Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Progressive Clergy and LGBT Equality

Rev. Debra Haffner published a piece in the Huffington Post providing evidence for what I have known from experience. Churches that quit pandering to fear and instead embrace LGBT equality will soon benefit the entire community in many areas.

Read the whole of her excellent essay (and send it on to your minister and church board), Will Clergy Lead the Way in LGBT Equality?

This may surprise you, but your local minister or rabbi may well be ahead of the curve when it comes to LGBT advocacy. The same day the Quinnipiac poll was released, two other reports - one by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, the other by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Institute for Welcoming Resources - depicted the depth of LGBT-affirming ministries and activism among clergy in mainline Protestant, Jewish and Unitarian Universalist congregations.

These two reports revealed that LGBT equality is the primary focus of social justice activism in progressive congregations. At the same time, they indicated that congregations that take intentional action to embrace LGBT congregants also tend to be more active in environmentalism, reproductive justice, anti-poverty efforts and other social concerns. And they refuted the myth that welcoming LGBT persons and their families into the congregation creates divisions or drives other congregants away.

In short, these progressive congregations are demonstrating how the entire faith community benefits from the full embrace of LGBT equality. It's a lesson the wider American community should listen to, and learn from. And clergy are in a unique position to deliver the message. (read more)

When my current congregation took the plunge and
  • affiliated with The Center for Progressive Christianity, More Light Presbyterians, and The Covenant Network,
  • included "sexual orientation and gender identity" in our welcome statement on our bulletins and web page, and
  • opened our doors to performing holy unions for same-gender couples,
we grew in attendance and membership. We have folks of all ages and we have more children under seven than I can count. Why? Because the parents of these children want to raise them in a church that is inclusive and affirming of all people.

Hey, it's my blog; I am going to brag about my church. Here is the May newsletter that just went on-line today. You will see this little congregation involved anti-poverty efforts, environmental efforts, and all kinds of things.

Progressive congregations who do not shy away or try to play the middle but instead become a place of full inclusion as part of their social justice ministry end up doing social justice in all areas.

The same will happen for our denomination when we finally become fully inclusive.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pluralism Sunday

This Sunday, May 3rd is Pluralism Sunday. This is the third annual Pluralism Sunday celebration promoted by The Center for Progressive Christianity.
On May 3, 2009, churches around the world will dedicate their worship to a celebration of our interfaith world. Progressive Christians thank God for religious diversity! We don’t claim that our religion is superior to all others. We recognize that other religions can be as good for others as ours is for us. We can grow closer to God and deeper in compassion—and we can understand our own traditions better—through a more intimate awareness of the world’s religions. Churches will be using elements of other world faiths in their sermons, litanies, and music; many will feature speakers and singers from other faith traditions. Some congregations will have exchanges with other faith communities, going to each other’s houses of worship.

We will be celebrating the many paths at our congregation while welcoming eight new members (including one by baptism) as well as baptizing an infant child of one of our new members. We are looking forward to the big day.

One of the reasons that many find a home in our congregation is because we acknowledge that other spiritual paths are true and valid as our mission statement says:


With joyful hearts and open minds, we welcome all persons as diverse, unique, and individual expressions of the image of God as we:
  • Affirm the unconditional love of God for all people as expressed in the life of Jesus Christ.
  • Celebrate God’s grace and creative work through ritual, sacrament, music, art, movement, and play.
  • Honor our Christian heritage while we explore the knowledge and wisdom of multiple religions, science, philosophy, humanities and psychology to deepen and enrich our spiritual journeys.
  • Nurture one another through fellowship and compassion in a community that seeks to offer wholeness.
  • Embody our faith through local ministries and in actions that promote environmental sustainability, peace, and justice for all people and Earth.
In awe and gratitude for the Divine Mystery that dwells within each of us and pervades our Universe, we seek to create a Christian community that honors our past, is vitally connected to our present, and looks with hope and vision to the generations after us.

My sermon is entitled One River, Many Wells which is taken from Matthew Fox's book by the same name and from which I borrowed this quote for the bulletin:
My thoughts turn to the subject of our various religions. None of them is mother of the ocean, rather the ocean is mother of all things. Our religions are so recent in relation to the lifetime of the sea and to most other creatures—including humanity itself. What religions did our ancestors practice for the two million years that preceded the forms we now recognize as “world religions”? How humble our religions ought to be before all creatures. As Mechtild of Magdeburg said, “the truly wise person kneels at the feet of all creatures.”
--Matthew Fox One River, Many Wells (New York: Penguin Putnam, 2000), p.16.


Equality is Here

It is hard to keep up with all the news regarding LGBT equality. From Now! Hampshire:

The Democratic controlled New Hampshire Senate passed an amended version of the controversial measure to legalize gay marriage today. The vote was 13-11 in favor of the measure.

The House passed a similar measure last month by a 186-179 vote. The two chambers must reconcile small changes between the two measures in a conference committee but this is seen as a technicality.

From PFLAG:

PFLAG applauds today’s vote, in the House of Representatives, approving The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability status to the federal hate crimes statute. The House approved the measure by a vote of 249 to 175, and similar legislation was introduced on Tuesday in the Senate. President Obama has expressed his strong support for the bill, and urged lawmakers to support it.

From CBS News:
Forty-two percent of Americans now say same sex couples should be allowed to legally marry, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds. That's up nine points from last month, when 33 percent supported legalizing same sex marriage.
Up nine points since last month!!!

Meanwhile the Presbyterian Church, well...

Frankly, I do not want to hear it from any allies that you are skittish about acting confidently and decisively in removing G-6.0106busybody from our constitution. It is way past time. No more conversation is needed. We need to flood the General Assembly with delete/change G-6 resolutions.

That is not all. We need resolutions to recognize equality of marriage in the PCUSA and for a liturgy suitable for both same gender and opposite gender couples.

Concern Not Panic


Each hour there are updates regarding Swine Flu. Daily Kos provided a good post today with helpful links regarding precautions.

Store a two-week supply of food and water. Have two weeks of your regular prescription drugs at home. Keep health supplies on hand, including pain relievers and cold medicines.

For more details, visit www.cdc.gov/swineflu or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.



But don't take it out on the piggies.







Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Yes Votes on B!

I just received this great news from Covnet:

Lehigh and Detroit both voted yes on amendment B tonight. Lehigh by a score of 60-46-2 and Detroit, 141-92. Both presbyteries had voted against equality last time around. That means 30 presbyteries have switched from a previous no to a yes.


The score is now 71-89.

This is good news in that even though B has failed, the witness and celebration of an inclusive church just on the horizon is strong!

GA in 2010 is looking better and better.

Thanks to all who keep speaking and voting for justice, equality, unity and peace!

The remaining presbyteries to vote include:
  • May 2 - Dakota, Minnesota Valleys, Southern New England
  • May 7 - Middle Tennessee, Northern Waters
  • May 9 - Utah
  • May 12 - East Iowa, Kiskiminetas, Pacific, Savannah
  • May 19 - Missouri River Valley
  • ?? - Noroeste, Suroeste

Monday, April 27, 2009

RUREADY?


I usually don't go for these kinds of things. But we have seen the last sign. Jesus is appearing in toast all over this great country. That means we're toast.


It is upon us. Everything is lined up. The rapture will occur in Spring 2009.

Don't believe that website? Then try
this one.
Still not convinced? Then listen to
Randy.
Rapture Randy not ringing your bell?
How about the
Savvy Internet Ladies?

RUREADY? Watch the whole thing. It's only two minutes:


Advocating for Legislative Change is Our Best Option

Some voices in the Presbyterian church think the defeat of amendment B means that the church has clearly spoken. Others argue that attempting to remove G-6.0106b through the legislative process will not work.

Facts and trends are presenting a different case.

So far in the voting on amendment B,
  • 69 presbyteries voted for equality (compared to 46 in 2001-2).
  • This includes 48.6% of the popular vote among individual commissioners.
  • Of the 157 presbyteries that voted, 110 demonstrated a pro-LGBT shift.
What does the vote on amendment B signify? Check this article in the Washington Post by Rev. Janet Edwards, who blogs at A Time to Embrace:
This year, a record number of local church bodies voted for inclusion of our GLBT brothers and sisters in the ordained leadership of the Presbyterian Church. And although the amendment did not pass, the conversation has changed forever.
Since this time last year we have witnessed big advances for equality in both the ecclesiastical and civil realms.
  • In June 2008, the PC(USA) voted that the Authoritative Interpretation of 1978 has no longer any force or effect.
  • Individual states (Vermont, Iowa, and others) are moving toward civil equality in marriage.
Those who oppose basic civil and ecclesiastical rights and privileges for LGBT people for religious reasons are already starting to sound like Rev. Robert Lewis Dabney who was still arguing for God-ordained slavery after the Civil War.

We are not there as a society or a church. But we are getting there.

This is from Forbes magazine regarding recent polls:

Answers to other survey questions about homosexuality do show greater acceptance.

For example, should homosexuality be legal? Forty-three percent gave that response to Gallup in 1977; 55% did in 2008.

Should homosexuality be considered an acceptable alternative life style? Again from Gallup, 34% agreed in 1982, 57% do today.

Should homosexuals have equal rights in terms of job opportunities? Fifty-five percent said yes in 1977, 89% in 2008.

And what about gays in the military? Two-thirds support it, up about 10 percentage points from a decade ago.

Attitudes on two sensitive subjects in the past, hiring homosexuals as elementary school teachers and gay adoption, have changed too.

In 1977, 27% of poll respondents told Gallup that homosexuals should be hired as elementary school teachers; 54% said that in 2005.

Forty-six percent supported adoption rights for gays and lesbians in 2000, and 53% do today.

Beyond that, two-thirds or more now say that inheritances, Social Security benefits, health insurance and hospital visitation should be available to gay and lesbian partners.

Most polls about civil unions date to the beginning of this decade.

In February 2000, a Princeton Survey Research Associates/Newsweek poll found that 47% of respondents said there should be legally sanctioned gay and lesbian unions or partnerships. In December of last year, 55% gave that response.

What accounts for the growing acceptance?

Six in 10 people polled told Gallup last year that a friend, family or co-worker had told them he or she was gay--and familiarity fosters acceptance.
Just since 2000, 47% of Americans have said yes to legally sanctioned gay and lesbian unions compared to 55% today.

That I think is a good indicator for the change in voting patterns regarding amendment B this year as compared to 2001-2.


We can interpret these changes in attitude as a move toward equality and against prejudice.

Or, we can interpret these changes in attitude as the devil's work corrupting our morals.

It is pretty clear that whatever the opinion, the PCUSA is moving along with the tide.

For those like myself who see this change as positive and who work for it in the civil and in the ecclesiastical worlds, we think the method of advocating legislative change is going pretty well.
  • It provides the best opportunity available to change hearts and minds.
  • It encourages individuals to speak and to work toward removing discriminatory barriers.
  • It reflects the trend toward equality in church and society.
We will continue through legislative means to give the church the opportunity to vote for equality and non-discrimination.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Won, so Shut Up

The Presbyterian Coalition has declared victory but still wants folks to vote no on B in presbyteries that have not yet voted.
We encourage those of you whose presbyteries have not yet voted to work diligently for its defeat in YOUR presbytery.
Why? Because those who think that discrimination is a bad idea need to shut up. They say that "pastorally" of course:
It is time to accept the Church's decision

Since the 1970s the PC(USA) has heard, considered, and responded to appeals to change her standard of sexual morality. Those who wish to change the biblically-rooted standard have continually pressed the matter and required repeated votes that have had the same outcome each time. It is well past time to acknowledge that the Church today, as throughout her history, knows her mind on this matter, and that it is the mind of Christ. It is time to call for forbearance from those who constantly disturb the peace and unity of the church.

Now it is time to live out the decision pastorally, leading people out of our society's sexual confusion into repentance and newness of life.
A little fact check. The "same outcome each time" is wishful thinking on their part. Since June 2008 the PC(USA) has made the most significant gains in equality for LGBT persons ever. Times are changing and they know it.

This is the type of rhetoric we will hear from the right wing until and through General Assembly 2010. You will hear words like "pastoral" and phrases like "disturb the peace and unity" until you want to run off screaming into the darkness.

What does it mean to "disturb the peace and unity of the church?"

Since these folks like to use the Bible as a nightstick against LGBT people, here's the Bible back at ya:


11They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace’,
when there is no peace.
12They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
yet they were not at all ashamed,
they did not know how to blush. (Jeremiah 8:11-12)

They want to defend the "peace and unity of the church." What they call peace and unity is an abomination. It is the enshrining of discrimination, ignorance, and falsehoods as a so-called "biblically-rooted standard."

This is the kind of "peace" that needs disturbing.

The ones who are disturbing Christ's peace are those who continue to wound God's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people.

And they don't even know how to blush.


B Stings

For those who were holding out to the last breathless vote, you can breathe now. Amendment B has failed. Northern Plains, Boise, and Sierra Blanca all voted no on Saturday. Presbytery de Cristo voted yes.

69 presbyteries in favor of equality. 89 presbyteries for discrimination and injustice. (And you can call it any damn thing you please, but that is what it is).

The voting is not over. A number of presbyteries are still scheduled to vote. It is important that allies hold this vote. When we look back on the scoring of how presbyteries voted, it won't matter if presbyteries voted before or after. So it is over, but it isn't over. We are now playing for pride, witness, and the future.

Here is a reflection from Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians:

In what has been a much closer situation than in 2002, 2 oppositional votes today meant defeat for the national ratification of 08-B. However, the good news is that 69 presbyteries have voted in favor with 14 presbyteries yet to vote. The final tally of support for policy change in 2002 was 42. It is important to recognize that 110 presbyteries out of the 155 presbyteries that have voted thus far demonstrate pro-LGBT equality shifts....

The trends are clear: the Presbyterian Church (USA) is remarkably close to removing the barriers so that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people can faithfully answer God's call to serve. The witness of this ratification process across the country indicates without a doubt that a growing number of Presbyterians believe that LGBT persons and their families should have the same opportunities and responsibilities of full participation, membership and ordained service in our Church offered to their heterosexual sisters and brothers.
The day after the 87th vote was taken an overture was sent to presbytery en route to the 2010 General Assembly. Here is a news release from Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan:

Ann Arbor, MI – Today, Northside Presbyterian Church, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church (USA), proposed a new amendment to the denomination’s constitution that would allow the ordination of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members. This action was taken as a response to the narrow defeat of a similar proposed change that the denomination has been debating during the past year. Northside’s new proposed amendment would allow the ordination of anyone in the denomination whom God has called, regardless of sexual orientation.

Today, a majority of presbyteries, the local governing bodies of the PC(USA), considered, but by a razor-thin margin failed to ratify, a similar amendment to Part II of the denomination’s constitution, The Book of Order. This was the third such vote in the past 12 years. In contrast to those previous votes, this year an unprecedented number of presbyteries reversed their positions and now stand for justice and inclusion for their LGBT members. In spite of today’s setback, with such powerful momentum building for equality in the denomination, Northside Presbyterian believes it is imperative that the struggle for full inclusion in the life and ministry of the PC(USA) continue without delay and so proposes this new amendment.

“We are seeing something today akin to what happened in our denomination in the 1950s with the ordination of women,” said Brian Spolarich, Elder and Clerk of the Session, the governing body of the congregation. “It took over a decade of organizing, and multiple votes for our denomination to get it right, but in the end we recognized the Holy Spirit leading us to draw the circle of leadership more broadly, not more narrowly. I have faith that we will eventually get this one right, too.”

The new proposed amendment will go to the Presbytery of Detroit for action. If approved, it will be sent to the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for action in 2010. Then, if approved by the General Assembly, the amendment would require approval from a majority of the 173 presbyteries in order to be ratified.

About Northside Presbyterian Church:

Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we are a small, dynamic congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, we attract a diverse membership from all over Southeastern Michigan. In our denomination, the PC(USA), Northside Presbyterian Church takes a stand as a More Light congregation, affirming and celebrating the Spirit’s marvelous gift of diversity in ministry and ordained leadership, welcoming all sexual orientations and gender identities. Find out more about our faith community on our web site, www.NorthsidePres.org.

About More Light Presbyterians:

More Light Presbyterians, the oldest gay rights group in the 2.3 million member Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), works for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the PCUSA. Web site: www.mlp.org

Abode of Peace--A sermon

Abode of Peace
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

April 26, 2009

Surah 10:24-25

The likeness of this present life is like water We made descend from the sky. The plants of the earth, such as men and beasts are wont to eat, grow diverse because of it—until, when earth has assumed its ornament and is decked out in all its finery, and its people think they hold it in their power, Our command descends upon it by night or day, and We turn it into stubble, as though yesterday it had never bloomed. Even so do We make clear the signs for a people who reflect.

God calls to the Abode of Peace and guides whomsoever He wills to a path that is straight.


On Friday the confirmation class visited the Muslim Community Center of the Northeast. We attended Friday prayer. On Friday afternoon at 1:30 the call to prayer is sounded and people gather at the musalah (place of prayer). In addition to prayer a sermon is given.

I don’t think all of them are the same, but at this particular musalah, there is a separate place for women and men. The guys and I were in the front part and the women were behind a window. It is a one way mirror. The women could see and hear, but the men couldn’t see them.

We were given a brief tour beforehand by Taneem Aziz. Friday is not like Sunday for Christians. After the prayer, they return to work. They have education classes on Sundays. On the wall of one of the children’s classes I could see where they were learning about the principles of Islam and the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). To say “peace be upon him” is a sign of respect.

Next to Muhammad’s name were his qualities, “trustworthy, kind, loyal.” Muhammad is a model for how to live in the world.

Taneem invited us to either watch or participate. He said that before prayer, we should wash feet, hands and face. In the restroom is a place to wash your feet. The guys thought that was pretty cool, so they and I washed our feet and hands and face.

The speaker was from Texas. The Muslim Community Center doesn’t have an imam, so the person who is most familiar with the Qur’an is the one who gives the sermon. On occasion they will have a guest speaker like they did Friday.

We were introduced to him beforehand and he was impressed and pleased that we wanted to learn about Islam.

We went into the Musalah, the call to prayer was recited by Taneem, and people began to gather. We sat on the carpet. The sermon was interesting. He was encouraging Muslims to make relationships with non-Muslims. It is important to do that so that non-Muslims can overcome stereotypes about Islam. These stereotypes include equating Muslims with terrorism.

“Terrorism does not have a religion,” he said.

He mentioned us with gratitude. It is important for Muslims and non-Muslims to find common ground and to work together for peace he told us.

After the sermon, we gathered in two parallel lines, shoulder to shoulder. The guys asked me what to do, and I said, “I don’t know, just follow along.” Following the lead of the others, facing Mecca, we bowed, kneeled and prostrated when they did.

I found it to be moving. There is something that binds people when they pray together, especially close together. We were connected beyond the differences of culture, class, and religion to surrender to the Source of all that is.

When the prayer had finished Taneem and his college-age daughter, spoke to us in one of the classrooms. They answered questions and invited us to a potluck. On the second Saturday of every month, they have a common meal. I said I would bring this invitation back to us, and on a Saturday that works, we can schedule that time.

His daughter wears the hijab, the head covering. Most of the time when she goes out with her mother to shop, they are treated with respect. But now and then they will receive comments such as “Go back to Iraq” or “Go back to where you came from.” She is born in the United States, so she already is where she came from.

They never confront. They never return hostilities. That is part of their reality. Most of the time they are treated well, but hostilities against them can surface. He said to the youth that they can be helpful in speaking out against misinformation against Muslims. Now, we have prayed together. Now, we know each other, face to face.

I asked what it meant to be a Muslim. And his daughter put it quite eloquently and simply:

“It’s a way of life. I begin each day saying, ‘Bismallah (in the name of God).’”

The youth will have their own interpretations of the day. For me, I felt another point of connection with our Muslim neighbors.

What is Islam? What is this way of life? Islam means among many things to surrender or to submit. It is not to surrender or to submit to another human being or to a doctrine or to culture or to creation or any to created thing. Islam is to surrender to God. God (Allah in Arabic) is that which is beyond all names. God is the reality beyond all realities. A Muslim is one who surrenders to God alone.

A Muslim is more than a practitioner of a religion. It is a way of life. Taneem said something very interesting. “All children are born Muslim.” Traditional Christianity says that children are born in sin. Islam says the opposite. As we grow we forget who we are. Islam is the way of remembering who we are and whose we are.

When non-Muslims see Islam from the outside we tend to see practices, rituals, and rules.

Muslims believe this. Muslims believe that.

We compare what we see with what we believe or do. That is all we can see. That is OK as far as it goes. But that only gets us to the outside, to the external religious practices. I think it is possible if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to see more than that.


These external practices are a path or a way to the heart.

This is one of the reasons I am engaging us in reading a translation of the Qur’an this year as well as finding ways to connect with our Muslim neighbors. The goal is to search for and respect the heart, which is a metaphor for the sacred experience of surrendering to God.

The other reason is to become aware of stereotypes and to dismantle them. On Friday morning there was a message on the church answering machine. It was from a church in Johnson City inviting us to a conference on “Radical Islam.” I knew where that was going--a bunch of Radical Christians engaging in some fear-mongering.

Would you like to learn about Islam? Here is a novel idea. Talk to Muslims. This is why we took the confirmation class to the Muslim Community Center. When they hear negative things about Islam or Muslims, they can know and perhaps even say that isn’t true.

Surahs 9-13 is the reading for May. I chose today 10:24-25. One of the principles of Islamic spirituality is that the created order is a sign or a parable for the mystery of God.

Because we live inside the created order we take it for granted. When things go well we tend to think we are responsible. We think we hold it in our power. We are entitled. We think it is our right. This is human arrogance. The wise person, the one who reflects, recognizes that life is transitory. At times there is nourishing rain. At other times drought. This is not simply about weather patterns. This is about our own lives.

Sometimes life goes well. Sometimes it doesn’t. Life is change. The wise person does not put his or her life or value in that which changes, but in the Source beyond change. In the Bible story about Jonah, the prophet is on the hill, bummed that God does not destroy Nineveh but allows the people to live.

In the story, God commands a plant to grow and provide Jonah shade. Jonah likes that. Then God tells a worm to destroy the plant. Jonah is angry, “angry enough to die,” says the text. Then God tells Jonah:
‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’
Islamic spirituality is the invitation to consider the Source of life not just the circumstances. In so doing we will discover blessing, the “Abode of Peace.”

A church member gave me this book. It is called The Heart of the Qur’an: An Introduction to Islamic Spirituality by Lex Hixon. Neil Douglas-Klotz provides a forward and commentary.

Hixon take a number of passages from the Qur’an, meditates on them, and provides his own commentary from his own personal meditation. After I chose this passage, I discovered that Hixon commented on it. Here is his meditation:
Contemplate life as fresh rain showered abundantly on receptive ground from the Ever-Present Source, Who is like the vast sky. This pure rainwater, mingling with the earth, causes the boundless variety of seeds to sprout and flourish, providing ample nourishment for all creatures. Imagine the spiritual blindness of those who deny the existence of the Original Source, the very sky from which life-giving water descends, and who insist that they alone have power over the fertile expanse of this earth, turned fruitful and beautiful by the rain of life. With terrible suddenness, during night or day, a ray of light like fire can radiate from the Source of Power and reduce rich orchards and pastures to fields of straw, without leaving a trace of the abundance experienced only moments before. For those who meditate deeply, this parable from the Source of Wisdom presents a clear teaching to rely upon the Ultimate Source alone. Thus the Voice of Allah invites human beings home into Divine Peace and guides them along the Direct Path of surrender. These souls return to the Single Source, along the noble way that is called Islam. P. 49
The heart of Christianity is similar. “Seek first,” said Jesus, “The realm of God.”

There is, I think, a common word, a way of life that binds humanity beyond all of our differences. Our various religions and practices show us this way. It is a way to the heart of life, to the heart of God, and to the Abode of Peace.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Niebuhr, Obama, and Punk Rock


Responding to my sermon last Fall about Reinhold Niebuhr and Barack Obama, seminary graduate and First Presby, Phil Steffey, has been inspired to lead us in a study of Niebuhr. This is from Phil:

Punk/Folk singer Billy Bragg wrote a song lyric that goes like this, " . . . no power without accountability." Thus from May 6 to June 11, the Wednesday night study group will be reading and studying a man whose best friend was Eric Erickson, influenced King more than Ghandi and of whom President Obama is a keen student . . . Reinhold Niebuhr.

One of the most important theologians of the last century and one who certainly helped the church understand and appreciate the role it can play between the balance of power and accountability.

We will read Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society, Love and Justice, the Shorter Writings of Reinhold Niebuhr, and if time will allow The Irony of American History.

So if interested, please purchase the first two works at your convenience and we will start with "Moral Man" first. So please bring your appetite for a good theologian and good discussion and even better fellowship.

PS

It wouldn't hurt to buy a few Billy Bragg CDs as well.
Thanks, Phil! This will be great! Get the books. It starts Wednesday May 6th at 6 p.m.



Redeeming Paul


Paul the Apostle. Not a cuddly character, really. Had weird ideas about women. Wrote that slaves ought to obey their masters. A bit opaque. A curmudgeon.

Well, maybe not.





Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan have written a new book,
The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church's Conservative Icon.







Paul is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the birth of Christianity, and yet he continues to be controversial, even among Christians. How could the letters of Paul be used both to inspire radical grace and to endorse systems of oppression—condoning slavery, subordinating women, condemning homosexual behavior?

Borg and Crossan use the best of biblical and historical scholarship to explain the reasons for Paul's mixed reputation and reveal to us what scholars have known for decades: that the later letters of Paul were created by the early church to dilute Paul's egalitarian message and transform him into something more "acceptable."

They argue there are actually "Three Pauls" in the New Testament:
  1. "The Radical Paul" (of the seven genuine letters),
  2. "The Conservative Paul" (of the three disputed epistles), and
  3. "The Reactionary Paul" (of the three inauthentic letters).
By closely examining this progression of Paul's letters—from the authentic to the inauthentic—the authors show how the apostle was slowly but steadily "deradicalized" to fit Roman social norms in regards to slavery, patriarchy, and patronage. In truth, Paul was an appealing apostle of Jesus whose vision of life "in Christ"—one of his favored phrases—is remarkably faithful to the message of Jesus himself.
Beginning Thursday, April 30th, we will check out this Paul in our Thursdays with Jesus study group. We meet from 10:30 until noon and if you are near our mountain, come join us!


My 2000th Post

Just thought you'd want to know.

Improving Life One Pancake at a Time


How fun to see a couple of church members in today's Johnson City Press. Helen and Jim Wilson are ready to flip some jacks this Saturday morning to raise funds for a new foundation for Elizabethton and Carter County.

The First Pres. confirmation class will help serve. Here is the story:


ELIZABETHTON — Diners will be able to enjoy a pancake breakfast at Applebee’s Restaurant on Saturday morning and help the community at the same time.

The Elizabethton/Carter County Community Foundation will be serving up the pancakes to raise funds to help the community in a wide area of needs, including education and scholarships, the environment, arts and culture, economic development, youth programs, historic preservation, family programs, animal welfare and much more.

Tickets for the breakfast will be available at the door at Applebee’s and are $5 each. Breakfast will be served from 8-10 a.m.

The foundation was organized in 2006 by a group of dedicated Carter County residents to serve the people of the county.

Helen and Jim Wilson are two of the members of the foundation’s advisory board. Mrs. Wilson said the goal of the foundation is to “to improve the quality of life of Carter County residents.”

Although the foundation is relatively new, its continued existence has been guaranteed through the endowments of several generous donors.

Mrs. Wilson said the foundation is affiliated with the East Tennessee Foundation, which also has foundations in Washington and Johnson counties, among others in the region.

Although it is associated with a regional foundation, Mrs. Wilson said all funds raised by the Carter County foundation will stay in the county and will benefit its people.

All the money raised by the pancake breakfast will be returned to the community, the Wilsons said.

Another fundraiser — a golf tournament — is in the planning stages. Mrs. Wilson said it will be held at the Elizabethton Golf Course on Aug. 8. She said Citizens Bank is the corporate sponsor of the event and Fatz Restaurant will be providing lunch. Hole sponsors also are being recruited.

The tournament will be named in honor of one of the original members of the foundation, the late Peggy Merryman, who was an avid golfer as well as a dedicated supporter of the community.

For more on the foundation, call 543-1938.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two Different Gods

Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians provides a commentary on the vote last night by San Francisco Presbytery, DeJa' Vu? Only "flip" loss, San Francisco Presbytery, & Prayers for Bobby.

Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church hosted the presbytery and the vote. This is the church Mary Griffith attended (whose true story is told in the book and film Prayers For Bobby).

Michael writes:

Back on January 23, when I was encouraging people to see the film "Prayers for Bobby," I had no idea that San Francisco Presbytery would be meeting at Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church for its April 21 meeting which would include consideration of Amendment 08-B. The significance of this history and location is not lost on those of us working to eradicate homophobia and create equality in both Church and society.

While Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church might not be the same church it was in the 1980's, continued and current opposition to LGBT persons following God's call to serve is illustrated by its public solicitation of funding the judicial appeal to defeat San Francisco Presbytery's ruling in favor of Lisa Larges' ordination.

It is not possible to separate out God's call to serve from full participation and membership in the Presbyterian Church (USA). This, in addition to the promises we make to children and parents at baptism. Walnut Creek's work to keep Lisa and other faithful, gifted and qualified LGBT persons from ministry can be found at the church's website:
The film, Prayers for Bobby, is playing on Lifetime. Here is the overview:
When Mary Griffith finds that her son Bobby is gay, she becomes convinced that he could be cured of what she sees as his sin, while the rest of their family comes to terms with his sexual orientation. Desperate for his mother's approval, Bobby steps up his prayers and church activities, while becoming increasingly depressed because of his mother's and her Presbyterian Church's disapproval of homosexuality. Eventually Bobby commits suicide, prompting Mary to reflect on her son's life and accept his sexual orientation.
Watch this video excerpt with Mary Griffith and read her story:

"My faith did not change only in the sense that I realized it was not the same God. There were two different gods as I look back on my dealings with Bobby...if I had known this God it would have probably turned out different."--Mary Griffith
Two different gods.


Hate Crime Bill Advances

This is from Chris Sanders at the Tennessee Equality Project:
HB 0335, which adds gender identity and expression as a sentencing enhancement factor to our current hate crimes statute, passed the House Criminal Practice and Procedure subcommittee today. This is a very important piece of legislation that was introduced by Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis) on behalf of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and supported by TEP.

A big thanks to everyone who contacted your legislators and the members of the committee about the bill. Next week it advances to the full House Judiciary Committee.

This is a very positive move for the discussion of hate crimes in our state.
Thanks Chris, and thanks to all of you for encouraging your legislators! Please keep at it!

Beyond Ex-Gay

Now this is one powerful story. I wish every LGBT young person and friend and family member of an LGBT person in North East Tennessee could see this video.

This is Peterson Toscano, Ex-Gay Survivor. He shares his reasons why he spent 17 years and $30,000 trying to change who he is.


See BeyondExGay.com

Check the FAQs!

Might as well give a plug. PFLAG Tri-Cities exists for support, education, and advocacy. Join us!

via church geek

The Greenest State in the Land of the Free

My congregation is located in Carter County, Tennessee and Carter County is going green! Check it:

Carter County is Going Green for Earth Day.

Carter County is making an effort to “go-green” and cleanup the county. As part of the festivities they will hold an Arbor Day Celebration today, April 22, at 1 p.m. at Sycamore Shoals Hospital.

Earth Day is officially celebrated across the world on April 22; Arbor Day is officially celebrated on April 24.

On Friday and Saturday, April 24 and 25, Carter County will hold Countywide Cleanup Days. The county landfill will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The idea is that every resident will have an opportunity to clean up around their home or business and rid it of debris and unused items. County officials say they hope the cleanup day will reduce litter on the roads and steams as well as beautify the community.

“This is a great opportunity to clean out items that are no longer of use or needed,” said Johnny Holder, county mayor. “The county is working hard and becoming more environmentally friendly.”

The landfill will take household garbage, demolition materials, construction debris, furniture and appliances. A charge will be placed on tires.

Other events taking place are various litter pick-ups, and a Downtown Business Association “Downtown Cleanup” on May 4-8. The County and City-wide stream and river cleanup will be on Saturday, May 16 at 9 a.m. at the Covered Bridge Park.

From March to May Elizabethton and Carter County are participating in the Great American Cleanup, a project of Keep America Beautiful and Keep Tennessee Beautiful. For more information, call 547-3850.

Protect Your Holy Church from the Rain!


Here is a post in honor of the Presbytery of San Francisco for building an umbrella to stop the gathering storm of raining gays. You can build a giant gay repellent umbrella! Here is the prototype:


Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day. Remember how it all started? Check it:
Earth Day -- April 22 -- each year marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Among other things, 1970 in the United States brought with it the Kent State shootings, the advent of fiber optics, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Apollo 13, the Beatles' last album, the death of Jimi Hendrix, the birth of Mariah Carey, and the meltdown of fuel rods in the Savannah River nuclear plant near Aiken, South Carolina -- an incident not acknowledged for 18 years.


It was into such a world that the very first Earth Day was born.


Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed the first nationwide environmental protest "to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.

"It was a gamble," he recalls, "but it worked."


At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Environment was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.


Earth Day 1970 turned that all around.
Here are some local Earth Day events, state by state.

And some resources from a great magazine,
Yes!

Enjoy!



San Francisco? No? Say It Ain't So!

This is an embarrassment. The presbytery of San Francisco
  • Home of the PCUSA moderator...
  • Home of out candidate, Lisa Larges...
  • Home of the Covenant Network...
  • Home of Jack Rogers...
  • And well it's freaking San Francisco...
voted No on amendment B last night 167-177. San Francisco has the honor of being the only presbytery to switch from equality to inequality in this year's voting. Last time the vote was 216-186. That means 40 commissioners decided they had better things to do than to show up for the meeting.

Looks to me like they took it for granted while the opposition organized.

So three for four yesterday, Salem and Wabash Valley flipped for equality and National Capital held. The score is 66-86. The darn thing is over for this year. We know it. But man, have some pride.

Thanks to all those who did show up, vote, and speak!

[Note: I have been informed that Jack Rogers is a member of a different presbytery. My bad.]



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Act on Hate Crimes Bills Today

The Tennessee Equality Project reminds us that Wednesday is a big day for hate crimes legislation at both the federal level and in Tennessee.


Take action at the Federal Level here.

And for Tennessee's citizens here.



Wabash Valley Flips!

Second flip today on Amendment B! Wabash Valley, a solid yellow presbytery, for the first time voted for equality 84-67! Wabash Valley joins today's other flipper, Salem, and National Capital both voting for equality. San Francisco votes tonight.

"Make Me!"

That is what Obama said. If you want something done, we will have to make him by making our voices heard and by putting pressure on him. This is from Amy Goodman:

Harry Belafonte recalled in an interview with Tavis Smiley recently a story he was told by Eleanor Roosevelt. She related a public event when her husband, FDR, introduced Randolph and asked him, Belafonte recalled, "what he thought of the nation, what he thought of the plight of the Negro people and what did he think ... where the nation was headed." Continuing the story, Belafonte recounted what FDR replied upon hearing Randolph's remarks: "You know, Mr. Randolph, I've heard everything you've said tonight, and I couldn't agree with you more. I agree with everything that you've said, including my capacity to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the bully pulpit. ... But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and that is go out and make me do it."

This story was retold by Obama at a campaign fundraiser in Montclair, N.J., more than a year ago. It was in response to a person asking Obama about finding a just solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. After recounting the Randolph story, Obama said he was just one person, that he couldn't do it alone. Obama's final answer: "Make me do it."

Now it is time to make Obama ensure that "U.S. sponsored torture never happens again." The National Religious Campaign Against Torture needs our help getting the message to the President to create a commission of inquiry. Here is the story:

Since January 2006, the more than 250 religious organizations comprising the National Religious Campaign Against Torture have worked together to end U.S.-sponsored torture. During 2008, the religious community advocated for a Presidential Executive Order ending torture. It happened. On January 22, President Obama issued an Executive Order halting torture.
Now the task is to make sure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again.

To accomplish this goal, our nation needs to put safeguards in place to prevent its recurrence. We will better understand what safeguards are needed if we have a comprehensive understanding of what happened – who was tortured, why they were tortured, and who ordered the torture. As a nation we need the answers to those questions.
Therefore, NRCAT is calling for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate U.S. torture policies and practices.




To bolster this call, we are asking you and other people of faith to endorse the statement "U.S.-Sponsored Torture: A Call for a Commission of Inquiry."







NRCAT is also asking religious institutions and organizations to endorse, as well.

As the religious community made a difference in encouraging the President to halt torture, we now must urge our leaders to create a Commission of Inquiry to help ensure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again.


Click here for more information about this initiative, including other ways you and your congregation can help to secure a Commission of Inquiry. Since December 2007, NRCAT has also called for criminal investigations.

Click here to read NRCAT's statement calling for a criminal investigation and a letter to Attorney General Holder.

Click here for articles on a Commission of Inquiry and criminal investigations.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been in the forefront against torture. Check Mark Koenig's blog, Swords Into Plowshares for details.


Egg Hunt

On Palm/Passion Sunday we processed out of the church to our new children's play area. It is safe and fenced in for the growing number of little wobblers. We had our egg hunt. But before that I had the honor of "blessing the space."




Yes, that is the baptismal font bowl I am holding as with a palm branch I toss out baptismal water symbolizing the gathering storm--of children that is.










Ahh! Here they are!











Some hunted for eggs...











Others hid in the planter.












I'm Barely Straight

Dr. Monkerstein has given me two this week. This is best NOM video spoof yet:



For those who have missed the NOM (National Organization for Marriage) video and its accompanying spoofs, here is where to go:
  1. Original spot produced by NOM
  2. A Gaythering Storm
  3. D.U.N.G
  4. Wake Up World
  5. Unimaginable Terror Awaits You!
  6. Pink Triangle of People
  7. Colbert Report
  8. Anti-Gay Marriage Auditions
  9. Serious Point by Point Response
Thanks to storm tracker, Snad, for helping me find some of these!


Salem Flips!

Salem Presbytery voted yes on B today, 156-149! This is a first time flip for equality from this presbytery! Also voting today: San Francisco, Wabash Valley, and National Capital, which was in the news about today's vote.

The Meaning of Life, Part 23


I am devoting this meaning of life to one of our new church members, Becca Knight. Becca works for the Appalachia Service Project. She will be speaking on Colombia at our Adult Forum this Sunday.

I believe in peace and I believe in creating communities where peace can prevail. In September 2007, I participated in an emergency peace delegation to Colombia, South America. I witnessed the civil war between the paramilitaries, guerillas and Colombian military – and stood in solidarity with some of the innocent civilian victims.

The pastors, peace workers and indigenous leaders who I met put their lives in danger every day by speaking the truth about the violence. Colombia just surpassed Sudan as the country with the most internally displaced people; 4.3 million Colombians have been forced off their land and another 1,500 are forcibly removed from their homes every day. You rarely hear about Colombia in the news, but she is our neighbor – in my same time zone. We receive cut flowers and coffee from her, yet are barely aware that she is home to the western hemisphere’s greatest humanitarian crisis.

This week, churches all across the US and Canada are participating in Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia. We are learning about the history of the conflict, sharing powerful stories of suffering and hope in Colombia, and advocating for our President and Congress to enact a more peaceful US policy on Colombia. While increased dollars have been spent on fumigating fields of coca, the flow of cocaine from Colombia into the US has only increased. It is time for us to promote sustainable alternative development instead.

I believe in domestic peace work as well. Last year I lived in the Trinidad neighborhood in Washington, DC - a mile and a half from the Capitol. In two months, we had 7 homicides, 16 robberies and 20 assaults with dangerous weapons – many of which occurred within 3 blocks of Mennonite Central Committee’s house where I lived. Police checkpoints closed off our neighborhood and we became known as “Little Baghdad.” Yet, we didn’t fight this violence by arming ourselves. Instead of securing guns to protect us, we built peace by creating community. We got to know everyone who lived on our block. We shared birthdays and ladders and planted trees together. I believe that strong communities create peace.

I also believe that the home repair work that Appalachia Service Project does is peace work. I have seen how poverty breeds violence and violence breeds poverty. By giving families dry roofs over their heads, safe floors to walk on and running water to drink, we are helping to create lives that are peace-filled instead of worry-filled. By providing opportunities for affluent youth and adults from suburban and urban America to form relationships with poor rural people, we are building bridges that create understanding and peace. I believe that this world needs more peace and that each of us can live in ways that bring peace to our lives and others’ lives.

Note: This was written for a staff meeting at ASP and was modeled after NPR's "This I Believe" essay series. If you are interested in writing your own essay, you can find the guidelines here: www.npr.org/thisibelieve/guide. I'd love to read about your beliefs!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day of Silence, Ethan's Story

Ethan Bryant, who was mentioned in Elisa's story, offers his interpretation of the day below!

This was the first year that I decided to participate in the Day of Silence. I had never gotten the chance to before.

Originally I had just planned on being quiet all day and perhaps showing anyone my little flyer if they asked what was going on. But I met Elisa outside holding a piece of posterboard and decided to join her. We shared Borchuck Plaza with a group of Jehovah's Witnesses and for a while, we were in an invisible contest with them over who could give out the most flyers. (It was not deliberate...on our part, at least).

Many people were content to take flyers, read them or throw them away, and just move on with their day, but there were a few who decided to take it upon themselves to clue us in on some information as though we had never heard it before.


Elisa had made two posters, and I made a sign in honor of Angie Zapata. We were asked to relocate later by someone who worked in the University Office, and paperwork/bureaucracy later, we moved from Borchuck to the space outside the Amphitheater.


During our time outside we had encounters of varying good and bad degrees. There was a man who gave us this note (and it is full of spelling errors):
"By Being a Christain I Love you Butn't The sin of Homosexuality It is my Hope's that you give yourself a Chance in this Life to accept the Truth of God and His Inttention For you."
He included his email address, which I have withheld here for his own safety, as well as a footnote: "I'll Help you Any of You Any Way I can." He gave me a free Smart Water.


One man, after reading our flyer, blatantly shouted at us, "There's no bullying on this campus - I've been here for nineteen years and I've never seen it!" He was more than happy to discuss our "whiny, complaining asses" with the Jehovah's Witnesses that were no more than five feet from us.

Two individuals, one female and one male, challenged our DoS demonstration. The female said that she was definitely against homosexuality and the male asked what justification we had to tell people to "not hate." He said it was like him telling us to "not love."

Some other negative things were people trying to trick me into accidentally speaking, tearing up flyers in front of our faces, making sure we saw them crumpling up the print-outs we gave them, rolling their eyes at us, outright laughing, calling DoS a joke, and telling us that our demonstration is pointless.

There were notes showing positive support such as:
"I want to let you know that I'm gay and observing the Day of Silence. Thanks for the support!"

"I support LGBT and the Day of Silence. ....So does my girlfriend."
One female was kind enough to give me a hug and thank me for being brave enough to stand up for myself and what I believe in.

One male stopped people in front of me and asked if they hated me. He wanted to know if I wanted people to agree with my sexuality and my beliefs (of course, I couldn't verbally answer, so I nodded). He said that he agreed with stopping the hate so long as I agreed it should extend to race, which I also nodded to.

Several people had forgotten that today was the Day of Silence and a few (rather ironically) cheered me on by yelling positive cheers at me and giving a thumbs up. Individuals not affiliated with our demonstration supported us with physical gestures letting us know they were celebrating too.

All in all I think it was a very good experience. I think we have a long way to go on this campus as far as fighting for LGBT representation and equality but today was very definitely a good start.

Thank you, Ethan and Elisa! You are changing hearts and minds!


Day of Silence at ETSU

Here is a story from LGBTieS member, Elisa Carbajo, regarding her experience participating in the Day of Silence at East Tennessee State University. Thanks, Elisa, for permission to share your story!

I don’t know what I was expecting to encounter while standing on the campus of ETSU today, but it definitely wasn’t this. Around 8:30am this morning, I set out with my poster, duct tape, t –shirt and flyers in an attempt to raise awareness of the serious injustices that many students have been facing. My poster read “STOP HATE…Do to others as you would what them to do to you. Luke 6:31.” The duct tape over my mouth read “Peace” and my homemade t-shirt had the same message as my poster.

Taken from dayofsilence.org, the flyers read:
“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”
The day’s occurrences were anything but ordinary, ranging from a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a so called “preacher” among many appreciative students.

I began standing in Borchuck Plaza on my own this morning and was pleased when a friend of mine, Ethan was kind enough to join me. By 9:30am, the Jehovah’s Witnesses had begun swarming around us. They began distributing some very interesting reading material, entitled “Who is God?” and “What We Learn From Mary.”

Next was a man who kindly approached me with a warm grin on his face and was happy to look at the flyer. But a few minutes later, he returned and informed me of this: “I don’t hate you, but I am a Christian” and he then proceeded to hand the flyer back to me. Maybe 20 minutes later he returned yet again, this time with two bottles of water and a hand written note. The note read: "By being a Christian I love you butn't the sin of homosexuality. It is my hope's that you give yourself a chance in this life to accept the truth of God and His intention for you." He also left his email address and ended with "I'll help you any way I can." He asked Ethan and I if we were going to remove the tape from our mouths to drink the water and when we refused, he walked away.

There were also a couple people that ripped up their flyers in front of my face. One stated she was against homosexuality and the other said that telling him to “stop hate” would be the same as him telling me to “stop loving.” Another man proceeded to raise his voice proclaiming, “There is no bullying on this campus- I have been here for nineteen years.”

Delightfully, there were several students that expressed their thankfulness to us in different ways. Whether it be a handshake or just a simple thank you. And at least three or four students asked to borrow some of my duct tape so they could also tape their mouths. Also a couple of homosexual students wrote us notes thanking us for what we were doing. I must say, I feel there was much more support for our cause then there was disagreement. The negative comments that were spoken to us stick out in my mind. However, I am very happy to know that I impacted some people’s lives today.

I would like to call to mind that today would have been Carl Walker Hoover’s 12th birthday. As you may recall, Carl committed suicide last week after being bullied at school. Carl and the many other young children affected by bullying ARE the reason why I stand for this cause. There is simply no reason for inflicting such pain on our fellow friends and family members. Carl and these other children will not be forgotten. My heart goes out to his family today and always.

And so I would like to say that today was a very eye opening day for me. I certainly experienced some hurtful as well as very as encouraging comments. Many people were glad to see Ethan and I standing up for something we believe in. One woman even offered me her pin that reads “Think. Live. Respect.” Going out there today, I definitely didn’t expect to reach as many people as I did. But I feel that many students were very understanding of this issue and seemed to respect my stance, whether or not they may have agreed. I truly support this cause and I think that Ethan and I have accomplished the first step to ending hatred on ETSU’s campus. I hope that students will remember this day all throughout the school year and learn to respect every human life. Many students, from middle school to college stood up today for this worthy cause. I commend every single one of them for their courage.

It was not easy for me to get out there today. But I’m so glad I did.
Peace.
Elisa Carbajo

For more information about LGBTieS, see their page on ETSU's site, visit the LGBTieS blog, follow LGBTies on Twitter, and see this article in the East Tennesseean.

Thank you, Elisa! We're proud of ya!