Keep informed about our journey, Gay Into Straight America! Each week, we send out a newsletter. Below are links to the ones we have sent since the beginning of our year long journey, which began September 11, 2005. The most current one is at the top. Note: The last newsletter for this journey will be the December, 2006 newsletter, since our year long journey will be over; however, Stand UP Speak OUT, Inc. will continue with other projects. Gay Into Straight America was its initial one. Click here and sign up to receive our newsletter that will come from Stand UP Speak OUT in 2007. Those who have already been receiving this newsletter will automatically receive our Stand UP Speak OUT...Live Authentic newsletter.
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From PFLAG SW MIchigan to a forum on "Homosexuality, Civil Rights and the Church"
Mar 2, 2006
You can't hate someone whose story you know. Dare to know the story of those who are different.
“The tiniest story in your life can deeply touch another. You cannot know the effect your story might have.” --Sark
Let's start out with our "two cents worth!" Yes, one's religion is chosen, and yet has long been a protected group. To claim that "GLBT didn't choose to be this way" in hopes that those who are anti-gay/trans will one day accept us, sends the wrong message. It implies that there is something wrong with us, and that if only we could change we would. What if being GLBT is chosen? The question we ask about nature/nuture simply focuses in the wrong direction. The real issue is one of discrimination, and discrimination against being GLBT, whether chosen or not, is simply wrong. Discriminating against either GLBT (or religion) does not empower us to be a better society.
Before sharing about our travels to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where we spoke at the SW Michigan PFLAG, here's "Notes from camping in the Walmart parking lot."
Last week in Indianapolis, it got a little chilly as our propane ran out, and it was bedtime. No problem! We had our Buddy heater, and that was great until our little propane screw in cannister ran out in the early morning, and it was our last one.
Dotti: Truthfully, the memories were good, reminding me of being at Grandma's in Kentucky when I was a child. We were always toasty under the blankets and yet could "blow smoke" in the cold air. I love thinking of grandma. With Rylee Joy hugged close to us (we also put her blankets over top of our comforter), the the "memory connection" gained a new connection. This week, we are back in the Walmart parking lot in Indianapolis as we head south to Nashville. It’s different this time. The propane tank is full and the temperature is warmer. All seemed well until we went to bed last night.
If there was a moment when I felt anxious on our journey, it was last night. No, we didn't encounter any violence (physical, emotional, or spiritual from any person or situation), we simply encountered the wind! The Scotty was blowing back and forth, and I was glad when morning came! We are now on our way to Nashville, where we have an interview with Nashville's GLBT newspaper, The Freedom Press.
We promised to give the link for viewing the recent interview on Fox News in Louisville, Kentucky. Click here.
Remember to send us your nominations for Stand UP Speak OUT Wind Changer honorees. Click here for form.
Please give your prayers for Bill Merrell, who I just discovered had a brain stem stroke in 2003. Bill and I met in Lynchburg in 1999 when I went to Lynchburg with Soulforce to meet with friends of Rev. Jerry’s Falwell’s. As we sat together and drank water at the church (we originally were supposed to have dinner together, but Rev. Falwell changed his mind after receiving negative responses from supporters about “dining with sinners.”). Dr. Merrell, Sr. Advisor to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Conference, gave me his card and encouraged me to call him if I was ever in Nashville. I did, and the last time I saw him was in 2000 as we sat together in his office in Nashville. He shared with me then that his favorite nephew had died of AIDS, and that he had preached his funeral. Though we agreed to disagree on many basic viewpoints, I nonetheless have always had high regard for Dr. Bill Merrell. He has always been courteous enough to reply to an email, or to a phone call. This time was no exception. I had written and told him I would be in Nashville this week, sharing with him about our journey and letting him know that I would enjoy getting together with him, and having him meet Roby (who I identified as my spouse). He wrote back, and in one part of the email said,
“I won’t be available then. I no longer serve at the Executive Committee as I had a brain stem stroke in 2003. Sorry.”
I wrote back, sharing that, regardless of whether he was still serving with the Executive Committee, I would have loved to have seen him. I told him, “I am interested in you as a person. I am sorry you are not available when we are in town.”
In further email exchanges, he shared that he has done very well, although most of this kind of stroke is usually fatal. He said that he has made progress in very small increments.”
Back to last week. Interested about what happened in between the same Walmart parking lot where we stayed on our way north to Kalamazoo, and where we stayed on our way south to Nashville, Tennessee? Keep reading for the adventures of two women and a poodle.
We finally meet the “Scotty Goddess!” Of all places, Nancy Kroes lives in Delton, Michigan, just outside of Kalamazoo, where we spoke at PFLAG on February 26.
She is one lady who knows all things Scotty (the brand of our trailer, emblazoned with its mascot, a Scotty, on the decal). If it were not for her help, advice and encouragement, we may still be in Blaine trying to get the Scotty ready for a road trip! Back in the summer of 2005, after being gifted our beloved 13 ½ foot Scotty trailer by Barb & Sandy, Roby got to work researching everything she could find out about these little rigs. Anyone that really knows Roby, will understand this quite well. After all, she did research dogs for two years before deciding upon Rylee! She also made a career out of it for many years.
Nancy bought her first Scotty in 2004. Prior to this, she knew little about these little RV’s, not recognizing their popularity. In the past 1 ½ years, Nancy has rebuilt two Scotty’s and has purchased two 1961’s that she’s working on restoring now. Click here to see Nancy’s handiwork! Nancy also featured us on her recent Scotty Newsletter. Click here to read.
With her Scotty newsletter freshly emailed, we immediately received an invitation to visit Topeka, Kansas. No, it wasn't Fred Phelps, though we would welcome the opportunity to meet with him. Even though he is not "wrestling," meaning that there is no current movement in him to create a greater understanding and be welcoming and affirming, we will still avail ourselves to those whose opinioins differ, even Fred Phelps. His daughter, Shirley, at one time corresponded with me (Dotti) until she realized we were sharing our lives with one another. At that point, she blocked my email and I have never heard from her since.
Yes, the Scotty newsletter sparked new connections! "Howdy fellow Scottyites" was in the subject line, followed by this email.
Saw your trek linked in Nancy Kroes's Scotty newsletter. Admire your courage and your quest. As you may know Topeka, KS is the home of the infamous Fred Phelps. Paradoxically he makes this a pretty gay friendly town for the midwest, surprisingly. I have 2 gay sons and while they disliked the smallness of our town, really never met with any overt hostility. In fact my oldest about 8 years ago asked the principal if he could bring a male date to the prom. I was shocked when he got approval...Dont' know if you plan coming anywhere near our fair city, but if you should and are in your Scotty, we'd be glad to host you. We have 4 wooded acres and plenty of space for your Scotty.
Good luck and keep on Scottying. Bob and Robin
So, Topeka here we come (at some point in our journey!). Somehow we knew we would go through there at some point, and it is nice to know that there is someone there to welcome us! Thanks Bob and Robin!
On Nancy’s land. we snaked along the 400 foot bog walk she has built over the past two years, heading to the lake. Look at the natural beauty!
We also visited her folks, Keith and Dee, and their long haired Chihuahua, Sophie. We went to their home, since two of the Scotty trailers that Nancy is restoring, are in their garages. Not only was it great to meet them, but when asked why we were traveling around the country in our Scotty, we shared and connected with new folks! Families connecting and sharing...inspiring!
Nancy & Mabel
Dee, Sophie & KeithSophie &
Mabel in their winter coats below
We spoke on Sunday, February 26th at PFLAG SW Michigan in Kalamazoo. The meeting room at People’s Church was full, with nearly 50 people in attendance! A diverse mixture including long time committed PFLAGers, past presidents, and youth from a group called Kaleidescope at Western Michigan, gave us their undivided attention. We had the privilege and honor of meeting several PFLAG parents, including Steve and Mary Nelson. In addition, Roby had a conversation with one Mom who said, “I admire your commitment to sharing your message in love… it’s so hard for me, because as a mom, I get very angry when someone is hurting my child.” Roby had the opportunity to explain to her that it has taken a lot of practice and a commitment to the principles of non-violence, and still, “sometimes I feel so angry and sad that people, especially in our own families, just don’t get it.” Roby shared with this mom that we listen to James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program every opportunity we get, as well as reading materials from anti-gay people. Some ask, “How can you do that?” Or maybe, “Why subject yourself to such abuse?” First, we want to know first hand what they are saying about us so that we have a first hand understanding of their perspective, and second, we want to work through the pain that sometimes arises to come to our own place of healing, no longer triggered by the abusive language. Then and only then, can we meet and speak with people who vehemently disagree with us, and still feel connected as one human family. Anger is not necessarily bad. Following the examples of Jesus, Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we strive to channel our anger about injustice into action to create change in the world through the expression of our love.
Rylee, Roby, Dotti, Brian, Mary & Steve (President of SW Michigan PFLAG)
Monday, February 27th, brought snow and a frigid 20 degrees, making it an easy decision to stay another day in Delton and head south on Tuesday. Besides, on the way north to Kalamazoo, we heard Dr. Charles Ware, president of Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis, talk about an upcoming event, a panel discussion on “Homosexuality, Civil Rights and the Church,” with the purpose of the forum being to hear opposing viewpoints regarding this topic. It was happening Tuesday night, so we decided not to breeze through Indianapolis on Monday. Apparently, there has been a lot of dialogue since the city council passed an ordinance 15-14 to include sexual orientation as a protected group, giving GLBT persons the same rights and protections as others.
It was a very thought-provoking and touching evening, as we listened to four men tell why they don’t believe homosexuals should be protected under the law, against discrimination, and why they believe homosexuality is an abomination. We also heard three men explain why they believe we should be protected, and why they believe homosexuality is a gift from God to be celebrated.
The panel, moderated by Dr. Ware, president of the college, was a study in contrasts. To his credit, Dr. Ware, offered one of the three "for" panelists an opportunity to speak as a "4th panelist" with each question since they were one shy of an equal representation. Dr. Ware began the evening, sharing that he is well aware of how discrimination works, being both African-American, and also married to a white woman. "For" and "Against" panelists sat intermingled and questions were asked of a "for" person, and then of an "against" person, and vice versa, changing with each question. Dr. Ware summarized the positions presented with consensus from each group at the end of end question, as well as at the overall conclusion of the program.
The three “for” panelists were: Dr. Kent Millard of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis; Dr. Jeff Minor, Senior Pastor of Jesus Metropolitan Community Church in Indianapolis and co-author of The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships (order your book through us), and it will offer us a $5 profit to benefit our journey); Robert Ferguson, the President and founder of Indiana Black Pride, which is Indiana's largest African American gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization, received a license to preach in 2000 from the Missionary Baptist Church.
The four “against” panelists were Micah Clark, who became the Executive Director of the American Family Association of Indiana in November of 2001. Hosea Baxter is currently the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Crossroads Bible College. Dr. Mark Hearn is the Senior Pastor of the largest Southern Baptist Congregation in Indianapolis, Northside Baptist Church. Brad Grammar, an ex-gay, is executive director of Hope & New Life Ministries, an equipping and training ministry for churches seeking to offer a redemptive response to issues of broken sexuality.
Although more respectful than in situations where the entire dialogue is from the “against” point of view (such as at a Love Won Out conference), I felt sad at some of the ways in which the four panelists twisted both research and the Bible.
At one point in the panel discussion, Dr. Kent Millard shared his experience from many years ago, of counseling a young man who confided to him that he was gay. Dr. Millard said that he encouraged the young man to date one of the women in the church, and maybe that would help solve his “problem.” When that didn’t work, he helped the young man get established with a psychiatrist. Dr. Millard said, “The only thing we did was drive this young man to become alcoholic, and one day, driving under the influence, he had an accident, and became a parapalegic.” With quivering lips and tears welling up in his eyes, Dr. Millard concluded with, “I live each and every day wondering… did I do the right thing?”
Dr. Millard is a gracious and kind man of God, who lives his life and leads his church by the example and the teachings of Jesus. We spoke to Dr. Millard after the event, and thanked him for his gracious words and passionate presentation of why he believes GLBT people should be honored, respected, and protected against discrimination; and how he came to the conclusion that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.
During our conversation with this kind man, he put his arms around both of us and said, “May I say a prayer for you both?” Of course, we “Yes,” we replied. Dr. Millard proceeded to thank God for what we had just experienced, then asked God to bless us on our journey, Gay Into Straight America. He also asked God to protect us as we travel, and to open up the hearts and minds of people we encounter on the journey, and that lives would be touched and changed by our love and our message of hope and God’s unconditional love and grace for all people.
As we write this, we are in communication with Dr. Millard about the possibility of speaking at his church when we come back to Indianapolis. Click here to learn more about Dr. Millard and his ministry.
Dr. Ware remained an impartial moderator, giving a synopsis of each side’s stand after each round of questions, with each individual given five minutes to respond. At the end, however, there was also a subtle underlying tone in his urging about being prayerful regarding what God wants us to understand after the forum, reminding us that there are “eternal consequences.”
Click here to read the bios of each panelist.
We made a point to introduce ourselves to several of the panelists, as well as Dr. Ware. We thanked him for his commitment to having a respectful dialogue. There was to be a question/answer session at the end, but time apparently ran short. Many of the “against” panel members wanted to remind us that only 5% of the population is gay (not 10% as so often is reported). For us, the percentage is irrelevant. Discrimination is wrong and unacceptable whether it is more than 10% or only 1%. They also citied “statistics” saying that only half of any given group “claiming to be gay” today will be gay in three years. And so? Even if accurate, it only illustrate how fluid sexuality truly is. Are we to label that “bad?” Dotti wanted to ask, (based on their 5% information), “Why is the group consisting of 95% of the population, who have an admitted heterosexual lifestyle, concerned about the miniscule 5%, when this “large group'"(with a divorce rate of 52%) offers much greater possibility for redeeming and creating the strong family values which they embrace?”
If you are interested in purchasing a video of this forum, write a check for $20 made out to "City of Indianapolis" and send to:
City County Building
200 E. Washington
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Looking at this event, it is hard to believe that 50 years ago, it would not have happened...not because of the "subject" of civil rights for GLBT persons, but because of blacks and whites coming together for a meeting. Additionally, if Dr. Ware had been wanting to marry his wife (who he shared is white), he would have been unable to legally do so in 17 states in the United States until 1967, when the Supreme Court finally forced those states to legalize it.
By the way, we realized that we forgot to create the link for the following in our last newsletter.
To realize the impact of prejudice, click here to read Rev. Roger L. Ray’s article “Unlearning Prejudice.” (from Disciples World; Volume 4, Issue 7/September, 2005) Rev. Ray is Senior pastor of National Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Springfield, Missouri. Click here to read it now! More pertinent and relevant than ever to our discussion!
Lew Smedes, now deceased, was a theologian at Fuller Theological Seminary. He always said that the reason the church changed (regarding its acceptance of allowing divorced people to participate in the church) was because so many of the children of people in the church leadership were divorced. When people realized that “church laws” meant their children could no longer participate fully in the church and remarry in the church, the rules were changed. That is interesting to consider when the newest research shows that 27% of born-again Christians are divorced versus 20% of non born-again Christians.
Speaking of Lew Smedes, a video that Mel White did as an interview with him before he died, is worth watching. That video, There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, along with other Soulforce videos are now on our website for your viewing. Click here to view.
When we come across information that empowers people and life, whether it is from a young person, a person of exceptional wisdom, a good author, an everyday individual, a celebrity, or a minister, we offer these nuggets of gold as a gift to each who follows our journey. Why? These nuggets offer authentic ways of questioning that encourage us to evolve beyond the safety of the boxes we have constructed, allowing us to grow in emotional and spiritual ways.
Author and minister Philip Gulley, shared a couple of his sermons with us, after our inquiry about his writing. In “Revelation and Hearsay," he asks,
“How do we know the will of God?”
Noting how every religion believes that God revealed “something to someone” in their religion, making it what many then call other's “truth,” Gulley says, “For the moment we surrender the greatest gift of all – the inexpressible privilege of experiencing God ourselves, we let another person’s perception of God supersede our own.” Click here to read the “rest of his sermon.”
In his sermon, Religious Nostalgia and Spiritual Evolution, Gulley talks of the old vacuum cleaner his mother-in-law lugged around like a dead pig for many years. He says, “Lugging that vacuum cleaner around reminds me of the dead weight of old religion: sin, guilt, fear, repression, domination, ignorance, sexism, homophobia, legalism, shame, anxiety, coercion and control. For so many years the church has made us drag those awful burdens around. Even today, in so many churches, for so many Christians, these are the defining elements of Christianity.” Click here to read the entire sermon, and decide how you can let go of spiritual poison, as Gulley offers pertinent questions you can ask yourself.
Question for those who consider themselves a spiritual person: How can I be connected to God if I am willing to give up my soul self, my divine connection, to what humans think of me? When will we accept that what others think of us is simply their opinion? Does this ring true for those of you who are GLBTA (yes, allies too!)? Is not worrying about what others will think about us (due to their potential rejection) ultimately self defeating?
We feel like we have done everything we could to make possible this journey. We have sold property and belongings. We have invested in merchandise to sell, such as T-shirts and wristbands, which support our intention of creating authentic connections and support our intention for equality and justice for all. We have put together affiliate programs, such as Amazon, the Wild Divine, Spiritual Cinema, and Audible (link will be ready next week. Click on the previous links to learn more about those.
More importantly, however, more than anything WE have done, practicing the art of receiving from those who want to support us on this journey continues to be the most impactful. Friends continue to come up with creative ways of supporting us. On Friday, March 3, our friend, Patti Hall, who sent out an Evite, is hosting a “greet and meet fundraiser” in Louisville. Our friends Jill Havens and Susan Coultas have put together art on e-gay…oops, that truly was a typo that I just caught…I meant "art on e-bay." Click here to check it out and make a bid if you are interested. If you have art to donate for our GISA journey, you can email Jill about putting it on e-bay to benefit our journey.
As we previously mentioned in last week’s newsletter, Deb Dillon of Muses Legal Products is offering $5 from the sale of her software when you use the promotional code 10000.
Click here to read more about this software that contains 152 documents specifically created for unmarried partners so that they can more fully share in their daily lives together.
Additionally, another reminder that the purchase (through us) of Dr. Minor’s book, The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships, will bring $5 per book to
benefit our journey. Email us to purchased this book if you are interested.
While appreciating the enrichment from staying present in our everyday moments, we do sometimes wonder what it will be like to be home about this year. Somehow, we know that this journey of “engaging hearts and minds, and creating authentic connections” is one that will continue the rest of our lives.
Roby told Philip Gulley about leaving her job, and preparing for our road trip across America, saying, “It may sound like a crazy thing to do.” Philip promptly replied, “Sounds like it was maybe the most sane thing you could have done.”
Before we end, there are two other ways you can help “spread the word!” Contact your media contacts (newspaper, magazines, radio) about covering our journey, and send your friends/family a Gay Into Straight America e-photo card! Click here to choose your favorite one!
Dotti’s article, “Debunking Ten Myths about GLBT that don't Empower Us” was originally scheduled for inclusion in this newsletter. Instead, it will come out next week! Going to the forum on Tuesday evening cut into her writing time.
The light in us honors the light in you,
Two Women & a Poodle