The senseless shooting death of 15-year-old Lawrence King underscores the importance of our work in lifting up the LGBT community. King, of Ventura, Calif., was shot and killed Feb. 12, a day after a verbal exchange with 14‑year-old Brandon McInerney and his friends.
King, an eighth-grader who identified as gay and occasionally wore makeup, high heels and other feminine attire to E. O. Green Junior High School, was shot in the head while in class at school. Living in a shelter for troubled and abused youths, King was a frequent victim of anti-gay taunting. One of King's friend said King had recently told McInerney that he had a crush on him.
Nearly 1,000 people, mostly teenagers, marched in King's memory on Feb. 16 in Oxnard, Calif., to promote peace and raise consciousness among youth and adults alike. McInerney was initially charged with attempted murder, with enhancements for a hate crime and using a firearm. King was declared brain dead Feb. 13, but kept alive on a ventilator pending organ donation. When the ventilator was shut off, the main charge became first-degree murder.
Courtney LaForest, one of the organizers of the march, told the Los Angeles Times, "We were expecting maybe 100 or 200 people." Superintendent Jerry Dannenberg, whose Hueneme School District near Los Angeles includes E.O. Green, was moved by the support. "We forget the goodness that is in most of our kids," he said. "This tremendous turnout by kids is an expression of their voices, their opinions."
Hadwen Park Congregational UCC, Worcester, MA
Two gay Jamaican men received welcome and support from Hadwen Park Congregational Church in Worcester, MA, as they seek political asylum in the United States. Pastor Judy Hanlon reported that she received a call from one of the men and invited them to church where they gave powerful emotional testimony of the violence and abuse regularly perpetrated against persons who are LGBT in Jamaica.
Rev. Nancy Wilson, leader of the Metropolitan Community Churches, called for action in February to pressure the Jamaican government to do everything possible to help prevent anti-gay violence. Wilson and religious leaders from the MCC's Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale met Feb. 14 with Jamaican Consulate General Richard Allicock and three top staff members for more than an hour in the consulate's office in downtown Miami. The church also sponsored protests at consulates in New York, Toronto and Philadelphia.
"We were encouraged," Wilson told a group of about 25 protesters who came to Miami from Sarasota, Boynton Beach and Fort Lauderdale. "We're engaged in a long-term discussion and were not going to stop until gays and lesbians are protected in Jamaica." Wilson is urging the government to design and implement an educational campaign to decry anti-gay violence in Jamaica. She is also demanding that Jamaican police be given sensitivity training regarding the GLBT community. If her demands are not met, Wilson may call for a global boycott of Jamaica.
According to Human Rights Watch, Jamaica is among the most homophobic places on the planet. The 2004 murder of Brian Williamson, Jamaica's leading gay rights activist, drew worldwide attention.
The Valentine's Day demonstrations were organized as a response to the brutal attack on three gay men in Mandeville, Jamaica, on Jan 29. The men were surrounded by a mob of people who demanded they leave their home because they were known to be gay, according to media reports. Several men stormed the house and attacked the inhabitants with machetes. Two of the men were critically injured; the other is still missing and presumed dead.
In response to recent violence in Jamaica and Ventura, CA, Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer wrote an "Article of Faith" for the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, published by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
"The annals of history, ancient and contemporary, are strewn with death and destruction wrought by the hands of the religious. However, the core teaching of every major faith is peace, not violence. ...To use sacred texts to justify violence or being complacent in its face does a gross injustice to them. It is essential that people of faith confront the sources of violence. In doing so, let us ensure that we are not just opposing violence "out there" but are acting with justice in our own country and neighborhoods as well. Violence in Jamaica or violence in Oxnard, Calif. — the context and the geography are different, but our call to stand for peace and justice is the same."
The article calls on the faith community to put their prayers for peace into action and address violent acts against LGBT persons.
To read the complete text of the "Article of Faith," click here:
It is with great pleasure and gratitude that we congratulate Barbara Satin on receiving The Alan Morrow Community Service Award for outstanding leadership and advocacy in aging and elder concerns. Barbara received the award during "Creating Change" the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Conference on LGBT Equality, held Feb. 6-10 at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.
A transgender activist and founder of GLBT Generations in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Barbara is a member of the Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, where she is involved in developing and marketing a 41-unit senior housing cooperative.
She is very involved in the work of education about the needs and concerns of the aging LGBT population. She is an active leader of city of Lakes Crossgender Community, the largest transgender social support group in Minnesota. She is also a former Moderator of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns and is currently a member of the UCC Executive Council and is the first transgender woman to hold a national leadership role in the UCC.
"This was one of the greatest educational experiences of my life," says an impassioned Rev. Henry C. Brinker, reflecting on last month's Creating Positive Change for LGBT in Church and Society Forum on Feb. 10 at the Congregational Church of Birmingham in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
"There was a strong feeling of mistrust among LGBT people attending," said Brinker of the 30-plus who took part in the forum. "These wounds and scars are not easily healed. In the past, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force chose to stay away from including people of faith as part of the process of change. It was evident (at the forum) that there is recognition of the importance of working with people of faith in advocating for change."
Brinker – Interim Pastor of First Congregational Church in Imlay City, Mich. and coordinator of the Circle of Hope -- said the church must "speak loud, clear and bold about God's love and inclusiveness, to counteract the negative voices. This happens with prayer, patience and persistence over a long period of time."
The forum was hosted by the Circle of Hope and Congregational Church of Birmingham. The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, Minister for LGBT Concerns in UCC Wider Church Ministries, and Ruth Garwood, Executive Director for the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, led the forum.
Attendees comprised an "eclectic group," transcending UCC boundaries, said Rev. Penny Lowes, pastor of the Congregational Church of Birmingham. "Any time people have an opportunity to get together in a safe place – specifically in a church – to discuss their orientation or the wounds they have, we are making great progress. Certainly we have a long way to go, but we're trying very hard to be a place where people come to be safe, worship and tell their stories. Even if it's 30 people, the impact will be far greater because they'll go out and tell others. It's a very positive, outstanding opportunity."
Several participants said they would not have realized the love of God in Christ and inclusiveness without the ministry of the United Church of Christ.
On Tuesday, March 11, the Equal Housing and Employment Act (EHEA) was introduced into both chambers of the Ohio Legislature (SB 305 and HB 402) with bi-partisan support. It was introduced by Senator Dale Miller (D-Cleveland) a member of Archwood UCC in Cleveland and Representative Jon Peterson (R-Delaware) a member of Zion UCC in Delaware, both of whom spoke in support at the press conference that morning. Ms. Jimmie Beall, who shared her story of discrimination, having been fired from the London, OH public schools for being Lesbian, is a member of First Community Church, UCC in Columbus, an Open and Affirming congregation. When she was teaching in London, she was a member of Cross Creek Community UCC in Dayton, another ONA congregation which was a rock of support to Jimmie and her family in those difficult days. Rev. Mike Castle is the pastor of Cross Creek Community UCC. He is member of the Board for the Equality Ohio Education Fund Board and was present to support Jimmie and Equality Ohio, the statewide organization working for the bill. Forrest Hoppe, Association Minister for the Central Southeast Association of the Ohio Conference and Bob Molsberry, Conference Minister, were also there with Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, from the UCC national Office for LGBT Ministries, to encourage passage of the bill. Thus, the UCC was well represented from every setting, local to national.
The serendipity of the day was that many of the UCC connections only came to light in the 24 hours before the introduction of the bill. Rev. Schuenemeyer had been in communication with Rev. Molsberry about the bill and they knew that Senator Miller was the lead on it. Senator Miller and Rev. Schuenemeyer are both members at Archwood UCC. Representative Peterson's UCC connections only came to light the day before and they all met Jimmie for the first time on Tuesday at the press conference. It isn't that the UCC is the only faith organization supporting the bill. Many others support it, too, and this will become clear in the weeks ahead. The truth is no effort was made to get religious folks to the press conference or engage a religious debate on the issue. It is just so happens these are the people who are providing leadership to get the bill passed, and it turns out, they all are part of the UCC family of faith. Of course, one could argue it is more than serendipity. The Open and Affirming work of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns and the work of UCC members, congregations, Association, Conferences and the variety of other settings laid the ground work for such efforts and that is something to celebrate.
While EHEA is most likely to pass in the next Legislature (2009), there is a marked change in the response from the political leadership of both legislative chambers, and the door appears open to some significant movement. Governor Strickland has already said he will sign it if the bill reaches his desk. Equality Ohio has called for letters to the editor and op. ed. pieces to the Ohio media, in addition to contacting state elected officials. To learn more about the bill and the efforts to pass it, go to Equality Ohio's website: http://equalityohio.org
Listen to the NPR Story on the introduction of the bill:
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Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer