LGBTIQA In Montana- What’s It Like?

The Human Rights Campaign wants to know- and I want Montana to be clearly and substantially represented. It took me 10 minutes. And you don’t have to be from Montana to take it- it’s nationwide.

Take the survey HERE.

Or here:

http://lgbtexperiences.cloudssi.com/cgi-bin/ciwweb.pl?studyname=HRC_MEMBERSHIP_LGBT_POLL&ID&hid_pagenum=1&hid_link=1&hid_javascript=1

HRC

Dare We Hope?

My sermon to the UUFB today:

There are a lot of words we use every day,
that we don’t really pause to consider.
“Hope” is one of those words.

What do you think of when you hear the word “Hope”?

For most of us, “hope” will conjure up images of fantastical satisfaction and happiness- or maybe the iconic images of a certain presidential campaign.

Maybe almost trite images.

And yet, there’s an allure to the word “Hope”

In that presidential campaign, the opponents made fun of the word, made light of it- and I would submit- that may be why they lost.
They underestimate the human gift of optimism.
And I do think it’s a gift.

It’s very easy to look around and see the evidence of malignancy and evil around us- and far away from us- thanks to the miracle of instantaneous global communication. It’s not hard to find stories of death and destruction, exploitation and pain, suffering and greed, disease and addiction.

It’s not hard at all.
In fact, it’s so easy that our society suffers from all sorts of ills because of it- depression being ubiquitous in this day and age.

I think hope and optimism have a bad rap. It’s easy to make fun of the word “hope”. Realists say that it’s fantasy.

I think it’s completely and perfectly human.

Take Winter. It’s no accident that the early Christians of the Northern Hemisphere chose the solstice for the celebration of the Savior’s birth.

The Advent wreath, the greenery, the Christmas tree- none of them originated with Christianity. Some maintain that Germanic tribes placed candles in a sacred circle of greens to symbolize hope in the return of the sun and the promise of Spring. We know Scandinavian people placed candles on a wheel to honor the cycle of the seasons. We know that midwinter- again in the Northern Hemisphere- is around December 21- when days are at their shortest and night is at its longest.

I can imagine that for primitive people whose lives depended on the return of warmth it was good to remind themselves that winter won’t last forever. And I can imagine that it was very hard centuries ago- without antibiotics and polar fleece and refrigerators and Costco- in a harsh climate when those who were weak would often die- I can imagine that some would find it hard to believe that the winter would ever end- especially during the time that night became longer and longer and colder and colder.

But those who knew- those who had lived through the winters before- they were the strength of those who weren’t so sure.
They held out hope.

They knew that in the midst of the longest night- it was important to tell stories of the approaching spring. To hold out hope- to remember optimism when it was at its most elusive.

As always, our lives our shaped by those who have gone before us.

Hope is in our genes- if we care to think about it.

The basic instinct of survival is a mechanism of hope, isn’t it?

Even the limbic system that shuts down our reason in the face of danger and makes us flee, fight or freeze to enable our survival- even that is a sign of hope. It’s in our biology.

That’s probably why the pessimists never win in the long term. Hope isn’t just a trite term for people who can’t handle reality. It’s an attitude for living.

I like to tell my clients that the only difference between excitement and fear is the projected outcome.

The energy is the same- it’s just the projected outcome that’s different. And that projected outcome starts with us.

In our minds, in our hearts, in the way we choose to interpret the world around us. Excitement and curiosity- or fear and dread? It’s our choice- at least more than we think.

One of my favorite stories is this one:

Two boys who were twins, one an incurable optimist, one a pessimist.
The parents were worried about the extremes of behavior and attitude and finally took the boys in to see a psychologist.

The psychologist observed them a while and then said that they could be easily helped. He felt they just needed to adjust to the world by encountering things that would counteract their strong tendencies of optimism and pessimism.

He said that they had a room filled with all the toys a boy could want. They would put the pessimist in that room and allow him to enjoy life.

They also had another room that they filled with horse manure. They put the optimist in that room. They observed both boys through one way mirrors.

The pessimist continued to be a pessimist, stating that he had no one to play with.

They went to look in on the optimist, and were astounded to find him digging through the manure.

The psychologist ran into the room and asked “What on earth are you doing?”

The boy replied “With all this manure, there HAS to be a pony in here somewhere!”

I love that story.

But I know that sometimes i’m not looking though the manure for the pony. Sometimes I’m just sitting in the manure, disgusted. Because, well, you know, it’s manure.

That’s when I forget myself. It’s when I forget my biology.

It’s when I forget that the energy I feel in my body is often harnessed by the projected outcome I hold.

So, yeah, I can sit in the manure, or I can haul the manure back to the garden where it’ll do some good.

My choice.

Our ancestors have chosen to celebrate the return of the light for millennia- it’s why the early Christians chose the bleak midwinter- to link the returning light to the birth of Jesus. Smart, eh?

They’ve chosen to believe that the dawn follows the darkness, that life will continue.

And so do we.

I’m betting that it’s why you’re here today.

And I’m also betting that you’re interested in learning to become skillful at living life with hope.

I believe that the first step in living a more skillful life
is to become more aware of living an UNskilled life.
And by that, I mean living by habit-
not with awareness, not with wonder, not with hope-
but by automatic pilot- habit. By numbing perhaps- or lying to ourselves.

It’s ultimately unsatisfying.
Habits are things we do without thinking. That’s very unskillful.

Skill means bringing awareness and creativity, attention and intention into our endeavors.

I think it’s only by paying close attention that we live skillfully in this world.
And by paying attention to the possibilities is the way we live hopefully in this world.

During his days as president, Thomas Jefferson and a group of companions were traveling across the country on horseback.

They came to a river which had left its banks because of a recent downpour.

The swollen river had washed the bridge away.

Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting for his life against the rapid currents.

The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused a traveler who was not part of their group to step aside and watch.

After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river.

The president agreed without hesitation.

The man climbed on, and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other side.

As the stranger slid off the back of the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group asked him, “Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this favor of?”

The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the president who had helped him.

“All I know,” he said, “Is that as I thought of asking the question, on some of your faces was written the answer ‘No,’ and on some of them was the answer ‘Yes.’

His was a ‘Yes’ face.”
(C. Swindoll, The Grace Awakening, Word, 1990, p. 6.)

That, my friends, is the face of hope.

So, dare we hope?

If biology and the human spiritual history of millennia have anything to say about it, we dare not.

On Greg, Bozeman, and Hugs

 

Last night, I had the honor of hearing D Gregory Smith tell his story — from childhood to Catholic priest to former priest/out gay man/counselor/so much more — to a gathering at St. James Episcopal Church as part of the church’s faith formation classes on sexuality and spirituality.

 

While I have been following Greg’s blog for a while, it wasn’t until I moved to Bozeman a couple of months ago that I met him in person. I knew bits and pieces of his story — the parts I had read on this blog — and I knew he was involved in LGBTQI causes here in Montana. But, you never know what a person is really like away from the keyboard.

 

I wasn’t disappointed.

 

I first met Greg in the AIDS Outreach office in downtown Bozeman. By the time I left half an hour later, I was not only a big fan of his, but he offered me a chance to contribute to this blog.  And, I got a hug.

 

The next time I ran into him, he was leading worship at Living Waters United Methodist Church in Belgrade. I left that morning after hearing a great message and with another hug.

 

Last week, I saw Greg at the first session of the faith formation classes, where we heard Bishop Brookhart talk about his research on the issue of sexual orientation and the Bible. Yep, got another hug.

 

Last night, though, I learned so much more about Greg. I learned he is relatable, humble, giving, empathetic, caring and open. He is a deep thinker whose incredible life experiences have shaped him into a person of substance. If you know Greg personally, I’m not telling you anything new. But if you follow this blog without having met him — the way I used to — know that he knows of what he writes.

 

I wasn’t expecting my first post on this blog to be along the lines of “An Ode to Greg,” but his story gave me a lot to think about after I left. Maybe it’s because we are the same age and have lived completely different and often complicated lives only to end up in the same place.

 

I hope to contribute more as I navigate my new “out” life here in this beautiful city. I am excited to be part of the Bozeman/Montana LGBTQI community and to live in a city that is (mostly) accepting.

 

Mostly, I’m excited that I’m four for four on hugs.

 

 

 

BIBLICAL OBEDIENCE

I had the opportunity to join the United Methodist Yellowstone Annual Conference in Billings, MT this past weekend. It was a little bit of a retreat for me, with a room full of clergy and wonderful people whom I have grown to love since becoming a member of ST Paul’s, UMC in Helena a few years ago. We sang songs at morning services and even danced a bit. And, I sold a few books.

I learned a new phrase too, “biblical obedience.” When I first heard it, that same old fear came creeping up the back of my neck, and I wondered if I really wanted to be there. I immediately thought of all the evangelical Christians who would condemn me to hell for their literal reading of certain selected passages of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. As I sat amongst the members of the Reconciling Ministries Committee, I stifled the urge to fight or run. I knew they did not accept a literal reading of scripture that conflicted with Jesus’ command to love one another. I listened instead.
As I sat in a meeting of predominantly clergy members, I began to understand that it was they who would assert “biblical obedience,” and Jesus’ command was exactly what they were referring to. They would obey this command, rather than the Methodist Book of Discipline, which states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” ¶ 304.3. In fact, many of the Conference’s retired pastors have publicly resolved to perform same sex unions.
One Pastor, my friend, Lyle Hamilton, has written a poem echoing this sentiment called When Persons Reach out Heart to Heart. It concludes:

They honor truly who they are
As ones marked by God’s grace;
Deep love looks though the lover’s eyes,
and looking back – God’s face.

Not only is this kind of “biblical obedience” new to me¸ it is, in one form or another, a common theme emerging amongst many Christian denominations. As pastor Marianne wrote in Sunday’s bulletin, they “effectively ‘come out of the closet.’” They are Episcopalian (http://www.integrityusa.org/#), Catholic (http://www.fortunatefamilies.com/), Lutheran (http://www.reconcilingworks.org/#), etc. (see also, http://www.gaychurch.org/Find_a_Church/find_a_church.htm).
I guess we are changing the world!

Interchange- A Festival Of Color

6cafa7f65ae286b6d782da379ac5af04Mark your calendars- because June is going to be a kick-ass month for Montanans into celebrating diversity and human rights!

Interchange is a festival conceived and created by the team who brought you Montana Pride 2012 and I’m proud to be a part of it. The lead on this is Tate Chamberlin- check out his video- it’s powerful:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/interchange-a-festival-of-color

When I was 15, I attempted suicide- a symptom, a statistic- of a social injustice. But I survived oppression with the hope of love. As we stand together and fight for equal rights, we look to one another for strength, support and power in numbers. Now as the tide turns our way, there is no turning back the power of history. With love and tears for all those who have suffered before us just wanting to be treated equal.

Listen closely. You are not sick, you are not a criminal. You are human, you are loved. You are not lambs- you are lions. It’s time to solve this. No more apologizing, no more hiding between pride and shame. We have to change us.

So Yeah. This is me. Might be you.
No more hiding- No more fear.
This is me.
I tried to kill it. I tried to hide it.
I’m not alone.
This is me. This is you.
This is us.
It’s time to get social.

Please share this.

-Tate Chamberlin

Catholics Participate in Prayer Service and Demonstration at Supreme Court

New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court:  Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

New Ways Ministry staff at the marriage equality demonstration outside the Supreme Court: Sister Jeannine Gramick, Bob Shine, Francis DeBernardo.

From New Ways Ministry Blog:

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two marriage equality cases.   The historic day began with an interfaith prayer service at the Church of the Reformation, a Lutheran congregation just behind the Supreme Court building.

The service, entitlted “A Prayer for Love and Justice,” featured prayers and rituals from a wide variety of faith traditions–Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, Native American–were all represented as part of the service.  Catholics were represented by Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and Rev. Joseph Palacios, who ministers at Dignity/Washington.   The event was organized by the United for Marriage coalition.

Following the prayer service, participants processed to the Supreme Court building and joined the demonstration of thousands of people there who support marriage equality.  Among those in the crowd were Jackie and Buzz Baetz, a Catholic couple from Monkton, Maryland, who displayed a sign showing Catholic support for marriage equality.

New Ways Ministry staff also participated in the demonstration outside the court building.

 

 

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Wyoming Domestic Partnership Bill Passes Out Of Committee

Wyoming legislators have kiboshed marriage equality (for now), but The Equality State seems to be more down with separate but equal. From The Casper Star-Tribune:

Reverse of 2007 Wyoming quarter -- "The E...

Reverse of 2007 Wyoming quarter — “The Equality State” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A bill that would allow same-sex couples in Wyoming to create domestic partnerships carrying most of the legal rights of conventional marriage cleared a state House committee vote Monday after a sometimes contentious, sometimes bizarre public debate.

The move sends legislation on to a full floor debate in the state Legislature for the first time.

“This is a forward step,” said Rep. Cathy Connolly, a Laramie Democrat and a lesbian. “It’s important that our relationships are recognized. These are the kinds of statutes that both protect us and recognize us.”

Wyoming Equality weighs in:

Today, a historic law that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families passed its first hurdle in the Wyoming House of Representatives by a 7-2 vote. House Bill (HB) 168 would create a domestic partnership registry for opposite-sex and same-sex couples in committed relationships. HB169, which would have granted same-sex couples the freedom to marry, failed by a 5-4 vote.

The law, which was authored by Representative Cathy Connolly, would provide essential protections to LGBT families. The Domestic Partnerships Rights and Responsibilities Act (HB168) would ensure that both opposite-sex and same-sex couples have basic legal protections, such as the ability to make emergency medical decisions for each other and to make joint decisions about their children’s health and wellbeing.

“This is a historic day for equality,” said Jeran Artery, the Chair of Wyoming Equality. “Today marks the first time a bill has moved forward in the Wyoming legislature which would provide essential protections for LGBT families.

Irish Priest Stands Up To the Vatican

 

From New Ways Ministry Blog:

 

Fr Tony Flannery

Fr Tony Flannery

Three days ago, we reported the case of Fr. Tony Flannery, a priest in Ireland who said he will refuse to be silenced by the Vatican on a variety of issues in the Church, including homosexuality.  We applauded his spirit of courage and fortitude.

Since then,  Fr. Flannery has held a press conference, published an op-ed in The Irish Times, and has received support from his Redemptorist community and from Irish and Austrian priests.

An Irish Times news story of the press conference reported the scope of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) investiagation of the priest:

“Fr. Flannery told a press conference in Dublin yesterday he had been threatened with excommunication by the CDF for refusing to recant his more liberal views on church teachings concerning women priests, contraception and homosexuality.”

According to the BBC.comat the press conference, Fr. Flannery stated that signing the loyalty pledge that the Vatican has asked for would violate his conscience:

” ‘It would mean that I was saying that I accept the teaching on contraception, which I have been on record for a long time saying that I thought Humanae Vitae (official Catholic teaching on procreation) was a big mistake,’ Fr Flannery told the media.

“He claimed that accepting the pledge would also mean that he ‘fully accepted all the teaching on homosexuality’ including the church’s use of what he called ‘some of the awfully unfortunate phrases – like disordered state and intrinsic evil.’ “

press release from Fr. Flannery’s press conference contained this reflection from the priest:

“The choice facing him, he stated at a press briefing today, Sunday 20th January, was between deciding between Rome and his conscience.

“ ‘I must also question if the threats are a means, not just of terrifying me into submission, but of sending a message to any other priest expressing views at variance with those of the Roman Curia,’ he added. ‘Submitting to these threats would be a betrayal of my ministry, my fellow priests and the Catholic people who want change.’

“Fr. Flannery said that because he believes he is being subjected to unfair treatment, he has taken legal advice under Canon and Civil law to help him defend his rights as a member of the Church and as an Irish citizen.”

In the op-ed in The Irish TimesFr. Flannery gives a summary of the development of his ministry, the need for discussion in the church, the difficult proceedings with the Vatican, and concludes with a statement of resolve:

“There are people who will say I should leave the Catholic Church and join another Christian church – one more suitable to my stance. Being a Catholic is central to my personal identity. I have tried to preach the gospel. No matter what sanctions the Vatican imposes on me I will continue, in whatever way I can, to try to bring about reform in the church and to make it again a place where all who want to follow Christ will be welcome. He made friends with the outcasts of society, and I will do whatever I can in my own small way to oppose the current Vatican trend of creating a church of condemnation rather than one of compassion.”

A 66-year old member of the Redemptorist community, Fr. Flannery received strong support in a statement from his brothers in faith.  The BBC report noted:

“In a statement, the Irish Redemptorist order said it was ‘deeply saddened by the breakdown in communication’ between its priest and the CDF.

“It described Fr. Flannery as ‘highly regarded and respected by many in Ireland’ and added that there was a ‘very lively spirit of debate and dialogue’ within the order.

“The statement said that although it did not accept the priest’s views on all matters, it understood and supported his efforts to listen to and articulate the views of people he met during the course of his ministry.

” ‘It is of immense regret that some structures or processes of dialogue have not yet been found in the Church which have a greater capacity to engage with challenging voices from among God’s people, while respecting the key responsibility and central role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,’ the statement said.”

Priestly support came, too, from the members of the Association of Catholic Priests, an Irish organization that Fr. Flannery helped to found.  The Association’s statement, in part, read:

“The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) affirms in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Tony Flannery as he strives to clear his name and we wish to protest against unjust treatment he has received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ACP supports Fr. Flannery in his efforts to resist the undermining of his integrity as an individual, a priest and a member of the Redemptorist Order.

“The effort to depict him as ‘disloyal’ and ‘dissident’ is unwarranted and unfair, but also extremely ill-advised in the present pastoral context in Ireland.

“The ACP is disturbed by the procedures evident in this case: the unwillingness to deal directly with the accused person; the injunction to secrecy; the presumption of guilt; the lack of due process. They suggest a callousness and even brutality that is in sharp contrast to the compassion of Jesus Christ.”

And he has even received support from Austrian priests who are working towards the same goals as he.  The Irish Times reported:

“Also at yesterday’s press conference was Fr. Helmut Schuller of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative. He was ‘very surprised they [CDF] came down on Tony and on Ireland.’ He criticised the ‘lack of basic rights and respect for personal conscience’ in the church.”

We continue to praise Fr. Flannery and to pray that his example will inspire other priests and other Catholics to follow their consciences as forthrightly as he has.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Better Know a Legislator: Sen. Robyn Driscoll and Sen. Janna Taylor

In today’s edition of Better Know a Legislator we’ll look at the records of two women who served 8 years in the House, and are now serving their first session in the Senate: Sen. Robyn Driscoll (D-Billings) and Sen. Janna Taylor (R-Dayton).

Sen. Robyn Driscoll, SD 26

Sen. Robyn DriscollSen. Robyn Driscoll is one of the unsung heroes of the Montana legislature. A strong and steady leader, Robyn says what Montana progressives are thinking and she never backs down in the face of opposition from the right. These strengths as well as her positive demeanor are why her colleagues in the Senate elected her as one of their whips for the session.

Sen. Driscoll was one of the true hero’s of the infamously bad 2011 House Judiciary Committee. In that committee women and students were constantly demonized, but Robyn never let the horrible comments of legislators and the right-wing public go unchallenged.

Robyn also was a hero on the House floor. One of her most notable actions on the floor was introducing an amendment to a Republican bill that would require trans-vaginal ultrasounds before a woman could have an abortion. Her amendment would require that men undergo an EKG heart health test before they are able to get a prescription for Viagra or other drugs to combat erectile dysfunction. Needless to say Republican heads spun. This amendment was effective in pointing out the insanity of the bill and helped to kill it on the House floor.

This session, Robyn will serve on the Senate Juciary, Rules, Energy & Telecom, and Education & Cultural Resources Committees.

Sen. Janna Taylor, SD 6

Sen Janna TaylorLike Sen. Driscoll, Sen. Janna Taylor is also serving her first session in the Senate. While in the House, Taylor served as the Speaker Pro-Temp in the disastrous 2011 legislative session.

During the 2011 session, Taylor’s hypocrisy was on full display. She led the charge against federal funds that were intended to help fund programs to benefit students, people with disabilities, seniors, rural health care providers and low-income Montanans. However, while leading this charge, she and her husband helped themselves to more than a million dollars in federal farm subsidies. When challenged about her hypocrisy, instead of taking responsibility for her actions she said, “I can control state tax dollars, but I can’t control federal tax dollars. You’d have to talk to Tester and Baucus about federal tax policy.” Congratulations Janna, for living up to your party’s mantra of “taking responsibility for your actions.”

Taylor also received national notoriety for her comments against the abolition of the death penalty. While testifying against the bill, Taylor said that we had to keep the death penalty because if we got rid of it, we’d have no way to punish HIV-positive murderers, who are currently in jail serving a life-sentence, who spit spit-balls at guards. I’m not joking.