Sunday, June 30, 2013

Visiting Letha To Work on Archives

I arrived in Norfolk, Virginia, on Sunday for a wonderful week of laughing with Letha as we go through boxes of old EEWC files to sort materials for the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, now part of Columbia University).  

Here's a link to the women and groups in these archives: 

Nancy Hardesty, Phyllis Trible, Letty Russell, Rosemary Radford Reuther, and Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz are among the women whose archives will eventually be available there.  

Problem: Letha is so busy doing the "Link of the Day" for EEWC's website and answering emails with blogposts and articles for her to edit that it's hard to focus on the archives.  

For example, Marg sent an email asking whether a comment on Letha's newly posted article "There Is More Than One Christian View on Homosexuality" should be allowed to appear or should be moderated down somewhat.  

A man had posted to Letha that because of her views, she's not going to heaven.  

Her answer to Marg and me: "That's not the first time I've heard that."  

Another problem: I arrived so tired after a red-eye flight.  I'm too old to keep doing that.

After I took a three-hour nap, Letha treated me to a dinner of fresh salmon, couscous, chopped broccoli, and salad.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

More on Exodus's Exit

Exodus President Alan Chambers apologized for harm he and Exodus have done, speaking on Our America with Lisa Ling on June 19.

This televised apology preceded the 38th and presumably last conference of Exodus International at Concordia College in Irvine, California, June 19-23.

Exodus Int’l President to the Gay Community: “We’re Sorry”

Leader of 37-year old ministry admits grave errors

Irvine, Calif. (June 19, 2013) — Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality, issued an apology to the gay community for years of undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the Church as a whole.

The apology ( dovetails with the ministry’s 38th annual conference in Irvine, Calif. – and the Thursday, June 20, airing of the television broadcast “God & Gays” on Our America with Lisa Ling. On Ling’s program, Exodus President, Alan Chambers, sits down with gay and lesbian people hurt by the Church with the goal of reconciliation.

“It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the Church’s treatment of the LGBTQ community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt,” said Chambers. “Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.”

Chambers also said:
“I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced.  I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.

“I am sorry I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him, I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

“More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.

“You have never been my enemy.  I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show I am serious in both my regret and offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.”

Portions of the Exodus Freedom conference, June 19-23 at Concordia College, are open to the media. Live streaming is available for the main sessions. The event draws men, women parents, teens, pastors and ministry leaders for four days of teaching and support. Many attendees are attracted to the same sex, and desire to live in congruence with their faith. Others attend looking for help in coming alongside those with same-sex attraction.

Exodus President, Alan Chambers, is available for interviews. For press credentials or to set up an interview, contact Amy Tracy at 407/808-9831 or 719/355-9075. 

For additional information and a schedule of activities, please go to

A preview of “Our America with Lisa Ling” can be seen here (

#     #     #

Exodus International | P.O. Box 540119 | Orlando, FL 32854 | | 888-264-0877

Contact information: Exodus International, Exodus International, PO Box 540119, Orlando, FL 32854

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Goodbye to Exodus


Exodus International, the "ex-gay" ministry founded in 1976, has closed down with its operations.

Its president, Alan Chambers, said that he continues to have same-sex attractions despite his marriage to a woman.

He also apologizes for "pain and hurt" he caused in people's lives by telling them they could be "cured" of their homosexuality.  His group was the oldest and largest of its kind.

"I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included," Chambers told The Associated Press last year. [as quoted in the NBC news report, link above]  "For someone to put out a shingle and say, 'I can cure homosexuality' — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth."

This is a milestone.  

The world was very different in 1976.  The National Organization for Women (NOW) had recently (in 1971) adopted gay and lesbian issues as part of its agenda after difficult and divisive debate.  Betty Friedan was one of those who feared a stance on lesbian rights would harm the larger women's movement.  Opponents said all feminists were lesbians.

In 1976 Evangelical Women's Caucus was two years old and would not take a stand on gay rights for ten more years (in 1986), later changing its name to Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus and now EEWC--Christian Feminism Today.

Christians for Biblical Equality, which formed in 1986 as a reaction to EWC's stand, still requires members and exhibitors at conferences to sign an agreement with its statement of faith, which includes the following statement:

We believe in the family, celibate singleness, and faithful heterosexual marriage as God's design.

Thus EEWC-Christian Feminism Today cannot have a table in the exhibit halls of CBE conferences.  We're all for family and celibate singleness, but is heterosexual marriage the only option in God's creation  of humans?  I can't sign on that dotted line.

Also in the statement of faith:  
            We believe that, as mandated by the Bible, men and women are to oppose injustice.

CBE's core values include: 
  1. Believers must promote righteousness and oppose injustice in all its forms.

Except injustice to people who are born with same-sex attraction or somewhere on the spectrum between gay and straight sexuality.  

The history on CBE's website describes its founding meeting of evangelical leaders including Gretchen Gaebelein Hull and Catherine Clark Kroeger in 1987 but does not mention EEWC or gay-lesbian issues:

"The group determined that a national organization was needed to provide education, support, and leadership about biblical equality."

The same goals as EWC, a national organization already existing.  Hmmm.

The official founding was on Jan. 2, 1988, followed by CBE's first conference in 1989, in Minnesota.  

Also omitted: that Cathy Kroeger and the Minnesota chapter of EEWC had offered to hold the 1988 EWC conference in Minnesota, but those plans were cancelled after EWC's pro-gay rights stand in 1986.

Note: CBE has been very successful, especially in fund-raising.  Why?  Biblical feminism had become more accepted among evangelicals by 1987 (thanks in part to EWC's work), and their anti-gay stance made them a safe investment.

Well, all this is water under the bridge.  CBE is doing a great job of working for women's equality in evangelical churches and in opposing injustice in some of its forms.

I plan to attend my first ever CBE conference this coming July in order to report on these sisters in the faith.

My prediction is that as cultures change and understanding of human sexuality changes, CBE International, like Exodus International, will become more tolerant of gay issues and gay rights.  It will revise its understanding of God's design and of the few biblical statements it now uses as a basis for opposing faithful same-sex unions.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni and David G. Myers, What God Hath Joined Together: A Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperCollins, 2005, 2006).

Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response (HarperSan Francisco, 1978; rev. 1994).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hidden Costs of War

Wars are so costly.  

Friends and enemies are killed in action.   Then there are the accidental deaths, the psychological stress, sometimes resulting in suicide or desertion.

Here's an article in the LA Times noting that today's "voluntary" soldiers often come from situations where a military job is the best they can find.  They may bring mental problems or drug and alcohol problems with them as they enter.

Last night's Fresh Air featured Charles Glass and his newly-released book, The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II.

What an eye-opening report on battle stress, battle fatigue, PTSD, and lack of mental health care for soldiers in the 1940s.  

Two sides of Santa Monica

Poverty, crime, and gang shootings are the side of Santa Monica tourists don't usually see.

We moved here for the ocean breeze and the schools, but we soon learned that our kids' school (Edison Learning Academy) is in the heart of the tough part of the city.

The shootings on June 7 began half a block from that school.  Then four days later a gang-related shooting occurred with one person killed.

For a few years I took part in a violence prevention coalition, but that group disbanded, and the Pico National Network in LA County now does some of the same work we did.

We live on the second street south of Pico Boulevard, very close to the two-year college and to the working-class neighborhood where kids without jobs get into gangs and occasional shoot-ups flare up.

How to reach young kids and teens before violence begins?

The Pico Youth & Family Center, located next to the high school, sponsored a vigil and memorial walk from site to site of the recent shootings, and the group also works with at-risk kids.

All we can do is start in small ways.

Another small way is to donate to the Katherine K. McTaggart Scholarship for Violence Prevention:
Santa Monica High School Alumni Association
P.O. Box 5592
Santa Monica CA 90409-5592

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Violence Prevention

Yes, the shooter last Friday in Santa Monica was unemployed, had a history of mental problems, and lacked the money and family organization to get medical help, as I had guessed. 

He went to Santa Monica High School (as two of my kids did, three years younger than my youngest) and then to Olympic High School, a continuation school for students who can't make it at SMHS.

The LA Times reports that four-year-old John Zawahri did have access to preschool but was an emotional wreck even by that time.,0,1490078.story

"It was obvious to me that there was violence in the home," reported little John's pre-school teacher, and on at least one occasion his mother sought help when his father threatened them with a knife.  If only he could have spent 40 hours a week out of that home, in a quality pre-school, starting at age 2.

What steps can we take to prevent this type of violence?
--a ban on assault weapons,
--a boost in availability of Headstart-type programs,
--access to low-cost mental health care for those who need it.

There was another shooting in Santa Monica four days after this one.  Two young men were attacked by three others, probably gang-related; one youth is dead and the other in critical condition.

A Vigil for Peace and Healing in Response to Violence will be held on Saturday, June 16, in Santa Monica, starting at the site of Zawahri's shooting of his father and brother and then walking to sites of the other killings, all within an eight-block area.

On the following Thursday, June 20, there will be a town hall meeting on violence prevention.

The international angle to some of these shootings is notable.  Both Zawahri parents were immigrants from Lebanon.  Perhaps they had experienced violence there, as the Boston Marathon bombers' family had been refugees from problems in Kazakhstan.  Gang problems in southern California are also related to international gangs controlling distribution of cocaine and marijuana.  

It's a small world after all.  

We may feel unconnected to poverty and violence occurring elsewhere in the world, but we're in this together.

Gay Lobby in Vatican

Pope Francis says there's a gay lobby in the Vatican, and he's infallible, so it must be true.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi can't deny it--to do so would be to deny infallibility.

I'd like to know exactly what words he used (in Spanish).  In English, just use of the term gay rather than homosexual implies some comfort with the concept of same-sex relations.

And what are these guys lobbying for?

Not gay rights, I guess.  Not acceptance of same-sex orientation as just another way in which humans are created.

The story says they lobby for influence and power--interesting: a boys' club within the boys' club.  I wonder how powerful this inner group is.

My friend at work who attended the Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Rome said that many priests there and even Pope Benedict XVI are gay.  However, gays who hate gays and legislate against them is not a new phenomenon.  

The good news is that this secret is now out in the open.  

Next step: lobbying for acceptance.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sadness in Santa Monica

Two comments on the shootings today near my house in Santa Monica:

1) Another assault-weapon rampage.  With a knife or even a handgun, fewer people would have died.  

2) The address of the father and brother of the shooter (all three now dead) tells me so much.  It's half a block from the public elementary school my kids attended, Edison Language Academy.

This is the low-income neighborhood of Santa Monica, made up mostly of Latinos and a few African-Americans and others.

The shooter was probably unemployed and about the same age as my kids (26 to 31).  He probably had mental problems and did not have the money to get help--the medications, psychiatrists, therapists he obviously needed.

I'm feeling grieved for his mother and other family members, as well as for the others killed and their families, and for the persons wounded.  So many people have been touched by this tragedy.

For several years after a fatal stabbing at a teen party attended by one of my kids in 2001, I worked with others in a coalition for violence prevention in Santa Monica.  That group was later superseded by  LA Voice, part of the Pico National Network for neighborhood improvement:

One of my friends in the violence prevention group died last November, and in her honor some friends began the Katherine K. McTaggart Scholarship for Violence Prevention.  This May for the first time we awarded a scholarship to the graduating student at Santa Monica High School who had been the most active in preventing violence.

We did not prevent today's violence, but this kind of work is one step in the right direction.  Another step would be making preschool available to all children--a program President Obama mentioned in his inauguration speech last January.

Harriet Beecher Stowe said, "One step fairly taken in the right direction goes farther than any amount of agonized back-looking."

Let's take two steps in the right direction: BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS and MAKE PRESCHOOL EDUCATION AVAILABLE to all families that want it.

Another option is to send a donation to the Katherine K. McTaggart Scholarship for Violence Prevention, care of SMHS Alumni Association, P. O. Box 5592, Santa Monica CA 90409-5592.

For details about the shooting, see this article and future updates in the Los Angeles Times:,0,5835846.story

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

God Loves Uganda

This year's Mountainfilm festival in Telluride, Colorado, was a difficult, stretching experience as usual.  

Films ranged from deaths in climbing Mt. Everest to spectacular video of extreme sports to documentaries on issues such as climate change, hunger, and pollution.  One film was about Tim Hetherington, the photojournalist who produced Oscar-nominated Restrepo (about American soldiers at an outpost in Afghanistan) and was killed in Libya in April 2011, shortly after being in Los Angeles for the Oscar awards.  

The most moving film was God Loves Uganda, which won the award for audience favorite.  It also earned the Grand Jury Prize at the Atlanta and Dallas film festivals and appeared at 17 other festivals including its debut in January 2013 at Sundance. 

The 90-minute documentary is about how anti-gay evangelicals have created a dangerous situation for LGBT people in Uganda.  There's a bill in Parliament there that (if passed) would put first-time "offenders" in jail and execute those convicted of being "serial offenders."  

Afterward I talked with director Roger Williams and with Anglican pastor Kapya Kaoma, who also identifies as an evangelical but can't travel to Uganda because of his support for gays there.  He was born in Zambia; he and his family appear in the film and now live in the Boston area.

Reverend Kaoma is now affiliated with Episcopal Divinity School, where he is an ethicist and a researcher on the intersection of religion and sexuality.  He founded Political Research Associates (  This website provides news reports by email and accepts donations.  There are also opportunities for internships at PRA.  
Left: Kapya Kaoma. Right: Roger Williams

Evangelical Christian activists against homosexuality are interviewed at length in the film:  Lou Engle of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOP-KC), Martin Ssempa (Ugandan pastor), Scott Lively and Janna Watson (white evangelicals working in Uganda), and others.  

Ssempa had spoken at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, but Warren has since distanced himself from him.

The film also highlights the wealthy Miracle Temple Christian Center Church in Kampala, which spreads hatred of homosexuals through donations from abroad.  

Bush-era funding of abstinence-only foreign aid is another major factor in homophobia in Uganda in the last twenty years.  Once a leader in condom distribution and reduction of HIV exposure in Africa, Uganda now has a rising HIV rate. 

Though the film may come across as anti-evangelical, its director (raised in a Baptist church) made an effort to include Christian supporters of gay rights such as the Reverend Kaoma and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a Ugandan activist for LGBT persons.

The film was also screened at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena this spring.  Reverend Kaoma reported that Fuller students were very concerned about the danger to gay persons in Uganda and asked how they could help.  

Watching this documentary is an extreme sport, not recommended for those who have been damaged by right-wing Christian hatred of the LGBT community.  

It was an emotional roller coaster for me, one minute rejoicing to see earnest Christians witnessing to a Ugandan mother in a mud hut but the next minute hearing misguided hatred being preached ("Gays will recruit your children...."  "Homosexuality in Uganda is caused by liberal Western influence.")

Afterward I learned about the "Uganda martyrs," a killing of 22 young men in the 1880s because they refused to have sex with the king, who was homosexual.

I left the Nugget Theater drained, stumbling to a bench outside on Telluride's main street, unable to do anything but look up at the incongruently spectacular mountains.  

After resting a while, I drove home and did my best to get the whole film festival out of my mind.  Eight days later, I can write about it.

Note: Among the evangelical-related organizations that support gay rights is Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus (EEWC-CFT) at