PBS: Martin Luther King and Robert Graetz

PBS Religion & Ethics recently interviewed Rev. Robert Graetz. Rev Graetz and his family have stood with Soulforce in the past and we invite you to learn more about this remarkable man.

KIM LAWTON, correspondent: Although the social revolution led by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. grew out of the black church, from even the earliest days of the movement there were white foot soldiers, too. King initially came to national prominence while leading the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was serving in his first job as a local pastor, and working closely with him there was a young white pastor named Robert Graetz.

REV. ROBERT GRAETZ: We were here because God brought us here, and in a very real sense this changed the character of the movement here, because it was not totally black then from that point on.

LAWTON: Graetz is now 82 years old and still active in the Montgomery community.

GRAETZ: Fifty years ago we were a praying people…

LAWTON: On this day, he’s participating in the unveiling of a new sign marking a site that was important during the bus boycott. He and his wife, Jean, still work for civil rights, reconciliation, and a vision that began more than 50 years ago, a vision they shared with King called "the beloved community."

GRAETZ: We are all different, but we are still all together in this one relationship, and the key to that kind of a relationship was respect, which means I look at you and I say, you know, "I know that you have value. God put value in you." You look at me and you say the same thing.

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Ex-Gay Survivor Caucus at Creating Change

My name is Philip Lowe, Jr.  I am an ex-gay survivor of the Catholic church’s ex-gay group Courage.  I am involved with Beyond Ex-Gay as well.

I want to inform you and ask you to help spread the word about the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Caucus meeting that will be held at Creating Change 2011 in Minneapolis, Feb 2-6th.   The Caucus meeting will be on Friday, February 4th at 6:30pm in Board Room 2.

At this meeting we are going to talk about how we use our Ex-Gay Survivor experiences to help create change toward LGBT equality in all aspects.  Our stories are very powerful and moving.  At the Caucus meeting we will be talking about how to use our stories and experiences to build movements towards change.

Philip Lowe, Jr.

Memorial Service for Paul Egertson at California Lutheran University

Paul Egertson smiling holding a rainbow umbrella and wearing a rainbow print stole around his neckA memorial service will be held for Paul W. Egertson in the Samuelson Chapel of California Lutheran University (CLU), 1-4 pm, Saturday, January 15, 2011.  The announcement from the Egertson family and the CLU community invites people to gather "for a time of laughter and tears, remembering the life a man of grace and faith. The service will be led by Pastors Scott and Melissa Maxwell Doherty, with Pastor Howie Wennes as preacher."

Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches Calls the Nation to Prayer and Recommitment to Valuing All Life

As many already know, this morning Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and several others were shot.  While stories are varying at this point, we know that Rep. Giffords was hosting her first "Congress on Your Corner" event at a local Safeway Store in northwest Tucson, offering constituents a chance to learn more about the workings of Congress. 

Details from this horrific incident will not be sorted for some time, but what we can and must focus on as a nation of many creeds, colors, and cultures is the fundamental truth that all of life is scared regardless of political views, social or religious affiliations. 

The present turmoil of our nation, as we repeatedly battle over issues of human equality like immigration reform, just and equal wages, and universal health care access — things Rep. Giffords was known to champion — must not become for any of us, no matter our ideological positions, justification for violence in any form.  Jesus’ counsel was clearly and simply, "Love your enemies."  

It is with that word in mind, that I call the members and friends of Metropolitan Community Churches and people of good will across this nation to prayer.  Join me in praying not only for Rep. Giffords and all who were shot, along with their families and friends, but also for the young man who committed this crime and his family.  
    
To paraphrase one of our great prophets and martyrs, we must learn to live together in peace, despite our differences, or we will simply be consigned to die together.

Rep. Giffords dedicated her life to the principles of justice and equality for all, things she really believed in.  Let us now follow her example and lift up the one thing all of us who call America home say we believe in:  the right to life and liberty for all God’s children.

 Join me in praying:  

 Source of all life,
We give you thanks this day for the lives of those who
daily use that gift of life in service to others.
We especially remember now all those who lives were taken too soon from us
in today’s shooting,
and pray for the miracle of recovery for all those still in surgery or under hospital care.
Be with the families and friends of those targeted,
and the family and friends of the aggressor,
and surround them all in the light of your comforting presence.
Bless the community that must now struggle with the trauma and terror of this day.
And help us all to recommit ourselves to living together in ways
that honor your plan for a diverse creation.

+ Amen

  

Grace and Peace,
Nancy

The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator
Metropolitan Community Churches

 

Advocate for Full Inclusion and Staunch Ally, Former Bishop & Former Soulforce Board Member Paul Egertson Died Today

From Lutherans Concerned North America:

Paul Egertson smiling holding a rainbow umbrella and wearing a rainbow print stole around his neckFormer Soulforce board member Paul Egertson died suddenly this afternoon, January 5, 2011, in his home in Thousand Oaks, California. Egertson, staunch ally and advocate for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, had championed the ordination of LGBT candidates for ministry and an end to the policies and practices of the church that relegated LGBT people to a second-class.

While bishop of the ELCA Southwest California Synod, he participated in the 2001 ordination of Pastor Anita C. Hill of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minnesota. For this act, he subsequently resigned his position as bishop, and tirelessly advocated for the policy change that finally occurred as a result of the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Egertson was awarded the Jim Siefkes Justice-Maker Award by Lutherans Concerned for his efforts on behalf of LGBT Lutherans.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned, said, “Paul Egertson stood up for us and in opposition to the discrimination of the church against us when that was neither popular nor safe. His witness to Christ’s redemptive grace and his commitment to helping the church see the error of its position are a shining beacon of prophetic righteousness in the face of determined opposition – and he did it with grace and eloquence, as befits a follower of Christ. He was a friend and mentor — always available, with words of calming wisdom. He made a profound difference. He will be missed.”

“All of us at Soulforce grieve with Paul’s beloved family at his passing and we celebrate with them the memory of his world-changing prophetic witness to the worth and dignity of all people and to the Spirit that animates us. Paul was with us for our board meeting in the summer in Texas. We will cherish his counsel and his great smile, his abiding faith and conviction in a God who is big enough to include everyone,” said Rev Dr. Cindi Love

Paul Egertson, born in 1935, is survived by his wife, Shirley, also a Siefkes award recipient, and their 6 sons. Funeral arrangements will be communicated as soon as they are known.

UN Faith Coalition Urges Protections for Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity

A growing coalition for decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity

Media Release
December 17, 2010
Contact: Ann Craig (213)-703-1365 craig@glaad.org<mailto:craig@glaad.org>

UN Faith Coalition Urges Protections for Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity

Forty national faith leaders and organizations in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were convened on December 13 by the Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights. The group, meeting across the street from the United Nations at the Church Center for the UN, spoke out strongly against the action of a committee in the UN that removed gay people from a list of groups protected from violent targeting and extrajudicial killing.  The Coalition expressed strong support for Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, who is expected to propose reinstatement of sexual orientation to the UN resolution on December 20.

The essence of the Resolution is reflected in the following comments by leaders in the Coalition.  The full document can be read on our blog.

Bruce Knotts, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist UN Office, said, "Thousands of supporters have been called on to contact US State Department officials and the UN to urge the reinstatement of sexual orientation as a protected class.  In addition to this protection, the UN and all countries can add protection for everyone by adopting the Yogyakarta Principles which say, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse.’"

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, retired bishop from Uganda, said, "As a straight ally to LGBT people, I see how countries in Eastern Africa are increasingly persecuting people because of who they are and who they love, in part, because Evangelicals from the USA come to Uganda and preach against LGBT people. This divides families, communities and countries. The UN removal of sexual orientation from a list of protected groups is one more symptom of a deeply disturbing trend."

Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce, said, "Imprisoning or executing people for sexual orientation or gender identity does not just violate human rights, it undermines trust, social cohesion, economic development and public health. Trust is vital for cooperation among nations, communities, families and co-workers.  We call on the UN to rebuild this trust by protecting all people who are subject to persecution by unjust laws and mob actions."

Frank Mugisha, head of SMUG (Sexual Minorities of Uganda) said, "The international community must not ignore the warning signs of persecution and genocide.  LGBT people are fleeing from their homes in fear for the lives.  Any law that calls for imprisonment or execution based on sexual orientation or gender identity creates a climate ripe for vigilantes. People of good will must speak out."

Pat Bumgardner, head of the Metropolitan Community Church’s International Committee, said, "All faith traditions support human rights but many faith leaders get cold feet when it comes to LGBT human rights.  It is time for faith leaders to step up and support human rights for all people.
Pastor Joseph Tolton, of The Fellowship, said, African American people of faith understand that LGBT people have always been part of our faith communities.  As part of the African Diaspora, we are saying out loud, that when any of us are targeted, we are all at risk.

Episcopal Canon Albert Ogle, head of St. Paul’s Foundation, said, "When I was in Uganda this year, I saw the needs for pastoral ministry such as Bishop Senyonjo is offering.  Today, we call on all faith leaders to know that much rests on their shoulders.  They need to follow their conscience to take actions to protect LGBT people both in the US and across the globe."

The UN Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights is a coalition of the Unitarian Universalist UN Office, Metropolitan Community Church, National Black Justice Coalition, The Fellowship, Union Theological Seminary and St. Paul’s Foundation for Reconciliation.

Senate repeals "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

Today the Senate voted to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and sent the meseaure to President Obama, who is expected to sign the legislation into law next week.

Please note: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is still in effect and will remain in effect for sixty days after Obama signs the bill into law. Please visit our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for more information.

UN General Assembly Votes To Allow Gays To Be Executed Without Cause

United NationsGay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were once again subject to the whims of homophobia and religious and cultural extremism this week, thanks to a United Nations vote that removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. In other words, the UN General Assembly this week voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.

According to the International Gay and Lesbians Human Rights Commission, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on Social, Cultural and Humanitarian issues removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution addressing extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions this past week in a vote that was overwhelming represented by a majority of African, Middle East and Carribean nations.  For a UN committee that addresses human rights questions that affect people all over the world, by removing protections for LGBT persons from a category of arbitrary executions,  belies the objective and purpose of a committee whose  focus this year is "on the examination of human rights questions," according to its website.

A number of LGBT human rights advocates were surprised by the decidedly lop-sided vote, including Mark Bromley, the chair of the Council on Global Equality, a Washington, D.C. based organization that brings together human rights organizations, LGBT groups, philanthropists and corporate leaders to "encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on human rights concerns impacting LGBT communities around the world."

“I was very surprised by the vote," said Bromley, who had been in contact with the United States Mission to the United Nations delegation all day Tuesday, who were trying to beat back efforts to strip sexual orientation from the resolution.  But because the U.S. supports capital punishment, they usually abstain from voting on this resolution, thus they are in a weakened position with one arm tied behind their backs, according to Bromley. "But that said, the State Department did everything possible to beat back the efforts to repeal protections for LGBT persons," he added.

For further analysis into this story, read Tanya Domi’s latest piece at The New Civil Rights Movement, "UN Vote Allowing Gays To Be Executed Result Of Political, Religious Fundamentalism."

The U.K. gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said,
“This is a shameful day in United Nations history. It gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes. They will take comfort from the fact that the UN does not endorse the protection of LGBT people against hate-motivated murder.

“The UN vote is in direct defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees equal treatment, non-discrimination and the right to life. What is the point of the UN if it refuses to uphold its own humanitarian values and declarations?
“This vote is partly the result of a disturbing homophobic alliance between mostly African and Arab states, often inspired by religious fundamentalism. LGBT people in these countries frequently suffer severe persecution."

In an issued statement explaining the U.S. vote, a representative of the U.S. UN delegation said,

At the outset, let me say that the United States strongly agrees with and appreciates the cosponsors’ efforts to retain language specifically condemning ESAs [extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions] targeting vulnerable groups, particularly members of the LGBT community, and we were dismayed that this reference could not survive an unfriendly amendment.

Bromley expressed great disappointment in losing all the Southern African countries on the vote, including Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Nambia and South Africa, the latter, whose domestic laws and record on LGBT civil rights have held great regard throughout the world.  Nonetheless, according to Bromley, from the days of  former President Thabo Mbeki through present day leader Jacob Zuma, South Africa has been recalcitrant in its opposition to extending human rights to LGBT persons within international legal structures.
Another region that unanimously supported the removal of sexual orientation from the resolution were the Carribean nations.  Most noteworthy was the support from the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.  Bromley indicated that the U.S.  and human rights groups in the hemisphere have opportunities to forcefully advance LGBT rights through theOrganization of American States (OAS) and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  Brazil and Uruguay are international leaders on LGBT rights and can play a constructive role in bringing Carribean nations into the OAS fold on these issues, according to Bromley.

Middle East countries that principally observe the Muslim religion and its practices, as well as countries whose politics are dominated by Christian fundamentalists, generally oppose LGBT and women’s rights at the UN.  Even the United States has yet to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  Indeed, CEDAW has the most "reservations" filed by the most member states of any international human rights convention on record.  A reservation is a statement made by a State which it purports to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions of a treaty in their application.  According to the  Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights,

A reservation may enable a State to participate in a multilateral treaty in which it would otherwise be unable or unwilling to do so.  States can make reservations to a treaty when they sign, ratify, accept, approve or accede to it.   When a State makes a reservation upon signing, it must confirm the reservation upon ratification, acceptance or approval…a reservation cannot be contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty.

As an LGBT activist or an observer of UN and international politics, it is important for interested persons to understand that religion and culture play a major role in persuading internal bodies to not extend certain human rights to LGBT persons and women on religious and cultural grounds.  These dynamics have created an  international debate between advocates of "cultural relativism"-those who assert primacy of cultural values over human rights and those who are " universalists," who believe rights trump cultural concerns.

The United States Mission to the United Nations has an explanation of the U.S.’s vote.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Andr塚見s Duque for bringing this to our attention.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.