Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Church's Closet Door

The Church's Closet Door

The Reverend Darlene Garner says the closet door and closeted pastors are warping the church and killing young people.
By Rev. Darlene Garner

COMMENTARY: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are in the pulpits, choirs, pews, religious education programs, committees, and boards of all houses of worship in this country. They have given extraordinary leadership to our congregations and continue to do so. Yet unfortunately, as has been made painfully clear in recent weeks, many congregations are quick to receive their gifts only if they keep their sexual orientation hidden. The implications of this are devastating. As people of faith, we can no longer afford to be silent.

When clergy condemn homosexuality, they send several devastating messages to the congregation. To young LGBT people they declare that their sexuality is shameful and vile in the eyes of God and that they should loathe a part of themselves. By so doing, they implicitly present LGBT members with an impossible set of choices: to hide part of themselves by “acting straight” and even in some cases marrying partners of the opposite sex; to denounce who they are by joining so-called ex-gay programs; to live a closeted life of isolation and shame; or to live a celibate life. In all of these cases LGBT people are forced to choose loneliness in favor of integrity.

For others in our congregation, the incessant din of homophobia grants permission to engage in bullying and violence. Even though some spokespeople for the radical right, like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, want to deny it, homophobic sermons preached Sunday after Sunday create an environment that legitimizes bullying and violence against LGBT people. Rather than fostering a community of love, homophobia in our congregations creates a wedge between people that breeds both shame and violence.

The evidence continues to mount: Our closets are killing us. When we remain silent about homophobia in our congregations, is it any wonder that many of our youth see nothing wrong in tormenting their LGBT peers in school? Is it any wonder that many LGBT youth come to see this torment as inescapable in life and suicide as the only way out? Those who drove Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, and Aiyisha Hassan to take their own lives were not born hating LGBT people. This hatred can only be learned, and the most effective schools for this type of learning are, sadly, often our congregations.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


A Pastoral Call

Metropolitan Community Churches

For Immediate Release: 07 October 2010

Not long ago, accusations against Bishop Eddie Long alleging the misuse of spiritual authority to coerce and justify sexual exploitation of teenage boys surfaced in a suburb of Atlanta known as Lithonia. Like the sermons of this mega-church pastor, the stories of extravagant gifts, expensive trips and scholarships for further education spread far and wide and many, from private congregants to public newscasters, have offered comment.

Some speak of undying devotion to a charismatic leader and the good work he has done. Others profess disillusionment with "the church" and cite examples of clergy misconduct that spread across continents and cultures and include many denominations. --- Still others focus on the young men whose lives, regardless of the determinations of courts of law, have been forever changed. They face a lifetime of challenge to re-anchor their faith and hope and trust in a God who is often served by those who themselves have been the victims of structures and systems of abuse.

We speak today first and foremost as pastors and spiritual leaders of Metropolitan Community Churches. As such, our hearts go out to all those who have been or are currently the victims of abuse at the hands of leaders entrusted with their spiritual and physical safety and development. We offer not only our prayers, but our houses of worship and offices as safe space for those who are seeking refuge, counsel, support and healing.

For many of us the recent allegations and revelations bring up a host of emotional responses. For some of us they bring up long buried memories. --- For all of us they should bring up the need to engage in serious prayer and public conversation about things like the safety of our children and other vulnerable populations in our congregations, the diversity of God's creation and the gift of various sexual orientations, the afflictions of sexism, heterosexism and homophobia, gender and marital diversity, the ethics of shared ministry, and the use and misuse of power and authority especially from the pulpit. Sensationalism around guilt and innocence should not be allowed to mask the grave and serious issues before us as communities of faith.

For those of us in Metropolitan Community Churches, we believe the recent revelations should also challenge us to bring to light all the experiences of our past religious and spiritual upbringings, and how those experiences now shape our beliefs and leadership.

Healing and recovery for individuals and institutions alike begins with telling the truth. The truth for us is that the recent revelations out of Georgia are nothing new. The truth for us is that homophobia and abuse of spiritual authority in the traditional church, and internalized homophobia and racism in Metropolitan Community Churches have prevented the kinds of discussions that hold the potential to shape a whole and healthy church universal.

All of us have secrets, whether they are about things we have done or things that have happened to us. All of our churches must become safe space for the telling of all our truths. That, we believe, is the only path to healing.

Risk management systems and insurance policies are not enough. Courts of law will never be able to offer the kind of healing that the Body of Christ is crying out for.

We cannot be silent anymore. The sordid appeals to sexism, heterosexism and homophobia by clergy who themselves are often engaging in the very things they are condemning must stop. Seminaries and supervisors of clergy in formation must be challenged to confront their biases around sexual, gender and marital diversity. And people of faith like you and like us must take up the mantle of pursuing justice and equality in the church, and do that vocally.

The young man recently escorted out of a service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for standing up and demanding that truth be spoken must become the example
for all of us whether in private conversation or public forum.

We cannot be silent anymore. There is an ongoing need to re-read the black church traditions inside and outside of the black church. MCC, as a body seeking to become a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic movement of faith, must engage and nurture all of us in the pursuit of the best of what those traditions have to offer and challenging all of us to look again at elements that only repeat "the sins of the fathers."

We need --- in MCC and in the black church and everywhere --- leaders who will continue to explore how God is speaking to the church now and who will use their
ministries to build communities that rely neither on the optics of success nor appeals to prosperity and political power, but on the call of the prophets to be a house of prayer for all God's people. --- We need leaders across the board who will no longer hide behind pretended norms of social or sexual conformity, and who are willing to no longer be silent about the truth of their sexual and human identities.

We cannot be silent anymore. Violence is not a single community issue. Lying about who we are to get what we want when we want it, violation of others in the bedroom and in our homes, bullying in our schools, speaking from the pulpit in ways that are damaging to kids and adults alike are not black or white issues, but human issues that must be addressed by all of us who profess to be the followers of a God of Healing and Hope and Restoration. The revelations out of Georgia challenge us to step up to the plate and speak openly and honestly about the intersections of power and resources and sexuality and theology.

We are clergy and religious leaders who have promised to use our leadership and ministries to affirm the diversity of God's creation and the goodness of all life. We have promised to be present in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health for all the People of God. Today, we honor those promises by calling the church universal to accountability not only for its young and vulnerable, but for all those who look to its proclamations for a word that will heal and restore ... a word of truth.

In just a few short days, many in this country will celebrate National Coming Out Day. Coming out is not just something that LGBTQI people do. It's something that we do as human beings when we believe that, as Jesus taught, the truth will set us free.

We pray now and pledge to act for the day when all children and all adults are safe in all communities of faith, when all clergy and religious leaders feel safe enough to be honest about who they really are, and when all our theologies, though divergent in content and approach, may agree on this one thing: that everyone should be safe in the presence of God. And we invite you, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to join us in promising to never be silent again.

In faith, in hope and in love,

The Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin
The Rev. Onetta Brooks
Mr. Barry Hundley
Mr. DeWayne Davis
The Rev. B. Y. Boone
The Rev. Elder Darlene Garner

You are invited to a panel presentation exploring the issues raised in

Join facilitator The Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin and panelists
Bishop Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship
Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Council of Elders, MCC
The Rev. Dr. Joan Martin, Ethicist, Episcopal Divinity School,
Mr. DeWayne Davis, MCC Public Policy Team,
and The Rev.Dr. Irene Monroe, Public Theologian, Writer and Activist
for a serious conversation from the perspective of faith and ethics.

COMING OUT DAY, October 11th, 5:00 - 6:00pm/ET.

To join the conversation please call 218-931-4141.

Id 778024.

Presenters only will be heard.

Thursday, July 29, 2010



Sacramento, CA (July 27, 2010) -Zuna Institute announces the release of the Black Lesbian needs assessment report, "Black Lesbians Matter." Authored by Francine Ramsey, Zuna Institute's Executive Director; Dr. Marjorie J. Hill, Gay Men's Health Crisis, Chief Executive Officer; and Cassondra Kellam, PhD Student, Graduate Center, CUNY, this report examines the unique experiences, perspectives, and priorities of the Black Lesbian community.

The "Black Lesbians Matter" report, the result of a quantitative study, is akin to a Black Lesbian "census." Regional, statewide, and local organizations that support Black LGBTQ asked Black lesbians to speak up and be heard, to stand up and be counted; 1,596 Black lesbians answered that call by participating in focus groups and through an on-line survey.

Francine Ramsey, Executive Director of Zuna Institute says, "This report is the result of a year long process, and will lay the foundation for constructive dialog and the creation of an effective collection of strategies that will address the needs of the Black Lesbian community.".

Brenda Crawford, co-founder of Zuna Institute quotes Rebecca Lee, "For what is done or learned by one class of women becomes, by virtue of their common womanhood the property of all women."

Vallerie D. Wagner says, "This report accentuates the importance of using our voices to define us for ourselves. It is our opportunity to speak and have our voices heard and acknowledged; our issues and concerns validated and defined in our own words. We must continue to find and use our voices, for to remain silent is no longer an option."

This study was funded by a generous grant from the Arcus Foundation, with additional support from the Gill Foundation and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

The "Black Lesbians Matter" report is available for download at

Zuna Institute is a national advocacy organization for Black Lesbians that addresses such issues as health, economic development, education, and public policy. Zuna Institute brings about visibility and empowerment to the Black Lesbian community, and strives to eliminate barriers that are deeply rooted in public policies that encourage homophobia, economic and educational injustices, and other forms of social discrimination.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Love and Justice Win!

Well it's the day after and we wanted to share a few thoughts...

There is music in the air and the song is called Love and Justice Win! How does one breathe in the magnitude of the tectonic shift of March 9th when marriage equality was realized in a concrete and recognizable way? We are not sure but are abiding in the afterglow of our day and a historic moment we shall never forget.

We are not sure how we worked this past week. We both worked, but we were swimming upstream against the mounting momentum of getting married. We applied for the marriage certification on Tuesday, March 2nd. After the press conference outside of the Court House, we each went back to work as though it were just any ordinary day. Yet in both our work places there were constant reminders that things were about to change for the good, not only for us but also for the many. As I (Candy) walked the hallways of my Federal agency, voices from multiple directions caught me off guard with their expressions of “congratulations Mrs. Holmes, we saw you and your partner on CNN, etc.” Some didn’t know how to reference us but they felt compelled to say something to let us know we had their support. How wonderful!

As the week progressed we rested some, yet even in sleep we were still awake on so many levels. How can you really sleep when every nerve in your body and every feeling in your essence are wired to the aliveness of this kind of moment in time? Though we slept, our spirits stayed awake for certain! Awake and watching history unfold as justice wrapped its arms around us and the entire community of “us” that had previously been barred from passing through the legal gate of marriage.

Throughout the week, requests for interview after interview poured in, each one allowing yet another opportunity for us to speak our truth in love. Of course there were lots of questions regarding being African American lesbians who were not only religious but also clergy; the fullness of who we are rocked some of their worlds. We fielded questions about support from our families, our workplaces, our church, etc., and what it meant to have all these places merge. To all of it we could say with a resounding affirmation that we have received an outpouring of support and love for which we are so grateful and that it was a wonderful experience to be whole in every aspect of our lives.

Rehearsal Day was March 6th. We kept wondering how in the world it would be possible for there to be three weddings in one hour. But you know what? We were too deliriously happy and had better things to worry about, like our shoes. Hello! The HRC (Human Rights Campaign) worked from start to finish like magical servant leaders to ensure that this experience was about and stayed focused on the three couples. From being present with us at the courthouse to transforming their Equality Center into a sanctuary, they were simply amazing! Our hats are off to HRC.

Right after the rehearsal, we were interviewed by a Washington Post columnist who has been following us since Candy’s congressional testimony around same-sex partner benefits in June 2009. We had seen him again in July when Candy went to the White House to with President Obama as he signed a Presidential Memorandum to extend some benefits to the domestic partners of Federal employees. The interviewer was gracious and respectful as he asked me about the impact of marriage equality on us as a family with a Federal worker and on all those who work in the Federal Government. We so appreciated the opportunity to connect the dots regarding same-sex marriage in DC, with other issues where the struggle is not over -- DOMA, DBPO, ENDA, and DADT. His article appeared on the day of our ceremony on the Federal page.

Well, the big day finally arrived and we felt like we woke up into Christmas, to borrow a phrase from one of the other couples! Hallelujah!!! (That’s Candy’s Pentecostal side – LOL). The day started early and love showed up. Knocking at the door of our hotel suite was a gift called Monet. She is by far one of the best make up stylists in the DC area. And she worked wonders on our “not enough sleep” faces! (smile) Then love knocked at the door again in the person of our BFF -- Donna Payne, who is always there for us, walking in with our breakfast and most importantly our JAVA! Then love knocked again and it was another friend with a camera in hand ready to take photos personally for as long as we needed. Thanks so much, Kareem!

Around 8:00, we were whisked off in cars sent for us and taken to a hidden entrance into the HRC building, so as to avoid the press. What we found when we walked in was like a fantasy come true -- our friends and family waiting for us. Friends, police officers, escorts, caterers, camera folks – everyone smiling and eyes so full of that something that said – “we are with you.” What a feeling!

For almost two hours, the three couples and our attendants waited inside the green room for 10:00 to arrive. Though HRC had generously provided us with coffee, juice, water, and pastries, I think we were all too anxious to eat or drink much at all. Finally, the magic hour arrived and the first couple left to claim the sanctuary as their own. The rest of us stayed in the green room, watching each other’s ceremony on a short-circuit TV. And then our time came.

Rev. Dwayne Johnson (Pastor of MCC DC), Candy’s brother, and Donna processed in before us as the voice of Rev. David North singing one of our favorite songs -- I Love You Just the Way You Are – filled the sanctuary. Stepping arm-in-arm into the center aisle, we carried one another to where yesterday, today, and tomorrow would meet and our lives would be forever changed. As our ceremony moved too swiftly toward ending, we remember feeling a wave that lifted us. For a moment, we thought that wave was the anticipatory hope and dreams of not only me and Darlene, but of the countless people who desire equality. And then the words were spoken that now and forever will be remembered as the shot that was heard around the world – “By the authority vested in me by the District of Columbia, I now proclaim you legally married! Now no longer separate, but one.”

I think we all won on March 9th. Better yet – Love and justice won!

PS. Thanks to the management of Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse who, upon hearing that we were in the restaurant for lunch, honored us with a bottle of champagne. And thanks to the father of young lesbian who, sitting alone in the corner eating, gifted us with a round of whatever we wanted. You have just got to love our community.

Related articles:
Washington Post

The Root

The Associated Press

Associated Press (w/ photo gallery):
Associated Press - "In DC, blacks were crucial to gay marriage debate":
New York Times:

Washington Post:
Washington Post:

Washington Post Editorial:

All Headline News:

Washington Examiner:

Washington Times:
Black America:

International Press Coverage:

Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC):

British Broadcasting Corp (BBC):

Agency French Presse (AFP):
E News Canada:

CNN International:

Local TV Coverage:


NBC 4:



Online Coverage:

Windy City Times:
DC Agenda:

Metro Weekly:
Metrok Weekly:

Washington City Paper:

Lez Get Real:


NBC News DC:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Today IS The Day

There will be quite a bit of national and international media coverage today ) for Candy and Darlene’s wedding! You can actually view all three of the ceremonies that will be conducted in the HRC Equality Center today, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. We are told that CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC will all broadcast the three ceremonies live. In addition, go to for live streaming beginning at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time. Rev. Dwayne Johnson (Pastor of MCC DC) will officiate at Darlene & Candy’s ceremony, which will be the third and final one to be performed.

See video from last week.

See video of the ceremonies
Ceremonies (Video collage) - March 9th

Courthouse - March 2nd

Thursday, March 4, 2010


We are Candy Holmes and Darlene Garner. On March 3, 2010, we were one of the first couples to submit our marriage license application in response to the new marriage equality law in Washington, DC. We are sure we slept the night before, but it was a restless sleep, interrupted by the fearful thought that we would sleep through the next day! But by 6 a.m., we were awake and walking through a chilling wind and rain into the Moultrie Courthouse for one of the most important moments of our lives with an application in hand and determined to exercise our right to love and to marry.
As we waited for the office doors to open, we felt the energy of anticipation rising as more and more couples arrived. We were the sixth couple in line and only feet away from the moments we have only dreamt about. While waiting in line, we saw the most amazing thing – the diversity of our glbtq community. There were African American, white, and Asian women and men from under 30 to over 60 years old, clergy persons, Federal government workers, couples with children, couples wanting children. We are sure there was probably even more diversity than this in the fullness of the line. And so it should be, for love is not bound by race, class, or gender. Hallelujah!

The doors opened at 8:30 a.m. and our hearts leapt. We could not stop smiling though nothing had actually happened yet. But the jubilation was too much to contain. Who would have thought that two African American, Lesbian, clergy and great grandmothers would be poised to declare and honor their love in this way? We were ready and the time was now. We stepped into history after a long journey speckled with dashed hopes and disappointments because of who we love. But no more. Though the sky was as gray as our hair, rain could not spoil our parade this day. No one could take or steal away our joy. Thank God for this moment and for such a time when the essence and importance of our love can be counted.

After we completed the painless application process, the African American applications process clerk congratulated us with the widest smile this side of the sun. Hand in hand and jaws wonderfully tired from smiling, we left through the same hallway we had entered to the applause, singing, and cheers of other waiting couples. It felt like the cheers at the Super Bowl for the underdog that won. We encouraged others as we moved toward our next destination – the press. The amazing HRC field staff gathered us with the first five couples and ushered us out of the courthouse. It was a rainy morning, but joy that comes from being free stopped the rain. We stood in front of the cameras, the reporters, the protestors, and most importantly God, and shared our collective stories of our lives and why marriage was important to us.

Many questions were about our being part of the African American community. We spoke from our hearts about why the right to marry is important to us as African Americans and to all African Americans for that matter. We are not unfamiliar with the struggles for freedom, what it feels to be treated as a second-class citizen, and the pain of promises of equality going unfulfilled. We know of the barriers and beliefs that historically and even now impact our families. Like our foreparents who fought for the freedom to be who they were and to be treated as full citizens, as contemporary African American lesbians we join our voices with the chorus of those who lived and died for this day. The page of history has turned. Today we began a new chapter in our lives that allows us to enjoy the joys of love and caring and to embrace without fear the responsibility for protecting our family.
Join us and our families as we rejoice in this historic day and all that it means for us as part of the African American community and the gbltq community as a whole. In words borrowed from President Obama’s Inaugural Address, “The time has come… to carry forward that precious gift; -- that noble idea; --passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

Metropolitan Community Church, founded in 1968, is a human-rights movement and ministry operating as a Christian denomination in 25 countries around the world. MCC has often been and continues to be one of few leading advocates for vulnerable people in places where religious orthodoxy, sexism, and homophobia can result in violence and death. MCC's promise is stated in its tagline "Tearing Down Walls. Building Up Hope." For more information about MCC visit:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: What the church can learn from President Obama

Some of you may have had a chance to read the blog by Pastor Rudy Rasmus "Don't Ask, Don't Tell: What the Church can learn from President Obama"

Other groups that I affiliate with have re-posted his blog on Facebook and began their own conversations about the blog. If you haven't read it, the link is below.

I'm interested in knowing your thoughts about his blog.

What is the message you get from the blog? How do you feel about it?

Post your comments at MCC PAD on Pastor Rudy's Don't Ask Don't Tell or at!/board.php?uid=287161817875
Rudy's Original Believe Out Loud Post on ...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tonex Comes Out in The New Yorker

Article by Kelefa Sanneh, Profiles, “Revelations,” The New Yorker, February 8, 2010, p. 48

Read more

ABSTRACT: PROFILE of gospel singer Tonéx. Anthony Charles Williams II has never had a comfortable relationship with the industry that made him famous. Fans know him as Tonéx. His eccentric style and vertiginous high notes helped make him one of the most acclaimed praise singers of the past decade, and, for a time, one of the most successful. He had a certain hip-hop swagger and the status of a sex symbol. A boisterous live double CD, “Out the Box,” won him six trophies at the 2005 Stellar Awards, gospel’s most prestigious event. Tonéx was a welcome guest at all the biggest black churches, a regular presence on BET’s gospel shows, and a headliner at gospel festivals. He has released dozens of CDs, which contain some of the strangest and most seductive Christian pop music since the glory days of James Cleveland; his most evident musical forbears are adventurous pop stars such as Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, and Erykah Badu. He made it a habit to tweak old-fashioned, upstanding churchgoers. In 2005, Tonéx was divorced, after four years of marriage to Yvette Graham. This past September, the television host known as Lexi broadcast an interview with Tonéx on the Word Network, a gospel channel, in which he made his clearest public statements about his sexual orientation. He is, within the church world, the first high-profile gospel singer in history to come out of the closet. Within hours, he started to realize what he had done. His relationship with the mainstream gospel industry was effectively over. Tonéx was brought up in the church. The Williams family belonged to the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (P.A.W.), and his father, A. C. Williams, founded Truth Apostolic Community Church,8318 Jamacha Rd Spring Valley, CA 91977. Mentions the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Nearly all the Pentecostal gospel stars were COGIC. Mentions T. L. Carter. In the nineties, Tonéx was signed by a local Christian label called Rescue, and then by Jive Records. Mentions his first album, “Pronounced Toe-Nay” (2000) and his second album, “Out the Box” (2004). Tonéx sensed early on that he was attracted to other boys, and he spent the better part of three decades trying to figure out what that might mean for him. Along the way, he has honed a style of his own, a sly but ecstatic form of electronic pop. Early last year, he made a major-label comeback with “Unspoken,” but the album was largely ignored by the gospel industry. By going public, and by suggesting that a homosexual relationship can be as godly (or ungodly) as a heterosexual one, Tonéx went from being just another sinner to being a high-profile heretic. Mentions Long Island pastor Donnie McClurkin. As a stock character in African-American folklore, the gay choir director probably predates gospel music. Mentions Alex Bradford, Prophet Jones, and Rev. James Cleveland. In Bishop Yvette Flunder’s view, gospel music is gay music, with vanishingly few exceptions; she estimates that the proportion of gospel performers who are, or have been, same-gender-loving might be as high as ninety per cent. Gospel music has offered generations of same-gender-loving singers a place to call home, in exchange for their obedience, or their silence. By talking plainly about his sexual identity, Tonéx has scrambled his professional identity.

Read more:

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 10th Anniversary, February 7th

I am writing to ask you to hold National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in your prayers and consider ways you can support the efforts of local organizations and individuals making a difference near you.

For current information on local activities, please visit

This year is particularly noteworthy as it celebrates the 10th anniversary of this vital work.

Leaders will be promoting the life-affirming 2010 theme of “HIV/AIDS Prevention – A Choice and a Lifestyle!”

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, February 7th of every year, is a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States and the Diaspora.

There are four specific focal points:
• Education
• Testing
• Involvement
• Treatment

To support these goals leaders in National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day movement have created an outstanding resource kit, which can help you speak out and take action with the incredible work already being offered locally.

Please forward this information to your lists and check out the powerful work being done to bring an end to the overwhelming impact of HIV and AIDS on Black communities.


Joshua L. Love
Metropolitan Community Churches Global HIV/AIDS Ministry
Metropolitan Community Churches Drug Literacy Program
Uncommon Hope, author

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Statement of The Rev. Elder Darlene Garner
from Metropolitan Community Churches

2 February 2010

My name is Darlene Garner. I am among the spiritual leaders of Metropolitan Community Churches and provide ecclesial care and oversight for our ministries in the Southwest and Mid-Atlantic areas of the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America, and portions of the Caribbean. Metropolitan Community Churches is an international Christian denomination with churches in 28 nations. We are also a global human rights movement with a particular concern for sexual minorities, women, children, and people living with HIV and AIDS around the world.

The sexual minority community in Uganda recently emerged with dignity and hope to claim their human rights. Unfortunately, among the very first-responders to their pleas for legal protection from violence were right-wing religious fundamentalists from the United States. They went into Uganda preaching a blatant lie that God had somehow cursed sexual minorities and condemned people living with HIV. By exporting their own brand of hatred to Uganda, those religious extremists from the U.S. intentionally manipulated the Ugandan leaders, fanned the cultural flames of homophobia among the people, and set the stage for yet another round of civil unrest and genocide in Africa. Aided and abetted by American religious fundamentalists, many Ugandans are now prepared to destroy their own families – to kill their own sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends – for the sake of an agenda that is not even their own.

What is happening today in Uganda is and has been going on within the United States, in Africa, in parts of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Indeed, the issue of human rights abuses transcends national boundaries.

In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of abuse, a distinguished group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles: a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. The Principles have been adopted by judges, academics, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Procedures, members of treaty bodies, non-governmental organizations and others. They promise a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfill that precious birthright.

Indeed, the laws of a nation should protect our lives, not seek to take them. Yet, in spite of the Yogyakarta Principles, the real life experience of millions of sexual minorities around the world is that wherever religious fundamentalism prevails, the lives of sexual minorities are at great risk.

• Lives are still at risk in Moldova where fundamentalist religion causes the police to stand silently on the sidelines doing nothing as an angry mob surrounds a bus filled with a dozen or so young spiritual sexual minority activists, pelts the bus with rocks, and tries to overturn it .

• Lives are still at risk in Jamaica where fundamentalist religious belief is that sexual minorities peacefully gathering for worship deserve to have their worship space surrounded by police bearing guns and neighbors with machetes, police and neighbors alike all threatening the worshipers with eternal damnation and immediate death0.

• Lives are still at risk in the Middle East where fundamentalist religion teaches that sexual minorities should be killed for supposedly bringing shame on their family just by virtue of their mere existence.

• Lives are still at risk in South Africa where as many as one in four lesbians in townships has been brutally raped because fundamentalist religion teaches that rape is a cure for their homosexuality.

• Lives are still at risk in the United States where fundamentalist religion makes it possible for sexual minorities to be forced to participate in so-called reparative therapy that kills their natural spirit or where sexual minorities can be strung up on a fence and left to die.

For over 40 years now, Metropolitan Community Churches has witnessed to and spoken out against neo-colonialist right-wing religious fundamentalism as it wreaks havoc with human rights around the globe. It is time for the abuse to stop.

The world cannot remain silent as Uganda’s Parliament once again prepares to legalize murder. The United States cannot be silent as hate-mongers from this nation continue to export violence and abuse. People of faith cannot be silent as right-wing religious extremists distort the sacred texts and holy scripture for their own twisted and hateful purposes.

Now is the time to speak and to pray! U.S. religious extremism must be expelled from Uganda. Indeed, U.S. right-wing fundamentalism must release its hold on all nations, including the United States. Now is the time for all of us to tear down the walls that divide and oppress us and to build up hope for the day when all people can enjoy full human rights and equality under the laws of our nations.

Video from event

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Funds for Seminarians

HRC - A LGBT Dissertation scholarship of up to $15,000 may be available for doctoral students with an expressed interest in furthering LGBT religious and theological study. In addition to financial assistance, the scholarship includes mentoring opportunities and a network of support. For more information, visit HRC Religion and Faith Program at WWW.HRC.ORG/SEMINARY.

In addition to the scholarship, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation is offering a Summer Institute for up to 12 participants studying LGBT issues at the master’s and doctoral level. Visit the HRC Religion and Faith Program web site to learn more.
THIS EMAIL IS INFORMATIONAL ONLY. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT THE HRC WEB SITE Faculty and Staff, please share this information with any students you think may qualify. Thank you for your assistance.

Diane M Grondin

Financial Aid Coordinator &

Assistant to the Director of Admissions

Episcopal Divinity School

99 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Why two black D.C. pastors support gay marriage

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon a couple of years ago, we entered the sanctuary at Covenant Baptist Church and took our places in front of the altar, just as we had countless times before in our more than 20 years as partners in ministry. We had been united in holy matrimony ourselves in the same spot where we now stood to unite others.

As the couple walked down the aisle, we recalled the previous evening's rehearsal, when we commended all the participants for their courage and prayed that God would be in our midst at the ceremony. When we pronounced the couple "partners for life," we felt our prayers had been answered. It was the same feeling we had experienced so many times before when asking for God's blessing of the union of a man and a woman. Only this time, the union was of a man and a man.

Our church is the first and only traditional black church in the District of Columbia to perform same-sex unions. We conducted our first two union ceremonies, one gay and one lesbian, in the summer of 2007. The rapid political developments that followed in our nation and our city have made us optimistic that by the summer of 2010, same-sex nuptials will be not only blessed by churches such as ours, but also sanctioned by law in the District.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Council voted to legalize same-sex marriage. This historic measure passed 11 to 2, with the two no votes cast by council members Yvette Alexander of Ward 7 and Marion Barry of Ward 8 -- the ward where our church sits. Both wards are east of the Anacostia River and have the highest percentages of black residents in the city. Both members said that the majority of their constituents, who live in the same communities where many of our parishioners live, do not support gay marriage.

We have seen the resistance that Alexander and Barry were talking about. We know it has deep cultural and historical roots. But we have also seen that this resistance is not stuck in concrete.

After that first ceremony in our church, we were pleased and relieved; many members and guests told us how beautiful the service had been. But not everyone who attended shared this feeling. After most of the guests left, one longtime parishioner approached us, shaking. In a voice filled with rage, she asked how we could desecrate the sanctuary with such an ungodly act. She vowed to no longer be a member of our church.

After leaving our congregation, she contacted denominational leaders and local newspapers, including The Washington Post, to complain about our "immoral" behavior. She also took us to court in an unsuccessful attempt to recoup two years of tithes because, in her opinion, we had misled her in presenting ourselves as a "real" Baptist church.

For us, the courage to perform same-sex unions is in keeping with the proudest traditions of our Baptist and congregational heritage. Within the Baptist tradition of freedom and autonomy, Covenant Baptist Church has a long history of progressive ministry emphasizing social justice, service to the community and inclusion.

Several years ago, our congregation unanimously adopted a vision statement that we recite together every Sunday morning as a reminder that "all are welcome, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, age or sexual orientation." In leading our congregation to adopt this vision, we knew that one day we would face the question of same-sex marriage. We did not know how we would respond when the moment came. We didn't arrive at the altar for that first same-sex union ceremony in 2007 because the couple asked us to perform their wedding. Instead, an openly gay man, enrolled at a local seminary, had sought our church's endorsement in his quest to become ordained. We treated him just as we would any aspiring minister who needed our guidance and support: We asked him about his personal life. He revealed that he was living with his partner, also a church member, but that they had not made a lifetime commitment to each other. We could not ask the church to license him if he was living with someone -- male or female -- in an uncommitted relationship. After about a year of counseling, he and his partner were clear that they wanted to be together for life. The ball was then back in our court.

This couple did not press us to perform a union ceremony, nor did we encourage them to have one. If they had been heterosexual, their decision to make a permanent commitment to each other would have probably resulted in marriage. Since this couple were homosexual, however, what were their options? Not only was same-sex marriage illegal in the District, it was also forbidden in most churches and faith communities.

Through Bible study, reflection on theology and history, and experience, we had come to believe that it was unjust to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to consecrate their relationships in the same way that we allow opposite-sex couples to. Before the ceremony in the church, each of us had performed a same-sex union ceremony elsewhere. But this was our home. The church had voted to become an inclusive congregation. How could we justify treating same-sex couples as second-class citizens?

We knew what was in our hearts. But if the ceremony was to be held at Covenant, we had to present this matter to the congregation. We believed that a traditional up-and-down vote could be too divisive. We chose instead to seek some form of consensus.

About three months before that first union ceremony, we held a church meeting to present the two requests and to explain that we intended to honor them. We asked for the congregation's support and received an overwhelmingly positive response. However, as we drew closer to the first ceremony, the goodwill we thought we had witnessed on that evening slowly evaporated. The anger and dissension that had been bubbling erupted when that longtime church member confronted us at the end of the ceremony. She, and the scores of other members who left the congregation after the same-sex ceremonies began, painfully reminded us that although everyone in the black community does not think alike, the roots of homophobia run deep.

We are sometimes asked what accounts for the homophobia within the African American community. This question seems to assume that the community is disproportionately homophobic compared with other racial and ethnic groups. We are not aware of any credible study that has conclusively proved this assumption. However, our first-hand experience has convinced us that homophobia within the black church and the wider community is real. And the factors that have nurtured these beliefs over the years are complex.

When issues of gay rights and gay marriage come up, the first question many black people ask is, "What does the Bible have to say about it?" This seemingly innocent question doesn't acknowledge that when we approach the Bible, our perspective has been shaped by where we were born, by whom we were raised, what Grandma taught us, where we went to school and what our pastor preached in church -- usually conservative ideas on matters such as homosexuality. Therefore, we tend to interpret the Bible not objectively, but through the lens of our cultural and historical context.
The conservative strand of black religion is evident in what Harvard professor Peter Gomes calls "bibliolatry" -- the practice of worshiping the Bible rather than worshiping God. It is also found in a "literal" interpretation of the Bible that focuses more on the letter of the text than on its spirit, and concentrates on passages about domination, oppression, hierarchy, elitism and exclusion rather than on the major themes of love, justice, freedom, equality and inclusion that run throughout the Bible.

A more complicated element of black homophobia is the lingering influence of sexual stereotypes that originated during slavery. According to theologian Kelly Brown Douglas, the myth of "over-sexualized" black bodies portrayed black men as violent "bucks" who posed an ever-present threat to white women, and black women as "Jezebels" who seduced white men.

These stereotypes served to justify the whipping, lynching and castration of black men, and to excuse the sexual violation of black women by white men. They were just one element of what blacks had to struggle against to gain acceptance and respectability in white society, especially during the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th. On this matter, religion has often been a vehicle of suppression, accommodation and control. While the church was a refuge from the horrors of racism and played an empowering role in African American history, it also taught black people to repress behaviors -- especially sexual behaviors -- that might attract unwanted attention, appear uncouth or seem threatening to white people.

A final piece that shapes black attitudes toward same-sex marriage is the preoccupation with racism in the black community. This obsession, although justifiable, has led to a failure to appreciate how racism is inextricably connected to all other forms of oppression. Those who fail to see this connection may resent the comparison of gay rights with civil rights. But as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Last week, two black D.C. Council members voted against the same-sex marriage bill. But five black council members voted for it. Our black mayor signed it on Friday, and our black congressional representative has promised to defend it on Capitol Hill. Although the bill faces the possibility of intervention by Congress, something revolutionary is happening in this city to debunk the notion that the black community's homophobia is entrenched.

Many new members are joining the church, excited by our vision. The couple for whom we performed the first union ceremony at our church are still together and doing well. And the man who aspired to the ministry was ordained a few weeks ago and is now a chaplain supervisor at a local hospital. Some who disagree with us have condemned us to hell. But we believe that God has granted us the courage of our convictions.

We will continue to stand at the altar in our community, telling all the couples who come before us: "Let it be known that you are joined together not only by your love for each other, and by our collective love for each of you, but by the love of God."

The Rev. Dennis W. Wiley and the Rev. Christine Y. Wiley are pastors of Covenant Baptist Church in Washington. They are co-chairs of the organization DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality.

Who Am I as an MCC PAD?" by Rev. Dr. William Knight

The power of definition lies in its ability to prescribe and describe
parameters that are identifiable and understandable. The danger of
definition lies in limitation and restriction. Any attempt to define
carries with it the implicit assumption that the definition tells the
whole story. Of course, this is an impossibility. There are an
infinite number of definitions that apply to the infinite number of
individuals being defined. Since the question was asked of me, I can
only respond from the reality of my experience and my understanding.

My reality is shaped and given expression by my faith in God and also
by the human vessel that has discovered and embraced that faith. The
facts of my maleness and my Blackness are both central to my being and
non-negotiable. My identity, however, must recognize, honor, include
and then transcend those descriptions.

While I have had the experience of growing up in a nation that has
historically imposed unreasonable, unloving and unhealthy restrictions
upon those of African descent, especially those who express as males, I
cannot and must not allow myself to be defined by anything less than
the Word of God.

The Word of God says that I am and all of my brothers and sisters are
made in the image and after the likeness of God. This is the core of
who I am as a member of MCC. This absolute foundation of oneness with
all of God's children demands that I celebrate the God presence within
the incredible variety and complexity of God's people. It demands that
I acknowledge the indisputable truth that while there are diverse and
vastly different paths that lead to God, there is but one God.

That God, for me, is Omnipresence - Everywhere, evenly, equally
present: Omnipotence - All of the power in the Universe: Omniscience
- All of the knowledge, wisdom and understanding including that which
is yet to be discovered and/or revealed in the future. This is the God
of Christ Jesus who gave us the Great Commandment that we must love God
with all of our hearts, minds and strength and the second that we must
love our neighbor as ourselves.

As an MCC PAD I cannot and must not give in to the temptation to engage
in exclusion or exclusivity based on my personal experience or my
personal comfort zone. If I am to be known as a disciple of Christ
Jesus I am required to love all of God's children without exception.
This love cannot flow from an external demand but from an understanding
heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for all that God has
given each of us. This love has been called "radically inclusive"
because it represents a call for change - change in the way that we
think about ourselves and others; change in the way that we speak about
ourselves and others; change in the way that we feel about ourselves
and others; change in the way that we act and react both internally
and in the world.

As an MCC PAD I am called to model, demonstrate and teach a practical
approach to God that embraces and celebrates all those seeking to know,
understand and experience God's radically inclusive love.

Rev. Dr. William Knight