The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Marriage - all you need to know

We knew that our upcoming Holy Wedding Ceremony would start a discussion in our conference and outside of our conference in the United Methodist Church.

Reconciling Ministries Network has published an article about Bobby and me,  and they have published a press release about the upcoming event. Bishop Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference also published a press release two press releases. Several conservative United Methodist blogs have published articles and links are on Facebook and Twitter. The United Methodist Church web site has an article. The usual arguments; sin versus love, legalism versus mercy, incompatibility versus sacred worth, have been laid out across the web.

On Bishop Wallace-Padgett’s blog, smart, well-informed people who are commenting urging change and inclusion. Others are leaving different types of comments. The same is taking place on the UMC web site. 

Some of the comments rely on a narrow, literal interpretation of Scripture. To those people I have two suggestions.

First, review what it means to be a Methodist. Review the life and teachings of our founder, John Wesley.

Accept that Wesley himself did not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, and while giving Scripture priority, he also relied on Reason (including science), Experience (which could be the stories of LGBT persons) and Tradition (look at how the United Methodist Church has responded in the past to social issues and don’t repeat the same mistakes) before coming to a conclusion.

Second, if you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, are you willing to stone to death women who are not virgins when they marry?  Are you ready to give up fried shrimp and crab claws? Are you ready to deny the sacrament of marriage to divorced United Methodists? Are you willing to allow slavery so that masters can treat them properly?

 I thought I would answer a few of the questions that have been floating around.

“You are already legally married (although it isn’t recognized in Alabama). This will do nothing to help your marriage become recognized by our state. So why do it?”

We want to make a statement about our love and our commitment in front of our friends and families, just like other people who are marrying do. 

Also,I have been raised in the Methodist Church, and all around me I see families in our church with children whose sexual orientation is unknown. I don’t want these children, and I’ve heard parents of these children say this as well, to grow up and suddenly feel rejection by their church (as I did) when they discover that they are gay. You grow up loving the church, and then suddenly the church turns on you? That messes with your spiritual well-being. That happened to me. This is happening every day in the United Methodist Church.

“This issue is resulting in legal proceedings and trials that cost the United Methodist Church money; money that could be spent helping the poor and providing disaster relief.”

The simple response for that is to change the law, remove the harmful words, from the book of discipline so that United Methodist clergy are not charged when they offer their ministries to lesbian and gay couples. Then no money would be used trying to uphold unjust law.

But the more realistic answer is that defending unjust law is an expensive proposition. The United Methodist Church chooses to spend its resources trying to keep its LGBT members in the closet of inequality. They want gay people, they want our talents, they want our money, they want our connections, they want our skills; but they do not want to hold a conversation about the harm they have done to young people. They don’t want gay couples who attend to have their relationship identified, regardless of how long the couple has been together, or what the couple is able to contribute jointly.

Recently at our church we had a guest speaker on a Sunday morning. He was the founding pastor of the church 20 years ago. Also in attendance was our District Superintendent. The DS was asked to close the service in prayer, and he lifted a chair above his head as he prayed, and in his prayer/statement he emphasized the filling of the empty chairs. The visiting pastor had spoken of inclusion of LGBT persons.
The messages came across so differently. The DS wants the chairs filled with people, regardless of what the Book of Discipline says about them. He thinks LGBT people should feel comfortable in a chair that could be yanked out from under them when they seek pastoral care.

The visiting pastor wanted to treat the LGBT people with respect and dignity and recognize their sacred worth, also based on the Book of Discipline.

I recognize hypocrisy in the United Methodist Church. They have a policy: Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. They will let you in if you are gay, but they will not treat you fairly.

“Why don’t you just leave the church and find one that fits your views?”

I like the United Methodist Church. I fit in at my local church. I feel comfortable there. I can serve there. I like most of what the Book of Discipline and Social Principles say.  I like our position on war, the death penalty, immigration, women’s rights, the environment, science and other issues.

Here is a sermon by Rev. Vicki Flippen. In it, she references Paul and Silas and the earthquake that knocked down the walls of the jail that held them. They could have fled. But they stayed.

And (some) LGBT United Methodists are staying also. We are standing up against the jailers that are imprisoning us spiritually. The walls created by church policy are starting to crumble.  And we will stay, and after the walls have been removed, we will welcome the leaders into a more inclusive and more Jesus-like and Wesley-like United Methodist Church.

What about gifts? Are you registered?

We are giving our friends and family members options. We are not seeking gifts, and think that a gift in our names to Reconciling MinistriesNetwork or to AIDS Alabama is a good way to honor our union. But we also know that people like to give to the couple, so we are registered at Macy’s; Belk; Bed, Bath and .Beyond; and Habitation in Homewood.

There may be more to say about this marriage on another day, but for now, this is the 411.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jonah, and the Whale in the room

At Discovery United Methodist Church we are studying the book of Jonah. You know, the guy that got swallowed by the big fish and was then vomited out a few days later.

The sermon series is superb. There is a lot to be learned from a tiny book of the Bible.
But I want to dive just a little bit deeper into what we have learned so far.

Jonah was all torn up because he was trying to avoid doing what was asked of him by God. Our pastor spoke of anxiety, severe stressful anxiety that leaves your stomach tied in knots.

When I heard this I thought of my own experience regarding the United Methodist Church. And I thought of the shared experiences of many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in their churches; many of them Methodist, but from other denominations as well.

I will not reveal names, but I can count numerous friends who will not set foot in the United Methodist Church again because of the anti-gay policies of the church.

If you have not been rejected by your church; if you have not been told you are an abomination; if you have not been told you are doomed to hell because you are gay, then you might not understand the knot in one’s stomach when they try to enter the door of a church.

But imagine being told that your very existence is incompatible with Biblical teaching.  When you hear this, you know that there is no sense in sitting and listening to any message of love or service or neighbors, because you don’t count. You are worthless. You are told you made a choice; a sinful choice.

 A young gay man named Jonah, aptly named for this blog post, from a video he posted a few years ago.

From here you take one of two paths. Path one leads away from the church, but you are a strong person and you do well without the church. You have been taught that God created you as an abomination, only to be condemned for who you are. Who needs a God that made you only to condemn you? The church is no longer a part of your life. God is no longer a part of your life.

Path two is a darker journey. You can’t get over the fact that your God created you to be hated by your fellow man, by your family, and by God himself. You suffer from depression. You may even take your own life.

I know of people from each of these categories.

We often hear at Discovery United Methodist Church that God loves us all. We hear about loving your neighbor as we love ourselves. But do we realize that “all” includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons? Do we realize that our “neighbors” include LGBT as well as straight people that surround us? 

We heard today that the world is broken, as evidenced by the events in the local and world news. I want to suggest that the United Methodist Church is broken as well.

The Hospitality Group is trying to bring others to the realization that LGBT people are not an abomination, that we are not to be hated or shunned because of who we are, and that the Methodist Church (and Discovery UMC) needs to change in order to repair the brokenness that holds us back.

In our group we have studied Martin Luther King Jr.’s book, “Why We Can’t Wait.”  Dr. King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

There is a lot of silence at Discovery. We are afraid to talk about it. This whale is swallowing us all.

We should all be working for inclusion of the gay community (and others). We should be a leader in this regard. If you are not sure about this, or are uncomfortable, or would like to learn more, please join our group. It is a place where everyone (and we really mean it) is welcome, and it is a place to learn.

This week in our Wednesday night meeting we will be studying etymology. What this means is we will be studying some words in the Bible, how the words came to be, and how they came to be translated into their current understanding (or misunderstanding). It is part of our understanding of the book we are studying, "God's Gay Agenda" by pastor Sandra Turnbull.

I urge every one of you to join our group on Wednesday night. If you are not familiar with our group, you will be surprised at what we stand for, how open our discussions are, and at what you might learn.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Chicken Soup

The Year of Bessemer Food

This being the last day of the year, and me recovering from a mild case of the flu or a persistent cold, I think it appropriate to share my recipe for chicken soup. It cures.

There are so many flavors in this soup, and it does take a little extra effort, but it is worth it.

To save time, cut up the vegetables and cook your rice while the chicken is cooking.

Chicken Soup

3 chicken breasts, skinless*
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup white wine
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
2 small onions (or 1 medium)
1/2 tsp salt
1 can chicken broth

For prepared rice
1/2 cup rice
1 cup water
1 tsp crushed rosemary

*If the chicken breasts are "huge," filet them to make 2 pieces from each, cook all of it and use 1/2 for the soup and the rest for sandwiches the next day.

In a baking pan, whisk together olive oil, wine, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Coat the chicken in the mixture and lay the pieces in the rest, in the pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.

Peel and slice the carrots very thin. Slice the celery very thin. Peel and quarter the onions, and then slice very thin.

 Prepare rice by bringing 1 cup of water to a boil, add 1/2 cup of rice and 1 tsp rosemary. Reduce heat and simmer until done, about 20 minutes.

Shred chicken with fork or fingers and combine with vegetables in pot. Add salt and chicken broth, and one or more cans of water to make soup the consistency you like.

Add 1/2 cup or so of pan drippings to soup (try not to add too much oil/grease).

Add prepared rice.

Heat to boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 or 15 minutes.


And Happy New Year and have a prosperous and joyful 2013.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Guns don't die; children do

Yesterday another mass killing took place. It really doesn't matter whether it was 27, 7, or one that was killed; it's too many.

And we pray for the victims and their families. The nation is praying.

But I am tired of something. I am tired of every time a well publicized shooting takes place, I hear "This is not the time to discuss gun control."

We heard it the day Gabby Giffords was shot and several of her constituents died. But nothing meaningful was discussed afterwards either.

We heard it when the theater shooting took place in Aurora, Colorado. But nothing meaningful was discussed after that either.

And we heard it today from the President's press secretary.

Well, today we are discussing it. Twenty children died at the hands of a disturbed individual. So did seven adults. For the killer, it must have been easy for him to acquire the guns that he used. That's the way it is in America. That's the way the NRA wants it. That's the way most of the people in Alabama want it. They want mentally ill people to be able to acquire guns, even if it means that on occasion teenagers at a movie premiere or elementary age children in class are killed, because they think that if it is made more difficult for some people to acquire killing machines, then it could become more difficult for them to acquire the same.

If they didn't want it this way, they would fight for change. But they don't.

And here is part of the problem. Let's start with the Bible. Many in our state and around the country think of the Bible as the infallible word of God. Some of us recognize the fallibility in it. For instance, the Bible says to stone a woman who marries who is not a virgin. To me, that is a fail.

I could give other examples.

But regardless of what one thinks about the Bible, it cannot be changed. The way it is interpreted can be changed, but the Bible itself cannot be.

Now; the Constitution. Many Republicans, and some others, think it is also infallible. But we know it had has faults. Slavery...women...were not equal in the beginning of this country. But we corrected that. We are still working on inequality for gays. So...the Constitution can be changed. And even easier, laws can be changed.

No one is calling for banning guns. But let's all admit that when the Second Amendment was written, the object that the early Americans wanted to defend themselves against was the tyrannical government of England . The Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting or feeding one's family. Tyranny is not something we worry about today (I won't even reference George W. Bush here).

We could easily...easily pass laws that make guns and especially automatic and semi-automatic weapons less accessible to the mentally ill and criminals. We could require background checks.  We could make it so guns could not be sold easily at gun shows and flea markets. I am not a policy maker, but I'm sure there are other steps that could be taken as well.

But the NRA and those who want mentally ill people and criminals to be able to get guns easily will try to prevent meaningful legislation from being passed. And in doing so, they you are just as guilty as the one who pulls the trigger next time a killing like this takes place.

If you are not for strengthening gun laws, and if you contribute to the NRA, you are making it easy for the mentally ill and criminals to get guns. You will have a role in the next mass killing of kids...or shoppers...or office workers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


There I said it.

Well, I wrote it; against the Associated Press's recommendations.

The AP Stylebook is a guide for grammar, punctuation and principles for journalists and editors and writers (and grad students). 

Yesterday it was reported that they no longer want writers to use the word "homophobia."

Technically, the word should mean an irrational fear of homosexuals, or "queer fear."

But the word has come to include all of those who are against gay equality, whether fear is involved or not. And homophobia can be internalized, as when a person who is gay is afraid of their own sexuality and works to hide it or even legislate against their own self interests, in the case of lawmakers such as Larry "I am not a homophobic" Craig. Homophobia can also be institutionalized, as when governments or churches pass restrictions against gay people.

The AP now says that -phobia denotes "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness." And that to use the term homophobia makes an assumption about the person that may not be true and that we just don't know, like assuming they are mentally ill or irrational.

But homophobia often nearly always  does indicate an irrational fear. Maybe not of an individual gay person, but this.

Most anti-gay (to use AP approved words) attitudes are related to religion. And religious leaders in the anti-gay movement often nearly always say things like allowing gay marriage will lead to the downfall of society and that gay acceptance is angering God and He is retaliating by bringing storms like Sandy and Katrina to our shores.

Now if those are not irrational fears I don't know what is.

And institutional homophobia is based on fear too. Lawmakers fear that voting for acceptance of gays will cause them to lose their position in office. That is irrational. Across the country gay people were elected in record numbers at all levels of government, including our first gay (lesbian) senator, Tammy Baldwin.

Word control

I'm reminded of being told several years ago by a prominent gay leader in Birmingham not to use the word "homosexual" in writing. "Ever!"

This was after I had written about articles (on this blog) about people of his (our) sexual orientation. And when talking about the orientations; heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality, there are no other words to describe them. "Gay" is not an orientation.

And when writing from a historical perspective sometimes it is necessary to use the word as well.

And finally, I am not going to let the religious right scare me into not using the proper term to describe myself, as they had scared that person into denying himself of being a proud homosexual. In fact, I guess that man was a victim of his own internalized homophobia.

Likewise, I am not going to allow the AP to water down homophobia into "anti-gay."

I live with the effects of homophobia every day. I cannot marry my partner. Homophobia. I can be fired from my job (if I had one) for being gay. Homophobia. I can be beat to within an inch of my life because I am gay and it not be called a hate crime in this state. Homophobia. I can be jeered at and taunted for holding my partner's hand walking down the street. Homophobia. I am hesitant to put my arm around my partner's shoulder in church even though I see straight men doing it every Sunday. Homophobia. I can't donate blood even though I am HIV negative and have been in a monogamous relationship for 11 years. Homophobia. I had restricted visitation with my children after my divorce. Homophobia. I was banned from visiting my son for lunch or other activities at Green Valley Elementary School in Hoover. Homophobia.

I could go on.

But with so much homophobia around us, I don't see how we can stop using the word.

(photo from the Wipe Out Homophobia facebook page.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fired up! Ready to keep going!

After digesting the election results last night, I went to bed full of hope (like I did four years ago). But I woke up this morning and checked a few facebook pages belonging to Republican friends and listened for a minute to Fox News and then reality sunk in.

We can hope that cooperation will take place in Washington, but John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are still in charge of their House and Senate caucuses, respectively,  and Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh are still bloviating.

But let's just think about what happened last night.

The United States re-elected its first African-American president.  This is huge!

Here is President Obama's speech from last night (this morning) in case you missed it. You need to listen, because he is YOUR president, and he has your best interests at heart.

Four states voted in favor of LGBT marriage. Maryland, Maine and Washington affirmed same-sex marriage, and in Minnesota a constitutional amendment to prevent it was defeated. This is huge!

Here is a song about marriage equality by Sean Chapin.

The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, is safe. In 2014 it will be in full effect and people will see that it is a good thing, and by 2016 it will be appreciated.  This is huge!

Here is a video about Health Care Reform through political cartoons.

The Supreme Court will not become more right-leaning over the next 4 years. This is huge!

Here is a video to remind you how crazy the Supreme Court makes people.

And this is Bruce Springsteen from a few years ago, looking good. Springsteen brought some crowds to see the President during he campaign, so he gets a mention here.

So we progressives are still fired up, and we are ready to promote our agendas.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Amendments - how to vote

My philosophy regarding amendments to the Alabama Consititution for years has been to always vote no unless something really, really important to me was being addressed by a particular issue. This is because our constitution is so outdated, and voters need to send a message to the legislators and the other voters that we want a new constitution and we want it now. It's ridiculous that we have to vote on an amendment every time a local water system needs to change (Amendment 5), or a city wants to annex rural land (Amendment 3) or when police jurisdictions are in question (Amendment 11). But in some years, an issue tops my ideology.

This is one such year. Forever Wild, the agency that has purchased 231,000 acres reserved for public use, is funded by revenue from the state's oil and gas trust fund. This amendment allows funding to continue for the next 20 years.

Alabama ranks dead last in availability of public lands for recreational use.

The Birmingham News says "And we will almost certainly still be in last place in 2032," when this will probaby come up for funding again, assuming it passes this year.

So the Bessemer Progressive says to vote "Yes" on Amendment 1.

Amendment 2 is tricky. Some Democrats are saying to vote yes, but I say hold your ground and vote "No."

"Borrow, borrow, borrow," and "cut, cut, cut,"  have been the answers from Republicans when asked about solving our state's fiscal problems. The Republicans refuse to responsibly consider raising revenue to help address our problems, and this is just another example of their philosophy. Vote "No" on Amendment 2.

All of the other amendments deserve a "No" vote for the reason pointed out in the first paragraph.

But Amendment 4 needs special mention. This amendment removes racist language from the Constitution. But it really doesn't. Alabama's Constitution was written in 1901and amended many times and is peppered with words and phrases that are demeaning to African Americans. If this amendment passes, do those words just disappear?  Will my copy of the Alabama Constitution then have blank lines and pages where the racist language once appeared?

No, the language will still be there, the amendment just says we will ignore it.

As long as the 1901 Constitution is our state governing document, we will live under it's shame, regardless of how many coats of whitewashing are applied.

The rich, white, racist men that wrote the Alabama Constitution in 1901

But this amendment is harmful in another way. It would affirm that the children in Alabama do not have a right to public education.

Here is how Judge Mark Kennedy explained it.

In 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregated schools, Alabama added Amendment 111 to our state constitution. Amendment 111 has three paragraphs: the first eliminated the right to a public education, the second helped start private segregation academies, and the third demanded the segregation of students. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down amendment 111, but it still embarrassingly remains in the state constitution. We tried to eliminate Amendment 111 altogether in 2004, but the attempt failed. The legislature took up the cause again this past year, but the Republican Supermajority decided to only take out the third paragraph and leave the other two in place. If we vote “YES”, we will be reaffirming paragraphs one and two. Why didn’t the Republicans bring up a clean bill that got rid of all of Amendment 111? After their attempts at charter schools, their attacks on teachers, and attempts to raid the Education Trust Fund, you can only imagine what they’re up to.

So vote "No" on Amendment 4.

And vote "No" on all the other amendments, except for Amendment 1.

But most of all, Vote on Tuesday.