Tag Archives: LGBT

Church, university join in Shower of Stoles

By Tracy Simmons

A stole is a liturgical vestment worn by clergy/Wikipedia

Bethany Presbyterian Church and the Eastern Washington University Pride Center are teaming up April 22-29 to present Shower of Stoles.

The Shower of Stoles project began in the mid 1990s when Presbyterian minister Martha Juillerat was faced with the threat of being defrocked by the church it was discovered she was a lesbian.

She and her partner, also a Presbyterian minister, asked friends and colleagues to send a stole to hang at a presbytery meeting. According to the Shower of Stoles website, the couple received 80 stoles overnight. Stoles have been coming in ever since, along with cards and letters.

Now the Shower of Stoles Project (which includes other sacred items representing LGBT people of faith) tours constantly around the country, being exhibited in local congregations, universities and seminaries, and regional and national denominational gatherings.

An online peak at the exhibit is available here.

Gays welcome: local church becomes open and affirming

By Tracy Simmons

It’s been a long and difficult conversation.

For two decades the Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ tabled the gay issue. Should homosexuals be welcomed into the church? Should they be allowed to marry? Participate? Be ordained?

Until last year no one could agree.

Rev. Linda Crowe, of Veradale United Church of Christ, has been rooting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), rights the whole time.  It’s no wonder her voice rings with excitement when talking about her congregation’s recent decision to become open and affirming.

“I recognized as we were going through this process that it was sacred work,” she said. “And I was aware that what we were doing was historic in the life of the church.”

For 17 years she’s served as the pastor the Spokane Valley church and said in that time she’s watched the 100-member congregation evolve into a social justice machine.

At a leadership retreat last year church members agreed on a new mission statement for Veradale UCC, “Worshiping God in Christ, welcoming all, working for justice and peace.”

Members noted, however, the mission statement would only work if the church officially became open and affirming.

For years Veradale UCC has had gay members in its pews. Last year it adopted several people from Emmanuel Metropolitan Community Church, a gay church that had to close its doors.

“Why do we have to do this if we’re already welcoming?,” some Veradale members asked.

Crowe said the church’s LGBT members have learned the hard way that some churches aren’t as welcoming as they seem.

“A lot of churches don’t mean it. Their welcome is limited,” she said, adding that some churches won’t allow homosexuals to teach classes, serve on the vestry, etc.

Rev. Mike Denton, conference minister, said going through the open and affirming process makes a loud statement.

“There are several churches that are essentially open and affirming but haven’t gone through the process and I’ve come to recognize the importance of doing it in a public way.”

Carol Ehrhart, president of the Inland Northwest LGBT Center, agreed with Denton.

“Many people in the gay community feel, or have felt, victimized by their church,” she said. “Many people, 20 or 30 years after they left the church, still feel very torn about their beliefs, who they are and how they were created … so when churches do open and up say, ‘Hey we’re affirming, you’re welcome here, we understand you’re God’s creation, you’re the way you’re supposed to be and we accept that,’ it’s a very powerful statement.”

In the UCC decisions come from the ground-up. Denton said major verdicts are up to the congregation, but added that he’s always happy to hear about church voting to open its doors to the gay community.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m supportive when churches make this decision,” he said.

The open and affirming process, organized by the UCC Coalition for GLBT Concerns, includes several months of discussion groups, workshops and forums. Crowe said her church also studied UCC history.

“We looked at antislavery issues and other social justice issues that the church has been involved in to help frame the conversation about why becoming open and affirming is a social justice issue,” she said.

Though opening its doors to gays and lesbians was the main issue, the congregation took it further by adopting a statement that included people of all ages, genders, gender identities, races, national origins, faith backgrounds, marital statuses, family structures, mental or physical conditions, economic statuses and educational backgrounds.

“Jesus openly affirmed diversity and so do we,” it reads, “We believe all people are created in God’s image and all people are loved equally by God.”

Crowe said Veradale is starting its 101st year as a fresh, new church.

“We’re not wringing our hands worrying how to survive,” she said. “We’re gung-ho about the future.”

In the past year the church has gained 25 new members and didn’t lose any during its open and affirming process. Crowe said some church shoppers are looking for a welcoming church; others may walk out the door when they learn about its progressive stance.

“There are plenty of conservative churches here, plenty of choices for them,” she said.

According to the Affirming Christian Church Directory there are less than a dozen open and affirming churches in Spokane.

The last United Church of Christ congregation in the immediate area to become open and affirming was Westminster UCC in 2005. Rev. Andrea CastroLang, pastor of Westminster, said the process was unnerving. She wasn’t sure if there would be picketers and, just to be safe, the police gave the area some extra attention.

Thankfully, CastroLang said, the church only received some “nasty emails.” She said Spokane has changed since then.

“I think that Spokane’s insular community identity is really changing,” she said. “A lot of folks from other parts of the country are moving to Spokane and it’s changing our demographics in a good way. So now we’ve got a better chance of being an open and affirming city.”

Denton said several UCC churches in the conference are currently going through the open and affirming process.

“The conversation has changed a lot just in the past 10 years,” he said.

Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup: Christmas wars; Jesus as Occupier?; Obama on LGBT rights

At the urging of a local radio host (always the best counselors), a troop of Rhode Islanders burst into the Statehouse and interrupted a children’s choir by loudly singing “O Christmas Tree” during a tree-lighting ceremony.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee had said he wanted to honor religious diversity by calling the Statehouse Spruce a “Holiday tree,” and suggested that would-be Christmas Warriors do something nice, like feed the poor, instead of protesting.

Bishop Thomas Tobin did not take the advice, calling Chafee “divisive” and hosting his own tree-lighting ceremony.

NPR sat down with Santa Claus, who said that kids this year are asking for things like a job for daddy, or someone to buy their house.

Santa may not be at the OWS protests (he’s reportedly very busy this time of year) but Jesus would be there, says Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Read full post here.