Article by Project Gionata, September 30, 2012, translated from the Italian by Peter L.
What dialogue exists between gay Christian groups and Catholic and Protestant churches in Italy? Which Catholic parishes and dioceses and which evangelical churches welcome gay Christian groups? Do bishops propose dialogue or pastoral work “for” and “with” these groups? The 2012 report on “Gay Christian Groups and Dialogue with Churches in Italy” published by “Dialogo” was presented at the Italian Forum of Gay Christians held in the city of Albano Laziale from March 30 to April 1, 2012 with the aim of supplying data on how LGBT Christians are welcomed in Italian churches.
I became acquainted with Soulforce last year when I heard about their “Equality Ride” program.
I was immediately interested and signed onto the delegate program and began two months of training. As a new delegate, we are asked to plan and sponsor a project in our areas – one that might bring aw
areness and challenge oppressive religious beliefs as well as create dialogue about intersectional justice issues. About the same time, I became aware of “Love Free or Die,” a film about the life of Bishop Gene Robinson, and started to think about ways to bring this award winning film to the Sacramento community as a part of my Soulforce project. As this vision began several months ago, a team began to form with a similar vision. The president of Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival enthusiastically jumped on board, the pastor of St. Marks United Methodist church and the leaders of the LGBTQ group there were also excited to get involved in the project. As we began to discuss bringing the film here, we began to expand the idea to include a panel of diverse clergy members from Sacramento area to answer questions following the film. We also became aware that Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s was planning on bringing the film to Sacramento and so we joined forces with them they were instrumental in helping with every aspect of the film.
Last year, I had the privilege of hearing Bishop Robinson in person at my church. I sat in the front row and was mesmerized and challenged by his words and struck by his love and patience towards the people (within and outside of his church) that wanted to marginalize and reject him just because he loves another man. It really ignited my heart (since I come from a Bible banging Baptist background) about the need to lovingly and peacefully confront erroneous beliefs about homosexuality which are often times fueled and encouraged by the religious right. Historically and currently, the biggest barrier to achieving LGBTQ equality is religion-based bigotry, along with with the failure of the gay community to confront religious arguments thoughtfully, articulately and publicly. I have found that most LGBT people avoid religious dialogue because they feel unprepared to have a discussion with someone who is schooled in religious teaching. Others feel they have been badly damaged by religion and want to avoid these conversations at all costs. This film provides an example and challenges us all to educate ourselves and to continue to find ways to peacefully stand up to oppression in order to attain the equality we want and deserve.
The film was held at the Crocker Art Museum which added a beautiful new wing to its building a few years ago, including a state of the art auditorium. The Crocker was the perfect venue for the film. Close to 200 people attended the film and the panel discussion which followed was challenging and informative. On the panel was a gay Lutheran minister, a lesbian African American United Church of Christ minister, a male Bishop from the Episcopal Church, an ordained female pastor who directs a women’s shelter and a male pastor of the United Methodist Church.
Attendees were asked to fill out cards for more information about Soulforce and future events in Sacramento. 50 people filled out cards! My hope is to use this film event as a springboard for other Soulforce sponsored events in the area and to bring interest and exposure to Soulforce.
A friend wrote the following review after the film: “That was the best 82 minutes I’ve spent in a long time. I learned so much and was so moved by the experiences of this one man standing up to an institution deep with over 2,000 years of bigotry. One man standing up for what he knew was right. Some
how in 82 minutes these filmmakers managed to portray how one man was instrumental in changing the unchangeable. This film gave me a great sense of hope for the future and more importantly it reminded me just how far the gay (lesbian, bi, transgender, et al inclusive) has to go. I’ve watched our community make such great strides in the last 28 years it’s easy for me to get lulled into a false sense of security and easy for me to think in time everything is destined to be equal so maybe I can just sit back and watch. It’s was a natural progression for me to get complacent. This film makes me realize how far we have come and more importantly how far we have to go.”
On November 4th, I will have the privilege of running 26.2 miles for social justice in the New York City Marathon to raise money for Soulforce. With 47,000+ runners from around the globe and more than 2 million spectators, the New York City marathon is the largest in the world.
An event of such magnitude provides a unique opportunity to raise money for and create awareness about Soulforce, an organization that has been instrumental in shaping the activist and person I am today.
And because Soulforce represents solidarity, I know that I won’t have to run—or train—alone…which is fitting because this race isn’t about me. It’s not about competition or achieving a personal record. This marathon is about giving back to an organization that has given me so much and creating awareness about Soulforce’s commitment to young adult activism and intersectional justice.
Even on my training runs, I feel that there is a greater force carrying me through and it is embedded in a vision of social justice and beloved community for all people that—because of Soulforce—I know is possible. It is a vision that rests in the knowledge that when we work together—rooted in a common purpose and solidified in solidarity—there is no obstacle we can’t overcome. The finish line, however elusive and distant it may seem, is within reach so long as we recognize the beauty of our shared humanity and “run” together—side by side and mile by mile—toward a more just world.
I look forward to being part of that journey with you!
HERE’S MARU’S STORY:Soulforce means young adult activism. Whether it’s the Delegate Program or the Equality Ride, Soulforce’s commitment to motivating youth leadership is unprecedented. As an almuni of Soulforce programming, I have benefitted from that commitment firsthand. Since my initial involvement with Soulforce in 2009, I have had experiences I never dreamed possible. From co-founding Georgia Safe Schools Coalition and helping to strengthen anti-bullying and harassment policies in my former school district to meeting President Obama and marching as a Grand Marshal in the
Atlanta Pride parade, such achievements would not have been possible without Soulforce. Working with Soulforce helped me realize my own power in creating real, sustainable change and doing so in a way that fits my personality and highlights my talents.
That’s because Soulforce is about authenticity. They are dedicated to letting people be who they are by using their strengths and passions to motivate radical change. Running is one of my passions: it keeps me grounded and connected. On November 4th, I will have the privilege of combining my love of running with my commitment to social justice in a way that is truly and authentically me.Step by step and mile by mile, I will rely on the same strength and resiliency that Soulforce helped me uncover all those years ago. And I will draw inspiration from other young Soulforce activists who courageously and wholeheartedly run toward justice every single day, no matter the distance or obstacle.
Your support will ensure Soulforce’s continued commitment to cultivating the sort of young adult leadership that changes hearts, opens minds, and transforms the world! I hope you’ll be part of my journey!
Pledge $2o or more and receive a personalized postcard from New York!
Pledge $50 or more and receive a treat made from one of my town’s delicious bakeries!
Pledge $125 or more and receive a postcard and a kit of Soulforce research and books- including a signed copy of Mel White’s latest book, Holy Terror.
Pledge $300 or more and receive a postcard, a local yummy treat, a kit of Soulforce resources, and a Soulforce water bottle all your friends will be jealous of!
Pledge $500 or more and receive a postcard, a kit of Soulforce resources, a local yummy treat, and a Soulforce t-shirt!
Lawyers and legal workers at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed an important brief in Sexual Minorities Uganda’s human rights case against U.S. anti-gay extremist Scott Lively. CCR represents Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) in a lawsuit filed against Scott Lively in March 2012 for his involvement in a conspiracy to deprive LGBTI Ugandans of their fundamental rights. CCR sued Scott Lively for his actions in Uganda going back to his first trip there in 2002, at which time he claims he helped start Uganda’s anti-gay movement. Since that time Lively has worked with others- who are named as co-conspirators in the lawsuit- on a strategy to move forward legislation, policies and practices that deprive LGBTI persons of their elementary human right to equal coexistence. When one group of people conspires to deprive another group of people of their fundamental rights based on their identity it is persecution – a crime against humanity – and illegal under international law. CCR is suing under a US law, the Alien Tort Statute, which makes it possible for foreign individuals and organizations to bring civil lawsuits in US courts for certain violations of international law– including persecution– against individuals, organizations or companies that have ties to the U.S.
Since filing the case, Scott Lively has claimed that SMUG and CCR’s lawsuit is an attack on his religious expression, which is protected by the First Amendment. Scott Lively’s lawyers at Liberty Counsel made this First Amendment argument the central piece of their Motion to Dismiss, which they filed in June 2012. On September 20, 2012 CCR filed a 107-page Opposition to their Motion to Dismiss which explains precisely why this lawsuit in no way infringes upon his First Amendment rights since the claims in the case are only about his illegal actions.As today’s filing states, “contrary to Defendant [Scott Lively]’s central defense, none of Plaintiff [SMUG]’s claims are predicated on any speech or writing of the Defendant, odious and ignorant as they may be. His speech is merely circumstantial evidence of the discriminatory intent and motive behind his campaign to deprive LGBTI persons of fundamental rights and thus admissible as to help prove the elements of the conspiracy to persecute.”
In fact, CCR’s filing shows that it is Scott Lively who is violating peoples’ rights to free expression by his campaign to outlaw SMUG’s and other Ugandan groups’ advocacy work on behalf of the LGBTI community: “It is [Scott Lively], through his coordinated campaign to silence, criminalize and eradicate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (“LGBTI”) community in Uganda, who violates fundamental constitutional and human rights norms, by denying to this group one of the most sublime benefits of free and equal speech – the right to change people’s minds.”
FILM AND DISCUSSION EXPLORE CONFLICT BETWEEN PASSION FOR GOD AND MAN
Gay Bishop’s Tale Unearths a Journey of Love, Faith and Conflict
SACRAMENTO, Ca. – A free film viewing of Love Free or Die will showcase on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, at the Crocker Art Museum hosted by Soulforce, The Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. The film viewing is open to the general public. Free reserved tickets are required for admittance to the event. Tickets can be secured online at: http://siglff.org/wordpress/love-free-or-die. A brief panel discussion with local clergy will follow immediately.
Directed by Macky Alston, Love Free or Die is the personal story of a public figure in current Christendom. The film explores the journey of Bishop Gene Robinson whose defining passion for God and his gay lover are at odds with the church and large segments of society. Bishop Robinson is the first openly gay person to become a bishop in the historic traditions of Christianity. At his consecration in 2003 he wore a bullet-proof vest due to the international stir that resulted. Death threats have followed him every day since.
In Love Free or Die, Bishop Robinson steps onto the world stage as he travels from small- town churches to Washington’s Lincoln Memorial to London’s Lambeth Palace calling for all to stand for equality – inspiring leaders within the church and ordinary individuals to come out of the shadows and change history.
A panel discussion will follow the viewing of the film with local members of the clergy. The panel includes: Rev. Jason Bense, Pastor of the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer; Rev. Brian Baker, Dean (Senior Priest) of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral; Rev. Janice Steele, Founder and Pastor of Imani (Swahili word for faith) Community United Church of Christ; Rev. Alan Jones, Pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church; and Rev. Faith Whitmore, a Methodist minister and Executive Director of Francis House. The members of this panel uphold a tradition of serving, ministering to and supporting individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The panel discussion is intended to raise awareness among Sacramento’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community and their allies of local resources that emphasize faith and unity.
Soulforce is an organization committed to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
queer people from religious and political oppression through relentless nonviolent resistance.
Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival presents images of the diverse gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community by brining quality, contemporary GLBT
film/video programming to the greater Sacramento community through an annual film festival
and other related activities. http://www.facebook.com/SIGLFF#!/SIGLFF/info
St. Mark’s United Methodist Church is a community of people where absolutely everyone
receives a warm welcome and an invitation to be part of a movement to transform the world
with the power of God’s love. http://www.stmarksumc.com/about-us
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is a unique and extraordinary church where people are transformed
as they experience the love of God through a welcoming community that is deeply committed
to servicing the needs of the poor. http://www.trinitycathedral.org/about.shtml
Lutheran Church of our Redeemer is a diverse community of faith, celebrating the Spirit while
working for justice, healing and reconciliation in the world. http://www.lcorsac.org/
Imani Community United Church of Christ is a vibrant congregation in the heart of midtown
Sacramento spreading the gospel of love and inclusion. http://www.imaniucc.org/about.html
We encourage productive dialogue which we believe to be a path to healing & reconciliation. We also intend to cultivate a safe space for LGBTQ people, as well as women, people of color, non-Americans, and all other groups & individuals experiencing oppression.