July 12, 2011
Trivandrum, Kerala, India
Sam L. Sone – Chairperson of Trivandrum Theological Forum (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
R. S. Ajith – Secretary of Trivandrum Theological Forum (email: email@example.com)
Rev. Steve Parelli - Other Sheep Executive Director http://www.othersheepexecsite.com/
Mobile: 952 640 9736 (Classic Ave Hotel, Trivandrum)
Jose Ortiz Other- Sheep Coordinator for Asia http://www.othersheepexecsite.com/
Mobile: 952 640 9441 (Classic Ave Hotel, Trivandrum)
by Steve Parelli
Trivandrum Theological Forum (TTF) of Trivandrum, Kerala, India, a forward thinking lay-led Christian organization concerned, in part, with equipping the church to act and speak out on behalf of the marginalized of society, held its annual Young Lay Leaders Conference on July 7-9, 2011, in southern Kerala, India.
Rev. Steve Parelli and Mr. Jose Ortiz, a “husband and husband” gay couple legally married in California in 2008, were the featured guest speakers.
In his presentation, Rev. Parelli, formerly a Baptist minister, said “the church needs to understand what 'grid' it is using when reading the Bible. Is it an inclusive grid, or a discriminating grid; is it culturally and socially subservient or subversive.” Parelli said the church should be open to radical and critical thinking in moving towards inclusion.
Parelli, who knew he was gay since the age of 13, said he moved from "thinking Biblically" to "thinking critically" when he awoke one day to the thought, "What if the church is wrong with regards to its condemning view of homosexuality?" He called this his "first epiphany" in moving towards accepting himself as a gay man. He said his "second epiphany" came when he realized Romans 1:26, 27 - the "against nature" passage from the Bible - was not about him. He said it was an intellectually violent upheaval, an about-face when he came to the realization that "nothing in Romans 1 is about me as a gay man."
Citing the psychological research of Clock and Stark, Mr. Jose Ortiz, a school counselor in the public schools of New York City, said there are five dimensions of how people are religious: Intellectual, Experiential, Ideological, Ritualistic, and Consequence (Behavioral).
Ortiz said his religious expression during his youth showed greater strength in the Ideological and Behavioral dimensions, and that it was later in life, when confronted with the reality of his sexual orientation as homosexual, that he realized he needed to increase the Intellectual dimension of his religious life.
Ortiz said he was seventeen years old and soon to enter Bible college to become a missionary when he first discovered his attraction to those of his sex. He said the confusion he experienced as Christian and gay conflicted with the Ideological dimension of his religious life. He had very little information on the topic of homosexuality in the conservative Bible College he attended. He said the agony and inner turmoil of his being gay and Christian brought on periods of depression and suicidal thinking. Ortiz said this is the case with many gay Christians around the world.
When asked how they experienced the TTF conference, they said they “were honored to be able to present alongside gifted and highly qualified speakers.” Jose said he was “very impressed” with the young Christian lay leaders who, added Steve, are “committed to achievement, education and the welfare of the Christian community.”
On the first day of the three-day conference, Jose and Steve introduced themselves as "husband and husband." “Throughout the conference,” they said, “we kept ourselves involved and interactive with the young lay leaders. They were friendly, responsive, talkative, and appeared very accepting. It was a totally positive experience for us as a married gay couple presenting ourselves.”
Ortiz said the highlight of the conference for him was the unveiling of the TTF publication of the book The Children Are Free: Re-examining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships, an abridged version, in Malayalam, the language of Kerala. Mr. Sanjeeva Ghosh of Trivandrum presented a copy of the Malayalam version to Rev. Anilal M. Jose of Kollam, Presbyter, Church of South India and Anil A. who received his copy on behalf of Sangama, an LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) center in Bangalore.
Jose and Steve said that Sam L. Sone and R. S. Ajith, Chairperson and Secretary of TTF respectively, by their “tireless leadership, progressive vision, and networking abilities,” had “created and directed a meaningful, instructive conference. We thank them, along with Dr. David Joy of Untied Theological College of Bangalore, for their joint invitation to be a part of this conference.”
Rev. Steve Parelli, ordained with Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) and member of MCC New York, is Executive Director of Other Sheep. Mr. Jose Ortiz, who, with his husband, is a member of The Riverside Church, New York City, is Other Sheep coordinator for Asia. Other Sheep is an ecumenical Christian ministry that works worldwide for the full inclusion of LGBT people within their respective faith traditions.
The Youth Lay Leader Conference, a function of Trivandrum Theological Forum (Trivandrum, Kerala, India), was sponsored by Trivandrum Theological Forum (TTF), Amirtham Ecumenical Trust, and Other Sheep.