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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
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 102 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."
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."
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
July 13, 2007
Surgeon general nominee testifies before Senate panel
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
The United Methodist nominee for U.S. surgeon general says his 1991
paper on homosexuality was written for a denominational committee and
does not reflect his position today.
Testifying on July 12 in Washington before the U.S. Senate Committee
on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr.
said the paper - which focused on physical and medical aspects of
homosexual practice - "does not represent where I am today. It does
not represent who I am today."
The two-hour hearing was available live over the Internet. A committee
vote on his nomination will come at a later date.
Holsinger, 68, a professor of preventative medicine at the University
of Kentucky and a former leader of that state's health care system,
has been active at all levels of The United Methodist Church,
including serving as president of the Judicial Council, the church's
supreme court. Gay and lesbian groups and others have criticized the
council's homosexuality-related decisions as well as his 1991 paper.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the committee chairman, expressed
concern about whether the paper, titled "Pathophysiology of Male
Homosexuality," avoided using all the available science on
homosexuality in order to conform to an ideological viewpoint. The
paper described gay sex as unnatural.
Holsinger responded that the paper was never published and was not
intended to serve as a medical treatise. It was created in response to
specific questions from the denomination's committee, he explained,
characterizing the paper more as a review of health issues related to
He stressed his commitment "to provide quality health care to
everyone" and recalled that in 2002 he came under intense political
fire in Kentucky for supporting a women's health conference that
included a session on health care for lesbians.
At the United Methodist-related Africa University in Zimbabwe,
Holsinger said he led an international team "to put together a plan to
deal with the AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa," which resulted in
the establishment of a school of health sciences at the university.
The university has outreach programs for HIV/AIDS education and
Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., the committee's ranking member, said he had
talked with Holsinger and found him to be open, forthcoming,
knowledgeable and compassionate - "all of the qualities you would
expect from a doctor."
While Enzi acknowledged criticism from gay rights groups regarding
Holsinger, he said the doctor's peers, co-workers and former
colleagues have written the committee in support of the nomination,
along with C. Everett Koop, a former surgeon general.
Noting his "deep love" for public service and passion for education,
Holsinger told the committee he believes he can meet the challenge of
the office. "I think I can proudly serve all Americans as the surgeon
general," he said.
The criticism directed against him has been troubling, he added,
because it doesn't represent who he is, what he believes or how he has
operated as a physician.
"I have tried to live out my life in the practice of medicine caring
for people regardless of their personal circumstances," he told the
Senate committee members. If confirmed, Holsinger said he will
continue to do so "regardless of sexual orientation or any other
Science vs. politics
Several senators referred to comments made by Richard Carmona, the
previous surgeon general, during July 10 testimony before the House
Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Carmona said the Bush administration would not allow him to address
such issues as sex education, emergency contraception and stem cell
research; required him to mention President Bush numerous times during
a speech; and wanted him to take other actions of a political nature.
Koop, who was surgeon general under President Ronald Reagan, and David
Satcher, who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush,
also complained to the committee about political interference with
Holsinger told Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, that if the Bush
administration or a future administration tried to force him to modify
a position based on strong scientific evidence, "I would use the
science to attempt to educate the policymakers involved," adding that
if necessary, "I would resign."
At another point in the hearing, he said he would take the same action
if he was ordered to do something he considered morally wrong. "I
think we cannot have unfettered science without moral and ethnical
It's clear there are balances."
He reiterated his position to Sen. Bernard Saunders, an independent
from Vermont, who expressed outrage over Carmona's experiences,
likening the situation to "what would have happened in Stalinist Russia."
Saunders told Holsinger that his challenge will be "to convince me and
this committee" that he can stand up to such political pressure.
Holsinger responded that he has taken "tremendous heat" over decisions
in the past, citing his experience as chief medical director of the
Veterans Health Administration in 1991 when he issued a directive that
all returning Gulf War veterans would be treated at VA facilities.
Philosophy and goals
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., was critical of some of Holsinger's
decisions during his tenure with the VHA, and both she and Patty
Murray, D-Wash., expressed concern about women's health needs and
access to care.
Under questioning by Murray, Holsinger said he would "encourage condom
use" as a means of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted
diseases but would discuss with young people all available options,
Holsinger's own goals as the nation's top doctor would include
fighting obesity, especially in children, continuing the efforts of
his predecessors at "making America a tobacco-free nation" and
upgrading the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps so it is
"second to none" in its ability to respond to natural and manmade
Kennedy noted that Holsinger had voiced opposition in 2002 to a
Kentucky bill that would have invoked criminal penalties for embryonic
stem cell research and pressed him about whether he would support
extending that research beyond the Bush administration's current
guidelines. Holsinger declined to give a specific answer, saying he
was not well informed about the issue.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
July 13, 2007
Holsinger distances himself from '91 paper
Baptist Press (Southern Baptist Convention)
WASHINGTON (BP)--James Holsinger, President Bush's embattled surgeon
general nominee, appeared to distance himself at a July 12 hearing
from a controversial 1991 paper in which he described homosexual
behavior as unnatural.
Holsinger testified before a Senate committee without the endorsement
of some pro-family and pro-life organizations that sided with his past
beliefs on homosexuality but were concerned about his past opposition
to proposals to ban human cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
Among the organizations declining to take a position on Holsinger's
confirmation is the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty
No vote has been scheduled on the nominee by the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The University of Kentucky medical professor arrived at the hearing
after a five-week campaign promoted by homosexual rights groups seemed
to help place his confirmation in jeopardy. The effort, led by the
Human Rights Campaign, targeted a 16-year-old paper he wrote as part
of the United Methodist Church's debate over homosexuality.
In the article, Holsinger wrote that anal sex was unnatural and that
it increased the chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
He also said injuries and diseases may take place "when the
complementarity of the sexes is breached."
HRC, the country's largest homosexual political organization, and
other groups accused Holsinger of being "anti-gay" and questioned his
ability to separate his personal beliefs from his work.
When asked at the hearing by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., the
committee chairman, about his view of the 1991 document, Holsinger
said, "The paper does not represent where I am today. It doesn't
represent who I am today. And it represented a specific time and a
specific context and a specific purpose."
Holsinger told Sen. Sherrod Brown, D.-Ohio, he considers the issue
"very different today. We are nearly 20 years past the majority of
papers that were cited [in his 1991 article]. They were 1986, 1988
papers.... I don't even think the same questions would be asked today
as were asked" two decades ago.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, as well as the Family
Research Council and Concerned Women for America, chose even before
the hearing not to support or oppose Holsinger.
Concerns were raised for some organizations by Holsinger's testimony
in 2002 and 2005 against legislative efforts in Kentucky against
embryonic stem cell research and cloning. He opposed those proposals,
expressing concerns over restrictions on research and harsh penalties
that would result, according to a report in The Louisville
Courier-Journal and a summary by a state legislative aide.
Barrett Duke, the ERLC's vice president for public policy, explained
to Baptist Press the entity's refusal to take a position on the nominee.
"It's our understanding the surgeon general is not going to be
addressing stem cell issues, and the issues he will be focusing on are
issues with which we are in agreement," Duke said. "So at this time we
see no reason to oppose him, although we do not feel confident enough
to support him either."
During the hearing, Kennedy questioned Holsinger about his concerns
with one of the Kentucky bills.
"The entire bill caused grave concern for me," Holsinger said. "The
reason simply is that it would have banned all research, regardless of
whether it met the president's decision in 2001. We were doing
research under that decision on the current stem cell lines. But it
would have banned all research."
Holsinger told Kennedy he favors doing stem cell research under Bush's
policy, which bars federal funding for research that destroys embryos
but permits grants for experiments on stem cell lines already in
existence when the president announced his guidelines in August 2001.
"We are doing [stem cell research] effectively under the president's
current 2001 decision.... It seems to be we're going with an effective
program at the moment, and we should continue to track and see how
things turn out as we go forward," Holsinger said.
Kennedy asked Holsinger if there would be increased potential for
medical advances if Bush's policy were repealed.
"I have to confess, Sen. Kennedy, that I have since the 2002 hearing
not had a lot of reason to stay engaged in the stem cell discussions,"
Holsinger said. "So I'm not as informed on both the science on current
stem cell work, as well as some of the new alternative processes that
are coming. I simply don't feel comfortable giving you my opinion when
I don't feel like I've had the proper time to study it."
The Bush administration defended Holsinger.
"He supports the president's policy prohibiting taxpayer funds for the
destruction of embryos," White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore told
BP before the hearing.
She said the "most important thing with this entire discussion" is the
president has appointed Holsinger not to deal with the stem cell issue
but primarily to lead the fight against childhood obesity.
Though Concerned Women for America took no position on Holsinger's
nomination, it decried the attacks against him based on his religious
"It is both inappropriate and unconstitutional for the Senate to
require that any nominee pass an anti-Christian religious litmus test
based upon the demands of extremist, left-wing, special interest
groups," Matt Barber, CWA's policy director for cultural issues, said
in a news release. "Essentially what these radical special interest
groups and like-minded senators are saying is that Christians need not
apply for public service. This is both hateful and discriminatory."
Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy said in a news
release that Holsinger's critics would attempt to set up a "test that
would exclude any nominee who is an orthodox Christian with
traditional beliefs about sexual ethics. Dr. Holsinger serves on
United Methodism's Judicial Council, which has upheld the
denomination's policies regarding homosexuality. Like nearly all
Christian churches, the United Methodist Church affirms sexual
relations only within the marriage of one man and one woman."
Data from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that risky
homosexual behavior is contributing to dangerous increases in rates of
infection for syphilis. The CDC reported an 8 percent rise overall in
2004, a fourth consecutive year of increase. Approximately 64 percent
of the new cases were among men who have sex with men, up from just 5
percent in 1999.
Holsinger, 68, served for 26 years in the Department of Veterans
Affairs and was appointed chief medical director of the Veteran's
Health Administration. He was chancellor of the University of Kentucky
Medical Center from 1994 to 2003 before serving two years as the
state's secretary of the cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Bush vetoed June 20 a bill that would weaken his policy prohibiting
federal funds for destructive stem cell research. He vetoed a similar
bill last July.
Stem cells are the body's master cells that can develop into tissues
and other cells, providing hope for the treatment of numerous
afflictions. Embryonic research has yet to treat any diseases in human
beings and has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab
animals. Extracting stem cells from an embryo destroys the days-old
Unlike research using embryos, extracting stem cells from
non-embryonic sources - such as umbilical cord blood, placentas, fat
and bone marrow - has nearly universal support. Such research has
produced treatments for at least 72 ailments, according to Do No Harm,
a coalition promoting ethics in research. These include spinal cord
injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and sickle
In early June, three new studies were reported that showed skin cells
can be converted to embryonic-like cells in the laboratory. The
research on mice found the skin cells could be formatted to be nearly
identical to embryonic cells, which scientists say appear to be the
most potent and flexible for therapies. Experiments remain to be done
on human beings, but the development raised more doubts about
contentions by embryonic stem cell research proponents that the
federal government needs to fund the deadly research.
Compiled by Tom Strode with reporting by Michael Foust, Art Toalston
and Jennifer Thurman.
July 16, 2007
Anglican-Methodist Covenant faces challenges
By Kathleen LaCamera*
BLACKPOOL, England (UMNS) - British Methodists say the
Anglican-Methodist Covenant is facing challenges that some here might
call a "bumpy patch."
Signed in 2003, the covenant agreement sets out plans for greater
cooperation between the two traditions. Commenting on a report about
its implementation during the 2007 annual conference, British
Methodist officials say the process has yielded "some encouragements
and some disappointments."
The role of women in church leadership and the role of bishops
themselves are among issues that still have no formal agreement
between Anglicans and Methodists. The British Methodist Church has no
United Methodist Bishop William Oden, ecumenical officer for the
denomination's Council of Bishops and a representative to the British
Methodist Conference, expressed concern about the covenant's progress.
"It seems (the covenant) is stalled at the moment when U.S. United
Methodist and Episcopal relations are going forward," Oden told United
Methodist News Service, referring to progress in dialogue between
those denominations. "The Church of England is busy with other issues,
and British Methodists seem to have backed off."
Heated controversy over homosexuality and church leadership already
threaten to divide the worldwide Anglican communion.
Oden said a delegation involved with the United Methodist/Episopal
dialogue in the United States will meet in October in Britain with
their British Methodist/Anglican counterparts. The United Methodist
and Episcopal churches have an interim agreement on sharing the Eucharist.
While the covenant report points to challenges in implementing the
agreement, the Rev. Peter Sulston, the British church's coordinating
secretary for unity in mission, said it also contains promising news
of cooperation already under way. Feedback from local churches is that
the covenant is being "lived out at a grassroots level," he added.
"There is clearly a lot of good work going on, with Anglicans and
Methodists sharing in worship and mission, caring for each other and
serving their communities," he said. "But there is still more to be
done. The passion for mission and evangelism expressed by both
churches is a powerful driver for covenant living."
*LaCamera is a UMNS correspondent based in England.
Youth learn about realities of AIDS worldwide
By Linda Green*
July 25, 2007
GREENSBORO, N.C. (UMNS) - An informal survey of 120 young people
attending a United Methodist youth gathering showed that three-fourths
agreed people should abstain from sex outside of marriage.
Those results came from participants attending two workshops about
AIDS and young people at Youth 2007, where they received information
about the realities of AIDS among youth and adults worldwide.
The majority agreed with The United Methodist Church's position
supporting abstinence before marriage. Others suggested that sex
outside of marriage is permissible if two people are committed to one
another. Another perspective indicated that marriage is not an option
for everyone in society, such as gay and lesbian people.
The Social Principles of the denomination affirm sex only within the
bonds of marriage. At the same time, the Principles encourage
comprehensive sex education so that young people who choose to have
sex before marriage are equipped with facts to help them protect
themselves from diseases or pregnancy, according to Linda Bales, a
staff executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society,
the denomination's social advocacy agency.
"We cannot put our heads in the sand and have to realize that kids are
sexually active. It's our responsibly to prepare them to make the
wisest decisions," said Bales, who led the workshop.
"AIDS and Young People" was one of 90 workshop options for the 6,200
youth and youth leaders attending Youth 2007, the denomination's
largest youth event, July 11-15. The worldwide youth gathering is held
every four years and sponsored by the United Methodist Board of
"HIV/AIDS is one of the worst health crises the world is facing," said
Bales, who noted that "as people of faith, we have a role to play to
make the world a better place."
Young people ages 15-24 are statistically most vulnerable and account
for half of all new HIV infections worldwide, with more than 6,000
infected each day, she told workshop participants. According to the
international AIDS organization AVERT, 2.3 million people under age 15
were living with HIV in 2005.
Citing statistics from AIDS research and policy groups, Bales said
experts estimate about two young people in the United States are
infected every hour of the day. More than 40 million people worldwide
are living with AIDS, with 70 percent of the total in sub-Saharan Africa.
Bales said African-American and Hispanic youth are disproportionately
affected by HIV/AIDS. Although only 15 percent of the U.S. adolescent
population is African American, this group accounted for 73 percent of
new AIDS cases among teens in 2004. Latinos ages 20-24 accounted for
23 percent of new AIDS cases in 2004 while representing only 18
percent of U.S. young adults.
The spread of the disease is increasing among African-American and
Latino women. Bales attributes the trend among African-American women
to "homophobia in the black community which causes some men to live
'on the down low'" - having public relationships with women and secret
sex with men.
Resistance to the use of condoms is one reason the disease is
impacting Latina women. "The use of condoms is associated with
illness, prostitution and emotional distance," she said. "Due to this
stigma, Latina women are less likely to ask men to use condoms in a
relationship to avoid offending their male partner."
People need "to make wise decisions about their own sexuality," Bales
said. "It only takes one sexual encounter or use of a dirty needle to
become infected for life."
Participants were encouraged to contribute to the United Methodist
Global AIDS Fund and to mobilize other young people to help. "We have
a strong biblical mandate to care for those who have AIDS," Bales
said. "If local churches are not teaching sex education, including
AIDS prevention, they are complicit in the spread of the disease."
In 2004, the United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's
top legislative body, established the Global AIDS Fund aimed at
raising $8 million in the next four years - an amount roughly
equivalent to a $1 donation from every U.S. member of the church. The
fund supports education, prevention, care and treatment programs for
people living with HIV/AIDS.
"Making wise decisions based on the scriptural belief that God loves
you and you are beloved and valuable may help young people resist the
temptation of sex or, if they choose to be sexually active, to use
precautions," Bales said.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in
Transgender issue on Judicial Council's fall docket
August 6, 2007
A UMNS Report
By Neill Caldwell*
The United Methodist Church's top judicial authority will again be
considering questions about sexuality - including the case of a pastor
who switched gender from female to male - when it tackles a full
docket at its fall meeting.
The Judicial Council, the top court for The United Methodist Church,
is scheduled to meet Oct. 24-27 in San Francisco.
At this year's Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference in late May,
Bishop John R. Schol reappointed the Rev. Drew Phoenix as pastor of
St. John's United Methodist Church in Baltimore. Phoenix, 48, had been
minister at St. John's for five years as the Rev. Ann Gordon. After
surgery and hormone therapy in the past year, the pastor changed his
gender to male and adopted a new name.
"My transition to live fully as the male I know myself to be is very
personal and deeply spiritual," Phoenix told the annual conference.
"As I continue to transition, to fully claim myself as a male, I find
myself coming home to the child God created me to be. I find myself
joyful, whole, and peaceful. And I find myself even more effective as
Though the United Methodist Church bars self-avowed practicing gay
clergy from appointment and does not support gay unions, the Book of
Discipline says nothing about transgender clergy.
During discussion around Phoenix in the Baltimore-Washington executive
clergy session, two requests were made for bishop's decision of law.
The first asked whether a name change based on a change of gender
identity should be listed in a category which requires no discussion
or approval, or whether it should be placed under another disciplinary
area that requires consent and recommendation by the conference Board
of Ordained Ministry. The second asked whether transgender persons are
eligible for appointment in The United Methodist Church.
In his ruling, Bishop Schol wrote that "There are no paragraphs in the
2004 Book of Discipline that prevent transgender clergy from serving
in an appointment."
Both of these questions are docket items for the council's fall
meeting. The Judicial Council automatically reviews all bishops'
decisions of law, as is required by the Book of Discipline.
Three resolutions from the Northern Illinois Annual Conference that
deal with the openness of the church to all people are also on the
fall docket. The resolutions - "Affirming All Families," "Conference
Affirming Article IV of the Constitution of The United Methodist
Church" and "Affirming Inclusiveness of the Church Concerning
Membership and Participation in Accord with the Constitution of The
United Methodist Church" - all address inclusiveness. One states a
desire to "make it clear that the definition of 'status' in Article IV
of the church's constitution includes heterosexual, homosexual,
bisexual and transgender status of single persons and persons who avow
they are in committed, loving relationships."
The paragraph in the denomination's constitution deals with the idea
that all people "are of sacred worth" and are fully eligible for
participation and membership in The United Methodist Church.
The Judicial Council will review the Minnesota Annual Conference's
approval of adding domestic partners of lay people to the conference's
health insurance plan. (Asked to rule on a similar plan for the West
Michigan Annual Conference, the council in Decision 1030 simply stated
that each conference has the responsibility to make sure no church
funds are being used to promote homosexuality as stated in Paragraph
612.19 of the Book of Discipline.)
Two annual conferences - Western North Carolina and Pacific-Northwest
- have bishop's decisions of law questions related to Paragraph 612.19
in the Discipline, which forbids annual conferences from giving church
funds to "promote the acceptance of homosexuality."
Other items on the fall docket relate to more traditional issues
within the church including:
A question from the Committee on Nominations of the 2004 Southeastern
Jurisdictional Conference on the allocation of membership on general
boards and agencies of the denomination by the secretary of the
A request from the Memphis Annual Conference as to whether or not
candidates for election as delegates to general and jurisdictional
conference can be compelled to disclose their views on issues;
A question from the Memphis Annual Conference in regard to a
conference policy entitled "Identifying and Strengthening Effective
A review of a bishop's decision of law in the Baltimore-Washington
Annual Conference concerning the constitutionality of its plan of
A request from the West Michigan Annual Conference concerning the
procedure for a vote for continuance of a local pastor's licensing;
A review of a bishop's decision of law in the Western Pennsylvania
Annual Conference concerning whether procedures used by the annual
conference with respect to complaints comply with the Discipline;
A review of a bishop's decision of law in the Iowa Annual Conference
concerning a paragraph in the Book of Discipline that deals with
A review of a bishop's decision of law in the South Carolina Annual
Conference Concerning the legality of the standing rule for the
election of the conference secretary;
A review of a bishop's decision of law in the New England Annual
Conference concerning the legality of the conference policy on
parsonages shared between local church clergy and conference staff;
A review of a bishop's decision of law in the California-Nevada Annual
Conference dealing with "involuntary leave of absence, administrative
and judicial process, and voluntary or involuntary retirement;"
A review of a bishop's decision of law in the Illinois Great Rivers
Annual Conference concerning the confidentiality of supervisory files.
The Judicial Council's spring meeting will be held during 2008 General
Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.
*Caldwell covers the Judicial Council for United Methodist News
Service and is editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate of the
Virginia Annual Conference.
ELCA Assembly Encourages Restraint in Discipline of Congregations, Leaders
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 11, 2007
CHICAGO (ELCA) - While the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(ELCA) made no changes to its standards for its professional leaders
during the 2007 Churchwide Assembly, it encouraged restraint in
disciplining people and congregations that call ministers in mutual,
chaste and faithful, committed, same-gender relationships, and called
for restraint in disciplining professional leaders.
The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the
ELCA, is met here Aug. 6-11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000
people participated, including 1,069 ELCA voting members. The theme
for the biennial assembly was "Living in God's Amazing Grace: Thanks
be to God!"
By a vote of 538 to 431, the assembly encouraged the ELCA's
synods, bishops and presiding bishop to "refrain from or demonstrate
restraint in disciplining" people and congregations who call qualified
leaders on the professional rosters of the ELCA "who are in a mutual,
chaste and faithful, committed, same-gender relationship." The
assembly also stated that the same restraint should apply to the
professional leaders who are on the official rosters and are in
committed same-gender relationships. The proposal was adopted by the
assembly as a substitute for a recommendation of the Memorials Committee.
Initial debate centered on referring recommendations on
standards for rostered leaders to the Task Force on Studies of
Sexuality, which is developing a social statement on human sexuality
for consideration by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.
The substitute proposal was made by the Rev. Paul R. Landahl,
bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod. He said, "We pray that
somebody here today will listen to what we are trying to say and give
us some breathing space to do what God is calling us to do."
"We need to refrain from harming good leaders," said Eric M.
Peterson, ELCA South-Central Synod of Wisconsin. "Stop the bleeding of
our church, and focus on mission and ministry."
Arthur Murphy, ELCA Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, was
opposed to the action. "We're trying to get in the back door what we
did not do through the front door. I urge us not to make haphazard,
piecemeal policy but create a comprehensive solution at the 2009
Churchwide Assembly and pass it one way or another."
At a news conference following the decision, the Rev. Mark S.
Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said the key words from the adopted
action were that the Churchwide Assembly "prays, urges, and
encourages" refraining or demonstrating restraint in discipline.
"These are words of counsel. They are not words that change the
standards of the church. They reflect the mind of this assembly as it
seeks to give counsel to the leaders of the church."
In a separate decisions, the assembly referred memorials to the
Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality regarding requests to make
changes in ELCA clergy standards. The assembly added an amendment to
the referral, directing the task force to "specifically address and
make recommendations to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any
policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters
of the church." The assembly also referred other related memorials on
sexuality to the task force.
- - -
Information about the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be
found at http://www.ELCA.org/assembly/ on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@...
National Religious Leadership Roundtable responds to Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America decision on LGBT pastors
August 13, 2007
CHICAGO, Aug. 13 Delegates to the Tenth Churchwide Assembly of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted Saturday to urge bishops
to refrain from disciplining lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
(LGBT) pastors in committed relationships. The vote was a victory for
advocates of equality in this important Protestant denomination with
4.8 million members, but it falls short of changing the church's
policy of discriminating against LGBT pastors who have families.
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable commends the work of
Lutherans Concerned/North America and the Goodsoil Coalition for their
advocacy and clarity of gospel values. The Roundtable looks forward to
the day when true justice comes to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America and its faithful LGBT pastors.
Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members
"One week ago, on August 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Chicago, 82 Lutheran
ministers put their careers on the line by announcing at the ELCA
Churchwide Assembly that they are gay or lesbian and in loving,
"On Saturday, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted not to discipline
them which means an end to the practice that, in only the past two
years, has meant the blocking of the gifts and graces of a couple of
hundred ministers and seminarians who have been removed because they
are in same-sex relationships.
"But it doesn't mean an end to discrimination. Several years ago, the
ELCA voted to ordain lesbian and gay ministers if they agreed to be
celibate. It's hard for me to understand the rationale behind this
type of decision: If sexuality is part of God's gift to us, if sexual
diversity is part of God's blessing, if God calls us to be in
communion in others, surely God rejoices when we find loving partners
to journey with in life. How can this church teach `where there is
love, the sacred is in our midst' yet deny it to their gay and lesbian
"Today, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pastors hang in limbo.
Their sexuality is still named as less than, sinful and `other.' I
look forward to the day when the ECLA understands that sexuality is
part of God's blessing."
Rev. Debra Haffner
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing
"At such a time as this, when the winds of justice and gospel truth
are blowing all around us, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
has responded with timidity.Such lukewarm response does not befit the
greatness of a church whose founder is Martin Luther. I pray that the
ELCA will find its moral courage and its thirst for justice and end
its discrimination against faithful, committed and called lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender pastors who have families."
Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
Institute for Welcoming Resources
"The decision to delay continues discrimination. The 82 clergy who
courageously came out at the Churchwide Assembly are caught in limbo,
waiting to see if the church will do the right thing.
"Using committees and dialogues to delay is abusive to faithful
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Lutherans, their families and
supporters. The church knows better. They just lacked courage."
Rev. Troy Plummer
Reconciling Ministries Network
"We are encouraged and empowered by the decision reached today. Our
feelings are mixed, but this is a substantive change in the direction
of full inclusion. On the one hand, the ELCA's formal urging of
bishops to lean on the side of inclusion and flexibility shows that
they are listening to the Holy Spirit and have recognized the abundant
ministerial gifts of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
in their midst. They witnessed firsthand in Chicago the prophetic
witness of 82 pastors who have come out as LGBT people within the
Lutheran denomination and they saw the reform spirit of Martin Luther
working through LGBT people of faith and allies. On the other hand, we
are saddened that they did not summon the courage to fully overturn a
clearly discriminatory policy and we grieve for the congregations and
pastors who continue to suffer because of this unjust policy.
"We commend our colleagues at Lutherans Concerned and the Goodsoil
Coalition for their consistent, strategic and thoroughly loving
leadership. God's beloved community is working through this mighty
coalition and the whole church and LGBT people everywhere have been
strengthened and encouraged by their efforts. The seeds of change have
taken root in Chicago and with faith and hard work we will see them
Director, Religion and Faith Program
Human Rights Campaign
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the
grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local
organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns
to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and
building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy
Institute, the movement's premier think tank, provides research and
policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to
counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement,
we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human
expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered
in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los
Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
A parent's dilemma: When your child is gay
August 23, 2007
A UMNS Report
By Robin Russell*
Kathy and Dave England recall how stunned they were when their son
announced he was gay. They were sitting around and talking on the last
night of Christmas break, during his freshman year of college.
"So, what do you guys think about homosexuality?" Scott asked them.
"Well, I've never given it much thought," Mrs. England replied.
"Well, I am," Scott said.
"Boy, he caught me off guard - totally," his mother recalled.
Mrs. England didn't understand her son's "choice and his lifestyle."
Her husband, then on active duty with the U.S. Air Force, responded by
delivering his "speech" to Scott, who had a full ROTC scholarship.
"My advice was that he should probably consider a different career,"
Mr. England said. "But he was my son. He was still my son. Nothing was
going to change that."
The Englands, of Bellevue, Neb., shared their story during an
interview at the ninth convocation of the Reconciling Ministries
Network, an unofficial, pro-gay caucus of United Methodists working
for full inclusion in the church. The event was held Aug. 2-6 in
They are among the thousand-plus members of the Parents Reconciling
Network, a parents' advocacy and education group working on behalf of
gay children. The network was founded by the Revs. Virginia and Bruce
Hilton, former civil rights workers who became gay-rights activists
after learning one of their sons was gay. The Hiltons, of Sacramento,
Calif., are also United Methodists.
It often takes awhile for parents to accept that a son or daughter is
gay, even as they work through their own theological understanding of
whether homosexuality is a sin.
The United Methodist Book of Discipline affirms the sacred worth of
every person, while teaching that homosexual practice is incompatible
with Christian teaching. It affirms that "God's grace is available to
all" as "we seek to live together in Christian community."
The Book of Discipline also implores families and churches "not to
reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends," adding that
"we commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons."
Parents who accept their children's homosexual orientation say that
advocating for gay rights is an often frustrating task in a
denomination that excludes gays from ordination and its clergy from
performing same-sex unions.
In recent years, the denomination's top court has upheld a pastor's
right to prevent an openly practicing gay man from becoming a church
member. The Judicial Council also will review in October the case of a
United Methodist transgender clergy.
Denial and shame
The Englands say they worked through denial about Scott's sexual
orientation, even though his twin sister, Laurie, who is straight,
already had "put two and two together."
Finding a book at the library written by a member of Parents, Families
and Friends of Lesbians And Gays helped Mrs. England realize "I'm not
the only parent in Nebraska with a gay son." And it helped that a
Methodist minister's wife led a support group meeting she attended.
But as is typical of many parents, the Englands kept Scott's news to
themselves, close friends and family. For awhile, they were closeted
in their own United Methodist congregation.
"It's not something you just walk up to someone and say," England said.
They took another look at the "clobber verses" in Scripture used
against homosexuality - including one in Romans in which Paul condemns
"men (who) committed shameless acts with men" - to see if they were
referring to what is today known as same-sex orientation.
Eventually, through study and prayer, they came to believe that God
made their son just as he was. The Englands even visited Scott when
his college hosted a gay pride festival. His buddies couldn't believe
his parents had come.
Brokenness and sin
Not every United Methodist parent of a homosexual child agrees with
the Englands' conclusions.
Larry and Betty Baker of Madison, Va., believe homosexuality is a sin
resulting from broken relationships. Both have served on the board of
Transforming Congregations, an organization that states Jesus Christ
has the power "to change those who face such temptations" as
homosexuality, pornography and sexual addiction.
And they believe The United Methodist Church has taken the correct
stance. "We have done a lot of reading of Scriptures," Mrs. Baker
said. "Both of us feel we would be unfaithful to the Lord if we took a
They also have worked hard to maintain a relationship with their gay
son, now 36, whom they adopted from South Korea when he was an infant.
They asked that his name not be used.
When their son was 7, the Bakers moved to a rural, conservative area.
They believe his homosexuality may be the result of feeling rejected
and experiencing racial prejudice as the only Asian child in his school.
By his junior year of college, their son was hanging out with only
male friends. During a weekend visit home, Mr. Baker overheard his son
tell a male friend "I love you" over the phone. A few months later,
Mrs. Baker asked her son if he was gay. She told him it would make no
difference in their relationship, that he was still their son. They
also offered to help him find counseling if he wanted to change his
orientation. So far, he hasn't taken them up on the offer.
"I believe that the Lord can change them, but I also know it's a long
and painful struggle," Mrs. Baker said.
The family's rockiest moment came when the Bakers forbid their son to
sleep with his partner at their home. "We came very near to a clean
break at that point," Mrs. Baker recalls. "He called and was in tears.
He said, 'This is not right. You're making this very difficult for us'."
She had a change of heart at a Christian conference, where she felt
God telling her: "I didn't throw you out of my house when you were in
sexual sin. Why are you throwing your son out?"
Mrs. Baker apologized to her son, then invited them to come and stay
at their home. It was "awkward" the first time, but they have been
back many times since.
Their son now lives in northern Virginia with his partner of 11 years.
One of the Bakers' daughters is supportive and would like to see her
own United Methodist congregation perform same-sex blessing
ceremonies. The other has theological questions about homosexuality,
but wants to make sure her brother feels loved and accepted.
"We have the best relationship possible now," Mrs. Baker said. "He
knows we pray for him every day. But we don't hit him over the head
Mr. Baker talks by phone each week with his son and shares a meal with
the couple at least once a month. He disagrees with some parents he
knows who have written off their homosexual son or daughter. "We
believe that scripturally, it's wrong. But we are at odds with (those)
who try to single it out as a hot-button issue," he said.
Mrs. Baker added: "Jesus did not abandon sinners, and I don't feel
that we can either. I think that every one of us are sinners. This is
no different a sin than gluttony."
Love the sinner
Joy Watts, a member of Parents Reconciling Network from Uniontown,
Ohio, said her attempts to "love the sinner and hate the sin" didn't
help her connect with her daughter Andrea, who is a lesbian.
"That doesn't feel very much like love," she said.
In a convocation workshop, Mrs. Watts said her journey from being
"homophobic" to becoming a gay-rights activist was a heel-dragging
She and her husband, Bill, were devastated at first when their middle
child told them she was a lesbian. "I never felt so alone. I didn't
think I could discuss it with anyone," Mrs. Watts said.
Bill Watts told his daughter homosexuality was a sin. Mrs. Watts told
Andrea she'd have to "fight those urges." Through reading about sexual
orientation - Mrs. Watts now boasts a veritable "gay library" of
material - and talking with other parents of gays, she came to believe
her daughter's orientation is God-given.
And she began speaking up at church. "If you are ready to approach
this issue," she told her pastor, "I'm ready to talk." He gave her an
hour in Sunday school to share her story.
The Watts disagree with the United Methodist stance toward
homosexuality and say it frustrates them from time to time. "We'd been
in this church for 30 years, and my son could be married in the
sanctuary, but my daughter can't? It made me furious," she said.
But for now, they're staying put.
"Even if we all leave, straight parents will still have gay children,"
she said. "I feel like I'm in it not just for my generation and my
daughter's, but for the future."
*Russell is managing editor of United Methodist Reporter, an
independent weekly newspaper for United Methodists and others,
produced by UMR Communications in Dallas. This story originally
appeared in longer form in that publication.
Jane Spahr acquittal on same-sex wedding charges is overturned
Synod court orders rebuke for lesbian activist minister
by Evan Silverstein
Presbyterian News Service
August 27, 2007
LOUISVILLE In a reversal of a lower church court ruling,
the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr has been found guilty of violating
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s constitutional ban on
same-sex marriage by performing weddings for two lesbian
The Synod of the Pacific's Permanent Judicial Commission
(PJC) ruled 6-2 last week that while the "lesbian
evangelist" and longtime Presbyterian minister "acted with
conscience and conviction," her actions were still at odds
with the church's constitution.
The decision of the synod tribunal overturned last year's
ruling by the Presbytery of the Redwoods' PJC, which
determined Spahr acted within her rights and conscience as
an ordained minister when she presided over the nuptials of
the two lesbian couples in 2004 and 2005.
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 marriage liturgy
in same-sex ceremonies.
"Regardless of the expression of conscience by the Rev. Dr.
Spahr, she may not circumvent the standards of the church,"
according to the synod PJC ruling. "Although the Rev. Dr.
Spahr had acted with conscience and conviction, her actions
were contrary to the Constitution as it is authoritatively
interpreted, [and] is therefore subject to censure."
The synod PJC directed the presbytery PJC to "enter a
finding of guilt" against Spahr and to impose the censure of
rebuke, the mildest form of punishment that could be
brought. The most serious penalty could have been removal
from the ministry.
The rebuke, which amounts to an official admonishment by the
presbytery, does not affect the ordination of Spahr, but it
could lead to further discipline if she continues to perform
wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples
The synod PJC's decision against Spahr was made on Aug. 18,
following a hearing the day before in Burlingame, CA.
However, Spahr and others involved in the case did not
receive word of the ruling until late Thursday (Aug. 23).
The two dissenting members of the synod PJC Linda Lee and
Susan Barnes wrote in a minority report that: "Reverend
Spahr's performance of same-sex marriages is not held by the
Presbytery or the Presbytery Permanent Judicial Commission
to be contrary to the fundamental tenants of the Reformed
faith, therefore [we] believe the issue of freedom of
conscience importantly distinguishes her actions from
willful disobedience, and does not require censure."
Spahr and one of her lawyers, Sara Taylor of San Francisco,
vowed to appeal the ruling to the General Assembly PJC, the
highest court in the PC(USA). Taylor said the earliest the
case could be heard is next spring.
Spahr, a 65-year-old grandmother who is set to retire from
ministry at the end of this month, expressed disappointment
in the latest ruling.
"I'm just deeply saddened, I'm deeply saddened because of
the injustice," Spahr told the Presbyterian News Service on
Aug. 24. "This kind of second-class treatment often
perpetuates not only the myths and stereotypes but often
gives people license to hurt us for violence and I'm so
concerned about that."
Spahr, a resident of San Rafael, CA, said that she had
presided over many holy unions, blessings, commitment
services and other ceremonies to honor same-sex unions. She
said homosexual couples had increasingly wanted the same
ceremony as is used for heterosexual couples.
Despite the court's ruling, Spahr said that she would
continue doing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
"I am deeply saddened that our church has chosen not to
recognize the loving relationships of members of its own
family," Spahr said. "These couples and many like them have
found a sacred trust in their love for each other. This
reversal of the presbytery's decision promotes a belief that
somehow this love is less than valid."
Taylor said she believes Spahr acted within her rights as an
ordained minister in marrying the two couples because the
section of the PC(USA)'s constitution specifying that
marriage is between a man and a woman is a definition, not a
"They did not examine the case thoroughly," said Taylor,
referring to the synod PJC. "They did not look directly at
the constitution, which does not bar same-sex marriages
because the requirement that marriage is for a man and a
woman is not an essential. It's a guideline but not an
The attorney said she believes that some serving on the
synod PJC were "substituting their own personal beliefs
about the nature of homosexuality" in finding her client
guilty and already had their minds made up about the verdict
"before they came into the room."
"I do believe they're substituting their own personal
beliefs about the nature of homosexuality instead of
considering the constitutional issues raised by this case
because Janie had a constitutional right to do this," Taylor
told the Presbyterian News Service. "It [marriage between
man and woman] is not an essential. She's not required to
conform her practice and her faith because it's not an
essential. They just didn't even deal with that issue."
Taylor went on to say that she believes the PC(USA) is
The Synod of the Pacific is based in Petaluma, CA, and
oversees congregations in northern California, Nevada,
southern Idaho and Oregon. It's judicial proceedings came
after Redwoods Presbytery appealed the March 3, 2006
acquittal of Spahr by its PJC.
The latest church court ruling reflects the struggle within
the presbytery around the issue of same-sex marriage,
according to the Rev. Robert Conover, acting executive and
stated clerk of Redwoods Presbytery, which is based in Napa,
"It is true that a majority of our presbytery holds one
perspective on this issue and a significant portion holds
another," said Conover, when asked to comment on the ruling.
"We have worked very hard in our presbytery to live
respectfully with one another even in the midst of real
profound differences of opinion. I trust it is not only my
hope but the hope of the presbytery that we will be able to
continue to live in that respectful way with one another as
we move through this process," he said.
The two lesbian couples that are the focus of the case
supported the embattled minister when they heard about the
recent ruling. The women are Barbara Jean Douglass and
Connie Valois of Rochester, NY, and Sherril Figuera and
Annie Senechal of Guerneville, CA.
"We are confident that it's only a matter of time before our
church will come to honor our marriage and respect the deep
love and commitment we have for one another," Senechal
Spahr was called in 1991 as co-pastor of Downtown United
Presbyterian Church in Rochester, but the call was
invalidated by the General Assembly Permanent Judicial
Commission in November 1992.
Even without a call, the Rochester church invited her as a
"lesbian evangelist" and established That All May Freely
Serve (TAMFS) in 1993 to support her ministry, in
partnership with Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon,
TAMFS works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgendered Presbyterians in the life of the church,
including their ordination as officers.
For 15 years now, Spahr has been traveling the country
mustering support for the ordination of gay and lesbian
Presbyterians, along the way building a network of regional
groups to help in the effort.
D. James Kennedy, elder statesman of Religious Right, dead at 76
By Robert Marus, Associated Baptist Press
September 5, 2007
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (ABP) -- Presbyterian minister D. James Kennedy
died Sept. 5, little more than a week after he retired from the pulpit
that helped him launch both evangelistic and political ministries.
Kennedy, who was 76, had served for nearly half a century as pastor of
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. But he was
also one of the pioneers of television ministry, a seminary founder
and the head of an activist empire devoted to what he believed was the
restoration of the United States as a "Christian nation."
According to Coral Ridge Ministries, the umbrella group for his
ministry efforts, the death was the result of complications from a
heart attack he suffered late last year. He had stepped down from his
day-to-day role as head of the church and ministry while undergoing
rehabilitation, but worshipers at the church learned Aug. 26 that he
would be unable to return to his duties.
Kennedy's death comes just months after that of his better-known
contemporary, Jerry Falwell, and at a time when some commentators have
also pronounced the demise of the Religious Right movement they helped
Nonetheless, his supporters praised Kennedy's understated leadership
in a movement where fierier orators often overshadowed the erudite and
highly educated Presbyterian.
"He 'walked the walk' and `practiced what he preached,'" his daughter,
Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, said in a statement posted Sept. 5 on Coral
Ridge Ministries' website. "His work for Christ is lasting -- it will
go on and on and make a difference for eternity."
Kennedy, who was born in Georgia but raised in Chicago, became a
Christian in his early 20s. He entered Columbia Theological Seminary,
now a Presbyterian Church USA school, and went to pastor Coral Ridge,
then a tiny mission church, in 1959. The congregation later joined the
conservative Presbyterian Church in America, formed mainly by
Southerners who broke with the mainstream Presbyterian denomination
over the ordination of women and other issues.
After training the church's members in effective means of personal
evangelism, the church began to grow explosively. His method, called
"Evangelism Explosion," became popular in the Southern Baptist
Convention and across evangelicalism. By the 1970s, Kennedy had
written several books and built a congregation thousands strong. He
began television broadcasts of his sermons from Coral Ridge, which
built a massive facility with a 30-story-tall steeple and one of the
nation's largest pipe organs.
Kennedy's work soon moved from evangelizing individuals to
evangelizing the culture for what he considered Christian values on
policy issues. He served on the initial board of Falwell's Moral
Majority, which aimed to mobilize conservative evangelical voters who
had previously shunned politics. He later founded the Center for
Reclaiming America, which brought Christian activists to Fort
Lauderdale for training on effective issue advocacy.
Kennedy's political efforts earned him strong praise from supporters
and strong denunciations from his opponents. "Dr. Kennedy's strong
stand on social and moral issues, including the issue of
homosexuality, elevated and compelled public debate," said Alan
Chambers, president of Exodus International, in a statement. Chambers'
group is devoted to helping gays and lesbians "change" their sexual
orientation. "[Kennedy] loved Exodus, and his dedication to biblical
truth has helped to spread the message of hope and change around the
But the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said Kennedy's advocacy
for groups like Exodus hurt, rather than helped, sexual minorities.
"Through his advocacy of ex-gay ministries, Kennedy called for the
`transformation' of [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] Americans
while ignoring scientific truths about the lack of efficacy and gross
mental, physical and spiritual harm caused by so-called `conversion
therapy' programs," said Jason Cianciotto, a senior fellow for the
organization's policy institute, in a press release. "He used his
media empire of television and radio programs to spread lies and
misinformation to support his opposition to marriage equality, hate
crimes legislation and employment nondiscrimination legislation."
Kennedy also advocated staunchly in opposition to abortion rights and
in favor of government endorsements of Christianity. He was a strong
supporter of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost his job
after defying a court order to remove [a] monument to the Ten
Commandments from the rotunda of the [Alabama Supreme] court's
building. In 2001, a crew from Coral Ridge filmed the clandestine
installation of the two-ton granite monolith -- inscribed with the
Protestant King James translation of the biblical commandments --
although Moore's fellow justices were not even aware it was being
placed in the building.
Coral Ridge Ministries later raised hundreds of thousands of dollars
to pay for Moore's legal defense, but he lost all of his appeals and
was removed from office in 2003. At the time, Kennedy characterized
the rogue judge as a legal martyr.
"Moore is being punished for upholding the rule of law, for following
the will of the voters, for faithfully upholding his oath of office,
and for refusing to bow to tyranny," he said. "For too long, too many
elected officials have bowed in submission to lawless federal-court
edicts that set aside life and liberty. They have stood by as, case by
case, God and biblical morality have been removed from public life. At
some point, the representatives of the people must defend the rule of
law and oppose tyranny."
His views on such issues made him a frequent enemy of those who
support strong church-state separation, such as Americans United for
Separation of Church and State. Barry Lynn, the group's director,
called Kennedy a "key architect" of the Religious Right who "played a
huge role in building the religious conservative movement" even though
Falwell and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson are better known.
"His many books were quite important, because they offered the
theological underpinnings for the Religious Right's political
stances," Lynn said in an e-mail interview.
"Rev. Kennedy often drew a good bit of fire from critics of the
Religious Right, because they would accuse him of having theocratic
ideas because he had a more sophisticated set of theories and ideas
about why conservative Christians should be involved in politics,"
said John Green, an expert on conservative evangelicals at
Washington's non-partisan Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
But Green said he didn't think Kennedy was a true theocrat -- someone
who believes religious tenets should govern civil society -- even
though he sometimes left himself open to the charge.
"I would say, though, that he often talked in the kinds of terms that
led his critics to label him that way," he said. Green also noted that
Kennedy sometimes associated with true theocrats, such as Rousas
Rushdoony of the Christian Reconstructionism movement. The movement
advocates Christians taking "dominion" over government and seeks to
reinstate Old Testament law, including capital punishment for crimes
such as adultery and homosexuality.
Kennedy's passing and that of Falwell mark a changing of the guard
among politically oriented evangelicals, Green said. A new generation
of evangelical leaders have, while continuing to express opposition to
abortion and homosexuality, also expressed a desire to broaden the
movement's agenda to encompass fighting global poverty and protecting
That doesn't mark an ideological difference so much as a natural
historical progression, he said, because of the fact that people like
Kennedy got conservative evangelicals to engage in political activism.
"There's also a little bit of a different style -- [Kennedy and
Falwell] were hard-edged, they were confrontational in their politics.
They didn't compromise," Green said.
"Part of that is, I think, the difference in time," he continued.
"When the Rev. Kennedy came into politics, there weren't very many
people to compromise with, because conservative Christians weren't
involved in politics."
Besides his daughter, Kennedy is survived by his wife, Anne, of 51 years.
IT'S TIME TO REGISTER!
Living a New Vision: The Struggle Continues.
An event honoring Rev. Gil Caldwell sponsored by the Church Within A
Church Movement and Union United Methodist Church.
Make plans to be in Boston, November 9-10, 2007. The Saturday
Symposium will be at historic Union UMC and the Friday evening
Reception and Saturday evening award banquet will be at The Hilton
Boston Back Bay Hotel.
Taking the lead from our honoree, Reverend Gil Caldwell, who loves
art, jazz, and all things just, we are thrilled to be drawing together
such a talented group of presenters diverse in their background,
experiences and vocations.
* The Rev. Dr. Traci West - Associate Professor of Ethics and African
American Studies at Drew University Theological School (Madison, NJ)
* The Rev. Mpho Tutu - executive director of the Tutu Institute and
State Representative Byron Rushing - civil rights activist and member
of the Massachusetts Legislature since 1983.
Plus a variety of powerful and dynamic workshops to chose from by
leaders in all walks of social justice work.
Please visit The Church Within A Church Movement website at
http://www.cwac.us for all workshop, registration and housing
Register by October 1st for best conference rates.
Religious Leadership Roundtable Calls on Episcopal Church to Welcome
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
September 20, 2007
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR)
members today called on the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church
to continue to embrace lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
people in their church. The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of
Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion, will attend the semiannual
meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans on Sept. 2025. The
bishops will discuss a directive issued by the leaders of the Anglican
Communion to stop consecrating openly gay and lesbian bishops and to
ban blessings of same-sex unions. In anticipation of this meeting the
NRLR members sent out a call for inclusion.
Response from the Rev. Jay E. Johnson, Ph.D., of the Center for
Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry of the Pacific School
of Religion and NRLR member
"Bishops of the Episcopal Church meeting in New Orleans this week will
be considering nothing less than the future shape of the Anglican
Communion. The presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury at this
gathering clearly indicates what's at stake and the stakes are high.
"Is church unity the same as uniformity? Can some provinces of the
Communion freely threaten and coerce others? Can Anglicans respect and
learn from our differences and embrace the richness of our diversity?
Will the Episcopal Church continue to speak prophetically about the
human dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and of
our relationships? And will that prophetic voice cost the Episcopal
Church its membership among worldwide Anglican Christians?
"As an Episcopal priest who also happens to be gay, my prayers are
certainly with these bishops of the church I love and have served in
ordained ministry for nearly 20 years. As they deliberate together, I
hope they will remember that injustice can never be the price of
Christian unity, nor can it be bought at the expense of the
marginalized and oppressed the very ones Jesus welcomed to his own
"I hope they will remember the history of the church they now serve,
which debated the benefits of church unity at the cost of African
slaves in the 19th century and at the cost of women's ordination in
the 20th century.
"I hope they will remember the hundreds of gay and lesbian clergy and
many more gay and lesbian lay people who have given decades of
faithful service to this church.
"I hope they will remember the words of the Hebrew prophet Micah and
that the Lord requires of them only that they 'do justice, love
kindness and walk humbly with their God' (6:8).
"Perhaps they will remember how fervently Jesus prayed for the unity
of his followers, a unity rooted in nothing else but the love of God
(John 17:21-23). Bearing witness to the radical inclusion of that love
cost Jesus his own life. I'm sure they will consider that today such
witness might cost the Episcopal Church its official status as a
province of the Anglican Communion.
"I am confident that my bishops will consider all of these things
carefully and prayerfully. I am also hopeful that they will not
abandon their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and
brothers to the machinations of church politics. If they do, the cost
will be far too high, for it's not merely the Anglican Communion
that's at stake in New Orleans this week. What's at stake is the
witness of the Episcopal Church to the extravagant welcome of the Gospel."
Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members
"We stand at an important moment in history. At such times there is
always the temptation to act out of fear, out of a sense of scarcity;
and certainly the climate in our country and across the world
exacerbates this temptation.
"But as Christians, as followers of Jesus, our call is always to find
the place of love, of justice, of courage rooted in faithfulness.
'Perfect love casts out fear.'
"Those of us in the ecumenical community are looking to the Episcopal
bishops to stand for justice, to stand for love, to act with courage
and continue to affirm the full humanity of all of God's children,
especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks."
Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
Institute for Welcoming Resources
"Christ invites all. The Episcopal Church acted upon Christ's
invitation and included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
persons. The Holy Spirit blesses LGBT families and pastors. The
Episcopal Church responded to the Spirit's movement by ordaining
qualified priests, consecrating an exceptional bishop and by blessing
loving families. By following Christ and the Holy Spirit, the church
has become prophetic both to the larger church and the world beyond
the church walls. May God strengthen the bishops to withstand the
arrows of oppression and continue to proclaim the truth they already
know and have already testified to about the lives of faithful
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Episcopalians. Rejection, if it
comes, in truth is far better than acceptance with the truth newly
closeted. What did someone say about a light and a bushel?"
Rev. Troy Plummer
Reconciling Ministries Network, United Methodist Church
"Blessings on the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church as they
gather to discern what justice means in the 21st century. While their
focus is on same-sex marriage and the ordination of lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender bishops, the bigger issue is whether
Christian churches will lead the way or bring up the rear on one of
the signal justice issues of our day. Christians around the world look
to them for leadership and courage, hoping that they will simply do
the right thing which is to err always on the side of inclusion and
welcome. Regardless of the potential consequences of schism or the
bogus promises of ecumenical cooperation if they collude with those
who would exclude and bar LGBT people, the bishops can rest assured
that history will smile on them."
Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.
Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
"For Jews, this is the time of year, our High Holy Days, when we
reflect on our lives, ask forgiveness for where we have missed the
mark and try to make positive social change to make up for it. That
time is now upon the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Will
they embrace God's 'extravagant welcome' for all or will they push
away the disenfranchised? As we know from our lives and the
Scriptures, choosing the right and just path is usually the more
difficult road but in the end, God rewards that choice. My wish for
this coming meeting of the House of Bishops, in a sense, their
opportunity for new path, is the strength to discern God's will, the
arms to embrace God's love for all human beings and the centered peace
to firmly weather the storm that will come by taking this prophetic
and God-inspired stance."
Joel L. Kushner, Psy.D.
Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation
Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion
"We Lutherans have been going through some of the same struggles as
our sisters and brothers in the Episcopal Church. I pray that the
House of Bishops will continue to affirm the gifts of all people as
they meet to make these important decisions about openly gay or
lesbian priests and blessing of same-sex relationships. I feel certain
that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will continue to
embrace our full communion status with the Episcopal Church even if
their courageous actions should lead to being removed from the
Anglican Communion. So don't let the fear of feeling isolated keep you
from doing the right thing for justice and gospel centered ministry."
Member of the Roundtable Steering Committee
"The Religious Affairs Program of the National Black Justice Coalition
supports the consecration of openly gay and lesbian bishops and
endorses the blessings of same-sex unions. There is a moral imperative
to do justice here, and we implore the House of Bishops to heed the
call to 'God's magnificent welcome.' Exclusion theology demotes others
to the status of lesser beings which brings great spiritual harm and
Sylvia Rhue, Ph.D.
Director of Religious Affairs
National Black Justice Coalition
Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
New 'ex-gay' study hailed by Right raises methodological questions
By Robert Marus
September 21, 2007
Associated Baptist Press
WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A new study suggesting that religiously motivated
conversion from homosexual orientation is possible and not harmful has
been hailed by some social conservatives, while others are questioning
the study's motive and methodology.
The study, funded by an "ex-gay" group and released in book form by a
Christian publisher, is called Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of
Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation. Released Sept. 17
in conjunction with a conference by Exodus International, the
organization that sponsored the study, its authors are psychologists
Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse.
Jones is a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, often considered
American evangelicalism's flagship academic institution. Yarhouse is
the director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at
Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Regent was founded by
Christian television broadcaster Pat Robertson.
The study is the first longitudinal (meaning its subjects are followed
over a period of months or years) attempt to assess the success of
people who enter Christian "reparative therapy" to alter their sexual
orientations. The American Psychological Association, as well as
several other professional mental-health organizations, have long
considered sexual orientation to be immutable and considered attempts
to change it via therapy prone to causing psychological harm.
"The present study produces significant scientific evidence that
sexual orientation is in fact changeable for some, and this should
trigger a considerable reexamination of many of the presuppositions
about sexual orientation and sexual identity that hold sway in
contemporary Western culture," Jones and Yarhouse wrote.
The study followed 98 participants in Exodus groups over periods
varying from 30 months to four years. Of those, 72 were men and 26
were women, with an average age of 37. However, by the end of the
study, more than a quarter of the original participants had dropped
out or disappeared. Only 73 completed the series of three interviews
that researchers used for data.
Of the remaining people, researchers determined that 15 percent had
experienced a "significant" decrease in same-sex attraction and a
similarly significant increase in heterosexual desire. Another 23
percent felt they had undergone a significant reduction in homosexual
attraction but had not developed heterosexual desires sufficient
enough to enter into relationships with the opposite sex.
Jones and Yarhouse defined that 38 percent of the sample as successes
in altering their sexual orientation, although they admitted that many
of the successful participants still experienced occasional same-sex
A third category, comprising 29 percent of those who completed the
study, said they had experienced insignificant amounts of reduction in
their same-sex attractions but were committed to continuing therapy.
Another 15 percent said they had also experienced no reduction in
their homosexuality and were confused about whether they would remain
in therapy but had not entirely given up on the idea.
The study considered as "failures" another four percent who had given
up on therapy but had not embraced a gay identity and eight percent
who had given up and considered themselves gay.
The study also used a measure of psychological harm to determine that
the 73 subjects experienced no greater harm from sexual-reorientation
therapy than outpatients in other kinds of psychological counseling
Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service, and
Focus on the Family both published stories hailing the study as a
breakthrough, suggesting that large percentages of gays can
successfully change their sexual orientation.
"These results are comparable with the success rates for dealing with
other difficult issues, like depression, and more favorable than those
reported by U.S. Department of Labor tax-funded programs in overcoming
substance abuse," said Melissa Fryear, head of the Colorado-based
ministry's gender-issues department.
But critics said the study's methodology left a lot to be desired. Its
sample -- as Jones and Yarhouse concede -- was self-selected from
participants in an evangelical Christian ministry, it relied
exclusively on the truthfulness of patients self-reporting their
desires and feelings, and it had a high dropout rate.
"We've waited quite a long time for a better study than Robert
Spitzer's 2003 effort," wrote Jim Burroway, a contributor to the Box
Turtle Bulletin gay news blog (www.boxturtlebulletin.com), in an
analysis of the study posted Sept. 17. Burroway referred to an
earlier, retrospective study that found some change of sexual
orientation was possible in individuals who had strong motivation.
Many psychological experts criticized the Spitzer study's methods as well.
Jones and Yarhouse's effort did not provide much better evidence,
Burroway said. "This study held great promise based on its initial
design, but its conduct left much to be desired," he wrote. "Its
rigorous design was not matched by similar rigor in execution. And so
we're still left waiting for that definitive breakthrough ex-gay
study. I don't think this one is it."
Burroway particularly criticized the study's lack of attention to what
may have motivated the large number of dropouts -- many of whom, he
hypothesized, may have dropped out because they embraced their
homosexuality and wanted nothing more to do with Exodus or the study.
"Remember, Jones and Yarhouse described those 'experiencing difficulty
with change would be likely to get frustrated or discouraged early on
and drop out of the change process,'" Burroway wrote. "And so
assessing the dropouts becomes critically important, because unlike
[another study on sexuality with a high dropout rate], the very reason
for dropping out of this study may have direct bearing on both
questions the study was designed to address: Do people change, and are
they harmed by the process?
"With as much as a quarter of the initial population dropping out
potentially for reasons directly related to the study's questions,
this missing analysis represents a likely critical failure, one which
could potentially invalidate the study's conclusions."
Jones responded on the blog, noting that there was little he could
have done about the dropout rate. "We went to extreme lengths to keep
people in the study, involving multiple pleas and contacts including
those through families and friends, and, when we had contact
information at all, with personal calls and pleas from me," he wrote.
"At some point, you must respect people's wishes not to be contacted.
We remain proud of our retention rate in the study."
Others have criticized the study for not using physical measures to
gauge sexual response to images of the same gender. But Yarhouse and
Jones said the only reliable methods for measuring such arousal --
attaching monitors to subjects' genitalia and then asking them to
watch pornography -- would be morally objectionable to the subjects.
Clinton Anderson, director of the American Psychological Association's
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office, said Sept. 21
that he had not yet read the study but questioned why it was published
in book form by a Christian publisher rather than in a scientific journal.
"Even if you think it's an excellent study, why would they choose to
not have it published in the peer-reviewed literature? That's where it
belongs," he said. "Otherwise, I don't think I understand where
they're coming from, as far as science and making a contribution to it."
Episcopal Church House of Bishops' response to directive on openly gay
bishops and same-sex unions 'a grave contradiction'
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 National Religious Leadership Roundtable
members today expressed deep disappointment at the Episcopal Church
House of Bishops' response to the directive issued by the leaders of
the Anglican Communion to stop consecrating openly gay and lesbian
bishops and to ban blessings of same-sex unions. The House of Bishops
agreed to "exercise constraint by not consenting to the consecration"
of gay bishops and they also pledged not to authorize public rites for
Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members
"The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church meeting in New Orleans
this week faced a daunting challenge: to remain in communion with
Anglicans worldwide while also respecting the full dignity and
participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
"Anglican Christians have always been remarkably diverse, in both
theology and the practice of ministry. From the beginning, staying in
communion with each other has meant respecting differences and forging
compromises. The recent statement from the House of Bishops is no
different. While agreeing to 'exercise restraint' in any further
elections of lesbian and gay people as bishops, the statement also
decried the 'unwanted incursions' of bishops from other provinces of
the Anglican Communion, which have served only to fuel the fires of
"Like any compromise, the question now before us is whether this
statement will satisfy those who believe the Episcopal Church made a
fatal mistake in confirming Gene Robinson as the bishop of New
Hampshire as well as those who fully support that confirmation. And at
least two key issues remain unaddressed: Will Bishop Robinson
participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference of worldwide bishops? How
will individual bishops in this country deal with the acknowledged
'pastoral concern' for same-sex couples seeking a blessing of their
"Personally, as an openly gay Episcopal priest, I am both relieved and
disappointed by the bishops' statement. It presents a grave
contradiction. The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to the full
dignity and participation of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender
people in this church. Yet I fail to understand how exercising
restraint in electing more lesbian or gay bishops and refusing to
allow blessings of our relationships reflect that commitment.
"Like many other LGBT Episcopalians, I deeply value our participation
in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Yet I worry that the burden of
such unity is once again being shouldered by LGBT people and our
relationships. In the end, I view this statement as a short-term
compromise for the sake of respecting the polity of the Episcopal
Church bishops in our church cannot act alone but must deliberate
with deacons, priests and laypeople in our general convention, the
next meeting of which is not until 2009. Until then, my prayers and
efforts will be directed toward the 'listening process,' also
reaffirmed in this statement. And my hope is that Anglicans the world
over will listen very carefully to the stories of their LGBT sisters
and brothers and of their faithful and courageous ministry in this
Rev. Jay E. Johnson, Ph.D
Pacific School of Religion
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry
"It is a profound indictment of the current state of Christianity when
bishops from any denomination, especially those who have already
consecrated an openly gay bishop, choose to betray him, as well as
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families for
the sake of the illusion of the unity of an institution. The church is
already divided. LGBT people and their families are the ones again
forced to the side by this decision. My heart aches for our LGBT
siblings in the Episcopal Church. Their bishops are treating them like
yo-yos instead of as members of the body of Christ. To pull close and
then later to cast aside as unloved and unworthy is frankly to abuse.
We call on the bishops of the Episcopal Church to reverse course, to
right this wrong and quickly."
Lutherans Concerned/North America
"DignityUSA continues to support our LGBT sisters and brothers in the
Episcopal Church and throughout the Anglican Communion through the
difficult days of this continuing debate. As LGBT Roman Catholics, we
in DignityUSA continue to watch this struggle in the Episcopal Church
and pray for the day when Jesus Christ's love and inclusiveness is
fully realized in all Christian churches."
"This so-called compromise devalues the experience and potential
service of gay and lesbian Episcopal priests and gay and lesbian
persons seeking to live in a family sanctified by their church. Once
again, a church body is asking gay and lesbian persons to take a pew
at the back of the church in order to mollify those who do not
understand that sexual diversity is also part of God's blessing."
Rev. Debra W. Haffner
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing
"This decision is a profound disappointment to lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people everywhere. The bishops are in danger of
succumbing to the temptation to bow before an idol called church unity
when God demands justice.
"We stand solidly behind the efforts of Integrity to over turn the
moratorium at General Convention 2009 and pledge ourselves to redouble
our supportive efforts. We will not go away; we will not be silent.
Our faith and our lives depend on it."
Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is an interfaith network of
leaders from pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) faith,
spiritual and religious organizations. We work in partnership with
other groups to promote understanding of and respect for LGBT people
within society at large and in communities of faith. We promote
understanding and respect within LGBT communities for a variety of
faith paths and for religious liberty, and to achieve commonly held
goals that promote equality, spirituality and justice.
Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
Just address an email to UMCalledOut@yahoogroups.com
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