Sunday, October 20, 2013

Remembering Michael Allen and the Parelli/Ortiz Commissioning Service of 2006

By Rev. Stephen Parelli
Bronx, New York
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Written in Memory of Rev. J. C. Michael Allen (1927-2013)
Other Sheep board member, 2002 – 2011  

Michael Allen
Our commissioning to the work of Other Sheep occurred about seven months after we had been called by the board to work as staff volunteers for Other Sheep as Executive Director (me, full time) and as Coordinator for Africa and Asia (Jose my significant other, part time).  At what point in time the commissioning service had been planned, I don’t recall.  What I do remember is my feeling a bit strange about the whole idea of a commissioning service, especially sense so much of my thoughts on God was still in flux.

For the board, and for Michael Allen, this commissioning service was of great importance to each of them, so I observed.  I could sense their faith in my call and their faith in the mission of Other Sheep.

I had told the board at my interview for the job that I was never more certain of God’s call on my life than I was in accepting the position of Executive Director of Other Sheep.  That much I knew, but not much more.  I felt certain I had been somehow fitted for this task at this time, and with Jose as my significant other who shared my excitement, calling and gifts – well, Jose and I were ready to go. If nothing else, we had each other.  But this commissioning service . . . well . . . I had to somehow manage my doubtful feelings about its earth-while significance because of my own theological misgivings.

Those attending from the Other Sheep board and J. C. Michael Allen who gave the commissioning charge – there was something special about these folk from Missouri.

Read More, Click Here

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Parelli/Ortiz Report on their 5-Country Tour of Latin America 2013

Links to Reports and Photos – Peru, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala & Colombia

Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz:
Their 2013 Other Sheep Summer Ministry to Five Latin
American Countries
June 25* – September 1, 2013

*Steve arrived in Peru on June 25th, Jose on June 28th
For a full Report (PDF) and Photos per country, click on
the respective link below:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Soulforce Stands with H. Adam Ackley, Theology Professor at Azusa Pacific University Dismissed for Coming Out as Transgender

Echoes Ackley's Concern for Toxic Message His Dismissal Sends to Students at the Christian University  

Source:  Soulforce; received by email - general mailing, Monday, September 23, 2013 at 6:15PM

Last week, H. Adam Ackley, a theology professor at Azusa Pacific University, was encouraged to resign after 15 years of distinguished service to the school when he told administrators that he was transgender. The school is an evangelical Christian university outside of Los Angeles that Soulforce has visited on its Equality Ride, and has worked with students at the school attempting to improve campus conditions for LGBTQ students and faculty.
Ackley was asked to resign despite not having broken any school policies. The reason the University cited was that his "privacy" should be protected as he transitions from female to male, and that this process might be confusing to students, parents, or donors of the University.

Sign a petition started by Azusa Pacific students calling on the University to make its campus safe for transgender students, faculty, and staff!

Ackley has expressed that he feels free and ready to live his life openly, but has strong pastoral concern for how his students might be taking the University's decision.

We stand with Adam Ackley in his requests to the school for the following:
1.) That Ackley be allowed to complete the semester instructing his students, helping them process and learn from his transition.

2.) That the University honor its commitment to cover Ackley's medical benefits, including doctor-prescribed hormone treatment and the modest, outpatient "top surgery" procedure he requires for his gender transition.
3.) That the University make clear by what policy they dismissed Ackley, and that his dismissal had nothing to do with any misconduct as a professor.
Furthermore, Soulforce stands in support of students, faculty, and staff, who have received a toxic message that the broad diversity of gender expression is somehow shameful, wrong, or "against God's will."
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce said, "We absolutely stand with Adam, this extraordinary teacher, pastor, and person of faith. But, like Adam, our deepest concern is for the students and faculty of this campus where the administration has now publicly sanctioned an anti-LGBT climate. The administrators say that students will be "confused" by the transitioning of a transgender person when, in truth, the students are not confused at all. It is the administrators that are confused, and intolerant, of the range of sexual and gender expression that we recognize as integral to the Creator's design for humankind and all nature."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Gloucester Point, Virginia, Bethany United Methodist Church 'Church and Society Committee' calls seminar on the Bible and homosexuality a success

by Nancy Orth, Chairperson
Church and Society Committee
Bethany United Methodist Church
Gloucester Point, Virginia

April 30, 2013

On Saturday, April 20, from 1 - 4 p.m.,  the Rev. Steve Parelli and Mr. Jose Ortiz of Other Sheep (, invited by the Church and Society Committee of Bethany United Methodist Church in Gloucester Point, Virginia presented a seminar entitled Talking Points – What you need to know and say when they say: “But the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality!”  On Sunday, April 21, during the Sunday School hour, the Rev. Parelli and Mr. Ortiz spoke to a group about the fallacies of the “ex-gay” movement.

Logo for the Board of Church and Society.

Approximately 50 people attended the 'Bible and homosexuality' talk on Saturday including the minister of Bethany Church. Rev. Parelli, assisted by Mr. Ortiz, gave a scholarly, and very interesting, PowerPoint lecture on what have come to be known as the “Clobber Passages,” six references in the Bible commonly used to condemn homosexuals (Gen. 19, Lev. 18:22 and 22:13, Romans 1, I Cor. 6:9 and I:10, Jude 7). In an attempt to create an informal atmosphere this event was held in the church fellowship hall with refreshments provided. The attendees sat around tables and were given paper and pencils to write down questions or comments to ask at the end of the presentation. A ten-page handout of notes that followed the PowerPoint material was provided each attendee.

The audience, for the most part, was engaged and positively receptive. There were six people who negatively challenged Rev. Parelli and Mr. Ortiz, by quoting scripture and condemning them as homosexual. This created some awkward moments but did not de-rail the afternoon. Rev. Parelli and the hosting committee did ask this group to allow him to stay on topic and offered to discuss their concerns after the presentation was over. Three of these attendees left before the end of the session and some of the others stayed afterwards and talked with Rev. Parelli and Mr. Ortiz. There were also a number of people who had very positive comments about the talk and relayed these to Rev. Parelli, Mr. Ortiz, and members of the hosting committee.

The 'Bible and homosexuality' seminar was announced in the "Church News" section of the April 18 Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal. The general public was cordially invited.  The larger amount of the attendees was from Bethany Church, a few were from the community at large.

On Sunday, April 21 Rev. Parelli and Mr. Ortiz attended the early morning worship service prior to speaking to a Sunday School class about the fallacies of the “ex-gay” movement, including their own related experiences.  This was well-received.   After Sunday School Rev. Parelli and Mr. Ortiz were taken to brunch at a nearby restaurant. Twelve church members accompanied them and continued the discussion.

The Church and Society Committee deemed the visit a success and has sent out a survey asking for input.  Of course the survey is aimed at those who attended but also welcomes comments from any member of the congregation. These results will help the committee to answer the question “Where do we go from here?”

It was certainly a pleasure and privilege to have Rev. Parelli and Mr. Ortiz visit Bethany. They were the perfect guests and very enjoyable to be around. They are welcomed back!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Introducing Verlin V. Byers, Other Sheep Coordinator for Latinas/os in the USA

By Verlin V. Byers
Other Sheep Coordinator for Latinas/os in the USA

(Editor's note:  For Verlin's photo and the Other Sheep home page of  Latinas/os USA, click here. Verlin became Coordinator in November of 2011.)

My name is Verlin Byers and I would describe myself as a follower of Christ who happens to be gay.

Religious Heritage, Education and Past Missions Work
My religious heritage comes from the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition, but I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene and have a B.A. in Psychology from Northwest Nazarene University (NNU). I served as a missionary with the Nazarene Youth In Mission program for two summers during university in Brazil and Portugal. After graduating from NNU, I returned to Brazil in 1992 to volunteer as a Community Development Worker with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). My time in Brazil abruptly ended after two years of service when I was forced to “come out.”

Current Residence, Work and Church
I currently live in Portland, OR where I work in social services and am an active member of the United Church of Christ.

I do speak Portuguese and Spanish, with greater fluency in Portuguese due to my work in Brazil.

Vision and Passion
My hope and passion is to see lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals who have been oppressed by the Church restored to healing and wholeness.

In John 21 Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves him more than the other disciples. He actually asks the same question three times and Peter gives him the same answer each time. He responds that
Jesus knows Peter loves him. And three times, in the course of the conversation, Jesus tells Peter to take care of his sheep: "Feed my lambs . . . Tend my sheep . . . Feed my sheep."

I find this image very meaningful and hope it guides the work I do, particularly with Other Sheep.

Contact Me
If you have any questions, concerns, comments, or just need someone to talk to, please feel free to contact me.  For my contact information, click here

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Formal Public Apology by John Paulk, a Former "ex-gay" Leader

Of related interest:

See Rev. Steve Parelli's paper Is There Really Such A Thing As 'Ex-gay'?

Date:  Wed Apr 24 12:00:51 2013
Subject: A Formal Public Apology by John Paulk

I am passing along a statement by John Paulk, a former advocate of the ex-gay movement and conversion therapy and author. He was the founder and former leader of the ministry Love Won Out which was launched by the organization Focus on the Family.
The purpose of his statement is to apologize and renounce his involvement
in the 'ex-gay' movement. Full statement below my signature.
Any further media inquiries can be directed to

Ross Murray
Director of News and Faith Initiatives


john paulk
John Paulk, onetime poster boy for ex-gays (photo source)

A Formal Public Apology
by John Paulk

For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for
what's known as the ex-gay movement, where we declared that sexual
orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God,
intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed
that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a
Christian, my sexual orientation did not.

So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman
for the "ex-gay movement." I began a new journey. In the decade since, my
beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself "ex-gay" and I no
longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do
not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact,
it does great harm to many people.

I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the
past.  Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by
the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly,
truly sorry for the pain I have caused.

From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions
that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I
want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people
are loved by God.

Today, I see LGBT people for who they are--beloved, cherished children of
God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and
especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or
thrown away by God or the church.

I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take
this initial step of transparency. Even while promoting "ex-gay" programs,
there were those who called me on my own words and actions. I'm sure I
didn't appreciate it at the time, but they have helped me to realize this
truth about who I am.

This is a life transition that has been and will continue to be,
challenging. Sadly, my marriage of 20 years is in the process of ending. I
want to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of
truth and authenticity. Therefore, I'm drastically limiting my public
engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly
anticipate giving back to the community.

Finally, I know there are still accounts of my "ex-gay" testimony out
there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote
about my journey. I don't get any royalties from these publications, and
haven't since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage
anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my "ex-gay"
story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.

John Paulk


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"I'm here with my husband," says Jose on stage before hundreds at an Hawaiian luau on the island of Oahu

Jose "comes out" on stage during a live (in drag) performance before hundreds at a Luau, in Oahu, Hawaii.

by Rev. Steve Parelli
April 3, 2013
Bronx, NY 

Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kupono Kwong (right) with
Pat Humphries and Sandy O of Emma's
Revolution, having just congratulated
Jose Ortiz  (left) for his "coming out"
before hundreds at a Hawaiian luau
At a Paradise Cove luau (Oahu, Hawaii), on the evening of April 1, 2013, Jose Ortiz, volunteering at the invitation of the emcee, performed a short hulu dance (in drag) with two regular performing dancers, the final show of the evening. When asked, before the hundreds in attendance, with whom he was traveling, Jose said, "I am here with my husband." Steve, Jose's husband, standing at the side of the stage (ground level) hoping to get a photo of Jose's performance, waved his hand to the audience in response to Jose's introduction of him as husband. 
Immediately following the show, Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kupono Kwong the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, and a lesbian couple (Pat Humphries and Sany O of Emma's Revolution) who were attending the luau with him, greeted Jose and Steve with cheers of gratitude. Their smiles in the accompanying photo (above, right) tell it all. They were immensely happy to have LGBT "representation" in the show, so they said, explaining how luaus here generally fail to give any support, in their shows, to gay couples.

Jose Ortiz (center) in drag,
following his on-stage
The luau show, so opposite-sex oriented in its story line and dance movements, gives no hint of today's reality that love is found and expressed by same-sex couples, too. Gay couples are silently ignored, especially noticeable in the words of the emcee who, asking for newly weds and marriage anniversaries to announce themselves, made no reference to diversity. Diversity, on this paradise island, is apparently lost in this Paradise Cove luau performance, as beautiful as it was in its portrayal of opposite-sex love.

Other Sheep presents on the Bible and homosexuality at a Big Island, Hawaii, PFLAG meeting

Big Island PFLAG hears Other Sheep Presentation:  "Talking Points"

for the "Talking Point" paper ("What you need to know and say when they say: 'But the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality!' "), click here

by Rev. Steve Parelli
April 3, 2013
Bronx, NY

On Thursday evening of March 28, 2013, Rev. Steve Parelli, using PowerPoint, presented parts of his paper Talking Points (What you need to know and say when they say: 'But the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality!') to a group of 9 people, including two professors from the University of Hawaii (one, a professor of history who also speaks on occasion on the topic of the Bible and homosexuality, and the other a professor of feminism).

Janno (left) and her partner Laurie who are
the owners of Hairy Monkey Books and
who hosted, as PFLAG leaders,
the Other Sheep presentation.
Jose Ortiz (right).
The Big Island, Hawaii.
March 28, 2013
The group varied in their background from one self-declared atheist to a lesbian with an evangelical brother who pastors a church (on the main land of the United States) and whose approach with her on the issue of homosexuality is evangelistic.

The meeting was hosted by the Big Island PFLAG (sse their Facebook page) and was held in a meeting space at Hairy Monkey Books, 92 Kalanianaole Ave, Hilo, Hawaii.  Janno, the PFLAG leader, and Laurie, her partner, are the owners of Hairy Monkey Books, home of the largest book signing in the history of Hilo ("Roseanne Barrs Roseannarchy").  Hairy Monkey Books carries retro, vintage, antique and collectible items from all over the planet and offers the largest selection of LGBT cards, gifts and books on the Big Island Hawaii.

The Big Island PFLAG announced the Other Sheep meeting in the March 27 Big Island Weekly free publication under the "Big Island Calendar" column.  The announcement gave the topic of discussion and a description of the ministry of Other Sheep

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Pearl Harbor kissing photo op, and a Honolulu Marriage Equality march, on the first day of the Supreme Court's Prop 8 hearings.

by Rev. Steve Parelli
March 27, 2031
Aqua Aloha Surf & Spa Hotel
Kanekapolei Street
Honolulu, Hawaii

Steve Parelli, right and Joe Ortiz, MO Battleship,
Pearl Harbor, March 26, 2013,
first day of Supreme Court hearing
on Prop 8.  Steve and Jose were married in
Sacramento, California, on March 25, 2008.
This is our first time to Hawaii, and yesterday was our first full day in the 50th state. 

Jose and I are here celebrating a milestone in my life. I turned 60 years old in January, and this week-long vacation in Hawaii is Jose's birthday gift to me.

We planned two activities for our first day:  Pearl Harbor in the morning and a tour of the Mission House in the late afternoon, a National Historic Site, the site where New England missionaries, in the early 1800s, lived and worked to introduce Christianity to the islands.

What we didn't plan was our participation in the Honolulu Inter-faith Equality March.  We stumbled onto that event.  Following our Mission House tour, we made our way to the huge grounds of the close-by historic Palace.

While walking the Palace grounds, a young man at quite a distance away, kept waving to us to come over. We could make out that he was with a small group with signs of some kind.

"Maybe," I said to Jose, "its a Marriage Equality march." After all, today was the first day of the Supreme Court hearing of Proposition 8, the California ballot box decision that repealed marriage equality in California. Jose and I were married in Sacramento, California, on August 25, 2008.

Honolulu Inter-faith Marriage Equality March,
March 26, 2013.
Throughout the day we had kept ourselves abreast of whatever news we could get on the Washington, DC, events around this historic day, reading articles on our cell phones, while coming and going on the public buses.

At Pearl Harbor, after touring the Missouri Battleship, we posed for a picture, kissing one another, alongside a famous statue of that WW II sailor spontaneously kissing a woman, also in uniform. We made the picture to celebrate, on this first day of the Supreme Court's Proposition 8 hearings, our August 25, 2008, California marriage. It was our way of connecting Hawaii (where the first Marriage Equality battle took place in state courts), with Sacramento (where we were married) with the Supremem Court initial hearings on Proposition 8.  It was our small symbolic way of support.

Honolulu Interfaith Marriage Equaility March,
Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kupono Kwong (center) of
First Unitarian Church of Honolulu,
with Rev. Steve Parelli (left) and Jose Ortiz
March 26, 2013
Little did we know, upon the taking of our symbolic photo of support at the Missouri Battleship, that before the day was over we would be marching in an Iner-faith Honolulu Marriage Equality march in support of overturning Proposition 8.

I wondered what our 1800 New England missionaries to Hawaii would think about Marrige Equality.  After all, our tour-guide said the missionaries did not approve of the Hawaiian hula and were instrumental in legally removing its practice from the islands. 

I felt I knew, however, what Eleanor Roosevelt would think about Marriage Equality.  Overlooking Pearl Harbor there is a quote in stone by the First Lady.  She said something like this that she must now, in view of all who give their lives for our freedom, ask herself if her life is worth dying for.  To live the Golden Rule, wherever we are, is a worthy life.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

SUNY Benefit Concert for Other Sheep in Uganda

SUNY (State University of New York) student Sam Colbert:  "You can’t affect change politically if you can’t affect change socially and vice versa."

by Rev. Stephen Parelli
Executive Director of Other Sheep
March 6, 2013
Bronx, New York
Sam Colbert, perfroming
at the  March 2, 2013
benefit concert.
Photo by Steve Parelli
On March 2, 2013, Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz of Other Sheep were the honored guests of a benefit concert put on by the SUNY (State University of New York) Geneseo faculty and students, and guest artists Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus.
Sam Colbert, the SUNY student who led in organizing the event, in an interview with Geneseo’s student newspaper The Lamron, reported that the proceeds of the benefit concert will go towards Other Sheep’s book distribution in Uganda.  Other Sheep distributes The Children Are Free, a scholarly lay-person’s guide to what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality.
Colbert told The Lamron, “I think it’s a really interesting project because it’s targeting a social root of the issues. “  He added, “You can’t affect change politically if you can’t affect change socially and vice versa. I think it’s really important to change people’s minds on a social level.”
From the event poster, by
artwork designer Raymond Ferreira,
SUNY student
"We've made a lot of progress in the gay rights movement [in the United States]," Colbert told The Lamron.  "We don't really focus on international issues as much and I think it's still important . . . especially in countries where it's illegal to be gay . . . to focus our attention there."
Assistant professor of music Pamela Kurau, who performed at the concert, help Colbert with organizing the Saturday eveing 8 p.m. benefit concert.
Held in the Wadsworth Auditorium of the Geneseo SUNY (State University of New York) campus, the benfit concert was preceded by a 4:30 p.m. lecture, also held in the Wadsorth Auditorium, delivered by Luzau Balowa, chairperson of African Rights Activists Group, a Nevada/Washington DC based organization.  Balowa, according to The Lamron, was incarcerated in the Congo and in Uganda for his pro-LGBT activism.  
Equality Uganda at Geneseo SUNY.  Left to right:  Rev. Steve Parelli of
Other Sheep, assistant professor of music Pamela Kurau,
organizer of the event Sam Colbert, Jose Ortiz of Other Sheep,
and Luzau Balowa of African Rigts Activists Group
The two events, the Balowa lecture and the benefit concert for Other Sheep, were billed “Equality Uganda” and was sponsored by the Provost’s Office, Music Department, Women’s Studies Department, Office of International Programs, Black Student Union Pride, and Pride Alliance.
The SUNY Geneseo campus is situated in western New York state, south of Rochester.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Parelli tells SUNY students about his Reparative Therapy experience with Joseph Nicolosi

Rev. Stephen Parelli, in a discussion group centered around 8 The Play, tells SUNY students he, too, was in Reparative Therapy with Joseph Nicolosi

by Rev. Stephen Parelli
Executive Director, Other Sheep
Bronx, NY
March 4, 2013

Click here for Parelli's paper on the fallacies of the "ex-gay" movement

8 The Play, March 1, 2013, perfomred by SUNY at Geneso students
In a discussion group following the March 1 presentation of 8 The Play, a staged reading dramatization of the May 4, 2010, ruling that overturned Proposition 8 in California, performed by The Women’s Studies and English Departments of SUNY (State University of New York) of Geneseo and directed by Rachel Tamarin, Rev. Stephen Parelli, a special guest for the weekend and who saw the performance, remarked that the actors who portrayed the defense – the conservative right in favor of Proposition 8, the amendment that limited marriage to same-sex couples – may have appeared “over the top” in portraying their respective conservative characters, but were in fact, in their portrayals, truly representative of the vehement, aggressive anti-gay spirit that so often characterizes those activists who oppose marriage equality.
Steve Parelli, left, with
Hunter Kane who played the
character in 8 The Play who, like
Steve, was in Reparative Therapy
withJoseph Nicolosi
Parelli, having noted that the play had a gay character who testified to his counseling experience with Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH (National Association for Research & therapy of homosexuality), shared with the SUNY students his own personal experiences as a former client of Joseph Nicolosi in 1996-1997.  Parelli offered to email his “ex-gay” paper, which discusses the fallacies of the “ex-gay” movement, to interested students.  

8 The Play, March 1, 2013,
perfomred by SUNY at Geneso students
In his discussion of Nicolosi, while he said he did not agree with the presuppositions of reparative therapy nor with the supposed possible outcome of reversing his homosexuality, Parelli did give a balanced view of Nicolosi’s overall ability to relate to his clients, citing specifics where Parelli felt the counseling sessions did help him in general.  Parelli related how Nicolosi’s permission to hold and be held, for days at a time, in the arms of another male, did in fact set the stage for the marriage he now enjoys with his husband Jose.  Parelli said he had asked Jose to hold him, telling Jose that his therapist had granted permission, and that holding would be part of the healing.  He said Jose asked him how much holding is enough holding. 

Steve Parelli and
Jose Ortiz on their
wedding day,
August 25, 2008
Sacramento, CA
Parelli, who has lived in New York City with his partner since 1997, told the SUNY students he and his partner Jose were married in Sacramento, California, in August of 2008.  He said Jose and he married for the legal protection and benefits that marriage would bring.  But, he said, upon leaving Sacramento City Hall as husband and husband, he was overcome with the sensation that, at last, he was now fully “American,” one with society, equal in citizenship.  He said it was a feeling he had not expected, that completely overtook him.


Monday, March 4, 2013

SUNY (State University of New York) Students Hear Other Sheep Presentation

At an Other Sheep presentation on LGBT Christians in Kenya and Uganda, SUNY (Statue University of New York) students of Geneseo hear an activist lawyer comment on how “human rights” is not grasped in developing countries where the Bible is believed to be the final authority in all things

by Rev. Stephen Parelli
Executive Director, Other Sheep
Bronx, NY
March 4, 2013

Rev. Parelli speaks on why "religion" is so important to the work of human rights for LGBT people in countries like Uganda
Rev. Stephen Parelli,  Executive Director of Other Sheep, speaking on the topic of religion and homosexuality in Uganda, told a group of thirty plus students attending the Pride Alliance February 28 meeting at State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo in western New York, that the rational for Other Sheep could be found in a quote taken from Religion, Conflict and Democracy in Modern Africa (2012):  “. . . what you fellows don’t understand is that you must get at a man through his religion and not yours” (emphasis is Parelli’s from his PowerPoint presentation).

Parelli, quoting from Gerrie ter Haar’s How God Became African (2009), said “The extreme attention to the Bible as the authoritative and infallible word of God is another notable point of distinction between African Christians and most of their Western counterparts.”   Parelli was quick to note, however, that according to Mark Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity, a “key mark of evangelicalism,” whether in the United States or Africa, is “the Bible as ultimate religious authority.”  Parelli remarked that the book The Children Are Free, the book that Other Sheep distributes which is on what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality, addresses the topic of homosexuality from the evangelical perspective, that is, that the Bible is the final authority in all that it addresses, and therefore speaks to the African through his religion.

Following Parelli’s presentation, a local activist lawyer from Rochester, who presented briefly about a film he is making on a developing country and homophobia, commented that “human rights” is not a principle that developing countries recognize when talking about equality for gays.  Instead, he said, you must talk to them about what God is or is not saying, referencing the Bible.  What God may or may not say about homosexuality trumps any idea of human rights, according the lawyer.  The activist lawyer went on to say that the ministry of Other Sheep, in countries like Uganda, is exactly what is needed.

David Kato (left) with Steve Parelli, Uganda, 2007.
Parelli commented that “liberty of conscience” addresses the idea of human rights in the specific context of religion, that is, that each person is at liberty to follow the dictates of his or her own heart in the matter of what the Bible does or does not say about homosexuality without the interference of the state or church.  Parelli commented that David Kato, when learning about “liberty of conscience” for the first time in a discussion with Parelli, asked Parelli, “Where can I get more information about liberty of conscience.”

Parelli’s presentation focused on Other Sheep’s work in Uganda and Kenya since 2007.  Other Sheep, which began in 1992 in Latin America, is an ecumenical Christian organization that empowers LGBT people of faith worldwide.  Parelli became Executive Director of Other Sheep in 2005 and since then, with his husband Jose Ortiz, has visited countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Jill McPherson and Sam Colbert of SUNY Geneseo Pride Alliance invited Parelli to speak to the SUNY students in conjunction with his being on campus as the honored guest of the March 2nd benefit concert for Other Sheep.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Yuri of Burma: His Other Sheep story and his song Fly!

Excerpt: I would like you to listen to one of Yuri's songs -- a song he composed himself. You can hear it here on the Other Sheep website, and (especially after) knowing his story (below), you will be deeply moved as you hear him sing his song Fly!.
by Rev. Steve Parelli
February 20, 2013
Bronx, New York
At last, all our Other Sheep 2012 reports are posted on our websites. The February 20, 2013 Other Sheep electronic newsletter (click here) will link you to those reports.
Personally, every report was an immense blessing to me. I would like, however, to point you to one report in particular and for one reason in particular.
Yuri Saw's report on the Burmese translation, and subsequent distribution, of The Children Are Free (what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality) is of particular interest to me (and no doubt, of particular interest to all our volunteer Coordinators at Other Sheep) for this reason: Yuri independently, indigenously, and with finances he raised himself, took his first meeting with Other Sheep in 2009 and, through his oversight of the translation and distribution in Thailand and Burma of The Children Are Free, reproduced, in his local and regional context, the mission and vision of the full inclusion of LGBT people within the church.
(See the blog "Burmese Baptist Christians Translate, Print and Distribute book on the Bible and Homosexuality")
Jose and I have personally seen accounts like this happen in India, Nepal, East Africa and other regions where individuals who hear, perhaps for the first time, the articulation of the message of LGBT inclusion, reproduce that message in their context. (In their hearts, they already knew the message to be the truth.)
Yuri is a gay Christian gospel singer and human rights activist for LGBT people. His faith heritage is Burmese Baptist and evangelical. His mother, supportive of her son, teaches at a Christian college in Burma.
I would like you to listen to one of Yuri's songs -- a song he composed himself. You can hear it here on the Other Sheep website, and knowing his story, you will be deeply moved as you hear him sing his song Fly!.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Talking Points

What you need to know and say when they say:
“But the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality!”
Compiled and written* by Rev. Stephen Parelli
June, 2012, Bronx, New York
For this paper in word document format, click here
*Throughout this paper, the writing presented here is largely, but not entirely, in the words of the authors cited in brackets with some alterations in some instances, and in some cases the statement attributed to the author is actually a paraphrase or summary statement of what the author, cited in brackets, wrote.


This paper is a digest (in kind) of what some theologians, scholars and other notables have written on the Bible passages traditionally used to condemn homosexuals: Genesis 19; Lev. 18 and 20; Romans 1; I Cor. 9 and I Tim. 1; and Jude 7.

The intended use of this paper is to provide “talking points” that serve to support the proposition stated under each of the six topics presented. The outline is in four parts and is repeated per text(s) discussed: (1) Topic (heading), (2) In Point of Fact (stated proposition), (3) Talking Points (in support of the stated proposition) and (4) Conclusion (summary).

The object of this paper is to equip the reader (or, seminar participant as the case may be) with “talking points” so that he or she can succinctly speak in support of each In Point of Fact.


Topic #1: The erroneous use of the word “sodomite(s)” in the 1611 King James Bible (KJV; also known as the AV – Authorized Version)
Topic #2: “The Gen. 19 notorious story of Sodom and Gomorrah [is] irrelevant to the topic” of homosexuality
Topic #3: Modern Bible versions that use the word “homosexual(s)” or “homosexuality” in its translation of I Cor. 6:9 and I Tim. 1:10 are “driven more by ideological interests in marginalizing gay and lesbian people” than by scholarship
Topic #4: Romans 1, probably the passage most often used to condemn homosexuals, isn’t about homosexuality
Topic #5: Once the context is understood, it is clear that Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 – that a man should not lie with a man – is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality
Topic #6: The reference in Jude 7 to Sodom and Gomorrah “going after strange flesh” is perhaps best understand in light of a first century legend
This paper was first presented in Kampala, Uganda, in July of 2012, by the author, at two separate conferences. Copies of the paper were made available to conference attendees

Friday, February 8, 2013

Gordon I. Herzog's Day of Remembrance: Full Circle -- From St. Louis to Africa and Back!

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli
Bronx, NY
February 8, 2013

Gordon Herzog, Other Sheep
board member,
Photo by Steve Parelli
Gordon Herzog was a founding director of Other Sheep and a member of the Other Sheep board since its inception in 1992 until his passing on January 29, 2013.  Since 2005, when I became the Executive Director of Other Sheep, I had the privilege of getting to know Gordon during my annual visits to St. Louis, staying days at-a-time in his home.

Gordon's humanitarian accomplishments were considerable.  He served as president, chairman or director of:  Council of Intercity Ministries, Grace Hill Council, Episcopal Church Foundation, Episcopal City Mission, and St. Louis Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy; and he was a founding director of Grace Hill Neighborhood Services, Charles Kilo Diabetes and Vascular Research Foundation, Missourians for Freedom and Justice, Water Tower North, and Other Sheep.

There was, evidently, in addition to Gordon's boardroom contributions, his personal one-on-one activism and the interest he took in others, especially in queer people like himself.

I'm talking about Adam Matthews, Gordon's hired help who cared for Gordon's yard, and helped around the house in other ways (photo at left, taken February 2).  Gordon had told Jose, who is my husband, and me about his "good looking" help, and the good work he did, but we had never met Adam.  The morning of Gordon's memorial service, Adam and I met for the first time.  Adam came over to watch Gordon's dogs while Gordon's son Jeff and I left to attend the memorial service.  Having flown in from New York the day before, I was staying at Gordon's house, my usual place-of-stay when in St. Louis.

Upon meeting -- there at Gordon's home in the front entrance -- and making our introductions, Adam, with quite a bit of excitement said, "You're Other Sheep!  Gordon talked about you and your husband and Other Sheep all the time!"

It felt good to hear, I must admit.  But Gordon wasn't talking up Other Sheep to Adam just because of his admiration for Jose and me (though Gordon was known to do that). He was talking Other Sheep because Adam is an openly gay high school student who,  like all of us who are gay, is empowered by meeting and knowing others just like us.  And because Adam had a spiritual side to him that he desired to nurture, Other Sheep, a faith-based ministry designed to encourage LGBT people of faith, would be of interest to Adam, so Gordon was sure.  "Every day Gordon would ask me if I had visited the Other Sheep website," Adam told me.

Tom Hanks, co-founder
 of Other Sheep, is a
author to The Queer
Bible Commentary:  He
wrote the section on
Romans and Hebrews
Adam sat for a while and talked.  He told me how Gordon had helped him immensely by directing him to a welcoming and affirming Episcopal church.  Adam, a Roman Catholic and gay, had become disillusioned with church, understandably so. Now he was happily at home in a church that validated him just as he is.  

Later that day, after returning from the memorial service and the reception that followed, Adam showed me the single volume Bible commentary The Queer Bible Commentary, a resource book Other Sheep distributes when funds permit.  Gordon had shown the book to Adam, and Adam was reading it.

Rev. Stephen Parelli, left, with
Adam Matthews
Photo by Steve Parelli
We talked some more and then I excused myself.  I had an appointment to keep and I needed to place a call to confirm it. An African theological graduate student, a straight ally, pursing his studies now in America and living in the St. Louis area, who learned of Other Sheep while in Africa from someone Jose and I had directly worked with while we were in Africa, had read on my Facebook that I was coming to St. Louis.  He emailed me and asked to meet.  I was exhausted, having slept little the previous two nights; Adam quickly agreed to drive when I asked if he would.  Over the phone the African theologian said he was more than glad to have Adam join in, and with that Adam and I were off to meet another "other sheep," this one from Africa, who told us during our meeting that he was positioning himself theologically, through education, to someday "explode!" with the message of inclusion.  Already he had made a stir back home in Africa.  As a student in an evangelical school, he had spoken out to professors and fellow-students alike for gay equality within the church.

The driveway to Gordon's home: 
The day after Gordon's
Memorial Service, a peaceful
white blanket of new fallen
Photo by Steve Parelli
It was a remarkable day, for me, this day of remembrance.  How better to remember Gordon's twenty years of service with Other Sheep than to begin the day by hearing Adam tell me personally, at Gordon's dinning room table, how Gordon had impacted his life.  And then, at the end of the day, with Adam, to visit a theological student from Africa whose life is dedicated to the study of God and full inclusion. 

Jose and I introduced Other Sheep to Africa in 2007.  It was Other Sheep's first venture outside of Latin America where Other Sheep started.  It was a bold step.  More daring than I realized at the time.  Gordon was there for us, supporting us, when Jose and I went to Africa, as was all the board of Other Sheep.  Now, on Gordon's day of remembrance, in Gordon's American city, I was in the home of an African who was greatly influenced by an Other Sheep activist in Africa.  And with me was Adam who Gordon helped personally along the path of spiritual nurturing. 

A type of "full circle," I would say:  Adam, the gay high school student who knew Gordon, the African "other sheep" young theologian, and myself, all geographically in the area where Other Sheep was legally formed, meeting on the day of Gordon's memorial service. Kind of a tribute to the legacy of Gordon and all the Other Sheep board of directors who, since 1992, have served with Gordon.

The day after Gordon's Memorial Service:  A view of the Missouri River,
the stretch of river where Gordon's home is located, easily identifiable
by the double bridge at the left, the bend of the river at the right,
and the two relatively narrow water ways that snake and cut in
and out of the land mass.
(After taking this photo, I did a Google Satellite overlook to
confirm the sighting I had made from the plane.)
Photo by Steve Parelli