Tuesday, December 21, 2010

OUTTAKE makes an audio interview with Rev. John Makokha, Coordinator for Other Sheep Kenya

Hear the audio interview that Rev. John Makokha recently made with OUTTAKE.  The interview was made in two parts.  The first part was published on November 24, 2010.  The second part was published on December 9, 2010.  Go the December 20th Other Sheep eNews which carries the links to the interview.

Focus on the Family representative Col. Bill Spenser's Faith-based Misguided Respeonse to the repeal of DADT: Says it will take a new war for us to reestablish DADT; that soldiers in the field will ask 'what moral madness awaits us next?'; and that citizens will not serve their country now that DADT is repealed

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Bronx, NY.

In an article published by CitizenLink, a ministry of Focus on the Family, Col. Bill Spencer, writing on the repeal of DADT says "What can change this now? Sadly, I think only a future war will have us rethink how we best organize our troops to fight and win wars. At that time, cooler heads will prevail, and we’ll determine who best should be fielded to defend us. The social curiosity that will have been the openly gay service experience will vanish as the nation — at great cost — rediscovers the real purpose for having a military."

According to the article, "Col. Bill Spencer (Ret.) served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 29 years. He is now a family policy council representative at Focus on the Family."

I just had to blog this! I am really dumbfounded that evangelicals can not vote for equality on any level. Evangelicals, like Focus on the Family, see homosexuality as a moral determinative of American's future existence - to be or not to be - Gen. 19, the destrouction of Sodom and Gomorrah. For Focus on the Family, the repeal of DADT brings us closer to our own moral demise -- the "Sodom and Gomorrah" destruction. The Genesis 19 text has been misused for centuries; and now it abuses Focus on the Family.

Col. Bill Spencer goes on to write that soldiers "in the field are left with these thoughts: 'Does my country not think of me that much? Does the country think it should hobble its forces in the field with these distractions during time of war? Does the country require us to deal with this, as well? Am I indeed a patriot without a country? What moral madness awaits us next? When bullets are flying at me, and everyone back home is apparently just thinking about themselves and their own private behaviors, it’s too much to ask of me to sacrifice my life.' ”

Finally, he asks his "fellow citizen" if "after Saturday’s vote, would you give your life for our Senate? Would you give your life for our president? Or, would you go home to your family? Sadly, you know the answers already. If you never made a phone call or never entered the debate on this issue, it’s too late to care now."

According to Wikipedia, "Focus on the Family is one of a number of evangelical parachurch organizations that rose to prominence in the 1980s. A component of the American Christian right, it is active in promoting interdenominational work toward its views on social conservative public policy."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Baptists urged to observe Human Rights Day

INFORMATION SERVICE from:

Baptist World Alliance
Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Website: http://www.bwanet.org/
Email: communications@bwanet.org
Phone: +1 703 790 8980
Fax: +1 703 893 5160

December 9, 2010

For Immediate Release
Baptists urged to observe Human Rights Day

Washington (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance calls on Baptist churches around the world to make time during this season of celebration to reaffirm our commitment to human rights through the observance of Human Rights Day.

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on December 10 in honor of the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of that kind, on December 10, 1948.

For more than three decades, the BWA has encouraged Baptist churches to highlight this emphasis by promoting Human Rights Day. We urge all Baptist churches around the world to reaffirm this historical commitment by observing Human Rights Day on their days of worship on December 11 or 12.

2010 is the 62nd anniversary of the UDHR. The declaration has served as an ideal to be pursued by every nation, and has inspired the implementation of laws at national and international levels to protect the basic rights of individuals and peoples. A global movement for human rights has sprung from it, and has generated greater awareness not only of the intrinsic rights of every human being, but also of the existing violation of those rights in various places around the world.

Today, the principle of the sovereignty of the national state is understood vis-à-vis the respect for the basic rights of the individual. When those rights are not respected, the international community is urged to act through the mechanisms of international law and popular mobilization in favor of those whose rights have been violated irrespective of their nationality.

Human rights advocacy, however, is a continuous process and struggle. It is a constant battle against the evil of dehumanization and of disrespect for God's image in each person.

Theologically speaking, human rights spring from the theological understanding of human dignity, which is a gift from God to all human beings. Human rights are the socially constructed instruments through which human dignity is protected and promoted.

Human rights are reflected in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which includes the idea of the dignity of human beings created in God's image; the promotion in the Decalogue of respect for God and for the neighbor; the claim of the Hebrew prophets in defense of the poor, the widow, and the foreigner; and the incarnation of Jesus Christ and his call for the reconciliation of the world.

Furthermore, although we value the symbolism of the International Declaration of Human Rights, as Christians, we understand that declarations of human rights need to be fleshed out by men and women continuously committed to stand up for the oppressed.

Baptist theologian Thorwald Lorenzen stated, "The concern for human rights is intimately interwoven with the history and theology of Baptists." The origins of the Baptist vision were closely linked with the claim for religious liberty, for freedom of conscience, for freedom of opinion, and with freedom of assembly.

Already in 1612, Baptist pioneer Thomas Helwys had written down the first document in the English language that argues for freedom of religion for all people. His brave and bold words echo in the corridors of history to this day: "Men's religion to God is between God and themselves; the King shall not answer for it; neither may the King be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure."

By observing Human Rights Day, Baptists join together in a strong voice to remind the world of our love for freedom for everyone and our commitment to justice everywhere.

Resources are available on the BWA website, http://www.bwanet.org/.
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Steve Parelli's note:  I'm filling the pulpit at East Bronx Baptist Church.  This announcement was past on to me since I am this Sunday's preacher -- to be included in the announcements.  How wonderful!  My exact sentiment on this topic, especially as a long standing Baptist.

See my writings on religious toleration, separation of church and state as applied to marriage equality:

So, Who’s Getting Married in New Jersey? by Rev. Steve Parelli

How Baptist Doctrine May Obligate the Evangelical to View Same-sex Marriage as Primarily a Civil Matter and a matter of Individual Conscience by Rev. Steve Parelli

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Love Letter to Christopher

by Rev. Stephen Parelli
December 2, 1010. 
Bronx, NY. 

Today, I found Christopher’s “My Life" posted on his Facebook "Notes." I gave it a very careful first reading and then I read it a second time. I ingested every word as if he was right here speaking to me personally.

Christopher was a huge part of my daily life until age ten; you see, I'm his father. Christopher turned ten in June of 1997 and in October of the same year, I left. There was no discussion prior to leaving; nothing to prepare the family; no plans as to how father-children would be able to see each other after the separation. Nothing. One day I was there; the next day I was gone. In a sense, in that the separation was so sudden, Christopher's father had died unexpectedly. Actual death, however, would have been perhaps easier on Christopher -- there would have been closure and the full knowledge that his father loved him. But because his father chose to leave, how could his father really love him, having left him and his mother.

Children -- when parents separate -- need to know that the parent is not leaving the child, just the spouse. But, of course, that is not how the child experiences it unless a lot of time is spent together between the leaving parent and the child. (And, of course, even if the child knows the father has not left the child, there is the problem of the young child seeing the mother hurt and suffering – how could the father do that to his mother?)

Unfortunately, though the father sought with all his heart (writing his own pleadings) to obtain child visitation rights -- it just never was granted -- the courts said it was up to the children to decide -- the oldest being 18 and the youngest 12 (Christopher) -- at the time the courts became involved. Post cards I mailed directly to the house were returned. Phone calls home were more often refused. It was a difficult time for everyone . . . the children, the mother and the estranged father. Most every attempt I made to be with the children was refused me.

Time together with Christopher never materialized . . . and it broke my heart as much for him as for myself. I wanted so much to be in his life in a meaningful, qualitative way.
That was 13 years ago. Christopher and I have been separated now for more years than we were originally together.

And boy, did I enjoy those ten years. Christopher was homeschooled until age ten. And we did a LOT together during those years. His dad was a real part of his daily life. And I loved it; and Chris loved it. It was great then. If only the good times as father and son could have been structured into the years that followed the separation. The father did all he could in his power to make that happen. But it didn't. And we have both suffered for it.

Christopher, who was being homeschooled, entered elementary school (at age ten) for the first time in September and I separated in October. I've often been ill-at-heart imagining how horrific it must have been for Chris to be entering schooling for the first time -- a private, Christian day school -- only to lose his father the very next month. A lot of changes for any child to handle. I've thought of him as being all day in school wondering about his dad; will his dad be home when he returns home from school, etc.  And, of couse, his father was not at home. The hope throughout the school day, the pain of reality at the end of day. The new found hope the next school day, the new fresh blow of pain at the end of the day. It had to be excruciating. Christopher had to be traumatized. How could he even think in school?

I sought the courts and the mediator for counseling for Christopher and for his father/mother. To be in counseling together. I was driving to western NJ from NYC to schedule these sessions. They never materialized. Christopher never got the professional counseling I was requesting and arranging for. There was no cooperation on the other end.

Requests I made to see the children were being refused on many levels -- grandparents, mother, the church youth counselor (who testified in court that “the children don’t want to see their father” -- no recommendation from the church that they should attempt to be with their father, even through counseling) -- and the children themselves were refusing to be with their father. I knew there was a conflict of interest within each child -- to want to see the father but not want to see the father -- family members vocally maintaining the unworthiness of the father -- the father being gay and living with his significant other. The children were caught in the middle, although to this day they claim "we are making our own choice in not spending time with you." How does a 12 year old make that choice on his own --- or does he have to be "carefully taught" (from the musical South Pacific, or in this case, "subtlety taught" being 12 and not a 5 year old for whom “carefully taught” may apply more accurately).

His dad, a former pastor of a Baptist church that he was pastoring right up until the day he left his family, had moved to NYC where he immediately began working -- only about two weeks after arriving -- doing marketing, cold calling -- knowing he had to get work as fast as he could in order to send home what little money he might be making -- about $200 per week then, if I recall correctly.

Happily, his father is still living with his lover. 13 years now. Something right in all of this. Married in 2008 in California. It has been the life that his father has always dreamed of. A life of love with another man. I know that may sound strange to Christopher; but it is what all human beings long for, I believe: which is to know another and to be known for who we really are -- love. And that packaging, i.e., who we really are, comes differently per the person -- we are all unique; but to be loved and to love, that part of being human is universal. Love is what makes us human and what allows us to really relate to others.

The love I have with my spouse is not less or more than the love I have for my children; it is a different kind of love; but it is all love.

The love I have for Christopher is deep, abiding, fatherly and ever present. I think of him often. I desire his success -- which means I desire for him what he desires for himself, his passions, his hopes, his wishes. And I bless him in his calling to do much in film making. I bless him that he may make the world a better place because he makes films – whatever kind of films: for fun, for knowledge, for activism, for entertainment – to bring happiness into this world. In all of this, I give him my blessings.

And, too, I respect his choices and decisions -- and part of that respect is to respect how he feels and what he believes is best for him in either developing or not developing a relationship with his father, as difficult as that might be for me to accept. But I bless him in his decision and in his timing.

The years of hurt that he has felt are/is immense -- and he can point it all back to that one single day when he came home, and without any kind of warning and without any kind of support in place, his father was suddenly gone: no good-byes, no stated plans of when he would see his son in the future, no written letters, no personal sign of love found, only his silent departure. Just gone. The father who played, sang, hiked, took him to sports, swam, camped, Disney Word, sightseeing (not so much fun), learned violin together (a little testy here), and of course -- the father who preached from the pulpit - - - and now this! Gone!

The Christopher I know was a happy, huggable boy with whom I wrestled, played tricks on, read to and watched most- all-of his soccer games, if not all of them. He was the best-fun-loving son a father could have. And you should see how cute he looked all dressed up on Sunday mornings. He loved his dad, you could see it. (Oh, and don’t forget how you learned to read and write the Greek alphabet – you were great at that – and but a child!)

Little did he or I know that my life was riding fast the rails of a train-wreck in the making. Everything was in place for sure disaster. And that disaster inevitably came. I am a gay man who was trying to live the heterosexual life. It doesn't work for 99% of us. And those who claim it works -- I've seen the holes in their stories. The odds were against me. I was 17 years into my marriage when I left; Chris was ten years old.

The love that I had for Christopher then, is the love I have for him now, and have always had, even though I was, for a time prior to the separation and following, dysfunctional. I was depressed. I was lost. I was finding my way. I was not fully present. I did space out at times and this was very difficult for the children to experience. They never knew their father this way.

As I sit here today, and read Christopher’s “My Life” on his Facebook note, no friend of his can read it with any more interest, love and a sense of investment than I do. That is simply the claim that most parents can make –though I would never deny the bond or place that friends can have. The hope that I keep alive within me is that Christopher will forgive me for the hurt my separation caused him and will strive for a day when we can, by God’s grace, renew what we had when father and son were happy in relationship together so many years ago. Damn, those were sweet days. To be now his father again, and to love the child in the man, and the man as he is. That can be. We can wish it so; we can work it so. Life is too short for it to be otherwise.

From the father who never really left you, although it doesn’t feel like that,

Dad

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Urge the State Department to Offer Visas to "Outed" Ugandan LGBT Activists

Click here to sign the letter below which urges the State Department to Offer Visas to "Outed" Ugandan LGBT Activist (Source: Blogger by the name of Richael who claims to be a sophomore at Georgetown University studying international health.)

But first, just a reminder of the "hate" that is being flammed against homosexuals:




The letter you sign requesting the State Department to Offer Visas to "Outed" Ugandan LGBT Activist will be sent to the following:
Eric P. Schwartz
Asst. Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration

U.S. Embassy
Kampala, Uganda

Office of Public Engagement
The White House
The Letter
Subject: Offer Visas for Outed Ugandan LGBT Activists
One year ago, a Ugandan parliamentarian introduced an "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" that if passed, would impose the death penalty on LGBT HIV-positive citizens found to be having sex. The bill also would impose life imprisonment for other LGBT Ugandans found to be sexually active.

This bill is an example of the blatant homophobia Ugandans face every day in their homeland. And if this weren’t enough, it just got worse.

Earlier this month a Ugandan newspaper published a list of the "Top 100 Homosexuals" which included their full names, pictures, and addresses and called for their hanging. Since the list was released, there have been a number of personal attacks and property damage towards some of the listed individuals.

One can only imagine what may happen next.

I am asking that the U.S. Department of State immediately offer visas for these "outed" Ugandans to enter the United States before their lives are threatened further.

As a country, we have repeatedly put pressure on Uganda to drop their homophobic bill, and domestically Secretary of State Clinton even recently made an "It Gets Better" video in support of queer youth in the states. I urge the Administration to stand up for the rights of the LGBTQ community, including our brothers and sisters in Uganda, and offer every single one of the individuals listed in that newspaper immediate refugee status and a visa to enter the United States.

Sincerely, Click here to sign the letter

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rev. Makokha's last full day in the USA, October 27, 2010


 
Makokha at Parelli's desk area
on interview with OUTTAKE
by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Other Sheep Executive Director, Bronx, NY

A big thanks to all those who helped in NYC with arranging for John's speaking engagements

Together, and with the help of many friends in New York City, John Makokha and Steve Parelli were able to present Other Sheep Kenya in four church settings and one home setting: The Riverside Church, where we presented to Maranatha - Riversiders for LGBT Concerns; Rehoboth Temple in Harlem; Metropolitan Community Church of New York; Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, United Methodist (SPSA); and the Parelli-Ortiz home in the Bronx.



Makokha presenting at SPSA,
October 26, 2010
 Many people participated in making possible these events: The Convener of Maranatha, Karen Taylor; the pastor of Rehoboth Temple, Elder Joseph Tolton; Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor of MCC-NY; Bridget Cabrera, associate pastor of Young Adult Ministry at SPSA; Dr. Dorothee Benz of MIND; and Jose Ortiz, Other Sheep Coordinator for Africa. Rev. Stephen Parelli coordinated John’s visit to NYC.


Makokha with Dorothee
Benz of MIND
John 's last day: an interview and an evening meeting  (See photos of this event on Facebook)

Tuesday, October 27, was Rev. Makokha's last full day on this, his first visit to the United States of America. He spent this day at the Parelli-Ortiz home --- first, with an interview with OUTTAKE that Steve had arranged in advance; then, by spending the afternoon working Other Sheep Kenya at Jose's desk and computer; and briefly, by providing photos for the PowerPoint presentation Steve was finishing up for the evening meeting at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew.

Attendees at Makokha's Other Sheep Kenya presentation, hosted by
the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, United Methodist,
October 26, 2010

To the airport - And a special thanks for Jorge Lockward for providing lodging

The following day, Wednesday, October 27, Steve went to the home where John was staying - the home of Jorge Lockward on the Upper West Side in Manhattan - and helped John with his luggage and accompanied him to the JFK airport by way of the A train. The luggage was full with many books, other resources and a laptop -gifts from individuals and Other Sheep to take back for the Other Sheep Kenya resource center.

Makokha with Kent Klindera
of amfAR Aids Reserach
After checking in, John and Steve lunched together in the airport and discussed further the needs and goals of Other Sheep Kenya.

John Makokha at the desk of
Jose Ortiz, Parelli-Ortiz home,
Bronx, NY, October 26, 2010
Another great visit from Africa ...

Rev. John Makokha's visit to NYC -- and to Tennessee, Ohio and other parts of the Mid-west -- was much appreciated. Once again, someone from Africa has personally, and effectively, made known the LGBT needs and other social needs in Kenya, and in Africa in general.

Another individual (name withheld) coordinated John’s visits outside of New York City.


Rev. John Makokha (right) with Steve Parelli,
on the A train to JFK airport, with suitcases
packed with rescource materials -- And a lot
of good contacts from networking.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

With only a two-week notice, much was accomplished in NYC

John's visit to America was from October 12-27.  He purchased his tickets on Oct. 9, having learned perhaps just three days earlier that he was being invited by friends of Reconciling Ministries Network.  His trip included a visit with the board of RMN.  Much was certainly accomplished in view of the fact that Other Sheep in NYC had just a two-week notice before his arrival in NYC. 







Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dinosaur bones, African mammal exhibits, and the marginalized of East Africa

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director, Other Sheep

“The greatest religious problem today is how to be both a mystic and a militant; in other words how to combine the search for an expansion of inner awareness with effective social action, and how to feel one's true identity in both.” – Ursula K. LeGuin

From the C train to a classy burger joint, and business talk

Rev. John Makokha at
 the Museume of Natural History,
New York City, 2010
see photos
After having spent the morning hours working on Other Sheep at our respective laptops, I met up with Rev. John Makokha, Other Sheep Coordinator for Kenya, and took him to the Museum of Natural History.

First we got a bite to eat at Shake Shack on Columbus Avenue. We had what I would call backyard-grilled hamburgers -- the way we would do it in the suburbs when I was a boy. The place was crowded (I have a feeling it always is, because the hamburgers are the best you'll ever have), so we ordered "take-out" and with the metal tray they provided to carry the food, we made our way across Columbus Avenue and sat on a sidewalk bench along the museum grounds.

And we talked. About Other Sheep Kenya. About family. About raising funds. About the United Methodist Church. About Other Sheep in Asia and Latin America. About grants and the financial history of Other Sheep in the USA. About the staff that was in the making in Nairobi for Other Sheep Kenya. And more.

The vital intersecting of the needs of all the marginalized and LGBT concerns

A school for children in Uganda, 2008,
visited by Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz
Together, as John and I talked, we found that there was wonderful agreement between us on what Other Sheep should look like, especially in developing countries like those of Africa. Following our visit to the museum, and as we returned together on the subway and discussed this item further, it was evident that my four years of travel in East Africa and Asia had prepared me and seasoned me to understand how the general social needs of a populace often vitally intersect with LGBT concerns. (Part of my lack of insight is due to the complete sheltered life l had lived in evangelical academia in the 70s and especially in the 80s during the whole AIDS crisis, when evangelicalism was generally adverse to positive social action.)

A gay Christian’s activism is radically inclusive of all the marginalized

The Obunga slums, Kisumu, Kenya, 2008.
I remember our very first summer in Kenya, 2007. The poverty I witnessed in parts of Nairobi was impossible to describe, and the horrified feelings it left me with were insurmountable. One had to block the memory of what he or she saw in order to espcate the terror of the vivid images. Some of the LGBT community of Nairobi discussed then that whatever pro-LGBT actions gay Christians may take, that gay Christians must be actively engaged in the work of social justice for all marginalized people, not just for the gay community, but for the poor, the orphaned, those infected and affected by HIV-AIDS, the rights of women, and others.

What legitimizes an LGBT organization in the United States? And, is it the same in other regions of the world?

Children in the Obunga
slums, Kisumu, Kenya, 2008
In the United States, an LGBT organization can have legitimacy just by acting on the single issue of same-sex marriage, for example. Or, on the single issue of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In other certain regions of the world, however, it appears to me that a pro-LGBT Christian organization like Other Sheep would address other human rights and needs while keeping in balance its organizational LGBT objectives in order to have the impact it would desire. I would not want to make this a hard fast rule for every region of the world in that my experience is limited; and I would want to appeal foremost to LGBT leaders within their respective countries to vouch for, or to redirect, my thinking. However, in talking with the Rev. John Makokha and others, and in seeing first hand in my own travels the devastation caused by poverty and HIV-AIDS for example, I see more and more that wherever human dignity is reduced in any one person or people groups, it is the voice of the activist that must speak up for one and for all, whatever that activist’s special interest may be in activism.

Steve Parelli with Rev. Dr. Thomas Hanks,
Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006
What I am suggesting about Other Sheep is not really new to Other Sheep. I have only to read the earlier newsletters of Other Sheep before I became the executive director in 2005 to learn how the Other Sheep board in St. Louis has, in its past, at times, seriously addressed HIV-AIDS. And, in coming to know Rev. Dr. Thomas Hanks, the founder and theologian and mission director of Other Sheep, I have had, through him, some of my first glimpses of HIV-AIDS activism and women’s rights awareness.

The call to activism that comes from seeing and knowing first hand

Jose Ortiz t0 religious leaders in
Kisumu, Kenya bringing awareness
about what psychology says
about same-sex attractions, 2008
Jose Ortiz (left), acquiring awareness
about the Obunga slums,
Kisumu, Kenya, 2008
It is perhaps more often the hands-on experiences of life, and the maturity that the passing of time brings, rather than the lectures of the classroom, or the call from the pulpit or the editorial page, that grip the heart and call us to be one with humanity. Some do hear the cry of the suffering human spirit from afar; theirs’ is the heart that all human beings were meant to have: to love thy neighbor as thyself. Others, like me, may fail to recognize as fully as they should the hurting segment of humanity, whether afar or close at hand, until they’ve stepped onto another continent or into another realm of living. In this realm, life does not exist on the plane that is sane, human, and dignified, where all should live, including even the very least of these of the marginalized.

And so it was today that . . .

Rev. John Makokah
at the Mueseum of Natural History,
New York City, 2010
see photos
In visiting with Rev. Makokha today (October 25, 2010), we discussed this item and, through his eyes and experience, we envisioned Other Sheep Kenya as the activism it is for LGBT concerns, but also to see the LGBT religious community actively engaged in the Christian endeavor of working on behalf of all the marginalized, to be one with those whom are lost, because the world - though hardly all - has left them where they are to struggle hopelessly alone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saturday Open House and Sunday Church Services with Rev. John Makokha

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Other Sheep Executive Director


The Rivers of Living Water
Family Worship Center
Dance Ministry
Rev. John Makokha arrived at LaGuardia Airport, New York City, Friday evening, Oct. 22, 2010, and went immediately to The Riverside Church where he spoke to a small group of people in a meeting hosted by Maranatha, the LGBT group at Riverside.  (See photossee blog.)

Saturday evening, Rev. Makokha was in the Parelli-Ortiz home in the Bronx to meet friends of Other Sheep. Four guests were in attendance; other would-be guests sent their greetings. The interaction with Rev. Makokha and those present was stimulating and informative. (See photos.)

Sunday was a busy day with Rev. Makokha speaking at a pre-service brunch and attending three church services. He began his day by meeting the Pastor of New Day Church (see photo) in Bedford Park in the Bronx (a UMC church), where Rev. Steve Parelli caught up with Rev. Makokha to accompany him throughout the day and take him to meetings Other Sheep had arranged.


Brunch at Rehoboth Temple where John spoke
Rev. Makokha's major speaking opportunity was at the leadership training brunch hosted by The Well Rehoboth Temple Christ Conscious Church where young people of the church and others joined in hearing Rev. Makokha speak of his personal journey and the ministry of Other Sheep. Rev. Makokha related how a personal friend of his during their teenage years committed suicide after being outted as gay young man by the leadership of the school where he was boarding. Rev. Makokha said this left him deeply concerned for the welfare of sexual minorities and the part that the church must play in addressing homophobia.

In attendance at the brunch were Adam and Jendi Reiter, strong supports of Other Sheep. John lit up with a huge smile when he personally met the Reiter because they had sent him his first laptop computer for the Other Sheep Kenya ministry.  (See photos.)

Adam and Jendi Reiter
with Rev. John Makokha, left.
see photos
Following the breakfast, Rev. Makokha and Rev. Parelli attended the regular church service of Rehoboth Temple. Elder Joseph W. Tolton, the pastor, received a call during the service from a brother in Uganda who gave us greetings. The youth of the church who were graduating from their leadership training were recognized. (See photos.)

Immediately following the service, Rivers of Living Water Family Worship Center entered the sanctuary to celebrate the 40th birthday of their pastor, Vanessa M. Brown and to show their deep appreciation and love for her. Yvette Flunder was the featured speaker. In her opening remarks, Bishiop Flunder recognized other clergy, including Rev. John Makokha and Rev. Stephen Parelli and gave comment on the work of Other Sheep. (See photos, including the Dance Ministry photos.)

Rev. Makokha of
Other Sheep Kenya
speaking at MCCNY
see photos
From there, Parelli and Makokha went to Metropolitan Community Church of New York (MCCNY) where John gave a brief welcome and status of Other Sheep Kenya to the evening gathering (see photos). He spoke just following the preaching and just prior to receiving the communion. The Rev. Dr. Edgar Francisco Danielsen-Morales gave the sermon. Rev. Pat Bumgardner introduced Rev. Makokha to the congregation by giving a brief bio of Rev. Makokha and the history of the beginnings of Other Sheep in Kenya.


Freinds of Other Sheep at the Parelli-Ortiz open house
for Rev. John Makokha of Other Sheep Kenya
 The Saturday and Sunday events were remarkable, and Other Sheep thanks all those who received and welcomed Other Sheep Kenya and Rev. John Makokha.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Riverside Church Maranatha hosts Other Sheep Kenya presentation with Rev. John Makokha of Kenya as speaker

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli

Left to rights, standing: 
Rev. Steve Parelli, Jose Ortiz;
seated:  Rev. David Cockcroft, Rev. John
 Makokha, and Jorge Lockward


     Last evening, October 22, 2010, Rev. John Makokha, Coordinator for Other Sheep Kenya, spoke to a small, but very attentive and interested group of individuals at The Riverside Church, Manhattan, New York. The meeting was sponsored by Maranatha - Riversiders for LGBT concerns, and Other Sheep. Attendees included a professor from Union Theological Seminary; a Riversider who lived in East, Central and South Africa for more than twenty years; a second individual who also lived in Africa as a medical doctor; Jorge Lockward -the newest member to the board of Other Sheep; and Rev. David Cockcroft, one of the first New Yorkers to financially support Steve and Jose in their 2007 and 2008 endeavors in East Africa.



The small, but attentive attendees of the October 23, 2010
Maranatha-Other Sheep meeting with Rev. John
Makokha at The Riverside Church
 
     Karen Taylor, Maranatha Convener, briefly introduced Other Sheep and Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep. Parelli then spoke briefly about the beginnings of Other Sheep Kenya in East Africa in 2007 with Anglican priest Rev. Michael Kimindu. Parelli said Rev. John Makokha first learned about Other Sheep in December of 2007 through the Other Sheep Kenya website and contacted Parelli via email. Soon after, Makokha became part of Other Sheep Kenya working with Rev. Kimindu who, like John, lives in the vicinity of Nairobi, Kenya. In a short time, Rev. Kimindu became Coordinator for Other Sheep East Africa and Rev. Makokha became Coordinator for Other Sheep Kenya. Steve and Jose returned to Kenya in 2008 and worked personally with Rev. Makokha in conducting a seminar in Nairobi and Kisumu.


Rev. John Makokha: 
The Riverside Church
bell tower

     Rev. John Makokha gave a PowerPoint presentation, prepared by Parelli, in which he highlighted Other Sheep Kenya accomplishments in 2010. This included several seminars conducted throughout Kenya, a dialogue with a local evangelical college in Nairobi, and the establishment of Other Sheep Kenya facilities for offices and a "Safe House" which is a small room for lodging for guests for for LGBTI people in need. The seminars and facilities are funded through grants. The grants also provide for stipends for staffing the office. Other Sheep Kenya conducted seminars in Nakuru, Mombasa, and Kisumu for LGBTI groups, Christian leaders and clergypersons, and Muslim religious leaders. Reports on each seminar, along with a bio on Makokha, can be found on Rev. Makokha's home page of the Other Sheep East Africa website.



Riversider P. David Wilkin, right,
with Rev. John Makokha
 
     Other Sheep thanks Maranatha and The Riverside Church for hosting this meeting for Other Sheep Kenya.




Monday, October 18, 2010

Pentecostal preacher-father can’t get past the fact that his Yale-student son is gay

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, October 18, 2010. Bronz, NY.


Truck Darling, left,
and Jose Ortiz,
New Haven, Conn.  Oct. 2, 1020

There is a certain kind of joy and excitement in meeting other gay people of faith. There are common threads each party shares in the fabric of their respective gay Christian lives. Often, a first-meeting between gay people of faith is like a family reunion or a coming home experience.

This was especially true for Jose Ortiz when, on Saturday October 2, along with Truck Darling who is member of Other Sheep Task Force, and myself, the three of us took the Metro North to New Haven to give an Other Sheep presentation to Yale students on “LGBTQ & Religious Communities in Developing Countries.” The small Yale group of students met in Morse Fellow’s Lounge. The meeting was arranged and hosted by Bridges, Yale’s LGBTQ and Ally interfaith group led by Joan Gass.

When Jose introduced himself as a Puerto Rican from an evangelical/some-what Pentecostal background, one Yale student, also Puerto Rican, named Julio responded, “We’ve got to talk.”

Left to right:  Joan Gass, Bridges leader, Truck Darling,
Jose Ortiz, and Steve Parelli. Morse Fellow's Lounge, Yale
October 2, 2010
Turns out, Jose and Julio grew up in the same Puerto Rican Christian denomination, a very small, small fellowship of churches scattered throughout the United States among Spanish speaking communities. Julio’s parents are both ministers in the denomination. As a young person, Jose was very active in the denomination from age twelve through his college years and young adult life.

Jose and Julio’s meeting is especially unique because of the small size of the denomination. Remarkable, that two gay men, Jose in his mid-forties and Julio a sophomore at Yale, having the same denominational background would meet: Jose, now traveling the world summers, empowering LGBT people of faith, and Julio an up-and-coming young man at Yale.

Julio, Yale student, left, and Jose Ortiz.
Morse Fellow's Lounge, Yale.
October 2, 2010
These two men, without having known each other until now, share in that common thread of being totally misunderstood by their Puerto Rican Christian denomination, and often feeling rejected by that denomination, as they stand on the outside looking in.

Jose Ortiz, left, and Julio, Grand
Central, Manhattan
October 17, 2010
On Sunday, October 17, Jose and I spoke briefly with Julio at Grand Central in Manhattan. He was passing through New York City on his way to New Haven, coming from his sister’s wedding. He told us that his preacher-father, who has known since Julio was a young teenager that he is gay, spoke to him about someday getting married. The father is not yet able to entertain the thought that perhaps his “Biblical” view on same-sex love is ungrounded and that his son’s sexual orientation is not a problem, but rather a gift to be embraced.

A couple weeks back, on September 30th, Jose turned forty-four. He received a phone call that brought tears to his eyes. It was his very best friend from his Puerto Rican church from his “youth group” days and his twenties, a friend who while always “loving” Jose found it difficult to be himself with Jose once he learned Jose was in a gay relationship, and silently stayed away, and eventually losing Jose's phone number.

Such are the common threads that gay Christians share: a Pentecostal preacher-father who can’t get past the fact that his Yale-student son is gay; and a life-long church-going best friend who doesn’t know that his now-openly gay friend is still the same wonderful “Joey.” And for Jose and Julio, this common thread of being misunderstood by those one loves dearly, runs within the same small Puerto Rican Pentecostal Christian denomination. Now that’s commonality that makes strangers quick friends; like coming home . . . together.

Julio gave permission to use photos of him, his first name, and to reference him as a Yale student, but asked that his last name and the name of his denomination not be used.


Truck Darling, Jose Ortiz and Steve Parelli
(third, fourth and fifth from left)
with Joan Gass (left) and three other Yale Bridges students.
 Morse Fellow's Lounge, October 2, 2010.











"Ex-gay" leader John A Murphy calls gays "deniers of the Word of God" in letter to Coordinator of Other Sheep Kenya

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep

In an email dated October 17, 2010, John A. Murphy, Founder of the Brentwood, Tennessee, “ex-gay” ministry Rock House Way, called upon United Methodist minister of Kenya, Rev. John Makokha, Other Sheep Kenya Coordinator, to repent of his pro-LGBT religious activism, saying there is “far more support” if he does so.

Mr. Murphy heard Rev. Makokha speak at Edgehill United Methodist Church, Nashville, TN, on Sunday, October 17, 2010. Rev. Makokha is an advocate of same-sex marriage and nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mr. Murphy says, “I am not in favor of supporting or justifying any sin,” and he pleads with Rev. Makokha to change his views claiming there will be “far more support.”

He asks Makokha to denounce gay Africans as “self-righteous, justified, deniers of the Word of God, rebellious against God and as forcing the government’s hand to protect them.”

Of course, if Mr. Murphy’s ministry of “transforming” gays “to the glory of God” is a reality, why would he need to lure any true minister of the gospel to endorse his ministry?

This all smacks of financial enticement, something that is not unheard of when religious organizations from developed countries attempt to attract religious organizations from underdeveloped countries.

Rev. Makokha will refuse the offer. His long standing record is clear: he does not see same-sex love as coming under God’s condemnation.

Mr. Murphy’s email is at Other Sheep Exec Site blog, October 18, 2010. Rev. Stephen Parell is Executive Director of Other Sheep.

There is " far more support" for religious African organizations that will name the gay communities of Africa as self-righteous, justified, deniers of the Word of God, rebellious against God, and as forcing the government's hand to protect the human rights of sexual minorities, says Rock House Way, "ex-gay" ministry of Tennessee.

Reporting: This blog features Rev. Steve Parelli's brief observations, highlights and excerpts from the John A. Murphy email forwarded to him from Rev. John Makokha. John A. Murphy is Founder of "ex-gay" ministry Rock House Way. Murphy heard Rev. Makokha preach at Edgehill UMC in Nashville, TN, on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010.

Tennessee “Ex-gay” ministry Rock House Way calls upon UMC Kenyan Other Sheep Coordinator Rev. John Makokha to Repent of his pro-LGBT religious human rights activism, saying there is "far more support" if he does so.

Excerpts from the following letter: 

"Is it to love them [LGBT people] to wholeness or add to their bondage with the chains of self-righteousness, justification, denial of His Word, rebellion against God and activism to force the protection of the government?"

"I can assure you that if you were to appeal to organizations that seek to minister to the gay community in such a way as to help them break free of their sin you would receive far more support..."

From: John R Murphy of "Ex-gay" Rock House Way, email: john@rockhouseway.com
Subject: RE: UMC Pastor Makokha meeting in Nashville
To: Rev.John Makokha, UMC Kenyan Minister and Other Sheep Kenya Coordinator, email: jmakokha2000@yahoo.com
Date: Sunday, October 17, 2010, 1:49 PM

Rev John [Makokha],

I have now heard your preaching this morning and reviewed the two websites on your email. I am all for loving people no matter what sin they are in because we are all in sin to some degree. I am not in favor of supporting or justifying any sin.

Rev. John Makokha,
Coordinator for
Other Sheep Kenya.
 July 2008, Nairobi 
The purpose of my work is to help people progressively, inwardly share in the likeness of Christ. He is sinless. In no way is my work to be used to give any person justification for the sin they are living in. I do not directly address any sin in my work because I see that people who progressively have the heart of Christ become less willing to tolerate their sin behavior and increasingly challenge that part of their life. I realize that the organized church has struggled to help people with overcoming their sin pattern. But what you have to understand is that Christ is not the church and He does have an answer. As we are obedient to seek His heart we are empowered to overcome the behavior that grieves Him. You must avoid becoming pro-sin just because you see no way to help people out of their sin. You are not a blessing to people who are suffering the consequences of their sin pattern by helping them feel justified. You should be loving those in their suffering and helping them overcome the root causes of their condition. This is what Christians should do for people who are suffering from any sin.

I can see from the information I heard this morning that you are either mostly or completely seeking the support of organizations that are fighting for gay rights instead of the will of God. I can assure you that if you were to appeal to organizations that seek to minister to the gay community in such a way as to help them break free of their sin you would receive far more support and would also be working in cooperation with the will of God to set all people free of any behavior that dishonors Him and causes the suffering of those He loves. And yes He does love ALL PEOPLE.

I appreciate that you like my work and materials but if you are somehow using them to help people to accept their sin as ok, please discontinue using my materials. Unless you understand that my teaching is about change to the Glory of God, then you do not understand my message.

I think it is time for you to ask God what he wants you to do with your calling to serve LGBT people. Is it to love them to wholeness or add to their bondage with the chains of self-righteousness, justification, denial of His Word, rebellion against God and activism to force the protection of the government?

In 1 Peter 4:1 we are called to have the mind of Christ. This is one who is willing to suffer before they disappoint God. I suggest that you get quiet before God and ask Him how he wants you to proceed with no regard for your agenda or what you want. He will tell you what to do if you will let Him rule your life.

Respectfully,
John

John R. Murphy
Rock House Way, LLC
P. O. Box 0187
Brentwood, TN 37024-0187
john@rockhouseway.com
www.rockhouseway.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

The pain we feel when at last the joy we know: A coming-out story with some happy endings at long, long last

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Bronx NY, October 15, 2010

A gay father's pain and joy
Rebecca, my oldest daughter, is now 29 years old. She was 16 when I separated from her mother. The estrangement between Rebecca and me had been insurmountable. Family sentiment - from her grandparents to her aunt and uncle, cousins and siblings - was unforgiving, and religious values were ridged. Because her Baptist-pastor father, beginning at age 44, was living an openly gay life, he was, in accord with separatist/fundamentalist teachings, restricted from all family affairs, including holidays, weddings, graduations and funerals; letters he sent to family members were generally returned and phone calls generally refused.

Rebecca with her
dad, Rev. Steve Parelli,
June 2010, Dover NJ
 In spite of the nine years of seeing her gay father stigmatized, when Rebecca was 25 or 26 years old she told me "I want to see you, dad, I love you, dad." I hung up the phone and I wept bitterly. I sobbed. At last I was feeling the pain that I had buried for nine years. I was shocked at my own reaction of sobbing and I remember telling my spouse, Jose, that at last I was free to weep over the hurt I had buried in not seeing my children for nine years because at last there was real hope. The joy had touched the pain; I could feel again.

A NJ Sussex County courthouse mediator, who helped me in my losing battle to obtain child visitation rights, asked me at the time, "How are you doing?" "I'm OK, I really am," I said in a quiet, but assured voice. "No you aren't," she answered back in the same quiet, but knowing voice. She knew what I did not know: I wasn't OK not seeing my children. I had told myself I was fighting for visitation rights because my children needed to know I loved them. But I kept from myself the crushing fact that I wanted them -- just for who they each individually are - as much as I wanted them to know I love them. They always brought so much joy into my life with their different, winsome ways. Each voice, each look ... often so predictable.

So it was that when Rebecca told me over the phone that she wanted to start again a relationship with her father, I wept, I sobbed. The pain I had buried over the nine years of separation I suddenly felt when at last I owned the joy of the real prospect of getting my daughter back:  a hope I had buried along with the pain. But now, all at once, and for the first time, I felt the pain with the rising hope. And I sobbed bitterly.

In 1997 Steve took the NJ Dover
 train into NYC to "never" return. 
In 2010 he stands at the Dover
Station reunited with his
forgiving duaghter
Since then my daughter has reconnected with me and has, with her husband, connected also with my spouse, Jose. The four of us make it a point to be together. Just a couple of weeks back, in a phone call, she said, "Dad, how sorry I feel for you that for all those years you had to pretend you were straight when you were gay. To have to live not being yourself."  How mature; an adult; my daughter; all grown-up at age 29: to be able to see her father in a different light.

A gay brother's pain and joy
Today I experienced again the same painful sobbing. This time, the onset of joy that released the bent-up pain came by way of an email from my brother Jeff, age 55, two years younger than me. Jeff and I were estranged from each other soon after my public coming out in 1997 (I had a private coming out to him in the late 1970s when I was about 26 and he was about 24). It wasn't religious extremism that caused the alienation between Jeff and me in 1997, but rather our years of dysfunctional family dynamics that, like fish in water, had immersed us without our knowing it, and, saddly, were primarily the only means by which we experienced connecting as a family.

After my brother was in an unfortunate auto accident that left him disabled, we both saw the folly of having allowed differences to stand between us and seriously worked together to forge a new, lasting brother-to-brother friendship. It has been about two years now that we've reconnected.

Today Jeff emailed me:
"Steve, you've got to see this. Please go to YouTube and bring up Joel Burns, a Fort Worth city councilman who is gay and talks about gay teens being bullied and committing suicide. He talks about his own experience. This must be seen. What is wrong with us? Any volunteer work I can do to help Other Sheep, you let me know. Probably can't do much, but whatever there is to do, maybe I can help...maybe not...but if there is something, let me know....this must end. Love you, Jeff"
Of course I immediately put aside my at-home Other Sheep work to view the YouTube. Aftrer all, my re-connected brother wrote.  The story that we all know too well now about the recent bullyings and suicides of gay young teens was ripping my heart apart as I watched Joel Burns tell it, and then to hear him tell the pain he too knew as a young teen.

But the words that both crushed me and enraptured me were my brother's own email words "How can I help?" And of course, the "how-can-I-help?" was in the context of gay teen suicides. The pain I had buried about being gay during my teen years - silently in the presence of Jeff - erupted. I stood alone in the quietness of my Bronx apartment, and walking aimlessly to the entrance way I leaned against the wall there in the foyer, and looking out onto the living room area, I howled as I sobbed. The howling was like a deep, deep "demon" within me, coming out at last.

"How can I help?" These were the words I had wanted to hear when a teen. If only my brother could have held me, literally, in his arms when both of us were teenagers; and if only he could have said, "How can I help?" I needed his help then. I was alone. I somehow made it through those high school halls all alone, knowing I was different. He was cool. He was popular. I needed him then, though not acknowledging it until now - not verbally acknowledging it then, not out loud then. Yet, I had wanted to tell him; I must have. Tell someone. I had actually tried to tell dad in my early teens; he didn't get it. So no one. No one knew; no one could know.

If only Jeff could have reached across that bedroom during our teen years -- from his side to mine, from his desk to mine. As we lay in our separate beds and talked: if only we could have really talked; but no one knew.

I loved Jeff and I surely wanted him to know. I felt he could know; that he could find a place in his heart to love me though so different. I needed him then; but how could he know.

Today he said "How can I help?" And like a pulling back of the voiceless years that could not speak, he reached into my teenage heart and, with his human kindness of old age, a wiser Jeff, living in a knowing and open society, he touched and pulled forth the pain that has been there for years.

I sobbed today as I played the unbelievable words over and over again in my mind - "how can I help, how can I help" - and I felt the pain I had long buried, that when living with family, I had lived alone, in hiding, in the closet, with no one to help.

And I sobbed and I sobbed. The acute pain I was feeling had been resurrected to life by the joy I was given:  the joy known when someone says "How can I help?"  Help! help! at long last, and from a significant other, i.e., my brother - his help, so sincerely expressed. And so I sobbed over the teen-years of numbing pain I could now, for the first time, allow myself to really feel.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Personal Meeting with Rev. Eddie Long, along with Troy Sanders and other Soulforce members

Written June 2, 2008 by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli

Jose Ortiz, left, and Rev. Steve Parelli participants
in the Soulforce Action at Bishop Eddie Long's church. 
Here, seated in the Hospitality Suit of the church
where the meeting with the Bishop took place.
 Reflections on My Experience as a participant of the "American Family Outing" meeting with Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church staff members at their church in the Hospitality Suite, Lithonia, Georgia, Sunday, June 1, 2008.


Rev. Troy Sanders, left,
with Bishiop Eddie Long
  
My expectations of Bishop Long as a Baptist minister were remarkably fulfilled. The comments he made to our group were truly very Baptist. He emphasized the final authority of the word of God, yet at the same time he remarked that he would fight for the right for us to be able to hold to our own beliefs though different from his. These two statements he made are historically very Baptist. They emphasis the priesthood of every believer and the right for the individual to answer before God according to his own conscience and not according to the dictates of an authority outside of the individual, be it the church, government or some other institution or individual.

The Soulforce Team at Eddie Long's church
following their meetring with Bishop Long
He also told us that at times, after careful reflection, he has changed his mind (as it might pertain to doctrine, teaching, or an interpretation of Scripture, so I understood it), and that he has even told his congregation that he had been wrong on a given matter. He indicated that before he could have a clear conscience before God on some study (which he would teach from the pulpit, as I understood him), that he would have to be able to say before God that he had done his homework on the topic.

Bishop Eddie Long
speaking to the Soulforce Team
 In his morning sermon, prior to our meeting with him, he told his audience that his study library fills five rooms. No, he hasn't read all the books he explained, but he does read certain parts of a given book as the need to know about something arises. The books serve as a reference, and when he needs to know something he goes to his library with a particular question or interest in mind.

He also told us that he realizes that some of his ideas (about homosexuality, as I understood him to mean) were handed down to him, and that these yesteryear ideas may not be valid. He gave every indication that tradition for tradition sake did not carry weight with him. In fact, tradition may hinder rather than make plain the understanding of Scripture, so I understood him to imply.

Jose Ortiz, left,
and Steve Parelli, center,
with church staff  member, right
With these comments he gave every indication that he desires to be a responsible student before making assertions in his pulpit teaching. He sees this as being responsible before God as well as being responsible to his congregation. While his final authority is the Bible as the Word of God, it does not preclude him from reading and taking into account other sources for acquiring a general knowledge that would better inform his reading of the Bible. Of course, his desire for reference material and general reading serves his one aim to have a right understanding of the Scriptures, which is his final authority in matters of faith and practice.

Biship Eddie Long
addressing Soulforce Team
 He was careful to tell us – or was it incidentally – that his father was a Baptist minister. In other words, he comes from Baptist stock. Good Baptist stock will be careful to do the hard homework of one's study of the scripture and not just run with what has always been assumed when considering a given text. As a Baptist, one's high regard for the Word of God coupled with the belief of the priesthood of every believer to be able to read and interpret Scripture for one's self, requires one to keep an open mind in the study of the scriptures.

I came away with a certain idea about the man: that if he were to have at his finger tips several scholarly books on addressing topics related to issues facing LGBT people of faith, that he would, from time to time, find himself pulling those books from his shelves and reading the chapters that would speak to the particular question that presented itself to his mind.

The Soulforce Team at a local restuarant the night before
their meetingwith Bishop Eddie Long
I believe we have an open door to send to Bishop Long the gift of books. It is evident that he is a lover of books and the knowledge that comes from books. In fact, I asked the church staff while we were still in meeting (after Bishop Long had left the meeting) if it would be appropriate for me to send two or three books to Bishop Long. The church staff commented that it would be fine. April McLaughlin, the Bishop's personal assistant, gave me her mailing address and email address so that I could send books for the Bishop to her attention.

This was not my only take on the man. There are other worthy points that I observed about the man in our meeting. I'm sure my colleagues will give observation to these other points. This point I make is the one especially close to my heart, especially as a fellow Baptist minister; and because it was so obvious to me what he was saying, I wanted to emphasis this aspect of his talk with us.

Jose Ortiz relaxing after
the Soulforce Action
Respectfully submitted,
Rev* Steve Parelli, MDiv, Executive Director of Other Sheep
AFO Lead family member
June 2, 2008
Bronx, NY
*At the time of this writing, defrocked by a local Baptist congregation for entering into a committed gay relationship.  Presently, an MCC ordained clergy.