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A few months ago I posted a series of Twitter/Facebook/Blog status updates that I compiled into a blog post entitled Jesus Loves You! But I’ve heard rumors… I figured that would be the end of it, but about two weeks later I got inspired again and began another round of Jesus Loves You! updates. Since the first round, John Henson, the brilliant Welsh minister and author of Good as New–A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures, has become a Facebook friend. (Do buy his book–it is stunning) He spiced up the daily updates with his own analysis on Jesus. Lots of lively commenting ensued from loads of different people including Deborah, Fredrick, Brett, Tania, Eddie, Susanne, Rabbi Nina, Jean–well loads of people. I also got tons of affirmation from Friends when I attended Quaker gatherings this summer. So many lurk in the Light. 😛

Like the first set this one brought out all sorts of Facebook friends who I rarely see. Some of the Jesus Loves You! updates really struck a chord, got people laughing, thinking, remembering, connecting. There is a move afoot to print some onto mug. Personally I think some would be perfect on a thong.

I purposely choose phrases that are ambiguous or have multiple meanings to let the readers decide what it all means for them. For me many of them serve as commentary to how Jesus is marketed by some churches–Jesus the product. There is also one Wizard of Oz reference there that confused a lot of people (which speaks to what an old gay guy I am that now people don’t get Oz references.) See if you can spot it. Some also speak to the challenges many of us have faced with the Christian faith as it has been taught and practiced and the double-standards we experienced. Some are just fun with no deep abiding meaning that I can extrapolate. I sometimes just like playing with words.

Check ’em out. Which is your favorite? What do they mean to you? Have some of your own you want to add?

Jesus Loves You!

  • Jesus Loves You! No purchase necessary to enter. Employees and families are not eligible. Void where prohibited by law.
  • Jesus Loves You! Side effects may include dizziness, exaggerated feelings of depression or elation, changes in sex drive & impotence.
  • Jesus Loves You! Yet you worry, that in spite of all you tell yourself (and all you’ve done) you still look fat in those jeans.
  • Jesus Loves You! Unconditionally. Well, kinda.
  • Jesus Loves You! He arrives at your door a battered beast seeking shelter, refuge.
  • Jesus Loves You! But he doesn’t like to brag about it.
  • Jesus Loves You! But he works weekends.
  • Jesus Loves You! But look out for the in-laws!
  • Jesus Loves You! Most scholars now agree that he looks nothing like his current Facebook profile photo.
  • Jesus Loves You! But he gets kinda weird when you start asking lots of questions.
  • Jesus Loves You! He loves you not. He loves you. He loves you not…
  • Jesus Loves You! With extra strength cleansing power! Those tough sin stains don’t stand a chance. Now in lavender or lemon-scented blood.
  • Jesus Loves You! Although he does live in an exclusive gated community & only let’s the ‘right’ people in.
  • Jesus Loves You! Christ Update 4.0 bulked up w/ new spiritual security enhancements & now compatible w/ Buddhist & Pagan operating systems.
  • Jesus Loves You! Behold the Lamb of God! (Yeah, he’s into that whole furry scene)
  • Jesus Loves You! Have seen this Savior? Last spotted in Roman-occupied Palestine circa 33 AD.
  • Jesus Loves You! You are truly lovely and extraordinarily worthy of love and then more love.
  • Jesus Loves You! Consider the lilies of the field before an ecological nightmare annihilates them!
  • Jesus Loves You! He ascended up to heaven & seated himself at his Father’s right hand, thus ending a 33 year custody battle.
  • Jesus Loves You! The exact whereabouts of the Savior is still unclear. Sources close to Jesus claim he mutated, became air-born & went viral.
  • Jesus Loves You! Why look ye for the living among the dead? He was forcibly removed from the planet 2000 yrs ago by his Father’s henchangels
  • Jesus Loves You! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
  • Jesus Loves You! First Crusade Cola© then Inquisition Fruit Punch® and now Jesus Lite Energy Elixir™–fullness of life w/ 75% less wrath!
  • Jesus Loves You! “I am the Vine; you are the branches.” An invasive specie of global proportions.
  • Jesus Loves You! Purveyor of loaves & fishes since 33 AD. “Our cod is an awesome cod!”
  • Jesus Loves You! Do not fear the monster lurking under your bed or the one living in your heart.

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So much good stuff out there that has come to my inbox recently.

  • Candace Chellew-Hodge, the creator of Whosoever.org, has a new book out, Bulletproof—A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay & Lesbian Christians. You can hear a public reading here. Check out what Desmond Tutu has to say about the book.

    Gay and lesbian Christians are constantly demoralized and told they are not children of God. In Bulletproof Faith, Chellew-Hodge reassures gays and lesbians that God loves them just as they were created and teaches them how to stand strong, with compassion and gentleness, against those who condemn them. -Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

  • Allyson Robinson gets quoted in a great piece that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post, Ruling Inspires New Hope for Transgender People.

    But for transgender women such as Robinson, the County Council’s passage of the law was a key reason she chose to live in Montgomery when she moved to the area this year from Texas to take a job at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender civil rights organization.

    Before settling on a townhouse in Gaithersburg, Robinson and her family sought to rent an apartment. She worried, unnecessarily as it turned out, that the landlord would want to pull out of the lease upon meeting her. Until the law took effect this week, Robinson said, the landlord could have rejected her application because she is a transgender person.

    In the past, Robinson has also worried about taking her four young children to public restrooms at restaurants, because she fears that someone will identify her as a transgender woman and call security. “You find yourself on guard, and mentally and emotionally prepared for that,” Robinson said. “You just never know. For many of us, this kind of thing we fear happens rarely; for others it happens constantly, and the fear of it is very real.”

  • Over the weekend I got to hang out with poet Karla Kelsey. She has done collaborative work with her partner visual artist Peter Yumi. You can see samples here.
  • If you go in for the whole debate thing, check out Opposing Views, which includes polar opinions on politics, religion, money, health and more.

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Doin’ it meaning worship that is. As many of you know I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends (aka Quakers). I came to the Quakers as a refugee after a religious odyssey that took me from Roman Catholicism to Fundamentalism to Evangelicalism to Pentecostalism to Anglicanism and ultimately (or penultimately?) to Quakerism. A long and winding road indeed. I do not regret any of the stops I made although some proved more useful than others.

For me the Quaker way provides something other than a belief structure. We don’t have any established creeds to which we ascribe or affirm. Each Quaker has his or her own beliefs, but we do hold onto values that we have grown to cherish through the years (peace, integrity, simplicity, etc). It has also proved to be a healthy environment for me as a person who is gay.

But if you want to see a Quaker sputter a bit, ask the Friend, “So what do Quakers believe?” It’s kind of like asking vegans, “So what kind of meat do you eat?” For me being Quaker is not so much about what I believe, but more about what I practice, especially the practice of silence and stillness in worship.

paul (lower case “p”)recently e-mailed me about his first foray into a Quaker meeting. I asked if I could share some of his initial experiences on my blog. He agreed, so I hand it over to Paul.

Four weeks ago I attended my first Quaker meeting. It was really something, kind of felt like coming home, it is very familiar somehow. We gay folk, or anyone who doesn’t fit the status quo really, are often outsiders, strangers. Some of us spend our whole lives hiding in order to fit in, which is a contradiction in terms, I know, but to get the feeling of acceptance we hide the part or parts of us we know won’t be accepted. When we find a place where we can simply be who we are, it’s profound, like an orphan coming home. I say “orphan” because many of us have never really had a home, so I guess this is what it feels like.

Quaker service is not like any church I have ever been to. Before service there is what is called “Bible Workbench.” I guess one might compare it to “Sunday school,” but it’s nothing like it really. Instead of a teacher, there is a moderator, and the “workbench” is an open discussion on a portion of bible scripture. All viewpoints are welcomed, the only ‘rule’ is you cannot disparage another’s comment… thought you are free to disagree.

After “Bible workbench” there is the Quaker worship service. This also is not like any “church” service I have ever been to. In every church I have been to, there is singing, often musicians, praying out loud and a sermon from a pastor or preacher. Generally lots of bells and whistles. In contrast, a Quaker service is an hour spent in silence. Any participant who believes they have a message to give, is free to give it, but my experience has been that there is more silence than messages. Bells and whistles are fine just like chocolate cake is fine, but a steady diet of it isn’t very healthy. I don’t think it can be a substitute for “stillness.” Especially if it’s true that we have to “be still” to “know” who “is God.” The bells and whistles can actually impede the event and distract us from “God” replacing God with a God substitute, an image of our own making (which seems like idolatry). “Stillness” seems the absence of all such ideas and images in and effort to encounter the Who is right now.

If you want to find a Quaker meeting near you, check out QuakerFinder.org.
To read other blogs by Quakers about Quakerism, check out QuakerQuaker.org.

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It’s my international radio weekend! Although I am in Western Maryland right now taking part in Quaker gathering, I will also be on the radio in Canada and beyond.

Tonight at 10:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time) I will be a once again be a guest on Vancouver’s Queer FM CiTR 101.9fm where I will talk about my recent trip to Lambeth, my upcoming trip to Vancouver, Canada in October and whatever else Heather, the show’s enthusiastic host, gets me to talk about. You can listen live here.

Also, last week while at Lambeth Conference, George Arny of BBC World Service interviewed me for the Reporting Religion program. I talk at length about my ex-gay experiences, Beyond Ex-Gay, my faith journey and being a Quaker today. You can listen to the program here.

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Lambeth Log Day Two

Yesterday, my second at the Lambeth Conference, I felt mostly consumed with my own anxiety and excitement about my impending evening presentation (which went well–phew). I woke up early to work out some of the last details and to rehearse a bit. My hosts, the LGCM, played up the comedy part of my presentation referring to it as a cabaret. I think that serves as a good approach as Lambeth fatigue seems to have set in on many of those gathered here. I can’t believe they have been at this for two weeks. I am already exhausted after two days.

After my prep time and breakfast, I attended a Bible study organized by Integrity and Changing Attitude. We explored John chapter 9, an intriguing account outlining the healing of a man born blind. What struck me most was how Jesus only appears at the beginning and end of the long narrative. Much of the action has to do with the man (and his family) dealing with the religious leaders who simply will not listen to this man’s story.

24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this,[b] because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

26 “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

27 “Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

These clergy members eventually chuck the man out of the synagogue after taking issue with him and with Jesus’ authority. I see plenty of transgression here by both the man and Jesus–transgression against religious authority. Jesus broke the Sabbath rule as interpreted by these religious leaders when he healed on the holy day, and the man had the audacity to stand up to his religious leaders and not back down.

Each day the bishops and some other delegates meet for a daily Bible study/listening sessions in groups of about 40. One delegate (not a bishop) said that a woman in their circle takes notes of what happens. She turned to him after one of the sessions and said, “You are not a bishop.” He asked how she could tell. She replied, “Because you listen to other people.”

This is one group of many and the bishops in it represent a small part of the 666 bishops in attendance (what a Biblically ironic number of primates to gather for this event). But this incident reflects part of a chronic problem in many (most?) churches. The clergy do not listen. The hierarchy of many churches is such that most people don’t have a say in how the church operates.

I learned a little bit more about the Anglican worldwide community yesterday in speaking with a BBC journalist. One of the big problems is that the church leadership in each country technically stands alone with its own autonomy. Sure the Archbishop or a resolution at Lambeth can state You Must/Must Not Do XYZ, but no central authority exists to enforce the mandate. So you have diocese ordaining a gay bishop or women against the mandate handed down at previous meetings.

One corrective measure may be to create a more centralized body with the authority necessary to make the member churches comply with church teaching. The Roman Catholic Church wields this sort of control from Rome. It serves to keep renegades in order. It also limits the freedom of the people (and even God.)

The Quakers (in the unprogrammed tradition that I know) are not perfect. We have a decentralized system without clergy. We hold meeting for worship with attention to business where any member or attender can weigh in and must be heard. We seek to move forward with consensus among all the members who choose to be part of the process. It takes forever to make decisions and to work out controversies. But everyone has a voice in the process without a select group calling the shots for the others. That means that some Quaker meetings in the US will not perform marriages between people of the same-sex while others will. Each meeting needs to work this out for themselves.

I come to Lambeth for only a few days without access to most of the “important” meetings. But then most of the people in the Worldwide Anglican Community cannot attend or participate in most of the important meetings. The clergy can run the risk of living apart from the people, talking theory without practicing pastoral care.

End of Sermon 🙂

I spent much of the day yesterday relaxing with Auntie Doris, Tractor Girl (from the Ship of Fools), and William Crawley. The best moment was a nap on the law of Canterbury Cathedral while the other three went inside.

As I said above, I felt my presentation went well. I had lots of competition for audience with at least three other LGBT-affirming events going on simultaneously, but we still had a good crowd and I believe I made the right choices. I appreciated the time of silent worship before the presentation. One member of the local Quaker meeting joined us for that.

Today I have an interview with BBC Worldwide Service’s Reporting Religion program (which will air over the weekend) and then I do my presentation again tonight. Off to London tomorrow then home on Saturday (for a day before I head off to Baltimore Yearly Meeting).

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Thanks to the expert driving skill of Auntie Doris I arrived safely at Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. Fortunately (or not) I have wi-fi in my dorm room on campus here at the University of Kent so I can blog some.

On the way to Canterbury we listened to LBC Radio (a talk radio station for the greater London area) and the show hosted Jeni Barnett. She offer topic after topic in a frenetic random order, but the one issue that caught my ear had to do with English people trying to change their accents to sound more like the Queen. She asked for callers who had also tried to change their accents.

I turned to Auntie, “Should I?” and with little more than a nod from her, I called. (Joe Gee, that fabulous podcaster, will be simultaneously proud of me and appalled by me). I explained that in the US I get much better customer service when I speak with a posh British accent. This accent is a perceived by many in the US to carry class and sophistication (and it may possibly be a bow to our former colonial masters :-p ). In fact, when I was quite young, I tried to emulate some of the British accents from films in order to alter what I considered my “gay accent.” I thought I might get people off the gay scent.

I then talked about the Ex-Gay Movement and how much of it has to do with gender including getting one’s voice to adhere to gender norms. Some ex-gay leaders taught me that proper men speak with a downward inflection and use less words than women. They also instructed me to drop to my lower register when I spoke. I wrapped up the brief radio segment by letting Jeni know that I was off to Lambeth (pointing towards Canterbury as I spoke on the phone in the car) to do a talk/performance/cabaret act about my time as an ex-gay and the process to integrate my sexuality and spirituality.

Joe Gee will no doubt call me a media whore. I often remind him that I am simply a press magnet. Auntie Doris wants to have a goal that every time I travel with her by car in England, I need to find a reason to call into one of these programs.

After this encounter with Jeni, Auntie and I arrived at Lambeth. I had been invited by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM). Richard Kirker of LGCM met me, sorted out my room at Darwin Hall and then pointed me towards the exhibitors hall.

Auntie Doris and I walked into the hall then froze with our mouths wide open. No, it was not a display of fine dark chocolates from around the world. What greeted us proved to be much richer and appealing. The most gorgeous, colorful, artful robes and stoles captured our attention. They hung draped on racks and hangers calling to us to wrap ourselves up in ecclesiastical prêt-à-porter. As a Quaker, I suddenly felt envy for these Anglicans and their brilliant plumage. As a gay man with a penchant for auspicious and flamboyant clothing, I felt right at home.

We walked around the stalls, and just like Auntie Doris’ uncle (an Anglican vicar) told us, several exhibitors expressed a strong pro-LGBT message. In fact, I counted at least four stalls set up with colorful posters and lots of literature all about the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Zacchaeus Fellowship, a Canadian Anglican ex-gay type group, had a small stall set up with some literature, but they had no staff present when we passed by. They provided booklets with stories of four ex-gays and a hand-out with suggested books and links for “those struggling with homosexuality.” These included books by Andrew Comiskey, Joe Dallas, Leanne Payne, Mario Bergner and Joseph Nicolosi (A Parent’s Guide to Presenting Homosexuality). In their list of “Websites of Interest” they mention several groups including PFOX and NARTH, and Ex0dus Global Alliance. At the bottom of their list of resources they provide this disclaimer:

Please note: The above information is provided as a courtesy. The reader must determine the suitability of the contents found under these links for his or her purposes, interests and beliefs.

Speaking with two women at the Integrity/Changing Attitude stall we agreed that ex-gay promoters and providers would also offer warnings similar to those found on cigarette boxes here in the UK.

WARNING: Immersion in ex-gay theories and practices may harm you and those around you.

In offering ex-gay treatment (in whatever form they suggest) as an option, I do not often hear the fact that most people come to the conclusion that they do not need alter their orientation or submerge it or cut it out of themselves. In fact, in trying to do so many of us have actually experienced harm. Sure a handful of people say that such a change is possible and that they are happy no longer identifying as gay or lesbian, but from my experience of 25 years in and around around the ex-gay world, these folks represent a tiny majority of the many people who attempted it before them.

The good news is that I heard mostly positive messages today about LGBT people, especially in with the screening of a new film, Voice of Witness: Africa. Filmmakers Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod traveled from the US to Africa to film LGBT people in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. They state:

It is an awesome responsibility, for just by talking to us these folks are risking more than any of us privileged people can begin to understand.

Among those we talked to is
* a transgendered [F to M] Nigerian
* a partnered lesbian activist in Uganda
* a transgendered [M to F] Ugandan
* one of a pair of gay 20-something twins in Kenya
* a gay Ugandan farmer whose dream is to own two acres of land to grow his sugarcane
* gay partners in Kenya who dream of having their union blessed
* a gay Nigerian who was beaten badly simply for being gay

I felt especially moved by the stories of the trans people in this 20 minute film. Apparently traans people face even more risks and dangers than lesbian, gay and bisexual people. All the stories moved me especially when they spoke of their faith. Then seeing the retired Ugandan bishop, Christopher Ssenyonjo, speak passionately about LGBT issues and even starting a Bible study for gay men floored me.

Afterwards I got to meet many LGBT and affirming people in the Anglican/Episcopal Church including:

At dinner I ran into William Crawley, who I first met in Belfast in May. He will do his BBC Radio Ulster Sunday Sequence from Lambeth this week. Do check it out. (No Joe Gee, I will not be on it).

I also got to meet Christina Rees, chair of Women and the Church (WATCH) I’ll put a link but their site was down tonight. We had a great chat about gender and sexism in the Church and about how so much of the gay issue comes down to gender and an anti-fem attitude. (which goes back to the point above about how I changed my voice to sound more “masculine” as part of my de-gayification process). After Christina mentioned to me that about 70% of the Anglican Church attenders/members are women, I suggested she change her organization’s name to Women and Their Church.

So I guess this is the part of the blog entry when I share my first impressions and my current feelings. I feel happy to be here, honored in many ways. It also feels less of a big deal than I had imagined. I mean reading the press reports for the past few months, seeing the photos and such, I came with this big notion of LAMBETH. Having arrived, now I see people. Sure some dress in exquisite tailored frocks, but under their finery, I see people. People can connect. They can listen to each other. They can affect each other emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. The concept of LAMBETH intimated me. But people? I like people.

(Wed and Thur at 8:00 PM I will present here at Lambeth–The 70% Show, a talk/performance/whatever about my own spiritual journey as a Christian who happens to be gay and my nearly 20 years as an ex-gay. For more info see: LGCM site)

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The Religious Society of Friends (aka Quakers) maintains a long tradition of queries, thoughtful questions to help Friends think deeply about important issues. (I alway carry a copy of Britain Yearly Meeting’s Advices & Queries given to me by my Friend Esther, who replaced the plain Quaker red cover with a multi-colored one.)

Similarly Quakers have a tradition of testimonies, statements about issues that Friends have found vital for our faith and practice.

In August I will have the honor to attend and participate in the annual gathering of Baltimore Yearly Meeting to be held in the North West corner of Maryland at Frostburg State University. In filling out my registration form, I scanned the workshop offerings. The following workshop arrested me.

Bottled Water and the Quaker Testimonies: Can They be Compatible?

Americans spend $15,000,000,000 a year on bottled water. The world spends $15,000,000,000 a year to develop and to provide potable water to the developing world. The petroleum used to make the plastic bottles would fuel 100,000 US cars for a year and 80% of those bottles go to land fills. 3,000 children die each day from polluted water. We will use the Testimonies to examine our role and to set a new direction.

Leader: Byron Sandford is Executive Director of William Penn House, a Texan with roots in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas and southern New Mexico.

I have written before about bottled water and the trouble I have with it. (I don’t even think about all the plastic bottles we use for soda and other fizzy drinks since I think they are stupid products that my dad used to remove barnacles from his boat and forget people drink then. But hey, drink the carbonated stuff if you like it). I understand that we can be in situations where we have little choice but to buy and use bottled water unless of course we cannot afford to do so.

Recently Auntie Doris got her very own SIGG water bottle (she actually nicked her mom’s which sat in a cupboard in Gurensey). Why not use our own water bottles that we fill ourselves? In the US, the water industry goes unregulated. The water we buy in bottles comes untested by the government and often is no better than filtered tap water (which we already pay for through taxes and our water bill). Sometimes it is much worse.

One of the biggest issues around bottled water that has weighed on me recently is about plastic products. Plastic: What a wonderful and awful product! So versatile, and it’s in EVERYTHING (probably even Cool Whip!). And it is not going away for a very very long time. Like pretty much never.

I recently have pondered this query:

Can I live without plastic?

To which I have had to answer a resounding NO, at least not with my current lifestyle (no I do not refer to the gay lifestyle, whatever that may be, but to the American lifestyle of one who you will find constantly on-line, on the phone, or on a plane).

So then I asked the question,

Can I live one day without plastic?

Sure on the island of Iona on a retreat, but consider all the plastic required to get me there and and hold all my stuff.

Finally I have considered,

Can I live one hour without plastic?

Barely. But I could spend one hour, barefoot, lying on the grass in my back garden. (Hey, that sounds like a great idea to do right now!)

I will continue to hold this query up in my mind. As a Christian, I feel I need to be a good steward of the Earth’s limited resources. As a Christian living in the US, I feel that any effort I can do, I need to do since my country is one of the largest contributors of waste and the use of petroleum-based products in the world.

I realize that I am connected to people all over the world. I can never make the “perfect choice” that will not have any negative consequences. But I can be thoughtful. I can grapple with these things. I can listen to what the Spirit has to say to to help me do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God among me. (Micah 6:8)

Now if you do use plastic bottles, try to recycle, although I don’t see recycling as a real solution. It requires energy to transport these bottles and more energy and waste to “recycle” them. Most of these bottles do NOT get recycled anyway as creatively illustrated in the following video.

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Ah, Marvin. Some of you may remember, Marvin Bloom, our favorite Jew-for-Jesus from Long Island, NY, is no longer ex-gay. See this post of his video announcement. Apparently Marvin has taken to the gay lifestyle with evangelistic zeal (gay lifestyle as in wearing tacky rainbow clothing and attending Pride Parades and bashing straights).

In this video he gives us an update and his very own pride message.

Of course this over the top embrace of all things gay commonly happens to those of us who crammed ourselves into closet, cupboards and wardrobes all those years. We burst out of those confined places, and suddenly we see the world through rainbow lenses.

It is not unlike the born-again experience, especially if one converts as a young adult. I remember dashing to the Salt Shaker, the local Christian bookstore, where I bought all manner of Jesus products. Not just books and music, I purchased Jesus pencils, Jesus t-shirts, Jesus glue sticks, etc. We see this same expression of new identity pride with impulse purchases during Pride events with those stalls that sell all that rainbow schlock. “No, thank you, I do not need a rainbow dream catcher with the rainbow candle holder attachment.”

In the Stages of Coming Out, in Stage V we may exhibit lots of pride in our new-found identity. Marvin seems very much in Stage V Identity Pride,

Feel arrogance/pride in new identity and deep rage toward majority culture. May adopt/heighten stereotypical behaviors or characteristics (i.e. “I’m different and proud of it!”. May isolate self from mainstream values and activities.

Question: Do Straight Allies goes through these same stages?

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For the past few days I´ve been thinking about a funny moment in my childhood that I am trying to capture in words. In my poem I reference Necco wafers. This particular candy we ate a lot when we were little. According to Necco´s website, Necco Assorted Wafers come in

eight pastel colors and flavors–Chocolate, lemon, lime, orange, clove, wintergreen, cinnamon, licorice

I never actually knew what the falvors were until today. You can learn more here.

Now that you know a little about Necco Wafers, I can share my poem.

Jesus in the Backseat

The noxious incense from her cigarette,
Mixed with the sweet smoky puffs from his pipe,
Envelops us inside the
Airtight car.

We return from pilgrimage,
From the
Hawaiian Fountain,
Where we celebrated mass
Consumption around the flaming
Pu Pu Platter.

We three kids
Sit in the backseat,
Cautiously placing Necco Wafers
On each other´s tongue,
As one intones–
The body of Christ.
The body of Christ.

We feel the chalky disc dissolve.

With our tongues extended,
Cradling the candied Christ,
We stammer back,
Amen.
Amen.

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After spending very special days with Alie and Jo in Wakefield and Leeds, I arrived in Belfast yesterday. I have dreamed for a long time to come to this city. It has felt like a leading and a longing, and I am not sure why. I know that my friend Ruth Ann has said many times that she sees the need for work around LGBT issues in Northern Ireland where she had lived most of her life.

Last summer at Greenbelt when I met some people from the Belfast-based Ikon group (community?), I felt even more drawn to Northern Ireland. From their own wiki page, they provide a picture of who they are and what they seek to do.

Inhabiting a space on the outer edges of religious life, we are a Belfast-based collective who offer anarchic experiments in transformance art. Challenging the distinction between theist and atheist, faith and no faith our main gathering employs a cocktail of live music, visual imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual and reflection in an attempt to open up the possibility of a theodramatic event.

“transformance art” “theodramatic event” You can see what draws me to this artistic, eclectic and deeply spiritual group.

Last night I got to see them in action at their monthly Sunday night gathering. On each cafe table they piled up stacks of Legos along with a one word prompt. The residents at each table collectively created something to go along with the word (our table had the word sight).

As we did this gentle building, various members of Ikon approached the mic to read excerpts from books, short stories, and devotionals–some published but much original. Their theme revolved around faith unfinished, or as they presented it UNFINISHE… As we listened to the speakers and to each other, the organizers encouraged us to write down a phrase that struck us. We then added all of these together to form a liturgy of sorts that they read out at the very end.

In the midst of all this people could go to a laptop to help complete a virtual jigsaw puzzle that they projected up on a big screen. To round off the evening the cafe remained open throughout so you could go up to buy a coffee or beer.

This is what I always envision when I dream of a church I would like to attend. Inventive, playful, profound, hands-on and validating of everyone’s contribution. That last one got tested when a woman in the audience (who I think drank a few too many before the event even started) shouted out funny and seemingly inappropriate things like orgasm. Ikon has maintained a culture where they don’t applaud for people much after they speak. But this woman enthusiastically clapped every time someone finished presenting, usually clapping alone until a brave few joined in.

The woman left about a third of the way into the evening, but we saw and felt her contributions throughout, especially when we got to the joint liturgy we composed. Orgasm made it to the list including the statement, “We don’t clap enough”. By the end of the evening we clapped a lot, evidence to the change this one woman made.

What struck me about the liturgy as two Ikoners read it from the front was how much of it I had not heard throughout the evening. These were “found” statements said at our tables and from the front, but most of it I had not heard before. I walked away with the thought, So much gets said that I don’t hear.

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Heaven on Earth

I arrived in Portland, Oregon yesterday (with my bag containing my costumes trailing behind me but eventually showing up). I adore being in Portland, and it is not just the coffee. I arrived at the airport and Jim, from the Anawim community picked me up. This is a group of gay Christian men who have met together every Thursday night for years so that they can share a meal, discuss the scripture and then spend time in silent prayer holding up each others concerns and joys.

I made it just in time for their once every month gathering where all three of the Anawim groups that normally meet separately around the city get together for a big meal, prayer and communion. They even provided me vegan fare!

What I appreciate about this group is seeing the genuine love in action among them. One of the brothers, after three years of sobriety, slipped back into a drug habit. After an intervention, the brother elected to go into treatment. In the meantime he had lost his job and is in about to get evicted from his home. One of the men in the group explained the situation and that they needed to find a place to store the brother’s things and needed a group to help move all his stuff. Hands shot up immediately. The moving party will gather first thing Saturday morning. Then they went into prayer for the brother and his recovery. Such a solid loving community that does the work.

Whenever I stay in Portland my hosts are Doug and Bruce, a delightful gay couple who take it upon themselves to “release me for ministry” as we sometimes say in Quaker circles. They make it so that when I am here, I do not have to worry about anything. They give me bus passes, access to the Internet, and all my favorite foods. A big pot of sweet brown rice with all the fixings for my favorite sauce stood waiting to greet me. They even get me vegan junk food!

Today I head off to the Transforming Faith conference where I will meet loads of awesome people and learn tons of stuff. I wish I could blog more, but I have to dash. So far this spring tour has been so much fun and an opportunity to meet some amazing people and reconnect with friends (and Friends). I am still glowing from my recent trips to James Madison University and the University of IL in Champaign Urbana. (a special hello to my stealth blog reader who is mixing up a potion in the lab even as we speak 🙂

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Christine and I receive many e-mails and messages via Beyond Ex-Gay. Most of them are from fellow ex-gay survivors sharing some of their story, giving a word of affirmation and support, or offering to help in some way. We also get a handful of letters from people who believe our work is misguided. Recently I received such a message from a visitor to the site, a woman who used to live as a lesbian but now is ex-gay. In her message she shared some of her story and concluded with the exhortation, “Please don’t give up!! Pursue Jesus and He will heal you!!”

Below is my response. As with all such responses, I copied Christine, who after reading it, asked me to post it at bXg. I am a Christian, but bXg is not a Christian site. We seek to be faith-friendly, and we realize that ex-gay survivors represent a wide diversity of backgrounds.

My response is written by a Christian to a Christian.

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. From your writing I do not sense that you wish to be disrespectful or abusive. Sadly some people writing us take that approach. Although you do not mean to be disrespectful or abusive, some of what you say is filled with false assumptions.

I hear in your words the assumption that some of us are not Christians, and that we have not spent many years seeking with much sincerity to understand God’s will for our lives. You assume that since you do not see yourself being a Christian and lesbian, that this is the only way to approach the situation. The scriptures are not that clear, especially when it comes to lesbianism.

Romans One is usually misinterpreted by people who take one or two verses out of context and overlook Paul’s other possible purpose in writing his letter to the Jewish Christians in Rome. Some fail to read Romans 2:1 which is the concluding verse for the several verses that proceed it. Some also overlook the fact that early Church teaching NEVER considered Romans One a passage about homosexuality. That interpretation came later.

But you did not write to discuss scripture. You wrote to lead us to Jesus. You wrote to tell us how wonderful life is with Jesus and the joy we will find in being in relationship with him. I know this joy and live it daily. My “gay lifestyle” includes worshiping with other believers every week as well as sweet times of fellowship on my own with God. My “gay lifestyle” includes listening to God and following God’s leading, which has affected nearly every part of my life including my diet, my friendships, my career, my sexuality and how I view and use my body.

At bXg we do not in any way seek to invalidate people like you who say they are happy as ex-lesbians (or whichever term you prefer to use). The reality is that such a life is not possible for the vast majority of people who have earnestly sought after it. Alan Chambers himself admits that Exodus has at least a 70% failure rate. For most of us, not only was it not possible, but we did great harm to ourselves and the people we love.

We don’t blame the ex-gay programs for all the hurt we suffered. Much of it was self-induced, spurred on by a society, an ungodly world, that along with some portions of the Church, believes that one must be heterosexual to be acceptable. In this belief the “unsaved” world and the Church live in unison, much like the church and the world both supported slavery for centuries. There is too much of worldly values in the Church of Jesus, and it is time that the church no longer conform to the pattern of this world but experience a renewing of the mind.

I understand that you cannot see yourself living as a Christian and a lesbian. Some early Christians felt it was sinful to eat certain meats. In fact major conflicts arose over that issue. But others felt peace and clarity in eating those very meats. I believe when it comes to many issues of sexuality, it is like this too. Looking at the scriptures, we see many patterns, not all in accordance to our comfort or calling. But we need to be careful not to judge; this is the very message of Romans 1 and 2. We need to trust each other that we have done the work and continue to listen closely to God.

Blessings on your journey,
Peterson

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