Issue Number 11
Practice ... Invitation
Now we are ...FIVE
|Youth – a Focus for Ministry and
One of the most important aspects of Presbyterian Promise's work in the past year has been its focus on youth. Our outreach has been to the people attending youth programs in Southern New England churches. Presbyterian Promise has partnered with two gifted youth leaders, Rev. Katie Morrison and Elder Brian Cave, both committed to working with non-gay and LGBT youth who may have experienced homophobia in their own lives.
We've brought Katie and Brian together with the pastors and CE or youth program directors in three churches (New Haven, Wilton, and New Canaan). Katie, Brian, and the local leaders developed programs over the last few months that enabled youth and young adults to talk about the LGBT stereotypes, the experience of LGBT young people in the face of these attitudes, and ways of creating more supportive, loving, understanding environments.
Sexual minority youth are routinely deprived of support in critical areas of their lives – within their families, their schools, and unfortunately, their churches. Some disturbing statistics tell the story:
The lack of social support that many of our LGBT youth face creates
a social and emotional isolation that results in a higher incidence
of mental health issues, including bouts of depression, lower self esteem,
and problems with anxiety. Many LBGT young people are in complex, unstable
family situations due in part to issues of coming out, silence and secrecy.
(Cochran, 2001). The typical "concealment strategies" designed to hide
the youth's orientation becomes an "unending and extremely stressful chore"
(Grossman, 1997) that is emotionally and socially crippling (Dempsey, 1994).
A number of studies indicate that a significant percentage of sexual minority youth use drugs and alcohol as a coping strategy. There is also a significantly higher incidence of suicide attempts and suicide completions by LGBT youths. Nearly 30% of all completed youth suicides are committed by sexual minority youth. A number of studies have indicated that between 29% and 40% of sexual minority youth have recurring suicidal ideation at least once during their adolescence.
These are depressing statistics, and it is important to note that not all LGBT youth experience these horrors. In fact, where there has been effort to create safe spaces for LGBT youth, our children have begun to claim their rightful claim to self-respect, participation, and pride.
I want to thank Robin Passariello McHaelen and True Colors, a nonprofit agency based in Hartford that serves sexual minority youth, for the research information used here.
Presbyterian Promise has a crucial role to play in creating safe and welcoming space in our churches. That's why we've partnered this year with churches and worked to open dialogue in ways that are honest, loving, and supportive. Two reports on the events follow.
Dick HasbanyYAYA's (Youth and Young Adults)!
Presbyterian Promise, along with Rev. Katie Morrison, of Boston and I (Elder Brian Cave of New York) provided four programs for youth and young adults at First Presbyterian New Haven, Yale, and Wilton and New Canaan Presbyterian Churches. Each of the programs provided information about discrimination and fear of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the church and in society. Most of the young people were amazed to learn that GLBT people do not have the same rights as heterosexual peers in the church and society.
On Sunday, February 9th Katie and I met New Haven Presbyterian's young
adult group for lunch after church. The discussion among the group was
very supportive of GLBT people. Most of the young adults voiced their opinion
that GLBT people should be allowed to be ordained and get married in the
church. They also agreed there is still a lot of education that needs to
be done among churches and they are thankful for groups like Presbyterian
Promise that help churches host programs to get churches in dialogue among
During the evening, we met with the Junior High/Senior Group and then the Yale Presbyterian Campus Ministry group. At the Junior High/Senior Group Katie and I focused on stereotypes, making fun of peers, and rates of suicide among young people struggling with their sexuality. During one of the games, we asked the youth if they knew someone that is GLBT and they all said yes. However, they also said they have heard their friends at school being called fag and dyke and the teachers do not say anything about it or reprimand the students doing the name calling. We made sure the youth understood that as Christians we are all called to love one another and help lift each other up.
After the junior high/senior high program we went over to Yale to lead a discussion on homosexuality and the Bible with the Presbyterian Campus Ministry group. It was a great discussion, but it was evident that this could be a series of studies for the group.
On March 2nd, I went solo to New Canaan Presbyterian Church to lead a program for the senior high group. Wilton Presbyterian Church joined us with two van loads of senior highs. Just as at New Haven Presbyterian, the program focused on stereotypes, making fun of peers, and rates of suicide among young people struggling with their sexuality. I had the group break up into small groups to dialogue together about GLTB issues and the church. After all the programs the youth and young adults thanked us for creating the space for this dialogue; they feel that they really don't get the chance to be as open as they were during these programs.
These programs show the importance of reaching out to our queer and straight youth and young adults in our churches to make sure they want to stay in the church. Katie and I have been a voice for young people and getting churches to talk about sexuality among youth. That can seem to be a scary thing, but we have found that youth know more about sexuality than parents sometimes realize. Presbyterian Promise is trying to open the doors for the GLBT youth and young adults and let them know that there are churches that are welcoming of them and that God does love them. If you have a church youth or young adult group that would like to have Presbyterian Promise sponsor a program, please contact Dick Hasbany at (203) 777-4579.
Brian CaveThe Importance of Acceptance
Brian Cave and Katie Morrison joined us at First Presbyterian Church, New Haven on February 9th for a Presbyterian Promise sponsored program with approximately 25 junior and senior high school youth. They provided us with a fun-filled and very meaningful evening.They focused on the language that we use, how stereotypes can hurt us, and how to be sensitive to one another.Their personal stories, along with the activities, were thought provoking and engaged all of us present in a very important discussion.
The other afternoon I was having a conversation with a friend relating this program to her, and trying to describe it.My friend and her partner and their three children have been family friends for many years.I have often tried to convince them to worship with us because of the welcoming community our congregation offers, being tolerant of all kinds of lifestyles.She stopped me and said that she wished that people would stop talking about "tolerance" and start talking about "acceptance."
I was stunned for a moment, and realized that of course she was right.Upon
reflection I realized that neither Katie or Brian
Brian and Katie were very well received by our youth and the group leaders.Many of them took the opportunity to speak with them following the formal presentation, and I feel certain that what we learned from them will be the source of ongoing discussions, as well as further learning opportunities.
Director of Christian Education
First Presbyterian Church, New Haven
|Statement of Inclusive Welcome
In the current atmospheres within the Presbyterian Church, including honest struggle as well as polemics, the Session of First Presbyterian Church, New Haven, felt it was important to state clearly our welcome to all, in a positive and loving way. Towards that end, the Session has commissioned a Statement of Inclusive Welcome.
The Sessions of 2002 and 2003 supported the development of this statement of welcome. It was adopted unanimously at the January 21st meeting of the Session.
Here is the text of our Statement of Inclusive Welcome.
"In the name of God our creator, we welcome you and all people. We are a community committed to follow Jesus Christ in a just and compassionate ministry open to the world and all its races, genders, sexual orientations, ages, nationalities or ethnicities, economic situations, and abilities.
from The Inkling, the church newsletter
Can this title sell? Coming from a background on the edge of Madison Ave., that was my first question on seeing Wayne Osborne's new CD. But we live in serious times. This music will be a friend on our journey.
are things so seriousThe publicity says these songs have been four years in the making. Those of us privileged to hear Wayne's 2001 Presbyterian Promise benefit concert will be proud to see how they have matured and grown up.
you defend the fatherland at whatever cost, whatever"The Bombs are Falling" distills many aspects of Wayne's journey from his Jackson Mississippi home, a journey to freedom through an emotional minefield.
The all too familiar (to members of Presbyterian Promise) Stamford case forced Wayne to defend publicly his most intimate desires, severely testing his deep beliefs about himself, the world, relationships in general, and the liberating power of confession. So Serious, documents a lifelong inner struggle to hold onto belief with the ability to face the world with honesty.
Wayne grew up in a musical web of Rock and Pop spun with the rich gospel music of the Deep South. Moving north, he entered the crucible of New York City's music and art scenes where he refined his intensely personal musical style. The songs on So Serious are heart wrenching yet healing and offer a stark reminder of how truth and honesty are both at work in our inner and outer worlds. The CD is available online at www.ra-records.com and will be in music stores in the Spring of 2003. You will be well rewarded for accepting Wayne's gentle yet insistent invitation to serious reflection.
|And Now We Are
At its second annual meeting on January 19th, members of Presbyterian Promise learned we had a fourth sponsoring church! At its January meeting the session of Providence Presbyterian Church in Providence, Rhode Island, voted to become a sponsoring member. Co-moderator Dick Hasbany welcomed them cordially as all present celebrated their commitment to an inclusive Presbyterian church.
And on March 18 Crossroads Presbyterian ALSO voted to be a sponsor!
Alleluia! Lisa Larges, TAMFS national regional coordinator preached and
lead a discussion at Crossroads last October and will be at Providence
In regular business, Elders Mary-Starke Wilson and Dan Blackford and the Rev. Brian Merritt were elected to the board in the class of 2005. Rev. Letty Russell was reelected. Elders Dick Hasbany, Cheryl Molina, Pat Wales and Ralph Jones continue in service as does Jack Hartwein-Sanchez, MLP liaison. Elaine Shields, Rev. Terry Davis and Sharon Fennema serve for the Wilton, Hartford and New Haven churches, respectively.
Conversation with the pastors and two members of Christ Church, Presbyterian in Burlington, Vermont was the focus of the meeting. Co-pastors Becky Strader and Mike Brown and members Al and Sue Brooks shared some of their history – how the church became a More Light congregation back in 1984, their experience with the various challenges to their statements on what became G-6.0106b and the development of their new "Statement of Compliance." Conversation turned to ways Presbyterians can be both faithful and continue within a denomination which so often acts to exclude. The Statement and a brief chronology are in the December 2002 issue of Presbyterian Promise News available on our website.
Burlington's Ken Wolvington recently reported on the official presbytery reaction to their statement.
At its regular meeting Saturday, March 8th, the Presbytery of Northern New England received the final report of the "Pastoral Committee" that was established in the aftermath of "Londonderry vs. The Presbytery of Northern New England." You may remember that in June of 2002 Christ Church, Presbyterian (CCP) had "set aside" its 1997 resolution expressing dissent from G-6.0106b and promising that a new statement would be forthcoming. The new "Statement of Compliance with G-6.0106b" was first issued in November. After consultation with the Pastoral Committee, the statement underwent minor editorial changes that were approved by session on March 2, 2003.
|Love Makes a Family
...and YOU can help. Today there are three bills before the Connecticut State Legislature's Judiciary Committee.
But your legislators – both Representatives and Senators – need your help. Write them. A massive letter campaign supporting the DOMA HB 5356 is under way. They need to know we will be there to support them come election time, especially if they vote for same sex marriage.
Letters should be short. Identify yourself as a constituent. If you know them personally, make sure they will recognize it is you who is writing. Thank them for persevering in the hard work of elected office. Tell them you support enacting same sex marriage legislation and oppose the DOMA. Tell them why.
Check at town hall or go to http://www.cga.state.ct.us/ if you need help finding your senator or representative. Also check the Judiciary committee membership. Letters to its members are extremely important.
Your 37¢ is the easiest powerful political action you can take. Legislators report that letters are the single most effective form of constituent communication. What you do or don't do DOES matter. Supporting good law now is far easier than changing bad law later. Please write today.
An era in the hospitality movement has ended. The Reverend Howard B.
Warren, Jr. died March 14th at age 68.
Many of us knew Howard as "God's glorious gadfly," and thanked God for his powerful and warm proclamation of the "wildly, extravagant, inclusive love of God."
The PC USA News reports, "Describing a man who 'exploded out of the closet,' the Rev. Jane Spahr describes Warren's activism in the Presbyterian Church as done 'with a passion for justice and for truth-telling, but always with a compassionate heart.' Remembering his purple-sequined hats, his placards as he stood for years before the General Assembly and his rainbow-colored banners and clothes, Spahr credits Warren with making the gay and lesbian movement in the PC(USA) move."
In the memorial on That All May Freely Serve's webpage, we learn,
The Rev. Howard B. Warren Jr. attended McCormick Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary in New York and was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the United Presbyterian Church U.S. in 1960. He served as Associate Pastor in churches throughout Pennsylvania, Indiana and Michigan. In 1987 he came out to the Presbytery of Detroit as a person with AIDS and a gay man. In the last years of his distinguished ministry Howard served as Director of Pastoral Care at the Damien Center, an HIV/AIDS service/support center in Indianapolis, a validated specialized ministry of the Presbytery of Whitewater Valley.
Both conservative, evangelical churches and liberal, inclusive churches have some significant disagreements and grievances with the national church. These two groups do, however, appear to differ in their response.
We recently compared the 420 Covenant Network and/or More Light churches with the 1,255 churches in the so-called "Confessing Church Movement." [Using denominational statistics from 2001 and 2000]
The average church size is the same (326 for both groups). Although they are on average the same size, the 420 CovNet and/or MLP churches give on average more than twice as much to G.A. mission, and more than two and a half times as much to presbytery and synod mission, as do "confessing" churches. These 420 CovNet and MLP churches give 76% as much in aggregate to the denomination at all three levels as do the 1,255 "confessing" churches. ....
Covenant and More Light churches pay 27% more per capita than do so-called "confessing" churches ($19.68 per capita vs. $15.50).
Incidentally they also differ very substantially on the role of women. 40% of clergy in CovNet and/or MLP churches are women; 9% of "confessing church" clergy are women. (Denominational average for parish clergy is 22% women.)
|Board and Supporter 'Advance'
April 26, 2003 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
You are invited!
"Whatever house you enter, first say 'Peace Be with This House!' " [Luke 10:5-6] At times, the board members and supporters of Presbyterian Promise will be practicing invitation and hospitality. At other times, we will be accepting the invitation and hospitality of others. This reciprocal hospitality is crucial to the mission of Presbyterian Promise. Sometimes, we will feel like the wandering laborers in Luke 10, sent out "like lambs into the midst of wolves" to harvest for the Lord. We will graciously accept the hospitality of all those who invite us into their midst. We will practice hospitality when and where we can. Come learn more about this aspect of our ministry, and the many other things we hope to accomplish this year, by accepting the invitation and hospitality of Crossroads Church and the board on Saturday, April 26 from 10:00 am to 2:00 p.m. Come and enjoy some productive time with Lisa Largess of That All May Freely Serve.
Enjoy a simple meal of soup and fresh bread, some fairly traded coffee and a little dessert. Help us to think about and plan our work on behalf of LGBT people in our midst and outside our church doors, that more churches might open wide their doors in an expression of hospitality.
|Calendar of Events
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