Southern Tradition: A 'Taste' of Bluegrass
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Reporter Eartha Melzer returned this week from a stint in North Carolina, where she covered last week’s Exodus International conference for gays and lesbians seeking to change their sexual orientation. For those who live in predominantly gay neighborhoods in the Northeast between Washington, D.C., and Boston it is tempting to dismiss the "ex-gay" crowd as fringe crazies bent on derailing the gay rights movement. But a very different picture emerged from last week’s conference. The crowd, about 1,000 people, mostly men, came to attend panel discussions on resisting masturbation and creating a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex, among others. They attended prayer sessions and were addressed by Jerry Falwell, longtime enemy of gay rights advocates. But there was a noticeable absence of anti-gay malice among the ranks of attendees. Most of these people are desperate to repress and deny their homosexuality because they don’t understand it and long to be accepted by their communities. They’ve long been subjected to anti-gay rhetoric from their families, friends and church leaders. They fear being ostracized for being different and many of them no doubt live in fear of physical violence. Being gay in a rural area can be a frightening prospect, as evidenced by this week’s arson attack on a gay couple’s home in Florida. The ex-gay ministries are cruelly preying upon the Exodus conference attendees, feeding them false hopes of living a "normal life" with a member of the opposite sex. These people are largely from rural areas; they are isolated from other gays and the resources that many urban gays take for granted. They may be poor — one attendee told of saving money from multiple jobs to make the journey to the ex-gay conference — or uneducated. And those factors make them prime targets for the fundamentalist Christians, who know something about exploiting the vulnerable. Whether it’s preying on the elderly for donations to shifty televangelists, indoctrinating alcoholics with fundamentalist dogma or convincing gays they can choose to be straight, fundamentalist Christians know how to manipulate and take advantage of vulnerable people. Reports from the conference make it clear that the ex-gay business is booming. Their message — that prayer coupled with avoiding pornography and masturbation can help change a person from gay to straight — is silly, simplistic and not grounded in anything approaching science or even reason. But it’s wrapped in a slick package, complete with rock music, light shows and promises of salvation. Sadly, many rural gays are being taken in and they’re buying it.See Earlier Posts on the MattHillNC.com Blog: 'Two tid-bits: Falwell at ex-gay conference" "Gay teen to be released soon from ex-gay camp" "Western NC Mountains become hotbed of debate concerning gays and religion"
Here’s a question from a letter I received this week: "What we're asking for is a straight answer out of you people on where in the Bible you rest your case on the same sex relationship issue. Can you do that or not?" Finally a question I can answer without hesitation. The answer is "no." There is no single text -- no specific chapter and verse -- that I can point anyone to and say, "Here is the clear truth of scripture" on the issue. Nor is there any "clear truth of scripture" in support of the ordination of women. Nor is there any "clear truth of scripture" on the sanctity inter-racial marriage. Nor is there any "clear truth of scripture" opposing the death penalty. Nor is there any "clear truth of scripture" supporting the abolition of slavery. Finally, if there WAS a single text argument for any of these hotly debated issues YOU WOULDN'T FIND AN ANGLICAN MAKING IT! We’re not a Sola Scriptura people. That is not how we do theology -- never has been and (God willing) never will be. And yet, there are forces at work urging us to ignore our history and abandon our traditional methodology and polity - substituting literalism and “confessionalism” for traditional Anglican comprehensiveness. Key to that effort is the ongoing “spin” of the controversy du jour as the sole responsibility of the mythical gay agendists hell-bent on undermining western civilization and destroying Christianity as we know it. “The clear truth” is these are not arguments about sexuality but arguments about biblical authority -- and we have been having for CENTURIES. Check out Terry Holmes for a little historical perspective:“The Puritans taught that the Scriptures provided a certainty that transcended all other certainty, including reason, which reason they wished to confine to “science” (e.e. all forms of human learning). They believed that the Scriptures must be read for themselves and devoid of subsequent interpretations, namely, tradition. Hooker’s answer to this was that the Scriptures when read apart from reason and tradition and were subject to the all kinds of private interpretations, which would of necessity be biased. Hence, Hooker articulates for Anglicanism its answer to the question of what is our authority. Our authority is the association of Scripture, tradition and reason … Scripture for the Anglican is a fundamental source of authority for the church; but apart from reason it is dangerous. It becomes the mirror for the misdirected person to project his or her own opinions and give them the authority of God. Th! e sin of schism in the result.” - Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 11-13 Hmm … “the sin of schism” … perhaps we detect a pattern here! Some of us had Puritan ancestors who jumped ship over this very thing in the 16th century and some of us are losing friends and colleagues in ministry over it in the 21st. And the battle goes on. And to equip ourselves for it, I commend "To Set Our Hope on Christ": ECUSA's response to the invitation of the Windsor Report to explain "from within the sources of authority that as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ." It is available for order through http://www.episcopalbookstore.org or in a PDF online at ToSetOurHopeOnChrist.pdf Read it. Mark it. Inwardly digest it. Study it in a group and reflect on it in your prayer time. Give thanks for the blessing it represents as a 21st century reflection of the historic faith we inherit as Anglicans. And pay close, close attention to the powers and principalities organizing to take that historic faith and turn it into something neither Hooker nor Seabury would recognize.http://integrityusa.blogspot.com/2005/07/clear-truth-of-scripture-from-rev.html
"We remain concerned about Iran’s judicial process. Defendants are not receiving due process of law, and trials lack procedural safeguards. "As noted in our country reports on human rights practices, the judge and the prosecutor are the same person, trials are frequently held in closed sessions without access to a lawyer and the right of appeal is not often honored. "We call upon the government of Iran to vigorously pursue prison reform, cooperate with international investigations of human rights cases and respect international human rights law and practice."Although the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have decided that the teens were not excuted for having consensual homosexual sex, they are still alarmed and concerned about Iran's execution of teenagers. Other high ranking officials around the world have either condemned the executions on the grounds that teenagers should not be executed or on the grounds of the belief that the teens were executed for having gay sex.
We should not trash our heritage for the abyss of pluralism because the Muslims in Greensboro want to use the Quran and not the Bible in the courtroom ("Group requests that courtroom oaths cater to various faiths," July 7). The Bible has given the Muslims and others freedom in this country, whereas the Quran has not provided likewise to others in theirs. The Bible, with its high morals and absolutes of right and wrong, coupled with mercy, forgiveness, acceptance and a savior for eternal life, which brings consolation and coherence, has been America's historical foundation and source of common law. Without a high moral standard to lead, we are lost in the abyss of unknowns and searching instability. We can be proud to have had, connected to our common law, virtues of moral purity, faithfulness, trustworthiness, righteousness and justice. Maybe that is why in the 1776 North Carolina Constitution, only Christians were allowed to handle the affairs of the state. E.A. TIMM Walnut Cove"USED TO DISCRIMINATE" July 25, 2005
I found the July 19 letter "Heritage" to be very distasteful, arrogant, prejudiced and bigoted. The Bible is not what gave our nation's citizens the freedoms we all enjoy (and sometimes take for granted). Instead, the Bible has been used to discriminate against countless groups of people in our nation's history and it continues to be used to justify discriminating against certain groups of people because of their "sin." The Bible has been used to discriminate against Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians. People have also used the Bible (and also the holy name of God) to discriminate against blacks, women and people who are gay or lesbian. How righteous is it to own another human being, or hold your wife as inferior or discriminate against others just because they may be different from you? The Bible should be used to promote love, mercy, forgiveness and equality, but I guess our mortal, inferior minds will continue to use the name of God and his book to justify our own sins. I pray that God would have mercy on us all, for we have sinned against him by using his unending good to do nothing but evil. MATTHEW MORRELL HILL Winston-Salem======= There have been other responses to the original July 19th letter published on the Opinion page of The Winston-Salem Journal. All of them, so far, have been in opposition to the original letter writer's position. One letter said something like (and this is not a direct quote), "The original North Carolina Constitution also gave voting rights only to white, privileged, land-owning males. I doubt that is the type of North Carolina we all want now." I did not have room in my letter to the editor to give a full response to the original letter. I wish I had. I see no problem, whatsoever, in allowing Muslims to use the Quran to take courtroom oaths. Why does it matter... won't they still be saying the same oath? The only thing that might change is the "so help me God" part and in that case only the word "God" would be changed to the Arab word for "God," which is "Allah." If there truly is a separation of Church and State in this country (which there is, although some people still don't realize it and even I have still have a problem reconciling God and Country) then why is there even a controversy over the Quran and its use in court? If Church and State are separate, then all religious people should be able to use their own holy texts and God(s) to take courtroom oaths. This whole debate is ridiculous. I wonder how much money the officials over in Guilford County will use in trying to keep Christianity above all other religions in our court system?
"This crime warrants an immediate and strong condemnation from the Department of State," said the Human Rights Campaign in a letter Friday to Rice. "Atrocities committed by foreign governments against all people must be condemned swiftly and forcefully by the world’s greatest democracy. We urge you to do so. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed by the UN General Assembly in 1948, declares that every human should be guaranteed the fundamental right to life, liberty, and security of person and every human should be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Tragically, this guarantee of basic human rights does not exist for GLBT individuals in certain regions of the globe." The letter, signed by HRC President Joe Solmonese goes on to say that research done by organizations such as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, shows that human rights abuses are perpetrated against the GLBT community in all corners of the globe. "As we have seen in recent weeks, the barbarous punishments for sexual acts in these countries run contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For that reason, these acts must be condemned," the letter from Solmonese said. The State Department said that it had not seen the letter and would not comment on it until it had been studied.======= With all that is happening in American society surrounding the issue of LGBT rights and abuses of those rights, it is easy for us to forget about the abuses which LGBT persons across the globe face on a dialy basis. In many parts of the world, the abuses which LGBT Americans face are nothing compared to the abuses of others, such as the executions of the two gay Iranian teenagers. Our world has a very long way to come in order for LGBT people to be treated equally and fairly. We have much further than that to go before LGBT people will not only be treated equally and fairly but also respected and valued as equally as straight people. May God help our mere mortal souls to know the difference between right and wrong and may He also guide us to love our neighbor as ourselves and treat others the way Christ Himself treated us.
The head of Spain's supreme court, Francisco Jose Hernando, commented on the judge's move, saying, "if the colleague in Denia thinks that the new law regulating homosexual marriages contains unconstitutional aspects, it is within his rights to have chosen this means of expressing his doubts."Spanish gay rights organizations fear that conservative Catholic judges may wage a war against marriage equality for gay couples. ======= It seems that while conservatives here in America are complaining about liberal "activist judges" who legislate law against the will of the people and legislature, liberals are complaining about the opposite in Spain. The Spanish people and legislature have ruled that gay couples can be married, yet conservative "activist judges" are fighting it. One thing though: I bet most of the hypocritical, radical, religious conservatives of America are standing behind these conservative judges in Spain... even though those judges are doing what the American conservatives seem to loathe the most: legislating from the bench. You know what... hypocrisy stinks.
“We felt good about Zach coming here … to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn’t give him today,” Stark said, "Until he turns 18 and he’s an adult in the state of Tennessee, I’m responsible for him, and I’m going to see to it that he has all options available to him.”It is not known what type of effect the ex-gay camp has had on Zach. Before going into the camp Zach wrote about having suicidal feelings in his blog. The gay media, blogs on the web, the Memphs area media and mainstream national media sources including the New York Times, have covered Zach's story. With all of the media attention, the debate over the legality and ethics of treating homosexuality has sprung back up. ========= It is so good to know that out of the horror and tragedy which Zach has expereinced and is still experiencing, something good is coming out. Zach's struggles have sparked a debate which was well overdue in American society. In 1973, the American Psychological Association took homosexuality off its list of mental and psychological diseases. So this is the question I propose... Why isn't illegal to force people into treatment to "cure" homosexuality, especially teenagers who are at the mercy of their parents and their decisions? Hopefully, when Zach is released, he can get away from his parents. They are supposed to love him and protect him, instead they have done nothing but hurt him. He will need to get away rom them and find a family that is supportive and loving. I just pray that Zach has not given into the bigoted and hatefilled ideology of the Ex-Gay Movement.
Good parents -- gay or straight -- shouldn't have to fear that some government agency is going to take away their kids. Anne Magro, Gay Oklahoma Parent
Wilson has had a distinguished career within Metropolitan Community Churches. In 1976, she became the youngest person ever elected to the MCC Board of Elders and has served as an Elder since that time. She attended Boston University School of Theology with a Rockefeller Fellowship, also holds an M.Div. from SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, served as Vice-Moderator of MCC during 1993-2003 and has pastored MCC congregations in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, and California. Wilson is the former senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles, the Founding Church of the MCC movement. She currently serves as senior pastor of Church of the Trinity MCC in Sarasota, Florida. From 1979 to 1999, she served as MCC's Chief Ecumenical Officer, representing MCC at the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. In 1987, she represented MCC as an ecumenical observer at the Bilateral Dialogue of the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches in Columbia, South Carolina, where she met Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, becoming one of the first LGBT leaders to meet the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI. Wilson has also been active on behalf of HIV issues, prisoner treatment programs, and women's rights. She is the founder of the MCC Conference for Women in Professional Ministry. In 1979, she participated in the first-ever meeting of gay and lesbian religious leaders at the U.S. White House during the Carter Administration. She is also the author of several books and is a contributing author to Poems and Prayers in Race and Prayer edited by Malcolm Boyd and Chester Talton (Morehouse Press). Wilson resides with her partner of 27 years, Dr. Paula Schoenwether. They both actively work for same-sex marriage equality. Prior to beginning her MCC ministry, Rev. Wilson was active in the United Methodist Church. Following the ratification vote this weekend, Wilson will be formally installed as the new MCC Moderator at a ceremony at Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC, on October 29.The Metropolitan Community Church has more than 300 churches around the world with more than 40,000 members total. The General Conference is expected to draw a thousand or more delegates to Calgary and is the third conference to be held by the MCC in Canada.
I envision a United States of America where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans will be freely able to live, work, grow, learn, parent and love openly and honestly. Furthermore, I long for the day when our beloved nation will live up to its ideals of equality, liberty and justice for all by full heartedly treating, respecting, accepting and valuing LGBT Americans as equally and as fairly as straight Americans.Achieving my vision won't be easy. That is why we must take small steps and go for and accomplish goals which we can achieve until everything adds up to completion and the vision is no longer impossible or unrealistic. At the point in which the vision does become possible and realistic, we must strive further and get to the point where the vision has become reality. I have spent six days with some of the many best student leaders in America. My life has been changed. I want to be like a pebble dropped in the ocean. I want the ripples I create to stretch out, for I never know on which shores those ripples might fall.
If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. The Gospel of our Lord according to Saint Matthew 18:6, NRSVI know my Lord will protect me and all of the other young gay Christians out there. My Lord loves me and cares more about my belief and service to Him than He does my sexual orientation. All I am asked to do is live a moral life... loving another person is not immoral, no matter the sex. It is good to know the my Lord will protect me from those who would want to reject me and keep me out of His Church.