Monday, January 31, 2011

You Can Help: Researchers Need Participants

Do you want to see research on people of all sexual orientations and gender identities? Participate in a study!Sociologists at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton are conducting research into the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Two 15-minute confidential questionnaires are on SurveyMonkey:

The first survey examines parents in same-sex relationships. Researchers said an important part of the project is to determine how people feel about identities that are associated with being in these relationships. For questions, participants may contact the principal researchers:  Associate Professor of Sociology Laurel Holland at 678-839-6331 or lholland [at] westga.edu; or Assistant Professor of Sociology Pam Hunt at 678-839-6336 or email: phunt [at] westga.edu.

The other survey explores the connection between same sex domestic violence and police response. Researchers said an important part of this project is to determine how people feel about the identities associated with authority figures and identities associated with the LGBT communities. The information provided by participants will help sociologists understand relationships between authorities and same sex couples. If participants have any questions about the study they may contact Sarah Bozeman Rhine at sbozema1 [at] my.westga.edu or her advisor Pam Hunt.

Participation in either survey is voluntary. Participants may decline or not answer certain questions or withdraw at anytime. If participants choose to withdraw before completing the survey the information provided will be used, unless researchers are asked to destroy it.

Researchers in both projects stressed that no names or other indentifying information will be used. Also, no references to individuals will be made in any part of either study. No individual’s response will be linked to the results. Written reports of both surveys will be available in the next year. If participants are interested in reading a report of the findings, they may e-mail one of the researchers involved in the particular survey and provide a name and address. This information will not be linked to the surveys.

As an incentive for completing the questionnaires, participants will be entered in a pool to win a Visa Gift Card. At the end of the survey participants may enter their names, e-mail or phone numbers. This information will not be connected with participants’ answers. Participants in the parenting survey will be entered in a pool to win a $100 gift card. Those in the LGBT authority figure survey will be in a pool to win a $50 gift card.

Board member in the spotlight

Have you ever met Olivia-Beth Horak? She's the multi-talented Bisexual Representative on LC/NA's board of directors. Working towards her Master of Science in Social Work, Olivia-Beth works with the American Cancer Society and is a key member of the Spiritual Pride Project, the first LGBTQ Christian camp in the southwest United States.


Looking good, Olivia-Beth!
 
Not only is she incredibly active social justice arenas, especially those in the Lutheran Church, Olivia-Beth is now part of the face of the ELCA! Check out the banner at the top declaring that "there is a place for you here." The photo was also run with a story about her in August of 2009.

Get to know the board better by checking out the link in the first paragraph. We've been enormously blessed to have such an intelligent, thoughtful, and diverse group to guide us.

Weekend of Welcome

This weekend former Bishop Herbert Chilstrom and our own deputy director Ross Murray were pleased to be keynote speakers at Reformation Lutheran Church's Weekend of Welcome in Columbia, SC.

Reformation began a journey of reconciliation in response to a growing LGBT population in their neighborhood. According to The State,
The congregation decided to reach out to its new neighbors but found that many were suspicious of the church. That’s when the congregation underwent a series of conversations that let it to become a congregation intentional in its mission and outreach. Now the church, with 150 members, is a vital part of the community.

Thank you, Reformation, for hosting this successful weekend in your community. You're a true model of the power that reconciliation has to bring people together. We're glad to have been a part of it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

State Department Amends Policy Guidelines on Passport Sex Marker Changes

Lutherans Concerned celebrates this great news from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund:

State Department Issues Amended Policy Guidelines on Passport Sex Marker Changes

In response to concerns raised by Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) and other organizations and individuals, the U.S. State Department today published amended policy guidelines for changing the sex marker on passports.

Among other things, the new policy guidelines:

- allow you to submit a doctor's letter from any licensed doctor, eliminating the burdensome physician specialty requirements;

- allow you to submit a letter from a doctor who has either treated you for "gender-related care" or who has reviewed and evaluated your "gender-related medical history"; and

- allow passport holders to change their passport's sex marker by presenting an updated birth certificate instead of a doctor's letter.
 
Not only is this welcome news for those traveling internationally, but it also offers an alternative for showing an official ID domestically. Most notably, when starting a new job, a passport alone is sufficient to establish your identity and eligibility to work. In many states, sex reassignment surgery is required before the sex designation can be corrected on a birth certificate or driver’s license (two pieces of documentation commonly used to prove identity when starting a job). However, these federal guidelines mean that sex reassignment surgery is no longer a prerequisite to obtaining up-to-date and accurate photo identification.
 
TLDEF is committed to ending discrimination based upon gender identity and expression and to achieving equality for transgender people through public education, test-case litigation, direct legal services, community organizing and public policy efforts.

President Obama on the killing of David Kato: LGBT rights are human rights

David Kato (via Facebook)
Yesterday, President Obama spoke out against the brutal murder of Ugandan LGBT-rights activist David Kato. Here is the full text of his statement.

I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder of David Kato. In Uganda, David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom. The United States mourns his murder, and we recommit ourselves to David’s work.

At home and around the world, LGBT persons continue to be subjected to unconscionable bullying, discrimination, and hate. In the weeks preceding David Kato’s murder in Uganda, five members of the LGBT community in Honduras were also murdered. It is essential that the Governments of Uganda and Honduras investigate these killings and hold the perpetrators accountable.

LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights. My Administration will continue to strongly support human rights and assistance work on behalf of LGBT persons abroad. We do this because we recognize the threat faced by leaders like David Kato, and we share their commitment to advancing freedom, fairness, and equality for all.
For further updates on the murder of David Kato in Uganda, see Box Turtle Bulletin.

ELCA Bishops says "We need to help make it better."

From the ELCA news service: 
A synod bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has posted a video essay on YouTube in which he urges church members to stand with young people who are "victimized, brutalized or bullied."
The Rev. Bruce Burnside, bishop of the ELCA South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, Madison, said he made the video in response to reports of bullying locally and at a nearby college campus. The video is [posted] on the LivingLutheran.com website. [. . . .] 
"There are times when we can't stand up for ourselves, and we have to rely on others to stand with us," Burnside said. "We can't just say that one day it will be better for those who are victimized or brutalized or bullied. There are times when we need to help make it better."
See the entire news article here.

Lutherans Concerned/North America gives heartfelt thanks to Bishop Burnside for his words and witness.




Thursday, January 27, 2011

Death of Ugandan Advocate David Kato

On January 26th, an unknown intruder killed David Kato, a gay Ugandan advocating for LGBTI rights, in his home.

As many of you know from the news as well as from messages from our International Programs committee, a bill subjecting LGBTI Ugandans to the death penalty has been proposed for months now. Kato's death came a year after a Ugandan tabloid, the Rolling Stone (unaffiliated with the American newspaper) published his name and image, along with those of many other allegedly gay men, with the headline "Hang them."

Kato worked tirelessly to futher the rights and safety of his fellow LGBTI Ugandans. We mourn the untimely loss of his life, as do his fellow workers for justice, his family and friends. Please keep them all in your prayers. Look here for updates on ways to support our Ugandan siblings in Christ.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Celebrating Welcome at Atonement, Newport

Atonement Lutheran Church of Newport, OR, had an RIC Celebration Service this past Sunday, January 23rd. Those in attendance were so moved by their bishop, Dave Brauer-Rieke's, sermon that they asked if we would share it with you all. We're pleased to do so.



Matthew 4:12-23 NRSV
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

"Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Friends and members of Atonement Lutheran Church - it is a joy to join you today for your celebration of becoming a Reconciling in Christ congregation. The Gospel lesson we just read is interesting to reflect upon as we think about our ministry together as people of diverse sexual orientations and perspectives.

In Matthew chapters 1 & 2 we read about the birth of Jesus and the wise men. Matthew 3 brings us the words of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism, and in Matthew 4 we read how Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days. Then these words from today’s lesson, “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali …”

Jesus’ ministry has not even begun yet, yet this is already the third time in his life that he has been forced, for political reasons, to leave his home and flee for his life. The first time was as an infant when King Herod was looking for him to kill him. As you may remember the family fled the country, going to Egypt. The second time was after Herod’s death, when Jesus’ parents decided it would be safe to return. Yet, upon their arrival they discovered that Herod’s son Archelaus was now in power and the cure was probably worse than the disease, so they didn’t go home, but rather then moved up to the northern fringe of the country – Nazareth, a cave city actually – which is where Jesus spent his childhood. Today, following John’s arrest, we read that Jesus decides to leave even Nazareth and he moves to what is really the wrong side of the tracks – Capernaum, in the ancient territories of Zebulun and Naphtali. Once again dislocated. Once again in danger for his life simple because of who he is.

If we want to understand this lesson we have to understand what it means to be Jesus or John, falsely arrested, forced to flee for your life, seen as a commodity or somehow dangerous or untrustworthy just because of who you are. Matthew, noting that Jesus had fled to the ancient lands of Zebulun and Naphtali says, “Oh ya, we know this story. We’ve been here before!” In ancient times the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali were attacked, abused and enslaved by the Assyrians. Now, again, with the arrival of Jesus, light has dawned upon those who sat in darkness.

The only bad part here is that Jesus refuses to stay marginalized and well behaved. Rather, we read today that Jesus now steps out of the shadows and says, “THIS IS NOT OKAY! FIX IT, PEOPLE!” “Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.”
We at Atonement Lutheran Church reach out with
the good news of God’s love through Jesus Christ.

As Christ’s ministry includes everyone, we too welcome persons of any
ethnicity, gender identity, race,
sexual orientation, marital status, age,
economic situation, and physical or mental ability.

We celebrate the gifts each one brings to the life
and ministry of this community of faith.
This is your new, congregational, statement of welcome. I’m here today as your bishop to thank you for taking the time and effort to get to know Naphtali a little bit. That is to say, I want to thank you for going through the RIC process, and being willing to wrestle with the inherent prejudice and marginalization that our culture forces upon gay and lesbian people. I want to thank you for saying clearly that Atonement Lutheran no longer wishes to participate passively in prejudice, but rather that in care for your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, you want to understand.

People have always marginalized other people in human societies, based perhaps on ethnicity, or skin color, or gender, or wealth, or education, or brute strength. And Jesus or John, or African Americans, or the handicapped, or whoever the marginalized are, have learned to adapt, and survive in such situations. They know how to hide, to share, and support one another. Notable Scriptural “exceptions” to this “rule” include orphans, widows and ‘the stranger among you.’ I’m suggesting these marginalized people garner special attention in Scripture because, perhaps, they are unable to organize or help each other. They really are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable - people unable to organize and fight back. They have absolutely no way to help themselves – not even the bad ones - and so the laws of God and the prophets advocate for them. The laws of God and the prophets are not usually understood to advocate for gay and lesbian people, but then who knew? I mean, even gay and lesbian people didn’t know there was such a thing as gay and lesbian people until maybe 100 or a 150 years ago. Historically people we today would call gay and lesbian just knew they didn’t fit in. They suffered their “strangeness” quietly and alone, or when their true selves overwhelmed them, made “moral errors” in their behavior and suffer accordingly.

It was in 1980 that American Lutherans (in a social statement adopted by the American Lutheran Church) first time said publically, ‘Okay, we get it; some people are gay and lesbian and that means we’re going to have to start to think differently.’ Yet even today, some 30 later, gay teens still commit suicide at unprecedented rates, and our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers who survive adolescence continue to live hidden and silent, or dangerous and frustrating, lives.

Zebulun and Naphtali. People who sit in darkness. Jesus is for them.

I have a pastor friend who happens to be gay and in a long term relationship. Last year when we were taking reservations for Synod Assembly I asked him if he was bringing his partner, trying to get room reservations straight. He asked me as his bishop, “Can I do that?”

For 20 some years he has come, as a pastor of the Oregon Synod, to convocations, Synod Assemblies, continuing education events, and the like and never once felt free to bring his partner to these events. The church has told him that’s not okay. We have said “No” to his family.

So I said, “Yes, of course it’s okay. Why wouldn’t it be?” Then he said, “Do you want me to bring my partner?” And I say, “I don’t care one way or the other, I’m just trying to get room reservations made.” So he asked if he could have some time to think about it, and then finally he said “Yes, I would like to do that. Thank you.”

The story doesn’t end there, though. At the assembly we have a banquet, a nice, sit down, plated dinner. My friend and his partner came to the banquet, sat at a table, and waited for people to join them. Among those who did were three of our synod’s high school youth – all male. After the banquet my friend came up to me after the banquet, with some concern, because two of the three youth had told him they were gay. I said, “Well, that’s good. I’m sure they were sitting with you because they don’t have much role modeling for healthy, Christian, gay relationships. I’m glad you and the church can be there for them.” But my friend said, “No, you don’t get it. If this gets out people are going to say that we were trying to make them gay, or trying to curry their favor or something. That’s what “they” always do to “us” – and you as bishop are going to be the one who gets in trouble. This was a mistake.” These men have lived in the land of darkness for so long that they quite frankly don’t know how to act in a church that says it is now okay to be who they are – while at the same time knowing it still, really, isn’t.

So we’re on a journey. Not a journey of right and wrong, but a journey of understanding, and advocacy – a journey of courage and tentative trust. Again, I want to thank you for taking a step out onto the tarmac here. But please understand, this is not an easy journey. Those of us who have grown up in a world where our friends are never the ones to get thrown in jail, or where we are never the ones that have to flee for our lives – we don’t get it. We don’t know what it means to have to live hidden and secret lives, and we don’t understand how when we say, “You are welcome here and it’s okay now.” – that it still really isn’t much of the time.

I would like to think that the adoption of your statement of welcome says something about you as a congregation. Not so much that you want to be open and inclusive, which I know you do, but that you want to learn and listen, and come to understand what it is like to be different.
"Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light . . .”
That word is for all of us – absolutely – but we know that the world is darker and more dangerous for some people than for others. It appears from the Bible that we find Jesus most deeply embedded in those people and places that are strange to us. So, today, Zebulun and Naphtali have become sacred states. We welcome those by the sea, whom the world calls Gentiles, and whom we have been content to leave in the shadows of darkness. Jesus will have none of that anymore. None of us can now stay silent anymore.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

St. Francis Lutheran: Festival of Reconciliation and Restoration to take place February 27

Yet another confirmation of the joyous changes occurring in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will be seen on Sunday, February 27, at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time, as the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA and St. Francis Lutheran Church hold a Festival of Reconciliation and Restoration with the Rite of Reception for St. Francis Lutheran Church. This service will celebrate the restoration of St. Francis as a congregation of the synod and of the ELCA. Bishop Mark Holmerud will preside. Following the service will be a Gala event starting at 6:00 p.m. to celebrate this historic occasion.

In 1990, St. Francis Lutheran took the courageous step of calling Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart, a couple in a covenanted, same-gender relationship, as their new pastors. The congregation was put on trial by the ELCA and, on January 1, 1996, was removed from the roster of congregations of the synod and of the ELCA.

Another San Francisco congregation, First United Lutheran Church, was removed from the roster in that same year, for calling Jeff Johnson as its pastor. Rev. Johnson refused to comply with the policy that precluded partnered ministers from serving on the roster of the ELCA. First United is currently in a discernment process regarding its relationship with the synod.

Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) celebrates with the congregation of St. Francis Lutheran and with the Sierra Pacific Synod as we look forward together to a church that more fully recognizes and affirms Christ's call to work for reconciliation. As stated on the congregation's website,

"We believe that gay people are as much a part of the Body of Christ as anyone else. We believe that there is no reason why a gay person should be afraid to come to God, and that, as gay people, we are every bit as welcome in the presence of God as any other part of God's wonderful creation."

Throughout the time between its removal and the present, St. Francis faithfully proclaimed the Gospel, celebrating the diversity of God's people as "part of our everyday journey with Christ." While LC/NA recognizes that there is still much work to be done to achieve the full participation of LGBT people in the life of the church, we rejoice in the great progress that has been made.

Blessings to St. Francis Lutheran Church and to its continuing ministries.

If you would like to attend the Festival of Reconciliation and Restoration with the Rite of Reception, please send an email to st.francissf@sbcglobal.net.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Deepening the Welcome" workshop to be held in Chicago, February 19

If you are anywhere near the metro Chicago area on Saturday, February 19, this event is not to be missed!

The Chicago Chapter of Lutherans Concerned and the Metropolitan Chicago Synod Justice Team are offering a day of workshops called

“Deepening the Welcome: Living out Jesus’ Welcome for GLBTQ People in Our Congregations.”

The event will explore the theme: All are welcome: What does this mean in your congregation? What does it mean to be explicitly welcoming to GLBTQ members already in congregations and those looking for a place to worship?

People at every stage of the conversation about GLBTQ inclusion, including those who have never addressed such topics in their congregations, are invited.

The folks in Chicago have put together a whiz-bang line-up of speakers and workshop leaders. (See the workshop descriptions below.)

Please go here for more info and to register. Cost is $10 per person (includes a lovely lunch) or $30 for a group of 4 or more from the same congregation/organization that register together. Pre-registration helps the planners be sure there is lunch for everyone! If cost is an issue or you have other questions, contact the Rev. Carla Thompson Powell.

Also, please see the Facebook page


Workshop Descriptions

Rev. Dr. Richard Perry. KEYNOTE: Dimensions of a Whosoever Church John 3:16-17. Opening keynote address by Dr. Perry, LSTC Professor of Church and Society and Urban Ministry. When Jesus says, “whosoever believes in me”, what does he really mean?

Bishop Wayne Miller: Coming out in Mission as a Welcoming Congregation. The bishop of the Metro Chicago Synod hosts a conversation about how a congregation can step out in mission as a welcoming church and what missional opportunities might be now open to us.

Emily Eastwood: Beginning the Conversation in Congregations. The Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned/North America leads an engaging workshop on how to begin, renew and sustain the conversation about welcome and full participation. Bring your questions.

Dr. Klaus Peter Adam: A Biblical Basis for Welcome: Neither Man nor Woman in Christ. Information, motivation, and application from Galatians 3:28. Dr. Adam engages the biblical text, and gives some practical strategies.

Pocha Carter, Group Health Educator (HIV Prevention Program) at PCC Community Wellness Center in Oak Park: Supporting our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Youth. In this anti-bullying workshop, you will get tools to be an ally to these young people and provide support, curb harassment in your environment, and how we can best support their needs.

Pastor Keith Fry and others: Welcoming All Leaders. This panel discussion with Pastor Keith Fry (Christ the Lord, Elgin) and others shares discoveries, hopes and hesitations in calling a partnered pastor or welcoming a seminarian to a field education site.

Caroline Staerk, field director at Equality Illinois:  Marriage Equality. Come explore how pro-LGBTQ communities of faith and LGBTQ political advocates at Equality Illinois have been laying the groundwork for social and policy change (including passage of the civil union bill).

Pastor Melody Beckman Eastman: Reducing Conflict and Guiding Discernment: A Suburban Congregation's Journey to the Blessing of Unions. Pastor Eastman talks about the process and influences that brought St. Paul, Wheaton to hold same-gender blessing ceremonies in their church.

Noel Spain & Stephanie Dykes: Beyond Gay & Lesbian - Welcoming Bisexual and Transgender as Equal Identities within the GLBT Community. This workshop will focus on getting to know the Bisexual and Transgender community. This workshop will introduce you to members of the B&T communities, help inform you about what specific issues they face, and finally show you how to create a more welcoming space both in the church and society.

Pastor Carla Thompson Powell: Talking With Our Kids About Homosexuality. This very practical workshop will help parents and youth leaders learn and share how they address LGBTQ concerns with their youth.



RIC Sunday celebrations

St. Stephen's Lutheran Church of Monona, Wis., released a statement to local press to let everyone know about their Reconciling in Christ Sunday celebration on January 30th this year. The Sunday coincides with the first anniversary of their vote to affirm all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. As they explain,
The Rev. Nick Utphall, Associate Pastor at St. Stephens, stresses the RiC designation is a natural step in St. Stephen’s mission. “St. Stephen’s has always believed that all are called to be God’s people of joy. We are proud to reach out to the frequently disenfranchised in our community as a Reconciling in Christ congregation.”
We're glad to know that they'll be celebrating with us that day. How will you or your congregation celebrate RIC Sunday this year? Are you reaching out to the local community, too? Tell us about it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Share Your Story

The continuing crisis of teen suicide has been unavoidable these past few months due to the prominent media coverage it receives, especially when the suicides may be linked to anti-gay bullying. We know that many youth suffer from harassment and violence due to real or perceived gender identity and sexual orientation. Of course, bullying affects people of all perceived differences, including class, race, ability and size. However, we want to turn the focus to your stories, especially those that involve helpful responses to such verbal, physical and emotional violence. Here's how you can help.
WANTED

What: Stories about your (your loved ones', your community's) experiences with violence, verbal harassment or bullying as a result of either real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Stories about a time you (your loved ones', your community's) have taken action against such harassment, whether by speaking out or taking action against violence. Try to stay between 300 and 600 words.
When: By February 18, 2011
Why: We want to share your stories in the Concord and other LC/NA communications because your story, your experience and your truth matter; because stories of strength, of grace, and of solidarity help make our community stronger, more graceful, and more likely to stand together; because sharing stories helps focus our feelings to achieve a productive, common mission of welcome.
Where: Everywhere: the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and anywhere else you reside or may lived these stories.
To Whom: communications@lcna.org. Include your name and contact information. You will be contacted to confirm your willingness to participate in the project.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Saint Stephen Lutheran Church

It's my privilege once again to introduce a new Reconciling in Christ congregation, today in Massachusetts.

Saint Stephen Lutheran Church of Marlborough extends a welcome to all people through participation in a monthly free meal, food collections, senior groups, book clubs and many other activities and ministries. Here you can read what they say for themselves about adopting their affirmation of welcome:
The Affirmation of Welcome only mentions lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (GLBT) among many other diverse groups of people. However, that important mention recognizes the unfortunate reality that ‘we live in a time where the voices of fear and ignorance dominate the public discussion on human sexuality issues in our society. Most often these judgmental voices of irrational fear are all that are heard...As a result, it is assumed by most GLBT people that they are not welcomed in any church unless told otherwise. Even a general statement of welcome is heard as really meaning “everybody but me,” so it takes a special effort to communicate the same welcome. The RIC program lifts up congregations and organizations that actively welcome all people as full members, regardless of their sexual orientation, their gender identity or that of their children, siblings, or friends’ (www.lcna.org).
PictureWhen St Stephen Lutheran began to discuss becoming an RIC congregation and adopting the Affirmation of Welcome, many disciples puzzled that they always felt the congregation to be welcoming to all people, regardless of background, ethnicity, economic status, physical or mental capabilities, or sexual orientation. But we soon realized that, while we know we are welcoming, many people in the wider community, especially those whose identities have often put them at the margins of faith communities and society, don’t know it.

By adopting this Affirmation of Welcome we are making our commitment to radical welcome and holy hospitality more intentional, more vocal, and more public.

As the apostle Paul reminds us, ‘Welcome one another therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Romans 15v7).
Saint Stephen, we're glad to have you with us on our walk of reconciliation. God's peace be with you!
 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Camps and Retreats 2011

It may be cold where we are in Minnesota, but spring and summer will be here sooner than we think, and with them retreats and camps! For many young people, attending summer camp can be a transformative experience. Camp is a place to explore, to build strong relationships, to be yourself without judgment and even gain a sense of call. As we mentioned last year, up to three quarters of our church leadership has had significant experiences at summer camp. It is difficult to understate the importance of camp programs in the lives of young people.

We're blessed to have three different Lutheran programs that allow young people to think together about faith, gender identity and sexual orientation: Spiritual Pride Project, Wonderfully Made, and The Naming Project. The dates for Spiritual Pride Project and Wonderfully Made are coming up soon, so check them out now!

Spiritual Pride Project
April 1-3, 2011
Camp Lutherhill, LaGrange, TX
 

The Spiritual Pride Project is a new ministry that hopes to serve as a resource, a discussion forum, a community, and a sounding block for youth of all sexual orientations. More specifically, we are a weekend retreat where both sexuality and spirituality are seen as equally valuable gifts from God. It offers a weekend camp retreat as a safe, accepting and loving community where GLBTQIA (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Question Intersex and Allied) youth can discuss how their sexuality and spirituality are beautiful gifts from God. The camp accompanies youth on the faith journey as they celebrate and struggle with our faith, family, friends, school, relationships, and everything in between. This is still camp after all, so everyone enjoys God's creation and have a blast sharing our creative talents, playing games, and challenging each other. All people of all belief backgrounds are welcome!

Wonderfully Made
April 8-10, 2011
Bear Creek Camp, Wilkes Barre, PA

This is an opportunity for young people who identify as LGBTQ and their allies and who are Christian to come together and safely share worship; faith journeys and struggles; and enjoy fellowship with other Christian teens. The camp is designed for 15-17 year olds who currently in 9th to 12th grades who are lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/ or questioning and their allies and who are interested in discussing and understanding sexuality alongside their own spirituality and are excited to spend time with other teenagers and staff in fellowship, worship, games, Bible Study, crafts, and guest speakers.

If you have questions about the camp or would like more information, please contact Fred Wolfe at 215-387-2885.

The Naming Project
July 24-29, 2011
Bay Lake Camp, Deerwood, Minnesota

The Naming Project Summer Camp is for 15-18 year olds or those who have completed 9th-12th grades who are of any sexual orientation or gender identity or expression who are interested in discussing and understanding sexuality in terms of their own spiritual journey and are excited to spend time with other teen campers and staff while canoeing, swimming, hiking, singing, doing arts and crafts. This week of camp will give youth the opportunity to experience God's love and the care and support of community in new and incredible ways. Throughout the week there will be dialogue with staff and guest speakers, while enjoying the great outdoors and summer camp fun!

If you know any young people who may be interested in attending one of these camps, please share this information with them. That's what it's here for.

LC/NA and Integrity celebrate Tenth Anniversary of Full Communion

This month, Lutherans Concerned/North America and Integrity USA celebrate the tenth anniversary of the "Called to Common Mission" agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). On January 6 , 2001, the two denominations formalized a relationship of "full communion," recognizing mutual commitments to the essentials of the Christian faith and acknowledging the faithfulness and validity of each church's confessions, ministries, and ministers. Among other things, the full communion relationship allows for joint worship and the sharing of clergy, and facilitates common commitments to evangelism, witness, and service.

Max Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of Integrity USA, said "Together, the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America include nearly seven million members and over seventeen thousand parishes. We are blessed by this partnership, and by the partnership between Integrity USA and Lutherans Concerns/North America. Together, we are striving to make God's love tangible everywhere, both within our churches and in the wider world. Over the past decade, both of our denominations have made tremendous strides in extending a warm welcome to all of God's children. That really is something to celebrate."

Ross Murray, Deputy Director of Lutherans Concerned/North America, said "I have appreciated the partnership between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church because it has created a way for congregations to be served, the gospel to be preached, and the sacraments administered. The work of both Lutherans Concerned and Integrity has been strengthened through this partnership. We have certainly learned from one another and bolstered one another."

At this ten-year mark, Integrity USA and Lutherans Concerned/North America celebrate our mutual ministries by, with, and for the sake of the whole people of God, including people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. We celebrate our common mission and true Christian unity, for which only the Gospel is sufficient and to which each of uswithout exceptionis called in Baptism.


Amen!

(photo by Richard W. Garnett)


Twin Cities Reconciling in Christ Festival Worship January 29

"Walking Humbly - The Journey Together" - This sixth annual festival worship service celebrates the Metro area ministry of Reconciling in Christ congregations at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer, 5440 Penn Ave. So., Minneapolis on Saturday, January 29 at 5:00 p.m. Rev. Mary Albing of LCCR, presiding. Brenda Froisland of Edina Community Lutheran, preaching. Freewill offering to benefit the RIC Program. Light supper (no cost) & fellowship to follow. Please gather with members of more than 30 RIC congregations and organizations from across the metro area to celebrate the welcome we extend to the whole people of God!

Now, more than ever, this opportunity to leaven our church with the joy of welcome is precious!

Metro-wide RIC Festival Worship
Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer
5440 Penn Avenue South, Minneapolis
January 29, 2011
Saturday, 5:00 p.m.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lutheran LGBTQ Rostered Leaders Retreat April 1-3, 2011

We are pleased to pass along this announcement from our friends at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries:

Join other Lutheran publicly-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rostered leaders for a time of renewal, community building, and professional development. We are planning a fabulous weekend and want you to be there! This event is hosted by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

The retreat will be held at the George Williams College Retreat Center on beautiful Geneva Lake in Wisconsin.

The retreat is for all Lutheran publicly-identified LGBTQ rostered leaders, those seeking to be rostered, and seminarians. Partners are also invited to attend.

Early-bird Registration: $225. After Feb 1: $260.

ELM practices travel equalization (a lovely but complicated process). We will share travel costs, so please budget approximately $260 for travel. Please note: there is a free shuttle to the retreat center from the Milwaukee airport.

Scholarships are available. The application is due by Jan. 31. Announcements will be made February 1. Scholarship recipients will be excluded from the travel equalization pool, but scholarship funds will not be applied toward travel. Email Rachael Johnson at operations@org for application.

Please note, this retreat will be public and your name and photo may be used in connection with the retreat. If you have questions or concerns about privacy, please contact ELM Executive Director, Amalia Vagts at director@elm.org.

Please visit www.elm.org for more information about the retreat, travel equalization, and to register online.

Friday, January 7, 2011

LGBTQ Month at St. Mary's Episcopal

Looking for some LGBTQ focused activities in the Twin Cities? Our allies at St. Mary's Church, St. Paul MN, are hosting a series of events over the coming month to celebrate and explore inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the church. For LGBTQ Month, there will be:

- a Movie Night, featuring GLEE! on January 5th at 6:30pm

- Theology and Pint on Gay Marriage and the Church, on January 18th at 8pm in O'Gara's Bar and Grill. Michelle Dibble, a community organizer will host the discussion.

- The Bible and Homosexuality: What Does It Really Say? on January 26th from 7-8:30pm. Learn how to constructively discuss "clobber" passages in Scripture.

- Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians will preach on February 6th.

In addition, books, stickers and ribbons will be on sale every Sunday between January 9th and February 6th. Know of any LGBT events in your area? Email or comment us so we can promote them online!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two more RIC congregations

Congratulations and a warm welcome to two congregations today:

Bethany Lutheran Church of Elkader, IA, adopted a statement of welcome on December 19th, 2010. Just two weeks prior, Redeemer-St. John's Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, NY adopted their own. Read part of Bethany's statement:

We want it to be of public record that those of all racial and ethnic groups are welcome here.


We want it to be of public record that people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and members of their families are welcome here.

We want it to be known that those who suffer from addiction to drugs and alcohol (whether recovering or not), and their families are welcome here.

We want it to be known that women & men, girls & boys are welcome here and that they will not be harassed or abused here.

We want it to be of public record that in this congregation you can bring children to worship and even if they cry during the entire service, they are welcome...
Bethany and Redeemer-St. John's, you are welcome here. Praise be to God! Please join us in congratulating these congregations on choosing a public statment of inclusivity.

Advocate for Full Inclusion and Staunch Ally, Former Bishop Paul Egertson Died January 5

Rev. Paul Egertson
(Photo by Transguyjay
Paul Egertson died suddenly yesterday afternoon, January 5, 2011, in his home in Thousand Oaks, California. Egertson, staunch ally and advocate for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, had championed the ordination of LGBT candidates for ministry and an end to the policies and practices of the church that relegated LGBT people to a second-class.

While bishop of the ELCA Southwest California Synod, he participated in the 2001 ordination of Pastor Anita C. Hill of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minnesota. For this act, he subsequently resigned his position as bishop, and tirelessly advocated for the policy change that finally occurred as a result of the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Egertson was awarded the Jim Siefkes Justice-Maker Award by Lutherans Concerned for his efforts on behalf of LGBT Lutherans.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned, said, "Paul Egertson stood up for us and in opposition to the discrimination of the church against us when that was neither popular nor safe. His witness to Christ's redemptive grace and his commitment to helping the church see the error of its position are a shining beacon of prophetic righteousness in the face of determined opposition -- and he did it with grace and eloquence, as befits a follower of Christ. He was a friend and mentor -- always available, with words of calming wisdom. He made a profound difference. He will be missed."

Paul Egertson, born in 1935, is survived by his wife, Shirley, also a Siefkes award recipient, and their 6 sons. Funeral arrangements will be communicated as soon as they are known.

Phil Soucy
Communications Staff

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

North Carolina Council of Churches elects gay church leader to serve as president

Stan Kimer, a leader within the Metropolitan Community Church, has been elected to serve as president of the North Carolina Council of Churches. Kimer is the only publicly recognized LGBT leader currently serving as president among the 33 other similar organizations across the United States, and only the second ever elected.
As stated on the website, "the North Carolina Council of Churches is a statewide ecumenical organization promoting Christian unity and working towards a more just society. The Council enables denominations, congregations, and people of faith to individually and collectively impact our state on issues such as economic justice and development, human well-being, equality, compassion and peace, following the example and mission of Jesus Christ."

The ELCA’s North Carolina Synod is a member denomination of the Council.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reformation Lutheran, Columbia, South Carolina to celebrate a Weekend of Welcome

"A Weekend of Welcome: What Difference Does It Make?"
Reformation Lutheran Church, Columbia, South Carolina
January 28–30, 2011


Annually, the last Sunday in January is designated as “Welcoming Sunday” or “Reconciling in Christ Sunday.” (See earlier blog entry here, including links to RIC Sunday resources.) RIC Sunday is an opportunity to celebrate the witness of God's love for persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. It’s a time to highlight what it means to live a theology of reconciliation.

This year, Reformation Lutheran in Columbia, South Carolina, is expanding their annual RIC Sunday celebration into a whole “Weekend of Welcome.” The congregation is eager to share the transforming and life-giving ministry which has resulted from becoming an RIC congregation, to encourage others to join in the RIC ministry, and to motivate and inspire both individuals and congregations in their ministry of hospitality and welcome to all in Jesus’ name.

The event features Bishop Herbert Chilstrom, Bishop Emeritus (ELCA) and Ross Murray, Deputy Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, as keynote speakers. The program includes worship, keynote addresses by featured leaders, responses by guest speakers, panel discussion, movie, music, meals, hospitality and fellowship. It promises to be a wonderful event.

For more info, check the Reformation Lutheran website or contact by email at reformat@bellsouth.net.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Rev. Steve Keiser received onto ELCA clergy roster

Rev. Steve Keiser was received to the ELCA clergy roster yesterday morning (January 2) during the 11 a.m. worship service at Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion in Philadelphia. The Rev. Claire Burkat, bishop of the ELCA’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, preached at the service and presided at the Rite of Reception. Keiser is pastor at Holy Communion, along with Rev. Kari Hart.

Rev. Keiser is the 15th pastor who was extraordinarily ordained to be received onto the ELCA clergy roster. Other Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) pastors and other LGBTQ rostered leaders have also been reinstated or received onto the ELCA roster.

The ELCA Rite of Reception is the formal rite developed by the ELCA to receive ELM roster members who had been extraordinarily ordained onto the ELCA clergy roster.

In a two-page letter included in the worship bulletin, Pr. Keiser expressed appreciation to Lutherans Concerned/North America and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (formerly Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project) for their many years of advocacy and ministry. About LC/NA, Pr. Keiser writes: "I would like to thank LC/NA, an organization that began as a place of sanctuary for GLBT people, but over the years has risen to the higher calling of reforming the Lutheran Church."

In her sermon, Bishop Burket reported that while she was an intern at Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion 35 years ago, she helped to organize the Philadelphia chapter of "that new advocacy group" (i.e. LC/NA), underscoring that the Holy Communion congregation has been involved with making the church a more welcoming and inclusive place for many years. The ELCA’s recognition of Pr. Keiser is yet another step in that direction.

We congratulate Rev. Keiser, the congregation of Holy Communion, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod and thank them for the ongoing ministries.

Click here to read an article about Rev. Keiser and Rev. Jay Wiesner from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod's site.

LC/NA thanks Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and Ken Miller (LC/NA Coordinator for Region 7) for contributing to this blog post.

LC/NA Celebrates the End of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The United States Senate voted on December 18, with a vote of 65-31, to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" legislation that has discriminated against our lesbian and gay service members for over a decade. The historic vote follows the US House passage of the same bill earlier in the week. President Obama signed the legislation before Christmas. Lutherans Concerned/ North America, serving at the intersection of oppressions, is proud to be a part of the movement to repeal this legislation and celebrates the vote with all of our members, especially those who have served or are serving in the military.

Those serving in the US Armed Forces face unparalleled challenges everyday as they fight to protect our freedoms here and abroad. Now, with this repeal signed into law, they will be able to concentrate on their vocation of service rather than worrying about the disclosure of their perceived or actual sexual orientation. LC/NA shares relationships with various other faith based and secular LGBT organizations to bring freedom and equality to all of God's children, both in the church and in society. The work that LC/NA has done has been a combined effort with the entire LGBT community contributing to the change in understanding of how LGBT people have always served their country with skill, honor, and integrity.

Deputy Director, Ross Murray, commented on the repeal, saying, "It is truly awe inspiring to see people living out their calling from God. Just as Lutherans Concerned works for the full participation of those called to serve the church, we celebrate those who are can live out their call to serve their country without barriers. This is one more step toward full participation in society."

Our vocation is a calling from God that is realized through a variety of paths, including military service. With the recent historic decisions made at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly 2009, and now with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," avenues once blocked by discrimination are being cleared for all people to live out their calling. As Lutherans we are called to be a public voice, crying in the wilderness, and LC/NA is proud to be living out that calling daily. It is truly evident that the Holy Spirit is moving through our society and our church with a renewed fervor for change and we thank God for this advocate sent on our behalf.

*****
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. For more information, please visit www.lcna.org.

Adam Bost
Director Communications LC/NA

Photo by Richard W. Garnett

Blessings in the New Year

Happy New Year from Lutherans Concerned/North America!
Greetings and blessings in the new year. The staff of LC/NA has returned from holidays and vacations and is looking forward to another exciting, productive year working for the full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the Lutheran Church and beyond.

While the staff were sleeping with visions of sugar plums and prune whip dancing in their heads, wonderful things were happening in the world, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Read on!