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Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches Calls for Moment of Prayer In Face of Tragedies and Violence

17 July 2014 -­‐-­‐-­‐ Today, as Israel and Hamas took a brief recess from their 10 -­‐day war, only to have that lull in fighting marred by the deaths of 4 Gaza children hit by missiles while playing on the beach near their homes; while violence claimed the lives of innocent civilians from the airport of Kabul to the streets of places like Syria and Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, someone shot an airplane out of the sky over Donetsk in the Ukraine, an already war-­‐ravaged area of the globe. Fields with purple flowers became the unintended resting place of 295 people on their way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The flight manifest has yet to be released, but we know from our friends around the world that at least 5 AIDS activists on their way from points in Europe to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne were among those lost.

At times like this, our hearts are broken for the families and friends, the allies and co -­‐workers of all those lost to violence and the senseless tragedies it produces. While many on the airwaves debate who is responsible for the tragedies, I am drawn to the example of Jesus, who when pressed by the crowds of unrelenting needs around him for relief and healing and peace, would go off to a lonely place to pray.

And so, I ask all MCCers and people of faith to join me in prayer now.

O God,
We give you thanks for the gift of life,
and the chance you give to all of us
to live each day with a heart for compassion and care
and a spirit attuned to peace.
We mourn all our brothers and sisters lost
to violence and needless violence and tragedy today,
especially those on Malaysia Airlines flight 17
and those 4 little boys on the beach in Gaza Cit y.
Be with their families and friends left behind,
and help them to find some comfort in knowing that
they are at peace with you, and that
we will all one day be together again.
With a full heart, O God, we pray for
peace on this earth
and goodwill among a ll.
Regardless of our political persuasions or belief systems,
help us to renounce all violence and to seek to live
in a way that promotes the wellbeing of all your children.
Give us all the courage to follow in the footsteps of Jesus the Christ,
Prince of Peace, in whose name we pray. +Amen

The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator
Metropolitan Community Churches

Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson & Rev. Pat Bumgardner sign ad on rape in conflicts and crisis

POLITICO_CHANGE_AD_6-11-14

Russia and the Olympics — It’s Not a Game!

An Italian advocate for transgender rights and former member of parliament was detained at the Olympics for unfurling a rainbow flag with “Gay is OK” on it. Russian officials denied it, but the Italian foreign ministry activated its crisis protocol for Italian travelers in trouble.

Russian President Vladamir Putin showed up last week at a celebration party for Irene Wust, an openly lesbian gold medal winner from Netherlands. Just days before, outside of the Olympic arena, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) supporters were arrested during a peaceful protest.

When the Olympians go home, it will be business as usual. Orthodox Church leaders will continue to work hand-in-glove with the political machinery that scapegoats LGBTQ people. The lack of outcry against Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws are producing a climate where gangs now go “hunting” to track down gays to torture them. Their impunity is so great, that many were willing to be filmed for an upcoming documentary without disguises while they humiliated and brutalized a person they identified as gay.

Read more on the Huffington Post here

Bullying Prevention

International STAND UP to Bullying Day is a special semi-annual event in which participants sign and wear a pink “pledge shirt” to take a visible, public stance against bullying. The event takes place in schools, workplaces, and organizations in 25 countries across the globe on the third Friday of November to coincide with Anti-bullying week, and then again on the last Friday of February.

International Bullying Prevention Association

The mission of the International Bullying Prevention Association is to support and enhance quality research based bullying prevention principles and best practices in order to achieve a safe school climate, healthy work environment, good citizenship and civic responsibility.

It has taken more than three decades of academic study of bullying behaviors, public revelations and attention to the true consequences for those who bully and those who are bullied and world-wide media coverage of incidents of unspeakable cruelty, suicide, and homicide, to bring educators, students, law enforcement, health care workers, and parents together in a global effort to do something about it. Bullying hurts and for those involved, the hurt can last a lifetime. As a world, we are learning that bullying behavior can be the root of serious violent situations in our schools. Many countries have adopted policies and procedures for Safe Schools.

http://www.stopbullyingworld.org/index.php/about-ibpa-28

Project Anti-Bully

Project Anti-Bully is a non-profit 501(c)(3) run by students for students that raises awareness of the prevalence of bullying in schools globally through community-based research. Project Anti-Bully has headquarters in the United States of America and affiliates in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Colombia, El Salvador, England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Scotland, Sweden, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Uruguay.

http://www.projectbully.com/_index.php

Project Standup

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Why Pink?

Pink might seem like an odd color when trying to get people to take a stand against bullying. The color is completely based on a stand that was taken in the fall at Central Kings High School, in Cambridge, Nova Scotia. A freshmen student was making his first appearance in a new high school. The boy showed up in the morning wearing a pink polo shirt. Some school bullies verbally abused him for his choice of color. They used some vulgar words, and made him feel very upset. Two senior students heard about the bullying taking place, and decided to take a stand against it. http://www.standupday.com/08/participants/index.php?target=pages&page_id=whypink

Bullying UK

Anti-Bullying Week 2013 is calling on children and young people to take the lead on creating a future without bullying – using new technologies. http://www.bullying.co.uk/

Anti-bullying Alliance

Together we can stop bullying and create safe environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn. http://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/

Anti-Bullying Campaign (ABC) South Africa

The aim of the ABC is to oppose the culture and practice of bullying within the CRC/Children’s Movement – and to lay the basis for a culture of tolerance and peace, and a commitment to using peaceful methods to resolve conflict.

ABC committees have been established in most of the communities and schools where the CRC/Children’s Movement operates. The formation of the ABC has given rise to the establishment of a Girl Child Organisation as part of the children’s movement. http://www.childrensmovement.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19&Itemid=18

Anti Bully & Abuse Foundation

The ABA Foundation will stand as a national body where people can turn to and feel safe, a structure where children and parent experience a tangible, physical system protecting our children, and working towards a safe school environment. http://abafoundation.wozaonline.co.za/

Bullying Canada

Rob Frenette, 20 and Katie Neu, 18 the Founders of BullyingCanada.ca, a Youth-Created Anti-Bullying Website are very pleased to announce the official launch of a national toll-free line for youth, parents, and the general public up to date information related to bullying.

http://bullyingcanada.ca/content/243026

Chile

As some areas of the country return to normalcy, schools start the year tackling bullying problems

A program to reduce bullying within Chile’s schools has shown positive results since its introduction in 2005.  The Paz Educa Program aims to produce and promote observation-based research in order to prevent school violence in Chile.

http://www.santiagotimes.cl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18400:chiles-schools-employ-anti-bullying-programs&catid=59:education&Itemid=132

 

Bullying-Prevention-Month-Billboard_blog_photo-300x217[1]

In the US – October – Bully Prevention Month

This month, groups across the country committed to stop bullying will release new resources, campaigns, and efforts aimed at bringing awareness to this important issue facing our youth.Bullying Prevention Month is not new. In fact, it has been around for several years. What started as an awareness week initiated byPACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center in October 2006, the event has evolved into a month’s worth of events and activities to raise awareness and provide the latest resources to those who need it. National partners in 2006 included the National Education AssociationNational PTAAmerican Federation for Teachers, and National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education. PACER recognized that students, parents, and people throughout the country needed to become more aware of the serious consequences of bullying. The point of National Bullying Prevention Month was to transform a society that accepts bullying into a society that recognizes that bullying must – and can – be addressed through education and support. Read more at StopBullying.govPacerJoin the movement!The End of Bullying Begins with Me: that’s the message during PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Month in October. It’s a time when communities can unite nationwide to raise awareness of bullying prevention through events, activities, outreach, and education. Resources from PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center make it easy to take action. PACER created the campaign in 2006 with a one-week event which has now evolved into a month-long effort that encourages everyone to take an active role in the bullying prevention movement. Get your toolkit and more. Print the Digital Petition Flyers and display them at your school or organization. Elementary Petition Flyer Middle / High School Petition Flyer

How It Got Started

National Bullying Prevention Month was started in 2006 by the PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center to raise awareness about this important issue and what people can do about it. Communities, schools and individuals are encouraged to participate in understanding this problem and getting involved in outreach efforts and educating people. Businesses and organizations like Facebook, Yahoo!Kids and CNN have gotten involved to get the word out. PACER was inspired to create the month as a way of showing people that bullying isn’t just a “rite of passage” for every kid, for some it can lead to terrible emotional, psychological and physical pain that no one should endure.

Unity Day

“Make it Orange and Make it End,” is the Unity Day slogan. This year Unity Day is on October 10th, people are encouraged to wear the color orange on this day to show their solidarity with the bullying prevention cause, even Ellen DeGeneres got involved last year by wearing an orange anti-bullying shirt on her show! You can also hand out “unity” ribbons and buttons at your school or write “unity” on your binders to create awareness.

What Can I Do?

If you want to get involved with National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month you should let your parents, school and classmates know. There are lots of activities available via the Bullying Prevention Center, as well as group activities and discussions that you could easily organize in your class and among friends. Here are a few ideas for supporting the cause:

  • Add you name to the digital “The End of Bullying Begins With Me petition
  • Wear orange on Unity Day
  • Get people involved like friends and parents, try organizing an event (a Unity Dance, a bake sale for bullying charity, anything!)
  • Encourage a discussion in your classroom
  • Spread the word on your Facebook or Twitter

Read more: Bullying Prevention Awareness Month http://www.kidzworld.com/article/27443-bullying-prevention-awareness-month#ixzz2cdlhVjXu National Child Traumatic Stress Network In support of Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is providing resources for families, teens, educators, clinicians, mental health professionals, and law enforcement personnel on how to recognize, deal with, and prevent bullying. Read more.

US Resources

Featured NCTSN Resources

Teaching Tolerance When nearly one in five students is bullied each year, it’s no wonder the topic is on educators’ minds. Teachers want to make their classrooms safe, supportive learning environments. Administrators want positive school climates. Both are looking for tools to reach these goals. To meet their needs, Teaching Tolerance offers an abundance of professional development tools, classroom activities, magazine articles and blogs dedicated to the topic. When you have an immediate question, though, finding what you’re looking for among such extensive resources can be daunting.

NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me

The NEA Bullying Prevention Kit

NEA_Bullying_Prevention_Kit[1]

Designed by educators for educators, this kit reflects the best available research on bullying prevention. To access different subject areas, click on the colored tabs.  Download here

ESP RESOURCES AND TOOLS

For Principals and Teachers

Enough is enough! Stand4Change and help put an end to bullying.

http://www.defeatthelabel.com

October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the US, the NYTimes has updated their full list of resources on bullying and cyberbullying for the occasion.

Use the links below to find resources on bullying and cyberbullying:

STOP The Drama… END The Hate… STOMP Out Bullying

A National Anti-Bullying And Cyber Bullying Organization For Kids And Teens

 STOMP Out BullyingTM Student Participation Toolkit

Act Against Bullying And Cyberbullying Now

 

 

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Global Justice Statement on anti-LGBT violence in Russia

Today we join our voices with many others calling for an end to the rampant violence against LGBT people in Russia. Reports of anti-LGBT violence continue to be received, including harassment, physical brutality and government condoned murder of LGBT people since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

 

2013-142-2013-05-22T124351Z_1_CBRE94L0ZD700_RTROPTP_3_RUSSIAProminent British broadcaster Stephen Fry likened the new laws to the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews earlier this week, and on Thursday, Russia’s envoy to the United Nations was personally confronted on his New York doorstep by activists wielding a petition signed by more than 300,000 people.

The events unfolding in Russia should rightly cause concern for all fair-minded citizens of the world. They’re a complete travesty meant to divert the attention of the Russian people from President Putin’s failure as their leader,” said Human Rights Campaign Vice President for Communications Fred Sainz.

 

Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Executive Director of the Global Justice Institute (GJI), said, “We, as human beings, must not remain silent while any of our lives are criminalized.  It’s not simply the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly that are at stake here, but our very lives when you consider the rise in violence and increased rates of HIV in areas where LGBTI life is deemed illicit.” She added, “Russia, and indeed the world must be put on notice: Attempt to silence any of us and you will hear from all of us.”

 

The GJI calls for an end to violence against LGBTQ people in Russia around the world. We call on fair minded people of faith to join efforts to speak against these acts of violence and murder and to stand in solidarity with those who are victimized. We call on members of the clergy to speak boldly for the divine value of every person. Finally, we join our prayers with those of people of faith for an end to the victimization of LGBTQ people in Russia and around the world.

 

Take Action:

  • The GJI calls on people of good will around the globe to make your voice heard on behalf of the freedom and safety of LGBTI people in Russia by contacting the Russian Embassy or Consulate nearest you and demanding that the legislation criminalizing LGBTI life be rescinded.

 

This statement prepared by Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt on behalf of

The Global Justice Institute, Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Executive Director.

 Contact:  Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt at 

Who am I to judge?

Pope Francis asked a stunning question: “Who am I to judge?” This was in response to inquiries about whether or not there are gay priests in the Vatican — the now-renowned “gay lobby.”

In a 90-minute interview returning from his travels in Brazil, an affable, relaxed Pope Francis covered a range of topics, but the “who am I to judge?” response made the world do a double take.

Seriously?

“Who am I to judge?”

Well, the pope! You are the pope who inherited two millennia of, well, pontificating about what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s moral and what’s immoral.

I am sure the Vatican leaders are wringing their collective hands over a pope who may be viewed as a security and PR nightmare. He may seem out of their control, dispensing mercy and off-the-cuff pastoral kindness that blurs the lines of official church policy and pronouncements. We could almost feel the winds of Vatican II blowing.

My hope is that this is not just the kind of rock-star popularity that masked the sometimes-kind conservatism of John Paul II. He gave “warm fuzzies” to big crowds but became increasingly dogmatic as a corrupt system of financial and sexual exploitation lurked beneath the surface.

Pope Francis’ step toward humility was stunning, but few are naïve enough to think that everything has changed. Gay priests must still be celibate, and Pope Francis declared that “the door is closed” on the ordination of women. But what the pope did in that interview was to begin to live up to the Catholic Church’s own teachings about humankind.

Honestly, if all Christian denominations and traditions lived up to their own teachings about humanity, there would be a great revolution of respect. But that respect must include women as full human beings, worthy of greatness — worthy of ordination — and it must include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.

I sincerely hope this pope really does want to shake up things. Celibacy should be optional. Catholic women need the church to move into the 20th, not to mention the 21st, century and recognize their full eligibility for the priesthood. Sexual assaults on children must be eliminated. Decisions about contraception, reproductive health and choice should be in the hands of women, not by unaffected men who like to dictate policy. The use of condoms to save lives through prevention of HIV/AIDS must be commonplace. A revolution of respect can happen!

Virtually every faith tradition has a core belief that human beings have inherent worth as creations of God. The inherent worth of each human being means that Christians should be aghast at the brutal murders of gay men in RussiaCameroonYemen and even in theUnited States.

In South Africa, where so-called “corrective rape” is used mostly against lesbians but also against transgender people and gay men, the brutality is shocking and too often endorsed by family members. Duduzile Zozo was raped with a toilette brush and left to die in early July. Bishop Tutu presided at her memorial service and famously said that he “would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven.”

Most anti-LGBTQ rapes, beatings, tortures and murders happen with little comment because it is too dangerous to report the assault or murder of a gay friend or family member for fear of police reprisal. Even with high publicity, the Cameroon police do not seem to be pursuing the person(s) who murdered gay rights advocate Eric Lembembe. Instead, Cameroon police arrested three organizers who have been critiquing the lack of action by Cameroon officials!

Where are the faith voices? Pope Francis, we urge you not to be silent! Use your moral weight to stop vicious attacks and cruel persecution. Promote a campaign for tolerance. We do not have to punish people for being different!

Why are Christians silent when Eric Lemembe is tortured with a hot iron in his own home? Why are Christians silent when lesbians are raped — even raped to death? Why are Christians silent as Russia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and so many other countries pass laws that make talking about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people punishable by prison or fine?

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe recently condemned LGBTQ people and promised to cut off our heads. Pronouncements like these are de facto endorsements of street violence, mob attacks, family rejection and official persecution against anyone who is perceived to be LGBTQ — as well as against their families. Mugabe is a Catholic who should hear from his new pope that violent homophobia is unacceptable for Catholic leaders.

Although the pope did not suddenly change the church’s view that LGBTQ people should remain celibate, whether as priests or as lay people, he did tell Christians around the world that it’s time to live up to the highest values of the faith rather than descend to base disrespect for human beings.

Pope Francis modeled a more tolerant approach to LGBTQ people. He is the first pope to use the word “gay.” Tolerance is a humble platform from which people across the world can be speaking out for mutual respect. It is not a perfect platform, but it appears that it might suit a pope who doesn’t think of himself as infallible but as a human being who respects God’s good diversity. How refreshing!

As the head of Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in 40 countries, I know that it is time that Christians step up and strive to fulfill the basic teachings of Jesus: Feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit prisoners — and, like the pope, judge not.

Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches Calls for Prayer and Personal Discernment as Zimmerman Trial Verdict is Released

Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches

Calls for Prayer and Personal Discernment

as Zimmerman Trial Verdict is Released

 

Earlier this evening, a jury of six women found George Zimmerman, a now 26-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, not guilty in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

 

Trayvon Martin was 17 years old when, walking to his father’s home through a residential area in Sanford, Florida on a rainy evening , he was shot in the heart after an altercation with Zimmerman.   Wearing a hoodie and talking on his cell phone, having just purchased a package of Skittles and a can of iced tea, Martin became a symbol of young people of color across the United States who are often targeted by law enforcement, shop owners and other citizens as “suspicious.”

 

Approached and followed by Mr. Zimmerman for this reason, a physical fight ensued that would end in the death of a child, and come to symbolize our nation’s on-again/off-again struggle to accept and value its diverse citizenry.

 

As a community of largely LGBTI people of many religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, many of us know what it is like to be viewed with suspicion simply because of who we are.  Many of us still live in parts of the world where our sexual orientations or gender identities are sufficient to endanger our lives.

 

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s parents, appealed for peace in the wake of a verdict and said that they could finally see “the end of the tunnel.”

 

The real end of the tunnel for all of us will be on that day when we stand face to face with the Creator God who made us all and pronounced all life good.  In the end, we will be invited to share one table together.  The Gospel of Matthew says people will come to that table from East and West, North and South, meaning from many directions.

 

I know the members and friends of Metropolitan Community Churches may be coming from many directions with regard to this case and all the issues it has raised, from racially motivated animosity to the use of firearms.   People around the globe suffer and struggle daily with the loss of children’s lives to violence — violence that is often times fueled by the failure to value the diversity of God’s creation.

 

Yesterday at the United Nations, another child targeted by violence, a 16 year old girl from Pakistan named Malala, spoke to the world saying that education is the key to a future of peace and good will for all of us.  Shot because she was a girl wanting to go to school in a culture devaluing its female children, she said, “They thought that the bullet would silence us,” but what really happened was that “weakness and fear died…and courage was born.’

 

I urge all of us on this night when many of us may be reacting with shock, disbelief and anger and others with support for a legally rendered verdict, to really search our hearts and minds and spirits for the ways prejudice and fear have weakened our commitment to the prophetic vision of a world where lions lay down with lambs, and little children play safely over adder’s dens.   I urge all of us as people of faith to recommit to the Biblical injunction against taking a life for any reason.   The legal standard for “self defense” can never replace Scripture’s call to love others as God loves all of us.

 

Pray with me this night for the family of Trayvon Martin who, regardless of a verdict, lost a child to fear and violence.  Pray for the day when all of us are at ease in the presence of difference and see only in each other’s faces a brother or sister in Christ.

 

+Nancy

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator

Metropolitan Community Churches

 

This statement prepared in conjunction with the Moderator’s Public Policy Team,

The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair.  For more information or to arrange further comment

contact The Rev. Jim Merritt, Public Policy Team Communications, at

.

Faith-Based Council Members sign-on to letter re ending human trafficking – Senate and House leadership

Dear Congressman/Senator:

 

We are writing to express our strong support for legislation that would enhance the United States anti-trafficking policy by upgrading the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a State Department Bureau. We represent members of both the current and previous President Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. As members of the current President’s Advisory Council, we studied the issue of domestic and international trafficking for most of the past year and issued a report with recommendations to President Obama.  One of the recommendations was to upgrade the Office to a Bureau.

Our April 2013 Report states: “The Council appreciates and acknowledges not only the diplomacy and monitoring carried out by J/TIP, but the level of expertise and innovation the Office brings to the anti-trafficking movement.  This Council believes that it is vitally important that the State Department’s J/TIP be elevated to a State Department Bureau, on equal footing with the Regional Bureaus and other priority issues for this Administration. Making J/TIP a Bureau would improve collaboration with the Regional Bureaus, Embassies, and international interlocutors.”

We are grateful that legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to upgrade the Office to a State Department Bureau headed by an Assistant Secretary of State.  This simple redesignation, which does not involve additional bureaucracy or expense, will give J/TIP and its leadership access to the Secretary of State and parity with regional Assistant Secretaries. This upgrade is required for the issue of slavery eradication to receive the attention it requires.

As leaders of faith based and community organizations, we respectfully urge you to support this legislation, which sharpens the United States’ most precious diplomatic tool.  The men and women who staff and lead the J/TIP Office are the nation’s leading experts on modern day slavery.  While we understand that anti-trafficking concerns will sometimes be preempted by other U.S. interests, we believe that it is essential that J/TIP’s leadership have a seat at the table where key decisions on diplomacy and strategy are being developed and implemented.

We respectfully urge you to support H.R. 2283, “The Human Trafficking Prioritization Act,” sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith in the House and S._____, companion legislation in the Senate that is sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal.

For information, please contact Allison Hollobaugh, and Joel Cohen, .

Sincerely,

 

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals

Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, Policy Link

Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in American

Lynne Hybels, Co-founder, Willow Creek Community Church

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church

Miaohong Hsiangju Liu, Buddha’s Light International Association

Maria Nagorski, Executive Director, Fair Chance DC

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice-President, Rabbinical Assembly

Barbara Williams Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Elder Steven Snow, First Quorum of the Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Susan K. Stern, Chair, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, Past President, Leadership Council of Women Religious

Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

Rev. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)

Dr. Arturo Chavez, President, Mexican American Catholic College

The Reverend Canon Peg Chemberlin, Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches of Christ-USA

Fred Davie, Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church

Nancy Ratzan, Immediate Past President, National Council of Jewish Women

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

The Reverend Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

*Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only

Faith-Based Council Members sign-on to letter re ending human trafficking – Secretary of State Kerry

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington DC

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We are writing to express our strong support for current legislation that would enhance the United States anti-trafficking policy by upgrading the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a State Department Bureau headed by an Assistant Secretary of State.

We represent members of both the current and previous President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. As members of the current President’s Advisory Council, we studied the issue of domestic and international trafficking for the past year and issued a report with recommendations to President Obama.  One of the recommendations was to upgrade the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a Bureau.

Our April 2013 Report states: “The Council appreciates and acknowledges not only the diplomacy and monitoring carried out by J/TIP, but the level of expertise and innovation the Office brings to the anti-trafficking movement.  This Council believes that it is vitally important that the State Department’s J/TIP be elevated to a State Department Bureau, on equal footing with the Regional Bureaus and other priority issues for this Administration. Making J/TIP a Bureau would improve collaboration with the Regional Bureaus, Embassies, and international interlocutors.”

We are grateful that legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate entitled, “The Human Trafficking Prioritization Act,” to upgrade the Office to a State Department Bureau headed by an Assistant Secretary of State.  This simple redesignation, which does not involve additional bureaucracy or expense, will give J/TIP and its leadership access to the Secretary of State and parity with regional Assistant Secretaries. This upgrade is required for the issue of slavery eradication to receive the attention it requires.

As leaders of faith based and community organizations, we respectfully urge you to support this legislation, which sharpens the United States’ most precious diplomatic tool.  The men and women who staff and lead the J/TIP Office are the nation’s leading experts on modern day slavery.  While we understand that anti-trafficking concerns may sometimes be preempted by other U.S. interests, we believe that it is essential that J/TIP’s leadership have a seat at the table where key decisions on diplomacy and strategy are being developed and implemented.

We respectfully urge you to take any action in your authority to elevate the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to a State Department Bureau.

Sincerely,

 

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals

Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, Policy Link

Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in American

Lynne Hybels, Co-founder, Willow Creek Community Church

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church

Miaohong Hsiangju Liu, Buddha’s Light International Association

Maria Nagorski, Executive Director, Fair Chance DC

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice-President, Rabbinical Assembly

Barbara Williams Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Elder Steven Snow, First Quorum of the Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Susan K. Stern, Chair, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, Past President, Leadership Council of Women Religious

Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

Rev. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)

Dr. Arturo Chavez, President, Mexican American Catholic College

The Reverend Canon Peg Chemberlin, Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches of Christ-USA

Fred Davie, Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed

Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church

Nancy Ratzan, Immediate Past President, National Council of Jewish Women

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners

The Reverend Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

*Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only

Exodus ‘Ex-Gays’ and an Effeminate Boy

Exodus International leader Alan Chambers apologized recently for the harm done to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by the so-called “ex-gay” movement. In that moment, the face that came to mind for me was the bruised, burned and emaciated face of 15-year-old Raymond Buys.

In 2011, Raymond was sent to a South African boot camp where boys — especially effeminate boys, or boys who were thought to be gay — were supposed to become men. The camp directors are now on trial for torturing Raymond to death. I am haunted by photos of his emaciated body in the hospital bed where he looks like a victim of a Nazi death camp.

Alan Chambers can apologize for suicides, deaths, lost years and damage to families, but his apology is only as good as real actions to counter the lies spread throughout the world by Exodus and other groups that underpin so much anti-LGBT persecution. Religious people who promoted ex-gay programs must bring the same fervor to saving our lives as they have brought to trying to separate our souls from our God-given sexual orientations and gender identities.

Around the world, effeminate boys and masculine girls continue to be tortured, raped and sometimes murdered with the tacit support of so-called “ex-gay” movements. For decades, they have promoted the lie that LGBT people could be heterosexual if we really wanted to and prayed hard enough.

Even in a country with constitutional protections like South Africa, Raymond’s mother was not immune to homophobia. Raymond’s mother thought her son could man up with a little help from a boot camp.

She was devastated by his death and learned through testimony that Raymond had been chained to his bed for extended periods and left in his own soil. Tortures included being forced to eat his own feces, and camp leaders put a pillowcase over his head and used an electric cattle prod on his fragile body. When he arrived at the hospital, he had multiple burns, his bones were broken, and he was starved and dehydrated. Medical attention came too late.

Too many mothers and fathers send their children to military boot camps or through so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” programs where debunked psychology is enmeshed with religious bigotry to produce persecution and unwarranted shame.

Alan Chambers’ apology is historic, but apologies from others who left these pseudoscientific programs have not been able to stop the purveyors of “ex-gay” lies. Exodus International is shutting its doors, but Exodus Global Alliance is still perpetrating spiritual violence against LGBT people around the world. Spokespeople like Alan Chambers must step up and condemn these programs as well.

What led up to this moment?

Chambers is not the first “ex-gay” program survivor to come out and apologize. Michael Bussee, founder of Exodus, recanted years ago and now spends his life working for equality.John Paulk, a one-time Focus on the Family star who was once featured on the cover ofNewsweek as “ex-gay,” said he is gay and expressed regret for the harm his work had done.

Some are outed. Paulk only apologized after being photographed in a gay bar. Matt Moorewas caught on a hookup site called Grindr. Moore is still saying that he was using Grindr to just see who was “in the neighborhood.” After being caught, Moore sold his computer, locked his phone, ended his blog and said more “seasoned believers” than he should be in the public eye.

When secrets, lies and obsessions combine with dogma and vulnerable people, it is always a disaster.

For example, Aubrey Levin (dubbed “Dr. Shock”) was arrested in Canada after a career of torturing gay men with electric shock aversion “therapies” in South Africa. He moved to Canada, where he continued to prey on vulnerable men. Finally, he was stopped when one of his court-mandated patients secretly recorded a session where Levin sexually abused him.

In another public debacle, a Florida newspaper photographed George Alan Rekers, a board member of NARTH (North American Reparative Therapy), vacationing with a “rent boy.” He tried to say the man was there to carry his luggage for him.

In New Jersey, Chaim Levin and three other men recently filed suit against leaders of JONAH, a Jewish “reparative therapy” network. Levin’s description of being told to strip naked as part of his therapy is shocking.

Tragically, much of the efforts to convert lesbian and gay people are deeply rooted in misguided religious beliefs. Originally, groups like Exodus and NARTH tried to position themselves as traditional counseling and psychotherapy, but no research has held up under scrutiny, and key players like Joseph Nicolosi and Richard A. Cohen lost all credibility as a result of ethics violations.

There is no viable scientific support for “ex-gay” programs. In 2007, the American Psychological Association assigned a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The task force reviewed more than 80 studies, which were overwhelmingly flawed, and none could prove that sexual orientation could be changed.

In 2012, the researcher highly cited by conservatives, Dr. Robert Spitzer, apologized for his own research in which he interviewed people in the so-called “ex-gay” movement and asked them if they had changed their sexual orientation. Of course, a few claimed to have changed, but there was never proof.

With the veil of scientific legitimacy in shreds, the only remaining smoke screen has been religion.

In a 2009 study on “ex-gay” programs, researchers from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force concluded:

Young people are now being used as ammunition in the evangelical Christian and political right-wing’s war against equality for LGBT Americans. Ex-gay organizations, in particular, have taken what used to be an intensely personal process (coming out to one’s self, friends and family) and have created dedicated programs and conferences that link the personal lives of young people to battles over same-sex marriage and the election of conservative political leaders.

When Christians from almost 200 countries gathered in South Africa for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, the “ex-gay” movement was there. This time, it was the Exodus Global Alliance. This 2010 conference was the largest evangelical gathering in recent history. Exodus presenters claimed there are no more than a few thousand gay people in each African country, and that these are all products of the West. They intone that being gay is not a greater sin but say no other sin has a movement for acceptance. A speaker parroted the completely discredited myths about rejection, sexual abuse and distant fathers as “causes” for being gay.

In a world that allows Raymond Buys to be tortured to death because he was a soft and delicate boy, the travesties continue.

Even though nine countries in Europe, several in Latin America, and South Africa have marriage equality, more than 70 countries throughout the world have laws making same-gender love illegal, and in seven countries, being gay is punishable by execution.

What is critical to understand is that conservatives who claim they are acting out of Christian love are exporting these same defamed and debunked conversion “treatments” all around the world as a “gentler and softer” alternative to prison and execution. These same people are perfectly willing to label gay people as evil and sinful and then are surprised when punitive laws are enforced and people in the street begin to take the law into their own hands and attack and kill people they believe are gay.

Just last week, USA Today reported that an evangelical pastor appointed to head Brazil’s Human Rights Commission led the committee to approve a bill to make it legal for psychologists to treat homosexuality as a disorder or pathology. Where is the voice of Alan Chambers on this scandal?

Whether it is in the United StatesSouth AfricaChinaAfricaLatin America or Eastern Europe, homophobia is still at work, and too many evangelicals are still trying to position “ex-gay” ministries as the compassionate approach.

They are not!

Whether it is the death penalty, prison, shock treatment, laws that silence, or conversion therapy, all of it kills. Whether it kills the spirit, promotes suicide or results in the death penalty, carnage lies in its wake.

Raymond Buys, rest in peace. I will not forget you. I will not forget your broken body. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who defend our young people who are LGBT or gender-nonconforming. Your journey ended, but your story continues.

Published at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-nancy-wilson/exodus-ex-gays-and-an-effeminate-boy_b_3483580.html