Tag Archives: lgbt

When In Doubt, Err On The Side Of Love

On Thanksgiving Day 1977, my husband’s father died of a massive heart attack, leaving behind a wife and 12 children — six boys and six girls. The family was Episcopalian, attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newport, Ky., where the Pabst family tithed and the children were baptized and married.

Because of the family’s size, Mr. Pabst had to work two jobs to keep food on the table, clothes on everyone’s backs and the mortgage current. Decades before Uber and Lyft made it cool to moonlight as a driver, Mr. Pabst drove a taxi on the weekends in the Cincinnati metro area to supplement the income from his day job. This of course meant long hours well into the night on Fridays and Saturdays, and even into the early morning hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Consequently, he missed a lot of Sunday church services.

When he died and Mrs. Pabst contacted the church to make plans for the funeral, she was told flatly that there would be no funeral at St. Paul’s for her husband because his lack of attendance caused him to not be an active member.

What the… ?

Isn’t it the church’s responsibility to provide for the surviving family a place to grieve, to be consoled and affirmed in the unconditional love of God? I thought so too. And sure, there are those who say that churches have rules and protocols, creeds and dogmas that demand to be followed — and not only are they correct, but they are naming the very reason why so many individual mainline churches are empty, closing or closed.

One person who’s not swayed by this trend is the Roman Catholic bishop of Springfield, Ill., Thomas Paprocki. Forty years after St. Paul’s snubbed the Pabst family in their hour of mourning and spiritual need, Bishop Paprocki has gone to extraordinary lengths to show God’s people that the church can be just as cruel today.

In set of guidelines titled “Same-Sex Marriage Policies Decree 6/12/2017”, released earlier this month, Bishop Paprocki went beyond the usual garden-variety dictate that people in same-gender marriages be denied communion and other outward signs of God’s love and grace to also say that they should be denied funeral rites, to wit:

Unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death, deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites. In case of doubt, the proper pastor or parochial administrator is to consult the local ordinary [bishop], whose judgment is to be followed (cf. c. 1184).

Yup.

The document goes on to prescribe the usual waterproofing of the church, its blessed objects and its pastoral ministers against any association with same-gender marriage, all of which you can read about here. But for now let’s stick with the funeral question, since it has personal resonance for me.

Reading about the full impact of Bishop Paprocki’s guidelines, it’s hard for me to believe he’s a member of the same church that includes Pope Francis. And although I know he’d never do it, I wish I could recommend that the good bishop read Chuck McKnight’s blog on the topic of LGBTQ Christian acceptance.

In the meantime, the old-school hidebound, rule-bound church that puts God’s people second is forgetting that this whole Christian movement was never intended to be about institutions but about the children of God first and foremost. The mainline churches are forgetting that it’s not their job to define an individual’s relationship with God, or to determine the validity of that individual’s belief or faith.

In other words, they’re forgetting that it’s their to job, as stated in the Bible and translated from Aramaic into plain English, to do this:

I give a new commandment to you: “Love one another; just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.” (John 13:34)

They’re forgetting that nowhere in Jesus’ ministry did he indicate that it was okay to not give honor to those who had died and hope to those who remained.

McKnight puts it this way:

… The thing is, at the moment when I first made the switch to fully affirm my LGBTQ friends, I still wasn’t 100% certain about it. I still had lingering doubts. But I realized that I was causing much greater harm by withholding my affirmation than what I risked by becoming affirming.

I may only be a very simple pastor who is not famous, much less is the shepherd of a megachurch, nor is really even someone who commands a particularly large audience at any given time. But I do know that what the church needs to be teaching, promoting and acting on is pretty simple. It can be found in these seven scriptures that my church refers to as our Core Beliefs.

I would love to see Bishop Paprocki explain how these verses are about anything but love — and lots of it. How his misguided understanding of same-gender love doesn’t fit within that definition of love. And how he can write such spiritually violent “guidelines” in seeming ignorance of how that sense of overwhelming love commands us to treat one another.

Mr. Pabst got a Christian burial. Forty years later, same-gender-loving Christians are getting the Christian burials they desire and deserve. The institutional church, and people like Bishop Paprocki, aren’t stopping that — they’re only getting in the way. They’re rocks in a stream whose water is the love that goes right around them as though they’re not even there. And no matter how slowly those rocks smooth their rough edges, that glacial progress is a distant concern for the water that flows by unaffected.

Love won at Calvary. It wins today. Love will continue to win. It always has, and it always will.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

“I Just Don’t Understand Why I’m This Way”

I’m a gay woman tormented by hell fears since I was 16. When I’m not practicing I’m OK but lonely, and when I’m in a relationship with a woman I love… I fear hell. Surely God looks worse on gay people. I just don’t understand why I’m this way. I love it but hate it only for fear of hell. If you can help me at all with any of that I’d be eternally grateful. God bless. My name is Lynda and I love God dearly and try hard to be a good Christian.

Dear Lynda,

I am so sorry you are living with this fear of not being OK with God and of being sent somewhere that prevents any kind of relationship with God.

There are certainly a lot of people today who fear “hell” as if it were a particular place. But when one does the research and study surrounding the word “hell” and its true meaning, one is more likely to find that it actually means “the total absence of God”. In other words, hell is not a place but rather a state of being. In which case it really is about your attitude to God versus being about a physical place.

The next thing I suggest you consider is: Who supposedly ends up in this place where there is a total absence of God? Well, by definition that would be people who have no relationship with God at all. In fact, Jesus said that the only unforgivable sin is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit – and in order to do that you would have to totally reject your relationship with God.

I realize that at this point you may not feel as though I’m addressing your concerns – but please bear with me, take a deep breath and answer these two questions:

    Do you love God?
    Do you want a relationship with God?

If your answer to those two questions is yes, then “hell” is not now, nor has it ever been, a possibility for you. Read the story of the “Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15:11-32. You will see in this story that as soon as the son desired a relationship with his father, this happened:

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

But the father wasn’t listening.”

The point of the parable being that the father (God) only cared that his son (the sinner) wanted a relationship with him. Nothing else mattered – least of all, past behavior. “The father wasn’t listening” to his son’s attempt at a confession, because all the father cared about was that his son had turned back to him.

As far as you and your girlfriend are concerned, your love for each other is what is important to God. The love you share with her, having God at the center, has no possibility of “hell” ever being part of your life’s picture.

God desires to be in relationship with us, and who we fall in love with has zero to do with hell. Celebrate your love for your girlfriend and your relationship with God – and, my dear sister, you will be just fine!

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

This Generation Has a Purpose

“How does it feel to be the first generation to not have a purpose?”

These words were the equivalent of a slap across the face to me. They were coming out of the TV, out of the mouth of an actor playing Cleve Jones, a lion of the TLGBQIA movement who was a contemporary of Harvey Milk and who conceived the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt (which by the way has become, at 54 tons, the world’s largest piece of community folk art).

In the scene, Jones is an obviously tired, frustrated and angry activist confronting the reality of a modern queer generation whose equality at this point might feel as though it had been handed to them on a silver platter. The scene is from the third installment of the miniseries “When We Rise,” Dustin Lance Black’s attempt to create a somewhat star-studded documentary/biopic chronicling the modern queer movement from Stonewall to the present.

(Black, you’ll recall, wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for “Milk”, the biopic about Harvey Milk starring Sean Penn, who also won an Oscar.)

“No! No, it is not over! We cannot give up now… We have got to remember who is not with us!” I blared this at my equally tired, frustrated and angry husband — who is, for better or worse, accustomed to these outbursts from me.

Let me explain.

At 62 years old I have been out of the closet for 49 years now, since I was 13.

I have only been in two long-term relationships. The first started in college and ended when he was killed by a drunk driver who ran a red light — a driver who’d been drinking because his wife was divorcing him for having slept with a man.

My current relationship, as of June 25th of this year, will have spanned 35 beautiful years. And while we were legally married on November 21, 2015, we still celebrate June 25th as our anniversary and probably will for the rest of our lives. It’s a quirk of second-class citizenship.

For 31 of the years we’ve been together, I’ve been a pastor — almost 19 of them as the founding and senior pastor of my current church.

In those 31 years I’ve lost track of the number of funerals and memorials I’ve officiated for those who have died as a result of the AIDS plague. Because if you do the math, those 31 years began in 1986. However, I do remember clearly and can still see the faces of the 14 very close friends — including my best friend from my hometown of Chicago who didn’t live to see his 45th birthday — whom I’ve survived, HIV-negative and still feeling the multi-ton weight of survivor’s guilt all these years later.

I share all this as a way of elucidating why Black’s miniseries has been more than a bit difficult to watch. I lived all that. Even though the miniseries is set in San Francisco and I am from Chicago, I could have been one of any number of the characters it depicts. So the whole thing just rests so heavily on my heart.

There’s more.

I was also rejected by my family. I was the victim of sexual abuse. I was threatened with psychological treatment. I was the victim of hate crimes. I was rejected by the education system and the church of my childhood. I was denied housing. I was threatened with violence.

And to this day it’s never been lost on me the threats and dangers I’ve faced as an out and proud gay man living in the South for the last 23 years.

So to borrow from the words of the familiar hymn, this miniseries is my story, it is my song. It’s also the story of countless thousands in the TLGB community — and because it has been our story, it has become the story of countless thousands of QIA folks as well.

Having not yet seen the final installment of this four-part series, I don’t know where it’s going to go our how it’s going to end up. But I can guess. The legal granting of our marriage equality is a great victory. The movement and momentum toward job protections, our assimilation into society, the normalization of our relationships — these are all things we can celebrate and be proud of. We need to hold the s/heroes of these hard-fought advances close to our hearts and always be grateful for their stamina, creativity and courage.

However, we also need to remember something else Cleve Jones has said: “A movement that seeks to advance only its own members is going to accomplish little”.

What does that mean?

It means the current generation does indeed have a purpose, and a great one. While the people whose lives are represented by the T in TLGBQIA have been in this movement from the beginning, they have been treated with disdain, been trivilialized, been the butt of jokes, been afterthoughts — and on our worst days, been part of the sacrifice made in the march toward everyone’s equality.

So what is the purpose the current generation needs? It’s to ensure that bathrooms are safe to be used for their intended purpose — and not as a political football. It’s to secure job protections, insurance coverage and a relief from the violence that is aimed so specifically and savagely at transgender people.

In that vein, these words of Dr. King could not be more relevant to this current generation:

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Need more evidence?  Look no further than here: Christian conservative TX mom becomes “accidental activist” after child comes out as transgender

Or here:


This generation must remember the lesson from this story. These accomplishments have only come about because we came together as a community. Remember that during the start of the AIDS plague the world was willing to let us die. It was only when we came together that we found ways to live!

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t supply relevant inspiration from the bible, so here it is (Philippians 2:1-4):

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

This generation’s purpose couldn’t be clearer, and there’s a fully modern way of expressing it. It’s to help the world see that:

  • Trans lives matter.
  • Black lives matter.
  • Muslim lives matter.
  • Women’s lives matter.

… and all that it means in the fullness of the Creation and of life on this earth.

God bless,
Pastor Paul

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

What the Whole World Could Learn from a 15-Year-Old Girl

I thought I’d sit down today and get indignant about the crass politicization of a complete non-issue.

No, I’m not talking about Benghazi, or private email servers, or whether or not Donald Trump actually knows how to run a business. I’m talking about something that actually has everyday people acting as though they’ve lost their minds: The issue of which public restroom a person chooses to use.

I know why people are freaked out on a personal level. And I also know why their fears around this issue are being manipulated by the political and religious classes. The first “why” has nothing to do with the vaunted right to privacy or fears of molestation that the foamers are serving up to the media as the reasons.

Instead, it has everything to do with gender itself. Gender being the actual third rail of our society. When people step outside the accepted gender norms of their time and their society, the people around them really lose it. History is littered with examples: Women’s liberation, gay equality… and now transgender people.

If you don’t believe me, Google “Transgender Day of Remembrance” and see what you get. It ain’t a party, a parade, or even a crystal staircase. It’s how transgender people and their allies solemnly remember, every year, just how deadly it can be to step on today’s third rail of gender nonconformity and declare for yourself that your gender and your biological sex might just be misaligned.

So God forbid you should walk into a public restroom designated for use by those who share your gender identity. People will lose their minds. And other people will exploit that. And it will all be a backlash against something only tangentially related to your individual life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ll start with what I know. The Atlanta metro area has approximately 11,000 homeless people — a ridiculously high percentage of whom are veterans and kids. Those kids are on our streets.

Now, I have marginally more experience to write about the problem of homelessness than about America’s new war on restroom choice. (Not to mention that if the issue of homelessness captivated the public imagination as much as the restroom issue appears to have, who knows? We might actually have a shot at meeting the challenge of homelessness in a relatively short period of time.)

I say “marginally” because, while (compared to most Americans) I have an ocean of experience relating to transgender people as friends, community members and parishioners, I have to admit that I am limited in just how much I can claim to personally relate to their plight in this world.

I was born a biological male and reared as a male, and in the six decades I’ve lived as a male, I’ve never experienced a moment of struggle over the connection between my biological sex and my gender identity.

Of course, my sexual orientation was another matter entirely, at least according to society in general and the church in particular. However, even that was never really a question for me personally. Deep in my soul I have always known that God had not made a mistake with the gene(s) that caused me to be attracted to people of the same gender as me.

Yet I do find it somewhat awkward to address the restroom-choice issue because I don’t feel that I can truly relate in my mind, in the deepest parts of my person, to the incredible struggle and inner turmoil my friends from the transgender community must deal with on multiple fronts. If I’m totally honest with myself, I have to confess that I come up short on true empathy (look it up, it’s not the same as sympathy) with what it must be like to feel “born in the wrong body” biologically.

I have no real clue what it must be like to look in the mirror see my body and think to myself, “This is not who I am. My body is not put together in such a way as to match my mind and/or soul.” I have no idea what it’s like to not be comfortable in my own skin.

As a student of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — the man I credit with singlehandedly inspiring me to go into ministry — I can relate this gap to an even bigger, more enduring and more perplexing one: The awkward sensation for white liberals of knowing that we will never truly understand, in bones-deep authentic way, what it really is to be black in America.

God knows I’ve spent a lifetime trying to explain what it is to be gay to my straight friends — and while there has been a certain level of understanding reached, eyes still roll and faces blush when I kiss my partner in front of them or refer to him as my husband. So there’s that.

Given all these things, what can I claim to know about the transgender community and the bathroom issue?

First of all, I know several things from a Christian perspective. Those things that I know are rooted in a very clear understanding of Matthew 22:40, where Jesus said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

So here’s what I’ll hang off those two commands:

  1. I know that transgender folks do not wake up one day making a choice to change their gender identity so they can go to a different public restroom.
  2. I know that to change one’s biological gender requires ongoing and long-term consultations with psychiatrists, psychologists, medical doctors, support groups and personal therapists.
  3. I know that each of these folks is in fact a child of God.
  4. I know that by the time a transwoman (i.e., a male-to-female transgender person) walks into a women’s restroom, she is a women, her biology notwithstanding.
  5. I know that by the time a transman (a female-to-male transgender person) walks into a men’s restroom, he is a man.
  6. I know transgender folks have been around and using public restrooms in relative peace for a lot longer than this “issue” has been politicized.
  7. I know that this “issue” is part of a backlash against my not-even-one-year-old right to get married — i.e., the political right and religious fundamentalists need another target to wax hysterical about.
  8. I know, based on Jesus’ teachings, that for a pastor to stand in a pulpit and call for transgender people to be killed is not even close to being a Christian response.
  9. I know that there is a really easy fix to all this: Make all bathrooms unisex. After all, going to the bathroom is a private matter for everyone.
  10. I know that to try and turn this discussion into an argument around safety from pedophiles and sexual perverts shows a lack of knowledge, fairness and mercy.
  11. I know the overriding challenge facing the transgender community in the form of this particular issue is that the vast majority of folks screaming about this have not taken the time to learn, watch and or listen.

But don’t take my word for it. Talk to a transgender person. And by that I mean listen. Really listen. And it doesn’t have to be about anything deep. Just what’s going on that day. Because it’s really, really hard to hate someone whose story you actually know.

And if you don’t think you know any transgender people, meet Jazz Jennings:

Katie Couric & Jazz Jennings
Katie Couric interviews transgender advocate Jazz Jennings on her teen years, her new book and equality.

You’re welcome.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Keeping Up With Caitlyn

As Christians we’re commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. And for the most part, we have a tendency to focus on the first part of that command without really thinking about what the latter half actually means.

In an individual sense, I believe it’s just as important to God that we master the art of unconditional self-love as it is for us to experience unconditional love of each other. Because to love ourselves, we have to see ourselves as God sees us. And the closer we come to that perspective, the closer we come to seeing our brothers and sisters as God sees them — which is what draws into a real relationship with God.

In my ministry I’ve come to emphasize the primacy of having an unfettered relationship with God because I fervently believe in God’s power to speak to our hearts in a way that no self-proclaimed intermediary could hope to do. When we love ourselves as God loves us, and when we love others as God loves them, we can hardly go wrong.

There is no doubt in my mind that God has loved Caitlyn Jenner every minute of her life for who she was at that time. For me there is no doubt that God’s love extends to every transgender person on Earth just as much as much as it does to all of God’s children. And there is also no doubt for me that we are commanded to love each other in the same manner.

The beauty of God’s love is that God is with us both in the valley and on the mountaintop — and the quality of God’s love is immutable in either circumstance. God was with Caitlyn for the six decades she was called Bruce as much as God is with her now.

Consequently, God is as much with everyday transgender people as God is with Caitlyn. What that means is that God is acutely aware of the actual reality of everyday transgender existence — which looks a lot less like a Vanity Fair cover and more like under/unemployment, homelessness, substandard healthcare, ridicule, violence, desperation, and the indignities of state efforts to deny transgender people everyday dignities such as being able to carry accurate identification documents or use public restrooms in peace.

Clearly, the indignities everyday transgender people face aren’t what God wants for any of God’s children. And if God is capable of loving our transgender brothers and sisters as much as God does — and is also capable of being with them in their suffering at our collective hands — then shouldn’t we be capable of the same?

If we can’t love our neighbors — truly love them, all of them — then how can we be certain that we actually love ourselves, that we truly see ourselves as God sees us?

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

The Movement for Equality is Truly Global

A trendy district in Tokyo makes Japan the first east Asian nation to legally recognize same-sex partnerships. Cuban same-sex couples participate in mock weddings blessed by priests in downtown Havana. A human rights activist completes a 7,450-mile bike ride from Cairo to Cape Town, having met with local LGBT activists along the way.

And that’s just this week.

The movement for LGBT equality has gone truly global. And this Sunday, more than a thousand organizations in more than a hundred countries will put on an almost inconceivable number of events — Atlanta’s will be in Piedmont Park at 1pm — as part of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The global movement for equality really is a movement. There’s so much organic activity everywhere, but here are four milestones connected to IDAHOT:

  • The World Health Organization ended its classification of homosexuality as a disease in 1990. (IDAHOT is observed on the anniversary of that date.)
  • 18 nations now extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.
  • Last year the White House issued its first-ever statement in honor of IDAHOT, in conjunction with a statement joining U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in declaring the rights of LGBT people to be part of the larger framework of human rights globally.
  • In February, Kerry appointed the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.

On the other hand, according to the IDAHOT organization:

  • Same-sex relationships are still illegal in 76 countries representing 44% of the world’s population.
  • A handful of countries and other jurisdictions still exact the death penalty for same-sex sexual behavior.
  • As late as 2013, roughly 70% of the world outside the U.S. (that’s 5 billion people) still lived under laws and regulations that limit freedom of expression around sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • 70% of African countries explicitly criminalize LGBT existence. And 22 of 46 Asian countries criminalize same-sex behavior.
  • There were 1,731 reported killings of transgender and gender-diverse people from 2008 to 2014.

I decided many years ago that because Georgia is my home, I will wait (and agitate) for equality to happen to me where I live. But that doesn’t mean I don’t concern myself with what happens in the rest of the country or the world. Every year, our local Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds me that the violence against my transgender brothers and sisters here in America doesn’t look that much different from the violence visited on transgender people anywhere else in the world.

And neither should any of our equality. As my spiritual hero Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” IDAHOT is a great example of that thinking for the LGBT movement.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

The Desperate House of Cards Known as “Love Won Out”

Let me start by saying there is no one who is running for the Presidency of the United States on the Republican side of the aisle that is going to be helpful to the LGBTQIA community. In fact, the vast majority of them if they get their way are flat dangerous to our community. We will find all if not most of the progress we have made over that last 30 years washed away in an over whelming wave of fundamental conservatism such as we have never seen.

If one listens closely to their rhetoric, we hear that all that is wrong with the world, ethically, economically, and spiritually, can be traced back to the LGBTQIA community. God, almighty is raging God’s wrath upon the earth because of our desire to have life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

They will never admit the problems we face as a nation are due to greed, arrogance, hypocrisy, and the desire for absolute power. Nope-it is too easy to blame us.

Nor will they ever admit homophobia is a sure moneymaker. As long as they preach their fear of the LGBTQIA community, the donations roll in. The politicians use us as a wedge issue while the Christian churches have conferences designed to put God and us in a box. I will say again both groups use each other with one common goal, our destruction.

As long as the “Christian Church” allows the lies about us to continue and even teaches them, then we will continue to die, get killed, lose our best health care, our mental health, our jobs, our kids, our right to visitation, and our property. We will continue to be thought of as “not God’s best”. That last phrase is where the most powerful lie of the church gets its power; “love the sinner and hate the sin.” Damn it folks our love is NOT a sin.

Can we not see this is all connected? Have we not seen that when we as a community continue to support these fools with our presences, our money, our votes and our membership in their organizations and churches, we are only hurting ourselves?

Next month on February 18th here comes the biggest Christian liar in the country, Exodus International. They will arrive in Atlanta to do another one of their “Love Won Out” conferences. Under the guise of love they will tell anyone who will listen how they can help a person who is unhappy and struggling with their homosexuality.

First, if it wasn’t for people like them and their equine fecal matter, most LGBTQIA folks would not be struggling and unhappy. This group flat knows people’s sexual orientation cannot be changed. The great tool they use is something called “reparative therapy”

In order for reparative therapy to work, one must assume that “homosexuality” is a disorder of some kind or a personality defect to be corrected. These assumptions are:

1. We are called to love gay and lesbian people “struggling with sexual orientation”

2. homosexual orientation is chosen or is the result of bad childhood experiences; and

3. people cannot condone this “sinful” behavior that was chosen by their loved ones, and therefore “cannot accept their gay, lesbian and bisexual family members”.

These 3 points are countered by:

1. Sexual orientation is not a disease. In 1973. The American Psychiatric Association removed the term “homosexuality” from the list of mental and emotional disorders. Therefore, it does not need to be cured.

2. “Reparative therapy” doesn’t work. In 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good.

3. “Reparative therapy” is dangerous. In 1998, the American Psychiatric Association stated it was opposed to reparative therapy, stating, “Psychiatric literature strongly demonstrates that treatment attempts to change sexual orientation are ineffective. However, the potential risks are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior…”

4. According to the American Medical Association, “most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an un-accepting environment. For this reason, aversion therapy is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians.”

5. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior (2001) asserts that homosexuality is not “a reversible lifestyle choice.” (Information supplied from: “Reparative” Therapy or “Ex-Gay” Ministries page of P-Flag website: http://www.pflag.org/education/reparative.html)

I would like to note for the record that “struggling with sexual orientation” is a key card in the “house of cards therapy”. To this I will offer this. I am 56-year-old gay man who has been with my partner for 30 years. I also am the Pastor of an inner-city Christian Church, own a home, pay my taxes, contribute to the national economy, vote in every election, and live a full, loving, and exciting life. What struggles I have had are from fighting to have the same rights and privileges of those so-called heterosexuals who think my love is a sin.

It should also be noted this whole idea of “reparative therapy” or conversion therapy is a religious question trapped inside a psychological costume. Since the religious right no longer has a strong theological argument for condemning homosexuality…they have turned to the secular world to help them.

Even Exodus International leader Alan Chambers has been quoted as saying, “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.”

“Reparative Therapy” is based upon several religious lies or more correctly “Christian” lies. Examples:

A LIE:
The Book of Leviticus expressly forbids homosexual sex.

THE TRUTH:
The purity laws of the ancient priesthood are a code of ethics rooted in a time and culture that is far removed from today’s world. Among other things, it forbids shaving, wearing clothing made of two different materials, eating rare meat, and many other things. The edict against homosexual sex is part of this code, no more or no less important than the verse that forbids harvesting an entire field of grain or piercing an ear. It is important only as a historical document, not as a set of rules to follow in this time.

A LIE:
Sodom was destroyed for the sin of homosexuality.

THE TRUTH
Sodom and homosexuality were not connected until the Middle Ages. In Biblical days it was acknowledged that Sodom was destroyed for greed and inhospitality. While some believe that it was probable that the men of Sodom were bent on raping Lot’s visitors, this was an act of violence, not an indication of the sexual preference of the male population of the city. There are many references of Sodom in the Bible (Ezekiel 16:49; Mark 6:11; 2 Peter 2:6-8, among others) but none of them mention homosexuality.

A LIE:
There are scriptures affirming the Biblical condemnation of homosexual sex.

THE TRUTH
Many of the references to eunuchs in the Bible refer to homosexual men, not necessarily to castrated males. Jesus himself said: “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:12). The book of Isaiah holds one of the greatest promises to us. “To the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56: 4-5.)

The Bible is a collection of sacred writings that come from different time periods and are written by different authors trying to explain from their point of view who God is and how we as humans relate to and journey with God. The views of each of these authors are as varied as the authors themselves.

One must always remember that the Bible is a history and guide to a faith. The Bible is not the end- all and be-all on any subject of faith. It may be divinely inspired but hardly divinely written.

One’s psychological sanity and safety should never be set aside for the sake of a particular religious belief, particularly when there is on going evidence for one’s sexual orientation being formed at an early age and having far more to do with genetics then religion. The “religious right” and Exodus International have spent so much time trying to eliminate the LGBTQIA community; they have missed the vast majority of people in the community who lead wonderfully wholesome lives.

If today’s post seems especially cranky, I apologize. However, I am very tired of having to justify my love for my partner. I am in agony over watching people in my community spiritually beaten into submission because of the church’s lack of courage and its sexual insecurities. I hope on the 18th of February there will be many who will express the same thing.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Our Not-So-Secret Secret

Two weeks ago the blog was about an Elephant in the room or as one editor at GA Voice called it: “Did you see the elephant in the room during the raid on the Eagle?”

In case the readers missed it, the point of the blog is that homophobia was at the heart of a police raid on that quiet bar in Atlanta.

So this week as the whole Eagle mess took another turn as if it were some kind of horror soap opera, I was looking for something different to write about. I posted on my Facebook page a request for topics and was caught off guard by this particular request: “queer-on-queer violence (mental, emotional, and/or physical)”

It seems last weeks Elephant might have been the bigger African vs. the Asian variety but regardless the room is getting a little crowded.

This is a subject that does not get much press or community attention but as some research this afternoon made clear this is definitely an elephant in the room and it seems we have good reasons and are doing a good job of ignoring it.

Why?

According to “An Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection” it is like an onion with several layers.

“Domestic violence in the GLBT community is a serious issue. The rate of domestic violence in same-gender relationships is roughly the same as domestic violence against heterosexual women. As in opposite-gendered couples, the problem is likely underreported. Facing a system which is often oppressive and hostile towards those who identify as anything other than “straight”, those involved in same-gender battering frequently report being afraid of revealing their sexual orientation or the nature of their relationship.

Additionally, even those who attempt to report violence in their alterative relationship run into obstacles. Police officers, prosecutors, judges and others to whom a GLBT victim may turn to for help may have difficulty in providing the same level of service as to a heterosexual victim. Not only might personal attitudes towards the GLBT community come into play, but also these providers may have inadequate levels of experience and training to work with GLBT victims and flimsy or non-existent laws to enforce on behalf of the victim.

Although much advancement has been made in the provision of services, the enforcement of the law, and the equality of protections available to those in GLBT relationships over the last decade, it is important for you to be aware of your rights and options as they relate to your attempt to escape an abusive relationship.”


See there are indeed 2 elephants in the room and while they are not exactly the same they are surely related.

According to what I was able to find 1 in 4 men are victims of “queer on queer” violence or more traditionally called “domestic violence”. Friends this is a very disturbing figure and one which should give us pause.

According to Dr. Amy Menna, who wrote “Gift From Within – PTSD Resources for Survivors and Caregivers”, our community has a serious problem.

“The number of studies designed to measure domestic violence in the LGBT community pale in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts. However, studies indicate the prevalence to be equal between the LGBT community and the heterosexual community. Results from the National Violence Against Women survey indicated that gay males are more at risk than gay females. Approximately 23% of gay males studied reported to having been raped, physically assaulted, and / or stalked by another gay male. Slightly more than 11% of gay females also reported the same circumstances. With a victimization rate of approximately 10 to 25 percent, the statistics for either being abused or knowing someone who has been abused is alarming.”

Sadly there is not a whole lot of data for the women in our community so if this seems like I am concentrating on the men it is not because it is not happening in the women’s community. It is in fact found in both communities and the damage caused to everyone involved is staggering.

“GAY MALE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & REASONS VICTIMS STAY” by J. Michael Cruz (Journal of Men’s Studies), March 2003, No. 3, Vol. 11, p. 309) gives us a glimpse of what is happening;

The limited research that has examined the dynamics of gay male domestic violence (see for example, Merrill and Wolfe, 2000) has found that most experience pushing, shoving or grabbing, with other forms of violence occurring with decreasing prevalence – restraining, punching or hitting, and slapping. The reasons, in previous research, that gay men have given for staying in relationships in which they are being abused include: hope for change, love, fear, lack of assistance, loneliness, loyalty and lack of knowledge regarding domestic violence. Gay men have been found to define domestic violence in similar ways to Heterosexual women with an emphasis on power and control (see Cruz and Firestone, 1998); with some additional factors such as control, jealously and internalized homophobia. Gay men’s constructions of masculinity have also been found to have an impact on gay male domestic violence as well as some of the reasons that gay men stay (Cruz, 2000).


As I write this I am aware there are three potential types of readers. First are those who are victims; second are those who were victims; third are those concerned enough to care and to learn and to help, but were never victimized themselves.

My hope is by then end of this blog each group will find the dignity, freedom from fear and compassionate acceptance each of us deserve and have a right too.

Most of us think of domestic violence as physical assault, but in fact it is far more then that.

Dr. Amy Menna gives the following definition; “…domestic violence is when one seeks to control the thoughts and behaviors of the other partner. It is about power and control. It entails a pattern of violence where one seeks to control the thoughts, beliefs, or conduct of their intimate partner as well punishing the partner for resisting their control. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. It often includes physical violence where one person believes they are entitled to such control. Domestic violence often carries no visible signs. Although physical and sexual abuse is common, many types of control are non-physical such as emotional, psychological, or economic abuse.”

Emotional Abuse

· Yelling, screaming, name calling, or other methods of shaming
· Threatening to “out” the other partner
· Threatening to tell someone about their partner’s HIV status
· Isolating the partner from family and friends
· Discouragement of independent activities such as work or taking classes
· Accusations of infidelity
· Constantly criticism of partners weight, physical appearance, or abilities
· Using children to gain control by blatantly undermining partners parenting decisions
· Controls all decision making (i.e. going out to eat or to where to live)

Physical Abuse

· Hitting, kicking, or pushing the partner
· Throwing things
· Breaking things
· Harming pets
· Cornering the partner
· Punching walls

Sexual Abuse

· Making the partner engage in sexual activities that he or she is not comfortable doing
· Inviting a third party without the consent
· Creating video tapes of the partner doing sexual acts then blackmailing them by telling them they are going to show them to others
· Forced sex
· Refusing to wear protection when one’s HIV or STD status is either positive or unknown
· Any acts of aggression or violence during sex without consent

Economic Abuse

· Control of all the finances
· Withholding money and/or credit cards
· Forbidding the partner to have anything in his or her name
· Putting all debt in the partner’s name
· Making the partner account for every penny
· Preventing the partner from working at a job
· Sabotaging the partner’s employment

I can assure you after 25 years of activism and advocacy in our community, the afore mention behaviors are chronic and progressive; they do not go away without intervention.

As one reads down the list it becomes apparent as to why this is a difficult situation to address in the LGBTQI community.

LAMBDA a non-profit, gay / lesbian / bisexual / transgender agency dedicated to reducing homophobia, inequality, hate crimes, and discrimination by encouraging self-acceptance, cooperation, and non-violence, has these points as to what makes this even more difficult for the LGBTQI community:

· It is frequently incorrectly assumed that lesbian, bi and gay abuse must be “mutual.” It is not often seen as being mutual in heterosexual battering.
· Utilizing existing services (such as a shelter, attending support groups or calling a crisis line) either means lying or hiding the gender of the batterer to be perceived (and thus accepted) as a heterosexual. Or it can mean “coming out”, which is a major life decision. If lesbians, bi’s and gays come out to service providers who are not discreet with this information, it could lead to the victim losing their home, job, custody of children, etc. This may also precipitate local and/or statewide laws to affect some of these changes, depending on the area.
· Telling heterosexuals about battering in a lesbian, bi or gay relationship can reinforce the myth many believe that lesbian, bi and gay relationships are “abnormal.” This can further cause the victim to feel isolated and unsupported.
· The lesbian, bi and gay community is often not supportive of victims of battering because many want to maintain the myth that there are no problems (such as child abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, etc.) in lesbian, bi and gay relationships.
· Receiving support services to help one escape a battering relationship is more difficult when there are also oppressions faced. Battered lesbians and female bisexuals automatically encounter sexism and homophobia, and gay and bisexual men encounter homophobia. Lesbian or gay people of color who are battered also face racism. These forms of social oppressions make it more difficult for these groups to get the support needed (legal, financial, social, housing, medical, etc.) to escape and live freely from an abusive relationship.
· Lesbian, bi and gay survivors of battering may not know others who are lesbian, bi or gay, meaning that leaving the abuser could result in total isolation.
· Lesbians, bisexuals and gays are usually not as tied financially to their partner, which can be a benefit if they decide to end the relationship. However, if their lives are financially intertwined, such as each paying a rent or mortgage and having “built a home together”, they have no legal process to assist in making sure assets are evenly divided, a process which exists for their married, heterosexual counterparts.
· The lesbian, bi and gay community within the area may be small, and in all likelihood everyone the survivor knows will soon know of their abuse. Sides will be drawn and support may be difficult to find. Anonymity is not an option, a characteristic many heterosexual survivors can draw upon in “starting a new life” for themselves within the same city.

So where do we start? How can we help? What are the resources?

We start by helping an individual who is in a domestic violence relationship via communication and support. Here are some ways to support an individual in a domestic violence situation that have been gathered from several sources;

· Reach out to them. Ask them what type of help they WANT. What they need might not be what you expect.

· Believe them and keep whatever you’re told confidential. More important than anything else, you must maintain their TRUST. If you take actions on your own, even with the best intentions, you may endanger them, and lose their trust.

· Don’t blame them. The abused person is NOT responsible for being hurt and does not deserve to be abused. Wanting the keep a relationship alive is NOT the same as wanting to be abused.

· Take the time to talk privately with your friend or co-worker. Each person needs to tell their story in their own time and space.

· Provide opportunities for them to talk about what’s happening. Ask about suspicious bruises or fights that you know about.

· Validate feelings. Your friend may feel hurt, angry, afraid, ashamed and trapped. Don’t minimize or try to “talk them out of” what they are feeling, even if you don’t understand it or think it’s irrational. What they are feeling and experiencing is reality for THEM.

· Understand that it is difficult to leave a home or someone you love, and that your loved one may go back several times. Remember too that leaving is the most dangerous time as the overwhelming majority of domestic violence murders occur when a victim is trying to leave and within the first 6 months after they’ve actually done so. Your friend has the most information about the abuser, and THEY are the best judge of when and how to best make a break in the safest way. Remember that your friend’s solutions may not be the same as yours.

· Help them plan how to stay safe when violence happens, and for longer-term possible courses of action they might take.

· Avoid badmouthing the abuser or pressuring the victim. This can backfire! Victims may pull away and alienate themselves from those who are trying to help. Instead, help the victim to build confidence in themselves and what actions THEY may be able to take for themselves.

We can also help the batter by referring them to Men Stopping Violence (MSV) is located at 2785 Lawrenceville Highway, Suite 112, Decatur, Georgia 30033.

We can further help by encouraging our places of worship and community support groups to become aware and enlightened to the seriousness of this issue.

Pastors can and should be more then passive prayer partners; in fact we should be raising this subject from our pulpits at a minimum.

As a community we can advocate and support programs in our community that train, educate and promote awareness and action around this issue. We can encourage the political leaders in our community to pass laws, which will offer an easier and a clear legal route for help.

Finally and maybe most importantly we can help those caught in this vicious cycle and ourselves as well by claiming and acknowledging we are of great worth, our dignity is sacred and we have the right to live without fear of being abused in our all our relationships.

As to the resources in Atlanta either locally or via the web here are a few:

http://www.thehealthinitiative.org/index.php for women

http://www.meetup.com/Imanis-Corporation/ for women

http://gmdvp.org for men

http://www.gnesa.org/

http://www.united4safety.org/

If you are experiencing domestic abuse get help today. If you know someone you suspect is experiencing domestic abuse don’t ignore it.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Giving Love A Chance Part 2

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation”. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength To Love, 1963

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

So love is more than a noun, is in fact a verb, a word of action. I recognized from reading the particular writing again there are some actions which love is clearly not. We must see the two actions together and as one set of behaviors that have the potential to change not only our individual lives, but also the community where we live and the world of which we are a part. Hence part 2…

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Versions)

1) Love does not envy: When one lives in a capitalistic society it is hard not to be influenced by the expression, “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” We measure our success or failure by comparing ourselves to what others have or don’t have. Sometimes it will even get to the point of resenting others for having something we want but don’t have. Even worse for the person of faith, we sometimes reach a point of resenting God for what others have. Envy makes a statement of being more concerned about the well being of self rather than the well being of others.

2) Love does not boast: To boast is to lose perspective of one’s self. Bragging happens when we think we have accomplished something unique. Bragging often is about what we have accomplished on our own. After 25 years of ministry I can report we do not accomplish anything unique, as nothing is really new but rather simply tried or approached in a different way. Most, if not all of our accomplishments come about because of several experiences and complicated factors…even though a snowflake is unique, it takes hundreds of thousands to make a beautiful snowfall.

3) Love is not proud (some translations have the phrase “does not puff itself up”) Being too proud or puffing one’s self up occurs when one looks down upon the homeless, the poor, the uneducated, or people of a different culture, with the attitude of “thank God I am not them”. The whole political argument around “American exceptionalism” while hundreds of thousands of people die from starvation, lack of medical care, clean water or our military drones, indicates we may have become a little puffy!

4) Love does not dishonor others (some translations have the phrase “behave rudely”): Rude by definition of Merriam-Webster is, “offensively impolite or ill-mannered: “she had been rude to her boss”. This has the action of dishonoring the person to whom it is directed. Speaking truth can always be done without dishonoring or being ill mannered.

5) Love is not self-seeking (some translations have the phrase “seek its own advantage”) The action of love focuses on responsibilities rather than privileges. I wonder what happens to white privilege, sexism, homophobia to name just a few, if love is the operative word in one’s life.

6) Love it is not easily angered (some translations use the phrase “lose its temper”): Being angry about something or another is one thing, but being pushed there easily or to lose one’s temper (i.e. control) is to make other peoples’ lives miserable…think how damaging it has been to you when someone has just lost all control and started screaming…out of control anger is anything but love.

7) Love keeps no record of wrongs: In any conversation around love, the key is always about forgiveness. In order to not keep score one has to forgive and let go. I use to marvel at my mother-in-law who, during any disagreement, could bring up an endless list of things you had done wrong… a little forgetfulness might have ushered in some family peace at times.

8) Love does not delight in evil: Evil by any definition is that which causes harm, misfortune, or destruction. I think this is pretty self explanatory, don’t you? We need look no further than the sick and twisted logic of Eric Rudolph’s own words to give clarity to the definition. For those who don’t recognize the name, he was the one who set off bombs in Atlanta during the Olympics and also bombed medical clinics and a gay bar, killing one and injuring scores of others.

“Along with abortion, another assault upon the integrity of American society is the concerted effort to legitimize the practice of homosexuality. …But when the attempt is made to drag this practice out of the closet and into the public square in an “in your face” attempt to force society to accept and recognize this behavior as being just as legitimate and normal as the natural man/woman relationship, every effort should be made, including force if necessary, to halt this effort.

This effort is commonly known as the homosexual agenda. Whether it is gay marriage, homosexual adoption, hate crimes laws including gays, or the attempt to introduce a homosexual normalizing curriculum into our schools, all of these efforts should be ruthlessly opposed.”

So when we combine these two blogs it seems we have a viable alternative to the way things play out in today’s world. Yet the challenge remains with the whole concept of love. It is not that it is too difficult to understand; quite the opposite, it is too easy to know exactly what is being asked of us. The problem is being willing to do it.

Maybe this why the only command Jesus ever gave his followers was: “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another” John 13:34(The Message)

Isn’t about time to give love a chance?

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.