Friday, September 9, 2011

Anti-Bullying: Speeches from the Churchwide Assembly

See these great speeches in support of the anti-bullying memorial delivered at the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando

David Bukowy, Jr, New England Synod
“Bullying is a big part of people’s lives today. I once was a victim of bullying. I can remember 5th grade year as if it were yesterday. “Big Nose”… and “Crooked Mouth”… were two names I had been called as a child for many years -- both stemming from things I couldn’t control: my big nose from my dad, or, as I call it, the Polish gene, and my lip which had an underdeveloped muscle which caused it to slant to one side. It was mid-winter, and I was on safety patrol. While I was walking back in from my post, passed by me was one of two bullies I received these names from. From behind me I heard my name, so as I turned to see who called, my jaw was met with an ice ball. I was admitted to the hospital for a broken jaw, told to see a psychiatri st, and told by the school system to be home-schooled for the remainder of the 5th grade, for my “safety.” I share this story to enlighten you on what one case of name calling can lead to. It is crucial that we, as a church, take a stance to fight against bullying, to not only say you are welcome, but you are also safe.”

Travis VanHorn, Oregon Synod

“While education is an essential part of growing up, school can be an intimidating place, full of pressures from both the classroom and students in it. If you are different, you are an outcast. I followed the crowd, trying to remain just like everyone else. Hoping that no one would suspect I was anything but normal. However, I knew I was different. I had known for some time that I felt an attraction towards the same-sex. An ultimate red flag in schools was to be gay. The most common expressions were “that’s so gay” and “no homo,” as well as refusing to go within a ten-foot radius of anyone who was known or suspected to be gay. I felt that the only way I would be able to carry out a normal life, would be to to hide my feelings. However, I had been taught by the church to stand up for myself, my beliefs, and to welcome diversity as an essential part of any community. And on those principles, I made the decision to come out when I was 16. I was shut out by many friends, and the people that talked to me only did so to call me things… not really appropriate to say in front of this assembly, and for a time I became depressed and suicidal. I remember feeling like there was nowhere to turn, and I don’t want any other youth to have to feel that way, regardless of whether it be because of their sexuality, ethnic background, gender and gender identity, disabilities, social class, or any other unique attributes. Youth and people of all ages need to know that their ELCA church will work to end bullying, harassment and related violence whenever and wherever it occurs. I ask you to join me in supporting this memorial.”

Amy Catalino, South Carolina Synod

“I am speaking in favor of the recommended action of the memorial, which I am overjoyed to say that my home synod has also brought forward before the churchwide. I want to speak about how relevant this memorial and these actions are to our young people and our young adults, within our church and within our nation. I want to speak in favor of the line item d in the resolution which says “seek to change bystander behavior into ally behavior.” To that I want to say that high school and even college can be a really tough place, because everyone wants to fit in, everyone wants to feel included. And just like bullying can be the result of ignorance and fear, silence and not standing up against bullying can also be a result of ignorance and fear. I believe that many young people know that harassment is wrong, and want to stand up in support of their peers, but not knowing how to do so, or the fear of not fitting in if they do so, can leave you stunned and silent. By intentionally fostering programs and partnerships to prevent bullying you are equipping our young people to not only believe that bullying is wrong, but to stand up in support of their peers, and wrap them with the loving arms of Christ’s love. Thank you.”

Erica Staab, Southeastern Minnesota Synod

“I speak in favor of this motion. I come to you wearing many hats. One is the Director of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Agency in Fairville, Minnesota, and two as a voting member from the Southeastern Minnesota Synod who is one of many who helped to put this memorial before you, and third as a human being, a member of this church, and an ally of many people I love who have been victims of violence, who, as a result of violence, have lost their voices, so I am offering mine. I have been reminded this week of the importance of being welcomed, of being seen, of being visible, of people going out of their way to make you feel that you mattered. As we have been reminded, time and time again this week, that this is what we are called to do and this is who we are. It is that simple. Violence in any form, be it physical or verbal, tears at the fabric of our heart, it tears at the fabric of our community, it tears at the relationships we place so much emphasis on building. Last night as I was thinking of ways to approach this, one that I have devoted 15 years of my life trying to end violence, ever since I lost my friend, Julie, to domestic violence, and in Julie’s name I have committed to becoming an advocate against violence in any form. And the song “Beautiful for Mercy Me” and this line kept resonating: “You are beautiful, you are treasured, you are sacred and you are his.” We have a responsibility as a church to stand against violence, be it bullying or sexual or domestic violence. We have a responsibility to remind each other that you are beautiful, you are treasured, and you are his. I urge you, in addition to voting for this motion, to go home and seek out your domestic violence center, seek out your local sexual assault agency. You have gifts that they need. You know how to create community, you know how to heal, you know how to talk about we are created for a purpose.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Naming Project in Lavender Magazine

Photos by Andy Lien via Lavender
This issue of Lavender features The Naming Project, a week long summer camp for youth and young adults who are transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and others to affirm and learn about their sexual orientation, gender identity and spirituality. The digital issue features video interviews with many of the campers about their lives and their experiences at the camp. While we've written a few blog posts about it, there is no better way to get a feel of the camp and the importance it has in the campers' lives than to hear them speak for themselves. Listen to their stories to find out why the author says:

"What is found on the island is unconditional acceptance. There is enlightenment. Something is known there that has yet to be fully articulated elsewhere: Whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identifying, an ally, or questioning, you have been created and named as “a beloved child of God.”"

(Additionally, if you haven't met our Youth Representative Charlette Beckler, look for her in the video!)

Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministries of WMU say, "All Are Welcome!"

Today we spoke for a long time with Pastor David Louder of Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministries at Western Michigan University. While they've been doing the work of welcome for some time now and passed their official affirmation of welcome in the fall of 2010, we only made contact this year.
LECM at WMU hosts a variety of programming, from discussions and Bible study to dinners to worship services and lecture series. They describe themselves as,
an ecumenical ministry of the Lutheran (ELCA) and Episcopal denominations. Our ministry seeks to reach out to all who struggle with questions of faith through conversation, study, worship, fellowship and social service. All these are aspects of the life of faith. We look to help individuals develop their own self-understandings of the world and their place in it, whether they are Christians, non-Christians, people of faith or no faith. We believe that conversation among those who differ in opinion and outlook makes everyone stronger in their own identities and convictions.
We are glad to say with them that,
We recognize that every person is of sacred worth. We strive to be an authentic, transforming, Christ-centered community that nourishes the mental, emotional, and spiritual growth of all people. We seek to affirm those marginalized because of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, and culture. Following the example of Jesus, we open our doors and hearts to all. 
Thank you, LECM-MCU, for the work that you do. We ask you all to hold them and all campus ministries in your prayers as this new academic year begins.