BZN NDO 2NITE!

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Be at the City Hall hearing room by 5:30pm to show your support! Here’s my testimony:

 

I am a native Montanan (4th generation).

I am an ordained priest with 3 degrees in theology and scripture.

I am a licensed Mental Health Counselor.

I am also a gay man, and Bozeman is my home.

Despite the prejudice and discrimination I have experienced in Bozeman, I choose to live here. Despite the stories and concerns I hear from parishioners and counseling clients who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender- I choose to live here. Why? Mostly, because I am now an adult, and I am supported and loved by my family, friends, neighbors and my church.

And I want to ensure that no kid repeats my Montana childhood here. Not anymore.

As a 15 year-old, I attempted suicide because my church and my community called me “disordered”, “unnatural” and a “pervert”. Not to my face- but they didn’t have to. The climate of my community and church and school – where there were no protections against discrimination- did it for them.

I think we forget how sensitive kids are.

But if nothing else happens tonight- I want you to remember just how sensitive kids are.

Thankfully, my suicide attempt failed, but every time I see the obituary of a teenager, I wonder, “Did sexuality have anything to do with this? My God, did a church have a part in this”?

I’m reminded of this verse from Matthew (18.6): “Whoever causes one of these little ones to lose faith in me, it would be better for them to have a great millstone hung around their neck and drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Well, the behavior of discriminatory churches is causing a lot of these little ones to lose their faith.

I know. I’m one of the ones they call, in tears and pain, wondering how they can be a Christian if God hates them so much. They wonder what they did.

They did nothing.

And I always tell them God loves them very much- even if God’s people don’t seem to.

Sexuality is NOT a choice. It is a fact. Gender is NOT a choice. It is a fact.

We have to trust the experience of others to help us to see them clearly.

WE HAVE TO.

That’s what civil societies do. We encourage people to tell the truth about themselves- because it sets them free- and maybe the rest of us as well.

This ordinance provides Bozeman with a chance to speak loudly in favor of truth.

Allowing even the perceived sexuality or gender of a child- or an adult- to be the cause of bullying, pain- or even suicide is inexcusable.

It still happens. Right here. There are too many examples to list in the available time.

If any of you would like to speak to me about it, I am available.

Please pass this ordinance.

 

Thank you.

WELCOMING ME HOME

It was my pleasure to sit behind retired Methodist Pastor, Lyle Hamilton in the basement of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena, Montana for an All Church Conference to discuss a proposed Reconciling Congregation statement.  The Conference Superintendent led the meeting and asked the fifty or so assembled to speak what was on their heart.  And a few did.

UMC Logo

UMC Logo (Photo credit: RoyJr)

The meeting, however, was anti-climatic.  Their was a strong sense that the statement of inclusion and affirmation of groups of people who have formerly felt shunned and excluded was merely a reflection of the already imbedded character of St. Paul’s anyway.  In fact, a few people described how they had heard comments over the previous year of meetings, discussion and classes leading up to this moment to the effect of “duh-uh!  Don’t we have that already?”

Yet, there was also a sense of importance, of critical mass, of mission, purpose and rightness of call.  My friends, John and Vicky Wieda, had painstakingly spearheaded the effort in that vain with deliberateness.  So yes, when it came time to reach consensus as a congregation there was little to detract from an outcome which seemed certain.  St. Paul’s would become a Reconciling Congregation.

So, why do it?  I mean, why all the fuss if St Paul’s, with its open minds, hearts and doors, has already established inclusiveness as part of its character?  Isn’t it really much ado about nothing?

Pastor Lyle gives a clue about the answer in this post on his Facebook page:

Late yesterday afternoon, at an all church conference, St. Paul’s UMC in Helena officially became a Reconciling Ministries Congregation by a consensus vote. We have now publically declared ourselves to, in fact, be what the community of Helena and most of our congregation has long felt is both our calling and our reality: “All truly means all,” and everyone has a place in this community of faith.

Our incarnated statement, that is imbedded in our soul, is as follows: “St. Paul’s United Methodist Church welcomes all people of any age, gender, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, or disability into the full life and membership of this congregation.”

May God bless us, every one . . . as we move forward with grace and compassion toward all!

The oft repeated statement over the months of examining this issue that “All truly means all,”which, as Lyle says, is “imbedded in our soul,” is not just a statement.  It is in many ways transcendent, like a lighthouse beacon shining through the storms and rough seas of understanding and reconciliation between who we are and what we believe, between what we believe and the world around us, between the world around us and the one within where Jesus calls with open arms and his profound and unconditional offer of love.

To proclaim that “All are welcome here,” and mean it,  is to shine the light of Jesus’s love through all the violence and hateful rhetoric in the world around us for those, like me, who else would have no place to go for the communal understanding, practice and experience of that love.  I would have no congregation, no church.  For some, perhaps, it is possible to live as a Christian without church.  For me, from the day I walked into St. Paul’s almost seven years ago in my first week of gender transition on “Welcome Home Sunday” to this moment,  it is not.

Christianity is a communal practice.  God speaks to me in many ways, some far, far away from books and buildings.  But God also speaks to me through other people – through you.  And I can find few better places to hear God speak and feel God’s presence than in the company of other Christian believers – through congregation and communal worship.  Thus, as a Christian transwoman, it is vital for me to have a Christian community to call home.

Last night I was reminded, as I spoke what was on my heart, of the day I became a member of St. Paul’s.  It was my birthday and the whole congregation sang Happy Birthday.  I stood there, dumbfounded, with a tear in my eye and my flesh all goosey.  I knew then, as publicly affirmed by this Reconciling Statement that I have my congregation and my church.  Thank you St. Paul’s for welcoming me home.

Fair Is Fair

This past weekend was important to me for a number of reasons.

47985_10200301350709797_307221521_nI got to meet and spend some quality time with one of my heroes, Bishop Gene Robinson. (story/interview to follow)

But I also got to meet and spend some quality time with dedicated Montana people who care about equality in our state. Some became even more strongly convinced after watching “Diversity Day” and “Love Free Or Die” presented in local churches.

Even I- a committed partner of the ACLU and the Fair Is Fair Campaign- became inspired after hearing Bishop Robinson speak about the need for Christian compassion and understanding in the face of fear and unintentional ignorance about LGBTIQ persons.

“Our job is to make this an issue of compassion and justice, not theology”, Bishop Robinson said. “We have to make the issue of fairness one that brings a face to mind whenever we talk about equality. This is about people.”

But being inspired is only as good as the actions it produces.

I want to encourage you to bolster the ACLU’s Fair Is Fair campaign by taking your inspiration and desire for justice and take action- by becoming a member.

My family belongs because we believe in the work of the ACLU. We believe it is important to support a coalition of organizations to bring full equality to all Montanans- but that only works if we all come together. The Montana ACLU is helping to make that happen, and I’m proud to be a supporting member.

I hope you’ll join us.

~Greg

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Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Reprinted from Bilerico.com

By Bil Browning

As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores dunning shoppers for donations. If you care about gay rights, you’ll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn’t actively discriminate against the LGBT community.

The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you’re helping the hungry and homeless by Thumbnail image for Why you shouldn't give to the Salvation Armydropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations. Many LGBT people are rejected by the evangelical church charity because they’re “sexually impure.”

The church claims it holds “a positive view of human sexuality,” but then clarifies that “sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage.” The Salvation Army doesn’t believe that gays and lesbians should ever know the intimacy of any loving relationship, instead teaching that “Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.”

On its webpage, the group claims that “the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation.” While the words are nice, their actions speak volumes. They blatantly ignore the position statement and deny LGBT people services unless they renounce their sexuality, end same-sex relationships, or, in some cases, attend services “open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline.” In other words, if you’re gay or lesbian, you don’t qualify.

The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for anti-gay policies – including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal. (Yes, you’re paying lobbyists with those donations.)

After the break are some highlights from the evangelical Christian charity’s recent anti-gay political lobbying, a handy video with more information, and a list of charities who don’t discriminate against their clients and employees.

Click here to read the rest at Bilerico.com

Matthew Vines: Reforming The Gay Christian Debate

By Kathy Baldock, Courtesy of LGBTQ Nation

“What does the Bible say about loving, same-sex relationships?”

Nothing. Not a thing.

And in that absence of Biblical direction of support for or condemnation of these relationships, Christians need to follow the general principles of the Bible: love, justice and kindness.

This was the point Matthew Vines wanted to emphasize at his recent presentation at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan.

Matthew’s story is intriguing; he began to understand and accept that he was gay while in his first semesters at Harvard. The Wichita native knew, that by accepting his sexual orientation, he was risking his long time status in the Presbyterian church in which he had been raised, as well as relationships with family and friends.

“You realize how alone you might be when you come out,” recalled Matthew. He resolved to take a leave of absence from Harvard to embark on a scholarly study of the subject of homosexuality in the Bible.

What most people see and know of Matthew is his excellent 67-minute video, “The Gay Debate.” The presentation in itself is quite remarkable; the young man is even more impressive.

Read the rest here.

Anne Rice Reviews “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage”

One of the most contentious issues of our time, marriage has been “claimed” by Christians (and others) as an unchanging “institution”, “sacrament”, “contract”, etc. This is far from historically accurate. Author and- I would argue- theologian Anne Rice weighs in with a recommendation from her Facebook page yesterday:

The nation’s talking about marriage, Same Sex Marriage, definitions of marriage, who owns marriage, etc. Well, here is a link to an excellent History of Marriage written by Stephanie Coontz that I reviewed for Amazon a while back. I recommend this book to all who have strong feelings about the institution of marriage and how it has been viewed over the millennia. Comments welcome. (I’ve linked to my review, but there are a lot of others posted on the site).

From the book description: Marriage has never been more fragile. But the same things that have made it so have also made a good marriage more fulfilling than ever before. In this enlightening and hugely entertaining book, historian and marriage expert Stephanie Coontz takes readers from the marital intrigues of ancient Babylon to the sexual torments of Victorian couples to demonstrate how recent the idea of marrying for love is-and how absurd it would have seemed to most of our ancestors. It was only 200 years ago that marriage began to be about love and emotional commitment, and since then the very things that have strengthened marriage as a personal relationship have steadily weakened it as a social institution. Marriage, A History brings intelligence, wit, and some badly needed perspective to today’s marital debates and dilemmas.

Her Review: This is an extremely well researched investigation of the institution of marriage from earliest times to the present. It may prove shocking to some readers to discover how recent our concept of “traditional marriage” may be. But information such as this book provides is essential for those concerned about marital values. History provides us with immensely important lessons regarding the attitudes and feelings of human beings over the centuries; and we must not shrink from the observations made here as we seek to understand the social and economic and even religious crises of our times. The scope of the book is incredibly ambitious yet it is clearly and at times entertainingly written, and always inviting. It can point the way for further research in many areas. On all counts, a fine and important book.

Agreed. To have this information in one place is important- and the scholarship is undeniable. Click book to see more reviews on Amazon and get a sample of the book.

“Ex-Gay” Reparative Therapy Thoroughly Debunked

From The Maddow Blog:

We have gotten some nice feedback about Wednesday’s segment (after the jump) on the ex-gay movement and Dr. Robert Spitzer’s controversial 2001 study asserting that reparative therapy can change some gay people to being straight. Dr. Spitzer is now on the record as saying he wishes he had never published the study in the first place. Our segment was inspired by Gabriel Arana’s piece in The American Prospect called “My So-Called Ex-Gay Life.” Arana first broke the news about Dr. Spitzer’s desire to retract his study. If you haven’t read his piece yet, you should. It’s great. He also talked with Rachel on Wednesday about the study and about his own experience in reparative therapy.

After the show, the American Psychoanalytic Association sent this e-mail:

This issue deserves coverage in the news as long as individuals and the “ex-gay movement” use faulty science and bias to advance their agenda. APsaA states in its 1999 position statement on reparative therapy that efforts to “convert” or “repair” an individual’s sexual orientation are against the fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized homophobic attitudes. We emphasize that anti-homosexual bias, just like any other societal prejudice, negatively affects mental health and contributes to feelings of stigma and low self-worth. Reparative therapy is nothing more than quackery fueled by bias.

Keep an eye out for a followup to Wednesday’s segment. We’re working on another story about Dr. Spitzer’s study and how it’s being used currently — even though Dr. Spitzer wishes he’d never published it — to further anti-gay causes.

Full post and video here.