Tag Archives: United States

U.S. Presbyterian Church at crossroads over gay marriage | Reuters

Midwestern minister Greg Smith is considering an act of ecclesiastical disobedience.

Deeply sympathetic to gay rights since his son, Matty, came out as gay a decade ago, the lifelong Presbyterian told his son he will officiate at his wedding, defying church policy.

“I believe that we’re doing more harm than good prolonging the inevitable,” said Smith, who at 64 is retired but still ministers in Des Moines, Iowa.

“On this issue, there is no mechanism for pastors to express conscientious objection without either defying church authority or demitting from one’s pastoral call. And that’s extremely stressful and distressing.”

Like many other denominations, the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.), the 10th largest U.S. religion according to the National Council of Churches, is in the grips of a crisis over gay marriage.

The 2.7-million-strong church has lost about 500,000 members over the last decade, and church leaders fear that an endorsement of same-sex marriage could spur an exodus of Christians who view it as incompatible with biblical teachings.

But failing to act could mean the church is viewed as irrelevant and homophobic by young and progressive members.

Earlier this month at its General Assembly, a gathering held every two years, church leaders rejected a constitutional change, by a vote of 338-308, that would have defined marriage as between two people, rather than a man and a woman.

Some have said the church was moving too fast. Just two years ago, the church agreed to open the ranks of its clergy to homosexuals, prompting dozens of congregations to split off to join more conservative denominations or to form their own.

“The Assembly was trying to hold together a broken church with both hands, trying to honor people on both ends of the spectrum who feel pain around the issues of marriage,” said Reverend Aimee Moiso, who led the assembly’s committee on marriage.

“But we did manage something miraculous: In a polarized church and nation, we spent several days trying to figure out a way to stay together across our divisions,” she said.

– more at Reuters.

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(American Lesbian) Pauli Murray bound for sainthood

The late Rev. Pauli Murray, a woman of many accomplishments – civil rights activist, feminist, author, lawyer and the first female African American Episcopal priest – will likely be named in the next few days to The Episcopal Church’s book, “Holy Women, Holy Men.”

Her nomination is up for a vote at the Anglican denomination’s general convention, meeting in Indianapolis through Thursday.

If it passes, Murray will have her own date on the Church calendar, July 1. Later this month, St. Titus’ Episcopal Church, where Murray worshipped, will hold its annual service in celebration of her work. She was born in 1910 and died in 1985. Murray’s impact goes beyond just her racial and gender barrier breaking in the church.

“Pauli Murray’s significance to The Episcopal Church is as a pioneer, as an advocate for racial reconciliation, an agent for social justice, racial and gender equality both in the church and society,” said Rev. Brooks Graebner, rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough and member of the steering committee of the Pauli Murray Project based at Duke.

“I would consider her a woman who in many ways anticipated major movements in the life of church and society,” Graebner said.

After being turned away from UNC Chapel Hill’s graduate school in 1938, Murray participated in civil rights protests in the early 1940s and graduated first in her class and the only woman from Howard Law School in 1944. In 1965, she was the first African American to receive a J.S.D. from Yale. A year later, she was a founding member of the National Organization for Women.

Among her law and other publications is the memoir “Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family,” regarded as her seminal work. In it, she talks about growing up multi-racial in Durham’s West End. She became a priest in 1977.

The Episcopal Church’s book of saints, “Holy Women, Holy Men,” is a major revision of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” a worship book that included biographies of those commemorated on the church calendar. In 2009, the last time The Episcopal Church General Convention was held, more than 100 women and men were named to the new book in trial usage. Murray is among a handful to be considered at this year’s convention.

Read more: The Herald-Sun 

(What is not stated in the Herald-Sun, but is clearly stated on Wikipedia, is that “She was a lesbian”).

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Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”

Jemima Wilkinson / Publick Universal Friend (Wikimedia Commons)

Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819) was a queer American preacher who woke from a near-death experience in 1776 believing she was neither male nor female. She changed her name to the “Publick Universal Friend,” fought for gender equality and founded an important religious community. This fascinating person died almost 200 years ago today on July 1, 1819.

Wilkinson is recognized as the first American-born woman to found a religious group, but is also called a “transgender evangelist.” The breakaway Quaker preacher spoke against slavery and gave medical care to both sides in the Revolutionary War.

It’s especially appropriate to consider the Publick Universal Friend now with Independence Day coming up on July 4. In 1776, the same year that America issued the Declaration of Independence, Wilkinson declared her own independence from gender.

– full report at Jesus in Love blog

Wilkinson was 24 when she had a severe fever leading to a near-death experience. Upon waking she confidently announced to her surprised family that Jemima Wilkinson had died and her body was now inhabited by a genderless “Spirit of Life from God” sent to preach to the world. She insisted on being called the Publick Universal Friend or simply “the Friend.” From then on, the Friend refused to respond to her birth name or use gendered pronouns.

The preacher and prophet known as “the Friend” defies categorization. The Friend has been labeled a “spiritual transvestite” and is on lists of “famous asexuals” and “a gender variance Who’s Who.” As a gender nonconformist whose life was devoted to God, the Friend fits the definition of a queer saint. The androgynous Friend was many things to many people.

Jemima Wilkinson was born to a Quaker family in Rhode Island on Nov. 29, 1752. She showed a strong interest in religion while growing up. On Oct. 13, 1776, the Sunday after her rebirth, the Friend’s gave a public sermon for the first time. Quaker officials rejected the Friend as a heretic, but s/he went on to preach throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

The Friend blended traditional Christian warnings about sin and redemption with Quaker pacifism, abolitionism, plain dress and peaceful relations with Native American Indians. Women had no legal rights in the United States, but the Friend advocated equality of the sexes. The Friend was a firm believer in sexual abstinence.

People were drawn not only to this progressive message, but also to the Friend’s forceful personality and genderbending appearance. S/he rejected standard women’s attire and hairdos for a unique blend of male and female. The Friend commonly wore a flowing black male clergy gown with female petticoats peeking out at the hem. The Friend’s long hair hung loose to the shoulder. The rest of the Friend’s outfit often included a man’s broad-brimmed hat and women’s colorful scarves.

The first recruits were family members, but the Friend soon attracted a diverse group of followers, including intellectual and economic elites as well as the poor and oppressed. Known as the Universal Friends, they upset some people by proclaiming that the Friend was “the Messiah Returned” or “Christ in Female Form.” The Friend did not make such claims directly.

The Friend founded the Society of Universal Friends in 1783. Members pooled their money and started a utopian communal settlement in the wilderness near Seneca Lake in upstate New York in 1788. As the first settlers in the region, they cleared the land and became the first white people to meet and trade with the Native Americans there. By 1790 the community had grown to a population of 260.

Hostile observers put the Friend on trial for blasphemy in 1800, but the court ruled that American courts could not try blasphemy cases due to the separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution. The Friend was a pioneer in establishing freedom of speech and freedom of religion in American law.

Like other isolated utopian communities based on celibacy, the Society of Universal Friends dwindled. The Friend “left time,” as the Universal Friends put it, on July 1, 1819 at age 61. The organization disintegrated within a few years of the founder’s death.

The Publick Universal Friend continues to fascinate people today. One of the most authoritative biographies of this mysterious person is Pioneer Prophetess: Jemima Wilkinson, the Publick Universal Friend by Herbert A. Wisbey Jr. In recent years the life and work of the Friend has been examined by feminists and LGBTQ scholars, including gay historian Michael Bronski in his new Lambda Literary Award-winning book, A Queer History of the United States.
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Related links:
Chapter on Jemima Wilkinson from “Saints, Sinners and Reformers” by John H. Martin(Crooked Lake Review)

The Assumption of Jemima Wilkinson by Sharon V. Betcher (Journal of Millenial Studies)
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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

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The Truth in Transgender: Will the Episcopal Church Amend Its Rules?

Out of the Box documentary challenges the church on transgender inclusion

Why Add the “T” to “LGB”?

As the Episcopal Church prepares for its 77th triennial General Convention in Indianapolis next month, transgender Episcopalians and their allies are preparing to challenge the denomination’s commitment to the full inclusion of all God’s people—without consideration of “race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age”—in discernment for lay or ordained ministry in the Church. The italicized language is a proposed addition to the current canons of the Episcopal Church, which were previously amended to include sexual orientation as a characteristic that could not be considered as an impediment to ministry. The new language was proposed at the 2009 General Convention, and was passed by majorities of lay and ordained deputies. However, Episcopal bishops amended the proposed new canonical language to remove reference to gender identity specifically, preferring broader language that would ensure access to all the ministries of the Church by “all baptized persons.” Members of the trans community and their advocates persuaded deputies that the bishops’ revised language obscured the challenges faced by transgender Episcopalians, and the amendment was defeated.

“I think there was a tremendous amount of confusion the first time around,” says Louise Emerson Brooks, a media consultant and communications director for the Episcopal LGBT advocacy group Integrity USA, of the failure of the 2009 resolution. “There was a clear need for education among the bishops and the delegates in general on what it means to be transgender and why it matters that they are not prevented from serving the Church in any ministry, lay or ordained.”

“I have to confess,” continues Brooks,

“that I was one of those people who used to say, ‘Why do we have to put the Twith the LGB?’ I thought it was a different issue. I thought it was confusing. I thought it was polarizing. I thought we should just separate the issues, take on one battle at a time.”

A seminar by the advocacy group Trans Episcopal changed Brooks’ understanding of the issues, and Brooks channeled her own learning experience into Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, a documentary that tells the story of trans women and men now serving in ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.

-full report at Religion Dispatches

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Let’s Hear It For Catholic Leaders Who Defend Marriage Equality!

Last month — just a week before the president announced his support for marriage equality — I had the privilege of hearing Governors Chris Gregoire of Washington and Martin O’Malley of Maryland speak (at the Human Rights Campaign [HRC] offices in Washington DC) about their hard-fought battles to secure marriage equality in their respective states.

Perhaps the most eloquent explanations of how her Catholic faith played an important role in her decision to defend marriage equality comes from Governor Gregoire who had initially opposed, on religious grounds, civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples. Speaking in a television interview on Seattle’s KING Channel 5 on 4 Jan. 2012, the governor related how she had been hesitant to support marriage equality, in large part, because of her Catholic faith. It was in talking with her own daughters, however, that she began to understand that marriage equality was a civil rights issue similar in some ways to the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s which she had supported passionately as a child. After talking with a priest friend who supported her change of heart on the matter and after entering into respectful dialogue with her local bishop (who did not support marriage equality), Gregoire made the bold and faith-filled decision that she could not in good conscience deny the right of civil marriage to lesbian and gay couples in her state. Moreover, it was as a person of faith, as a Catholic, that she realized that she had a moral obligation to support marriage equality.

While the march to full marriage equality in the United States seems to advance at an agonizingly slow pace, it is important for us to recognize that most American Catholics (who now represent the largest single religious denomination in the country and, with just over 68 million members, make up approximately 22 percent of the American population) support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. Although it is the increasingly conservative bishops of the US church who get the lion’s share of press coverage on the issue, more newsworthy stories are actually those that report that five Catholic governors have worked, often at considerable risk to their political careers, to advance marriage equality. Even better news is that they are working in concert with the beliefs of millions of other American Catholics who understand that the Gospel AND important church teachings support marriage for all.

So, Let’s Hear It For The Millions of American Catholics Who Support Marriage Equality!

Executive Director,
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry,
Pacific School of Religion

-full   report at Huffington Post

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Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III of the Friendship-West Baptist Church blasted fellow pastors and members of his congregation for their outrage at President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality while the congregation stood up and shouted their disapproval at him.

Yelled Haynes:

“You should have seen preachers just scurrying and hurrying to call a conference call to call out the President for what he had declared as a personal opinion. He said it was a personal opinion. But whatever you like to ostracize other people it’s because there’s a fear that you have yourself, and the fear that you have finds itself rooted in an ignorance of other people. Or in a projection of your issues. Either there’s ignorance or there is a projection of your issues…It really blows my mind how outraged you are. You are so outraged over what the President said. First of all, take a chill pill. Take a deep breath, everything’s gonna be all right.”

Read more: .towleroad

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New book examines gays in the black church

An open secret about the African American church in the US is the role LGBT musicians have in the institution’s music.

In 1971, Anthony Heilbut wrote a comprehensive study called The Gospel Sound. In its first edition, he kept knowledge of the personal lives of gospel performers quiet (one sentence was focused on sexuality). Now, as reported by the New York Times, the scholar’s new work details the contributions of LGBT singers to church music. Heilbut also chastises black Christians for standing firmly against marriage equality  while depending on the work of gay musicians.

Gay Star News

The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times – 25th Anniversary Edition 

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