Friday, July 31, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Episcopal Church may put itself on a collision course with the rest of the Anglican Communion

A resolution that declares “God has called and may call such individuals (gay or lesbians), to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church” is now just one small step from becoming the official policy of the Episcopal church. The resolution was passed by wide margins by both of the church's main decision-making bodies, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, at its General Convention in Anaheim, California, south of Los Angeles. Tuesday's resolution appears to have ended an effective three-year moratorium on the election of gay bishops that had been agreed to cool tensions.

The resolution also recognized that "the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God."

Rev. Susan Russell, who is president of Integrity USA, an advocacy and support group for LGBT Episcopalians, called the vote by the bishops "an historic move forward and a great day for all who support the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ."

"The resolution passed today by the House of Bishops was another step in the Episcopal Church's 'coming out' process,” Russell said in a statement. "It sends a strong 'come and see' message to anyone looking for a faith community where God's inclusive love is not just proclaimed but practiced."

The new approach is likely to deepen theological fissures that led some traditionalist Episcopal congregations and dioceses last month to form a rival church. And it is almost certain to trigger a backlash among conservative Anglican leaders who have urged the U.S. church to refrain from relaxing ordination and marriage standards.

The spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, had expressed apprehension during a brief visit to the conference last week about decisions "that could push us further apart."

But progressives in the 2.1-million member denomination said the move toward inclusion reflects the reality of a church that is home to many partnered gays and lesbians who belong to parishes that encourage their involvement and already bless their unions.

"Being an Episcopalian means you can disagree and still worship together," said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles. "We're going to leave the door open for all those who disagree with us to find a place here and peace here."

"There is no desire from within the Episcopal Church to leave the Anglican fold," Ian Douglas, a member of the House of Deputies, told Reuters by telephone.

He said the resolution confirmed the church's "commitment to nondiscrimination" and "states what is on the books."

Divisions between liberals and conservatives already had undermined Episcopal Church unity by 2003, when it consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first bishop in Anglican history known to be in an openly gay relationship. No openly gay or lesbian bishop has been elected since Robinson's consecration.

A bishop who left the church last year predicted that the decisions made in Anaheim would increase strains with disaffected conservatives.

"Clearly the activists have done a good job promoting their agenda," said the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, a founding bishop of the newly formed Anglican Church in North America, which hopes to gain recognition from the Anglican Communion as a rival province to the Episcopal Church.

"The generosity shown by the rest of the communion has been astonishing and has been thrown back in their face," Minns said. "There will have to be a renegotiation of how the Episcopal Church fits into the family."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Black civil rights group threatens to fire its president in Los Angeles because he supports gay marriage

The Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a 50-year-old civil rights group partly founded by Martin Luther King Jr., has threatened to fire the president of its Los Angeles chapter because he supports gay marriage.

During the battle last fall over Proposition 8, an amendment to the State Constitution that banned gay marriage, Rev. Eric P. Lee, was more than a tangential figure for the opposition. He was front and center at an opposition group’s large rally at City Hall and marched in the blazing sun for 15 miles in Fresno. Many other local African-American pastors prepared mailings featuring church leaders in support of the proposition and linking their views to Barack Obama, then the Democratic nominee for president.

Mr. Lee “was very helpful to us,” said Rick Jacobs, head of the Courage Campaign, a left-leaning political action group in Los Angeles that fought the initiative.

Mr. Lee said that his opposition to Proposition 8 had “created tension in my life I had never experienced with black clergy.”

"Marriage equality is not a priority in the African American community," Lee said. "We're dealing with unemployment and underemployment, a lack of public education and affordable healthcare." But Lee said he was driven to support same-sex marriage by the teachings of King, who helped found the SCLC to champion civil rights 50 years ago.

“But it was clear to me,” he added, “that any time you deny one group of people the same right that other groups have, that is a clear violation of civil rights and I have to speak up on that.”

In April, Mr. Lee attended a board meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Mo., and found himself once again in the minority position among his colleagues on the issue of gay marriage, but he was told, he said, by the group’s interim president, Byron Clay, that the organization publicly had a neutral position on the issue.

So a month later, Mr. Lee said, he was surprised to receive a call from the National Board of Directors summoning him immediately to Atlanta to explain why he had taken a position on gay marriage without the authority of the national board.

Explaining that he was unable to come to Atlanta on such short notice, Mr. Lee then received two letters from the organization’s lawyer, Dexter M. Wimbish, threatening him with suspension or removal as president of the Los Angeles chapter if he did not come soon to explain himself.

The issue attracted the attention of the president of the Los Angeles City Council, Eric Garcetti, who wrote to the board in support of Mr. Lee.

Because chapters of the leadership conference operate autonomously and presidents are picked by local boards, it is not clear that the national organization has the authority to remove Mr. Lee from his post, which he has held for two years.

“It’s been our position that the local board hired him,” said Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, chairman of the local board and secretary of the California Democratic Party. “And, in fact, we are also the ones that approved his stance on the position of marriage equality. We have asked the national board if we have violated any procedures, and we have not gotten an answer.”

Lee says he sees failures in the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; he told the Times, "Dr. King would be turning over in his grave right now."

Lee said he is not waiting for approval to continue his advocacy for gay marriage.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mullen advised President Obama to move in a measured way on overturning the military's gay ban

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that he has advised President Barack Obama to move "in a measured way" in changing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military.

"It's very clear what President Obama's intent here is. He intends to see this law change," Adm. Mike Mullen said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"I've had conversations with him about that. What I've discussed in terms of the future is I think we need to move in a measured way. We're at a time when we're fighting two conflicts. There's a great deal of pressure on our forces."

His comments are the most recent indication that talks about the policy change are taking place between President Barack Obama and military leadership. Earlier last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that he has lawyers studying ways the law might be selectively enforced as part of an effort to find "a more humane way" to apply the law until it is changed.

"Secretary Gates spoke recently about reviewing the policy to make sure that we were executing it in the most humane way possible," Mullen said of the Defense secretary's statement.

"The strategic intent is clear," Mullen repeated. "I am internally discussing this with my staff -- on how to go forward, and what the possible implementation steps could be. I haven't done any kind of extensive review. And what I feel most obligated about is to make sure I tell the president, you know, my - give the president my best advice, should this law change, on the impact on our people and their families at these very challenging times."

Colin Powell, who previously held the same position, on the same program said that the time has come for the 16-year-old policy to be reviewed.

Obama as a candidate pledged to end the ban. As president, he has not said when or how he will take steps to do so, drawing criticism from gay rights activists and others. The president has pointed out that Congress in 1993 made into law a policy begun by President Bill Clinton.

Mullen's remarks outraged many LGBT advocates, including former adviser to President Bill Clinton, Richard Socarides.

"Mullen's comments are offensive and insulting. It's shocking that the civilian leadership allows him to talk about a group of Americans as if we were second-class citizens," Socarides was quoted as saying on Americablog.

"How can you advocate a measured approach to equality? Deliberate is what I'm looking for. Deliberate is what we were promised. And his comments about 'the impact [of a policy change] on our people and their families' is outrageous. What about the impact of the current policy on gay service members? Are they not 'his people.' Not to mention the chilling effect official, government-sanctioned discrimination has on all of us as Americans."

"This is one of the most senior leaders of our government talking about us as if we were second class citizens. It has got to stop.

Sixteen years ago Sam Nunn and Colin Powell did this to us and no one called them on it. And we ended up with this policy. Now we must speak up. These are not legitimate opposing views. He, Mullen, is not expressing an American view of equality. And, shockingly, one of his main jobs is to articulate the policy views of his boss, the president. "

Sunday, July 5, 2009

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