Monday, June 29, 2009

Our unseen host in Nepal and our first 24 hours here: "You are my neighbor; I am my brother's keeper."

by Rev. Stphen R. Parelli. KATHMANDU, NEPAL. Back in January, a friend insisted I get on Facebook. She insisted the networking there would be great, not to mention catching up with friends. And so it has been.

Now here's a Facebook story: Shaun Kirven of Kathmandu, Nepal -- someone I've met only through Facebook -- when he learned about Other Sheep and our plans to be in Nepal, he wrote and said he would like to provide us a room in his home. I'm writing this blog from his home! and he isn't even here. He's on some human rights mission in another country. In fact, Jose and I will leave Nepal before he returns home. There are two other people living here. One is also involved in human rights work and she, like Shaun, is English. The other person who lives here is Nepalese and met us at the airport! Shaun had written us on Facebook: "When you arrive at the airport look for a sign with your name on it. That's your ride to the house." Can you believe it! Wow. (Of course, we did wonder if this was a set up, i.e., 'Follow the sign; get in the car . . . " -- but we didn't entertain that idea for very long.)

Our first day, our Nepalese host (standing in for Shaun) helped us get situated. He took Jose about town getting cash, slim card for our phone and other basic needs for operating, while I hooked my lap top up to their wireless and got busy with Other Sheep updates and contacts.

We have our own bedroom and share the rest of the apartment with the other two live-ins. Two bathrooms. This is a third floor apartment with a large patio and chairs and with a roof top terrace that has a commanding view of the foot hills (the actual mountains are covered this time of the year – rainy season). A cleaning lady takes care of the kitchen, washing clothes and keeping things neat. At times an annoying mosquito finds its way into the house.

Our stay here is from Sunday night through Thursday night! Can you believe it? You might want to look Shaun Kirven up on Facebook and thank him (and then become a human rights activist and get some first class service from Kirven when you come to Nepal to get involved).

Jose and I finished our first day by contacting (with our up-and-running cell phone) a couple Christian pastors that had expressed interest in meeting with us. So far we have one appointment on Wednesday. The pastor has a school for training pastors. He is entertaining the idea of having us speak to his 35 students next Monday. I emphasised meeting him first. I want to be sure he knows what we are all about. So begins our work in Nepal. We look for continued open doors like this one and when we find one we are amazed at both providence and the human kindness we find in others who help us along the way. Thanks in part to Facebook -- a tool that connects us with other like-minded individuals -- an Internet experience that makes us realize how we all are connected, not digitally, but with that human spirit that says -- you are my neighbor; I am my brother's keeper.

Missing Kenya: Our conversation with a Kenyan gate attendent in Abu Dhabi, June 28, 2009

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli. KATHMANDU, NEPAL. At our gate in Abu Dhabi, waiting to board our connecting flight for Nepal, a young attractive gate attendant dressed in Etihad airlines uniform walked up to us. We were standing where we could view the plane. I assumed she thought we perhaps had a question (or did she find Jose attractive?). Either way, we soon learned that she was from Nairobi, Kenya (and a member of Valley Road Baptist Church). Her East African ways were too familiar for me. I began to choke up a bit and really fought back the tears as we told her about our last two summers in Nairobi. We named places she knew. Told her about the friends we made and the ministry now going on there with Rev. Kimindu and Rev. Makokha. I told myself I was just too tired and the "crying" was because of my lack of sleep. But be that as it may, it was the tender memories that pushed my "tiredness" over the brink. I truly was saddened and felt myself missing my Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda as I observed her beautiful features and listened to her lovely East African voice. Our first trip to Kenya was in 2007 and we flew Emirates airlines and had a connecting flight with a long lay over here in United Arab Emirates. Now we were here again, only this time our connecting flight would take us away from Kenya. Our last two summers with our East African friends -- from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda -- were very enriching and fulfilling. We will miss not returning there this summer. As we took seats in the waiting area, I told Jose, "I'm sure glad I have you in my life. It seems that in ministry friendships are both lasting and yet too short." We have friends from East Africa that will always be our friends. But our time with them was too, too short. We would soon board the plane, only to take us into other lands and places, to meet and make new friends. And our time with them will also be too, too short.

June 27 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: "While waiting for our connecting flight" (or "Nothing like connecting flights through Atlanta, GA")

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli. KATHMANDU, NEPAL. What an amazing first day "on holiday" (oh, yes, this is a business trip, too, but we've decided we are going to take time to relax and see things along the way). Actually, this first day of travel, which turned into a total sight-seeing event, was a total surprise. We were assuming we'd get a room right at the airport. We had an evening and half-day lay-over between connecting flights! But upon arrival, Etihad - our airlines - told us all rooms were taken and that we'd have to go into the city. At first we thought,"Oh no!" But then we realized it was a plus! Not a problem! Etihad set us up with discount prices in a luxury hotel. We loved it, of course -- Le Meridien. We did a little shopping. Walked the beautiful grounds. Dined in our room. Arose early the next morning to swim in the hotel pool and the Persian Gulf (so we were told). And then by taxi we saw two city landmarks - the Emirates Palace (from the outside only) and the Grand Mosque which we toured. We were at the airport by noon for our 2:10pm connecting flight to Nepal.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our informal and brief meeting with Sunil Babu Pant of Nepal here in NYC two days before we leave for Nepal

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli. Bronx, New York. Last evening, just two days before Jose and I were to leave for Kathmandu, Nepal, we were able to meet in person, for the first time, Sunil Babu Pant of Nepal (pictured at left) at the Gay Center of New York City on West 13th Street, where he participated in a panel discussion on traditional, complementary and alternative therapies for HIV, sponsored by the New York Buyers' Club in celebration of their Fifth Anniversary. Jose and I attended the event.

Photo at left: Sunil Babu Pant, panelist, June 24, 2009, Gay Center, NYC Photo by Steve Parelli

In February, we first corresponded with Sunil Pant about our up-coming Other Sheep visit to Nepal. He notified us of his visit to New York City and invited us to meet him at this panel discussion. Last evening, we gave Sunil a portfolio to take with him of our work with Other Sheep since 2005. Sunil has expressed a desire in helping to introduce us to possible interested individuals and groups in Nepal, for which we are grateful.

Presently, through our Other Sheep eNews, five different and unrelated Christian leaders of Nepal (identities withheld) have asked to meet with us in Nepal.

According to the info sheet on the panelists, handed out at the New York Buyers' Club meeting last evening, Sunil Pant is the first openly gay Member of the Constituent Assembly (Parliament) of Nepal, and the Founder and Director of the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), a community-based organization that has worked for the rights of sexual minorities and people with HIV since 2001. BDS played an active role in Nepal’s transition from a conservative (and homophobic) monarchy to a federal republic in 2006-7, and subsequently has been successful in several advocacy campaigns, including the effort to legalize gay marriage, making Nepal the first Asian country to do so. Now counting more than 150,000 members, BDS continues to provide care and support to Nepalis with HIV/AIDS, while also working to reduce stigma and discrimination against the Himalayan nation’s sexual minorities. In 2007, BDS received the Felipa de Souza award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which called it “one of the most effective human rights groups in the world.”

Photo at left, from left to right: Jose Ortiz, Other Sheep Coordinator for Asia, George M. Carter, Director and Co-Founder of the Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research (FIAR), and Sunil Babu Pant, Member of the Constituent Assembly (Parliament) of Nepal, and the Founder and Director of the Blue Diamond Society.

Photo taken June 24, 2009, Gay Center, NYC
Photo by Steve Parelli - Video of 'Gay Exorcism' at Conn. Church Sparks Outrage - Video of 'Gay Exorcism' at Conn. Church Sparks Outrage: "Video of 'Gay"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Barna Group study of adults provides surprising insights on spiritual profile of homosexual adults

Excerpts from the article:

Barna comments: “People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts. A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today."

You can read the entire study on the Barna website.

And for some interesting insight into the GLBT faith community, visit The Other Sheep website as well as the Other Sheep Exec Blog, written by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli, MDiv and his partner, Jose Ortiz.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A father-daughter embrace between two strangers on Father's Day

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli. Bronx, New York. My same-sex spouse and I arrived late at church and took seats at the very back. We were coming from another church where we had just heard an excellent seminar on Black Liberation Theology. We were just on time to hear the minister ask all dads present to stand and be acknowledged by receiving a long-stem rose. It was Father's Day. I was one of only about five fathers who stood. This was a gay church with an average-size congregation. Earlier in the week I had received my first Father's Day card since my separation 12 years ago from my ex-wife. My first born, a daughter, was re-connecting with me for the first time. Her and her husband had gotten together with me and my husband on three separate occasions since Christmas. This was indeed a great Father's Day for me.

I held my long-stem white rose before me. The speaker told us to greet one another with an embrace. A young woman in her late twenties or early thirties, visiting for the first time and sitting across the aisle a person away from me, caught me eye and took a step toward me. I immediately thought to myself, "Let this young woman who is initiating this embrace stand in the place of my own three daughters on this special day. I will receive her hug as if it were given by my own daughters." She reached her arms up around my neck and tightly embraced me. I placed my arms around her in return. When I had released my embrace, I could still feel her arms tightly about my neck. I returned to my seat thinking I had never received so lingering an embrace like that before in church and I felt a bit awkward that I had not embraced her to the same extent that she had embraced me.

As the congregation stood to sing the next song, I was still feeling awkward. I whispered something inadequately to my spouse about the whole thing. As the congregation sung, I thought to myself, "Well self, you said it was going to be an embrace from your three daughters, so what's the problem! That's just what you got, a real daughter-father hug." And then like a bolt of lightening it struck me and tears immediately began to swell up in my eyes. "Perhaps," I thought, "she had said to herself, 'I will hug this man holding the white rose as if he were my father. I will let him stand in the place of my dad and I will throw my little girl arms around his strong neck and shoulders and receive his hug in return as if from my own father.' "

I no longer felt awkward. Instead, I felt as though we had ministered to each other, that we had each, on this Father's Day, experienced the same thing but from different end points: she, a lesbian daughter whose father was somehow "missing," and me, a gay dad whose children are not yet at home with the idea of having a queer father. My spouse put his arm around me, having noticed I was crying. "Its OK," I told him, "I'm alright." My thoughts were completely on the stranger who had held me so tightly, hoping that she, too, was alright on this Father's Day. Just like a dad to have caring thoughts for someone's daughter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From the Bronx to West Africa on the 4 Train -- Next stop Nepal

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli. Bronx, New York. Today, I noticed a young man seated on the Bronx 4 train reading his leather-bound Bible. He was situated at the very front of the car. I took the empty seat across from him. I asked him where he was from. "Ghana, West Africa," he said. "I notice your reading the Bible," I told him. And from there our conversation took off.

He's here to go to college. He grew up in the Pentecostal faith in Ghana which he still practices. I told him I've been to Africa – East Africa. And then I told him the nature of the work I do as I travel. "I'm a Christian and I work with faith-based organizations for the full acceptance of the gay community?" It was as if he didn't hear me correctly. "Gays?" he asked more than once and I answered him "yes" each time. "Are you for gays or against them?" he asked for clarification. "I'm for gays." He found it incredulous that I could say one can be both Christian AND gay. His look was, so I would imagine it, like something right out of the book of Acts when Christian Jews were told that one could be both Gentile and Christian (uncircumcised and Christian? – impossible).

Yes, he had a very confused look on his face, but clarity in his eyes – he understood me correctly; he just couldn't grasp it. At that point, I simply told him that at age 8 I had received Christ as my Savior (the evangelical response to the good news) and that at age 13 I knew I was gay. From there, I told him, it's been a long and studied journey. And then I handed him my Other Sheep business card. "Check out the website. See what you think." He placed the card in the back leaf of his Bible. Already it was his stop; still in the Bronx. As he stood to leave he looked at me and said, "I'll look at your website."

I continued into Manhattan to the Consulate General of Nepal to obtain two visas. Next stop Nepal.

Top left photo - 4 train at Bedford Park Blvd. in the Bronx. Bottom right photo - Fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah

Obama to the gay community: Yes, we can't change

DOMA - Then (February 2008)
"I believe we should get rid of that statute [DOMA] altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does." - Open letter from candidate Barack Obama to the LGBT community.

DOMA - Now (June 2009)
"In short, therefore, DOMA, understood for what it actually does, infringes on no one's rights."
"It is rationally related to legitimate governmental interests."
"To deny federal recognition to same-sex marriages will thus preserve scarce government resources, surely a legitimate government purpose." - Obama administration legal brief

Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Then (April 2008)
"We're spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need. That doesn't make us more safe." - Quote to AP article

Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Now (June 2009)
"Don't ask, don't tell [is] rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion." - Obama administration legal memo to U.S. Supreme Court

Source: Facebook - Campaign: Mail a penny to the White House since Obama has lost his 'change' Presisdent Obama has flip-flopped on DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Focus on the Family's Anti-Gay Rhetoric Ungrounded say two Researchers

In his article entitled "Childhood Sexual Abuse and Male Homosexuality," published on the Focus on the Family "Citizen Link - Issue Analysis" site, Jeff Johnston says "Many pro-gay researchers, activists and theorists deny that there could be a connection between child sexual abuse and adult homosexuality." To support the "connection," Johnston quotes, among others, the findings of an article from the book Unequal Opportunity: Health Disparities Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States, edited by Richard J. Wolitski, Ron Stall, and Ronald O Valdiserri.

With all the "data" seeming to weigh in on the side of Johnston's argument, he prematurely concludes that pro-gay researchers avoid "the connection" for reasons of (1) "stigma" (sexual abuse itself), (2) negative "associations" (such as pedophilia and recruitment) and (3) belief systems ("homosexuality is inborn").

But what say two of the editors of the book from which Johnston, in part, builds his case – Ron Stall and Ronald O. Valdiserri? How do they interpret the raw data? According Truth Wins Out, the two editors made a written statement in which they said:

" . . . Focus on the Family . . . misrepresented findings in the book to suggest
that childhood sexual abuse causes male homosexuality. The Focus on the
Family description of the findings in Unequal Opportunity is inaccurate and, in
our opinion, a distortion of the scientific literature.

"Most basically, the Focus on the Family characterization of the literature on
childhood sexual abuse among gay men represents a misunderstanding of scientific
approaches to distinguishing between correlation and causation
. … " [Emphasis added]

According to Truth Wins Out, "this letter marks the tenth researcher in two years who has claimed that Focus on the Family misrepresented their work." [Emphasis added]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


On May 31, 2009, at MCC New York, Rev. Nancy Wilson, MCC Moderator, extended extraordinary clergy credentials to Steve Parelli. You can view photos and coments on our Other Sheep Exec Site on this special occasion.