Wednesday, December 31, 2008
While the beginning of the New Year is a cause for celebration all over the world, here in Pasadena we have our own particular signs and symbols for “out with the old and in with the new.” The signs for Rose Parade parking started appearing back in November, and now we are surrounded by a primary civic symbol of the approaching festivities: the walls of bleachers that rose like Brigadoon out of the mists of the Old Year preparing us once again to greet and celebrate the New.
The signs and symbols of our New Year's celebrations may differ but they unite us, on this last day of the Year of Our Lord 2008, as a human family -- as we prepare to greet 2009 with all its hopes and possibilities, choices and challenges. And so for this blog of 2008, I want to offer a quote and a prayer – each intended as a blessing for 2009 ahead.
The quote is one my rector shared with us a few weeks ago. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” said Rahm Emanuel. “It is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”
We cannot know what challenges face us in the year ahead, but imagine for a minute what a blessing it could be to approach each and every one that arises with Emanuel’s sense of optimism and possibility. If we can take his words to heart – if we can journey ahead convinced that there is opportunity in every challenge -- then together we can accomplish great things in this New Year.
Now, don’t think for a minute that I don’t read the headlines. The challenges ahead of us are big ones; make no mistake about that. An economy reeling, a new administration getting rolling, a world warming and warring … and don't even get me started on the Anglican Communion! I could go on and on. And so could you.
And that’s why I invite you to join me in carrying into this New Year not just a quote in our heads but a prayer in our hearts -- the prayer I have prayed many times over my years at All Saints Church -- the prayer I "inherited" from the priest who mentored me through my ordination process in the Diocese of Los Angeles who "inherited" it from the bishop of her home Diocese of Newark:
Send us anywhere you would have us go,
Only go there with us.
Place upon us any burden you desire,
Only stand by us to sustain us.
Break any tie that binds us,
Except the tie that binds us to you.
We do not know where God will send us in this New Year, and we go forward in trust that wherever that ends up being, God goes there with us. We cannot guess what burdens we will be asked to bear on behalf of the Gospel we have been charged to proclaim, and we know whatever they are God has promised to stand by us to sustain us. And we recognize that there is cost to the promise of this work we have been given to do.
That cost is sometimes breaking the ties that have bound us to the security of “we’ve always done it that way” in order to liberate us to imagine new possibilities – new opportunities; new solutions … for our church, for our cities and for our world.
Finally, as we turn the page from one year to the next, may the blessing of the One who creates, redeems and sustains be with you – those you love, serve and challenge – each and every day of this New Year and always.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
By Drew Haxby
December 29, 2008
In the past five years, the Episcopal Church has found itself pushed to the forefront of the culture wars. After Gene Robinson, an openly gay man with a longterm partner, was elected Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, Anglican bishops from all over the world quickly decried the move. Conservative congregations in the US and Canada left the national churches. Some aligned themselves with the Anglican Church of Nigeria and its outspoken homophobic leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola.
On December 3 of this year, these conservatives announced the creation of a new denomination, one that will compete openly with the Episcopalians for congregations and tithes. While not recognized by the Anglican Communion, the New York Times described this latest move as "the biggest challenge yet to the authority of the Episcopal Church," which "threatens the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion."
The Anglican conservatives have argued that the Episcopal Church acted too rashly in its acceptance of gays and lesbians into the leadership of the church. Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone of America, called Gene Robinson's election "a slap in the face of the Anglican Church around the world." Reverend Nyhan of St. James the Just described it as "hubris of Biblical proportions, and that's a polite way of saying diabolical."
But in fact, Robinson's election was less an example of cavalier decision making than the outgrowth of a long and thoughtful debate within the Church. Following a request from the Lambeth Commission, the Episcopalian Church published a 135-page document entitled "To Set Our Hope in Christ," which detailed how the church had come to include homosexuals as equal members of the congregation.
Presenting both a theological and legislative argument for gay and lesbian equality, the document includes a long list of commission findings and carefully worded resolutions stating repeatedly how the Episcopal Church is "not of one mind" on matters of sexuality but is committed to "promot[ing] the continu[ed] use of dialogue." There's the 1976 Commission on Human Affairs asserting that "homosexual persons are children of God, who have a full and equal claim with all other persons on love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church," or the creation of a moderately liberal guide on sexuality in the 1980s.
One rare moment of drama came in 1995, when the Bishop of Newark was put on trial within the church for his ordination of an openly gay priest. Again, the Episcopal leadership looked to find a middle way: while "not giving an opinion on the morality of same-gender relationships," it refused to convict on the grounds that "there is no core doctrine prohibiting the ordination of a non-celibate homosexual person living in a faithful and committed sexual relationship," and that "the Anglican tradition has encouraged theological diversity."
This glacial move towards equality did not sit well with conservatives within the church, a testament to the inevitable shortcomings of compromise and incrementalism. In 1997 yet another Commission stated in despairing tones: "'Dialogue' has become, for many people, a code word for deadlock," and "Mandated dialogue on human sexuality has run its course." Unable to convince conservatives within the Church of the basic equality between heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and unwilling to abandon its tradition of plurality and legislative democracy, the Episcopal Church found itself confronted by an irreconcilable crisis despite its many efforts to avoid one.
As Rev. Susan Russell, President of the Episcopalian LGBT group Integrity, put it: "The number of conferences, of consultations, of opportunities for us to come together in different formations, to talk across the divide, meet at round tables, to talk about what unites us instead of what divides us, to find resolutions that have compromised language, that give local options...all of those were never acceptable to the religious ideologues."
And so it is that, among those Episcopalians who've been involved with this conflict, the general attitude is one of frustration. Rev. Ian Douglas is a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, and is quick to disparage the conservatives' move to bring in the African churches. "I find it fascinating," he said, "that those who claim to be traditionalist, particularly when focused on matters of human sexuality, which I would grant they are, have been drawn to a radical innovation in Anglicanism that contravenes the ancient councils of the church."
In the Anglican Communion (the international confederation of churches that trace their ancestry back to the Church of England) the individual provinces operate more or less autonomously. As Rev. Douglas notes, the conservatives' inclusion of likeminded African churches is in violation of this tradition, a reworking of the most basic structure of the church.
Still, the fact that the conservatives were forced to do this is telling in itself. Roughly 100,000 Anglicans in the United States and Canada have left their respective national churches, less than five percent of the 2.3 million members. "It's a tiny fraction of the church," said Jim Naughton, of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. "Yet it's being played as if the church is splitting." As many Episcopalians have pointed out, the conservatives did not have the internal backing to overturn Robinson's election--even with the efforts of the African Churches and several fundamentalist lobbies. Their recent decision to disaffiliate is a last ditch gamble to assert their preeminence in North America.
How it will play out remains to be seen, but in the meantime the Episcopal Church might finally start to move on.
Drew Haxby, a former Fulbright scholar in Nepal and MFA graduate, is a Fall 2008 intern at the Nation magazine and a freelance journalist based in New York City.
If you remember nothing else from this piece, remember this: "In the meantime the Episcopal Church might finally start to move on."
From his pen to God's ears!!!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
By WALT CABE
Special to the Star-Telegram
North Texas Episcopalians and those observing recent activities in our diocese can be forgiven for some confusion.
A quick update is that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is alive and well and doing ministry and mission everywhere from Gainesville to Wichita Falls to Brownwood to Hillsboro and back.
On Nov. 15, Bishop Jack Iker led a diocesan convention at which a majority of delegates voted to leave the Episcopal Church and align with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
As the canons — church laws — require when a bishop announces he has left the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori inhibited Iker from performing sacramental acts and gave him 60 days to change his mind.
Almost immediately, Iker posted a notice on the Internet announcing that the presiding bishop has no authority over him because he is a bishop in another church.
On Dec. 5, the presiding bishop accepted that as notice of his renunciation of orders in the Episcopal Church. That means that Jack Iker is no longer an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church and no longer has any authority in the Episcopal Church, having very publicly left it.
While those who have gathered themselves around Iker still insist they are the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, it is simply not possible to leave the Episcopal Church and then claim to be still part of it. And while they still occupy property that belongs to the Episcopal Church, they have no legal rights to it, according to the church’s canons.
All this will in due course be sorted out, most likely in the courts.
Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth continues its ministry as an integral part of the Episcopal Church.
Many Episcopalians in the diocese never supported Iker’s aims. Months before Nov. 15, they began planning to reorganize and refocus the diocese — not to organize a new one, as Iker’s office has recently claimed — to carry on the work of the church. They formed the mostly lay-led Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, made up of representatives from the remaining Episcopal congregations.
Since Nov. 15, 15 intact and reorganizing parishes and somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 Episcopalians in North Texas, some meeting in their parish property and some in temporary space, have continued to worship and explore new and effective ways to carry out the church’s mission of reconciling the world to God and all humankind to each other through Jesus Christ.
Among the organizing principles of the continuing diocese are a commitment to a life of prayer; honoring Holy Scripture and participating in true Episcopal worship; and to an empowered lay leadership and a return to the emphasis on Christ’s instructions to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the lonely.
A reorganizing convention is scheduled for Feb. 7. Committees are preparing a budget, reviewing canons to bring them into compliance with national norms, communicating with the wider church and the public, nominating qualified lay and clerical candidates for diocesan offices and designing strategies and programs for various outreach ministries. In time, the full range of diocesan ministries will be reestablished.
On Feb. 7, the presiding bishop will call the convention to order and preside over election of a Standing Committee (three clergy, three laity), the highest level of elected leadership, and other officers. She also may then ask the convention to ratify a provisional bishop, appointed by her in consultation with the Steering Committee, to oversee the diocese until a bishop can be elected under ordinary circumstances.
Meanwhile, the church’s worship is going forward. Retired priests — including one woman — are leading services in the faith communities, and the parish congregations’ life of prayer goes on unimpeded.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is alive and getting healthier.
The people reorganizing the diocese want those who have separated to know that we hold them in our prayers as our brothers and sisters in Christ and that we hope to see the day when we are all back together at the same table, a family of blessed, happy Episcopalians.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
A bill now before the Utah state legislature would ensure that the door to adoption by qualified gay and lesbian parents would not be slammed shut on children needing good homes and gay or lesbian prospective parents looking to provide care and family to children with nowhere else to go.
The bill is intended as a redress for the current state law that bans adoption by unmarried prospective parents. Given the state’s constitutional ban on allowing gay and lesbian families to marry, that is tantamount to barring adoption by gay and lesbian prospective parents.
The state now has over 450 children in need of placement in good homes. The state’s legislature, however, might prefer to see children remain in the system rather than to allow them to be placed in homes headed by same-sex couples.
The reason: the Mormon faith officially promotes the raising of children in homes with both a mother and a father.
Not addressed by that is the question of whether state care is an adequate substitute for a home life offering a single parent or two loving parents of the same gender.
The legislation is the project of state Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a salt Lake City Democrat, who was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune article as saying of same-sex parents, "These folks meet every single other criteria that’s listed for adoption and fostering.
"The only thing that’s different is the relationship between the adults."
Added Rep. Chavez-Houck, "There’s a very big body of research that shows that [the parents’] sexual orientation does not affect the well-being of a child."
The real AP headline:
Conservatives win court case in Va. church dispute
McLEAN, Va. (AP) -- Nearly a dozen conservative church congregations in Virginia have won a lawsuit in which they sought to split from the U.S. Episcopal Church in a dispute over theology and homosexuality.
The final rulings came Friday from a Fairfax County judge who said the departing congregations are allowed under Virginia law to keep their church buildings and other property as they leave the Episcopal Church and realign under the authority of conservative Anglican bishops from Africa.
Several previous rulings had also gone in favor of the departing congregations. The diocese said it will appeal.
The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia notes:
The Fairfax County Circuit Court today affirmed that petitions filed by the CANA congregations do not include the endowment fund of The Falls Church (Episcopal) in Falls Church, Va. As a result, the endowment fund was not subject to the congregational vote and the following legal action taken by the CANA congregations seeking to take this property.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
But here’s the thing: let’s make sure that the purpose that drives us is turning the whole human race into the human family – not limiting those who can “Come let us adore him” to those who look like us, think like us, vote like us or believe like us.
Let’s make sure that if we’re going to preach family values that we practice valuing all families.
And let’s be clear that the hope that we claim on this O Holy Night – more hope than the world thinks is reasonable -- is the hope we are called to not just celebrate but to guard.
From war and violence,
From hunger and famine,
From budgets that prioritize bombs over bread,
From policies that favor profits for corporations
over healthcare for children,
And from purpose driven agendas
whose purpose is to write discrimination into our constitutions.
DAVID CRARY December 19, 2008 12:08 AM EST AP
United Nations — Alone among major Western nations, the United States has refused to sign a declaration presented Thursday at the United Nations calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality.
In all, 66 of the U.N.'s 192 member countries signed the nonbinding declaration _ which backers called a historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with any-gay discrimination. More than 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality, and in several of them homosexual acts can be punished by execution.
Co-sponsored by France and the Netherlands, the declaration was signed by all 27 European Union members, as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries. There was broad opposition from Muslim nations, and the United States refused to sign, indicating that some parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.
Click here to read the rest!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
TIME Magazine (online)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
With an 111-page legal brief that has surprised legal scholars, Brown reversed course and repudiated his previous statements indicating he'd likely support the legality of Prop 8. Instead, on Friday, he urged the state's Supreme Court to overturn the vote, a move that would infuriate conservatives who are still white-hot mad over the court's historic 4-3 decision that earlier this year prohibited all forms of discrimination against gays, and mandated the state issue marriage licenses to gay couples. In a wide-ranging interview, Brown told TIME that his view of the legal merits of the case had evolved over the past several weeks, and explained why he now thinks the right to gay marriage in California is as fundamental as such bedrock principles as the right to property and to liberty itself.
Rights like that, he came to believe, can't be taken away, at least not by something as simple as constitutional amendment by popular vote. Instead, those rights he said, are "inalienable" in the same sense that the Declaration of Independence speaks of inalienable rights.
Brown said reaction to his position has been mixed, with supporters of gay marriage obviously cheering. Others, he said, have been less excited. But after more than four decades of public life, and no plans to quit anytime soon, Brown seemed to relish the historic significant of the case. "Isn't this what the Federalist Papers were all about? What Madison was after?"
Read the rest here.
Derrick Z. Jackson
The Boston Globe
December 23, 2008
FOR AN INAUGURAL invocation for which he should have selected the most ecumenical minister possible, President-elect Barack Obama selected Rick Warren, who is fresh off his vocal endorsement of California's successful Proposition 8, which overturned the state law allowing gay marriage.
Obama earned an outpouring of support from gay and lesbian voters, even though his personal stand on gay marriage was standard political fare, stopping at civil unions. Gay advocacy groups praised how he included them rhetorically in speech after speech. Now, a month before that great day that could bring all Americans together unlike any in the nation's history, Obama has gone out of his way to pick someone for the invocation who is not even close to being a pastor for all Americans.
Click here to read the rest!
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, December 23, 2008; Page A17
Not that he was planning to attend, but Barack Obama should know that my sister's inauguration night party -- the one for which she was preparing Obama Punch -- has been canceled. The notice went out over the weekend, by e-mail and word of mouth, that Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation had simply ruined the party. Warren is anti-gay, and my sister, not to put too fine a point on it, is not. She's gay.
She is -- or was -- a committed Obama supporter. On the weekend before the presidential election, my sister and my mother drove from the Boston area, where they both live, to Obama's New Hampshire headquarters in Manchester. There my mother made 76 phone calls for Obama, which is not bad for someone who is 96, and gives you an idea of the level of commitment to Obama in certain precincts of my family.
Click here to read the rest!
E.J. Dionne Jr.
Washington Post Writers Group
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
By inviting Pastor Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation, President-elect Barack Obama has alienated some of his friends on the left. By accepting, Warren has enraged some of his allies on the right.
Obama and Warren have helped each other in the past, and both know exactly what they're doing.
If you're on the left, how you view Obama's move depends upon who you think Warren is, where you think he's going, and what you think Obama is up to.
Liberals who see Warren as a garden-variety conservative evangelical defined primarily by his opposition to same-sex marriage accuse Obama of selling them out. Gays and lesbians enraged by Warren's strong opposition to gay marriage in last month's California referendum charge Obama with pandering to white evangelicals and fear the president-elect has gone out of his way to offend them in order to curry favor with straight conservatives.
But a more benign view on parts of the religious left casts Warren as the evangelical best positioned to lead moderately conservative white Protestants toward a greater engagement with the issues of poverty and social justice, and away from a relentless focus on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Click here to read the rest!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Sylvia A. Smith
Published: December 20, 2008 3:00 a.m.
WASHINGTON – Sexuality is part of the Episcopal Church's mission, but it’s not the main focus, the head of the denomination in the U.S. said.
In fact, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, "when we turn it into the whole of our mission, we've created an idol. And some parts of the Anglican communion have responded to it like an idol."
Some members of the Episcopal Church have announced they want to start a second branch of the denomination in the U.S., largely because of the church's ordination of a gay bishop and some bishops’ approval of same-sex unions.
Asked at a National Press Club speech whether the biblical institutions for marriage apply to same-sex couples, Jefferts Schori replied with some sarcasm:
"Oh, which biblical institutions for marriage? Solomon’s many, many, many wives? The concubines? The slaves who bore children for their male masters? There are some very odd images of family life in the Bible. And when people talk about family values, I want to know which ones."
She said the Episcopal Church as a whole hasn't reached a conclusion about same-sex unions, but "we're at least asking hard questions," she said.
Click here to read the rest!
Friday, December 19, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2008
Integrity joins with those expressing profound disappointment at President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the upcoming inauguration. Mr. Obama’s effort to begin his administration by representing differences of opinion in the selection of a pastor whose theological perspectives are different than his own is commendable. The choice of Rick Warren is not.
“Rick Warren has become a recognizable pop culture religious voice but he is not qualified to be ‘America’s pastor,’” said Integrity President Susan Russell. “Warren is a not only a vocal opponent of LGBT equality who does not believe in evolution, he has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His views are far outside the religious mainstream and his credentials are steeped in an “Old Time Religion” of narrow exclusionism that ill prepares us for the challenges of the 21st century.”
“This unfortunate choice is particularly painful to LGBT Americans who have experienced first-hand the destructive impact of pastors like Warren who preach “family values” while practicing discrimination against gay and lesbian families. But it should also be a cause for concern to any American concerned that the exclusionism represented by Rick Warren is antithetical to the President-elect’s core values of inclusion, tolerance and the celebration of difference.”
“We have found so much to be hopeful about in these days of anticipation of the beginning of a new era of “Yes We Can” including significant gay and lesbian appointments in the new administration. Regrettably, the selection of Rick Warren is a significant step back after many steps forward on that journey toward becoming a nation where “liberty and justice for all” is not just a pledge but a practice.”
(The Reverend) Susan Russell, President
620 Park Avenue #311 Rochester, NY 14607-2943
President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday defended his decision to invite evangelical pastor Rick Warren. Obama cited the "magic" of a diverse nation.
The choice of Warren, founder of a Southern California megachurch and best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life, has riled some gay and lesbian advocates, liberal groups and religious leaders because he opposes gay marriage and abortion rights and has expressed what they say are extreme views on the issues.
Click here to read the rest!
David Cupps Elected New Treasurer
Jeff Martinhauk resigned as Integrity's Treasurer a few months ago to concentrate on his senior year of seminary. The national board of directors invited qualified members to apply for the position. The board received applications from 3 well-qualified candidates, all of whom were interviewed by telephone. Last Wednesday, during its monthly conference call, the board unanimously elected David Cupps of Lexington, Kentucky, to serve as Treasurer for the remainder of the current term. David takes office immediately. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Below is his impressive resume...
David Cupps is the Executive Director of Arts Kentucky, a statewide arts advocacy and resource development organization (a 501(c)(3)). He gathers information about the arts from local, statewide and national sources and disseminates it weekly to artists and arts organizations across the state. He also leads and trains artists and arts organizations across the state in advocacy with elected officials and other policy makers.
David served as a Development Director for 5 years, including time as Development Director for the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington. He is an experienced grant-writer. Before that, he was a Financial Advisor for 6 years. His schooling includes 2 years of seminary.
Episcopal life and experience
David joined the Episcopal Church in the late 90’s, after being brought up in the United Methodist Church. He has served on two Vestries, serving both as Treasurer for multiple years at St. Michael’s and St. Martha’s (Lexington KY).
Integrity has been an important part of his church experience, as he helped in the original formation of St. Michael’s chapter around 2002, and he has been instrumental in re-forming the group in the past year after it became inactive. David attended the Claiming the Blessing weekend in St. Louis about 5 years ago.
A veteran of non-profit groups, David currently serves on these boards:
• Actors Guild of Lexington
• Association of Fundraising Professionals (Bluegrass Chapter) (president-elect)
• Integrity of Lexington
• VOICES of Kentuckiana (LGBT chorus)
In addition, he has served on other community and national boards:
• AIDS Volunteers of Lexington (2-term president)
• Kentucky Fairness Alliance (Treasurer)
• Sigma Theta Epsilon national fraternity (national President)
• Cedar Hill Retreat Center (founding Treasurer)
• Mothers Celebrating Recovery (founding member)
Other Skills and Background
David has used QuickBooks with his non-profit activities for about 12 years, including those with payroll. He served on the Diocesan committee that oversees a multi-million dollar endowment. He is a member of the Kentucky Peer Advisory Network, where he consults with arts groups in long-range strategic planning and financial governance. David lives in Lexington with his partner Ross, an attorney and former Vestry member at their church, Church of the Resurrection (Jessamine County, KY). Besides his full-time job, David also consults in fundraising, web design, and non-profit management.
Bylaws Voting Begins
Online polls opened last Monday on whether to ratify changes to Integrity's national bylaws. Click here to read more about what is being altered and why!
To date, only 6% of eligible voters have cast their ballot. If your membership dues were current as of November 25th, you should have received voting instructions by e-mail [if we have your e-mail address on file] or by postcard [if we don't]. If you believe you are eligible to vote but do not receive voting instructions--of if you have trouble voting--please contact our office via email [email@example.com] or phone [800-462-9498]. Staff can cast your vote for you if you wish. Polls close on February 15th.
Last-Minute Gift Idea
Give the gift of Integrity! Click here to make a donation to Integrity in honor or in memory of someone special. We will notify your honoree of your gift and make him/her of a member of Integrity for one year. Your contribution is tax-deductible.
Rochester Office Closed For The Holidays
The national headquarters in Rochester, New York, will close on Christmas Eve and reopen on January 5th so that our two full-time employees--Acting Executive Director John Clinton Bradley and Development Coordinator R. Bruce Colburn--can enjoy a much-deserved Yuletide vacation. The staff wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Vermont was the first state to recognize same-sex relationships - legalizing civil unions in 2000. Since then, same-sex couples in the state have maintained that civil unions are not recognized in the same way as marriage and a bill to convert civil unions to marriage will be introduced in the next session of the state legislature.
When New Jersey lawmakers opted to legalize civil unions rather than marriage in 2007, the legislature created a commission to review whether the law was working.
Two weeks ago, the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission released its report saying civil unions were not working and the law needed to be amended to provide for full marriage for same-sex couples.
The report said that civil unions fostered inequity by creating a separate class of relationships, noting that some private companies refused to provide health and other benefits to same-sex civil unioned partners that they provided to married spouses.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I wanted to give you an update on the online survey regarding faith and GLBT identity development that many Integrity members responded to. Several GLBT-friendly denominational groups, including Integrity, participated in the survey. We collected over 500 responses across the nation, and several key themes included:
1. Among those respondents who attend GLBT-friendly services, relationships between religious and social beliefs are almost identical for heterosexual and GLBT individuals who have more integrated sexual identities (i.e., those who may be out of the closet and understand their sexual orientation as only one of many aspects of their identity).
2. The relationship between one’s church’s attitude regarding homosexuality and one’s religious beliefs was significant only in the GLBT group, and only related to beliefs about salvation.
3. For individuals who self-identified as heterosexual, their attitude regarding social policies was significantly related to how "conservative" or "liberal" they considered their own religious beliefs to be, while this relationship was not significant for GLBT individuals.
4. GLBT individuals' views on how the Bible should be interpreted was related to how "conservative" or "liberal" they considered their religious beliefs to be; whereas the relationship between these considerations was not significant for heterosexual respondents.
We also received many qualitative comments, including some excellent feedback and suggestions about the survey. Our research team was able to present some of our results at various national poster sessions, including the American Psychological Association, and we are hoping to continue analyzing the data, with our attention now turning to the qualitative dimension of it.
Additionally, I am now beginning my dissertation on the "open secret," a phrase sometimes used to describe situations where a GLBT person's sexuality is known, but not discussed (i.e., an "elephant in the room" scenario). I am interested in learning how the open secret may relate to one or more psychological variables, such as denial, stress, or self-esteem. Or perhaps it works as a coping mechanism, allowing people to coexist where they might otherwise have difficulty doing so. I am collecting my dissertation data online in two parts: (1) An initial screening survey (see link below) from which I will select a final sample of ten to twelve participants for (2) More in-depth online interviews.
I would like to invite you to learn more about my dissertation survey by following the link below. Then, if you feel so inclined, please consider (1) Sending an update of our prior research to the Integrity members, as many of them may have participated in our initial survey; and (2) Please consider including a link to my dissertation survey, as many Integrity members may be able to provide valuable input to this under-researched topic that I am now exploring.
I appreciate your help with my research, and I wish you and all the Integrity members a joyous holiday season.
Andrew D. Reichert, MS
PhD Counseling Psychology Student
Texas A&M University
Here’s the link to my current survey on the open secret:
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Integrity is so very pleased to announce that the triennial Integrity Eucharist held in conjunction with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday evening, July 10, 2009 in Anaheim CA.
The celebrant will be the Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson and the preacher will be the Rt. Reverend Barbara C. Harris.
"It is with deep delight that we invited those planning to be in Anaheim for General Convention to mark their calendars now and join us for this historic opportunity to celebrate the Good News of God in Christ Jesus made manifest in these two extraordinary prophetic voices," said Susan Russell, President of Integrity.
More details to come ...
If your membership was current as of November 25th, you should have received either an email or postcard with instructions for voting. If you believe you are eligible to vote and did not receive directions, please contact the national office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-462-9498 [during normal business hours]. Kindly provide your first name, last name, email address, and daytime phone number.
Dec 16, 2008
Last week, Newsweek's cover story on the biblical case for gay marriage resonated on TV stations, throughout the blogosphere, and in the inboxes of many NEWSWEEK employees as Christians and nonbelievers alike sounded off on the editorial decision to run the story. Of the tens of thousands of letters we received, some argued that the Bible clearly proscribes homosexuality, while others applauded author Lisa Miller's argument on such a controversial subject. But many expressed a desire for a deeper exploration of the subject—a conversation among biblical scholars on both sides of the divide.
NEWSWEEK's Kurt Soller found two experts to do just that, e-mailing throughout the weekend (even into the third Sunday of Advent!) about their conflicting viewpoints. On the pro-gay marriage side: Bill Wylie-Kellerman, a United Methodist serving as pastor at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Detroit. His sparring partner: Dr. Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, which addresses how Christianity should be applied to life. Read on to see how each views the Bible, what they believe Scripture has to say about gay marriage and where they think this debate will be headed (at least, in church) in the next decade.
Click here to read the rest!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Gay-oriented congregations shrink as options in mainstream churches grow
As more mainstream churches reach out toward gays and lesbians, many gays are leaving churches like Shirilau's. The largest gay Catholic group, Dignity, lost nearly half its active members in the past decade.
"There's less need," Shirilau said inside a chapel in his Riverside home. "You can church-shop and find at a local level a parish that is accepting."
Monday, December 15, 2008
The current controversy over gays in the Episcopal Church mirrors past conflicts that the global church has managed to overcome.
By Duke Helfand
December 15, 2008
Since its founding more than two centuries ago, the Episcopal Church has often struggled to keep disparate factions unified under its diverse umbrella.
Repeated controversies -- over slavery, the ordination of women and even the role of children in church life -- have threatened to tear at its religious fabric.
Now, the church faces one of its most daunting challenges yet, with hundreds of conservative congregations forming a separate North American church amid a dispute with liberal Episcopalians over homosexuality and Scripture.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sees the latest discord in historical terms, a view that sheds light on Episcopalians' religious and cultural DNA.
Similar controversies have come and gone, she told Times reporters earlier this month, but the 2.4-million-member church has remained largely intact -- even if unity has sometimes come at a steep price.
"The place of gay and lesbian people in the church is the latest expression of the ancient human struggle over who is 'the other,' " Jefferts Schori said. "There will be another group. I don't know who it is going to be."
Slaves were one of these first "other" groups to cast a long shadow over the church.
During the Civil War the church held together loosely, as Methodists and other denominations split over the issue of slavery. Southern Episcopalians formed their own branch but were marked absent during the church's 1862 general convention, returning to the fold after the war.
The church may have emerged from slavery intact, but many contemporary Episcopalians believe it lost its moral compass along the way. Episcopal leaders, acting at their national convention in 2006, apologized for the church's "complicity" in slavery. Church officials also have acknowledged that Southern and Northern Episcopalians alike benefited from the slave trade.
Modern disputes have similarly engulfed the church. Its decision in 1976 to ordain women raised new tensions, prompting the departure of some congregations while transforming the Episcopalian landscape, ultimately leading to Jefferts Schori's election to the top church office.
Revisions to the Book of Common Prayer in 1979 led to further dissension. The changes made baptism more central to the practice of the faith, empowering lay people and challenging the historical power of the clergy. The updates also made the Eucharist a regular act of Sunday worship and allowed children to receive Communion before they were confirmed, further challenging established practice.
The struggle over homosexuality burst to the top of the grievance chart in 2003 when an openly gay priest, V. Gene Robinson, was consecrated as bishop of New Hampshire. Tensions mounted as local churches blessed same-sex couples even as the national church refused to authorize official rites for such ceremonies.
(As bishop of Nevada in 2003, Jefferts Schori voted to affirm Robinson's election. She also permitted congregations to bless same-sex unions if they chose to do so after discussing the issue and developing their own policies.)
In the time since Jefferts Schori's 2006 installation at Washington's soaring National Cathedral, the furor over Robinson and gay marriage has intensified. Conservative Anglican leaders from Africa and elsewhere have waged a revolt against what they see as a permissive American church.
Those who study the Episcopal Church say the recent tumult over sexuality exemplifies a deeply rooted tradition of religious freedom and tolerance that hearkens to the church's Anglican roots.
The American church, they say, grew up in the late 1700s as a democratic institution alongside a young American republic. As time passed, it remained part of the global Anglican Communion even as its policies and tone were influenced by the culture in which it matured.
"There is something in the Anglican ethos . . . in which we live out our life of faith in the messiness of everyday life," said the Rev. Ian T. Douglas, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.
Speaking of same-sex marriage, Douglas added: "If that's what we are wrestling with in American culture, then of course the Episcopal Church is going to wrestle with it."
Jefferts Schori believes that Episcopalians in general are far less preoccupied with issues of sexuality than the congregations that have broken away.
"In most of the rest of the church," she said, "people are moving on with feeding the hungry, providing housing for low-income people and doing creative things to build what we call the reign of God in their own communities."
The pressures within the Episcopal Church have amplified tensions in the Anglican Communion. Several of Jefferts Schori's conservative counterparts, meeting in Jerusalem last summer, called for the creation of a new independent church, and 700 breakaway congregations did just that this month, declaring themselves the Anglican Church in North America.
Scholars say Jefferts Schori, and the church she leads, must find a way to harmonize their differences in the same way their predecessors have done.
"The biggest challenge for the Episcopal church is to get over its own internal arguments to live out its identity as a church dedicated to God and its mission in the world," said Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, assistant professor of church history at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley.
"The Anglican tradition is about holding things in a healthy and respectful tension and finding a way to . . . keep our eyes on the ministry we have been called to," he added.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Q: I successfully logged into the eBallot system using the URL, username, and password provided--but it says, "There are no ballots that you can vote on at this moment." Why can't I see the ballot?
A: The polls do not open until Monday at midnight Eastern Time. You will be able to see the ballot and vote at that time.
Q: What provision has been made for members who don't have Internet access?
A: All members who have not provided Integrity with an email address were sent a postcard with voting instructions. The postcard says, among other things, "If you do not have access to the Internet, you may cast your vote via telephone by calling Integrity's toll-free number [800-462-9498] between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday."
Friday, December 12, 2008
Progress Toward Marriage Equality For All
Claiming the Blessing Field Organizer
Since California Prop. 8 put a ban on same-gender marriage into the state constitution, it would be easy to think progress had been stalled. That is not true. In addition to a bumptious outpouring of activism on behalf of marriage equality nationwide, there have been several very positive developments worth noting.
Toward Civil Marriage
A New Jersey "Civil Union Review Commission" appointed by the legislature and governor to evaluate whether civil unions are really an equitable substitute for marriage has answered a resounding "NO." Their 79-page report documents numerous situations in which New Jersey's civil union statute fails to protect same-sex couples from discrimination. In particular, employers are not recognizing civil unions as a status that should require them to provide benefits to couples equal to those they offer to married persons. Same-sex couples describe hospitals and medical providers failing to honor their partnership during a health crisis. Because New Jersey residents does not understand or recognize the civil union status, couples can find themselves trying to explain the law at the moments when they are most vulnerable. In particular, testimony suggested that people of color who try to avail themselves of civil unions do not readily have their relationships recognized by authorities.
The full report is a valuable, state-sponsored catalogue of why civil unions aren't good enough. People who take their right to marry for granted genuinely do not know all the disabilities associated with LGBT people's exclusion from the full status. This report is available for download at: http://www.civilunionsdontwork.com/.
Toward Marriage in the Church
Since 2003, many dioceses of the Episcopal Church have been allowing blessings of same-sex couples under Resolution C-051 which said "we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions." An example of a generous policy under this rule was that issued by the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus in 2006 that allowed same-sex blessings as "a pastoral response to the needs of our people" upon notification of the bishop and agreement from the bishop on the intended liturgy.
Now, at the convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Jon Bruno has issued a new policy on same-sex blessing that is more directly a challenge to both church and state to affirm same-sex marriages. He announced: "[T]he passage of Proposition 8 means that our State Constitution no longer provides for same-sex civil marriage. Nevertheless, these developments in public discourse regarding same-sex marriage have provided an opportunity for the Church to address the issue of same-sex covenants as well as marriage more generally.
"In response to our theological understanding, it is the policy of the Diocese of Los Angeles that any priest canonically resident or licensed to function may officiate at the sacramental blessing of the life-long covenant of persons of the same-sex following the provisions of this policy despite the civil law of our state at this time. While the state will not allow us to officially marry same-sex couples, we believe the same blessing ceremony afforded to men and women should be afforded to same-sex couples.
"... the sacramental blessing of covenants cannot be understood as civil marriages at this time. We understand the current policy to be provisional as regards future changes that may be made in the Canons of this Church, the resolutions of General Convention and changes in civil law."
Bishop Bruno has put himself and his diocese out quite far ahead of those who fear full inclusion of all in the life of the both Church and State. You can download the Los Angeles policy and the arguments advanced for it here: http://www.ladiocese.org/convention/home.html
People who support Bishop Bruno's advance toward marriage equality might want to send him a email saying so at email@example.com.
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Claiming the Blessing needs $40,000 to finish the Voices of Witness Africa DVD. A 20-minute preview was shown to bishops and spouses during the Lambeth Conference last summer. The stories it portrayed profoundly affected everyone who saw it. No doubt the final film will be highly effective at moving Anglicans around the world from intolerance to tolerance, and from tolerance to affirmation. You can see the preview at www.voicesofwitness.org/VOWA.htm.
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News You May Have Missed
- ENS--Bishop authorizes blessings of lifelong covenantal relationships
- DALLAS MORNING NEWS--LA Episcopal Diocese endorses same-sex unions
- PRESS-ENTERPRISE--At Riverside convention Episcopalians say no to ban on gay bishops
- NEWSWEEK--Our Mutual Joy
- USA TODAY--Gays, God, the Bible and the bishops
- SAN DIEGO TRIBUNE--Same-sex marriage: A question of how we feel about each other After Election 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
The Chief Lobbyist and Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) gave an interview to National Public Radio yesterday in which he admitted to shifting on gay “marriage,” voting for Barack Obama ... Richard Cizik, spokesman for the NAE, which represents 45,000 US churches, told NPR yesterday that he voted for Obama in the Virginia primary but didn't want to reveal how he voted in the general election.
"I happen to think in the primary he was the best choice," said Cizik of Obama. Cizik explained that he held party philosophy and the character of the candidate above particular issues. He thus suggested: "It would be possible for Evangelicals to disagree with Barack Obama on same sex marriage and abortion and yet vote for him."
Asked if he had changed his mind on homosexual “marriage,” Cizik replied, "I'm shifting I have to admit. In other words I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition I don't think."
He advocated that Evangelicals change focus away from the homosexual “marriage” debate. Revealingly, he said on the subject, "Maybe we need to reevaluate this and look at it a little differently. I'm always looking for ways to reframe issues. Give the biblical point of view a different slant."
More here and listen to the interview here.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
Read it here.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In its 113th Annual Diocesan Convention today, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles joined seven other dioceses in passing a resolution asking the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church to reject the de facto moratorium on the election of gay or lesbian bishops by retracting the General Convention Resolution BO33. And in Bishop Jon Bruno's convention address yesterday, he announced a new diocesan policy on the Sacramental Blessing of Life-Long Covenants, which stated in part, "we believe the same blessing ceremony afforded to men and women should be afforded to same-sex couples" and included a liturgy for blessing approved for use in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
"We are greatly encouraged that the Diocese of Los Angeles has taken such strong steps forward on the full inclusion of the LGBT faithful in the Body of Christ," said the Reverend Susan Russell, president of Integrity and a member of the Task force on Marriage Equality convened by Bishop Bruno to craft the policy and draft the liturgy.
"The Diocese of Los Angeles cannot undo the damage done by BO33 but we stood together to say that we refuse to be party to any further scapegoating of the gay and lesbian baptized. We cannot undo the discrimination written into our constitution by Proposition 8, but we can now officially offer equality in the blessings we offer couples in our congregations and that is a source of great hope and encouragement not only to the church but to the world."
The resolution regarding General Convention was presented by the Los Angeles Deputation to the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church and will be forwarded for consideration at the July 2009 meeting in Anaheim CA. The diocesan policy on blessings was distributed to convention delegates in Riverside and will be available shortly on the Diocese of Los Angeles website.
(The Reverend) Susan Russell, President
620 Park Avenue #311 Rochester, NY 14607-2943
Policy Regarding the Sacramental Blessing of Life-long Covenants in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles
But here's the gist:
Bishop Bruno has authorized the distribution of a Service for the Sacramental Blessing of a Life-Long Covenant. Approved for use in the Diocese of Los Angeles, this service may be used to bless the covenant of a man and woman, two women or two men.
The liturgy was accompanied by a document entitled:
Policy Regarding the Sacramental Blessing of Life-long Covenants in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles
Here are a few key paragraphs:
In response to our theological understanding, it is the policy of the Diocese of Los Angeles that any priest canonically resident or licensed to function may officiate at the sacramental blessing of the life-long covenant of persons of the same sex following the provisions of this policy despite the civil law of our state at this time. While the state will not allow us to officially marry same-sex couples, we believe the same blessing ceremony afforded to men and women should be afforded to same-sex couples.
Parochial clergy shall provide education, information, pastoral care and discussion within their congregations before solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples especially if such marriages would be the occasion for confusion, misunderstanding or any other spiritual crisis for members of the congregation. Educational materials have been developed by the Bishop’s Task Force on Marriage for use in congregations.
At the same time, congregations are encouraged to move forward in prophetic witness and in justice towards same-sex couples who have been denied both the church’s blessing and the state’s benefits of marriage for so long.
More to come ...
Friday, December 5, 2008
by Duke HelfandThe presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church declared Thursday that church members who joined a newly formed conservative denomination "are no longer Episcopalians," even as she predicted that the exodus had largely run its course and would not trigger further large-scale defections.
In her first public comments since a coalition of 700 parishes announced the formation of a new North American church Wednesday, the Most. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori also reiterated that church property must remain in Episcopal hands, a position disputed by breakaway leaders.
"They are no longer Episcopalians," Jefferts Schori said of those who left. "They have made that very clear in their departures.
She emphasized that all Episcopalians were welcome "if they want to be part of a diverse church. . . . But the expectation has to be that we are not a single-issue church. We're not a church that says you have to believe this one thing in this one way and there is no room for difference of opinion."
Read the rest here ... and let's give thanks that what our Presiding Bishop makes clear is that after a decade of being blackmailed by the vocal minority who have insisted that they would leave if the LGBT baptized were fully included in the work and witness of the Episcopal Church, we are now free to get on with the work of incarnating God's justice and living God's love.
We will be looking for more and more diocesan conventions to pass resolutions affirming the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments of the church as we move toward our General Convention next summer in Anaheim. And once in Anaheim we will be looking for the Nat'l Episcopal Church to take some further steps forward on LGBT inclusion.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
a c c w e b n e w s
The Anglican Church of Canada
Dec 3, 2008 The newly-elected bishop of the diocese of Huron, Robert
Bennett, says that he has not yet acted on the diocesan synod's motion in
May asking the bishop to give clergy permission to bless same-sex marriages
"where at least one party is baptized" and to authorize an appropriate rite.
"Nothing has happened," said Bishop Bennett, adding that at the fall meeting
of the house of bishops he said that "I'm here to listen." Bishop Bennett
issued the clarification in reaction to a story and editorial published in
the December issue of the Anglican Journal that included Huron among
dioceses that came to the house of bishops with requests to allow them to
bless same-sex unions.
Bishop Bennett said in a telephone interview that the diocese had been "in a
transitional and crisis mode" after Bishop Bruce Howe announced in June that
he was retiring effective Sept. 1.
To read the rest of the story, please visit the Anglican Journal Web site,
Monday, December 1, 2008
The leader of the Episcopal Church arrives Friday in Riverside amid a debate on homosexuality that continues to tear the denomination apart.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the 2.4 million-member denomination, will attend the annual meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday at the Riverside Convention Center. On the convention agenda is a resolution on whether priests in same-sex relationships should be consecrated bishops.
Inland priests on both sides of the church's homosexuality debate are tired of the years-long battle over the issue.
"Any time you have a single-issue focus, you're bound to be missing other things that are happening," said the Rev. David Maurer, vicar of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Fontana. "With the economy of the day, the issues that are really plaguing the Inland Empire today are, 'Where can I get food?' or 'How can I get gas?' or 'Will I have work tomorrow?' "
Maurer said that, although the debate over gay-related issues dominates media coverage of the Episcopal Church, he's never heard it discussed in his congregation. He's never mentioned it in a sermon.
Maurer believes the blessing of same-sex unions, which the Los Angeles Diocese allows, goes against biblical teaching.
The Rev. David Starr, vicar of St. John's Episcopal Church in San Bernardino, performed two same-sex weddings over the summer, one for his gay son. He also has a lesbian daughter. Starr strongly believes that, because God created all people in his image, gays and lesbians must be accepted as full members of the church, with the right to become bishops.
But, like Maurer, he never discusses the controversy over homosexuality in his sermons.
"It's a distraction," Starr said. "If I get mired in that, I lose focus on the people who need us."
Instead, Starr said his church concentrates on providing food to people in its poor San Bernardino neighborhood, and on homework and reading programs for local children.
Starr said he supports the resolution to rescind the moratorium on gay bishops because the ban deeply hurt some gay and lesbian Episcopalians, who viewed it as relegating them to second-class status within the church.
But he said it is theological conservatives who have forced the church to spend so much time discussing gay-related matters.
"If they weren't pushing this, there wouldn't be an issue," Starr said.
Unlike other denominations, the Episcopal Church has long allowed differences of opinion on theological matters. For example, even though the Forth Worth and Quincy dioceses, as well as the San Joaquin Diocese in Central California, refused to ordain women, they faced no punishment from the national church.
In the liberal Los Angeles Diocese, Bishop J. Jon Bruno supports blessings of same-sex unions but does not require priests to perform them.
The Rev. John Saville, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Corona, said although he would not perform a blessing of a same-sex union, he supports amending the Episcopal liturgy to include such blessings (priests now perform the blessings outside the liturgy).
Focus on Unity
And even though he opposes changing church liturgy to include same-sex marriage, Saville respects priests who support a liturgical change.
"People love this church for its great breadth and width," he said. "We trust God's spirit to guide us and lead us and work through this."
The Rev. Paul Price, of St. George's Episcopal Church in Riverside, said Episcopalians should focus on what unites them and what makes the church unique: A combination of a Catholic liturgical tradition and a Protestant belief in allowing lay people to interpret the Bible on their own.
One of Price's gay congregants, Gerald Motto, said he would continue to push the church to support same-sex-marriage liturgy. He believes the 2006 moratorium on new openly gay bishops was morally wrong and a step backward for gay Episcopalians.
Yet Motto, 70, of Moreno Valley, said he would welcome back the dioceses that left, even if they continued to oppose full equality for gays within the church.
"There is a place in our church for every single person," Motto said. "We don't come to church for people. We come to church to worship God."
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