Wednesday, June 24, 2009
This is especially true among those in the higher income "society" circles and among the powerful people of Texas cities, although I suspect this is not a phenomenon limited to Texas. God knows it's rife all through the Anglican Communion.
One of the subjects"we just don't talk about" is rich, famous or powerful people who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This tends to play out in ways that can make one's head spin.
Here is the headline in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Broadway Baptist kicked out of Southern Baptist Convention
The story said, "Broadway Baptist Church has been kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention because its stance on homosexuality is too lenient, convention members said.
"Convention delegates, known as messengers, voted Tuesday to end the 127-year relationship with the historic Fort Worth church during the annual convention being held in Louisville, Ky.
"The vote affirmed that the relationship between Broadway and the convention cease, 'and that the church’s messengers not be seated,' according to Roger Oldham, vice president for convention relations with the executive committee.
"The committee made the recommendation Monday.
"Stephen Wilson, a member of the executive committee, told the Baptist Press that 'the church was in effect saying that it was OK to have members who are open homosexuals.'
"The 2,000-member church could seek reinstatement if it 'unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the Convention under Article III,' according to the committee."
And how is Broadway to do that?
"David Lowrie, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Canyon and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told the Baptist Press that Broadway 'needed to express those convictions in a practical way. They, for whatever reason, weren’t able to do that.'
"Lowrie said, for example, that Broadway could have started a ministry to help people with 'unhealthy lifestyles.'"
Does that mean they should start a ministry for all the obese people at Broadway? Or all the smokers? I think not.
I am sorry about Broadway Baptist, because it has long been a moderating influence in the conservative Christian community -- obviously too moderate for the determined-to-be-purer-than-pure Baptists.
But people in Fort Worth know there is a limit to how much more Broadway Baptist can do on the issue of homosexuality, given that their most high profile member -- and one of the biggest rainmakers for donations to the church -- is world renowned pianist Van Cliburn. Van regularly attends Broadway, reportedly with his partner. If he suggests to someone in Fort Worth that they donate to one of Broadway's ministries, it happens. With big donations.
Van was very discreet while his mother was alive -- and social Fort Worth cooperated by not noticing anything. Fort Worth is like that. Folks here will look past a lot as long as people don't do it in the streets and scare the horses.
And it's not just Baptists. The oldest and richest parish in the diocese, attended by many "old Fort Worth" families,"left' with Iker. Its ministers never miss an opportunity to slam the Episcopal Church on homosexuality. But one of the largest endowments of this church was left to it by an openly lesbian artist.
Have these pure former Episcopalians refused to use that 'tainted"money. You bet your boots not. And they haven't returned it to the Episcopal Church yet either.
But back to the Baptists.
Cliburn moved to Fort Worth from New York City in 1985 with his mother. Here's what a blurb about the Broadway Baptist Cliburn Organ says:
"After the death of her husband in 1974, Mrs. Cliburn shared Van's New York apartment until 1985, when they moved to the estate that had previously belonged to Kimbell Art Museum benefactor Kay Kimbell in the Westover Hills neighborhood of Fort Worth. There she lived her final years, lionized as the mother of an international concert star and musical celebrity. As long as her health permitted, well into her nineties, she circulated prominently in Fort Worth society at her son's side at cultural and church events (she was a lifelong, devoted Southern Baptist) and frequently entertained visiting musical artists. She died at the age of ninety-seven in Fort Worth on August 3, 1994, five days after suffering a stroke. The huge Rildia Bee O'Bryan Organ at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth was under construction at the time."
The Rildia Bee O'Bryan Organ is something indeed. More than seven thousand people attended the six dedication concerts and services of the Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn Organ.
In 1996 Cliburn was very publicly outed when a former partner sued him, alleging that Cliburn exposed him to the AIDS virus.
Keven O'Hanlan, reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, broke the story which was picked up by the Associated Press and run in the Star-Telegram [the local paper never did its own story on this]:
"A former associate sued pianist Van Cliburn for palimony, seeking millions in cash and property and alleging that Cliburn exposed him to the AIDS virus although Cliburn has never tested positive for the virus.
"Thomas E. Zaremba, 48, a former member of the board of the Van Cliburn Foundation, brought the suit this week in a court that normally handles divorces.
"'This has been absolutely a shocking surprise to me this afternoon,' said Cliburn, 61.
"Cliburn's lawyer, Dee Kelly, said the claims are false and were an attempt at extortion. 'Van Cliburn categorically denies the charges,' Kelly said.
"Zaremba is represented by attorney Mike McCurley, who represented tennis player Martina Navratilova as the defendant in similar litigation four years ago.
"McCurley said Zaremba met Cliburn in 1968 and the two became sexual partners in 1977. The lawyer described the relationship as 'akin to a common-law marriage'and said it broke up two years ago.
"McCurley said Zaremba had no reason to believe that Cliburn has tested positive for HIV, but accused the pianist of having sex with other people who were HIV-positive during the relationship. Zaremba does not have the AIDS virus, McCurley said, 'but he continues to be tested regularly because of his exposure.'
"Cliburn said he has not been tested for HIV and does not have AIDS.
"Zaremba, who teaches mortuary science at Wayne State University in Detroit, declined to comment when reached at his home in a Detroit suburb.
"Although the exact total had not been determined, Zaremba will seek 'multiple millions' of dollars in cash and property, McCurley said. He contended the pair agreed to share Cliburn's income in exchange for Zaremba serving as a business and personal consultant."
As the story says, this was not the first high-profile palimony fight Fort Worth society has had to ignore. In 1991, Navratilova -- who was living in Fort Worth -- told reporters "she lavished $1.6 million in cars, credit cards and cash on ex-lover Judy Nelson and her family over the course of their seven-year relationship.
"In return, the tennis champion described the former beauty queen as selfish and vindictive in an interview with reporters covering the celebrity palimony lawsuit hearing."
Nelson and Navratilova met at the high society River Crest Country Club, where Nelson was a member with her physician husband and Martina practiced. The highly visible affair between the two women and Nelson's subsequent divorce was studiously treated as invisible by social Fort Worth as was their 7-year relationship, most of which took place right here in Cowtown.
Reports are that Navratilova ended up paying Nelson a million dollars. If Cliburn settled his lawsuit it was done out of the public eye. And no one ever talked about it pubicly.
Many say this kind of tact is the oil of the gears of Society. Maybe so.
But this oil turns rancid and smells of hypocrisy in Christian churches when it's used to single out one group of the Baptized as sinners so bad anyone who even tolerates them is to be cast out.
Someone should be ashamed here and it's not Broadway Baptist.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
ACNA'09: FROM MY EAR TO YOURS....
By David W. Virtue in Bedford, Texas
Rumors abound that Ft. Worth Bishop Jack Leo Iker's long term goal is to take his diocese to Rome. Not true. Numerous sources have told VOL that he is deeply committed to the new North American Anglican Province and he will work with his fellow bishops over the thorny issue of women's ordination.
A number of his Ft. Worth priests were recently seen at the Anglican Use conference in Houston. He has told them that if they want to go to Rome, they can do so, but they can't take their property with them.
One doesn't know where to start, does one?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Here's the text of a speech I wrote with my friend Ron Marasco for the Human Rights Campaign's recent gala in New Orleans.
I am so happy to be with all of you tonight. To celebrate the work you do--and to have a bourbon or two later.
The great Tennessee Williams wrote---
--of course I'm starting with Tennessee Williams. I'm in New Orleans, at the HRC gala, and I played Blanche DuBois.
Which is why I never go anywhere without a paper lantern in my purse.
Tennessee Williams wrote a line that I felt was appropriate for tonight. And appropriate to this time in our history, your history, and to the rights that everyone in this room is fighting for. It is a line that meant so much to him, it's on his gravestone.
"The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks."
"The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks."
To me, its meaning is simple. The hard, the cold, the oppressive will--at long last--be broken apart by a force that is beautiful, natural, colorful, alive.
That's what tonight is about, what the people in this room are about. We're a bunch of violets breaking through the rocks.
And it is happening.
The rock is cracking away. The rock of hate and falsehood is being broken apart.
All across this country, regular Americans who were born and bred in towns where a gay couple wouldn't dare walk down a street--all over these American Main Streets--something is changing.
Blue-collar guys are looking up from their work, grandmothers are speaking up at the dinner table; and they are saying something to members of their family, and co-workers, who are against gay marriage.
They are saying in one, increasingly-loud American voice, "Honey, rather than worry about who someone else loves--and why, think about who you hate--and why!"
The violets are breaking through the rocks.
America has always been a country of common sense. A country of innate goodness--although a goodness that is sometimes slow to action. As Winston Churchill said, "Americans are always ready to do the right thing. After they have exhausted all the other possibilities."
We have exhausted all the other possibilities. And it is time to call an injustice an injustice.
It is an injustice that we send a gay or lesbian soldier to die in a war--to give their life for a country that won't let them be legally bound to the person they love. It is an injustice that a soldier gives their life for a Military--an exemplary Military in every way--except one in which they cannot have the picture of their lover cut-out in the shape of a heart and taped to their locker because that would be "telling." Such a ugly word.
It is an injustice that, in this room, many of you pay your tax money to the very public institutions that deny you rights other Americans enjoy; pay your tax money for public schools that will not accept you as legal parents; pay your tax money for the paper on which they print the goddamn marriage licenses you cannot get.
And while you are paying your tax money for all of the above, a preacher can stand in the pulpit of a multi-million-dollar mega-church advocating the damnation of gay Americans and not pay one thin dime in taxes.
You know, I occasionally watch those preachers on the Christian TV stations.
I always think to myself: How can I believe your theology when I can't believe your hair?
I find it intellectually offensive when people shrink the Bible to fit the small-mindedness of their bigotry.
Leviticus 18:22 and Deuteronomy 22:5...the famous list of the "abominations." Bible verses which, by the way, also list as a mortal sin things like "the wearing of a garment made of two different kinds of fabric."
Yes, the Bible verse they use to condemn homosexuality also calls Polyester-blend an abomination.
Well, in this, perhaps the Lord has a point. But if you took away all the Polyester-blends in those mega-churches....most of the women would be naked.
In my Bible I see no evidence of Jesus telling same-sex couples they cannot love each other.
And he could have. He was a carpenter--if he made good furniture every gay man in Nazareth knew Him.
The fact is: it's happening.
All the violets--gay Americans, lesbian Americans, Bi-sexual Americans, transgender Americans, people of color, and the people of this city forgotten by Washington in hurricane Katrina--we are all are starting to break through the mountain of straight, white, male lawmakers in Washington.
Their time is over. And they know it. Which is why they are looking increasingly ridiculous and beleaguered. To me those guys look like one, big casting-call for the lead role in a very bad production of Death of Salesmen.
Because America is starting to say those lawmakers are wrong about "Don't ask don't tell," and wrong to oppose gay marriage. The way they were wrong, wrong, wrong about the war in Iraq.
A war that was created by who? A straight, white man named George W. Bush. A straight, white man named Dick Cheney. And a straight, white man named Condoleezza Rice.
The rocks are breaking. And it's time to call certain people on the hypocrisy of their stance against gay marriage.
Newt Gingrich: against gay marriage, but on his third wife.
That recent convert to an anti gay-marriage stance, Rudy Giuliani: third wife. Rush Limbaugh: vehemently against gay marriage and....yep, third wife. A third wedding that was performed by none other than Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Clarence Thomas: second wife.
4 men, eleven marriages, and you must be lectured on love by them? This Mount Rushmore of Divorce!
Ladies and gentlemen, as all of you in this room know so well, political activism tells us now what history will tell us later.
The people who support "don't ask don't tell;" and who oppose "gay marriage" are wrong. And their children and grandchildren will know they were wrong.
This is the age of Obama. And the people who oppose these causes need to realize that. But there is someone else who needs to realize that this is the Age of Obama.
It is time, Mr. President. Do not fall behind others on these issues. My God, Dick Cheney announced that he is in favor of gay marriage.
And on that very day, the National Weather Service reported hell froze over.
So Mr. President, please catch up. Or you are in danger of being considered "just to the right" of a man who is "just to the left" of Vlad-the-Impaler.
Newsweek magazine just said about gay marriage--and I quote: "This train's left the station. Time to get on board."
It is happening.
Something is changing.
Oh--there is still a lot of work to be done. But it will happen.
And when it does--when "Don't ask don't tell" is scrapped, when gay men and women can marry the people they love--when that day comes, people across this great land will be looking for a place to party.
And I say: Come on down to New Orleans! I'll be so happy I might swing naked in a window on Bourbon Street!
Me and Rachel Maddow!
Yes, across America we will celebrate because, at long last, that day will have arrived. But to the people in this room--that day will not only have arrived for you, it will have arrived because of you.
Thank you HRC. Here's to the violets.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I haven't watched David Letterman for years. I got tired of his sexism.
But I have read multiple news reports and watched video clips of his show in which these remarks were made. During a segment on the Top Ten Reasons Palin visited New York, one was to update her "slutty flight attendant look."
Even more egregiously, during his monologue, he said Palin attended a Yankees game with her daughter and "during the seventh inning her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez."
The daughter with Gov. Palin was 14-year-old Willow.
I am no fan of Sarah Palin. I think she would have been a disaster as vice president. But Letterman's "jokes' were sexist in the extreme, insulting not only Palin but every flight attendant in the industry.
And there is no excuse possible for the remark about her daughter.
Bristol Palin did not run for office. Her mother did. Bristol Palin already has had her out-of-wedlock pregnancy held up for examination by the entire world. I think enough's enough for her.
Letterman should be ashamed of himself.
When faced with the outrage, Letterman issued a sort-of apology in which he said he was referring to 18-year-old Bristol and explained that he would never make, say, rape jokes about a 14-year-old.
Here's a news flash, Dave. Making rape jokes about an 18-year-old isn't OK either.
Read my lips.
Rape jokes are never OK.
Monday, June 08, 2009
In 1893, Florence Bascom was the first woman to to receive a PhD from Johns Hopkins. However, she too had to sit behind a screen so the male students would not know she was there and be offended or distracted.
British-born Charlotte Angas Scott (1858-1931) was pivotal in the development of mathematics education in the United States. She was among the first faculty members at Bryn Mawr College and the school's first head mathematics teacher. Scott was awarded a scholarship to Hitchin College (now Girton College, the women's division of Cambridge University). She and the other women in her class were all required to sit behind a screen that separated them from the male students and obscured their view of the blackboard. Women also were not permitted to be at the commencement exercises.
But that was all so long ago. Right? Well, requiring women students to sit behind a screen or even out in a hallway at schools, universities and seminaries continued in some schools in the U.S. right up until the early to mid part of the last century. The people in charge did not want the male students to be offended or distracted.
African Americans endured even worse indignities as white America enacted laws designed to keep them "in their place" so they could not offend the sensibilities of white people. That's what segregation and then the Jim Crow laws were all about.
Even recognized heroes were not immune to the insults. In 1971, after a 40-year career in baseball, Leroy “Satchel” Paige became the first Negro League Player voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But Baseball Commissioner, Bowie Kuhn announced that Paige would be the first member of a Negro wing of the Hall of Fame. Sports writers exploded, saying that having a "Negro wing" was perpetuating the bad old separate-and-NOT-equal days of segregation. Outrage grew, and Kuhn finally convinced the board of the Hall of Fame that putting Paige in a separate corridor was a really bad idea. So Paige's plaque and those of other "Negro" players were put with all the rest.
It seems that any time those on the margins seek to be included, those in charge have moved to include them only after making sure the sensibilities of people like themselves [historically straight white men] are not offended.
That is what is happening in the Episcopal Church right now with our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters in Christ. After years of steady pressure, the church is slowly making moves to include them, but only if they will in essence sit behind a screen so as not to offend any of the people already inside the room.
That's why Gene Robinson was not invited to Lambeth, although the Archbishop of Canterbury did offer to let him speak in an exhibit hall of the Marketplace . . .
That is what B033 was and is all about -- making sure that the presence of LGBT Episcopalians in our church won't offend anyone anywhere who is made the slightest bit uncomfortable by their presence.
And that is why the closeted panel that is studying same sex relationships wants to keep itself secret "for a season." We apparently even have to study LGBT folk from behind a screen.
Someday our children will read of this time in our history and be just as amazed and outraged as you were when you read the first paragraph of this blog.
I hope some of those children will still be in the Episcopal Church.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
"We shortened the copy so that there will be room for the Spanish translation (coming soon) below it. It is part of our effort to welcome in many languages. French will be next. We just thought the page needed freshening and perhaps some specificity for seekers. Sorry if you liked the first copy better. Don't worry - it will change again. [...]"
You can read Mark's comments on this here.
So Anne Rudig is saying it was just an update to the page to "freshen" and shorten it. But it's not significantly shorter.
However, I am reminded of a piece of wisdom one of my first city editors gave me. He said, "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by imcompetence."
In this situation, incompetence is too harsh a word. The Church Center staff for the most part is very competent. Here I think it would be more accurate to say, "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by obliviousness."
End of Update.
My friend Jan Adams alerted me to something:
"Facing criticism for withholding information from its 2.3 million members, the Episcopal Church has quietly removed from its new IAmEpiscopalian.org website assurances that the church is committed to openness and transparency in government.
For months, the site had proclaimed on its home page: “Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections…” (See a copy of the original message here.)
If you had gone to the Church Center's web site until very recently, you would have seen this [emphasis added]:
Welcome to I am Episcopalian, launched this Ash Wednesday 2009, the beginning of Lent.
The Episcopal Church is a big, colorful, vibrant church. We hope you will see that in the wide spectrum of its members represented here on this site.
In our Church you may touch ancient traditions and experience intelligent inquiry. It is an expansive Church, a loving Church, with strong ties to our roots as a nation. We are a thoughtful, inquiring, freedom-loving and welcoming body, and we thrive not only in the U.S., but also throughout Latin America, Asia and Europe.
We invite you to see and hear the very personal reasons we choose to be Episcopalians. Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections, as well as share our joy in that which unites us - our openness, honesty and faith.
But if you go there today, you will see this:
The Episcopal Church welcomes you.
You will hear this recurring theme in the videos by clicking on them above. We welcome you not only in the U.S., but also in parts of Latin America, Asia and Europe.
In the Episcopal Church, we may all serve as preachers, teachers, or worship leaders. Both men and women are welcomed into ordained ministry. Each and everyone of the baptized may experience God's grace at the altar, and the knowledge that God loves you and forgives is always present.
The best way to experience how the Episcopal Church welcomes you is to visit. To find a church, please click "continue" below to the main website. To share a personal story of why you are an Episcopalian, follow the directions for uploading your video here.
No reference at all to being a freedom-loving church, or to transparency, honesty, openness, or the "freedom to see our imperfections"?
Why the change? Was it just a "routine" updating of the I am Episcopalian page? Or was it to remove embarrassing statements about transparency in the wake of the refusal to identify the members of the panel of the House of Bishops' theology committee that is "studying" same sex unions?
If it is the former, the timing is really really unfortunate.
And if it is latter, well, it at least proves someone at the Church Center had the grace to be embarrassed about the hypocrisy of talking about transparency while a secret panel examines the lives of one part of the baptized.
Whichever it is, everyone should be embarrassed about the secrecy.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
"A group formed by Episcopal Church bishops to study the theology of same-gender relationships has begun its work, but the chair of the committee that appointed the panel refuses at least for now to identify its members, a decision that critics say is insulting and lacking in transparency."
Here's how the committee chair, Diocese of Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley, justifies the secrecy of the panel:
"We believe that for a season the work can best be accomplished by allowing the panel to work in confidence. This supports the full collegiality and academic freedom of the theologians and provides the space they need for the deep dialogue and reflection that is taking place among them."
And here's my reaction to this.
If there is one thing a Texan recognizes, it is bull droppings. And this is a big pile of it.
"The committee's report says the House of Bishop requested the study, which is described as "designed to reflect a full spectrum of views and to be a contribution to the Listening Process of the Anglican Communion, as well as to the discussion of this subject in our province." The report calls the study 'a long-term, multi-step project' designed to be completed in 2011.
"Parsley said in his statement that he wanted to 'assure those concerned that the panel very intentionally represents a robust range of views on the subject and includes gay and lesbian persons.'
"The project, he said, 'is designed to articulate theologically a full range of views on the matter of same sex relationships in the church's life and to foster better understanding and respectful discernment among us.'"
Here's a piece of wisdom that I've learned from my LGBT friends as I've listened to them that I will share freely with Bishop Parsley and that is, the closet makes you sick.
No matter how you dress it up, no matter how you try to justify it, working in secret, living in secret makes you sick. It makes authenticity and integrity impossible.
What's more, as has been pointed out by Integrity time and again, and in the ENS story by the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers of the Chicago Consultation, this has been studied enough.
"Commending the committee for continuing the effort to study the issues of human sexuality in the life of the church, Meyers noted three of four official Episcopal Church studies in 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2003 involved the House of Bishops Theology Committee. Those studies include:
the House of Bishops' 1994 'Continuing the Dialogue: a Pastoral Study Document of the House of Bishops to the Church as the Church Considers Issues of Human Sexuality';
'The Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships' report of the Standing Liturgical Commission with the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops to the 72nd General Convention in 1997;
the liturgical commission's report to the 2000 General Convention titled 'Theological Aspects of Committed Relationships of Same-Sex Couples'; and the House of Bishops Theology Committee's 2003 report 'The Gift of Sexuality: A Theological Perspective'".
This "a long-term, multi-step project" is an obvious delaying tactic designed to give the House of Bishops cover for not moving beyond B033 and not moving toward marriage equality at this General Convention.
So, as a first-time deputy to General Convention, I want to know just how much more insult and injury are we planning to pile on the LGBT baptized?
First we asked LGBT priests to "for a season" stand aside and become official second class people in the church in an effort to appease those unhappy with the moves the Episcopal Church was making toward full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments.
Convention 2006 scapegoated LGBT clergy to appease bullies. And for what? NOBODY claims it worked.
Now we are supposed to ask LGBT Episcopalians to "for a season" accept the secrecy of this panel in order to let the members "reflect deeply" on same sex relationships for three years.
Why? Are they afraid that if we know who the members are they might be -- God forbid -- talked to by people whose relationships are the focus of the study?
Isn't that what a "Listening Process" is?
Enough already! I'm calling for an end to this season of waffling and delay.
It is time for this church to have the courage to include all the baptized in all the sacraments. It is time to say to the Communion, let us show you how we can include all the baptized AND participate fully in the life of the Communion. They are not mutually exclusive.
Yes, such a decision will resonate throughout the Anglican Communion.
Yes, many of the powerful men in the Anglican Communion will be angered and will issue reports and make threats.
But I guarantee you that the most powerless in the Anglican Communion -- straight women, girl children, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Anglicans in Africa, in Asia, in South America, in all those places where speaking the truth about who they are can get them imprisoned or killed -- those Anglicans will stand up and cheer that the Episcopal Church had the courage to do the right thing. Our actions can give hope and a vision of how things can be to more people than we can ever imagine.
So where will we choose to stand at this General Convention?
With the powerful?
Or with the powerless?
That's our choice.
Monday, June 01, 2009
My 91-year-old mother is sitting next to Gayland as the assembled clan eats, drinks and talks.
My daughter and her husband, two of my three brothers and nephews and grandchildren helped celebrate the day.
Then we all attended Gavin's play at his pre-school. He was a scarecrow.
He remembered all his gestures.
He liked his costume.
It was a good day.
And we all attended Curran's piano recital.
He was very poised and calm.
He played his piece accurately and well.
Next came Gavin's "graduation" from preschool, which made his Mom and Dad a little teary-eyed.
It was a serious occasion for Gavin.