Tuesday, July 3, 2012

PRIDE SERMONS: Stacy Graffam at St. Mark's: Teaneck

Stacy Graffam, a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Teaneck, N.J., gave a reflection at the parish's Pride Service on Sunday, June 24th. Stacy blogs about her life with wife Donna and their two kids at Out In Suburbia and has also written for Gay Parent magazine.

PRIDE SERMONS: Michael Petti at St. Peter's: Clifton

Mr. Michael Petti, a long-time advocate of LGBT inclusion and former commission member of The OASIS, the LGBT Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, has shared with us the text of a reflection he gave at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Clifton on Sunday June 24th, when the parish observed its patronal festival and celebrated Pride Sunday using the readings for the Feast of St. Peter & St. Paul, which fell later in the week.

Michael compares Jesus' seemingly nagging Peter by repeatedly asking "do you love me?" to the distrust many LGBT people have for the institutional church, in light of how religious institutions have historically treated them. This is a distrust we, the church, have earned, and Michael urges us all to strive towards a place of welcome upon which our brothers and sisters can count.

Newark Teen Deputy Gibson Oakley Cites LGBT Inclusion as Convention Priority

Gibson Oakley made no bones about what will be on his mind as he heads to General Convention this week. One of two teenagers who will be part of the lay deputation representing the Diocese of Newark, Gibson told those who would be voting for him that the church needs to be a welcoming haven for LGBT youth who encounter hostility on a daily basis.

 "Over eighty-five percent of LGBT students have experienced some form of harassment at school," Gibson told those at an elections meeting at Newark's Diocesan Convention in January of 2011, when he was just 16. "Many of these teens feel that they have nowhere to turn and some, unfortunately, kill themselves. I believe that our own churches should be places where gay teens may turn in times of trouble."

Oakley also thinks the church should proceed with blessing same-sex relationships as marriages. “As a gay man,” he added, “I would like to walk down the aisle in a church and hear the celebrant utter the words 'I now pronounce you husbands'.”

Oakley's comments were met with a resounding cheer. And then, after several rounds of voting, he won. “When they put the results on the screen, I looked up but it didn't register. Then my friend said, 'You got it'. But it really struck me when Kai (Alston, diocesan Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries) came over and gave me a big hug. I realized that what I had worked for was really coming true.”

Hardly a one-issue candidate, Oakley also cites domestic violence, volunteerism, and the environment as areas of personal focus. He and fellow deputy Caroline Christie worked with Integrity founder Dr. Louie Crew in advance of the election. As a long-time member of the Executive Committee and fixture at General Convention, Dr. Crew helped prepare the young candidates for the election and what will follow. Read more about Gibson & Caroline's election at the Diocese of Newark's special convention coverage site: