Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Presiding Bishop's Message on World AIDS Day

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The first day of December is marked as World AIDS Day, and has been observed since 1988. Episcopalians join billions of people around the world to remember the devastation caused by the AIDS pandemic over the past generation, and to recommit to ensuring a future without AIDS for generations still to come. As our church year begins, it is especially appropriate to remember, pray, and work together to alleviate the suffering inflicted by this disease and its consequences.

As Episcopalians, we understand that we are part of a body that has AIDS – both the Body of Christ and the larger body of the family of God. More than half of our worldwide Anglican Communion lives in countries destabilized by epidemic rates of HIV infection, including several dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Parish communities in the United States have been responding to HIV and AIDS for more than 25 years.

In the United States, this year’s commemoration comes in a moment of transition for American democracy. A new President and new Congress will shape this nation’s response to HIV/AIDS at home and around the world. Many significant challenges face America’s leaders in the coming years.

We must find ways to build on successes in fighting HIV and AIDS in the developing world. American leadership since 2003 has brought life-saving treatment to more than 1.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (in contrast to 50,000 in 2002), while supporting more than 33 million counseling and testing sessions and providing prevention services for nearly 13 million pregnant women. Still, more than 6,000 people continue to die each day as a result of the pandemic, and infection rates in some of the hardest-hit places continue to grow. Earlier this year, Congress and the President pledged significantly increased funding, and renewed strategies, for the global fight against AIDS. It will be up to the new Congress and Administration to keep the promises that have been made by their predecessors.

The incoming Administration of President-elect Obama is soliciting suggestions from citizens for national priorities in the year ahead at www.change.gov. I urge all Episcopalians living in the United States to ask President-elect Obama and his Administration to make the fight against AIDS at home and around the world a priority, even in difficult economic times. The security and well-being of the world depends on health and healing for all. You can join your voice with those of other Episcopalians who will take action in the months and years ahead to advocate for strong U.S. responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by signing up for the Episcopal Public Policy Network at www.episcopalchurch.org/eppn.

I commend to Episcopalians the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition, www.neac.org, a grassroots group that has been working in Episcopal communities for more than two decades to support caregivers, give guidance on prevention, and advocate for a more compassionate AIDS policy. In particular, I draw your attention to the online quiz NEAC has developed for Episcopal communities to commemorate this World AIDS Day.

Christians around the world marked the First Sunday of Advent yesterday as a season of hope and expectation, remembering that the "Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:2). On this World AIDS Day, I pray that the God who tents with humanity will raise us up to work together to make the divine dream of healing and abundant life for all creation a reality – may your kingdom come, O Lord, and speedily.

Your servant in Christ,
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Other Sheep: Interdenominational Group Supports Kenyan Priest's Work with LGBT Community

Other Sheep is an interdenominational, multicultural ministry to sexual minorities. Its story began in Latin America, the brain child of the Rev. Dr. Tom Hanks, a Presbyterian missionary from St. Louis (he jokingly refers to himself as "the Original Tom Hanks). It is focused on bringing the message of inclusion to areas of the world where it has not been heard.

Today Other Sheep works with existing LGBT ministries and helps to form new ones, particularly where none exist. The organization helps connect people and organizations to strengthen them through networking and information sharing. It operates 74 resource centers in the developing world, where it provides positive material related to sexual diversity, the Bible and Christian life. A team of theological scholars, including Hanks, writes and teaches in English and Spanish about the subject of sexuality in the Bible. Men and women who feel called to ministry but are unable to fulfill that call within their own denomination, or who feel called to work with sexual minorities, are sought out, mentored and encouraged.

Steve Parelli, (Other Sheep's Executive Director and himself a former Baptist minister) and his partner José Ortiz met the Rev. Michael Nzuki Kimindu during a missionary trip to Africa in 2007. Rev. Kimindu is an Anglican priest in Nairobi, Kenya. A married heterosexual man with children who spent nearly 20 years as a chaplain in the Kenyan military, Rev. Kimindu is an unlikely advocate for the rights of LGBT people. During his military chaplaincy, he counseled a chronically-depressed young serviceman whom no-one could seem to help. Through their conversations, the young man revealed his attraction to other men. Kimindu's acceptance and encouragement turned the young man's life around.

Kimindu wrote a scholarly paper about his observations about human sexuality within military culture. Having retired with the rank of Major, he organized and leads a weekly fellowship for LGBT people in his home and monthly meetings of P-FLAG. Upon learning about Other Sheep's visit to Kenya from a colleague they encountered at Nairobi's Anglican cathedral, he eagerly reached out to Steve & José, anxious to meet Christians who shared his beliefs in LGBT inclusion. Steve's recollection of that encounter is here.

Today Rev. Kimindu is the Other Sheep Coordinator for East Africa. Upon learning of Kimindu's involvement with a LGBT organization, the Archbishop of Kenya (the Most Rev. Benjamin M. Nzimbi) inhibited him from his leadership duties at St. Luke's Church, where he is resident. He also received a cut in pay, but was determined to continue his important work for this vulnerable population. He is exploring the possibility of affiliating with the LGBT-majority Metropolitan Community Church. He has also attracted the attention and support of Changing Attitudes, the organization, led by Davis Mac-Iyalla, that is working towards acceptance of LGBT people within Africa's Anglican churches.

In October, Steve and Jose met with members of The Oasis Commission to discuss the needs of this fledgling ministry, which include a digital camera and a more current computer so that Rev. Kimindu can share information more easily with the rest of the organization and help tell the story of LGBT people in Kenya. The Oasis is considering contributing toward the purchase and donation of both items.

Meanwhile, on November 10th, Rev. Kimindu was expelled from the clergy chapter meeting at Nairobi's cathedral, according to the Anglican LGBT support group in Africa, Changing Attitudes. This despite what appears to be a softening stance towards his work by the Archbishop of Kenya, according to the Changing Attitudes article.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Louie Crew to Lead Discussion of Biographic Film July 12th

Christ Episcopal Church in Belleville, NJ, has announced a benefit showing of the film Not That Kind Of Christian on Saturday, July 12th at 7:00 P.M. The showing of the film is free (There is a $10 suggested donation) and all proceeds will benefit Integrity, to help support its presence at the Lambeth Conference in August. Dr. Louie Crew, founder of Integrity and one of the persons interviewed in the film, will be with us to lead discussion following the showing of the film. Refreshments will also be served.

Not That Kind Of Christian (2007) is a feature documentary, written and directed by Andrew Grossman, that explores gay and lesbian Christians' struggle for acceptance in the Episcopal Church, the "schism" their defiant activism threatens to bring to worldwide Anglicanism, and the ways in which activists such as these can profoundly shape our personal liberties at the highest institutional levels. While the film celebrates the achievements made by queer Anglicans as they fight to transform an oppressive Christian tradition into a modern force of liberation, it never excuses the prejudices and abuses of organized religion, particularly in an era when the word "faith" is merely code for the nationalistic and homophobic violence organized religion often fosters. As the film's devoutly Christian (and male) interviewees offer an internal critique of Christian patriarchy, the film ultimately implies that our best cure for homophobia should come from within the Church, the institution most responsible for propagating homophobia.

Integrity is a nonprofit organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Episcopalians and our straight friends. Since our founding by Dr. Louie Crew in rural Georgia in 1974, Integrity has been the leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Episcopal Church and our equal access to its rites.

The Lambeth Conference is the gathering of all bishops and primates of the Anglican Communion, of which is Episcopal Church in the United States is a part, under the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This two-week conference will be held this year in August at Lambeth Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church is a very controversial topic and Integrity will be there to be sure their presence is heard.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

OASIS Plans for Heritage of Pride NYC June 29th

The Episcopal Diocese of New York has invited The OASIS to participate with them in the annual LGBT Pride March on Sunday, June 29th 2008.

The meeting place for the March is 53rd Street between 5th and Madison Avenues. Step off time is expected to be 1:30 PM

Integrity New York City will sponsor a Street Eucharist on 53rd Street prior to the March at 12:45 PM. The Most Reverend Carlos Touché-Porter, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Mexico, will be celebrant.

After the march (at 6:30 PM) there will be a Festive Choral Evensong at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, located at 487 Hudson Street just below Christopher Street. The Most Reverend Carlos Touché-Porter, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Mexico, will preach, and a reception will follow on the grounds.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's the Episcopal Church Doing Marching in Pride Parades

Our friend Susan Russell, who blogs over at An Inch at a Time, quoted from last Sunday's Sermon at St. Paul's in Tustin, CA to answer just that. Seeing the church engaging in this evangelism (because that's what it is!) was enough to bring at least one long-lapsed Christian to our doors.

Check it out here.

Meanwhile, the Pride events in our area are as follows:

  • Sunday, June 1st - New Jersey Pride in Asbury Park
    The OASIS will be sharing a table with Christ Church: Belleville
    Visit jerseypride.org for details
  • Week of June 7th - Newark-Essex Pride in Newark
    Visit newarkessexpride.org for a full list of events
  • Week of June 22nd - NYC Gay Pride 2008
    OASIS plans TBD - check our website for details
    Visit hopinc.org for a full list of events
  • Saturday, August 23rd - Jersey City Pride
    The OASIS will be sharing a table with Christ Church: Belleville
    Visit jclgo.org for details

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hiker's Mass & Pot Luck Supper to Celebrate OASIS 19th Anniversary

You are cordially invited to attend the OASIS 19th Anniversary Hiker’s Mass and Pot Luck Supper, to be held Saturday, June 7, 2008. The plan for the day is follows:

  • Assemble at 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of St. David's Episcopal Church, 91 Kinnelon Road, Kinnelon NJ (map and directions below)
  • We will travel as a group to Shepherd Lake State Park, Ringwood, NJ
  • There are two Hiking Trails – one is very easy (about 30 minutes each way), one moderately easy (about 45 minutes each way) – both lead to same destination
  • Eucharist will be held at a scenic overlook, The Rev. David DeSmith, Presiding
  • Pot luck at St. David’s Church following the hike
  • In case of inclement weather the anniversary Eucharist and pot luck will still be held at St. David’s Church and parish hall at 4:00 PM. Check our page or call St. David's at (973) 838-6696 the morning of the event if you are unsure if the event has been changed.

All are welcome!

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TRANSIT OPTION: NJ Transit's 194 bus from New York calls at the Meadtown Shopping Center, which is under a mile from St. David's. You would need to be on the 10:10 a.m. departure from Port Authority to be at the event on time. There is a bus back to the city at approximately 6 p.m. Please contact NJ Transit directly at njtransit.com or 800-772-2222 for details. Schedules are subject to change.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bishop of San Francisco Comments on Marriage Ruling

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, has issued the following statement concerning today's California Supreme Court decision regarding same-gender relationships:

Today's Supreme Court decision on same-gender relationships is important because it reflects our baptismal vow to "strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being" and our commitment to justice and mercy for all people.

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has been a leader in working for the rights of all people in the State of California, and that work is honored in today's ruling. The canons of our church, under "Rights of the Laity" (Canon 1:17.5), forbid discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age. We affirm equal rights for all.

We will continue to advocate for equality in the future and will do so at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which will meet in Anaheim in 2009.

I celebrate and give thanks for this decision of the court and look forward with joy and excitement to a future of justice and mercy for all people in the State of California and the Episcopal Church.

To paraphrase St. Paul, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, gay nor straight in Jesus Christ our Lord.

J. Jon Bruno
Bishop of Los Angeles

Friday, March 28, 2008

Screening For the Bible Tells Me So

The OASIS and the Gay/Straight Alliance at Christ Church: Ridgewood will offer a screening of For the Bible Tells Me So, an award-winning documentary about the lives of gay and lesbian Christians and their families, including New Hampshire bishop Gene Robinson and the daugther of former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt.

  • WHEN: Friday, April 11th at 7:00 p.m.
  • WHERE: Christ Episcopal Church, Franklin Ave. & Cottage Pl., Ridgewood, N.J.

    Public Transit Nearby:
    • Bus Routes: 163, 164, 175, 722, 746 - .2 miles
    • Railroad: Main Line & Bergen Line to Ridgewood station - .4 miles

  • COST: Suggested donation of $5 for refreshments
  • Panel Discussion will follow