIC (and explain what it means)
  •  Make a connection with your local PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) organization. Introduce yourself, your church, and let them know you welcome LGBT people, their friends, and family at worship.
  •  Show up, as a congregation, at a gathering of LGBT individuals. Perhaps the annual Pride event or a rally or vigil. Let attendees know that your congregation welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
More ideas can be found here.

Grace and peace to all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Press Release: LC/NA Celebrates the ELCA Reception to the Clergy Roster of an Openly Gay Philadelphia Pastor

December 10, 2010

Contact: Phil Soucy

Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) celebrates the upcoming reception of Pastor Jay Wiesner onto the clergy roster by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on Sunday, December 12.

He will be received as clergy during a Service of Reception presided over by Bishop Claire Burkat, ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, held during the 10:30 a.m. Sunday service at the University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation (, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pastor Anita Hill, a pastor at St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and also recently similarly received onto the clergy roster, will preach.

Pastor Jay Wiesner had been ordained "extraordinarily" in 2004. "Extraordinary" in this context means the ordination was outside of the usual practices of the ELCA. As a result, the ELCA did not recognize his ordination at the time it occurred. At this Service of Reception, the ELCA recognizes that ordination and the ministries Pastor Wiesner has done over time.

Pastor Wiesner completed his seminary training in 2002, but, because he was in disagreement with the then policy that imposed celibacy in a life lived without a partner, he was denied ordination by the ELCA. In 2004, Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, called him as Pastor of Outreach Ministry and ordained him, an act of ecclesiastic disobedience at the time. In September 2008, he was called by University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation as pastor, also an act of ecclesiastic disobedience.

His reception onto the roster of clergy is one of the results of the decisions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to eliminate the policy that had since 1989 precluded service as ministers by those in a lifelong, committed same-gender relationship. Though not in such a relationship, Pastor Wiesner had disagreed with the previous policy precluding even the possibility of it.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said "The prophetic witness of Bethany Lutheran, Minneapolis and University Lutheran, Philadelphia is coming true. We give thanks for Jay and the congregations who courageously called him in the face of policies precluding his service. We applaud the Southeast Pennsylvania Synod and its bishop for their visible support for the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. While our struggle is not ended, this day leaves an indelible exclamation point in history. This day justice has prevailed, not just for one, but symbolically for all LGBT people."

Pastor Jay Wiesner said, "This day has been a long time coming and something I have been praying for before I was even ordained in 2004. Both Bethany Lutheran Church and University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation have risked their standing in the greater Church to be a prophetic witness and for that I am truly blessed and grateful."


About Lutherans Concerned/North America
Working at the intersection of oppressions, Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) embodies, inspires, advocates and organizes for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and global partners. LC/NA is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Revs. Jay Wiesner and Stephen Keiser to be received onto ELCA roster

As reported by the Southeast Pennsylvania Synod:

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will receive two pastors onto its roster of ordained ministers in upcoming congregational ceremonies.

The Rev. Jay A. Wiesner of University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation (UniLu) and the Rev. Stephen Keiser of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, both in Center City, will be received as a result of ministry policy changes by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Pastors Stephen Keiser (left) and Jay Wiesner will be received onto the clergy roster of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA
Pastors Wiesner and Keiser have served on the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) and were approved for reception onto the ELCA roster by the Synod Candidacy Committee on Nov. 13.  ELM is an organization that credentials qualified candidates of all sexual orientations and gender identities for ordained ministry.

Bishop Claire S. Burkat will officiate at rites of reception for both pastors.  Pastor Wiesner will be received in a service at UniLu (3637 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia) on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 10:30 a.m., with the Rev. Anita Hill of St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN, preaching.  Pastor Keiser will be received in a service at Holy Communion (2110 Chestnut Street) on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011 at 11 a.m. Bishop Burkat will preach at this service.

“Clearly Pastor Keiser and Pastor Wiesner are blessed with the spiritual gifts needed for ordained ministry,” Bishop Burkat said.  “Faithful and inspired preaching, wise teaching and courageous leadership are evident in their serving.”

“I have been grateful for their patience, their grace under pressure, and their profound love for the ELCA and for the people that they serve,” the bishop said.

“It has been an amazing journey for me,” Pastor Wiesner said after his approval.  “The Church is moving in positive directions where God is found even in the midst of struggle. I give thanks to all of the people who have made this possible and especially I gave thanks to God for everything that has happened.”

“I am so incredibly grateful to be at this place in my life and ministry and for the ELCA to be at this place,” Pastor Keiser said.  “I believe it is a sign of God’s presence and healing and growth for us. I know in the long-term view of the kingdom of God this will be a moment of grace for me and for the Church.”

Pastor Wiesner was called to serve UniLu in 2008, after serving as pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, Minneapolis since his ordination July 25, 2004.  He previously served several churches there as a lay assistant, communicator and outreach coordinator, and served on the Minneapolis Area Synod Council.  In Philadelphia he serves as dean of the city’s Central and Northwest-Olney conferences and is a field education supervisor for seminary students.  He is also a co-founder of The Naming Project, a faith-based youth group serving youth of all sexual and gender identities.

Pastor Keiser has served at Holy Communion as a pastoral associate from 2000 until his ordination on Jan. 25, 2009, and has been one of the church’s pastors since. He also served as campus minister to Temple University through UniLu from 2000-2005.  He currently serves as a board member of the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry at Temple and a candidacy interviewer for the synod.  In his time at Holy Communion he has worked with staff and membership to expand the congregation’s outreach ministries aimed at ending homelessness and hunger in Philadelphia. He has also taught Greek at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and in the seminary’s adult lay education programs.

In 2009, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly approved changes to the church’s standards for ministry that made it possible for qualified candidates living in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA clergy and other professional church workers.

Lutherans Concerned congratulates Revs. Wiesner and Keiser and thanks them for their continuing ministries.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hola, Luteranos Compasivos

We here at LC/NA direct your attention—make that atenciĆ³n—to a wonderful, LGBT-friendly Spanish-language program in Cuernavaca, Mexico. As the website reads, CETLALIC is

the most progressive Spanish language immersion school in Mexico, is located in the City of Eternal Spring, Cuernavaca. CETLALIC offers small Spanish classes and homestays with Mexican families in a community-minded environment. We provide a place for cultural exchange with a focus on mutual understanding and social justice issues in Mexico.

Each year, the school offers two special programs for those interested in learning about the situation of LGBT life in Mexico through the study of language and cultural exchange. Although one can attend any of the regular classes at the school, the LGBT programs provide a particular focus on LGBT issues. In addition to intensive language instruction, the classes include guest speakers, lectures, roundtable discussions, field trips, museum visits, videos, and encounters with local community groups, all aimed at increasing understanding of the cultural context of gay and lesbian identity in Mexico.

See here for more information, including schedule.

All of the school’s language teachers and host homes are LGBT-friendly.

The school has been strongly recommended by several members of LC/NA! 

See here for a recent news report about the school.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pastors called to RIC church

Another RIC church is making headlines this week! Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa, WI has called Pastors Steve and Deb Ohrtman, who will be installed this Sunday December 5th. Steve reported that,
"When we drove up and saw the words on the marquee, 'All Are Welcome,' we knew this was the place we wanted to be!"
The pastors will be installed at both the 8:30 and 11am services, followed by a reception at 12:15pm. We rejoice with Mt. Zion and their pastors as they start a new chapter in their life together! Visit WauwatosaNOW here to read the full article, including more details on ministries of the congregation.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

RIC in the news

Just this past September, St. Peter's Lutheran Church of Port Jervis, NY passed their affirmation of welcome and became a Reconciling in Christ congregation, dedicated to full participation for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. They've certainly started living out their welcome publicly, because the Pike County Courier recently ran a news item on their new RIC status:
"The congregation of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Port Jervis has officially adopted a public statement of welcome for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities...The Reverend Patt Kauffman, Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, sees this statement as “absolutely necessary to assure that all know they are loved, welcomed and treasured as a part of the body of Christ at St. Peter’s.”
Lutherans Concerned/North America offers sample press releases for new RIC congregations- we'll happily mail or e-mail one to you if you like.  Thanks for going public yet again, St. Peter's!

(You can read the full article here.)

We are Lutheran

And we believe out loud!

See here and here for earlier blog posts about the Believe Out Loud summit.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reconciling in Pennsylvania

We just finished our closing interview with Rev. Carol Ficken of Grace Lutheran Church in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. This makes them our newest Reconciling in Christ congregation to date, and the first in their part of rural Pennsylvania.

Congratulations, Grace Lutheran! We're glad to have you with us, and hope to hear lots about your ministries as they continue into the future.

Illinois legislature passes bill recognizing same-gender civil unions

In a landmark 32-24 vote, legislation recognizing civil unions among gay and lesbian couples passed the Illinois Senate Wednesday afternoon. The bill was passed yesterday by the Illinois House, 61-52. The bill now moves to Gov. Quinn, who has pledged to sign it.

For more of this story, see this report from the Chicago Sun Times.

Rev. Erik Christensen, pastor at St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square (Chicago, IL), observed the House debate with a group of clergy from around the state. Pastor Christensen recorded the following statements:

Rep. Dunkin speaks on behalf on the bill, citing his gay brother as one example of all the family members affected by this legislation.

Rep. Osterman just cited Pr. Michelle Miller and her partner, Julie Sevig, as examples of the people who will benefit from the civil rights this legislation extends.

Rep. C. Gordan cites 1967s Loving vs. Virginia as an example of watershed legislation, and quotes Mildred Loving's support of marriage equality.

Rep. Lang rises in support of the bill. "this bill is about giving people the dignity they deserve - not about degrading the dignity of marriage."

Rep. Naomi Jakobsson rises to support the bill, affirming the dignity of same-gender couples and their families, citing the story of her own lesbian daughter. "This bill is about civil rights, equal rights."

Rep. Reis commends the legislature on the civility of the debate, but opposes the bill. Raises the specter of "judicial activism" and asks, "are you ready for same-sex marriage."

Rep. Watson asks about opposite-sex civil unions. "How long will they have to know each other before they can apply for a civil union?"

Rep. Black, "I'm in my seventh decade of life, and this issue isn't going away. This isn't a partisan issue. 'I'd rather be right than consistent.' I intend to vote aye."

Rep. Greg Harris begins his closing remarks, "excuse me for getting a little emotional. I think we've seen the better part of ourselves tonight, and I thank you for that. There are tens of thousands of Illinoisans in every county of this state who have worked for this change that deserve thanks for tonight's efforts. . . . It just happens to be my honor to introduce this legislation, it is they who deserve our thanks."
Thanks be to God!

Southern Poverty Law Center reports on anti-LGBT violence

The Southern Poverty Law Center has gathered some helpful information on violence perpetrated against LGBT people. Here is just a snippet from a recent article:
“To most unchurched Americans — meaning most Americans — the fruit of the church is bitter indeed. … [T]he bullying crisis has put a fine point on the need for moderates to challenge the theological bullies from our own bully pulpits. We cannot equivocate. Children are dying. We need to speak up. If not now, when?”
Through the Reconciling In Christ (RIC) program, Lutherans Concerned has long been working to ensure that every Lutheran congregation is a safe place for all. There is a great need to foster education within congregations, synods, and on the churchwide level. Lutherans need to deepen the discussion of how attitudes about differences in sexuality, in race or ethnicity, in socio-economic status, etc. .. . often intersect, creating cultures in which violence of all sorts is more likely to occur.

See the full article here.