Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas Muslim Style

Merry Christmas Muslim Style - Our 2011 Christmas Letter
Written November 28, 2011
by Rev. Steve Parelli

Just two days ago, from the hospital bed where my daughter Rebecca lay, with a bit of an alarm in her voice she asked me a question that put a smile on my face. “Don’t you wonder what they are talking about!” she asked. “No,” I said, “not the least bit. I know Jose,” I said, “and I know he’ll say just what needs to be said and in a manner and tone that is consoling, reconciling.” Rebecca was referring to a phone conversation that Jose, my legal husband since 2008, was having in the hospital hallway with my estranged daughter Jennifer who was at the moment very, very upset with her father.

For Rebecca, there was some wonderment in my statement. In effect, I was saying they may be talking about me, but no worry. After all, Jose – the school guidance counselor that he is, and the parents and students of the south Bronx that he deals with on a daily basis – well, what’s there to fear or suspect or doubt! And besides, I know he always has my best interest at heart. He’s the perfect spouse for when “children” may turn to the other parent when the first parent is being “difficult.” I was witnessing again just how happy I am in this now 14-year relationship where the key to a happy marriage is by-and-large good communications and, certainly, respecting one’s spouse as the primary relationship.

So good is
Jose as husband and . . . well, father . . . that Rebecca has come to refer to me and Jose as “my two dads.” That’s how she introduced us to the nurses and doctors who cared for her. “These are my two dads.” Which leads me into the meaning of 2011 for me. Two family-related events occurred in 2011 that were unique to just this year alone since 1997 when I first began living with my life partner. For the first time since 1997 I was (and Jose, too) invited to a family celebration – my nephew’s wedding; and for the first time since 1997 one of my own family – Rebecca (her husband was in Egypt) – celebrated a major holiday with Jose and me on the actual date of the holiday itself (on Thanksgiving day). I felt as happy as Scrooge having dinner with family on Christmas day. I wept when Rebecca said she was coming to spend Thanksgiving day with her father.

Oh yes, 2011 had all the usual wonderful adventures. There was a spring cruise originating from San Juan, Puerto Rico, for seven days in the Caribbean (
I saw Martinique again for the first time since 1970). Our two months (July and August) in Asia this past summer with Other Sheep was remarkable. See for our stories from being threatened by police, to the unveiling of a new publication in Malayalam, to a spontaneous distribution of books with a nun at a Catholic college, to our TV interviews in Goa and the two page article on us in India Today a national weekly news magazine, and more. Back home, the Abington Journal of my college home town (Baptist Bible College of Clarks Summit, PA) did a front page story on Jose and me and our work with Other Sheep.

But the significant, unique events of 2011 were the “firsts” for me with my immediate family, i.e., celebrating with them on special occasions as an openly gay man in a gay marriage.  There’s a message in all of this. Manny, Rebecca’s husband who is Muslim, strongly disapproves of Jose and me as a gay couple. He has told us so. Nonetheless, he has also told us that we are Rebecca’s father and her father’s spouse and will be respected and always treated as family. And he does just that without any reservation! Recently, Rebecca made this observation contrasting her husband and the majority of her family members. She said, “Dad, my husband is Muslim yet he shows more Christian love in accepting and respecting you and Jose – though contrary to his Muslim convictions as it pertains to homosexuality – than do my own family to their own flesh-and-blood son/sibling/father – and they are Christians.”

Which has caused me to think at times:
What is the Gospel message? Perhaps it is wrapped up in the verse we call the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Perhaps that’s the Christmas message. At this stage in my life it appears that way to me.

Mark Twain once said that the passages in the Bible that give him the most difficulty are not the ones he doesn’t understand but the ones he does understand. Perhaps the golden rule is one of those difficult passages: easy to understand but not so easy to put into practice. It is a difficult passage for me at times. I hope I’ll do better in loving my neighbor in 2012. It certainly feels great to be loved in tangible, memorable, family ways. In 2012 I
need to forward to others the love I’ve received from
Rebecca and her husband, and from my brother and his wife and their family, and make it a Merry Christmas throughout the year so that 2012 may be as unique and special to someone else as 2011 has been to me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Emmy Winner Charlotte Robinson asks Other Sheep Steve Parelli to comment on Leviticus 18 and Romans 1 in view of Rev. Donald Spitz's "hateful comment" that gays, according to the Bible, should be criminalized

By Rev. Stephen Parelli
December 21, 2011
Bronx, NY

Today, OUTTAKE posted my comments on Lev. 18 & 20 and Romans 1 with the following title and introductory remarks:


" . . . We called on our openly gay Bible expert Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep in New York to explain this biblical misconception once and for all.  Parelli stated . . . "

The following comments by Rev. Parelli appear on OUTTAKE blog, Dec. 21, 2011, and were written expressly for OUTTAKE on December 19, 2011, in the Bronx, NY

Lev. 18:22 and 20:13

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." NRSV

Levitical purity laws, of which Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 are a part, were Jewish religious laws, not universal moral and ethical laws, which served to define how the Jewish people were to live as a unique chosen people.

Two principles served to define the purity code, the second of which was the prohibition of mixing ‘kinds,’ such as mixing linen and wool in the making of clothes.

“The lyings-of-a-woman,” the English rendering of the Hebrew phrase אִשָּׁה מִשְׁכְּבֵי  found in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, and which is understood to refer specifically to anal penetration, fails the second principle of the “purity” code.  Like mixing linen with wool, the male receptive partner is himself a combination of kinds – a male-female mixture.

At first sight, it is hard for us to wrap our heads around the idea that Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 have no more moral or ethical value for us today than the mixing of linin and wool in the making of clothes.  We need to dismantle our present-day frame-work and see our preconceived ideas for what they unfortunately are:  centuries-old, uninformed, so-called “biblical” biases against a misunderstood minority in society.

Romans 1:26-27a

“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions.  Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.” NRSV

Elizabeth Stuart, in her book Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference, says Paul uses these words “natural” and “unnatural” (“against nature” in the KJV), “to describe, not homosexual people, but Gentiles who characteristically engaged in same-sex activity, a characteristic that distinguishes them, not from heterosexuals, but from the Jews” [emphasis mine].   For all the exegesis one must engage in to grasp how Paul is not talking about homosexuality as we understand it today, Stuart’s statement is the best summary I’ve found and completely fits the context.  Underline it.  Save it.  Repeat it to yourselves and others.

“Natural” and “unnatural” (“against nature” in the KJV) did not have for Paul the same meaning it has for us today.  In ancient times, “unnatural” meant “unconventional” (cf. I Cor. 11:14-15 NRSV and Rom. 11:24 NRSV where long hair on a man is unnatural and where God himself does what is “contrary to nature”).  Seneca, for example, refers to hot baths, banquets after sunset, potted plants and a man’s passive sexual role as all, equally “against nature”, i.e., contrary to custom.

Paul is not talking about homosexuals in contrast to heterosexuals, but rather about Gentiles whose customs are outside of the norm, especially in comparison to Jewish religious purity codes.  Paul, therefore, is not condemning all same-sex acts, and certainly not homosexuality as an orientation.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sexual Minorities in the Bible: the Positive Texts in the New Testament

By Steve Parelli
Oct. 30, 2011
Bronx, NY

Photos by Steve Parelli, taken in July 2006 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tom Hanks
In September 2011, Other Sheep published to its web site Rev. Dr. Tom Hanks' new study entitled "Sexual Minorities in the Bible: the Positive Texts in the New Testament." Tom Hanks is the founder (1992) of Other Sheep. He is Other Sheep theologian and director of mission.

Rev. Dr. Tom Hanks, Buenos Aires, September 2011

Table of Contents
(60 pages in length)

1. Matthew: A publican declares the Good News to eunuchs and prostitutes. 

2. Mark: The young man who fled naked portrays a Jesus in a hurry and crucified naked   

3. Luke: The "beloved physician" tells of a Roman centurion with his "very beloved" slave

4. Praxis (Acts) of the Apostles: Queer couples collaborate in mission to the Unclean

5. John: Jesus' Beloved Disciple subverts fundamentalism (selective literalism) 

6. Romans: A gay apostle's queer letter to a "peculiar people" (in five tenement house churches)  

7. 1 Corinthians: Sexual minority values replace family values (1 Cor. 5--7; 16:5-24)? 

8. 2 Corinthians: Catalogs of sexual minority sufferings (oppression, violence)
Tom Hanks

9. Galatians: Evangelism + racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia: "Another gospel?"  

10. Ephesians: Sexual sins that may not even be "named" (5:3, 12)

11. Philippians: Euodia and Syntyche threaten to split the church Lydia founded (4:2-3; 2:2)  

12. Colossians and Philemon: The first Haustafeln andthe deconstruction of the patriarchal household

13. 1-2 Thessalonians: The woman (feminine side) in Paul and his companions

14. 1- 2 Timothy: Paul seeks to encourage his disciple, beloved but timid

15. Titus and his Cretan gay shaman 

16. Hebrews: Sarah, Rahab and, the queerest of all - Melchizedek! 

17. James: Married, but not so secret admirer of Rahab, the harlot

Tom Hanks
18. 1 Peter: "First pope," but married (and preferring Mark as travel companion)

19. 1-3 John: Friendship, not family, the foundation of civilized society

20. Revelation: The celibate followers of the Lamb vs. the Great Whore (Babylon = Rome

Appendix: Theodore W. Jennings, Jr. on the Beloved Disciple in The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament (Cleveland: Pilgrim, 2003)

40 Myths in the Seven "Clobber" Texts Unmasked with Exegetical Studies

By Steve Parelli
Oct. 30, 2011
Bronx, NY

Photos by Steve Parelli, taken in July 2006 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tom Hanks
In September 2011, Other Sheep published to its web site Rev. Dr. Tom Hanks' new study entitled "40 Myths in the Seven 'Clobber' Texts Unmasked with Exegetical Studies"   Tom Hanks is the founder (1992) of Other Sheep.   He is Other Sheep theologian and director of mission.

The table of contents follows.   CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL PAPER which is 71 pages in length.

Tom Hanks
Table of Contents
  • Eight Myths in the Homophobic Misinterpretations of Genesis 19:1-29 (Sodom)
  • Seven Myths in the Homophobic Misinterpretations of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
  • Seven Myths in Homophobic Mistranslations of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10
  • Three Myths in the Homophobic Mistranslations of Jude 7: Jude, Jesus, and Sodom: Homosexuality in Animals, Homophobia in Humans
  • Fifteen Myths in the Homophobic Interpretations of Romans 1:24-27
Tom Hanks

Appendix 1: "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" - Are you sure?

Appendix 2: Genesis 1-3: Inductive Studies

Tom's paper can be downloaded and printed for your personal and/or group use. Please remember Other Sheep and Rev. Tom Hanks in any reproduction, publication and distribution of this writing. We welcome you to read, use, print and publish any Other Sheep website writings and resources, remembering to acknowledge Other Sheep and each article's respective author.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A gay Christian man from Hong Kong writes his story: "Being gay and Christian is definitely not contradictory -- Acutually, it is a special blessing!"

By Fergus Lo, Hong Kong
October 16, 2011

The following are excerpts.  To see the article in full, click here.

Fergus Lo
On the Blessed Minoirty Community Fellowship
There were less than 20 people at the (Blessed Minority Community Fellowship) Friday evening meeting. To my surprise, some of the members shared their stories with me as if we were very close friends. I thought I would be a stranger among them, but they treated me as a friend who belonged. It was the love and trust I experienced that urged me to go to the meeting again the following Friday and the Fridays after.

Sodom and Gomorrah
On the Bible and Homosexuality
I never had a huge struggle between my two identities – gay and Christian, like some of my fellow brothers and sisters do. I had realized and accepted my sexual orientation before I started following Jesus, and when I did accept Jesus as my Savior it was at an welcoming and affirming LGBT church. It is true, however, that I was somewhat hit hard by the six passages in the Bible which are commonly used to condemn homosexuals. My friends at the church urged me not to take the verses literally but to study each passage in its historical and literary context: what is the background of each passage; to whom was the author writing – his intended reader; what was the time period or the culture in which the passage is set. Besides, there are Bible passages we don’t observe today like what we can and cannot eat or wear; and passages where women and men are treated differently.

Left to right:  Fergus Lo, Steve Parelli, Paul Luca,
Felix Liew, Jose Ortiz.  Meeting on sending
books on the Bible and homosexuality
to Beijing Christinas. July 19, 2010.
Kowloon, Hong Kong
On living in Hong Kong
There are many challenges for the gay person living in Hong Kong, and more so for the gay Christian living here.

On being Gay and Chrisitan
I am very grateful that God created me just as I am – a gay man, and that I am a  Christian. God loves me unconditionally regardless of my sexual orientation. In fact, being gay enables me to see His abundant love from a perspective straight people do not necessarily experience. In addition, being a gay Christian enables me to put my feet in the shoes of other minoritycommunities more easily.

I would like to proclaim loudly that being a Christian and gay is definitely not contradictory. Actually, it is
a special blessing!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why Uganda's Anti-Gay Legislation Is the World's Business: View

This week, Uganda parliament moved to revive the anti-gay bill

By the Editors of Bloomberg,
Click here for the article on Bloomberg site

David Kato
Considered by many to be a father
of the Uganda Gay Rights

Photo by Steve Parelli
Date and Place: August 19, 2007
Red Chili Hideaway,

Kampala, Uganda
Occasion: David Kato with Steve
Parelli, crafting an editorial

Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill just won't go away.

Last spring, an egregious proposal by a member of the ruling party to impose harsh penalties, including death, for homosexual acts was shelved for a second time when Uganda's parliament recessed without debating it. This week, parliament moved to revive the measure.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda. The law would increase the maximum penalties, providing up to life imprisonment for homosexual acts and execution for so-called aggravated homosexuality -- repeated homosexual behavior, homosexual acts with a minor or a disabled person, and homosexual acts by anyone who is HIV-positive.

To see the article in full click here 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The "ex-gay" cab driver's ring finger

Our New Haven “ex-gay” cab driver:  I’m “ex-gay” but I struggle still with my same-sex attractions; and that’s the way it will be for the rest of my life – and Exodus admits now that that is what they mean by change, i.e., a life-long struggle.

By Rev. Stephen Parelli
Written October 22, 2011
Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connectitcut

Chapel at Yale Divinity school
where I wrote the
text to this blog immediately
following my conversation with
the "ex-gay" cab driver. 
I didn't want to forget a word he
spoke telling his story
October 22, 2011, Yale
New Haven, CT
Today, Jose and I, together with two friends – one from Uganda and the other from the Bronx – travelled together by train from New York to New Haven to attend a day conference at Yale Divinity School on Same-sex Marriage and the Catholic Church.” 

In a friendly, low-key manner, the cab driver who conducted us from the train station to Yale, engaged us in conversation around the topic of our conference (but also, in passing, took interest in pointing out to us the house to which George W. Bush came home as a new born baby). 

Before pulling away from the train station, I had leaned over to Jose and whispered, “The cab driver is family.”  Jose gave a look that said, “I don’t think so.”  “Yes,” I said, “you can hear it in his voice.”  Before our transfer was completed, Jose would see that, this time, my gay-dar (for gay radar) picked up the signal correctly.

Our driver was somewhere in his mid-fifties or older. He asked if we were clergy. Our Bronx friend said, “Yes, two are.”  After his commenting some on different denominations and their controversies over same-sex marriage, our cab driver asked directly, “What do you think of Exodus and 'ex-gay'?”


Above:  Darlene Bogle, a former ministry leader in Exodus International issued a public apology to all former patients hurt in their attempts to change their sexual orientation. Current Exodus president Alan Chambers responded to her heartfelt sentiment with snark and sarcasm.

I told him that Jose and I travel the world speaking on the "ex-gay" movement (among other things); that our last seminar on “ex-gay” was in Singapore a couple months ago.  I told him I give eight points in my evaluation of the “ex-gay” movement and that he could find the paper on our website. Jose, who is my legal husband, told him we had met at an "ex-gay" support group.

Then I asked him if he had personally been involved with Exodus (I sensed he had).  He said yes and he said it changed him.  Our time was short so I asked him directly if he was changed in terms of his same-sex attraction because it was my experience with “ex-gays” that they do not change in that sense.

Here’s what he told me.  “Being 'ex-gay' is a life-long struggle.  Exodus has changed its position on what they mean by 'change' which is good.  They used to say you will change (in your same-sex attractions), but now they say you will struggle with same-sex attractions for the rest of your life.”

“I haven’t made it yet,” he said pointing to his ring-less ring finger, “and I guess I won’t, but that’s OK.  Some 'ex-gays' do make it that far,” pointing again at his bare ring figure as if marriage with the opposite sex was the ultimate achievement for the “ex-gay” Christian.

“But,” I said, keeping the focus on his comment that “ex-gays” do not change, “even in marriage the ‘ex-gay’ husband still struggles with same-sex attraction.”

[I made the above statement that "ex-gay" husbands struggle even in a heterosexual marriage based on my own personal experience and based on Bob Davies writings from his book Coming Out of Homosexuality in which he says:

page 158
Coming Out of
"A[n ex-gay] husband can just as easily experience a same-sex temptation one hour after making love to his wife as he can five days later.

"In [ex-gay married] men, homosexual temptations can be prompted by such emotions as anger, loneliness, frustration and boredom. ... If pressures of being a spouse or parent push these emotional "buttons,"
homosexual temptations may actually increase in the married ex-gay . . . "

page 162
Bob Davies, co-author
of Coming Out
of Homosexuality
"Ex-gay men may not feel an overwhelming physical attraction to their future spouse . . .

"Ex-gay [married] men . . ., the majority do not experience sexual arousal solely by looking at their wife's body. [Instead] . . . sexual arousal [must come by] touch and emotional feelings.

"Most ex-gay men do not struggle with sexual temptation for women . . . not the strong visual attraction experienced by most straight men. ... So a lack of sole dependence on visual stimulation can actually be a blessing."]

Then the cab driver said this, showing his agreement.  “When an ‘ex-gay’ husband and his wife walk down the beach together, his eyes follow her eyes just like this,” and putting his two forefingers together he moved them in sync towards an imaginary object of interest.  Jose immediately verbalized what his illustration was effectively demonstrating.  “So,” said Jose, “the wife is looking at good-looking men and the ‘ex-gay’ husband is looking along with her at the same.”

Paul Martin was a lead counsellor
with Exodus Asia Pacific,
but has since turned his back on
the organisation.
Read more
Click over photo for video news report
“Right,” said the ex-gay cab driver.  He was being consistent.  He had said he himself still struggles with same-sex attractions (even though his life, as he claimed, was changed; obviously his life-style was changed, not his sexual orientation).  He said he was glad that Exodus has officially gone on record as saying by change they mean a life-long struggle with same-sex attractions.  And he gave a candid description of how "ex-gay" husbands while walking down a beach are not attracted to women in skimpy bathing suits but to hunks that would turn the head of any woman.

Dropping us off at our destination, he was still engaging us in this "ex-gay" conversation.  We exchanged contact information.  He threw in the cliche “love the sinner, hate the sin,” and he compared the “ex-gay” process with alcoholics, something I hear again and again and which is, of course, just an incredible, inaccurate parallel.  In all of his talking with us, I did not feel judged by him.  I felt it was a fair, good give-and-take conversation.  I especially liked that he was on the same track with me:  he did know that Exodus does not anymore (and, if you read the fine print in the “ex-gay” books going back to the 1990s, the “ex-gay” movement never really did) claim that homosexuals can change.  I was talking with someone -this cab driver- who had an honest take on what change is in the "ex-gay" movement. 

Yale Divinity School Chapel,
Conference on "Same-Sex Marriage and
the Catholic church"
Oct. 22, 2011
As we left, still keeping a very friendly manner, he said, “See you in heaven and we’ll continue the [‘ex-gay’] conversation there.”  “OK,” I said as I pulled away from the cab to make my way towards the earthwhile conversation at hand – “Same-sex Marriage and the Catholic Church,” a day-long conference at Yale Divinity School.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Queering 4:21 - 5:1 the Epistle to the Galatians by Rev. Steve Parelli - A Letter to the Religious Right in America

Queering 4:21 - 5:1 of the Epistle to the Galatians
An adaptation of Paul's letter by Rev. Stephen Parelli

  • Overview:  In matters of personal belief and practice, which America are we? - the John Cotton America which enslaves us to the moral prerogatives of the state or the Roger Williams America which deems each of us a free moral agent before God?
To view the following queer adaptation of Gal. 4:21 - 5:1 in parallel with the text of the New Revised Standard Version, click here

Rev Steve Parelli's adaptation:

Chapter 4

21 Tell me, you in America who desire to legislate religion - to write the precepts of your personal faith into our civil laws - do you not hear the story of your Puritan forbearers?

22 For history tells us Boston had two sons, the one, John Cotton, tied to the old European mindset of a church-state paradigm, and the other, Roger Williams, born of the spirit of liberty, in which the church is free from the dictates of the state and the state of the dictates of the church.

23 Now, the former was born out of the Reformation (in Europe) which was still slave to the idea of church-state/ state-church governments; the latter was born of the Enlightenment by which the promise of liberty and equality for all was nurtured in the thoughts and writings of men and women.

24 Now these two figures - Cotton and Williams - are a fair representation of what is happening today in America with marriage equality. Cotton is from the old world and is fathering children who become nothing more than slaves, surrendering their liberties to a state-church/church-state society.

25 Cotton represents governments which make laws and rule according to the beliefs and values of the dominant religion which every citizen - the religious, the non-religious, and those of different beliefs - must obey; which makes slaves of everyone, even of the citizens who willingly hold to the dominate values.

26 But Williams represents that government which corresponds to something which is higher - the idea that all human beings answer to God according to the dictates of their own hearts without the interference of any human institution, be it civil, religious, private, public, local or national. A society is free when, at every level and in all of its dealings, it protects and guarantees each one's liberty in matters of conscience before God.

27 And that's why it can be said of Williams:

"Rejoice, Rhode Island, you who bore no children in Boston, for now it is your turn to burst into singing. Shout "His truth is marching on" you whose birth pains for religious liberty in Boston brought forth only still-born babies. For the children of Rhode Island are - throughout the world today - more numerous than the children of 17th century Puritan Boston. The desolate, unsought-after town of Providence, where, among the exiled of Massachusetts, religious liberty was born, is by far greater today than the highly-esteemed Beacon Hill of yesteryear with all its shinning Puritan lights."

28 Now you, my dear American reader, are the children of religious liberty - the promise of equality, freedom and individual dignity in matters of religious belief and practice, like Roger Williams was.

29 But just like then, John Cotton (whose belief-system was mandated by New England law and forced upon all its citizens) persecuted Roger Williams (whose belief-system guaranteed that others could believe and act differently than him or Cotton), so it is now with the repeal of marriage equality in some states, that the religious right persecute the children of the spirit of Roger Williams.

30 But what does history teach us? Though some colonies had officially recognized an establishment of religion, the newly formed Untied States would not. The children of the free Rhode Island would not share the inheritance of the children of the religiously non-free Virginia and New England in the formation of the United States of America. The likes of Virginia and New England had to yield to the likes of Rhode Island so that the first amendment was adopted.

31 So then, friends, we are children, not of John Cotton and the Reformation and New England which failed to gave us religious liberty, but of Roger Williams the father of religious liberty.

Chapter 5

1 It is this kind of freedom for which Christ has set us free. A freedom that respects all men and women equally as recipients of liberty of conscience, whatever their creed, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, sex, nationality, education, philosophy of life and whatever else are the accidental differences shared together by our one essence as human beings. Stand fast in this kind of liberty, therefore, and do not put yourselves ever again under a legal system that makes you mere slaves to a view of God which is not your own and which the state, or any institution, would mandate against your will without your free consent.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, asks his readers to respond: "Does Focus on the Family 'hate' gays?" Here's my answer ---

I believe the claim has been made by some in the not too distant past that Focus on the Family is the most influential evangelical organization in America today in opposing gay rights.

Just today Focus on the Family published to the Internet an article by Focus on the Family President Jim Daly entitled Hate is too big a word to be used with such little restraint.”

Jim asks his readers to respond to the question “[D]o we [Focus on the Family], as Webster defines ‘hate,’ feel ‘intense hostility and aversion’ to gays and lesbians? Do we [Focus on the Family] regard them with ‘extreme dislike or antipathy’?” He answers the question in the negative: “Unequivocally not.”

Jim, along with his friends at Focus on the Family, has a blind spot. The answer is, as unlikely as it may seem to some conservative Christians,  an “unequivocal" yes. Yes, Focus on the Family “hates” gays and lesbians (using Jim Daly’s Webster definition of hate). Why don’t evangelicals like Focus on the Family, looking in the mirror, see themselves as treating homosexuals with “extreme dislike or antipathy?” How is it that evangelicals on a feeling-scale of one to ten don’t know that they register a ten-plus when it comes to feeling “intense hostility and aversion” towards gays and lesbians? How can they be so self-unaware? How do they not see the hate we know and feel?

Evangelicals are impervious to society’s cultural, human right advances whenever such milestones are, in their opinion, in complete discord with what God has decreed is his will for humankind. Love for one’s fellow citizen, in the evangelical’s mind, is to be expressed in the single context of loving what is God’s best for the human species as deciphered from the Bible. Evangelicals, by their standards, are loving when they offer understanding (but stop short of acceptance), provide support groups (to change one’s sexual orientation), and open their doors for all to enter their churches (where the gay and lesbian person can have fellowship with church members around the teaching that homosexual acts between consenting adults is always sin).

For evangelicals, gays and lesbians need to invite Jesus Christ into their hearts which is the formula for new birth which is the means by which (with much help) homosexuals will “come out of” homosexuality. For the evangelical, homosexuals will change; it is built-in within the spiritual “genetic code” of salvation in Christ. It is spiritually “natural” for an evangelical homosexual to change – moving by degrees away from homosexuality as a “life style” or “choice.” Thus, evangelical’s often quoted slogan: “hate the sin, love the sinner.” The idea is to “love the sinner” to Christ so that Christ can change the gay or lesbian person which, in actuality, amounts to conditional love. (Just ask a heterosexual to be received into church fellowship under the same conditions.)

No wonder none of this feels like love to the homosexual – and especially to the evangelical homosexual who for years upon years (myself until age 44) applies spiritual discipline, enters therapy, joins several support groups, attends “ex-gay” conferences, and does all this in utter isolation without being able to tell anyone in his church or family about the “ex-gay” process he is involving himself in without fear of rejection on some level. (“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is still alive and well in the evangelical church.)

Jim Daley concludes his article by calling for “debates, not denigration.” He asks that we cease with our “overheated, overreaching [hate] rhetoric.” I would like to suggest that what Focus on the Family needs to do is stop with its one-sided debates with the America people long enough to really listen to her own evangelical gay and lesbian parishioners. Focus on the Family is so engaged in saving the American culture from gay rights that they have failed to seriously take notice of their own evangelical children who are gay and lesbian. A parent who has forgotten their own children while saving the world – that’s Focus on the Family; Focus on the Family needs to focus on their own evangelical gay children; needs to stop and listen to them! When Soulforce, a few years back, asked to speak with Focus on the Family – to share their personal stories as Christian and gay – they were shut out by Focus on the Family. It appears “debate” rather than dialogue with one’s own evangelical homosexual children is the business of the day. Within our  own house – the evangelical American house – we don’t need debate, we need dialogue (for most of my life I identified as evangelical; I presently do not).

You see, dialogue feels like love; debate feels like hate. When can we really talk as a family. Until then, Focus on the Family's love-talk may be seen has hate-speech by their own evangelical children, not to mention by the secular world which Focus on the Family hopes to save from gay and lesbian human rights.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 26, 2011 edition of India Today magazine reports: Attempts for dialogue on homosexuality have begun for the first time inside the conservative churches of Kerala, set in motion by Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz from the US

By Rev. Steve Parelli
September 27, 2011
Bronx, NY

Cover of India Today
September 26, 2011
Rev Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz are featured in the current edition (September 26, 2011) of India Today magazine, an Indian weekly publication with a readership of 5.62 million people (Wikipedia), in an article titled Sex and The Church in the Nation section of the magazine.

Mr. M. G. Radhakrishnan, author of the article, personally interviewed Parelli and Ortiz on July 13, 2011 in the lobby of the Classic Avenue Hotel, Trivandrum, Kerala, and on July 18 attended a Kerala University students’ meeting, also in Trivandrum, where Steve and Jose spoke.

The India Today article juxtaposes the Parelli/Ortiz visit to Kerala with the suing of Marthoma Church Bishop Euyakim Mar Coorlios “for allegedly committing sodomy," both events occurring in July of 2011. “Interestingly, the bishop’s case comes even as attempts for a dialogue on homosexuality have begun for the first time inside the conservative churches of Kerala where Christians form 19 per cent of the population. The efforts have been set in motion by a homosexual Baptist pastor couple from the US, Stephen R. Parelli and Jose Enrique Ortiz,” the article says.

The article goes on to quote Parelli and Ortiz on the topic of homosexuality and the church in India.

The above photo of
Jose (left) and Steve
is featured in the
"Sex and The Church" article
Parelli and Ortiz “were brought to the state by the Trivandrum Theological Forum (TTF),” the article reports.

Sam L. Sone and R. S. Ajith, both of TTF, and Dr. David Joy of Untied Theological College (Bangalore) are also quoted in the article. TTF and David Joy joined efforts with Other Sheep (Parelli and Ortiz) in the Malayalam translation and its publication and distribution of The Children Are Free, a book by two American authors, in which it is argued that the Bible does not condemn homosexual acts between consenting, committed adults.  TTF, in the first printing of the Malayalam rendering of the book, published 2000 copies.

Parelli and Ortiz spent 28 days in July in Kerala distributing 580 copies of the Malayalam book to human rights activists, religious leaders, media people, professors and students, lay leaders and parishioners, other interested parties, and bookstores and libraries.

The India Today article features a photo of Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz in an affectionate embrace.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Singaporean lesbian couple - Sheena and Kai - wedded in Central Park, New York, NY, with Rev. Steve Parelli officiating

By Rev. Stephen Parelli
September 17, 2011
Bronx, New York

Sheena (left) and Kai, newlyweds,
Central Park, NYC, September 16, 2011
Sheena (Shi Jia Sheena Ling) and Kai (Kai Hiang Tan), a lesbian couple from Singapore, were married on September 16, 2011, in Central Park, New York. Four friends of the bride and bride, three travelling from Singapore just for the occasion and a fourth a student at NYU, witnessed the marriage (along with some Muppets). The wedding ceremony, given the theme “authentically playful” by the bride and bride, was held at the Hans Christian Andersen statue, the famous Denmark writer of children’s stories, near 72nd Street and East Drive, Central Park.

Rev. Stephen Parelli, clergy member of Metropolitan Community Church of New York and member of The Riverside Church, New York, officiated.

The bride and bried - Sheena (center left) and Kai -
with friends from Singapore and Rev. Parelli
(back row far left), Central Park, NYC,
September 16, 2011
The ceremony, which began shortly after 4:00pm on a warm and bright sunny Friday, was conducted to one side of the Andersen statue on the raised stone platform area on which the statue sits. Sheena and Kai gave vows they wrote. Kai surprised Sheena with a song. The Muppets sat on the edge of the platform while the friends stood on ground level looking up to the bride and bride standing before the reverend. By-standers stopped and took pictures then carried on.

Kai (left) and Sheena celebrating
their marriage with the theme
"authentically playful"
Following the ceremony, the newlyweds and their friends, still at the Andersen statue, celebrated the marriage with gifts from the bride and bride, food and Champaign, bubbles from two bubble-making guns, and the signing of the marriage license. Jose Ortiz, arriving after the ceremony from his job in the Bronx where he works as a counselor of school children, joined in the fun.

Rev. Parelli (left) and spouse
Jose Ortiz (center left) with
Kai (center right) and Sheena (right),
Central Park, NYC, September
16, 2011
Sheena and Kai met Rev. Parelli and his spouse Jose Ortiz on August 14, 2011, at the Free Community Church in Singapore. Sheen and Kai, as first-time visitors at the Free Community Church, came for the special occasion to hear Steve and Jose, Executive Director and Coordinator of Other Sheep respectively, give a seminar on the fallacies of the evangelical ex-gay movement in America. Following the Singapore seminar, Kai and Sheena asked Jose if Steve could officiate their up-coming marriage in Central Park, New York. Before leaving Singapore, over the phone, Steve gladly agreed.

Sheena (left) and Kai (holding marriage license) with
Rev. Steve Parelli (right),
at Hans Christian Andersen statue, Central Park,
New York, NY, September 16, 2011.
Wedding guests T. Y. and C. Y, both of Singapore (and both asking to remain anonymous because of job security fears back in Singapore), signed the license as witnesses of the marriage.

Muppets sitting at the site of the Hans Christian
Andersen statue, Central Park, observing
the wedding ceremony of Sheena and Kai,
September 16, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

Parelli and Otrtiz intervied by Sylvia Tan of on "the false claims of the ex-gay movement"

8 August 2011
Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz: Is there such a thing as ‘ex-gay’?
by Sylvia Tan

(To view this article on Other Sheep web site, click here)

Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz, a gay married couple, will be in Singapore on 14 August to share their personal journey of reconciling their Christian faith and sexual orientation, and discuss the false claims of the ex-gay movement.

They are a gay married couple on a mission. Every year since 2005, Rev. Steve Parelli, a former evangelical Baptist pastor, and his partner Jose Ortiz – who are Executive Director and Coordinator for Asia respectively of Other Sheep – spend July and August away from their home in New York City to travel in Africa and Asia. Founded in 1992 by Rev. Dr. Thomas Hanks, an American Presbyterian missionary who was and is currently still serving in Buenos Aries, Other Sheep is an ecumenical, Christian ministry that works worldwide for the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within their respective faith traditions.

Currently over a month into their two-month tour to India and Nepal, Steve and Jose will be making a stop in Singapore on 14 August at Free Community Church to conduct a forum to discuss the methods and claims of “change” of the ex-gay movement and their experiences within the movement as participants seeking change.The couple, who legally married in California in 2008, met in 1997 while attending Hope Ministries of Calvary Baptist Church, New York City, a support group for Christians wanting to “overcome” their same-sex attractions. At the time of their meeting, Jose was attending various self-help groups based on AA principles, and Steve was in “reparative therapy” with Joe Nicolosi, author and co-founder of NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality).

Ordained in 2008 with the Metropolitan Community Church, Steve has a Master of Divinity (Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary) and an MA in Applied Linguistics (City University of New York) while Jose has an MA in Applied Psychology (New York University). Steve also has four children from a previous marriage.

Fridae catches up with Steve and Jose who were in Goa, India via email and finds out why they have made it their life’s mission to share their journey of reconciling their faith and sexual orientation with gay Christians, and Christian religious leaders around the world.

æ: You and Jose have travelled the world for years to share your personal stories. Why do you do this and what motivates you?

Jose: I want to spare others the suffering that I went through… the years of confusion, self-loathing, depression, and thinking I cannot be used of God to help others spiritually.

Steve: What motivates me personally, in part, is the sad knowledge that Christianity, in the area of sexual minorities and human rights, is more often than not, a force for discrimination, exclusion, ostracism, and criminalization. Uganda – largely an evangelical Christian country – is a case in point. God’s love is universal, inclusive, and non-discriminatory. Unfortunately, religion can be a force for ill-will, division, separation and violence.

Also, what motivates me personally is what I’ve experienced within my own circle of family, friends and life-long associates: complete ostracism from all who have loved me (before I came out as a gay man in my mid 40s). It is my hope that the church will someday put an end to its spiritual persecution of LGBT people so that families and friends will not have to choose between being faithful to their significant others versus their faith. No mother should have to have to deny her faith in order to love her gay son. No young person should have to deny his or her gay father in order to be accepted by the church. The church should unify family members – including LGBT people – not divide, separate and inspire feelings of doubt, rejection and even hate. Unfortunately, the Church’s motto “to love the sinner but hate the sin” does not equate acceptance in the slightest degree for the homosexual: his or her sexual orientation as homosexual is as much a part of his or her personhood as heterosexuality is for the straight person: You cannot “love the heterosexual but hate his/her heterosexuality.” The church is obviously awash and totally without any practical compass, having embraced a traditional so-called Biblical approach, setting the sciences aside along with the clear testimonies of their own LGBT members.

æ: Were yourself and/or Jose involved in the ex-gay ministries? If so, tell us more.

Steve: Only as members of groups; not as leaders. [Steve attended a group in NJ (New Jersey) and in NYC (New York City) over a period of time for more than a year.]

æ: The debate about conversion therapy/ reparative therapy has been going on for decades despite increasing social acceptance around the world and psychological associations condemning such therapy as harmful. What is driving the ex-gay industry and why can't it be put to rest?

Steve: The evangelical Christian church, which is to a degree an isolated community, is the driving force of the ex-gay industry. Young people who grow up in the evangelical church become a new crop for harvesting by the ex-gay movement; these evangelical young people are “trapped” within an exclusive community that talks about being “born again” and have a “victorious Christian life” over sin. Young evangelical gays (before they even know they are gay) are indoctrinated with a theology of sin, victorious Christian living, and anti-homosexuality, so that by the time they experience their own sexual orientation as homosexual they are already conditioned to believe that it is sinful and that “Christ is the answer.” Couple this with the total ostracism that comes from being openly gay as an evangelical Christian – ostracized by family, friends, the church, status, position, career – and you have the powerful making of the hope that one can, should change. The ex-gay movement, for the above reasons, has the force it has because of the evangelical Christian theological mindset and its mode of exclusivism (belonging via correct doctrine and right practice). Wherever evangelicalism has gone (worldwide), the ex-gay movement has followed.

Jose: As long as society and its religions continue to propagate the idea that to be homosexual is somehow less than ideal, there will be a market for these therapies that offer change. The fact is that it is very stressful tohave to justify one’s own existence and assert one’s dignity. Who would “choose” to be different when that difference can result in disdain, ostracism, condemnation or even abuse from the greater society and in many cases one’s own place of worship?

æ: What is the potential for harm with reparative therapy?

Jose: The APA American Psychiatric Association, which opposes “reparative” therapies submitted a statement which says, in part: “The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred …” I believe there is also potential harm in the sadness, disappointment and intense frustration that arise when the expected success never comes. These negative feelings can lead to depression, hopelessness and suicidal ideation. The abusive and harmful aspect of such therapy is also manifest when they refer to studies that show that the client’s cooperation and motivation are the determining factors to the degree of “change” experienced. Therefore, when one is not experiencing change, one can begin to think “I am not sufficiently compliant, cooperative, invested, or committed to the ‘therapeutic’ process. I am really messed up.” What needs to be questioned is the “therapy” not the client. A client should not be subjected to such unnecessary and anguishing self-doubt due to the selective use of psychological research. I believe the rate of “success” – which could be the most minimal shift in sexual thought or expression – to be too low and the potential for harm to high to justify reparative therapy.

æ: Some people argue that it is the right of people to undergo reparative therapy should they want to "stop" being gay. What would you say to that? And if it were up to you, do you think ex-gay organizations should not be allowed to operate?

Jose: There are certain practices in the medical profession that are unethical and therefore are not allowed. Similarly, in the area of mental health there are practices that are counterproductive and/or potentially harmful and therefore should be prohibited. In my opinion, reparative therapy has such potential for detrimental effects that it should be banned.

Developing high self-esteem and exploring what it means to live out one’s sexuality responsibly should be the focus of counseling for gays instead of wasting time, energy and resources on changing that which is a natural part of one’s humanity.

Whether ex-gay groups should be allowed to operate depends on how they publicize, I believe. If they claim to be based on solid social science research and psychological practice, then they should not be allowed to operate. If they clearly say that they are intended on changing outward manifestations so that one can appear to fit in, or pass as one of the heterosexual majority, then I think they should be allowed to exist. They just should not be allowed to make false claims of change of sexual orientation.

Steve: This is not an easy question. Since the ex-gay movement operates under the auspices of local churches and is primarily a religious movement/ of religious sentiment, it is my view that government agencies do not have jurisdiction to regulate their practices. On the other hand, at some point the government does regulate in matters of health and well-being.

Just recently, in June, the New York State legislature legalized same-sex marriage; the bill they passed included church-right protections so that churches, in the case of same-sex marriage, could still teach and practice their same-sex marriage discrimination without penalty under law. Of course, marriage equality and reparative therapy is not the same – but I’m trying to illustrate that government has to be careful how it may or may not regulate religion or religious organizations.

æ: Have you received hate mail or threats by those who consider you and your ministry to be against the "proper" Christian teachings and how do you handle it?

Steve: Christians from Africa and Asia have emailed us using religious jargon to warn or attack us saying we are “an abomination,” that we “need to repent,” that they “are praying for us” to change. We respond with kindness, telling them we view scriptures differently, that the Bible does not condemn homosexuals, and that we’d be happy to discuss a particular passage of scripture if they wish to continue the conversation. No one who writes to us in this manner responds to our request for further study. It is a sad commentary on the Bible literacy of Christians, and is, I believe, bibliolatry (the worship of the Bible above God).

æ: Tell us more about the forum and if it would be useful to those who aren't Christian or who have fully accepted their sexual orientation and have no intention of "changing"? Who should come to the seminar?

Steve: Every ex-gay Christian should be there; he or she needs a different perspective; unfortunately, ex-gay Christians, in general, stay within the ex-gay movement out of fear (and not out of love) of rejection and complete ostracism.

Those who aren’t Christian and who have fully accepted their sexual orientation should attend from the standpoint of what influence they may have in organizations (or with individuals) that address reparative therapy. What this seminar offers that may be somewhat unique is the story from the inside: two evangelical Christians seriously attempting ex-gay therapy, and from that vantage point, evaluating it. Also, I feel the non-Christian activist and the Christian activist need to work together for the human rights of LGBT people.

æ: What's your advice for someone who is gay but does not want to be, or who is gay and Christian?

Jose: Not everyone in Christianity believes that homosexuality is wrong. There is a “minority report” within Christianity that argues that the Bible has been misused by religious leaders in the Church to condemn that which they do not understand. The majority opinion in the Church has been mistaken before thinking the earth was the center of the universe, that the earth was flat, and slavery was acceptable, to name a few matters. We know through the social sciences and our personal experience that there is nothing inherently evil or flawed in being gay. The Church just needs to catch up. We must patiently, persistently, and graciously tell the Church she is wrong about us. Also, remember that our religious institutions are NOT God. Our Creator loves, blesses and cares for gays as much as the rest of humankind. The rulers of our
institutions through their bias attempt to block the rays of God’s love for the LGBT community but they can no more erase God’s love for us as a person can blot out the fiery sun by blocking it from sight with his hand.

Steve: If you are gay and don’t want to be: Accept yourself as gay; love yourself as God loves you as gay; place your energies and resources not in repressing yourself as gay but in creating the person you want to be as gay (education, career, associates, etc.); find the spouse/significant other that completes you as a gay person and build a life with him or her; live life to the fullest as a gay person; live in step with yourself and those who really love you will congratulate you, those who will not accept you as you are you do not need in your life anyway.

If you are gay and Christian: For my part, as an evangelical gay man (and theologian), I have had the wonderful experience of re-thinking just about everything that I’ve been taught theologically – not just the gay-part. If you are gay and Christian, don’t just adjust yourself theologically on the mere six passages of scripture that are used to abuse you; but re-think the whole evangelical (Americanized) western, male, heterosexual, Reformation faith. Religion is the story we tell ourselves again and again; perhaps you need a whole different story. For the gay Christian – don’t just tweak your theology around the question of sexual orientation; re-do theology from top to bottom; it is a journey once you start you will find is, perhaps, the spiritual life worth living.