WORLD AIDS DAY

My coming out days was lived out in Chicago, Illinois (1965-1982). I also came out prior to HIV/AIDS being part of our everyday lives.

The gay community in Chicago during my time there was party central but also a close nit community. Over the years I developed close friendships with a group of people that at its peak numbered 15.

We all hung out together, spent time at the clubs together and I guess by today’s standards could have had a reality TV show made about us.

We compared notes on our boyfriends, went to parties, made gossip about straight people, got jobs, participated in the community and marched for our rights. We were always there for one another no matter what the circumstance.

I didn’t think about then but now I know we had something special-we had a group of people who had become VERY close friends and became a support system to one another that I don’t suppose will ever be repeated.

Starting in 1981 through 1982 the group started to drift apart. Some got jobs that took them out of Chicago and into other parts of the state, some got involved in long term relationships and moved to the suburbs, others found themselves struggling to find the love of their life or way through life as a gay man and lacking direction or support turned to heavy amounts of alcohol and drugs.

In June of 1982 needing a fresh start, I moved to Cincinnati where within a month of arriving I would meet the man I am still with today. The choice to move probably saved my life.

For you see the crushing and deadly wave that we would come to know as AIDS arrived in Chicago in the later part of 1982. By the time my partner and I had been together for 12 years, my best friend and I were the only ones still alive from that group of 15. None of them had reached the age of 40.

Today, as I write this at the age of 52 and in the 26th year of marriage (Yes, despite what the world says I am married), I am the only one left who is alive and HIV negative. My best friend died at the age of 47 after getting the disease because of cheating and abusive boyfriend.

I was no angel in those days and I guess every year at this time when I think of my friends who died much to soon I get a case of survivor’s guilt. Hey, that is another blog.

I have also been an ordained minister since 1986, so I have 20 plus years of pastoral ministry. In those years I have probably done funerals for more people under the age of 50 then most pastors do in an entire career.

What is really heart breaking is that HIV/AIDS is not done yet. Despite media spin “that this is now a manageable disease”. That is a lie and severe distortion of the truth. AIDS still kills at an alarming rate and the rate of infection is on the rise.

“AIDS has killed more than 25 million people, with an estimated 38.6 million people living with HIV, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 3.1 million (between 2.8 and 3.6 million) lives in 2005 of which, more than half a million (570,000) were children.”

Every month I still counsel people who are newly infected. Every month I am there with someone who has died or in support of a partner, family and friends who has lost someone. Our congregation has a number of people who have tested positive and are at various stages of health challenges.

My best friend in Atlanta is HIV positive and while he is healthy and living a productive life…the meds that he has to take are anything but pleasant. The side effects require he not get too much sun, eat the correct foods and not get too stressed, as the reaction is more then a pain in the ass, it is debilitating.

So I guess I am writing this today to remind folks the AIDS pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot. We cannot afford to get comfortable. We cannot afford to not continue to educated, stress prevention, and harm reduction (translation, safe sex and needle exchanging).

We must remember God’s people are dying. “A third of these deaths are occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, retarding economic growth and destroying human capital. Antiretroviral treatment reduces both the mortality and the morbidity of HIV infection, but routine access to antiretroviral medication is not available in all countries.[7] HIV/AIDS stigma is more severe than that associated with other life-threatening conditions and extends beyond the disease itself to providers and even volunteers involved with the care of people living with HIV.”

I am asking the readers of this blog to get involved in harm reduction, to recognize this pandemic knows no boundaries.

I am asking folks to adopt the 4 principles as put forth by the Prevention Justice Mobilization organization.

Here are 4 principles that must be reflected in a focused, justice-based HIV prevention strategy that can actually stop HIV/AIDS:

1) HONESTY AND PROTECTION: UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATION, HARM REDUCTION AND HIV PREVENTION

Prevention justice asserts the fundamental right of all people (including people living with HIV) to expect every effective and ethical approach to be employed to prevent HIV transmission. Everyone at risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV must have access to scientifically based, culturally and linguistically- appropriate sexual health, harm reduction and HIV prevention information, materials and tools.

The federal government bears primary responsibility to fund these efforts at adequate levels (at least $2 billion per year across programs, as noted in the AIDS Budget and Appropriation Coalition’s chart on FY 2008 Appropriations for Federal HIV/AIDS Programs), and must end bans on funding for effective programs such as syringe exchange.

The next President of the U.S. should develop a results-oriented AIDS strategy that incorporates prevention justice principles and policies.

If political and cultural barriers impede such access (such as bans restricting access to sterile needles/syringes, and condoms in prisons and jails; comprehensive, accurate sexual information and skills for school youth or detainees; or the gag rule on naming “harm reduction” in federally-funded research and programs), then funders and providers of prevention services must also invest in strategies to remove these barriers.

2) IT’S NOT ONLY WHAT YOU DO, IT’S ALSO WHO YOU ARE: HIV/AIDS AS PROOF OF INJUSTICE

All prevention campaigns and strategies must include explicit goals to lessen and eventually eliminate structural risk factors that lead to community-level or population-level vulnerability, such as homelessness, high rates of incarceration, domestic and other gender-based violence, lack of adequate access to high-quality health care, and/or a living wage or income.

They must include plans to eliminate any significant disparities among populations in HIV prevalence and risk, including those associated with race and ethnicity, immigration status and language, gender and gender identification, sexual orientation, nationality, age and area of residence. It must also address disparities in treatment, care and support for people living with HIV as a key component for HIV prevention. Resources must prioritize eliminating the greatest disparities in HIV prevalence and incidence.

3) AIDS DOESN’T DISCRIMINATE… BUT SOCIETY DOES: END VULNERABILITY BY AFFIRMING THE DIGNITY AND RIGHTS OF ALL:

All HIV prevention efforts must include an affirmation of the dignity and rights to equality of every individual (including those living with HIV/AIDS) and must actively confront social, cultural and legal norms and forces that prevent or impede realization of such rights and dignity, such as racism, sexism, and homophobia; HIV and drug-use stigma; or discriminatory legal status.

Any programs that claim to prevent HIV by attacking the dignity and rights of individuals — such as abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that encourage sexism, homophobia and AIDS stigma — must be defunded and repudiated.

Since rights are meaningless without the means to realize and use them, all HIV prevention must include or ally with efforts to provide every human with the economic and other material necessities of life, including adequate housing, employment or income, physical and mental care, food and nutrition, and drug treatment – the lack of which have each been shown to drive HIV spread.

4) DON’T BLAME US OR SHAME US FOR WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW: RESOURCES, ETHICS, AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN CRITICAL RESEARCH AND MONITORING

Communities and programs lack the resources and tools to fill the gaps in our knowledge base on HIV prevention. HIV prevention research efforts must be funded in sufficient quantity and diversity as to quickly solve critical unanswered questions and provide essential tools and technologies we are currently missing.

Research must focus on providing tools to assess community vulnerability and structural risk and to guide the design of efficient, comprehensive, multifactorial prevention strategies, as well as investigating new individual behavioral or biomedical interventions, and must include answers to relevant questions regarding prevention issues for people living with HIV.

Further, government and private entities engaging in research and policies must provide timely, understandable and accurate information on their work and proposals, actively soliciting and integrating diverse community input into resource allocation and policy formulation.

The basic elements of counting and describing people living with, or at risk for HIV infection (surveillance categories and systems, testing, case reporting, partner notification and counseling) must not blindly follow previous, narrow medical public health models, but must reflect the other principles described above. These systems and methods must be designed and implemented with awareness of their direct or indirect impact on individual dignity as well as community health and vulnerability.


So tonight I write to remember, to honor and to place in memorial all those who have died.

Tonight, I write to proclaim the hope and healing for all those who live and are affected by this virus. For you I will not be silent. I will speak out persistently, loudly and with a clear voice for justice.

Tonight, I write for my friends who have been received in the loving arms of God: Timothy, Gerald, Brandon, Billy the nerd, William, Paddy, Tyrone, Tom, Chuck, Thomas, Sammy, Joey, Philip and John…I love you, I will never forget you.

HAPPY HOLY DAYS

Get a cup of coffee or some hot chocolate and get comfortable…this is a little longer then usual.

You know it was bad enough that I had not even got Thanksgiving fully into my mind, had not gone through my annual cry of, “how much weight will I gain this year?” When I started receiving e-mail alerts from the American Family Association shouting there was a “war on Christmas”. Now folks this is “Thanksgiving weekend”. Did anyone note a lack of Christmas?

I mean we barely finished with Halloween and Christmas decorations started popping up in all the stores. My favorite radio station has been playing Christmas music since the beginning of November, and I don’t mean just holiday music, I mean Christmas carols and songs.

Then I start getting lists of stores that we should shop at or not shop at based on if the use the words Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Excuse me? Who is sitting down and counting all the words in advertisements? Further, isn’t one of the definitions of holiday “Holy Day”? Is not the celebration of Jesus’ birthday a “Holy Day” even if we celebrate it on the wrong day? I may get flamed here but Jesus was not born on December 25, 0.

People need to stop and read a little of the history of Christmas controversy at Wikipedia.

Let’s be real here, we live in a capitalistic country where if there is a way to make money, it will be done even if we have to make up a war. Think I am kidding? Take a look at the letter I got from self-proclaimed leader of family morals and values Don Wildmon:

“It’s hard to believe that there are companies which ban “Merry Christmas” and replace it with “Holiday Greetings” because, they say, they don’t want to offend anyone.

It’s time Christians take a stand and proclaim to our communities that Christmas is not just a winter holiday focused on materialism, but a “holy day” when we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

This year you can remind your community of the true meaning of Christmas by taking a vital leadership role in AFA’s “Project Merry Christmas.”

Here’s how. AFA is making available an attractive button and magnet that carry this thought-provoking, Gospel-focused message: “Merry Christmas. God’s Good News.”

I am asking you to purchase enough buttons for each member of your church and enough magnets for each family to have one. Urge your fellow members to wear their buttons and display the magnets during the entire Christmas season.

If you are unable to sponsor your church yourself, ask your Sunday school class to make it a class project. You can even order buttons and magnets to share with co-workers, children in Christian schools, customers, etc.
I know that some might think simply wearing a button or displaying a car magnet is a small thing, but God can use small things to make a big point, and to create opportunities to share the Good News. And what a great time to do that at Christmas!

I’m asking individuals like you in thousands of communities across the nation to head up this project in their local churches. Your willingness to underwrite the cost for your church and enthusiastically promote this project is the key to making an impact in your area.

Click Here to Order

Sincerely,
Donald E. Wildmon, Chairman
American Family Association

Don, did you run out of people to judge, companies to boycott? Do you have some memos stating these companies will “ban” the use of the word or phrase “Merry Christmas”? Or wait…maybe nobody is paying attention to poor Don. After all how many ways can you say America is going to hell in a hand basket before people start turning you off?

So I guess you need to do your annual fundraiser Don. It is the same every year; you start by saying Christmas is at risk. Then you start making buttons you can sell and yelling for boycotts of all those who don’t fit your brand of Christianity or definition of Christmas. Hey Don how much money does your “non-profit” (I use that term loosely) make off Christmas?

These businesses sell their goods to all people Christian and non-Christian alike. They will use words in their marketing that will bring in the most people and the most money, it is not their job to explain, teach or support your brand of Christian theology.

Alas if it were just Don who was looking to be on the front page but no there are other lunatics out there.

I have taken to reading a blog called “The Carpetbagger Report”, a commentary and analysis on politics in America. By Steve Benen. Here is the latest entry by a person called Morbo.

I hate to keep carping about the “War on Christmas,” but there have been major developments, and I believe you need to be informed.

The Liberty Counsel has issued its annual “Naughty and Nice List.”

This legal group, associated with Jerry Falwell before his demise, puts out a helpful list (.pdf) advising you which retailers to avoid and which to patronize. The criterion is simple: whether the word “Christmas” is used in sales material and on websites.

Unfortunately, the list does not address every issue that might confront zealous fundamentalist Christians, Bill O’Reilly and various other Christmas Nazis over the next six weeks. I want to help the Liberty Counsel in its quest to force Christmas down the throat of every American, so I’ve compiled a list of some specific situations and questions that the list fails to address:

* Unnamed Retailers: A lot of retailers aren’t even on this list. I need to know if I can patronize Meineke Mufflers next month. Little help, please!

* Mixed Messages: Some businesses are clearly trying to play both sides. Every week the gang at the Vermont Country Store sends me a catalog. Some mention Christmas on the cover, some do not. Worse yet, some use the term “Holiday” on the cover but say “Christmas” inside. Does that count? What am I to do? This list provides no guidance.

* Type Games: This list says nothing about the always-crucial issue of font size. What if the catalog uses both terms, but “Christmas” is in smaller type than “Holiday”? Is that insult to our Lord and Savior big enough to trigger a boycott?

* The Greater Good Conundrum: Here’s one for all of you Jesuits out there: Let’s say I can achieve greater good by buying something from a merchant who uses the term “Holiday.” Is it ever morally licit to do so? What if an item I want to buy is 50 percent off from a store that uses the term “Holiday”? Can I take the money saved and give it to a TV preacher — or is the money saved ill-gotten gains that would be rejected by any morally upstanding television evangelist? (I think I know the answer to this one. Operators are standing by to take your check.)

* Suspected Tricks/Clarence Thomas Factor: What about retailers that use the term “Christmas” but don’t really mean it? If the local adult DVD store is having a “Christmas Sale” on sex toys, whips and dog collars, can I buy some? If going into such a shop is considered a sin but Clarence Thomas is hanging around outside, can I give him the money and ask him to pick the items up for me since I wouldn’t actually be entering the store?

* Exploding Head Paradox: Let’s say my local bookstore is having a “Christmas Sale.” Is it permissible to go there and buy something that makes fun of Christmas or the faith that spawned it, like a Christopher Hitchens book or this horrifying Billy Idol CD?

I’ve heard that in the Middle Ages, learned theologians spent hours debating questions like how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. We’re not getting that kind of attention to detail from today’s religious fanatics. To Liberty Counsel, I can only say that the list is not enough. Next year, send some instructions as well.

P.S. This week, Pat Robertson said on “The 700 Club” that Christmas trees are not worth making a fuss over because they “come from Teutonic Paganism” and “are not an integral part of Christianity.” You know things are getting bad when even Robertson starts making sense.

I do not know who this person is but with good use of satire they have hit the nail on the head.

So Don and all the others who think there is a “war on Christmas” what are you doing for Advent this year?

Our church is collecting stuffed animals which will be hugged and lovingly held during worship over the next 4 weeks in preparation of being delivered to AIDS hospices, to children’s homes, and kids in the hospital who desperately need something to hang onto.

Our bible study over the next 4 weeks will attempt to get folks ready to welcome the Savior into their everyday lives. Along the way we will continue to feed the hungry, try to find housing for the homeless. We will continue to advocate for those caught in the hell of addiction. Yes Don, we will also continue to clean up the mess you and your kind are making of the church daily.

Oh yea if it is exceedingly cold on any of the nights this winter, I and an army of volunteers will drive around the city picking up the homeless and getting them to a shelter.

We will come together with another congregation and worship together with a “candle light service” Christmas Eve. We will do our best to make sure that anybody who wants company or someplace to be will have that happen.

Sorry to say we will not be making buttons or helping your marketing ploy…instead we will do our best to live out the true meaning of the season, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends.” John 15:12-13 (New International Version)

I guess that is why the birth of Jesus is a holy day.

Shedding the Trappings, and the Traps, of the Traditional Church

I got a call today from one of my friends that I have not seen for a long time. Stacy who is a very conservative Christian was concerned about my state of mind. She has never liked the fact I was gay and has spent the last 30 years or so praying God would turn me into butch straight man. Right, like that was going to happen!

She has gone through 4 husbands to date…so maybe…nah not going there!

She had “bumped” into our website and after being horrified we don’t think “homosexuals” are going to burn in hell and her heart almost stopped when she read our mission statement.

Then she saw where we were worshipping, not just occasionally but 52 weeks out of the year.

She almost yelled at me, “your church services are held in a park…outside…without walls…where everybody can see who you are…have you lost your mind?” Don’t you know that if you are going to be a church and preach all this stuff that will piss good Christian people off, you should be inside where it is safe?”

Well the long and short of it was I got her calmed down and we had a great conversation about why we moved outside and how the biggest desire of this congregation besides serving God was to “walk the talk”.

After I hung up I wondered how many other people think I (we) are insane. Maybe that is why growth has been a little slow…it takes guts to worship in a public park. I say it takes guts because of

1. The weather-there is sometimes too much heat, other times not nearly enough heat. Of course there are the times the roof (sky) leaks rather substantially. Of course then there is the wind. Things can and do blow around.

2. In the spring and summer there are plenty of ants, gnats, flies and mosquitoes, the occasional bee or wasp.

3. There are lots of other people in the park, with their kids laughing and carrying on. Cars coming and going.

4. The city garbage people managed to show up each week to empty the trashcans around the pavilion during our worship time.

5. There is a huge soccer league just across from us, which gets pretty loud sometimes.

6. There are also the strange looks you get from some folks as they walk by…

So yea I guess it takes some guts to meet outside for church. It takes a person really choosing to be there. It takes a willingness to let God be the decorator, rather then some architect. It takes a conscious choice to dress for the weather rather then for people’s approval.

It means being committed each time you come to bring food for the picnic after church rather then having some committee sign people up to serve coffee and cookies after service.

It means that anyone and I do mean anyone can show up for church and not look out of place. It also means that an important part of the congregation on any given Sunday is our pets.

It means you know where most of Jesus’ ministry took place.

It also means one is willing to practice their faith right out in the open for everyone to see.

This also means that the walls that keep many folks out of church are now gone.

Over the years the church buildings and what goes on inside out of sight from the world has come to represent for some people the worst of Christianity.

You have rules for dress.

Rules for who is and isn’t a member.

Rules for who can be in the building and when.

Rules for when the building will actually be unlocked and available for prayer or meditation. I have to say most buildings are locked up tight all week and only open on Sunday.

Rules as to what groups can and cannot use the building.

Rules for building use-“we can’t have homosexuals, drug addicts, homeless people, transgender, drunks, non-bible believing Christians, or other unrepentant sinners occupying the property”.

My God, the fights…fights over whose property is it anyway? Think I am kidding, just ask any Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist or Presbyterian.

Fights over who gave more to the building fund and therefore should have more say in the building use.

Fights over the way the building should look; the fancier the better…the bigger the better.

Fights over the signage; what kind, how big, what should it say?

Fights over how the decorations will be placed or should there be decorations.

Fights over the flowers each week and what kind of flowers or plants he or she will bring.

The list is endless and when you really stop and think about all of the aforementioned stuff, it really gets in the way of the message and what church is suppose to be about.

I guess it is pretty hard to worship God when you are upset about what happened at a trustees meeting and you find yourself sitting somewhere other then your special pew by your favorite stain glass window.

Maybe I have lost my mind but I think I prefer God’s house to worship in.

God’s house is decorated to perfection every Sunday. The seasonal church colors take care of themselves.

Even if nobody volunteers to be in the choir, each Sunday in God’s house there is a choir from the birds, kids laughter and the wind through the trees.

We have truly learned what it is to make a joyful noise!

In God’s house passersby stop for a moment to say hello, meet the pets or wait till a prayer is finished.

In God’s house folks feel free to share a bite to eat.

In God’s house it will never be locked and is always available for prayer, walks or some alone time.

In God’s house there is room for any and all who want to come. There are no doors, windows or walls to block the movement of the Holy Spirit.

In God’s house there is wild, crazy and wonderful feeling of peace, community and solitude all at the same time.

If this is insanity then it not such a bad place to be!

LET US REMEMBER

Today is a day of mourning. It is not a day that is on the national calendar. In fact with the exception of a small percentage of people in this country this day of mourning will pass completely unnoticed.

Those who remember on this day will find themselves swinging between tears of grief and deep waves of anger not to mention a certain amount of fear of further attacks.

The devastating images of those viciously killed in 2007 for simply trying to be themselves is something we should remember, something that should burn in our souls.

The people we mourn for this day are apart of the community most would just as soon not deal with. Oh we go to watch the drag shows and tell our jokes and we have added a “T” to the GLB_Q but don’t really take seriously folks in the transgender community live in a very dangerous and un-supportive world.

We do not take seriously they find it extremely difficult to get jobs, get health care or any kind of support and dignity.

In fact just this past month Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and the HRC made it clear they were not even worth naming in a piece of legislation design to give us job protection. The political spin was that it could not pass if the transgender community was part of it.

In fact, the leaders of HRC told me they were nothing more then a “political calculation”

So the message went out loud and clear…it is still open season on those who would dare to transition from one gender to another.

Of course what we forget is it was these folks who started the whole “gay rights” movement we know today when they stood toe to high heal with the New York City police department at Stonewall.

We forget they have been with us every step of this bloody fight for our rights, our self worth and our very souls.

We forget that each day when they get out of bed and step into the world it may in fact be their last day.

So on this day I want us to remember the transgender community…to pay attention to the day that has become known as “Transgender Day of Remembrance”

May we who mourn and remember today take some comfort in these words of scripture:

“God is King, despite the chaos that may be roaring around us.” (Ps 93)

“If one member suffers, the whole body suffers…” (I Cor 12)

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8)

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“The Lord takes care of me as his sheep; I will not be without any good thing. He makes a resting-place for me in the green fields: he is my guide by the quiet waters. He gives new life to my soul: he is my guide in the ways of righteousness because of his name. Yes, though I go through the valley of deep shade, I will have no fear of evil; for you are with me, your rod and your support are my comfort. You make ready a table for me in front of my haters: you put oil on my head; my cup is overflowing. Truly, blessing and mercy will be with me all the days of my life; and I will have a place in the house of the Lord all my days.” Psalm 23

Today may we find ourselves moved to pray. May these prayers be for all of the victims, their family and friends.

May we pray for our government to have wisdom, courage and a Christ like response to this insanity. Let us pray for God’s protection and a calming of their and our fears.

And may our prayers be accompanied by expressions of our faith – that we are not conformed to the ways the world and how they will respond to children of God, but to the way the Christ would respond. May we be in our speech and actions the love of God.

Let us remember the words of Gwendolyn Ann Smith,

We have lost so many people in our community to the hand of hatred and prejudice, yet we still are not seemingly willing to fight back. Meanwhile, we die at the hands of a lover, of police, of medical practitioners, and even parents, while the news media calls us “freaks” — and worse.

In fact, the media’s reluctance to cover our deaths lies near the heart of this project. It can be all-but-impossible to find honest, reliable media on the death of a transgender person: It either does not exist (which is how one can cover thirty years of cases and still only have as many as I have to present), or it uses names that the deceased did not own, and pronouns that did not fit their reality.

There is no “safe way” to be transgender: as you look at the many names collected here, note that some of these people may have identified as drag queens, some as heterosexual cross dressers, and some as transsexuals. Some were living very out lives, and some were living fully “stealth” lives. Some were identifying as male, and some, as female. Some lived in small towns, and some in major metropolitan areas.

Today we remember:

Nakia Ladelle Baker
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma to the head
Date of Death: January 7, 2007

Keittirat Longnawa
Location: Rassada, Thailand
Cause of Death: Beaten by 9 Youths who then slit her throat
Date of Death: January 31, 2007

Moira Donaire
Location: Viña del Mar, Chile
Cause of Death: Stabbed 5 times by a street vendor
Date of Death: March 5, 2007

Michelle Carrasco “Chela”
Location: Santiago, Chile
Cause of Death: She was found in a pit with her face completely disfigured.
Date of Death: March 16, 2007

Ruby Rodriguez
Location: San Francisco, California
Cause of Death: She had been strangled and was found naked in the street.
Date of Death: March 16, 2007

Erica Keel
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cause of Death: A car repeatedly struck her
Date of Death: March 23, 2007

Bret T. Turner
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Cause of Death: Multiple stab wounds
Date of Death: April 2, 2007

Unidentified Male Clad in Female Attire
Location: Kingston, Jamaica
Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds to the chest and lower back
Date of Death: July 7, 2007

Victoria Arellano
Location: San Pedro, California
Cause of Death: Denied necessary medications to treat HIV-related side effects.
Date of Death: July 20, 2007

Oscar Mosqueda
Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
Cause of Death: Shot to death
Date of Death: July 29, 2007

Maribelle Reyes
Location: Houston, Texas
Cause of Death: AIDS; Reyes was turned away from several treatment centers due to her transgender status.
Date of Death: August 30, 2007

WHOM SHALL I SEND

I now really understand “writer’s cramp” or writer’s block. I am sure some of you have noticed this blog has been pretty dry over the last couple of weeks.

It is not like there is not plenty for me to write about, bitch about or for that matter celebrate. Yet, according to one of my friends this is something that happens to all blogger’s and really good writers, so I guess I find myself in good company.

I think another reason for my block is that I am extremely nervous and excited about a meeting a pastor colleague and I are hosting tomorrow. This meeting is about bringing some fire to a vision I have had of the church for almost the entire time I have been in ministry, probably as far back as when I first felt called to follow this one called Jesus.

As long as I can remember these words of scripture have rested in my soul:

John 3:16
Micah 6:8
Matthew 22:34-40
Matthew 25:31-40
James 3:17
John 14:1-4
Romans 8:31-39

These were and are the passages that drive me, haunt me and really define who and what I am as a pastor.

I say drive me because to me they seem to be the core of what a follower of Jesus strives to be about.

I say they define me because despite falling far short I really try to live my life by what these passages proclaim. For me this is not a head thing but a matter of my heart, the depths of my soul.

I say they haunt me because the church I grew up in and the church universal today seems to have forgotten these passages and lives out an existence that is more about exclusion than inclusion, more about money and prestige rather then simple service, more about moral enforcement and judgment rather than sharing and proclaiming grace, more about dogma and creeds rather than openness and an intentional inclusive community.

Because of the afore mentioned the church universal is no longer safe, no longer a place of peace, no longer a place of refuge from the terrors of the world. Hell it is not even a refuge from the terrors brought about by so-called Christian leaders. So I am haunted…what would God have me to do? How does one little gay pastor push the church universal back to its roots, back to a time when God, not rules were the order of the day?

Frankly, I was pretty content to try to do that with Gentle Spirit Christian Church. We are a church “without walls”. Every day of our existence we try to “walk the talk” and some days we do better then others. Those scriptures I mentioned are apart of our core beliefs, they in fact drive our church.

Yet I have been restless, frustrated and disappointed as we fall short of the need of the larger community.

This was made so clear to me several months back when I was at a meeting with a group of clergy who had receive a large sum of money to used to feed the hungry.

Now folks we are a good hour into the meeting debating the rules for this food distribution. Rules for how to fill out the paper work, which people get the food, how much and how many times a month. There was even discussion, no actually an argument over how much info to keep on file and not mess with people’s privacy.

To this point I had been very quiet and trying to devise an excuse to leave, when one of the pastor’s asked me what I thought. I said they probably did not want to hear what I was thinking, but I was encouraged to share.

So I told them I was thinking about the story of Jesus when he fed the 5,000. Of course all these pastors started nodding their heads in agreement. However, I was stuck on the differences of that story and what was being discussed. See I wondered who of the disciples went through the crowd that day and had the folks fill out the paper work? Which of disciples did the assessments of who was in real need? Was there somebody who determined if the folks who got the food were just going from rabbi to rabbi to eat each day?

As you might imagine my questions were not well received and I have not been invited back to any more meetings.

My next few prayer times with God were screaming sessions.

“Is this really all there is? Is this the kind of ministry you want? Damn you…give me something…give some sign I am not an idiot…tell me some how these scriptures are really central…damn it do something!”

Then Lance from our church introduced me to Rev. Jarrod Cochran, a straight evangelical Christian who had a vision and was trying to get a movement started.

A movement of “Progressive Christians”, A Mustard Seed Revolution of Grace, Love, Mercy, and Inclusion…” On his website he explained is efforts.

“The Progressive Christian Movement seeks to unite followers of Jesus and reclaim our hijacked faith. This movement is one fueled by love, the message of grace, and the desire to leave no one on the outside looking in. This movement is looking for speakers, ministers, writers, activists, singers, dancers, painters, to join in this revolution of grace. The world needs you. We need you. Jesus needs you. Won’t you join us?”

His website included the following ideals:

· Jesus’ central message is about radical inclusion, thus we welcome anyone to participate in our fellowship without judgment or forcing them to conform to our “likeness” or affirm our creeds in order to be accepted. We invited and offer all a place at the table – no exceptions.

· Faith is not about concrete answers, religious absolutes, creeds, or dogma. Faith is about the search for understanding, the raising of important questions, the open honesty of having doubt, and the realization that no one has it all completely right nor does any human hold all the answers. We seek to follow the advice found in 1st Thessalonians 5:21, which is to “seek truth out in all things and hold firmly onto that which is good.”

· Religious absolutes of dogma, legalism, and strict doctrine become stumbling blocks and “litmus tests” for who is “in” and who is “out” of the circle of God’s grace. These false tests that Jesus never required get in the way of truly following Jesus and his teachings.

· Following Jesus is counter-cultural, radical, and disrupts the status quo. The good news of the gospel is intentional in its inclusion of those who are traditionally marginalized and refused by Mainline Christianity.

· The words of Jesus found in the gospels are to be the focus for any disciple of him. We submit the rest of Scripture to the position of “sacred commentary.”

· Recognition and affirmation of the differing belief systems of others, whose faiths offer a way into relationship with God and call upon them to further God’s love and grace on the earth, is crucial. Jesus revealed this path in the acts and works of the Gospel According to Matthew, chapters 5-7; and demonstrated this inclusion on many occasions – including in his witnessing and affirmation of the Samaritan woman, whose culture and people were looked down upon for worshipping God in a different way (the Gospel According to John 4:1-42). As Jesus taught and revealed through example, any “spiritual” or “non-spiritual” person adhering to this way of life are indeed furthering the Reign of God and God’s message of radical love and inclusion here on earth. As Jesus said, “Anyone who is for us cannot be against us” (the Gospel According to Mark 9:39-41).

· Creating fellowships and communities that are dedicated to lifting up, affirming, and equipping one another for the work the Spirit of God has called us to in Micah 6:8: active peacemaking, striving for justice and equality of all people and nations, loving those who are labeled by our government, society, and – at times – ourselves, as “enemies,” caring for God’s creation, and bringing hope to the poor and poverty-stricken.

· God created humans with a brain capable of discovery and reason. God does not require us to “check our brains at the door,” along with our coat and hat in order to be a part of the faith. Faith and Science are not in conflict; they are in harmony. The Bible is not a Science textbook and should never be taken as such. We affirm that if God is truth, then any discovery we make about ourselves, our origins, or the way the universe was created has come from God and should not be viewed as heresy.

· The Church is not simply a four-walled institution, but a ministry without walls that surrounds and encompasses everything and everywhere we go. Our brothers and sisters are not only those who label themselves as “Christian,” but are everyone we meet. Ministers and adherents of the PCM recognize that their ministry does not begin only when they are behind a pulpit or that their witness is only conveyed through spoken word; but their ministry extends to all places and their witness is conveyed by their actions.

Praise to God, I am not alone! There might be a way for the church universal to live out those scriptures! There might be a way to make the church safe again, a way to recapture the mission of God’s church.

So tomorrow Rev. Jarrod and I have invited 30 clergy persons to a meeting to see if others see what we see. Ten have committed to be there and the rest who can’t make it want to be kept in the loop.

Maybe there is something to this. Maybe God is still calling. Maybe we are still listening. Maybe the commission given to Isaiah will be born yet again:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
The whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send I!”

THE WEAPON OF FEAR

Homophobia: Function: noun Date: 1969: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Interesting how this irrational fear of the religious zealots of the world becomes their strongest weapon against our friends and us.

The religious zealots of the world are so “fearful” of homosexuals or anyone for that matter that doesn’t fit their definition of gender identity or orientation and their fight so fierce that they throw ever manner of fecal matter at the fan and it just blows out all over the place and some of it sticks to us. Especially…

The fear about where we will end up after death. Not to mention the fear of another Sodom and Gomorrah.

We seem to fear that if we pursue the life of our God given orientation we will end up in this place that some call hell. A horrible place where we will be separated from God for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that this fear and concern is deeply rooted in the way we were and are taught to view God. So in essence, the only way to get past those fears is to change the way we view God.

I have recently been re-reading a book written by Bruce Bawer, called Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. From this book I have come to understand the real source of our fears when it comes to sexuality.

The source of this fear is the difference between an attitude of love and an attitude of law. On page 5 of this book Mr. Bauer states:

“Simply stated, conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine, and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience and.the priesthood of all believers. If conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission–the resurrected Christ’s injunction, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, ‘go to all the nations and make them my disciples’–liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke’s Gospel reads as follows; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.'”

What these few words essentially say is that we have a choice as to whether we understand and live with a God as a strict authoritarian who demands that all come to God in a specify way or we understand and live with a God as a loving Creator who desires that all would come to God and would treat each other accordingly.

All one has to do is read the story or the prodigal son to make the obvious choice.

Yet, what we get focused on is a point of view that is based on the law and authority figures that have decided they speak on behalf of God. “The whole world will go to hell in a hand basket if the homos are given any dignity, acceptance or love.”

So, yes there is a choice to be made.

However, I must say to believe that God would create something with free will and then ultimately destroy that creation because it did not make the choice to follow the law is rubbish.

If this were true, why provide Jesus the Christ as Savior?

Why did Jesus spend almost his entire earthly ministry bringing the outcasts, those outside the law back to the fold?

Why did Jesus, when asked to state what the greatest commandment was, say to Love God and to love your Neighbor?

He never said in order to be okay with God and not go to hell you must obey the law of the day, rather he spent all of his time telling folks to love God and giving them example after example of how they could show and could live that love.

The women caught in adultery released, the raising of Lazarus, the blind person healed, the Roman Centurion slave healed, the women with the issue of blood healed.

Jesus’ words:

“Be not be judges of others, and you will not be judged. For as you have been judging, so you will be judged, and with your measure will it be measured to you. And why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother’s eye, but take no note of the bit of wood which is in your eye?”
–Matthew 7: 1-3

“Then Jesus said to the people and to his disciples: The scribes and the Pharisees have the authority of Moses; All things, then, which they give you orders to do, these do and keep: but do not take their works as your example, for they say and do not. They make hard laws and put great weights on men’s backs; but they themselves will not put a finger to them…
Matthew 23:1-4

“But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! Because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back. A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! For you go about land and sea to get one disciple and, having him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. A curse is on you, blind guides, who say, whoever takes an oath by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple, he is responsible. You foolish ones and blind: which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy?”
–Matthew 23: 13-17

Yes, we can choose to live in fear by the law and the authority of those around us or we can choose to live by the words of Jesus and his examples.

We can belong to the church of the Pharisees, Scribes and St. Paul or we can belong to the faith that Jesus spent his ministry building and ultimately died for.

A faith that was to include all those whom the religious leaders of the day said was not part of God. I might add they would not be well received today either.

In the end the religious right gets and maintains its power from our fear. Fear of what our relationship with God is going to be and look like in the hereafter.

This fear is the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught. If we are to really be the beautiful creation that God intended then we must begin to listen to, believe and live the word’s of Jesus when he said to the disciples and to each of us today; “fear not, it is I!”

Gee, who knows… if we stop living in fear, the world might stop killing each other in an effort to prove who belongs to God.

So How Stupid Has the Church Become?

So I am sitting at my computer when the following news story pops up on my screen:

BAR Editorial Asks: Why apologize?
From Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks by thomas c jackson

Why apologize?

San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer gave Communion to two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence a couple weeks ago when he celebrated Mass at Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro. The service was videotaped, and now, of course, the right-wing anti-gay forces are all in lather. Bill O’Reilly gave the incident his “Talking Points” treatment, and apparently the archdiocese received hundreds of angry e-mails.

So Niederauer has issued an apology, but one in which he attempts to place blame on the Sisters who wished to receive Communion. They came into church in their mock habits and in full drag makeup, and he writes that while he has “often seen photographs” of the Sisters, he didn’t recognize them. Why is that their fault? “As I recall one of them wore a large flowered hat or garland,” Niederauer writes in his column, which is online and is to be published Friday in Catholic San Francisco.

Now what struck me about this was that an Archbishop found it necessary to apologize for giving communion to members of the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence”. Huh? Bill O’Reilly gets his undies in a wad and the church receives a few hundred e-mail and this Archbishop feels the need to make them feel better by apologizing because he gave the ultimate act of grace to members of a highly successful community non-profit group?

Let me stop for a second and let the readers catch up. “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia is described as follows:

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are “radical genderfuck” artists, [1] activists and self-described 21st century nuns [2] for the queer (gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, lesbian, kink, etc.) communities and they fulfill a unique role for queers, which historically have faced institutionalized religious and governmental demonization and persecution. [3][4] They are highly visible gay icons and social activists and have used their visibility to advance a host of human rights and liberal issues both within the LGBT community and in mainstream society. The most visible and well known is Sister Roma.

The international network of Orders is mostly non-profit charity organizations within their countries, raising money for AIDS, other LGBT-related charities and mainstream community service organizations, helping lead the campaign for safer sex and harm reduction, [4] performing modern ritual and educating on various issues and against hate crimes.

The Sisters have been considered controversial by various members both within and outside the LGBT and queer communities but have gotten the harshest criticism for obvious parodies of Catholic icons and policies.

Originally, the organization included only gay male nuns, but it now includes people of all genders and orientations including intersex, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, and transgender.

From San Francisco, Sister Hellen Wheels, Sister Kitty Catalyst O.C.P. and Sister Flora Goodthyme at SF’s club Mezzanine for Michael Brandon Blessing photo: Mark Englelhart

The organization was started in 1979 in San Francisco, California, and has more than six hundred nuns worldwide [5] with new members joining regularly and new houses being established.

The San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have raised well over $1,000,000 and distributed it to non-profit organizations that serve not only the queer and sex positive communities but also mainstream organizations that don’t discriminate their charity work such as the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund [citation needed] and women’s breast cancer charities including Wendy’s Hope. [6]

The Sisters’ state vows to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt [7] while serving their respective communities.

This incredible group and their work have spread all over the world. Chapters can be found all over Europe, South America and of course here in the United States where there are 16 chapters from coast to coast. They have saved untold number of lives with their acts of charity and education.

So why shouldn’t two members of this group get communion? Because they poke fun at the Roman Catholic Church with their satire through activism, dress and actions?

Or maybe it is because they have raised money for the wrong groups. I wonder if the good Archbishop would have felt differently if they had raised a million dollars for the Roman Church to continue it’s pay offs of their latest scandal?

Of course if the afore mentioned is reason to deny one communion then I suspect there are many Roman Catholics who should be turned away right along with the sisters.

The “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” offered these statements as part of a press release concerning this whole event:

“…We would like to take this opportunity to state again that, contrary to the spin of right-wing fanatics, that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do not “mock nuns” but live “as nuns,” taking vows that affirm the traditional compassionate and justice-seeking ministries of religious women, extending their reach beyond the convent walls to those most in need. We are open and supportive of all forms of spirituality that teach respect for human life, diversity, freedom and community, including those of the Catholic Church. In fact, we have given several thousand dollars in grants to several religious-based organizations, including Most Holy Redeemer.

It is no secret that our vows sometimes call us to challenge the dogmas and hypocrisies of the Catholic hierarchy, in the same way they call us to confront politicians and even leaders within the queer community whenever they use their power and influence to promote fear, shame, division, and self-hatred. It is a bittersweet irony that these same forces of fear and shame now use the media to twist a moment of genuine communion into another justification for policies that harm people of faith and members of the LGBTQ community.

In keeping with our vows to expiate stigmatic guilt and promulgate universal joy, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence call on all people of good faith to oppose those who would desecrate the sanctity of a church and defile a moment of true communion for cheap political gain. In a world wracked by violence and fear, we have no time for such lies and will continue to serve our community by boldly proclaiming that joy is more powerful than shame.

We extend our sincerest gratitude and affection to the parishioners of Most Holy Redeemer and hope that their new Archbishop continues to walk with them in service to the gospel of joy and justice.”

According to Roman Catholic Catechism the benefits of the Sacrament of Holy Communion are:

“The benefits of this sacrament are pointed out by the words, given and shed for you for the remission of sins. These words assure us that in the sacrament we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

Therefore, people who take Communion usually have some sense of where they are at (or not at) with God. They want to be where Jesus is. Maybe it’s because they know they need Jesus, or because they just love Jesus, or because they want to follow Jesus. When they come for communion, they’ve come to the right place. That’s where Jesus is.

So these two folks simply within their faith and love for God came to where Jesus is and the Archbishop found it appalling this happened and apologized. Of course he wasn’t too appalled till Bill O’Rielly and a few hundred religious fanatics were. Now I ask you, how stupid is that?

The Archbishop said he did not recognize who they were. Well of course he didn’t.

Instead what he saw were Christ’s sheep in need of nourishment, grace and love. In that moment of Sacrament it mattered not who they were but rather they were of Christ’s flock.

Now I don’t care how you spin it, but to apologize for that is just plain stupid.

Some Things Never Change

Sometimes I wonder if the folks in Washington D.C. understand they are playing with peoples lives…Sometimes I wonder if they were faced with the same challenges as the people whom they represent would they think or act any differently.

There is an old saying about walking a mile in another person’s shoes. Maybe the GLB great heroes of Barney Frank and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and self-proclaimed leader of the gay world, the Human Rights Campaign ought to take note of the following letter.

Today reality barged into my world once again. I am a M2F non-op TS, who happens to serve in the ministry [as a lay person] of an MCC church. Tipper Gore came to town and was brought to the home of a famous local gay lawyer. The place was crowded with GL folks. As far as I could tell I was the only TG/TS there.

I tried to talk to the host about inclusion of TG/TS folks in the hate crime bill and ENDA. All he could talk about is they get protection, then marriage, then something else; then would work to include gender identity. First he and the majority get what they want and then he wants me to believe that the forces used in that effort would still be around to work for inclusion for TG/TS folks.

The problem with this is several fold:
a] HRC is dead set against us being included. They talk the talk but all they work for is rights of gays and lesbians. Bi’s and trans folks can go fly a kite.

b] Barney Frank, the lead on ENDA and hate crimes is completely opposed to us being included.

c] Even the Fellowship of my church proud of the very small number of trans clergy, and yet I read almost nothing about protecting us. Oh, there is the mandatory mention of GLBT, and then the B and T do not get mentioned again. The web pages are filled with GL items and only the rare mention of out reach to the gender folks. Why do not the Elders go to the funerals of gender folks like they did Mathew and Billie Jack?

Many of us have worked very hard for GL rights. I have risked attacks and the like by appearing at televised city counsel meetings in my ministry role as Social Justice chair arguing for the rights of groups I do not belong to. Even though I defend GL folks the only place I seem to hear about trans folks is within our own community.

Tipper Gore arrived and gave a 6-minute pep talk about the need for ENDA and hate crimes bills and then shut up. I tried to ask about the fact that TS folks are excluded and had people shushing me. At one point I had several secret service agents looking my way.

So she escaped without being asked about safety for TG/TS folks who are often denied jobs, fired, attacked, mutilated, and murdered because they are seen as flamboyant gays or queens. Than there are some news making murders of gays [more likely to make page one above the fold], and lesbians. Lots of opportunity to get paper and news coverage so everyone goes to Wyoming, but when Tyra Banks died in the street because the ambulance refused to treat a woman with a penis, nothing was said except locally. Meanwhile trans folks, particularly women suffer higher injury and death rates than GL folks.

Tonight I feel like just quitting but know that I cannot. With the hatred and rejection of some parts of the lesbian community and the self-centeredness of many gay male organizations it is no surprise that we are used only to be discarded when they have their protections.

What would Rev. Elder Troy Perry have me and the other TG/TS folks do in the church he started? Locally our pastor and congregation are totally supportive and affirming in so many ways. Other MCCs have reputations of rejecting gender benders and Trans folks. The Fellowship seems to do not much more than a token effort through transmcc.

So the bottom line is that it’s more horrific for a gay man to be beaten to death and hung on a fence in the cold than to have a trans woman who was fired because of transition, lost her apartment, rejected by family and straight friends, having to turn to sex work to live, and die after being stabbed in the chest more than 30 times.

Are we doing God’s work?

Oh wait you say…RBS when did you get that letter? It spoke of Tipper Gore…this is from the Clinton Administration. Yes, it was and folks not a damn thing has changed in 10 years…the trans community is still being kicked around like a soccer ball.

The observations from 10 years ago were correct then and are correct today with the shameful behavior of HRC and the Democratic Leadership. Transgender people stand-alone in this world for the most part.

This is an issue that, while many people do not understand it, is the hill on which everything we as the LGBT community have fought for is on the line.

We in the gay, lesbian and Bi community cannot afford to leave anyone behind. We cannot afford to treat another group of people like we have been treated.

We cannot, and must not, allow the same shame based language to be used against our sisters and brothers.

We cannot, and must not, allow the same violence to be brought upon one part of our community and ignore the other. Yes denying one protection in employment is a form of violence.

If we do not take in the letter writer and others like her then what we are asking from the main-line straight community is a sham, selfish, self-serving and certainly hypocritical.

Trans People (God’s creation) are being denied employment, fired, even killed and beat up and some in our community, HRC and Barney Frank have the nerve to say the issues of the transgender community are too much in our fight for equal rights. It is being said if they are included it will hurt our cause, it will cause people who would help us otherwise to turn away.

To those of you who think this will hurt our cause, please know we have no cause and will have gained nothing if the brother and sisters of the transgender community are not with us.

While I appreciate the HRC says they will not advocate for this current bill, HRC has not come out and said they will not accept this version or is unconditionally opposed to the passage of this bill.

To not advocate for it is not the same thing as pulling your support…it is hand sitting and saying “oh this is the best we can do for now.”

HRC was very willing to take credit for this bill when it was fully inclusive, but now HRC and Barney Frank wants us to accept; “this is the best we can do.”

This is not the “best we can do.” Everyone knows even if it gets through the house and senate, it will be vetoed. So damn let’s get everybody on record as to where they stand. Compromise on moral issues is not a real good idea…anyone remember how the government compromised on the issue of slavery and what happened as a result?

Further, the Transgender community has always stood by the GLB community without exception even to the point of arrest and even death.

For HRC to accept and Barney Frank to push the idea that says loudly to the Trans community “you just have to wait for a better time for justice” is an act of hypocrisy at best and an act of cowardice at worse.

Maybe HRC and Barney Frank could give me the words to explain this at the next funeral I do for a trans person who ended their life because they have no job protection. Maybe HRC and Barney Frank could provide the words to explain why I am more worthy of job protection then my sister or brother who is trans.

I find it appalling HRC would even consider or allow for leaving anyone behind…but oh wait it not HRC’s job that needs protection.

I find it appalling that Barney Frank would even consider or allow for leaving anyone behind…oh wait Congressman Franks memory of the entire community rallying around him when he had his troubles with ethics a few years back seems to have gone blank.

If I sound angry…I am. I dare say I will not sit on my hands and say, “this is the best we can do.”

I will point out to anyone who will listen, that HRC and Barney Frank have declared themselves the God of our community will decide who gets justice and when they will get it.

If I had a house that was on fire, and there were people inside…I would not consider who should be saved or who should be left behind to die. I would die making sure I did everything in my power to get everybody out.

HRC and Barney Frank do not get to choose whom to save from the fire of bigotry, sexism and gender phobia.

In every negotiation there are “deal breakers” this is one of them. I will stand without job protection until my job protection is protection for my sisters and brothers of the trans community as well.

Brothers and Sisters, what is written in the scripture? Just this:

And a certain teacher of the law got up and put him to the test, saying,
Master, what have I to do so that I may have eternal life?
And he said to him, what does the law say, in your reading of it?
And he, answering, said, has love for the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;
and for your neighbor as for yourself.
And he said, you have given the right answer: do this and you will have life.”

–Luke 10:25-28

If we are to win, to gain the prize, to truly know peace, to have true equality then we must not leave anyone behind; we must not leave any part of our community out.

Come on folks it is not rocket science! There is no justice, there is no safety, and there is no protection until all really means all.

Pardon Me if I’m a Bit Tired of Pandering to Bigots

Well all the bluster of the Episcopal Bishops meeting is now over. It was suppose to be the great show down between the hysterical right and the progressives of the Anglican Church. Here is what the New York Times said:

 

In a voice vote, all but one bishop supported a resolution, called “A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by Our Anglican Communion Partners.” Several conservative bishops who are considering leaving the Episcopal Church were not in attendance. The resolution affirmed the status quo of the Episcopal Church, both theological conservatives and liberals said.

It states, for example, that it “reconfirms” a call to bishops “to exercise restraint” by not consenting to the consecration of a partnered gay bishop. It also says the bishops promise not to authorize “any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions.”

 

What?

 

“I think it lessens the possibility of schism,” said Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts. “I think this is going to meet the needs of the archbishop of Canterbury, and it shows how much we want to be part of the Anglican Communion.”

(Boston Globe: Episcopal leaders act to avert a schism from Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks by Thomas c Jackson)

REALLY, and what about the needs of the LGBTQ folks who are apart of the community…these people talk like we are not even in the room.

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, referred to the statement as a clarification of positions already articulated by the US bishops, but said she hopes that “our sacrificial actions and united actions” will help stave off schism.

(Boston Globe: Episcopal leaders act to avert a schism from Gay Religion: news of religion and LGBTQ folks by Thomas c Jackson)

Oh, I see it is far more important to keep bigots, homophobes and flat out liars in the communion then to tend to the concerns of the sheep. How hypocritical, what crap…what brand of Christianity are these folks following?

 

The bishops also called for the archbishop of Canterbury, who met with them on Thursday and Friday, to find a way for Robinson to attend next summer’s Lambeth Conference, a decennial conference of Anglican bishops who gather from around the world in Canterbury, even though some conservative bishops do not want him to attend. The bishops also said, “we call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.”

(Boston Globe: Episcopal leaders act to avert a schism from Gay Religion: news of religion and LGBTQ folks by Thomas c Jackson)

Right and I say, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. (Matthew 23:23-24 New International Version)

Civil rights? They won’t marry us! They won’t allow us the same respect, rights and support that straight people get, who by the way are the ones who have made a mockery of marriage and they say they are committed to our civil rights?

Commitment to our dignity? The have allowed the ridicule of the rightfully call of another Bishop and they are committed to our dignity? They want to “find a way” for Bishop Robinson to attend a gathering? Are they kidding? He is a Bishop, called by God and his people to serve. If they had any dignity or integrity they would demand the good Bishop be there. They ripe our hearts out, call us not worthy to be married or attain the Bishop’s staff and they are committed to our dignity…please I am going to vomit…

Here’s another quote from Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick of Hawai’i, who agreed.

“It was non-adversarial and it was holy,” he said of the efforts of the bishops to craft a statement that all could accept with integrity.”

 

How is denying the people of God their place in ministry holy? How in God’s name does this Bishop believe they have done something akin to acting with integrity?

I have spent the last week reading everything I could about this great debate and all the hard work that was done…sweat, tears and emotional shouting (at least as emotional as Anglicans get). This was such a monumentus meeting even the Bishop from England showed up…wow!

This is it folks, the earth is going to move and with the ensuing rapture the Anglican Church might just fall apart.

I have read from both sides of the aisle where progressives and foe alike have been saying what happened was a good thing, something to celebrate. This was a step in the right direction. The church is still standing for now.

All though the Bishop “wanna be the pope” from Nigeria said this wasn’t enough…he wants the Americans to repent.

Repent from what? Isn’t this the guy who when he shook the hand of a gay man repelled away like he had been hit with a cattle prod? He wants the American Bishops to repent? Maybe they need to but not because this power hungry sexiest homophobia demands it.

Folks what kind of spin job are these folks doing? Does the world recognize that we as the people of God have been played again?

What crap, there is nothing to celebrate…in fact what we all witnessed was an act of cowardice.

We witnessed a bunch of old fools saying their jobs and the institution are more important then God’s people. We witness what concern for money, property and power will do. Yes I said that…cause we know that is what it is really about.

We watched a bunch of people in the Bishop’s house say in so many words while God may have created us gay but by damn we are not going to let you have sex, make covenant with the one you love and we damn sure are not going let you be a Bishop…a priest maybe but no more Bishops! We are not going to loose any property over this, people yea but what the hell the church property will be safe!

The American Bishops had the opportunity to be heroic, prophetic…to be the Isaiah of our time, but instead chose to whine and pat themselves on the back for keeping a hypocritical institution intact. If this is the best they can do in the face of God’s people dying, broken apart and set aside then maybe they have come to a time in which they should just close their doors and go home.

My comments sounds angry? Damn right I am angry. My God, look how much time and effort has been spent on this…and as a woman once said to Jesus: “Even the dogs get the crumbs from the table”.

Harry Knox a good friend of mine maybe said it better then I when he said,

“This decision is a profound disappointment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people everywhere,” said the director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program. “The bishops are in danger of succumbing to the temptation to bow before an idol called church unity when God demands justice.”

“We stand solidly behind the efforts of Integrity to overturn the moratorium at General Convention 2009 and pledge ourselves to redouble our supportive efforts. We will not go away; we will not be silent. Our faith and our lives depend on it.”

If there are those who don’t like treating people as the full people of God…then let them leave and do their own thing elsewhere.

This very point was made when,

“the leader of a Toronto gay Anglican group says he would be sorry to see a split in the church but thinks his own life might be made easier if a conservative wing were to break away.

“I’m getting to the stage where I’m not sure that I want to be perpetually justifying my existence in the church as a gay man,” Chris Ambidge of Integrity Canada said yesterday.”

(Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks by Thomas Jackson)

Amen, So to the Bishop of Nigeria and all who would follow him, if you are that unhappy just leave…walk out the door and don’t let it hit you where the good Lord split you!

All right, I am done with my rant and about to leave for Phoenix Arizona where for the next week I will be one of 50 umpires at the “Gay World Series” of the Amateur Softball Association.

With over 4,000 participants and fans from 56 cities in North America. This Gay Softball World Series (GSWS) is the world’s largest annual Gay and Lesbian sporting event. These players from 150 plus teams will be playing their hearts out to bring back some pride and glory to their respective communities and I dare say I will come back with 4,000 stories as to why the Bishops are so wrong, so very, very wrong.

There will be thousands of stories of challenge, love, sacrifice, integrity, faith and dignity. I wonder if anyone will care?

THE SALT OF THE EARTH…

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by people. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put in under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everything in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your God in heaven.” Matthew 5: 13-16

I have taken a closer look at these words…more specifically the “who” they were spoken to. I have started asking the question of “who” was Jesus talking to a lot these days. Who were these words aimed at?

In the light of the onslaught of hate and outright evil that is being played out towards our community today by religious “Reich” and far to many in the mainline church, asking who is this messaged aimed is timely.

Who was sitting on the hillside or in the meadows listening so intently to the words of one who seemed to understand their hurt, their need, and their hunger?

Understanding, the “who” will change the message and its impact. Understanding the “who” can and does effect how we relate to our God and to ourselves.

Listening closely that day were the lepers. These were the people affected by a disease that was not understood and contagious. They were not allowed sanctuary within the mainline tradition of the temple. Instead, they were put off to some far corner of society to fend and make due for themselves.

There were prostitutes, in an act of survival sold themselves to other people so that they would have food to eat. They served a need of the rich, but they too were thought of as the dregs of society.

There were those women who were childless and therefore considered outside the realm of blessing by a God who demanded procreation as that sign of blessing.

There were the poor, who by their lack of money, land or prestige were outcasts in a society that demanded one have these things in ordered to be heard and to be genuine contributing member of that time.

There were the blind, the deaf, the emotional distressed, the physically handicapped. All of who did not measure up to the standards set by the religious leaders to be worthy of God.

There were the outcasts of the society because they were not married. There were those who were not pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough to be considered worthy of the great institution care and or concern for their welfare.

Yes, God forbid, there were homosexuals and those who expressed sexuality in ways that no person in their “right” mind would tolerate much less include as a part of the proclaimed good of society.

So is not the LGBTQ community part of this audience today? Is the audience of Jesus’ words really all that different today? I think not!

Are we not a people who are affected by a disease that is in reality little understood, is contagious and thought to be of our own doing a curse by God? Before you object remember there are people in our own community who say AIDS is about our lack of sexual responsibility and promiscuity and therefore we reap what we sow.

Are we not a people who prostitute ourselves to eat and have shelter? Are we not a people who look for the rich, the famous, and the influential to feel good about ourselves? After all we can prostitute ourselves in so many ways aside from sexual encounters.

Are we not accused of not contributing to society through the act procreation? Yet at the same time accused of gathering and influencing children to our side on one hand and on the other hand denied the ability to give a child a home that is safe and loving?

Are we not a people who are poor? We can’t afford or get health insurance for our partners. We can’t protect our property and pass on to our loved one without a fight and at the cost of huge amounts of money that no other married couple is expect to expend?

Are we not blind both spiritually and physically to the world around us? Are we not told we are blind for not seeing the only right relationship with God is to follow the traditional teachings and beliefs?

Do broken relationships, unacceptable relationships, broken families, and un-acceptable families distress us not emotional?

Are we not outcasts because our relationships do not meet the standard definition of “marriage” and therefore are denied the benefits afforded to those who meet that definition?

Is not our love for each other defined as a perversion and sick?

Are we not a people who within the scope of our sexual practices scorned each and everyday by those who are “holy then thou” who say things like: “all they show on TV are the bad parts of the community, the drag queens, the leather people, the dykes with their exposed breasts, and all those strange people with wild hair color and body piercing and tattoos.”

Yes, it is you and I, sitting on the hillside and listening to the words of Jesus. We are the “who”!

Jesus is speaking to each and every one of us.

Jesus is in fact telling all those people (us), that we are the salt of the earth; we are the light of the world! We are right there for all to see. We are all there to experience a new day a new message.

Salt is a common commodity today and it is relatively inexpensive.

Yet at the time of Jesus it was very costly. In Rome a main road is named “via salaria” or the way of the salt. That name is said to have dated from ancient times when Roman solider could have been paid with salt.

Salt in those times and having access to it was the difference between life and death. Salt was preservative, it kept food from spoiling. It added flavor and zest to that which otherwise was ordinary. Salt gave its recipient character and integrity. Salt was not potential but rather reality.

When Jesus called those persons on the hillside that day “the salt of the Earth” he paid them a high compliment.

Jesus pays us today this same high compliment. We are a people who add a spice and a zest to life. By virtue of what and who we are then are preservative of life, that which gives flavor and zest to that which is otherwise ordinary.

Salt by its very nature gives to rather than extracts from. We as gay, lesbian, BI and transgender people actually give to our society rather than take from.

In being ourselves we give and contribute to the beauty of creation rather than take from. Just as salt adds and enhances everything that it touches, so do we.

We have added the beauty of incredible art, expressions of love, expressions of emotion not found anywhere else in our society. We add zest and flavor to life itself. We have even taught the world to die with dignity and grace.

Salt becomes apart of everything that it touches. Despite what some would have you believe… we are everywhere, and we are apart of everything.

We have touched, influenced, and participated in every part of creation. We are part of the fabric of culture and society. Written laws, massive beatings, or even killings cannot extract us. We are part the DNA of creation.

No biblical interpretation will cause us to go out of existence and I really think this is what gets under the religious zealots skin; they know we are here to stay.

Since we have penetrated life itself, our world is having new discussions around sexuality and what it means.

Our world is discovering new ways of looking at relationships, how the roles of men and women in relating to each other are important. How roles within a relationship can be redefined to include and meet the needs of both partners.

Because we have penetrated the world in which we live, there are new ways of defining modes of dress, architecture, honesty and integrity. Oh, yes, friends, we are giving to the world in which we live, not taking from it.

We are the “light of the world!” Jesus tells us to not hide who and what we are, rather let it shine so that all may see.

In other words we are not to be ashamed of who and what and hide under a basket fearful of discovery. Rather stand, as a bright light so that our world may see clearly that God created diversity, differences, and tolerance of this diversity and differences will bring about wholeness rather than brokenness.

Salt penetrates and preserves. Light brings sight and penetrates that which is dark.

We are those on that hillside.

The religious zealots should take note: “We are the salt of the earth”, we are the light of the world.” Nothing you do will change this.

In fact the more you try to remove us, the harder you try to get rid of us the brighter our light will shine and the more zest and spice we will add to this world.

An independent, affirming and progressive church serving metro Atlanta. We are open, positive and inclusive.