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Consultation examines court ruling on pastoral authority
February 28, 2007
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)-A ruling about pastoral authority by the
highest court of The United Methodist Church revealed conflicts over
church membership criteria, ecclesiology and the authority given to
Those conflicts were explored as pastors, bishops, theologians,
seminary deans and denominational staff members gathered Feb. 15-16 in
a consultation over implications of Judicial Council Decision 1032 in
the case of a Virginia pastor who blocked a homosexual man from church
membership. The consultation was sponsored by the United Methodist
Board of Higher Education and Ministry, which oversees the church's
licensed and ordained leadership.
The Rev. Edward H. Johnson, senior pastor of South Hill (Va.) United
Methodist Church, was placed on involuntary leave of absence in June
2005 by a vote of fellow clergy of the Virginia Annual Conference
after he refused to receive the homosexual man into membership, saying
the man would neither repent nor seek to live a different lifestyle.
The Judicial Council ruled in October 2005 that United Methodist
pastors have authority to decide who becomes a member of a local
church and reinstated Johnson. Johnson has since been appointed pastor
at Dahlgren (Va.) United Methodist Church.
Specifically, the Judicial Council ruled that "the pastor in charge of
a United Methodist Church or charge is solely responsible for making
the determination of a person's readiness to receive the vows of
membership." The word "solely" has especially generated emotionally
and politically charged conversations throughout the church about
pastoral authority and the power of United Methodist bishops.
The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, top executive of the Board of Higher
Education and Ministry, said the heated debate highlights the need for
focused, careful and continuing dialogue about the theological,
ecclesial and pastoral implications of the council's action.
"The church craves clarity about how to understand and live out its
mission that is at once coherent and compelling for an unbelieving
world," said Del Pino. "Judicial Council 1032 has created a defining
moment in the life of people called United Methodists."
Florida Conference Bishop Timothy Whitaker said reactions to the
ruling have exposed "weaknesses in the life of our church" and
declared that "we have much work to do in examining and renewing our
discipline of membership in the church."
The consultation was called to provide a "hospitable space" for
church-wide conversation on the issue. Discussions centered on
theological implications of how the decision relates to United
Methodist understanding of membership, pastoral authority, the nature
of the church and the role of Scripture.
Participants sought to model civil discourse and offered position
papers to clarify the council ruling in relation to the denomination's
Book of Discipline, Constitution and Social Principles-all of which
govern the church and its members.
The Rev. Robert Kohler, a staff member with the Board of Higher
Education and Ministry, said the constitution is fundamental to United
Methodist identity and cited Article IV's emphasis on church
inclusiveness. He said the article "takes precedence over everything
else that you see in the Discipline which covers the authority of the
pastor and the responsibility or the bishop or anything else."
Kohler said there are "fundamental ecclesiological conflicts" over
membership and inclusiveness. One perspective receives a person into a
community of faith if they repent of their sins, are affirmed by the
fellowship and promise to grow in faith. Another view welcomes a
person into the fellowship in hopes that, over time, that person will
learn what it means to be Christian.
The Rev. Martin McLee said African-American churches have a different
perspective on the meaning of fellowship based on black culture.
During worship, the invitation declares that the church's doors are
open. Anyone seeking redemption through a leading of the Holy Spirit
may come forward, receive the right hand of fellowship with the pastor
and gain entrance into the faith community after taking their
"Judicial Council Decision 1032 robs people of potential to be in
community," said McLee, pastor at Union United Methodist Church in Boston.
The Rev. Elaine Robinson, a professor at Brite Divinity School in
Forth Worth, Texas, said The United Methodist Church differs from
other denominations because it "does not have clear ecclesiological
standards." In some traditions, "canon law is the equivalent of
Scripture in authority," she said.
Robinson said the Book of Discipline also contains conflicting
criteria for membership. "We don't have the clarity in hierarchical
lines of authority as do some traditions," which can be both a
weakness and strength, she said.
The Rev. Cheryl Jefferson Bell, a district superintendent of the
Kansas West Annual Conference, said church membership means belonging
to or being part of a body. "It is the place people come to give their
lives to Christ … (and) experience the real love of God."
Bell said the idea of a pastor denying fellowship to an individual
"scares me" and called the denial "a sin." She said Scripture suggests
the criteria for membership are belief in the heart and confession by
Added Robinson: "John Wesley would have found the idea of denying
Presentations to the group sought to bring theological light to the
consultation, which participants said was not designed to be a
"referendum on homosexuality" but rather a focused debate on the
nature, practice and integrity of the church's leadership. There was
consensus that church membership is a means or form of grace and that
the church exists by the grace of God.
The Rev. William (Billy) Abraham said the controversy suggests the
court ruling represents "a vision of holiness that is rejected by a
passionate minority within the church as a whole."
Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas,
Abraham compared holiness with the denomination's 30-year proscription
that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian
teaching. "Holiness rules out the practice of homosexuality," shifting
the debate to readiness for membership, executive authority of pastors
and "rival visions" for the authority of power of bishops, he said.
The Rev. Pamela Lightsey, dean of students at Garrett-Evangelical
Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., asked what inclusiveness
means. "Is it receipt of all people or receipt of all behaviors?"
This, she said, points to biblical authority.
Lightsey said homosexual practice "points our church to the greater
issue: What is the role of biblical authority in informing and in
shaping the way we go about doing the business of the church?"
Lightsey said she believes an "understanding of the Bible and the use
of the Bible in conjunction with our canon law helped to inform and
shape" Johnson's decision to block a homosexual man from church
membership. That decision, she said, "was not arbitrary, capricious or
was done with ill intent."
The Rev. Gregory Stover, pastor of Armstrong Chapel United Methodist
Church in Cincinnati, said the pastor's authority to use responsible
judgment in determining readiness for local church membership "plays a
critical role in the pastoral work of providing spiritual guidance and
counsel." Without opportunity for discernment, he said, the local
church is directed by the intentions of the individual seeking
membership, opening the door to possibly compromising the integrity of
membership and the covenant of the church.
McLee said the decision does not define "reasonable pastoral judgment"
in giving the pastor discretion to determine membership readiness.
Giving sole power to pastors is "troubling," he said, because it
disconnects the long-held partnership between laity and clergy.
"The United Methodist Church is a laypersons church. Ours, as clery,
is itinerant," McLee said. "Pastors come and pastors go. Laity holds
the church together."
What happens when the pastor makes a mistake? "Who are we to know the
heart of another," Bell asked. "The church does not belong to the
pastor, members, district superintendent or bishop. The church belongs
to Christ, (and) the Scriptures tell us that God shows no partiality."
A 'flashpoint' for other issues
Abraham said the court ruling has become a "flashpoint" for other
issues in the church. "We have got to grow up and realize that we are
a church; we are not a movement," he said.
Abraham said United Methodists are "ambivalent" about their status as
a church, while priding itself on placing spirituality above
institutions. "We live and act like a church or a denomination, but we
are not too sure we are one, or even want to be one," he said, adding
that Judicial Council Decision 1032 "explodes this mythology about
The Rev. Leicester Longden, a professor of evangelism and discipleship
at the University of Dubuque (Iowa) Theological Seminary, said United
Methodists often think of themselves "as a movement of reformers,
prophets and evangelists rather than a church institution with its own
canonical agreements on doctrine, liturgy, sacraments, polity,
membership and so forth."
Ruling 1032 is forcing the church to face up to its confusion, recover
its ecclesial character of church membership, and "reform our lax
habits of membership reception," Longden said. This reformation
requires confronting "our cultural accommodation and fear of being
Longden said the Discipline contains "chargeable offenses" for lay
people in the church and the provision of trial. While not used, their
inclusion indicates that violating those restrictions can result in
removal from the membership rolls. Membership, he said, "has never
been an end in itself-an achieved status. It has always been seen as
participation in a journey of discipleship on the way (to) holiness."
Hendrick Pierterse, director of scholarly research at the Board of
Higher Education and Ministry, hopes the consultation prompts United
Methodists around the world to engage in similar theological
conversations. To facilitate further discussions, consultation
presentations and related issues are accessible at
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@....
Celebrity Athlete, Scholars, and Theologians Headline 2nd Annual Black
Philadelphia, March 9-10, 2007
WASHINGTON, DC--Newly out-as-gay former NBA player, John Amaechi will
make a special guest appearance at the National Black Justice
Coalition's, 2nd Annual Black Church Summit reception on Friday, March
9, 2007 at 7:30pm. The event will be held at the Holiday Inn at 400
Arch Street in Philadelphia. The event is open to the public. Please
RSVP to hedavis@...
Amaechi will speak about his closeted-gay experience in the NBA as
well as his eventual spiritual and sexual reconciliation. Amaechi will
also entertain questions from the audience about his life experiences,
his newly published book, and his future.
The next morning on Saturday, March 10, the Black Church Summit will
officially convene with scholar, theologian, and radio personality,
Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and motivational speaker, activist and
church pastor, Rev. Deborah L. Johnson of Santa Cruz, CA.
The Summit will be held at the historic Mother Bethel AME Zion Church
at 419 S. 6th Street in Philadelphia.
From 9:00am- 5pm, the entire day will be filled with workshops,
keynote speeches, as well as a lively debate about homosexuality and
the Black Church between Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Bishop Harry
Jackson, Chairman of the High-Impact Leadership Coalition.
Some of the topics covered during the summit will include how to build
effective HIV ministries; how to create gay affirming congregations in
order to end spiritual homophobia; how to interpret scripture in
regards to homosexuality; plus a special youth mentoring track
focusing upon Black youth 25 years old and under.
In addition, two different church choirs and soloists will provide
spiritual inspiration and entertainment for some 300 people expected
to attend the Summit from across the nation. "This will be a
monumental weekend for Black church communities from across America
and the world" says H. Alexander Robinson, NBJC Executive Director/CEO.
"The strategies learned at the Summit will be taken back to individual
churches and effectively implemented within their local communities.
We are very proud that NBJC is able to host this event becoming the
instrumental catalyst for such dynamic cultural and socioeconomic
change" Robinson added.
To register for the 2nd Annual Black Church Summit, visit
http://www.nbjc.org. The cost is $75.
New complaint filed in Pittsburgh same-sex marriage case: 14 accusers
say Janet Edwards willfully defied ordination vows, church law
by Evan Silverstein
PCUSA News Service
March 2, 2007
LOUISVILLE - A new complaint has been filed against the Rev.
Janet Edwards, the Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh who
last year was taken to church court for marrying a lesbian
couple, only to have the charges dropped because the court
found they were filed four days late.
The Rev. James C. Yearsley, a Presbyterian minister who is
currently serving in Florida, filed a complaint against
Edwards shortly after she performed the marriage in June
2005, only to see the charges against her dismissed on a
technicality in November. Pittsburgh Presbytery's Permanent
Judicial Commission ruled that a special investigating
committee filed charges against Edwards after its deadline
for doing so.
But now a new case may be brought against Edwards, who has
been an activist for the full participation of gay and
lesbian people in the church.
Yearsley announced last month that he has submitted a new
grievance against Edwards that alleges she acted in "willful
and deliberate defiance" of her ordination vows and of the
constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Seven other PC(USA) ministers and six elders from Texas,
North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Washington state
have signed on to the new complaint, joining Yearsley as
Yearsley, who filed the original 2005 complaint alone, said
in a press release that he decided to re-file the accusation
with Pittsburgh Presbytery in conjunction with others this
time "because the church and Ms. Edwards never had their day
The PC(USA)'s Book of Order defines marriage as between a
man and a woman, and church courts have ruled that
Presbyterian ministers may not utilize the denomination's
marriage liturgy in same-sex ceremonies.
Edwards was ordained by Pittsburgh Presbytery in 1977 and
served as its moderator in 1987. She currently is assigned
as an "at large" minister working primarily as a parish
associate through the Community of Reconciliation, an
interracial and multi-denominational congregation that is
open to persons of all sexual orientations.
"I am sincerely and deeply disturbed by the renewal of
accusations against me for presiding at the wedding,"
Edwards said. "Embracing the loving Holy Spirit, which so
filled the wedding of Nancy (McConn) and Brenda (Cole), is
what we desperately need now, not contending against it."
A Pittsburgh native, Yearsley, 55, has been pastor of
Village Presbyterian Church in Tampa, FL, since February
2006. When he filed his original complaint against Edwards
he was serving as pastor at Mt. Hope Community Church, a
Presbyterian congregation in suburban Pittsburgh.
Yearsley and the 13 other ministers and elders are being
represented by Paul Rolf Jensen, a southern California
attorney who has filed dozens of similar complaints against
Presbyterian ministers and governing bodies throughout the
"What our denomination desperately needs right now are
people contending for the faith," Jensen said. "To ignore
Rev. Edwards' gross misconduct and heretical behavior would
be to turn a blind eye to the cancer that inflicts our
In their complaint, a copy of which Jensen provided to the
Presbyterian News Service, the church leaders accused
Edwards of acting in "willful and deliberate violation of
her ordination vows" as stated in the Book of Order by
performing the same-sex wedding ceremony of Cole and McConn.
Edwards, 56, said she does not believe she violated her
ordination vows by marrying the lesbian partners, who live
near Wheeling, WV.
McConn is a lifelong Presbyterian and longtime member of
Dallas Presbyterian Church in Dallas, WV. Cole was raised
Methodist but now is a practicing Buddhist.
The 14 co-accusers also contend that Edwards performed a
marriage ceremony that was "heretical and apostate" in that
it was "contrary to the Word of God and the Book of
Confessions by expressing Buddhist doctrine anathema to the
They also claim that Edwards "assaulted the peace, unity and
purity of the church" by repeatedly proclaiming in the
secular media "defiance, apostasy and intent to continue
Edwards, who is a direct descendant of legendary Puritan
theologian Jonathan Edwards, could face a number of
punishments, including removal from ordained ministry, if
the case goes to trial and she's convicted.
"As this renewed disciplinary process unfolds my focus will
be upon reconciling prayer, trusting completely that God's
love can bring healing and reconciliation to us all in the
PC(USA) and that what will happen will help to spread the
gospel," Edwards said.
Jensen responded that "the gospel of Jesus Christ is being
distorted and perverted by Rev. Edwards and her
The Rev. James E. Mead, Pittsburgh Presbytery's executive,
declined to comment on the case.
The seven ministers joining Yearsley in signing the
complaint are: the Rev. L. Russ Howard of Washington
Presbytery; the Rev. David Perry of Coastal Carolina
Presbytery; the Rev. James Coone of Grace Presbytery; the
Rev. Robert Kopp of Blackhawk Presbytery; the Rev. Jim Tilly
of Blackhawk Presbytery; the Rev. Toby Brown of Mission
Presbytery; and the Rev. Mark Hughey of Blackhawk
The six elders signing the complaint are: Sarah Beard of
Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Marysville, WA; Everett
Worrell of First Presbyterian Church in Belvidere, IL; Mark
Rouleau of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rockford, IL;
Robert Gagnon of Eastminster Presbyterian Church of
Pittsburgh, PA; Pamela Easton of Bethany Presbyterian Church
in Loves Park, IL; and Virginia Worrell of First
Presbyterian Church in Belvidere, IL.
This story is located at:
New Jersey civil-unions law presents challenge for state's Episcopal
bishops: Enactment follows years of debate, lawsuits
Episcopal News Service
By: Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted: Saturday, March 03, 2007
After more than five years of debate, a bill offering same-gender
couples the right to enter into "civil unions" in the state of New
Jersey went into effect at midnight February 19. New Jersey is the
third U.S. state to offer civil unions, after Connecticut and Vermont.
Massachusetts permits same-gender marriage.
That was just about the same time that the Primates of the Anglican
Communion said in a communiqué at the conclusion of their meeting near
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that the Episcopal Church has until September
30 to "make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not
authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses
or through General Convention ... unless some new consensus on these
matters emerges across the Communion."
Meanwhile, civil partnerships have been legal in England since
December 2005, and the Church of England addressed the law at that
time. Some Canadian provinces began allowing gay marriage in 2003, and
a countrywide law took effect in mid-2005. The Anglican Church of
Canada's General Synod voted in 2004 to defer a decision of the
church's stance until its June 2007 meeting.
In New Jersey, an experienced diocesan bishop and one with less than a
month under his mitre have had to consider their stances on
same-gender blessings, in light of the convergence of the two events.
The Rt. Rev. George Councell, who became bishop of the Diocese of New
Jersey in 2003, and the Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, who was consecrated
bishop of the Diocese of Newark on January 27 this year, have both
said that neither event will alter their dioceses' basic stance toward
Councell cited in his address to the diocesan convention's 223rd
annual meeting March 2 two stories on the front page of the February
20 edition of the New York Times chronicling the enactment of the New
Jersey law and the issuance of the communiqué. The juxtaposition of
the two articles "speaks volumes about the moment in which we find
ourselves in this Diocese, this Church and the Communion," he said.
New Jersey couples lined up the night of February 18-19 at some state
and municipal offices waiting for the moment when they could apply for
the license that would give them the same rights and responsibilities
as married couples. Just like their heterosexual counterparts, people
with a civil-union license must wait 72 hours before having the
Many gay and lesbian couples had services in various locations
beginning at midnight on February 22. Some couples who had received
similar licenses in other states and countries staged New Jersey
civil-union ceremonies of various kinds during the first 72 hours of
the law's life because the waiting period was waived for them.
In the days leading up to the law's initiation, churches and ministers
of many denominations received phone calls from gay and lesbian
couples inquiring about their policies on same-gender blessings. The
law says that if the two parties desire both a civil and a religious
civil-union ceremony, the civic licensing officer issues a license in
duplicate, marking one as "issued for civil marriage or civil union
ceremony" and one as "issued for religious marriage or civil union
One such religious service took place at Church of the Redeemer in
Morristown in the Diocese of Newark on February 24 for Maureen Kilian
and Cindy Meneghin, one of seven gay and lesbian couples who sued the
State of New Jersey in 2003 for the right to be married. (The lead
plaintiffs in the suit, Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, are Episcopal
"Their life together, I have to tell you, is the most traditional life
I have ever seen," the Rev. Phillip Dana Wilson, Redeemer's rector,
said of Kilian and Meneghin during his sermon.
Newark bishop considers policy
Beckwith said February 23 that he will appoint a task force on
same-gender blessings to look at issues of process and format. The
task force's effort will be similar to the one convened in the Diocese
of Vermont, where that state passed a civil-unions bill in the spring
of 2000. The 46-page report, available here, outlines the history of
the issue in the diocese and its current policy.
In his statement posted on the diocese's website, Beckwith said he has
not "fully digested" both the Primates' communiqué and Presiding
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's initial reflections on the document.
"Moreover, given that I am new to my role, I am not ready to make a
public statement -- yet," Beckwith wrote. "I feel that I need to first
meet my new colleagues in the House of Bishops -- and get a sense of
the dynamics and desires of that group."
The Rev. Sandye Wilson, a diocesan spokesperson, said Beckwith also
wants to discuss the issues with diocesan clergy in a previously
scheduled gathering in late March.
"That said," Beckwith's statement continues, "I agree with those who
say that proving full rights and privileges in the church for gay and
lesbian people is a matter of justice."
He said the issue goes deeper. "I believe that homosexuality is a
unique gift -- among a host of other unique gifts -- be it ability,
ethnicity, race, or class," he said. "I pray that the diversity of
sexual orientation should not be a problem for the church, but a gift
to the church. Gay and lesbian people -- clergy and lay, have
certainly been a gift to the Diocese of Newark. And I believe that
relationships marked by fidelity, faith, and commitment need to be
held up and celebrated."
New Jersey bishop outlines stance
Councell told the Convention March 2 that as the Episcopal Church
makes its response to the communiqué, "we are called to minister in
"New Jersey is not Tanzania, nor Nigeria; neither is it any of the 29
countries on the African continent where homosexuality is a criminal
offense," he said. "We minister in a radically different context. In
our churches are many gay and lesbian people who are living in
faithful, committed unions who are asking for our acceptance, our
support and our prayers. We have said that the Episcopal Church
welcomes them and welcomes all. Gay and lesbian Christians are our
brothers and sisters in Christ and our partners in mission and
ministry, in work and worship, in fellowship and service. As someone
recently said, `They are We.'"
In his address, Councell cited General Convention resolutions
(Resolution 2000-D039 and Resolution 2003- C051) which have supported
gay and lesbian couples whose relationships are characterized by
"fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest
communication and the holy love that enables those in such
relationships to see in each other the image of God."
He told the Convention that his support of the New Jersey law "is
consistent with the Episcopal Church's long-standing commitment to
support equal protection (Resolution 1994-C019) under the law for
Councell will not authorize any public liturgies for the blessing of
same-gender unions because there is not a consensus "about the
biblical and theological rationale for such unions" in the Episcopal
Church and the Anglican Communion. He wrote that he supports study
that could lead to the development of such rites, adding that "I do
not believe that any one bishop or diocese should authorize that which
has not been authorized by the governing body from which they derive
Councell invited clergy to "offer loving, wise and prayerful pastoral
care and counseling togays and lesbians living in life-long,
monogamous and faithful partnerships."
"I encourage clergy and congregations to offer their pastoral support
to such couples, which may include prayers of celebration and
thanksgiving for the grace and holiness of their unions," he said.
However, Councell will not allow clergy to sign New Jersey civil-union
licenses because of the lack of authorization from General Convention.
"Clergy cannot act as independent agents of the state alone," Councell
said. "We are sacramental ministers and representatives of the Church,
which is deeply conflicted on this issue. We can be pastors and
partners in prayer while other officials (judges, mayors, clerks, et
al) meet the state requirements."
New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner has said in a formal opinion
that religious rites performed by clergy are exempt from the state's
law against discrimination so, unlike municipal officials, they cannot
be compelled to perform civil unions. Rabner said that mayors and
other non-clergy who regularly perform marriages cannot turn down gay
couples who ask to have civil unions performed.
Councell acknowledged that some Primates may take offense at his
approach to the state law.
"With all due respect, and, as a matter of conscience, I will not
banish prayers for gay and lesbian couples. I will not punish clergy
and churches who offer such prayers. And I will not retreat from
extending as full an embrace and as genuine a welcome to gay and
lesbian people into the Episcopal Church as we can," he wrote.
Councell added that he knows "that welcome and embrace are not all
that they could be."
"Yet I remain hopeful that we can uphold the dignity of our gay and
lesbian brothers and sisters while we continue to address these
matters and maintain our bonds with one another within this diocese,
within the Episcopal Church and within the Anglican Communion," he
In his earlier interview with ENS, Councell also rooted his response
in Paragraph 143 of the Windsor Report that quotes from a May 2003
statement in which they note "the duty of pastoral care that is laid
upon all Christians to respond with love and understanding to people
of all sexual orientations" and that "it is necessary to maintain a
breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."
When the law went into effect, New Jersey became the third state
offering civil unions to gay couples and one of a handful allowing gay
couples some version of marital rights. Connecticut and Vermont also
allow civil unions, while Massachusetts is the only state that
recognizes same-gender marriages. California's domestic partnership
laws carry the same weight as civil unions, and Maine and Hawaii offer
limited benefits to same-gender couples.
"We must recognize that many gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey are
in committed relationships and deserve the same benefits and rights as
every other family in this state," Gov. Jon S. Corzine said in signing
The Legislature passed the civil-unions bill on December 14 in
response to a state Supreme Court order that gay couples be granted
the same rights as married couples. The court in October gave
lawmakers six months to act but left it to them to decide whether to
call the unions "marriage" or something else.
House of Bishops: Message to God's People
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
[Episcopal News Service]
Spring House of Bishops Meeting
Camp Allen Episcopal Conference Center
March 16-21, 2007
A Message to God's People...from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church
As we prepare for Easter and the joyous celebration of the
resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we send you greetings from
Navasota, Texas where we gathered for the spring meeting of the House
of Bishops. We represent fifteen sovereign nations, the fifty United
States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, and
Micronesia bearing witness to the Gospel of Our Lord and the wonders
of Christ's redeeming work in the world. We were reminded of the
health and vitality of our Church as our new Presiding Bishop
recounted her travels. We have experienced a sense of identity,
clarity, and purpose in fulfilling our vocation as bishops. We were
blessed by the presence of the Primate and the House of Bishops of the
Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico. Together we discovered a growing unity as
we seek the mind of Christ. Our meeting was marked by a spirit of
thanksgiving and respect, lived in a rich rhythm of worship, work,
study, and rest.
That spirit moved us deeper into our focus on mission for Christ. In
that context we discussed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the
Primates' Communiqué, the draft Anglican Communion Covenant, as well
as a number of other mission opportunities.
The central theme of the address by the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas of the
Episcopal Divinity School was that "the mission of the Church is to
participate in the mission of God". This observation set the tone for
our study and discussion of the MDGs. We gave special attention to the
challenge of environmental sustainability, the theme of a presentation
by Dr. John Pine of Louisiana State University who addressed the
environmental implications of global climate change.
We heard from the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner and the Rev. Dr. Katherine
Grieb, members of the Covenant Drafting Committee, each of whom
brought a distinct perspective regarding the proposed Covenant. Their
presentations, which are available on line, will inform further
conversations as the drafting process continues prior to the Lambeth
Conference of 2008.
Mission concerns received attention in a variety of workshops and
presentations, including: the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, Darkness
into Day campaign, TEAM (Toward Effective Anglican Mission), TEAC
(Theological Education within Anglican Communion), Bishops Working for
a Just Society, issues facing returning military personnel from Iraq
and Afghanistan and their families, as well as immigration and border
issues viewed from both the United States and Mexican perspectives.
The fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq was marked by a prayer vigil
for peace. Then, in both formal and informal ways, members of the
House expressed their strong desire to keep God's mission at the
center of the life of the Church.
We also heard a well-documented report by the House of Bishops' Task
Force on Property Disputes on the history and strategy of groups,
including some in the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and
Parishes (NACDAP) and others, to remove congregations and church
property from The Episcopal Church. This report will be made available
at a later date. We commend it, once publicly available, to diocesan
We had an extended and thoughtful discussion of the Communiqué from
the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, which represents the beginning
of a longer process of response that will continue through the coming
It is our strong desire to remain within the fellowship of the
Anglican Communion. The Primates' Communiqué, however, raises
significant concerns. First among these is what is arguably an
unprecedented shift of power toward the Primates, represented, in
part, by the proposed "Pastoral Scheme." This proposed plan calls for
the appointment of a Primatial Vicar and Pastoral Council for The
Episcopal Church whose membership would consist of "up to five
members; two nominated by the Primates, two by the Presiding Bishop,
and a Primate of a Province of the Anglican Communion nominated by the
Archbishop of Canterbury to chair the Council." We believe this
proposal contravenes the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal
Church. Moreover, because it is proposed that this scheme take
immediate effect, we were compelled, at this March meeting, to request
that the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church decline to
participate in this aspect of the Communiqué's requests. Nonetheless,
we pledge to continue working to find a way of meeting the pastoral
concerns raised by the Primates that are compatible with our own
Church's polity and canons. We should note that our recommendation to
Executive Council not to participate in the Pastoral Scheme, though
not unanimously endorsed by this House, came at the conclusion of long
and gracious conversation.
Finally, we believe that the leaders of the Church must always hold
basic human rights and the dignity of every human being as fundamental
concerns in our witness for Christ. We were, therefore, concerned that
while the Communiqué focuses on homosexuality, it ignores the pressing
issues of violence against gay and lesbian people around the world,
and the criminalization of homosexual behavior in many nations of the
The Theology Committee of the House of Bishops was charged with the
responsibility of developing a teaching guide for consideration of
both the Primates' Communiqué and the proposed draft Covenant for the
Anglican Communion. We anticipate this guide will be available by late
May for use by bishops and dioceses in preparation for the September
meeting of the House of Bishops.
The bishops unanimously affirmed a Mind of the House Resolution
inviting the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates'
Standing Committee to meet, at a time of their choosing, with the
House of Bishops.
As we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery we call for your
prayers for and commitment to God's mission of making all things new.
For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and
ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
Queering the Church: Changing Ecclesial Structures, April 18-19 at
From 5:00pm on Wednesday, April 18th 2007 to 9:15pm Thursday, April
19th 2007, at Boston University School of Theology, 745 Commonwealth
The format of the conference is a conversation among pastoral leaders,
practical theologians, systematic theologians, and critical theorists.
Synopsis: Conference raises several important questions in its panels.
What happens to the church when it is queered, where queering as a
verb can denote a rethinking of sexual identities as well as a
challenging of normative understandings of ecclesiology and liturgy?
Can a queering of theology do more than critique and deconstruct
traditional church structures, practices, performances, and
self-understandings by pointing the way forward to the renewal of the
church by suggesting new, more liberating and truthful structures,
practices, performances, and self-understandings? Is ecclesiology a
good meeting place for queer, practical, and classical theologies?
Mark D. Jordan, Emory University; Marcella Althaus-Reid, Professor of
University of Edinburgh; Kelly Brown Douglas, Goucher University;
Robert Goss, MCC Valley, North Hollywood; Carter Heyward, Episcopal
Divinity School; Irene Monroe, Pine Manor College
Event Open To Public
Registration Fee: $60
Student Fee: $25
BU Student Fee: $15
Note: Scholarships available if attendance requires significant travel
To register and RSVP visit us at http://www.bu.edu/ccrd/conference/ or
Pastor accepts once-rejected gay man as member
April 4, 2007
A UMNS Report By Linda Green*
The pastor of a Virginia United Methodist church has granted
membership to the gay man whose 2005 denial of membership by the
previous pastor prompted controversy across the denomination on the
issues of homosexuality and pastoral authority.
During worship services on March 11 at South Hill (Va.) United
Methodist Church, the Rev. Barry Burkholder accepted the man's
transfer of membership from a Baptist church to South Hill (Va.)
United Methodist Church.
The development follows a series of rulings related to the case,
including one on pastoral authority, by the denomination's highest
"The Judicial Council's ruling says that the pastor of the church is
the person in authority to determine whether an individual is ready to
receive the vows of membership," Burkholder told United Methodist News
"And having spoken with this individual and him having professed
Christ as his savior, his belief that Jesus Christ died for his sins
tells me that he is ready to receive the vows of membership."
The Rev. Edward H. Johnson had refused to receive the man into
membership in 2005, saying the man would neither repent nor seek to
live a lifestyle that does not include homosexuality.
The man has continued to worship at the South Hill Church and to
participate in its music ministry. Meanwhile, Johnson since has been
appointed pastor at Dahlgren (Va.) United Methodist Church.
Homosexuality and the church
Like many other Protestant denominations, The United Methodist Church
has struggled with the issue of homosexuality for more than 30 years.
In its Book of Discipline, the church declares the practice to be
"incompatible with Christian teaching." But while the church has
proscriptions against ordination of "practicing" homosexual clergy and
clergy conducting same-sex ceremonies in United Methodist churches, it
has no specific law about church membership and homosexual practice.
The Virginia case is among several to bring issues related to
homosexuality before the denomination's high court.
Johnson was placed on involuntary leave of absence in June 2005 by a
vote of fellow clergy of the Virginia Annual Conference after he
refused to receive the man into membership. Four months later, the
nine-member Judicial Council ruled that United Methodist pastors have
authority to decide who becomes a member of a local church and
Specifically, the Judicial Council ruled that "the pastor in charge of
a United Methodist church or charge is solely responsible for making
the determination of a person's readiness to receive the vows of
Burkholder said he based his decision to receive the man into
membership on the council's ruling, the criteria for membership found
in Paragraph 214 of the 2004 Book of Discipline and the invitation for
membership found in the Service of Word and Table 1 of the United
"Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly
repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another. This
is my definition" (of membership), he said.
Following the close of the March 11 worship service, the man and two
others who transferred membership that day were greeted by most of the
church's members, according to Burkholder.
"A vast majority of the congregation came forward and warmly welcomed
all three of these people into the life of the church," said the
pastor, adding that he was "very gratified at seeing that."
Thoughts from the bishop
Burkholder said he made the decision to accept the man into membership
because "that is what I was charged with doing when I was ordained."
He said it is important to "understand that there has never been any
coercion, there has never been any suggestion on the part of the
bishop as to the action that I took here at the local church."
Bishop Charlene Kammerer, in an interview with United Methodist News
Service, said she was unaware of the latest development until
Burkholder contacted her afterward.
"So what this conveyed to me was that another United Methodist pastor
in the Virginia. Conference - through his own getting to know the man
and counseling with him spiritually and also with working with other
leaders in the church - felt very comfortable inviting him to join,"
The congregation's continuing struggle with the issue and its
spiritual discernment "helped the new pastor be clear in issuing the
invitation," she said.
The congregation and its pastor have taken a "very courageous step,"
she said. She added that she could not imagine what kind of courage it
has taken for the man "to continue to be an active participant as a
baptized Christian in this congregation where he had been clearly
rejected and set apart."
"I thank God for the ways that I believe that Christ is continuing to
work in his life," she said.
The Judicial Council ruling on the Virginia case was the subject of a
denominational consultation last February in Nashville, Tenn., where
pastors, bishops, theologians, seminary deans and denominational staff
gathered to discuss its implications. The consultation focused on the
nature, practice and integrity of the church's leadership.
While the ruling uncovered conflicts in church membership criteria,
ecclesiology and the authority given to pastors, church leaders expect
the issues will continue to be debated across United Methodism.
"What has happened here in the same congregation is that one pastor
made a decision and another pastor made a different decision,"
She singled out the South Hill church as a "local congregation who has
struggled mightily to understand the meaning of membership and what
really has happened to them and particularly to the man in this
The bishop said there are members of South Hill who disapprove of the
man's lifestyle and sexual orientation, but "these same members would
not exclude him from membership in The United Methodist Church based
on that reality alone."
She said it is her hope and prayer "that no United Methodist pastor
would use discretion to bar anyone from membership in The United
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@....
United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:
Vanderbilt to host panel April 10 on "HIV/AIDS Ministry and the Black
Victor Anderson, associate professor of Christian ethics, African
American studies and religious studies, is among the panelists who
will discuss "HIV/AIDS Ministry and the Black Church" April 10 at
Vanderbilt University will host a panel discussion, "Keeping Our
Promise: HIV/AIDS Ministry and the Black Church" on April 10, from 4
p.m. until 7 p.m. in room G-23 at the Divinity School.
The event is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Kelly
Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies and the Carpenter
Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality.
Panelists will include:
* Victor Anderson, associate professor of Christian ethics, African
American studies and religious studies, Vanderbilt University. He has
published two books: Beyond Ontological Blackness: An Essay in African
American Religious and Cultural Criticism ( 1999), and Pragmatic
Theology: Negotiating the Intersection of an American Philosophy of
Religion and Public Theology (1999). He has a third book forthcoming,
entitled, Creative Exchange: A Constructive Theology of African
American Religious Experience.
* The Rev. Sonnye Dixon Jr., community activist and pastor of Hobson
United Methodist Church. Dixon is a past president of the Nashville
* Dwayne Jenkins, HIV education coordinator and Brothers United
coordinator at Nashville Cares.
* Monique Moultrie, Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Department of
Religion at Vanderbilt University.
The Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies was
established in honor of the late Kelly Miller Smith Sr., assistant
dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School from 1968 until his death in
1984. The institute perpetuates his legacy of theological and academic
excellence and prophetic witness. The African American church remains
the primary institution in the African American community committed to
the liberation of persons and groups who suffer from racial and social
oppression. The work of the Kelly Miller Smith Institute brings
together the African American church community and African American
educational institutions, as partners with the Vanderbilt Divinity
School to study and research issues important to the practice of faith
and ministry in the African American church.
The Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality is designed to
foster conversation about religion, gender, and sexuality. The program
seeks to provide education and encourage communication within and
across religious affiliations, ideological bases and cultural contexts.
Nashville Cares is Tennessee's leading community-based AIDS service
organization. Its mission is to promote and participate in a
comprehensive and compassionate response to HIV and AIDS infection
through education, advocacy and supportive services.
The Brothers United Network is a collective of African American
Gay/SGL Men that seek to provide community empowerment and self
actualization through its individual chapters in Nashville,
Chattanooga, Memphis, Knoxville and West Tenn. The organization
strives to provide continuous psychosocial, life coaching, affirming
pastoral care and healthy social supports to the African American
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to enhance their lives.
Media Contact: Melissa Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS
For Immediate Release May 3, 2007
Faith in America Launches 2007 "Call to Courage"
Campaign to Engage Americans in Early Presidential Primary and Caucus
WASHINGTON, DC - Faith in America today announced the launch of a
five-city "Call to Courage" campaign to educate Americans about the
misuse of religious teachings to discriminate and isolate gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The campaign officially
kicks off on May 6th in Ames, Iowa.
"Today marks an important day in the shared history of America's
religious and GLBT communities. For a long time we've stood on
separate sides of an impasse" said Jimmy Creech, Executive Director of
Faith In America. "But through this education campaign we will begin a
deep and sustained dialogue, to bridge the gaps of tolerance and
understanding in this country." Creech served twenty-nine years as a
minister in the United Methodist Church and is a leading expert and
spokesman on faith and the GLBT community.
FIA's national campaign will proceed to Reno, Nevada; Greenville,
South Carolina; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Colorado Springs,
Colorado. The five campaigns will be held between May and the end of
The campaign will consist of grassroots organizing, direct mail and
paid advertisements to educate the public on the parallels between
historical precedents of religion-based bigotry and today's struggle
for full and equal rights for gay people. FIA's cutting-edge campaign
will provide a forum for citizens to express their sentiments about
religion-based bigotry and to discuss its harm on society and the GLBT
community. In 2006, Faith in America initiated a similar media
campaign that found that participants were more accepting of
'homosexuals' after the six-month education campaign.
"We're asking Americans to be courageous and to join us in a stand
against discrimination in all forms. As a nation, we have exhibited
such courage in the past by rejecting the use of religion to sanction
slavery and the subjugation of women," said Mitchell Gold, founder of
Faith In America and world renowned furniture designer. "This campaign
is a first step toward putting an end to bigotry disguised as
religious truth and creating a just world where everyone will be
allowed to flourish in America without prejudice."
In addition to the support of clergy and other community activists
groups in each city, the organization is working with allied local and
national organizations, including the Metropolitan Community Church
Worldwide, Soulforce, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and
Gays, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Gay and Lesbian Alliance
Contact: Ashley Etienne (202) 777-0669
The mission of Faith in America Inc. is to end legal and spiritual
discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT)
people in America and to gain full and equal rights for those
citizens. More information can be found at www.faithinamerica.com.
A Call To Courage
"We're asking Americans to be courageous and to join us in a stand
against discrimination in all forms. As a nation, we have exhibited
such courage in the past by rejecting the use of religion to sanction
slavery and the subjugation of women. This campaign is a first step
toward putting an end to bigotry disguised as religious truth and
creating a just world where everyone will be allowed to flourish in
America without prejudice."
Jimmy Creech, Executive Director, Faith In America
Faith in America on May 6 will launch a five-city "Call to Courage"
campaign to educate Americans about the misuse of religious teachings
to discriminate and isolate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The campaign begins May 6th in Ames, Iowa and will proceed to Reno,
Nevada; Manchester, New Hampshire; Greenville, South Carolina; and
Colorado Springs, Colorado. The five campaigns will be held between
May and the end of November 2007.
The campaign will consist of grassroots organizing, direct mail and
paid advertisements to educate the public on the parallels between
historical precedents of religion-based bigotry and today's struggle
for full and equal rights for gay people. The campaign will provide a
forum for citizens to express their sentiments about religion-based
bigotry and to discuss its harm on society and the GLBT community.
The campaign is working with several national allied organizations,
including the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Soulforce, Parents,
Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against
Faith In America through the five-city campaign will:
* Create dialogue regarding religious teachings and practices
which foster discrimination and oppression against gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender people.
* Demonstrate how misguided religious teachings were used
historically to justify injustice and discrimination (slavery, racism,
anti-interracial marriage, sexism) and are being used today to deny
full and equal rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
* Provide accepting clergy and people of faith a forum to express
disagreement with religion-based bigotry.
The mission of Faith in America Inc. is to end legal and spiritual
discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT)
people in America and to gain full and equal rights for those
citizens. More information can be found at http://www.faithinamerica.com .
PJC says ordination standards include ministerial candidates: Mission
Presbytery case moot since candidate withdrew from consideration
by Evan Silverstein, PCUSA News Service
May 14, 2007
LOUISVILLE - The highest court of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has
affirmed that the standards for ordaining non-celibate gays and
lesbians extend to those seeking to become candidates for the ministry.
The statement came in a ruling issued last week by the PC(USA)'s
General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) in the case of
George R. Stewart vs. Mission Presbytery.
The case involved a woman who in October 2005 was accepted as a
candidate for ministry by Mission Presbytery, which is based in San
Antonio, TX. The presbytery voted to approve her candidacy even though
its moderator informed members that the candidate "is a lesbian and
lives in a committed (same-sex) relationship."
Presbyterian church law allows for the ordination of only those
who are in a faithful, heterosexual marriage or who are single and
living in chastity. However, the moderator told the presbytery that
under church case law, the requirement did not apply to those seeking
to enter the candidacy process.
"Although our Book of Order (G-14.0305a-i) requires those coming
to be ordained to observe fidelity in marriage and chasteness in
singleness, the Book of Order does not place this standard on those in
the candidacy process," the moderator said during the meeting,
according to the PCJ's history of the case.
Mission Presbytery accepted the woman's candidacy for the
ministry 169-111 with none abstaining. Stewart, who is a retired
Presbyterian minister, challenged the decision by initiating a
remedial complaint against the presbytery in January 2006.
He asked the Synod of the Sun to "order the presbytery to remove
[the candidate] from the roll of candidates for minister of the Word
The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Sun heard
his appeal on Sept. 8, 2006, but by tie vote did not sustain it.
Stewart then appealed the case to the General Assembly PJC on
Oct. 11, 2006.
The woman withdrew her candidacy on Nov. 17, 2006, and the
presbytery then filed a motion, requesting the PJC drop the case on
the grounds that the candidate's withdrawal rendered it moot.
The PJC agreed that the case is moot since the woman withdrew her
candidacy, but also said that the presbytery had been "misled" in its
understanding of church law.
The PC(USA)'s highest court said the presbytery and the synod
relied on an annotated edition of the Book of Order (G-014.0305d),
where it cites a court case in 2000, Sheldon, et al. v. Presbytery of
West Jersey,which involved a gay candidate from New Jersey.
The General Assembly PJC said the annotation is a "misstatement"
because the inquirer being considered for candidacy was a "celibate
gay man, and therefore eligible to become a candidate," the PJC said
in its decision.
The ruling in the New Jersey case added: "However, if the
[presbytery] should determine the candidate to be ineligible for
candidacy at some point in the future, the [presbytery] should remove
the candidate's name from the roll of candidates, as provided by
The General Assembly PJC said the annotations found in the Book
of Order can be helpful to the church as it "seeks to be faithful in
its life and service; however, they are not authoritative."
Falwell, symbol of Religious Right's influence and excesses, dead at 73
By Robert Marus
Associated Baptist Press
WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Jerry Falwell, the pastor, university founder and
media impresario who received both credit and blame for making the
Religious Right a political force in American politics, is dead at age 73.
According to multiple news reports, Falwell was found dead in his
office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., the morning of May 15
and was taken to a local hospital where doctors pronounced him dead.
Falwell had two significant health scares in 2005, after which doctors
treated him for cardiac problems.
Falwell was perhaps the most widely known Southern Baptist pastor, but
early in his ministry he was an independent Baptist. Starting with 35
people meeting in a Lynchburg elementary school in 1956, Falwell built
Thomas Road Baptist Church into one of the nation's largest
congregations. He and the church also founded Liberty University, a
prominent evangelical Christian university, in 1971. According to the
Lynchburg News & Advance, the school expects to enroll more than
11,000 students next fall.
Although as recently as the 1960s Falwell -- like many fundamentalist
Protestant leaders of his time -- criticized more moderate and liberal
ministers for getting involved in the civil-rights movement and other
contemporary political debates, but he had changed his mind by the
1970s. In 1979, he founded the Moral Majority -- widely credited with
helping elect Ronald Reagan to his first term and, for the first time,
organizing conservative evangelical voters in a nationwide activist
The organization attempted to unify conservative Christians to vote
for candidates who opposed legalized abortion and civil protections
for homosexuals, and who supported government endorsements of religion.
Even though the group disbanded in 1989, Falwell continued to exert
influence among conservative Christians and in the Republican Party,
cementing the partnership between the two groups that dominated
American politics for more than 20 years.
Throughout his involvement in politics, Falwell received heavy
criticism from liberals and secularists -- and also from other
Christian leaders who believed his goals and methods were inimical to
the gospel they claimed to serve.
In one of his most infamous public gaffes, he was forced to apologize
for his televised comments that blamed the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on
gays, abortion-rights activists, atheists, liberals and civil
Still, even one of Falwell's arch-adversaries acknowledged his
towering presence in American civic life in recent decades.
"Jerry Falwell politicized religion and failed to understand the
genius of our Constitution, but there is no denying his impact on
American political life," said Barry Lynn, director of Americans
United for Separation of Church and State, in a statement released
shortly after Falwell's death was announced.
The statement concluded, "Americans United extends its condolences to
members of Dr. Falwell's family, the congregants of Thomas Road
Baptist Church and the students and staff of Liberty University."
Meanwhile, Falwell's co-belligerents in the "culture wars" of the past
two decades mourned his passing.
"For more than 50 years, Dr. Falwell has been an uncompromising
ambassador for the gospel in the community of Lynchburg, nationally
via the broadcast airwaves, and in American public life," said a
statement from Coral Ridge Ministries, the broadcast arm of
conservative Presbyterian preacher D. James Kennedy. "He leaves an
enduring legacy of leadership for the gospel, Christian education, and
Christian moral engagement in American public life."
Falwell, a Lynchburg native, was born in 1933 to a devoutly Christian
mother and a father who, Falwell said, was an entrepreneur dismissive
of his wife's faith. The younger Falwell was reportedly something of a
ne'er-do-well himself, but he embraced his mother's faith in 1952
while attending a local college.
He professed his faith at a local Baptist church and completed his
undergraduate education at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo.
Falwell became involved in the independent Baptist movement while
there and remained an independent Baptist most of his life. However,
in the 1990s he led his church to affiliate with the Southern Baptist
Convention through the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, a
new state convention formed by fundamentalists disgruntled with the
moderate leadership of the established Baptist General Association of
Although Falwell and his followers often used the courtesy title "Dr."
before his name, he never earned a doctorate.
He stepped down from his day-to-day duties as pastor of the Thomas
Road congregation, turning them over to one of his sons to focus on
his work for the university. He is survived by his wife of nearly 50
years, the former Macel Pate, and three children.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
GLAAD URGES MEDIA TO EXAMINE FALWELL'S LEGACY
New York, May 15, 2007 -- Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
(GLAAD) President Neil G. Giuliano today expressed condolences to the
family of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who died today at age 73, and urged
media reporting on the death of the evangelical leader to explore in
full the legacy of his public comments regarding lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and families.
"The passing of as public a figure as Jerry Falwell naturally garners
intense media attention," Giuliano said. "Our condolences are with the
Rev. Falwell's family and loved ones during this emotional time. And
as the nation's media examine Falwell's life and legacy, it is
important that they focus attention on the damaging impact of his
rhetoric and advocacy on millions of gay and lesbian people and families."
For decades, Falwell was one of the leading voices of the extreme
right, routinely sought out by the media to debate LGBT civil rights
from the perspective of anti-gay fundamentalism.
GLAAD is encouraging media outlets to report on Falwell's history of
denigrative comments and examine the cultural progress toward
inclusion, acceptance and respect that he fought against. Video clips
of some of Falwell's media appearances are available at
"As they look back on the life of the Rev. Falwell, media have an
opportunity and a responsibility to reflect on the outdated, hurtful
attitudes and beliefs he embodied," Giuliano said. "It's an important
opportunity to take stock of how far our nation has come in moving
toward a more respectful and inclusive society, and how far we still
have to go."
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to
promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of
people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia
and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
For more information, please visit http://www.glaad.org.
Director of National News
(646) 871-8019 P
Methodist social action tied to 20th century history
May 18, 2007
A UMNS Report By Linda Bloom*
To consider the path of Methodist social activism in the United States
during the 20th century, one need only pick up a history book.
In 1907, the first official business of what originally was called the
Methodist Federation for Social Service was to be presented to
President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House.
During World War I, the independent federation supported the rights of
conscientious objectors and political dissenters. During the steel
strike of 1919, it supported the rights of labor, working toward
decent wages, humane working conditions and collective bargaining. The
1920s and '30s brought further concerns about workers' rights and
unchecked capitalism, leading to charges of Bolshevism and Communism
and even an appearance before the House Un-American Affairs Committee
in the 1950s.
In the latter half of the century, the Methodist Federation for Social
Action endorsed lunch counter sit-ins, freedom rides and all other
actions promoting civil rights and racial integration; opposed the
nuclear arms race and Vietnam War; demanded the denomination's pension
agency divest from South Africa during apartheid; and supported gay
and lesbian rights, both inside and outside the church.
"We really are an organization which responds to the current context,"
said the Rev. Kathryn Johnson, the executive director of MFSA since
1998. "Over the past 100 years, we are continuing that tradition."
The federation is an unofficial part of The United Methodist Church
and acknowledged its founding, history and future during an April
13-15 conference in the Washington area. A capital campaign called
"Faithful Witness for a New Century" has been launched to raise money
for organizing and outreach, upgrading communications and building a
As its membership in about 30 chapters ages along with the rest of the
church, MFSA hopes to do more organizing and leadership training with
Small but influential
Throughout its history, the federation's official membership always
has been small - roughly 5,000 - especially in relation to the
millions of U.S. church members. But often it has been able to expand
its influence in the denomination.
At the 2004 General Conference, the church's top legislative body, one
in 10 delegates was an MFSA member, Johnson pointed out. "Frequently,
it is MFSA members who are most active in the process of submitting,
tracking and amending legislation," she added.
The Rev. Jeanne Knepper of Portland, Ore., believes the federation "is
still timely and effective and necessary."
After Knepper became active in MFSA in the 1980s, she became curious
about the influence of such a small organization. Her interest led her
to write her doctoral thesis on "Thy Kingdom Come: Methodist
Federation for Social Service and Human Rights 1907-1948," completed
From an activist point of view, she said, she wanted to learn what was
effective and not effective in the federation. As a historian, she
wanted to be as truthful as possible.
The research "gave me a lot more respect for what the federation could
do and was doing" - and an awareness that people who had denigrated
the organization over the years often did so because of
"half-knowledge and partial understanding and dismissing things that
were too radical."
Knepper's research included three boxes of declassified FBI files
obtained by the Rev. George McClain, the MFSA executive director from
1974-98 who has catalogued much of its history. Those files showed her
that "we, as a culture, really didn't get how thoroughly the
government was involved in getting the Methodist church to repudiate
A year after its founding, the federation gained recognition from the
1908 Methodist General Conference and convinced that body to adopt the
first denominational Social Creed. The legislative assembly will mark
the 100th anniversary of the creed when it meets next year in Fort
The partnership of the Rev. Harry Ward, brought on as federation
executive in 1911, and Bishop Francis J. McConnell, chosen as its
president in 1912, proved significant to the organization over the
next 32 years as it fought the social sins of labor exploitation,
profit motivation, militarism, racism and imperialism.
Monitored by the FBI
Some were affronted by the federation's attacks on capitalism, and the
organization became a target of accusations about Communist leanings
or "red-baiting," both inside and outside the denomination. Based on
actions during the steel strike, for example, J. Edgar Hoover had the
FBI make reports on Ward for years. "The FBI report on Ward's 90th
birthday was an inch thick," Knepper reported.
Another FBI target was the Rev. Jack McMichael, who succeeded Ward as
the federation's executive secretary in the 1940s. In 1951, he was
called before the House Un-American Affairs Committee to testify about
accusations by paid informants that he was second-in-command in a
Communist cell in New York. The charges were easy to refute, she said,
because McMichael was a 16-year-old high school student in Georgia at
Still, the FBI effectively blacklisted him. McMichael's widow told
Knepper that the harassment continued "for a long time" after he had
returned to serving congregations in the California-Nevada Conference.
Picking up on accusations against the federation, the 1952 General
Conference officially expressed disapproval of "many of its statements
and policies" and voted to evict the organization from its rented
office space at the Methodist Building in New York. At the same time,
it approved a federation-backed proposal to create an official Board
of Christian Social Concerns, which later became the Board of Church
That MFSA survived the 1950s at all was due to "dogged perseverance,"
according to McClain. "We were nearly killed and had no money for
national staff," he said. "It was held together by volunteers alone
for nearly eight years."
Finally, the Rev. Lee Ball was hired as executive secretary in 1960
and led a revival through the continued publication of the Social
Questions Bulletin, "plus a lot of knocking on doors of Methodist
clergy around the country," he added.
When McClain, who lives in Staten Island, N.Y., became the MFSA
executive in 1974, "the mandate was to start new chapters and be
active in the church." One of his first actions was to send two
interns to support striking workers at a Methodist hospital in
Pikesville, Ky. The hospital was refusing to negotiate. "A serious
witness was made and that reassured us that we did have an important
role to play," he recalled.
Other labor-related actions followed, along with attention to gay and
lesbian concerns, corporate exploitation, the Vietnam and Gulf wars
and the Palestine/Israel crisis. "I was always looking for issues ...
where the church was either lagging behind and needed to catch up or
was taking the lead," McClain said.
One such issue was apartheid in South Africa. The focus was on
convincing the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits
to join the ecumenical movement encouraging U.S. corporations to
divest from South Africa. Actions included dialogue and demonstrations
at pension board meetings and resolutions at annual conference and
General Conference sessions.
"We had a number of allies on the board, which at one point included
the president of the board," McClain noted. "I think we really enabled
the church's larger voice to be heard."
Under new leadership, he added, the pensions board "steadily moved to
taking a role among church-related shareholders, which they have to
MFSA has long supported same-sex unions and ordination for gays and
lesbians and was active around the church trials of the Revs. Jimmy
Creech, Greg Dell and Beth Stroud. "We so vehemently disagree with the
stance of the church (on homosexuality) and are so very aware of the
pain and anguish that it causes," Johnson said.
In today's post-9/11 world, issues of security, war, civil rights and
racism also are in the forefront of MFSA's concerns, she added.
But while the federation continues to be a justice movement rooted
within the denomination's local churches and annual conferences, it
tries to maintain its independence.
"We want to impact the church, on the one hand," Johnson said. "On the
other hand, we try hard not to have the institutional church define us."
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
United Methodist pastor speaks of transgender experience
May. 25, 2007
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
A transgender United Methodist pastor has shared his story with other
members of the denomination's Baltimore-Washington Conference in the
hopes of promoting a broader discussion about gender identity.
The Rev. Drew Phoenix - formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon - spoke at both
a closed clergy session and a general plenary session on May 24
during the annual conference meeting at the Wardman Park Hotel in
Washington. He is pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in
"I was very grateful for the opportunity to be able to share my story
and who I am," Phoenix told United Methodist News Service in a phone
interview following those sessions. "I was very pleased at the number
of people who were very honest in their reflections and questions."
He said he has been undergoing medical procedures for the transition
from female to male during the past year, with "a great team of
medical people who helped me think it out."
In his statement to the plenary session, the 48-year-old pastor
explained that "last fall, after a lifelong spiritual journey, and
years of prayer and discernment, I decided to change my name from Ann
Gordon to Drew Phoenix in order to reflect my true gender identity
and to honor my spiritual transformation and relationship with God."
By sharing the story of his spiritual journey and relationship with
God, Phoenix said he hoped the conference participants "will commit
ourselves to becoming educated about the complexity of gender and
gender identity and open ourselves to those in our congregations who
identify as transgender."
Phoenix, who was ordained in 1989 and previously served in the
Bethesda area, said he joined the ministry because of "a calling to
be in service to folk who are oppressed, who are poor, who are
excluded, who are marginalized."
Although he was named Ann and declared a girl, Phoenix said he always
felt he was male and had trouble understanding "the disconnect I was
experiencing between my physical, external self and my internal,
"Fortunately, today, God's gift of medical science is enabling me to
bring my physical body into alignment with my true gender," he told
the plenary session.
No church policies
He had informed his bishop, John Schol, and his congregation about
his decision to undergo the transition. Schol told United Methodist
News Service that he, the conference cabinet and the congregation
have approached the matter in a serious and prayerful manner.
The United Methodist Book of Discipline has no specific policies
regarding gender reassignment. "The cabinet and myself have done
everything to ensure that the Discipline is being carried out," Schol
Both Phoenix and St. John's staff-parish committee requested that the
pastor be reappointed to the church as part of the normal appointment
cycle, which begins July 1. That request will be granted, according
to the bishop.
Church members told Schol that under Phoenix's leadership, membership
has grown and the congregation's financial situation has
improved. "There is a spirit within the congregation that hasn't been
experienced within a number of years," the bishop reported.
More effective pastor
Phoenix believes his transition is making him "even more effective"
as a pastor and said his greatest concern "is that the congregation
continues to grow and thrive."
That growth, he pointed out, is evident at St. John's, located just
north of downtown Baltimore. With a membership spanning a wide range
of ages and backgrounds - including the first youth group and
confirmation class in years - the congregation is planning to
renovate its historic building.
Phoenix is not the first transgender clergy member in the Baltimore-
Washington Conference. In 2002, the Rev. Rebecca A. Steen decided to
leave the denomination after controversy over her desire to return to
active ministry after gender reassignment.
She had sought voluntary leave from the conference in 1999. Prior to
that time, Steen, who was then the Rev. Richard A. Zamostny, had
served churches in three Maryland communities during a 17-year
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or
Affirmation Congratulates the Rev. Drew Phoenix
For Immediate Release, May 31, 2007
By Diane DeLap, Affirmation spokesperson
Affirmation congratulates the Rev. Drew Phoenix, a
Baltimore-Washington Conference pastor, for his courage in stepping
forward and declaring that he is going through gender transition.
This is a difficult decision under any circumstances and especially
given the unwelcome atmosphere prevalent in much of today's United
Methodist Church (UMC). Recent Judicial Council decisions have made
it possible for a pastor to deny a child of God membership in the UMC
simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. In the
current atmosphere of hate and distrust, Affirmation recognizes and
commends the tremendous amount of courage Rev. Phoenix has displayed.
Unfortunately, we also recognize that his "coming out" may be the
start of a long process of acceptance. In 2002 when Rev. Rebecca
Steen surrendered her credentials as a United Methodist Church pastor
in the same Baltimore-Washington Conference, it was after a long
process that culminated in a series of vicious personal attacks. She,
then as Rev. Richard Zomastny, approached Bishop May in October 1999
with a request for a voluntary leave of absence to complete the gender
transition process. The Conference's ministry board, charged with
assessing the fitness of the clergy, twice approved Steen's return
from leave. Despite that, and the fact that there is no prohibition
against transgender clergy in the Book of Discipline, as there is
against gay and lesbian clergy, a number of Becky's clergy colleagues
mounted an attempt to force her removal. Seeing that she was to face
a long series of destructive personal attacks, she determined to leave
It is our prayer that Drew's experience will be more positive. He is
blessed with a supportive congregation, and received a standing
ovation at the recent Annual Conference meeting. However, it is clear
that opposition will continue to grow. There is already a move by
some pastors in the Conference to petition the Judicial Council to
overturn Rev. Phoenix's appointment, and petitions are being prepared
by conservative groups to prohibit the appointment of transgender
clergy. Mark Tooley, director of the UMAction of The Institute on
Religion and Democracy spoke on the Albert Mohler Radio Program
Tuesday, May 29th and, after noting the denomination's General
Conference scheduled for May, 2008, he stated "this case of Rev.
Phoenix now guarantees that the idea of transsexual clergy will be
addressed in church law." In addition he notes the appeal by
Baltimore-Washington clergy to the Judicial Council and says "this
court could still say, in all honesty, that the denomination does not
have an official policy on transsexual clergy, so a specific law will
need to be ratified."
As the journey toward full inclusion of all God's children moves
forward, Affirmation lauds those like the Rev. Drew Phoenix who help
lead us on the way.
As an independent voice of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and
Queer people, Affirmation radically reclaims the compassionate and
transforming gospel of Jesus Christ by relentlessly pursuing full
inclusion in the Church as we journey with the Spirit in creating
God's beloved community. We affirm a Gospel of respect, love, justice
and mercy for all. Affirmation is an activist, all-volunteer,
not-for-profit organization with no official ties to The United
How to Contact Us:
Affirmation email: umaffirmation@...
Affirmation web: http://www.umaffirm.org
Snail-Mail: Affirmation, P.O. Box 1021, Evanston, IL 60204.
For Immediate Release:
Monday, June 4, 2007
HOLSINGER'S ANTI-GAY VIEWS MAKE HIM 'UNWORTHY' OF SURGEON GENERAL POST
'It is essential that America's top doctor value sound science over
anti-gay ideology,' said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign spoke out today in opposition
to President Bush's nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to the position
of surgeon general. Among other things, the U.S. surgeon general is
charged with educating Americans about public health.
"Dr. Holsinger has a record that is unworthy of America's doctor,"
said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "His writings
suggest a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs that are
incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all
Americans. It is essential that America's top doctor value sound
science over anti-gay ideology."
In a document titled "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality,"
Holsinger opined, in his capacity as a physician, that biology and
anatomy precluded considering gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
equality in his denomination. The opinion very clearly states that
this is his scientific view, stating that theological views are
Additionally, Holsinger and his wife were founders of Hope Springs
Community Church which, according to the church's pastor, ministers to
people who no longer wish to be gay or lesbian. The pastor, the Rev.
David Calhoun, said that the church has an "ex-gay" ministry. "We see
that as an issue not of orientation but a lifestyle," Calhoun said.
"We have people who seek to walk out of that lifestyle." This type of
"ex-gay" conversion therapy has been condemned by almost every major,
reputable medical organization — including the American Psychological
Association, which issued a condemnation more than 10 years ago.
"Although the church's theology isn't being nominated, this
discredited practice purports to be a psychological and medical
service, and if Dr. Holsinger is involved in any way, it conflicts
with his duty to accept and promote sound science in the interest of
public health," continued Solmonese.
"We are hopeful that during the hearing process Congress will fully
examine Dr. Holsinger's background and part of that examination will
include issues affecting our community, including his stance on
conversion therapy. Too often, we have seen President Bush send
nominees to Congress that have proven their inability to separate
their personal beliefs from their professional duties. As the nation's
chief medical doctor, the office of surgeon general is an extremely
important position that has an impact on the lives of gay and lesbian
Americans and the hearing process should involve a discussion about
where Dr. Holsinger stands on medical issues relating to our
community," Solmonese concluded.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights
organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end
discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that
achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
Note: I thought I had sent the following United Methodist News Service story
when it was published. Apparently I did not. (UMCALLEDOUT moderator)
Bush nominates United Methodist as surgeon general
May. 25, 2007
By United Methodist News Service
A United Methodist physician from Kentucky has been nominated to
serve as the 18th surgeon general of the United States.
President Bush announced the appointment of James W. Holsinger Jr. as
his nominee on May 24.
Holsinger, who is a professor of preventive medicine at the
University of Kentucky, has led that state's health care system and
taught at several American medical schools. He was appointed by
President George H.W. Bush as chief medical director of the Veterans
Health Administration in 1990 and became undersecretary for health in
the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1992. He also served more than
three decades in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring as a major general
A member of Hope Springs United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky.,
where he serves as administrative pastor, Holsinger has been an
active at all levels of the denomination. He currently is president
of Judicial Council, the church's supreme court.
He also is treasurer of the World Methodist Council. "This is an
honor for Dr. Holsinger and a fitting acknowledgement of his
competency as a physician, administrator, teacher and leader," said
the Rev. George Freeman, the council's executive director.
Holsinger has a bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky,
master's degrees from both the University of South Carolina and
Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, and his medical degree and
doctorate from Duke University.
"As America's chief health educator, he will be charged with
providing the best scientific information available on how Americans
can make smart choices that improve their health and reduce their
risk of illness and injury," Bush said in his announcement.
"Dr. Holsinger will particularly focus his efforts on educating
parents and children about childhood obesity, a serious epidemic that
decreases quality of life and burdens our healthcare system. I am
confident that Dr. Holsinger will help our Nation confront this
challenge and many others to ensure that Americans live longer,
better, and healthier lives."
Attempts to reach Holsinger for comment on deadline were
unsuccessful. The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader newspaper reported
that Holsinger, in a statement, described the nomination as a "great
honor." "I look forward to meeting with members of the Senate as they
review and consider my nomination," he said.
Another United Methodist, M. Joycelyn Elders, served as U.S. Surgeon
General from 1993-94 under the Clinton Administration. David Satcher,
a former president of United Methodist-related Meharry Medical
College in Nashville, Tenn., was U.S. Surgeon General from February
1998 through January 2001.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or
Task Force opposes nomination of Dr. James Holsinger for U.S. surgeon
June 05, 2007
WASHINGTON, June 5 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force today
announced its opposition to the nomination of Dr. James W. Holsinger
for U.S. surgeon general. Dr. Holsinger is a University of Kentucky
professor and a member of the United Methodist Judicial Council, the
denomination's "supreme court."
In his role on the United Methodist Judicial Council, Holsinger
opposed a decision to allow a lesbian to be an associate pastor, and
he supported a pastor who would not permit an openly gay man to join
the church. As member of the Committee to Study Homosexuality in the
United Methodist Church, Holsinger authored a 1991 paper titled
"Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality," which essentially equates
homosexuality with disease in lurid terms.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human
Services, the surgeon general is "America's chief health educator,
giving Americans the best scientific information available on how to
improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury."
Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force:
"With the nomination of Dr. Holsinger for surgeon general, the Bush
administration is once again elevating ideology over public policy and
once again throwing red meat to its ravenous anti-gay supporters. Dr.
Holsinger's record shows that his own biases will not allow him to
look objectively at scientific information. Consequently, he is not
qualified to be surgeon general and we call upon the Senate to
promptly reject his nomination."
Statement by the Rev. Troy Plummer, Executive Director of Reconciling
Ministries Network of United Methodists and National Religious
Leadership Roundtable Member:
"For the last 20 years, James Holsinger has been the worst kind of
bully inside the United Methodist Church. As a member of a sexuality
study team in 1991, he used his position as a medical doctor to
promote skewed and inaccurate information regarding gay men. As the
chair of the Judicial Council, the 'supreme court' of the United
Methodist Church, he has used his power to disregard the Constitution
of the Methodist Church and block from membership faithful gay and
lesbian Christians. As a pastor, he has promoted 'reparative therapy'
— a practice that is nothing short of torture of gay and lesbian
people and is not condoned by any professional psychological
association; in fact, many call it medical malpractice.
"In short, when he has been called to be a leader in the United
Methodist Church, to offer the hand of Christian fellowship, he has
slammed the door in the face of faithful gay and lesbian persons.
What, then, might he do as surgeon general? As the primary medical
educator of our nation, I have no faith that Holsinger would refrain
from these practices which are unscientific at best and torturous at
worst. When Holsinger's 'all' does not mean 'all' in the Methodist
Church, can it mean all for American citizens? What kind of education
from the surgeon general could gay and lesbian families expect? What
could bisexual and transgender people expect?
"As a psychotherapist, a pastor and an American citizen myself, I can
only hope that James Holsinger will not be given the opportunity to
use the office of the surgeon general as a bully pulpit for hatred."
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
Exodus International Supports White House Nominee's Position on
Change in Homosexuality
Press Release: June 7, 2007
Orlando, FL- President Bush's nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. James
W. Holsinger, has recently come under attack for supporting the fact
that homosexuals can change. Dr. Holsinger founded Hope Springs
Community Church, a church that offers help to individuals seeking an
alternative to homosexuality. Alan Chambers, president of the world's
largest outreach to those affected by unwanted same-sex attraction,
issued a response:
"As former homosexuals, we cannot ignore this hypocritical attack upon
Dr. Holsinger. As a society, we should not disqualify an individual
simply because of his belief that those conflicted by their same-sex
attraction can and should be helped. Thousands of us have experienced
inner distress and external devastation when we were living as
homosexuals and have found a faith-honoring and psychologically sound
way out. We know that change is possible because we have experienced
it. Opposing this alternative is incompatible with free thinking and
"While we do not support or oppose the nominee, we are grateful that
President Bush has put forth a candidate who supports individual
autonomy and authentic diversity. We call upon members of the Senate
Health Committee to offer the same tolerance afforded gay activist
groups to former homosexuals as well."
Soulforce Issues Statement on the Nomination of Dr. James Holsinger
for Surgeon General
International Conference June 29 - July 1 to Address Ex-gay Ministries
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 6, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
(Austin, TX) -- Soulforce today expressed deep concern over the
nomination of Dr. James Holsinger for United States Surgeon General.
"As the leading spokesperson for matters of public health, the Surgeon
General should be guided by sound medical science, not anti-gay views
rooted in religion-based bigotry," said Soulforce Executive Director
Dr. Holsinger is the current president of the United Methodist
Judicial Council. As a member of the council, he opposed the 2004
decision to allow Rev. Karen Dammann, a lesbian, to continue serving
as a minister. He also upheld the 2004 defrocking of Rev. Beth Stroud,
another lesbian minister, and sided with a Virginia pastor who denied
church membership to an openly gay man. Soulforce stood in solidarity
at the trials of Rev. Dammann and Rev. Stroud, challenging the unjust
policy that bars gay men and lesbians from ordination in the United
Methodist Church and the false doctrine that homosexuality is
"incompatible with Christian teaching."
Holsinger co-founded Hope Springs Community Church, in Lexington,
Kentucky, which operates an "ex-gay" ministry aimed at changing
homosexuals to heterosexuals. Recent events have brought national
attention to the existence of programs intended to modify same-sex
desires, which continue to multiply in spite of the consensus of the
major medical and mental health organizations that sexual orientation
is not a disorder and is, therefore, not in need of a cure. The
American Psychological Association identifies "depression, anxiety,
and self-destructive behavior" among the possible risks associated
with ex-gay therapies.
Later this month, on June 29-July 1, Soulforce will sponsor an
international convention in Irvine, California, for those who have
attended ex-gay ministries or reparative therapy but ultimately
concluded that the programs did more harm than good. The Ex-Gay
Survivor Conference will feature the testimonies of former "ex-gays,"
including men and women who founded and directed ex-gay programs but
are now speaking publicly about the injury the programs can cause. For
more information about the conference, go to
Soulforce Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, is a licensed
psychotherapist in private practice and has treated dozens of victims
of so-called "ex-gay ministries" and "reparative therapy." In a
statement released Wednesday, Lutes said "America doesn't need a
Surgeon General who supports 'reparative therapy' and anti-gay dogma
masquerading as science. If Holsinger bars gays and lesbians from his
own church, how will he treat them as the nation's chief physician?
What America needs now is some 'reparative theology' - a force of
fair-minded people of faith who will take an unwavering stand against
religion gone bad and choose instead to welcome and affirm gay and
lesbian people into full citizenship."
Kentucky Equality Federation Urges the U.S. Senate to Deny the
Confirmation of Dr. James Holsinger as U.S. Surgeon General
Kentucky Equality Federation condemns the nomination of Kentucky's Dr.
James Holsinger as U.S. Surgeon General and urges the U.S. Senate not
to confirm him.
Lexington, KY, June 11, 2007 -- Kentucky Equality Federation today
condemned the nomination of Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr. as U.S. Surgeon
Federation management had previously decided to remain largely quiet
on the issue since the Office of U.S. Surgeon General is not a
particularly powerful one, and has little direct impact on policy-making.
Earlier this week however Truth Wins Out, a group that debunks the
religious right, reported that Dr. James Holsinger helped found a
church in Lexington, Kentucky that operates an "ex-gay" ministry, a
practice strongly opposed by Kentucky Equality Federation.
In 2006 the American Psychiatric Association, backed by numerous other
mainstream medical organizations, issued a warning which stated:
"There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that
sexual orientation can be changed." The statement went on to say that
positions supported by ex-gay organizations "are not supported by the
science" and that they "create an environment in which prejudice and
discrimination can flourish." The medical and scientific consensus is
that reparative therapy is not effective and is potentially harmful.
"After reading some of the information and reports currently being
circulated in the gay community it is clear that Dr. Holsinger has
homophobic issues and isn't worthy to be a physician, much less U.S.
Surgeon General," stated Jordan Palmer, Kentucky Equality Federation
President. "If Holsinger is confirmed it will alienate the gay
community from the U.S. Public Health Service."
Kentucky Equality Federation will be sending its certified
condemnation of Dr. James Holsinger as U.S. Surgeon General to U.S.
Senator Ted Kennedy, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
"I think the committee needs to hear from Holsinger's home state,"
stated Palmer. "It is alarming that someone with a record such a
Holsinger's, a record of allowing his personal religious opinion to
influence his medical judgment, could be confirmed as our leading
spokesperson on matters of public health in the U.S. government."
Kentucky Equality Federation will be asking its 6,841 registered
members, as well as its 3,891 friends on the social networking website
MySpace.com to sign a petition urging the Senate to reject Holsinger's
For additional information, visit http://www.commonwealth-equality.org
CORNET note: Except for the first three articles, the following news
and views related to Dr. James W. Holsinger are posted in reverse
chronological order. To read the stories for some of these links,
individuals must have a login account with the website.
Bush Taps Judicial Council Head for Surgeon General
By Cynthia B. Astle
... As word of the nomination spread, media outlets began raising
questions about Holsinger's qualifications and past performance, along
with questions of continued cronyism on the part of President Bush, as
with his previous nominations of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court
and Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General.
June 8, 2007
Statement in Support of of Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr.
World Methodist Council
As a leader in the field of medicine, education and healthcare
administration, Dr. James W. Holsinger possesses the highest degree of
integrity and commitment to excellence in his profession. As a leader
in the World Methodist Council, he brings the same commitment in
working with Church leadership around the world. As evident from his
leadership, he is known for his compassion and concern for equal
treatment of all persons, whatever their circumstances or location.
His sense of fairness and commitment to justice are evident in all of
his contributions to our work together through the World Methodist
Direct link to PDF Document
June 8, 2007
Samaritan foundation announces grants
SOME THOUGHT DISPUTE WOULD END GIFTS
By Karla Ward
The Good Samaritan Foundation, now under control of the Kentucky
Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, has announced nearly
$1 million in grants to health-related efforts.... Until a week ago,
the former foundation board that battled the Methodist Church for
control of the funds was chaired by U.S. Surgeon General nominee Dr.
Charles Verette, who served as treasurer and acting president on the
former board, said the group received a letter from Holsinger last
week, saying that he could no longer be part of the group engaged in
the appeal because of his potential role as surgeon general.
June 11, 2007
Therapy aims to make 'ex-gays'
Backers say regimen, often religious-based, growing in popularity;
critics say it's harmful, amounts to self-hatred
By Sean D. Hamill
... The subject has even become a part of the dispute over President
Bush's nominee for surgeon general. Dr. James Holsinger, a Kentucky
cardiologist who helped establish a church that reportedly helps gays
"walk out of that lifestyle," is opposed by gay activists....
"The therapy is so destructive," said Sue Laurie, outreach coordinator
for Reconciling Ministries Network, a Chicago-based group of
Methodists opposed to their church's position that homosexuality is a
sin." ... I just don't know how you can ground a ministry in self-hatred."
June 10, 2007
Holsinger assailed, defended over views on gays
Kentuckian tapped to be surgeon general
By Andrew Wolfson
Gay-rights activists have denounced the University of Kentucky doctor
nominated for U.S. surgeon general as an "anti-gay quack" who they
fear would use the office as "a bully pulpit for hatred."
And two U.S. senators who will judge his nomination -- Barack Obama
and Christopher Dodd -- criticized Dr. James Holsinger's nomination,
citing views he has expressed about gays as a national leader of the
United Methodist Church.
June 10, 2007
Bush's Surgeon General Nominee: "Ex-Gay" Therapy On Trial Huffington Post
James Holsinger, President George W. Bush's nominee for Surgeon
General, has a dark view of homosexuals. In a 1991 paper, Holsinger
describes homosexual sex in sickeningly lurid language. "Fist
fornication," "sphincter injuries," "lacerations," "perforations" and
"deaths seen in connection with anal eroticism," are some of the terms
Holsinger concocted to describe acts with which he suggests at least
medical familiarity (a case of participant observation, perhaps?). At
the same paper, Holsinger puzzlingly issues no warnings about the
dangers of heterosexual sex in his paper. To him, only "anal
eroticism" is a health peril.
June 10, 2006
(Note: probably the date above is for more recent response to this
blog post - it is not the date the original article went up)
The Conference is in a lawsuit... with the president of the Judicial
by Chris Morgan
Dr. James Holsinger is president of the United Methodist Church's
Judicial Council. He also serves as chairman of the Good Samaritan
Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to serving the
health care needs of Kentucky's poor and disadvantaged. The
Foundation's website states unequivocally that "Good Samaritan has no
political, religious, institutional, or other affiliations." There's
just one problem: Things aren't quite that simple.
June 10, 2007
Criticism surprises Holsinger colleagues
SURGEON GENERAL PICK'S VIEWS ON GAYS AT ISSUE
By Sarah Vos
Lexington Herald Leader
When Dr. James W. Holsinger was nominated late last month to be the
country's next surgeon general, the choice was hailed by those who
know him as a solid one, a boost for the state of Kentucky....
The controversy has surprised Holsinger's colleagues and friends in
Lexington. They knew Holsinger had deeply held religious beliefs, but
he didn't discuss them. They say his dedication to providing medical
care would overrule any thoughts he had about someone's character....
June 9, 2007
Uproar over surgeon general nominee
Gay rights groups oppose Bush's pick, a Kentucky cardiologist,
questioning his views on homosexuality.
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
Los Angeles Times
President Bush's nominee for surgeon general ran into intensified
opposition Friday, as two leading Democratic presidential candidates
joined major gay and lesbian groups in urging his rejection by the
Senate.... But controversy has erupted over a paper Holsinger wrote 16
years ago on human anatomy and homosexuality, as well as his role in
church battles over policies toward gays. The furor may pose an
insurmountable obstacle to his confirmation.
Surgeon General Nominee Targeted for 'Anti-Gay Ideology'
A Kentucky cardiologist and health-care administrator picked by the
Bush administration to serve as the new U.S. surgeon general is under
attack from homosexual advocacy groups. They charge that James
Holsinger, Jr., is "unworthy" of the post because his "anti-gay
beliefs" are incompatible with being "America's top
June 9, 2007
Left Wants to Amputate Surgeon General Nominee
By J. Matt Barber
Concerned Women of America
The Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
and a host of other radical homosexual activist and leftist
organizations are decrying President Bush's Surgeon General Nominee,
Dr. James Holsinger.
June 8, 2007
Surgeon General Nominee Is Assailed for Church Role
By NEELA BANERJEE
New York Times
President Bush's nomination of Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., a Kentucky
cardiologist, to be surgeon general is
drawing criticism from gay rights groups, physicians and lawmakers who
say they are troubled by opinions critical of homosexuality that Dr.
Holsinger has voiced in nearly 20 years as a high-ranking layman in
the United Methodist Church.
June 7, 2007
Gay Rights Groups Decry Surgeon General Nominee
By Jeffrey McMurray
President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Kentucky cardiologist
Dr. James Holsinger, has come under fire from gay rights groups for
voting to expel a lesbian pastor from the United Methodist Church and
writing in 1991 that gay sex is unnatural and unhealthy.
May 25, 2007
Bush's Pick for Surgeon General Makes Us Sick: Killed Veterans, Hates
Gays, Loves Republicans
Submitted by BuzzFlash. Analysis
Dr. James Holsinger was tapped by President Bush Thursday to be the
nation's next Surgeon General. Sure enough, Holsinger's record is
mired with incompetence, zealous conservatism, and, of course,
sizable campaign contributions to Republicans.
January 6, 2007
$20 Million Handover to Methodists Disputed
By The Associated Press
The Good Samaritan Foundation planned to appeal a decision by Fayette
Circuit Judge Gary Payne that The Kentucky Annual Conference of the
United Methodist Church is the rightful owner of an estimated $20
million from the foundation's sale of a hospital. . . . Dr. James
Holsinger, chairman of the foundation board, said Thursday he expects
to appeal the judge's decision to turn the funds over to the church.
SBC appoints strategy coordinator for churches' 'ex-gay' ministries
By Trennis Henderson and Robert Marus
Associated Baptist Press
Published: June 14, 2007
SAN ANTONIO (ABP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention has commissioned
a Texas pastor to become its "national strategist for gender issues"
-- a position designed to promote "ex-gay" ministries to SBC
Bob Stith, who said God convicted him more than a decade ago about how
he addressed the issue of homosexuality, filled the slot June 1. He
was introduced to SBC messengers during the convention's recent annual
meeting in San Antonio.
Stith had been pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas,
since 1970. The post is being funded by LifeWay Christian Resources,
the denomination's publishing arm. The SBC Ethics and Religious
Liberty Commission is providing administrative oversight.
Stith's primary emphasis will be to model a ministry to gays that goes
beyond condemnation. "When pastors and churches aren't sure how to
deal with it, they usually deal with it wrongly," Stith said. "I
understand because I was there; I did those things."
Jimmy Draper, LifeWay's president emeritus, said the strategist role
"has been a culmination of many years of planning and praying." Draper
and Richard Land, president of the ethics commission, were named
co-chairs of an SBC task force on ministry to gays in 2002. Land said
the task force was charged with being "proactive and redemptive in
reaching out to those who struggle with same-sex attractions."
While affirming the biblical passages that conservatives say
categorically label homosexual activity as sinful, Draper said that
belief "does not relieve us of the loving response and ministry to
those who face this kind of temptation."
As SBC leaders sought a national strategist, Land said Stith's
congregation "is one of those churches that is most active in reaching
out proactively and redemptively." He added that Stith "is the one who
really has had a vision for how churches can do this."
Stith, a graduate of Samford University and Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary, said God convicted him in 1994 about his
attitude of "condemnation and judgment" in his preaching about
homosexuality. People struggling with same-sex attractions "would not
have come to me for help," he acknowledged.
"One of the things God really put on my heart is the fact that there
are so many people in our churches who struggle with this, and they do
so silently" because of fear of condemnation and rejection, Stith said
at a June 13 press conference during the SBC event.
Responding to a question about anticipated ministry strategies, Stith
said, "We don't specifically have an outline of telling churches this
is what you do. We are more interested in helping them learn how to
receive people who are struggling with this.
"What our church did from the beginning was for me to acknowledge that
my attitude was wrong," he explained. "We should reach out to them
with compassion. … Basically what we have done is to love them with
the love of Christ."
Land said one goal to help Southern Baptist churches minister to
homosexuals "is to show them a Baptist church that looks a lot like
their Baptist church" that is involved in effective ministry efforts.
Convention leaders plan to "develop a strategy, and we're going to
seek to be ministering redemptively and compassionately to this issue,
which is a problem in a lot of our churches," Land said. He added that
"the pulpit is not immune" to the issue of same-sex attractions.
Stith noted that many churches separate homosexuality "as a sin that
is different from other sins, and consequently we isolate" individuals
who struggle with same-sex attractions. By contrast, he added, "I
don't think God makes a distinction between sins."
While agreeing that there's not a "hierarchy of sins in terms of
separating us from our fellowship with God, I think that clearly the
Bible is very specific in its condemnation of homosexual behavior,"
But the leader of a pro-gay Baptist group said any SBC effort to boost
ministries that attempt to change people's sexual orientation from gay
to straight will end up backfiring.
"Clients who are exposed to the inadequacy of the kind of 'help'
offered by [the] SBC's new program will experience lots of frustration
and disillusionment with the program and will eventually wake up to
the beauty and holiness of the gift of their homosexuality," said Ken
Pennings, executive director of the Association of Welcoming and
Affirming Baptists, in an e-mail. "They will realize that
homosexuality is not a sin to be confessed or a sickness to be cured,
but rather, is a natural human condition."
Pennings said he -- like the majority of gay Christians who have tried
such "ex-gay" ministries -- ended up fully embracing his homosexuality
rather than resisting it or reining it in as a result of the therapy.
"What I'm saying, in effect, is that this ex-gay ministry will
unintentionally help lots of gay people embrace themselves [as] gay,"
CORNET NOTE: The Institute on Religion and Demoncracy's web site is at
Press Release Date: 6/18/2007
Homosexual Groups Slam U.S. Surgeon General Nominee in Bid to Keep
Traditional Religious Believers Out of Public Office
Contact: Loralei Coyle (202) 682-4131
"Criticism of Dr. Holsinger has not been about his qualifications.
It disturbingly has been an objection to his faith and an attack on
the role of traditional religion in public life."
—Mark Tooley, IRD Director of UMAction
Washington, DC - On May 25th, President Bush nominated Dr. James W.
Holsinger Jr. for the post of Surgeon General. Holsinger, a Kentucky
cardiologist who plans to focus on combating childhood obesity, has
come under attack by several homosexual activist groups that have
condemned his leadership in the United Methodist Church, which
officially disapproves of homosexual practice.
IRD Director of UMAction Mark Tooley commented:
Seemingly, critics of Dr. Holsinger want to prohibit all
traditional Christians from holding public office.
Homosexual activist groups such as the Human Rights Campaign have
declared Dr. Holsinger 'unworthy' because he has participated in
church discussions that offend their politically correct sensibilities.
The demands from these radical critics have far reaching
implications; among them, that potential office holders should be
disqualified merely for holding traditional Christian or Jewish
beliefs. Their demands are the ultimate in bigotry.
Over 160 million Americans belong to churches, almost all of which
share The United Methodist Church's stance on marriage and sexual
ethics. But radical homosexual groups want to disqualify and brand as
a bigot anyone among the 160 million Americans who actually believe in
their own churches' teachings.
Criticism of Dr. Holsinger has not been about his qualifications.
It disturbingly has been an objection to his faith and an attack on
the role of traditional religion in public life."
Same-sex blessings consistent with core doctrine
Winnipeg, June 24, 2007 -- Members of the Anglican Church of Canada's
General Synod in Winnipeg agreed Sunday that the blessing of same-sex
unions is not in conflict with the church's core doctrine, in the
sense of being credal.
Debate resumed Sunday morning after being suspended late Saturday.
The motion carried reads: "That this General Synod resolves that the
blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the core doctrine
(in the sense of being credal) of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The motion was carried by a vote of 152 for, 97 against in the house
of clergy and laity and by a vote of 21 for and 19 against in the
house of bishops.
a c c w e b n e w s
The Anglican Church of Canada
Blessing of same-sex unions defeated
Winnipeg, June 24, 2007 -- The General Synod of the Anglican Church of
Canada has narrowly defeated a resolution that would have allowed
dioceses to decide for themselves whether or not to bless same-sex unions.
Lay delegates voted 78 to 59 in favor of the motion and clergy voted
63 to 53 in favor but the House of Bishops voted 21-19 against it. As
a result the motion was defeated, since it required approval by each
of the three orders to pass.
The motion read:
"That this General Synod affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any
1. with the concurrence of the diocesan bishop, and
2. in a manner which respects the conscience of the incumbent and
the will of the parish, to authorize the blessing of committed
a c c w e b n e w s
The Anglican Church of Canada
Bishop Hiltz Elected Primate on Fifth Ballot
Anglican Church News Service
June 25, 2007
ACNS: After a nail-biting election that took nearly three hours, a
majority of the delegates of the General Synod elected Bishop Fred
Hiltz of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island as the
13th Primate - or national Archbishop - of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Bishop Hiltz, 53, was elected on June 22 on the fifth ballot,
garnering 60 out of 116 votes (51.7 per cent) from clergy, and 81 out
of 137 votes from laity (59 per cent). Bishop Victoria Matthews of the
diocese of Edmonton came in a close second, with 56 votes from clergy,
and 56 from the laity.
Amid the sweltering summer heat, delegates cast the first ballot at
11:07 at Holy Trinity Church, an inner city parish in downtown Winnipeg.
Delegates were nearly faced with the prospect of having the house of
bishops make the final decision on the new primate when both houses of
laity and clergy were split on their choice for primate.
(Two other candidates -Bishop Bruce Howe of Huron and Bishop George
Bruce of Ontario - were dropped from the roster on the third ballot.)
On the third ballot, Bishop Matthews received a majority of the votes
from clergy (62 out of 115) and Bishop Hiltz received 53. Fifty-nine
votes from clergy were needed to win the election. Bishop Hiltz,
however, received a majority of the votes from laity - 73, compared to
Bishop Matthews' 64. Seventy lay votes were needed.
On the fourth ballot, the deadlock between the choices of clergy and
laity remained. The members were informed that if the stalemate
remained on the fifth ballot, the decision of choosing the next
primate would fall on the bishops, who were sequestered in a nearby
hotel. Two motions from the laity and later, one motion from the
clergy, asking the house of bishops to add another name to the list of
candidates were defeated.
Delegates jumped, cheered, hugged each other and when at 1:56 p.m.,
Dean Peter Elliott, General Synod prolocutor, announced, "My brothers
and sisters, you have done your work. We have a new primate." Members
sang the Doxology, a song of thanksgiving and the church bells were
rung. Moments later, Bishop Hiltz was escorted to the main door of the
church by his predecessor, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, and was met
with a rousing welcome by delegates who stood from their pews to greet
"My brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you for your welcome.
Believe me, it's helping me to relax," Bishop Hiltz said as he was
presented to the delegates. "I was in quite a state coming through the
front door." As he was led through the main door Bishop Hiltz' lips
quivered at the sight of his wife, Lynne Samways, who approached him
with tears in her eyes.
"I enter this with a great deal of trepidation. It's daunting, it's
overwhelming but I will give it all I can," he said. "I love this
church. I've always loved it and pray God I'll always give generously
of myself for it."
Bishop Hiltz vowed to address the deep divisions within the church
over the issue of same-sex blessings, saying, "I will try to the best
of my ability, with your help and with your prayers to be a primate
that holds the church together, tries to hold people in dialogue,
tries to keep them at the table and not to alienate or isolate them."
He added: "We are all one in the Lord. I will do my best to make sure
we remain together in Christ."
The primate-elect also spelled out the other priorities of his
primacy: getting to know the churches in Central Canada, in the West
and in the North, more support for the Council of the North (composed
of 11 financially-assisted dioceses in the North), and the deepening
and broadening of the church's relationship with the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada, which is in Full Communion with the
(Bishop Hiltz serves as co-chair of the Joint Anglican-Lutheran
International Commission that is implementing the two churches'
agreement on Full Communion.)
In his first pastoral statement, Bishop Hiltz expressed the hope that
Canadian Anglicans "will rediscover something of what happened in
Nazareth when Jesus opened the scroll of Isaiah and read from Chapter
61: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to
bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the
captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to proclaim the year of
the Lord's favour."
The powerful moment in the story, said Bishop Hiltz, is when Jesus
rolls up the scroll and gives it back to the attendant. "And he looks
at them and says, 'today the Scriptures fulfil what you're hearing,'"
he said. "My hope and prayer for our church is that the Lord will be
able to look at us and to see through the works to which we are
committed as God's people that that text has been fulfilled yet again
In 2004, Bishop Hiltz's fellow bishops selected him as a candidate for
primate, but he declined the nomination, saying he did not feel he had
all the necessary skills to be the national leader and felt a
commitment to a diocese undergoing a period of transition.
This year, however, he said he has had three additional years of
experience, the diocese is on a firmer footing and he and his wife are
more comfortable with the idea of moving to Toronto, where the seat of
the primacy is located.
Bishop Hiltz, who is known for his quiet demeanour, succeeded
Archbishop Arthur Peters in 2002 as the 14th diocesan bishop in the
oldest diocese (founded in 1787) in the Canadian church. It is
preparing to celebrate in 2010 the 300th anniversary of continuous
Anglican worship in the diocese and will host that year's meeting of
General Synod in Halifax.
In the past three years, Bishop Hiltz led the Leap for Faith capital
campaign, which has collected $2.8 million of its $3-million goal to
benefit youth ministry, congregational development, communication and
He is a former member of the national faith, worship and ministry
committee and the Council of General Synod.
Born and raised in Dartmouth, N.S., Bishop Hiltz graduated from
Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in
1975 and from the Atlantic School of Theology with a master of
divinity degree in 1978.
He was ordained a deacon in 1977 and priest in 1978. He served in a
number of parishes within the diocese: Christ Church, Sydney;
Melford-Guysborough; Timberlea-Lakeside; All Saints Cathedral,
Halifax; and St. John's, Lunenburg.
In October 1994, he was elected suffragan (assistant) bishop of Nova
Scotia and Prince Edward Island and in 2002 was elected co-adjutor
bishop (assistant bishop with the right to succeed the diocesan
bishop) on the first ballot by a 75 per cent majority.
He and his wife have one son, Nathan, who is a musician in Toronto.
Article from: Anglican Journal - by Marites N. Sison
General Synod commits to pastoral care of same-sex couples
Winnipeg, June 25, 2007 -- General Synod Monday approved a statement
from the House of Bishop urging the church to show pastoral
understanding and sensitivity to all same-sex couples, including those
The statement also commits the House to develop pastoral strategies to
give effect to the acceptance of gays and lesbians to whom "we are
already committed by previous General Synod and Council of General
Synod resolutions, House of Bishops guidelines and Lambeth Conference
Bishop Patrick Yu of Toronto, one of the authors of the statement,
said the question now is "how do we move forward in a situation of no
consensus. We bishops represent a diverse group," he said. "It's a
On Sunday, a motion to authorize the blessing of committed same-sex
unions was passed by laity and clergy but defeated in the House of
a c c w e b n e w s
The Anglican Church of Canada
Open letter to Senators Acting on the Nomination of Dr. James
Holsinger for Surgeon General
TO: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Senators Edward Kennedy, Christopher Dodd, Tom Harkin, Barbara A.
Mikulski, Jeff Bingaman, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Hillary Rodham
Clinton, Barack Obama, Bernard Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Michael B.
Enzi, Judd Gregg, Lamar Alexander, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, Lisa
Murkowski, Orrin G. Hatch, Pat Roberts, Wayne Allard, Tom Coburn, M.D.
FROM: The Rev. Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director, Methodist
Federation for Social Action
Bishop Clifton Ives, Co-President, Methodist Federation for Social Action
Ms. Marilyn Outslay, Co-President, Methodist Federation for Social Action
DATE: June 22, 2007
RE: The Nomination of Dr. James Holsinger for Surgeon General
On behalf of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, a nation-wide
network of United Methodists, we are writing to express deep concern
about the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to the position of Surgeon
General of the United States and to urge the senators who will be
acting on this nomination to take these concerns into account.
As church leaders, we are not in a position to critique Dr.
Holsinger's medical credentials. We do feel qualified, however, to
comment on his demeanor and effectiveness in positions of leadership
within the United Methodist Church.
Dr. Holsinger serves as the President of the United Methodist Judicial
Council, the "supreme court" of the United Methodist Church if you
will. In the past few years an unprecedented number of decisions
supported by Dr. Holsinger and the conservative majority of which he
is part, have been challenged by the Council of Bishops and in two
cases have been reversed. In a case decided last year related to the
court's understanding of who has authority to determine church
membership, the court's decision has caused an uproar throughout the
Both in his work with the United Methodist Committee to Study
Homosexuality and in his position as President of the United Methodist
Judicial Council, Dr. Holsinger's actions often appear to be
ideologically driven. This certainly seems to be the case with the
paper he authored entitled, "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality."
In this paper Dr. Holsinger lifts up health concerns related to the
sexual behavior of some homosexuals. He writes about this not as a
means to say that the medical field must therefore aid homosexual men
in maintaining their health, but rather to propose that male
homosexual behavior is "pathological."
In one of the most helpful articles we have found written about the
work of Dr. Holsinger, author Jim Burroway has carefully studied
Holsinger's "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" and concludes that
it has "very little of scientific value." He writes, "Worse, it
shows a startling eagerness to pull evidence out of context to provide
damning evidence against gay men, while willfully ignoring counter
evidence in the same literature which essentially destroys the core of
his arguments." We strongly commend this paper to anyone in a
position to make decisions related to Dr. Holsinger's fitness to serve
as Surgeon General. It can be found at
There have been reports in the press about Dr. Holsinger's respectful
behavior with individual gay and lesbian persons. We have no reason
to doubt accounts of acts of individual kindness. Dr. Holsinger has
not been nominated, however, to serve as a chaplain to individuals.
He has been nominated to a position as the nation's chief health educator.
There have also been press reports challenging opponents to Dr.
Holsinger for attacking him on the basis of his religious beliefs. We
wish to be very clear that we are not doing this. We have no problem
with persons of faith serving in public office. Nor would we
discourage individuals from allowing their faith commitments to inform
their ethics in making decisions. Indeed, as an organization, we
encourage this. Our concern comes when we observe a person, such as
Dr. Holsinger, appearing to sacrifice medical and scientific accuracy
in support of his ideological commitments.
At a time when our nation is deeply polarized on so many issues, it is
important to have someone in the position of surgeon general who is
widely trusted across the board, a person Americans believe will act
with medical integrity. Americans must be confident that the surgeon
general will promote the common good, making decisions and promoting
policies in the best interest of all citizens.
Perhaps most important, national leaders, including the surgeon
general, should be persons who can bridge the inevitable divisions
that arise between citizens in a pluralistic society such as ours. We
question whether Dr. Holsinger is such a person.
National Religious Leadership Roundtable condemns Lutheran church
decision to remove gay pastor
WASHINGTON, July 6 — The National Religious Leadership Roundtable
condemns the July 2 decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of
America (ELCA) Committee on Appeals to immediately remove the Rev.
Bradley Schmeling from the clergy roster because he has a same-sex
partner. By a 10–2 vote, the committee reversed an earlier panel's
ruling allowing the pastor to remain on the roster until Aug. 15.
Under ELCA rules, Schmeling is now a layperson within the denomination
and should not wear a stole or perform sacraments. Schmeling
reportedly has the support of his congregants and said he will defy
the decision and stay as pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in
Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members
"We are deeply saddened, angry and more determined following the
artless and callous treatment of Pastor Bradley at the hands of the
Committee on Appeals. The decision was delivered by e-mail, no
pastoral call was made or human contact given. The committee actually
noted as positive that they limited themselves to the transcripts of
the hearing. They never met Pastor Schmeling or the members of St. John's.
"There are no scriptural precedents for such behavior in Christ's
life. Jesus was moved with compassion and broke the religious laws of
his age, time and again meeting and embracing outcasts in their
contexts. There are others in the Gospels, the Scribes and the
Pharisees who, according to Jesus, kept the letter of the law but
neglected the weightier matters of justice and mercy. Jesus goes on to
say to the Pharisees, 'blind guides, you strain out a gnat and swallow
a camel.' Matthew: 23. Pastor Schmeling has been treated by the church
like a gnat to be swatted away and forgotten. Christ would not
recognize the behavior of the Committee on Appeals, and by default the
ELCA in this case, as his own.
"This is what happens when human law becomes an end to itself. The
judicial process has proven to be an ecclesiastical dry hole. It
started with an unjust, discriminatory policy and decided that it had
been rightly and justly executed.
"We now turn to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August seeking the
legislative remedy offered by the DHC and confirmed as the only
alternative by the COA. The Spirit has moved 22 synods of the ELCA to
state in no uncertain terms that the policy of discrimination must be
changed. These synods represent a full 40 percent of the membership of
the ELCA. They believe that this matter must come to the floor of the
assembly, be debated, and the current policy eliminated leaving a
single standard for pastors more fitting to those who follow Christ
and Martin Luther.
"The struggle is not over, LGBT Lutherans and their allies both clergy
and lay will not relent until justice and mercy prevail."
— Emily Eastwood
Lutherans Concerned/North America
"One day the Protestant churches of America will surely recognize
that sexual diversity is part of God's blessing. Unfortunately today
is not yet that day for the ELCA and other mainline churches. God
bless the people of St. John's for refusing to remove Bradley
Schmeling from their pulpit and speaking truth to power. May the
General Assembly of the ELCA later this summer do the same."
— Rev. Debra W. Haffner
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing
"Bradley trusts love; we pray this blessing for the Lutheran church as
— Rev. Troy Plummer
Reconciling Ministries Network, United Methodist Church
"We are outraged at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and are
hurting for the St. John's community. The powers that be in the ELCA
have struck the most Faustian of bargains. Presented with a loving and
community-based alternative, the Committee on Appeals chose instead to
willfully sacrifice the few, in this case the beloved Pastor Bradley
Schmeling and his spirit-filled congregational family, St. John's
Lutheran Church, on the altar of expediency. The committee has acted
to hurt lesbian and gay people and those who love us in the cynical
belief that we will simply go away. They obviously don't know us and
have forgotten God's constant love and God's call to justice. We will
not go away. In fact, we will be present with Goodsoil and Lutherans
Concerned at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and at every Churchwide
Assembly from now until the gifts and graces for ministry of all
people are both recognized and celebrated."
— Harry Knox
Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program
"The struggle to realize the vision of God's beloved community is
often an arduous, painful journey which requires much courage and
perseverance. The witness of Rev. Schmeling and the congregation he
serves is like so many congregations in the welcoming church movement,
a testament of grace enriched by the many blessings of God's gifts for
mission and ministry. They remind us that faithful discipleship is not
without cost and I pray they may know they are supported by a great
cloud of witnesses through this challenging time."
— Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer
Minister for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ
Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
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