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

Friday, February 1, 2013

"There would be no Other Sheep without Gordon"

Gordon Herzog
Other Sheep board member
Died January 29, 2013

A tribute to Gordon I. Herzog who served as a board member with Other Sheep from its inception in 1992 until his passing, January 29, 2013.

By Rev. Stephen Parelli,
Other Sheep Executive Director
Written January 29, 2013, Bronx, New York
Published on this Other Sheep Blog on February 1, 6:30 PM, Central Time, from Gordon's desk in his bedroom, Florissant, Missouri - where he always let me work online when visiting here.

We were sitting at a restaurant table, Rev. Thomas Hanks and I.

I can't remember if we were still in St. Louis after the Other Sheep 2012 November annual business meeting, or if we were in Chicago a week or so later, attending the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature conference.

Either way, it was what Tom said that struck me: "There would be no Other Sheep without Gordon."

Tom Hanks
Co-Founder of Other Sheep
Other Sheep was the vision of Tom Hanks, American missionary in Argentina. But it took a Gordon Herzog, lawyer and boyhood friend to Tom Hanks, to make the dream a reality.

In 1992, just more than twenty years ago, Other Sheep was born in Argentina. Gordon had come out as a gay man years before Tom. When missionary Tom came out in Argentina in the late 1980s, he wrote a letter back home to his constituency. When Other Sheep was on the drawing board, it was just natural that Gordon, his longtime friend and lawyer, should be asked to write up the legal papers, sit on the board, and help promote Other Sheep at home in the USA. And Gordon did just that, for no less a reason than this: Tom was his friend.

Gordon's Home, Where the Other Sheep
Board of Directors often held their
annual meeting
Jose, my husband and Other Sheep Coordinator, and I came on board Other Sheep in 2005, and we've never had anyone, anywhere, love us more than Gordon, and in return we loved him, too. It couldn't be helped!

Every year, during the annual business meeting, we stayed in his grand home on the Missouri River, took trips with his car, worked at Other Sheep business in his "barn" - his lawyer's office - or at his desk and computer in his room. We spent evenings with him eating out, or visiting with him and his neighbor, or watching TV. We attended his church, met and had good times with his family, and watered his dogs. Gordon's home was our second home in so many ways. Jose and I relished our visits with Gordon. November's Other Sheep annual meeting was like going home, a reunion and trip we always were glad to make. We laughed together with Gordon, let him talk politics, borrowed his videos - returning them only to borrow more, raided his refrigerator, and kept a secret we promised to keep. We felt playful and giddy at Gordon's home, as if we could do no wrong.

The Missouri River, View from Gorond's Home 
Jose and I will miss him dearly. St. Louis is a special place to us because Gordon was there! And, oh yes, because St. Louis is the place where Gordon, and others who are also dear friends of Tom and Gordon, all made Other Sheep happen here in the United States with a focus on helping LGBT people of faith throughout the world.

Other Sheep, in its 20 years of history, has reached out and touched people in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. Gordon shares greatly in that legacy. His life, through his work with Other Sheep, touches gay Christian people today around the world. One gay Christian man in Argentina, asking another gay Christian man in St. Louis to help, together and with the help of others, have ministered to gay and straight people in all parts of the world, affirming them and loving them, through Other Sheep.

Jose and I will miss you Gordon! And on behalf of all the people we've had the opportunity to meet, they join me in saying "Thank you for your love and service with Other Sheep."

Tom Hanks, left, and Gordon Herzog
November 10, 2012 - Following the annual Othre Sheep
board meeting, out for dinner at an area restaurant