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