Clergy for LGBT Justice

More on Clergy Call from Last Week:

I attended and participated in HRC’s Clergy Call for Equality and Justice last week in Washington, D.C.  On Monday of last week I had the privilege of participating on a panel with Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, Rev. Dr. Harry Knox, Bishop Carlton Pearson.  The Panel was about Faith Messaging and going deeper in our spiritual pursuits of Social Justice.  When clergy speak about social justice we do so not just out of a political imperative but often out of our faith and spirituality.  I know I certainly do.  I shared with the 298 clergy members from all fifty States that my guiding faith statement comes from the Prophet Micah:  What does God Require of you? Only to do justice love compassion and walk humbly with your God.  (As you readers know those words are part of the title of my blog).  These words are also emblazoned on the wall of my office surrounding a window that looks out into our sanctuary at Kol Ami.  These are daily reminders to keep my eye on what matters:  God, Torah and the People Israel and hence all people.  As a rabbi I shared with those gathered that when I speak in the political realm I do so with my whole being: My spirituality and my Jewish values. It is important when clergy speak for equality for LGBT people we are not afraid to assert the moral injustice caused by discrimination, bigotry, and hatefulness.  When clergy speak for justice for LGBT people -we have to take back the voice of faith from those who use the Bible and the Torah to bash gay people.  Of course those that do that – read the bible selectively.  They forget the verses that remind us all are created in God’s image.  When so called religious folks use the Bible or Torah to dehumanize others-then they blaspheme!  Plain and simple.

So it was important to carry this message to teach clergy -many who had never been to lobby Congress on any issue let alone the issues of equality that we carried to Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Specifically we lobbied on two anti-bullying bills including a safe schools bill; we lobbied for a trans-inclusive ENDA-Employment non-Discrimination Act: and we lobbied for  the Respect for Marriage Act which would overthrow DOMA and allow marriages to be federally recognized if they are performed in a specific state.

Two years ago-at the last Clergy Call we lobbied for the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes bill.  It is now the law!  For many of the Congress people we visited it was the first time that they met pro-LGBT equality clergy!

This is why Clergy Call is so important:To train clergy on LGBT equality issues and familiarize them with the intersection of policy and faith issues.  And to let their voices ring out through out the halls of Congress.

I am glad to be a part of this powerful tide of change.  Thank you HRC for helping make it possible.

Clergy Call Reflections.

I have been traveling.  This week I was in Washington, D.C. at the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call for Justice and Equality. 298 Clergy gay and straight and trans clergy gathered to advocate and lobby for GLBT Rights on Capitol Hill!

Inspiring!  As many of you know I serve on HRC’s Religion and Faith Council and I have the privilege of working closely with amazing clergy leaders for GLBT equality and an opportunity to work with the outstanding professionals at HRC.

This year’s Clergy Call (the third) was no exception.  On Sunday Clergy Call worked hand in hand with MCC’s People of African Descent Conference on unique issues in educating and reaching out to African American Church community.  Rev. Darlene Garner is an elder in the Universal Fellowship of MCC and an active member of the Religion and Faith Council.   On Monday the fuller gather began as clergy from every state in U.S. checked in.

Monday morning began with prayer and introduction and an amazing keynote address by Dr.  Melissa Harris-Perry.  She appears often on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC and is a straight ally of our movement for GLBT equality.  She is a political analyst and on faculty at Tulane University. She challenged all of us about the intersection of race, and gender, and sexual orientation.  She challenged us that the notion of citizenship is the issue in the political sphere. Who belongs and who doesn’t.  This resonated to all of us in attendance. It certainly has been the issue that has been articulated by the birther movement calling into question our President’s citizenship.  It is the same discussion when talking about immigrants and immigration reform and who can become a citizen. It is the issue when talking about LGBT equality when heinous laws continue to be passed or initiatives placed on the ballot that take away our rights as citizens or fail to recognize our equality.

Think about it. Who belongs and who doesn’t.  That is an important idea. Who is in and who is outside.

More on Clergy Call tomorrow.

Clergy Call

Today is Clergy Call.  Human Rights Campaign biennial gathering of clergy from around the United States to learn about and advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights on Capitol Hill.  Our Congresspeople must hear from us. And they must hear from clergy who support gay rights.  They all too often only hear from homophobic religious folks who preach intolerance and inequality at every level. But the Human Rights Campaign, Religion and Faith Department under the strong leadership of Dr. Sharon Groves working with the Religion and Faith Council have changed the equation! We bring clergy to Washington to adovcate for LGBT equality from people of faith!

We sing a more harmonious hymn.

I am proud to be teaching this morning in Washington and speaking to the clergy on the foundations of my faith as I do this political work and how we continue to keep our faith fueling our efforts!

Tomorrow on to Capitol Hill to bend a few congressional ears and press for LGBT equality at every corner of our country!

Monday, May 23, 2011
Mt. Vernon Place UMC: 900 Massachusetts Ave., NW

9:00-9:10  Invocation

  • Rev. Elder Darlene Garner

9:10 – 9:15  Introductory Welcome Remarks

  • Joe Solmonese

9:30-10:30  Keynote Address by Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry

  • Introduction by Sharon Groves

10:30-10:45  Break

10:45-12:15  Beyond Talking Points, Going Deeper with Faith Messaging

  • Rabbi Denise Eger
  • Rev. Harry Knox
  • Bishop Gene Robinson
  • Bishop Carlton Pearson
  • Moderated by Dr. Thelathia “Nikki” Young

12:30-1:30  Lunch

1:30-4:30 Movement Building/Movement Moments

  • Beth Zemsky

4:30-5:00 Logistical Debrief: Dinner & Lobby Visit Scheduling 

  • HRC Religion and Faith Program Staff

5:00-7:00  Dinner

  • We encourage you to organize dinner parties by state and/or regional delegations

7:00-9:00  Interfaith Service

Open to the Public

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Starting at Mt. Vernon Place UMC

8:00-10:00  Lobby Prep

  • Allison Herwitt and HRC Political Staff
  • Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, Interfaith Alliance

10:00-10:30  Travel to Capitol Hill for Press Conference

10:30-12:00  Press Conference

  • Joe Solmonese, HRC
  • Rev. Geoffrey Black, UCC
  • Bishop Minerva Carcano, UMC
  • Bishop Yvette Flunder, The Fellowship
  • Rev. Peter Morales, UUA
  • Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, PCUSA
  • Rabbi David Saperstein, URJ
  • Rev. Winnie Varghese, The Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Nancy Wilson, MCC

12:00-5:00 Lunch & Lobby Visits

  • See your personalized lobby visit schedule for further information

5:30-8:00 Closing Reception and denominational gatherings 

Clergy Call 2011 Banner

Is the world ending on May 21?

So the end of the world is here.  The Huffington Post reported on the end of the world billboards that have appeared all over California and increasingly in other parts of the U.S.  proclaiming May 21, 2011 as Judgement Day.  Some Christian Fundamentalist made this prediction. According to the article these billboards are “courtesy’ of Harold Camping, an 89 year old who owns some radio stations and previously told everyone the world would end in 1994.  It didn’t then.  And I am guessing it won’t on May 21 which happens to be a Shabbat!

Don’t they know that God doesn’t work on Shabbat?  And ending the world would take some doing.

Of course if you believe the Mayan calendar the world will come to an end on December 31, 2012.  That is when the Mayan Calendar runs out.

I hope the world doesn’t end because on May 22 I am planning to go to Washington, D.C. for the Human Rights Campaign  Clergy Call.  A gathering of clergy to advocate on Capitol Hill for LGBT rights!  There is so much work to do there so having a little more time to bring about the Messianic Era would be good!

Laker Shame

I am not a Laker fan.  I like basketball well enough.  I actually prefer college ball to professional. But Los Angeles is definitely a Laker kind of town.  It is the sport that dominates here.  Some towns are football towns and others baseball towns. But Los Angeles is a Laker town.

But after Kobe’s sexual assault case in 2003 I was turned off to the Lakers and to Kobe Bryant.  Although the criminal case was dropped there was a civil suit. I don’t know what went on. Kobe admitted no guilt. But did supposedly apologize to the victim. People do make mistakes. But I didn’t have to support the glorification of one who assaulted women. Kobe never addressed the public with his own growth.  He just kept playing ball.  While the contracts grew.

And then his “slip” of the tongue on the court the other night–using an inappropriate epithet screamed at a ref who called a technical foul.  He was immediately slapped with 100k fine by NBA Commissioner David Stern.  And Kobe apologized. Well sort of… He said he “regrets” his choice of words but didn’t come out with a particularly strong repudiation.  He evidently talked to Joe Solomonese of HRC and apologized to him.  But only after there was an explosion of outrage on Twitter!

But a public statement reminding us all to think before we speak should have also been the advice. Kobe’s example to young people on basketball courts all over the world speaks volumes.  Young people want to imagine they are Kobe Bryant.  And with a mild apology of “regret” for calling the ref a f***** f****** doesn’t help short circuit this kind of behavior. Using gay derogatory terms is everywhere on a basketball court. This could have been a teaching moment.

This is my real problem with Kobe.  He doesn’t really take responsibility for his actions.  He doesn’t seem to be aware of the influence he could have in the world and actually does. He simply says he was frustrated on the court and so he swore at the ref using a degrading term.  Where is the leadership?

That is a shame.  And his behavior is shameful. And yes, it reflects on the whole Laker organization.

My remarks from HRC Gala

HRC LA GALAThank you again to the Human Rights Campaign for recognizing me at their Los Angeles Gala on Saturday night with the Community Equality Awards! What a wonderful soiree.  The baseball player was my “date”.  I was so proud to be there with him and so many good friends and temple members.  And most of all to share this with my good friend Rev. Canon Susan Russell.  Below are my remarks.

Many thanks.

I am so honored to be here tonight to receive HRC’s Community Equality Award. Thank you Joe, Sharon and all of the HRC Family.  I am especially proud to share this award with my colleague and co-agitator, rebel rouser and civil rights advocate Rev. Cannon Susan Russell.

Susan and I each in our own way, have challenged the injustice and the discrimination faced by LGBT people within our own denominations and the larger religious world ,our state and nation.  As a rabbi I know that people still try to use religion and the Bible to defend and justify their bigotry.  It is just wrong. And it is not religious or spiritual to condemn God’s creation.  Judaism believes in a Higher Power of Love and Hope and that we all are created B’tzelem Elohim, in God’s Image.  I try each and every day in the work of Justice making to spread that message that we are exactly as God made us.   Don’t treat my Torah with such disrespect as to use it to hate or hurt.

I am grateful to HRC and its leadership both professional and Board for the vision to create the Religion and Faith Council.  We can make legislative change and we can change laws in the courts this is critical.  But to change real hearts and minds we also have to change the way religious communities think and feel and preach. HRC through the visionary leadership of Rev. Harry Knox and Dr. Sharon Groves our new Director of the Religion and Faith Department and our Religion Council have been changing the way religious communities and religious leaders talk and teach about GLBT issues in the pews!  We are moving toward more inclusion, more religious communities and clergy speaking out for Gay and Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Justice!

I want to say thank you to my Congregation, Kol Ami in West Hollywood for their continued support. Thank you to my Board and the Temple leadership and Temple members who understand that rabbinic leadership is necessary to create such sweeping change within an ancient tradition like Judaism. I am honored to continue to serve as your rabbi and I am grateful for your continued support and invite others of you to join us in this mission and in community.

I want to especially thank my family as well: Karen and my wonderful son, Benjamin. My dear friends who are my family- you know who you are. Thank you for your support of the work that helps me live out the words of the prophet Micah:

What does God require of you?  Only to do justice, love compassion and walk humbly with your God.

Each day this is what I try to do.  And Together, family, friends, My congregation, my clergy colleagues like Rev. Susan Russell and the Religion and Faith Council and HRC helps me live this teaching.  Thank you.