Saturday, June 30, 2012

Grace Community UCC Struggling Over Denominational Gay Marriage Vote

Over the past couple months, I had read blips about a black church in St. Paul, MN, that was struggling to remain open after the pastor came out in favor of marriage equality. I didn't pay too much attention to the details and made a few assumptions in my head that were incorrect. I assumed that the pastor came out in favor of same-sex marriage in opposition to Minnesota's proposed constitutional amendedment to ban gays from marrying, which resulted in immediate backlash. But this has actually been a long-term problem dating back several years.

I noticed this morning that this particular church community is a United Church of Christ church. A couple months back, I wrote about some of the fall-out that came from the UCC's 25th General Synod regarding our Equal Marriage Rights resolution. Turns out that Grace Community United Church of Christ was one of those church communities that suffered the fall-out from that resolution vote two-thirds of its church membership (down from 320 to 110) left over the vote. The membership exodus led to a loss of income, which led to the church taking out a high-interest loan in 2009 to keep the church afloat, which led to their current dilema.

Contrary to some things I've read, the church building will be closing, but the church community will go on. They are looking for a new worship space that better fits their size and income. It's painful now, but it sounds like it is needed.

I appreciate the sacrifices that Rev. Oliver White made back in 2005 when he voted in favor of supporting families like mine. I hope that Grace Community UCC continues to survive and that hopefully one day it begins to grow again.

House GOP Leadership Asked Supreme Court to Rule on DOMA Case

The House of Representatives' Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) sent a request to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday asking them to review a First Circuit court decision from this past May that declared Section 3 of the federal DOMA law unconstitutional:
In a filing obtained by Metro Weekly, BLAG asks the Supreme Court, which must agree to consider the case, to take the appeal for three reasons: (1) the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3 is "an issue of great national importance" and raises separation-of-powers questions; (2) the First Circuit decision conflicts with the Supreme Court's 1972 decision in Baker v. Nelson and other appellate decisions; and (3) the First Circuit "invented a new standard of equal protection review." In the course of the filing, called a petition for a writ of certiorari, BLAG states that "[t]he executive branch has ... abdicated its traditional role of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes." BLAG, which voted 3-2 to defend DOMA in court challenges, is made up of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Pelosi and Hoyer have objected to the filings.
Section 3 prevents the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriage. The federal courts keep agreeing again and again that it isn't constitutional for the federal governments to treat married gay and lesbian couples differently than other legally married American couples in matters of federal recognition or benefits. I'm sure that the U.S. Supreme Court will review this case, but I'm not sure that I want them deciding on the fate of my marriage. But, as always, that's out of my control.

Our TrekFest 2012 Experience (or Rain, Rain, Go Away!!!)

The boys and I went to a couple TrekFest XXVVIII events down in Riverside last night. Les wasn't too sure if he wanted to go, but D' and I finally talked him into it with stories of smashed up demolition derby cars. Fortunately, we had the foresight to bring an umbrella (more on that later!!).

First off, we stopped by "The Voyage Home" TrekFest Museum. It's filled with Star Trek-themed memorabilia and I needed a new TrekFest t-shirt. Well, "needed" is a stretch. I wanted a new t-shirt, so I got one. Leslie bought himself a TrekFest shot-glass. D' refrained from making any purchases.

Afterwards, we crossed the street to watch the Trek Trivia Contest. This is how I described that event last year:
Groups of four Trekkies test their Trek cred against each other and ultimately earn points for each answered question. They get more points for correctly answering more difficult questions. Trivia questions are ranked from Cadet to Lieutenant to Captain to Admiral...  I was impressed how many of the questions I knew the answers to. That said, I'm not a good person for recalling the names of episodes. I'm also not as good with trivia related to the original series, as compared to the later series.
I was intimidated by the players last summer, so I resisted when D'Angelo tried getting me to volunteer for the first round of playing. Turned out I knew most of the answers ("What was Sisko's wife's name?" (Me: Which one? Jennifer or Cassidy?); "What was the name of Gary Seven's cat?" (Me: Isis); "Name at three DS9 Roundabouts"; etc...) except for one of the Captain questions and the one Admiral question. So I actually might've done okay. I think I'll try out next summer.

After watching several rounds of the trivia contest, we decided it was time to get in line for the demolition derby. Except there wasn't a line this summer. The weather was really bad north of Iowa City, so we were keeping our fingers crossed that the bad weather would stay north. Unfortunately, crossed fingers don't work well as weather deterrents! It was sprinkling off and on by the time we reached the derby space. I figured we'd already driven that far for the event, so we would risk a bit of sprinkling.

And then it started raining harder. Fortunately, we had the umbrella, which was pretty much co-opted by D'Angelo. We waited and waited and waited, presumably while the sponsors decided whether or not to go ahead with the demolition derby. By this time, I was waiting around to see if it would get canceled so that we could get a rain check.

Eventually, the rain stopped and they gradually got things going with one car-smashing event. That was a lot of fun, but it started down pouring as soon as that match ended. At this point in the evening, I was totally soaked and decided that enough was enough. We got some kettle corn for the road and rain back to the car in the pouring hail.

Unfortunately, it looks like most of the TrekFest events got canceled last night. At least, I assume they did because of the pouring rain. It was raining here in Iowa City this morning while walking the dog. I'm hoping that any rain in Riverside clears up for a few hours today so that the parade and other events can go on without interruption. As far as I'm aware, ALL TrekFest 2012 scheduled events for Saturday are still scheduled to occur.

It's kind of a bitter sweet situation. We really needed the rain around here. It's been pretty dry so far this year. It's just unfortunate for TrekFest (and for Iowa City's Jazz Fest, which is also going on this weekend) that the rain couldn't hold off for 24-36 hours.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Man Apparently Poisons Himself Following Arson Conviction

This has Agatha Christie's influence all over it. Michael Marin fell on financial hard times a few years back. His house caught ablaze and he told investigators that he barely escaped with his life. However, investigators found evidence of arson and he eventually ended up getting convicted of arson and sentenced to 15.75 years in prison.

This is where it gets interesting:
Moments after attorney Michael Marin was pronounced guilty of arson in Maricopa County Superior Court on Thursday, the one-time high roller went into convulsions and collapsed.

By the time paramedics got him to the hospital, he was dead.

Investigators suspect he poisoned himself rather than face a possible 15 3/4 years in prison. Video of the sentencing shot by a television pool photographer appears to show Marin putting something in his mouth in the seconds after the verdict was read...

All eyes were on the court clerk as she read the verdict on a single count. Then the jury left the room so that Cohen and the attorneys could set the ground rules for the ensuing hearing about whether there were aggravating factors that could result in a harsher sentence for Marin.

What video later revealed is that seconds after the verdict was read, Marin rubbed his cupped hands across his face with an expression of dismay. His mouth seemed to open beneath the hands and it appeared as if he swallowed something. Then he took a sports-drink bottle from a briefcase and drank from it.
I could totally see this happening in a "Poirot" or "Marple" book, though usually their suicides happen before they make it to trial.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Exodus International in Iowa City

I was on the GCN discussion boards yesterday and somebody mentioned that she and her husband used to travel to Iowa City regulary back in the early 2000s to attend Exodus International-led support groups after their son came out as a gay man. This came as a shock to me because I've never heard of ex-gay programming here in Iowa City. Certainly not within the past 15 years! But it's true. I did some google searching and discovered a local church that is an Exodus International affiated church. I won't post the church's name because I don't want to give them the advertising or the grief.

I will tell you that I was kind of shocked to learn of this church's ongoing connection to Exodus International. I personally know the pastor. I've worked alongside this church's staff and some of its membership. I follow the pastor on Twitter and vice versa. It's never come up. Plus the church has one of those relevant hipster vibes.

Looking back, I see the clues. I never did the ex-gay thing, so I'm not dealing with old wounds or anything. But I'm still shocked and a little dismayed...

Poll #4: Who Is Maximus Chrome?

Who is Maximus Chrome? That's the question asked in Archie Comics' ARCHIE: COMIC CON CHAOS! This comic will be available to comic book fans at next month's San Diego Comic Con, but will also be available to other readers in a digital format.

It looks like Archie and the Gang will be dressing up for the Cosplay Costume Contest and pretty much everyone is there: Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, Chuck, Cheryl, Josie, Sabrina, and even Bingo Wilkin! Most of the cosumes are pretty good. One constume in particular is so good nobody has a clue who s/he is. Though s/he obviously knows them!

I'm talking about the Transformers-inspired Maximus Chrome! He -- I'm assuming it's a "he" since those around him apparently here a male voice -- is roaming the convention and edging in on the Gang's conversations and kind of freaking them out!

So who do you think is wearing the Maximus Chrome costume? Here are my options:

Dilton Doiley!: Resident genius Dilton isn't around and Archie even notes that he is supposed to be next door at the "Tech Conference". Leave it to Dilton to create a robot costume that's remoted controlled.

Kevin Keller!: Almost every other major Archie character is running through that hallway, including several major peripheral Archie Comics character. The only ones missing are Lil' Jinx and Kathy Keene! Kevin Keller is pretty popular these days. It's a bit suspicious that he's not in the special Comic Con issue.

Mr. Weatherbee!: This is the long-shot option, given his waist size! But think about it... If you were razzed for 70 years by Archie and the Gang and had the opporunity to dress up in a costume and give them some heck for a change, wouldn't you be tempted?

I want to know what you think? Who Do You Think Is Maximus Chrome? Your three choices are posted on the upper right side of this page, true believers. Voting begins today. Poll #4 will end on Wednesday, July 4th. In the case of a tie, D'Angelo will cast the deciding vote.

Marriage Proposal for Earth 2's Green Lantern? // Updated Below!!!! // Spoiler Update for Earth 2 #3: Sam's Fate

(Originally written on 06/06/12): It's pretty much old news now that Alan Scott (AKA the soon-to-be Green Lantern from DC's Earth 2 series) is DC's newly gay/former heterosexual hero. Not only does he has a serious boyfriend about now we learn (via Bleeding Cool Comics) that Alan will be proposing in Earth 2 #2 to his boyfriend Sam!

No word on whether or not the grooms will be wearing white or green at the wedding. I'm also pretty certain that Alan's engagement ring doesn't create emerald energy constructs.

All that aside, I'm a little nervous about Sam's future survival. Check out the Green Lantern image at this link. Green Lantern is looking awfully lethal to those standing around him. What do you wanna better that Sam and everyone else on that train are gonna get blitzed? Super heroes are too often spawned from tragedy.

I'm wishing for the best, but prepared for the worst. Good luck, Sam!

Updated Later on 06/06/12 To Add: I did some spoiler seeking this evening. My hunch appears to be correct. Sorry Sam...

Updated on 06/28/12: I kind of feel bad spoiling this. Then again, DC Comics sends out these previews to excite readers. Remember how Alan Scott and his boyfriend Sam were blowing up in a train? Guess who didn't survive?:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

39th Anniversary of New Orleans Gay Bar/MCC Church Group Firebombing

This weekend, I read a horrifying Huffington Post piece from 2008 about the worst anti-gay attack in American history. I'm talking about the firebombing of the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans in late June 1973. On that day, 32 gay men -- mostly Metropolitan Community Church members -- were burned alive in a terrifying firebomb attack:
Located on the second floor of a three-story building at the corner of Chartres and Iberville Streets, the UpStairs Lounge had only one entrance, up a wooden flight of stairs. Nearly 125 regulars had jammed the bar earlier that afternoon for a free beer and all you could eat special. After the free beer ran out, about 60 stayed, mostly members of the MCC congregation.

Before moving worship services to their pastor's home earlier in June, congregation members had been holding services at the UpStairs on Sundays. But the bar was still a spiritual gathering place. There was a piano in one of the bar's three rooms, and a cabaret stage. Members would pray and sing in this room, and every Sunday night, they gathered around the piano for a song they had adopted as their anthem, United We Stand, by The Brotherhood of Man.

They sang the song that evening, with David Gary on the piano, a pianist who played regularly in the lounge of the Marriott Hotel across the street. The congregation members repeated the verses again and again, swaying back and forth, arm in arm, happy to be together at their former place of worship on Pride Sunday, still feeling the effects of the free beer special.

At 7:56 pm a buzzer from downstairs sounded, the one that signaled a cab had arrived. No one had called a cab, but when someone opened the second floor steel door to the stairwell, flames rushed in. An arsonist had deliberately set the wooden stairs ablaze, and the oxygen starved fire exploded. The still-crowded bar became an inferno within seconds.

The emergency exit was not marked, and the windows were boarded up or covered with iron bars. A few survivors managed to make it through, and jumped to the sidewalks, some in flames. Rev. Bill Larson, the local MCC pastor, got stuck halfway and burned to death wedged in a window, his corpse visible throughout the next day to witnesses below.

Bartender Buddy Rasmussen led a group of fifteen to safety through the unmarked back door. One of them was MCC assistant pastor George "Mitch" Mitchell. Then Mitch ran back into the burning building trying to save his partner, Louis Broussard. Their bodies were discovered lying together.

29 lives were lost that night, and another three victims later died of injuries from the fire. The death toll was the worst in New Orleans history up to that time, including when the French Quarter burned to the ground in 1788. It was almost assuredly the largest mass murder of gays and lesbians to ever occur in the United States.
Most local church communities (including Catholics, Lutherans, and Baptists) refused to allow survivors the opportunity for memorials. One Episcopal Church allowed a small word-of-mouth prayer service for victims -- and immediately got rebuked for its efforts. Two churches -- a Methodist and a Unitarian church -- eventually performed funerals for victims.

No politicians expressed public or private concern or remorse. The press were unsympathetic, as were the police.

Nobody was ever charged. This mass killing remains unsolved.

Monday, June 25, 2012

TrekFest 2012 Schedule // UPDATE: NASA Astronaut Landing at TrekFest 2012 this Weekend!!

(Originally written on 06/13/12): I wrote about TrekFest last summer and about how it almost didn't happen due to lack of funds. TrekFest is the annual celebration of Captain James T. Kirk's official future birthplace over in nearby Riverside, IA. TrekFest is kind of difficult to describe. It's a combination of science fiction fandom and small town carnival/festival. They occasionally host major actors from the television programs and movies. Other times, it just a chance to get out of the house and have fun.

Fortunately, we are not going through the will-it-happen-or-won't-it yo-yo that we experienced last spring. Trekfest 2012 is planned for June 29-30. I thought it would be fun to share some of this year's highlight. I strongly encourage any and all to make the trip to Riverside and support this unique piece of Iowa:

TREKFEST XXVVIII: "OMEGA GLORY"!:

June 29-30, 2012, HALL PARK Visit The Voyage Home Museum/Riverside History Center, Free will donation; Location 361 East 1st Street, Suite 2 Riverside, Iowa.

Friday, June 29th:

6:30 PM -- Kid's Parade (6:15 PM sign up) -- Line-Up on River Street and finish at Hall Park.

7:00 PM -- Pet Show -- Free event on the Main Stage at Hall Park. Prizes will be given out for "Best Tail Wagging", "Assignment Earth", "Best Dressed of Show" (costume prize), "Terrific Pet Tricks", "Quickest Voyage Home", "The Really Huge Award", "Little Things Matter", "Stay Just a Little Big Longer", "Galaxy Run Wild", and "Crowd Favorite". The show was judged by my old dog trainer last year. I'm hoping that she will be involved again this year.

7:00 PM -- Star Trek Trivia -- Free event at the Railroad Park Pavilion. I attended this event for a while last summer. There were lots of costumes and lots of folks who knew way more about Star Trek than I do -- and I thought I knew my stuff!

7:30 PM -- Demolition Derby! -- $12 for adults -- 12 and under kids get in free. It's located at the SE Corner of Hall Park. D'Angelo was somewhat interested in this last year and it was by far the greatest thing we'd both experienced in quite some time. Check out the first link in this post and you'll see a bunch of pics from last year's demolition dirty. Word of advise: Bring your ear-plugs, wear shoes that you don't mind getting muddy, and absolutely do not wear flip-flops! They will get sunk into the mud and your feet will get filthy.

7:45 PM -- Star Trek Impersonator Mark Kuehnle at Railroad Park.

Saturday, June 30th:

10:00 AM -- Trekfest Parade! The theme is "Omega Glory".

11:00 AM -- SCI FI Swap Meet -- Free event located north of Main Street at Hall Park.

12:00 PM - 5:00 PM -- STAR TREK Episodes // INVASION IOWA -- These will be free screenings at Hall Park. Invasion Iowa, if you don't know, is the result of a sham movie project filmed in Riverside by William Shatner and Spike Television.

12:00 PM -- Federation Games -- This is a free event near the Tennis Court area of Hall Park. Prizes will be awarded for games like the Edosian Race, the Tribble Wack, Star Trek Pinatas, Horta Egg Toss, and Pin the Lobes on the Ferengi.

1:00 PM -- Costume Contest -- This event will take place on the Main Stage of Hall Park. Adult and Children case prizes will be given out for three different categories: "Federation", "Supporting Cast", and "Miscellaneous Sci-Fi".

10:00 PM -- Fireworks -- This free event will be happening at Hall Park.

There are other events and several bands playing, so definitely check out the TrekFest 2012 calendar of events to get the full schedule.

Updated on 06/25/12: A few days ago, I received a press release announcing the presence of a real life astronaut at this weekend's TrekFest XXVIII festivities!:
This year, TrekFest will make history by having a real-life NASA astronaut land in Riverside, Iowa (The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk) to participate in festivities (June 29-30).

NASA Astronaut Kjell N. Lindgren (M.D) will engage in a Friday night Q & A at the Riverside Elementary School (8 pm to 9:30 pm) and he will Sky Watch with amateur astronomers outside the school (9:30 pm to 11 pm). Saturday Dr. Lindgren will ride in the TrekFest parade (10 am) on a special NASA float and will later sign autographs (up to 300 of his astronaut photos) 12 to 2pm at Hall Park.

Dr. Lindgren is like a real-life Dr. Mcoy... In June 2009, he was selected as one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. He graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training that included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in ISS systems, Extravehicular Activity (EVA), robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training. Dr. Lindgren is bored certified in emergency medicine and aerospace medicine. Dr. Lindgren's education is even more extensive and impressive, but he's very much a family man and this makes him a perfect fit for TrekFest.

Riverside Troop 235 sends an open invitation to all area Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts from other troops to walk alongside Dr. Lindgren's NASA float during the parade in honor of his affiliation with the National Eagle Scout Association. Scouts are asked to show up around 9 am Saturday before the parade begins at 10 am.

Lesbian Couples Rejected by Moline Reception Hall // UPDATE: University Club's Manager Has Resigned

(Originally written on 06/24/12) This is an interesting story. A lesbian couple from Davenport, IA, is getting married and wanted to rent the reception hall at the University club in Moline, IL, for their after-wedding party. Things went well until the manager learned that there are two brides. The manager then immediately cut things off:
“And she asked if “he” would be coming and I just said no, it’s not actually a “he.” It’s a ‘she,’ and she said excuse me?” recounted (Taylor) Shumaker. “I said, it’s a woman, and she said oh, we don’t rent to homosexual couples.”

Shumaker said she was more hurt than angry. “I cried when I got off the phone because, honestly, I wouldn’t have called there if I knew it was their policy. If it would have been on the website from the very beginning, I wouldn’t have wasted my time. She just said it was a religious belief. That was the end of the conversation.”
The University Club's manager was unrepentant about turning away the brides-to-be:
“I am a biblical Christian and I do not believe in homosexual marriage, that’s correct. And because marriage is a covenant that God created for man and woman, as a biblical Christian, I cannot help them into or celebrate that sin,” said Stewart.
The brides-to-be have wisely decided to move on and find a business where they do not have to deal with someone else's negativity on their special day.

Here is the most interesting part of this story for me. The University Club is a family business. The owners of the business had, according to the article, discussed how to handle receptions of Iowa same-sex marriages and Illinois civil unions. The owners had already decided that they would rent the reception hall to gay and lesbian couples, even if the manager (i.e., the daughter-in-law of the owner) had nothing to do with those receptions.

In other words, the manager screwed up. She violated the policy of the business, gave the business a public relations black eye, and possibly caused the University Club to violate the Illinois Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. But I'm sure she will make a good "victim of the gay agenda" talking point in the future.

Updated on 05/25/12: I learned today the University Club's manager quit from her position this weekend after causing a public relations SNAFU for her family's business:
The liquor manager of The University Club of Moline has resigned after her decision not to allow a gay couple to rent the venue stirred up hundreds of Quad-Citians. WQAD-TV reported last week that manager Kristen Stewart told a gay woman, "We don't rent to homosexual couples."

On Friday, University Club president Perry Stewart said that Ms. Stewart, his wife, was mistaken. On Saturday in an emailed statement, he said that she has resigned. In the statement, Mr. Stewart said he first wanted to express the University Club's "deepest apologies" to Taylor Shumaker of Davenport, the woman who had inquired about renting the venue. The apology also was extended to "the entire community, for all the deep hurt that was caused by Kristen's mistake by expressing her own personal beliefs while representing the University Club. The University Club has and always will have an open door policy in which all are welcome.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Podcast to Check Out: The Riverdale Podcast

I'm always looking for new podcasts to get off iTunes and play in the background during work and/or at the gym. A couple weeks ago, I discovered an Archie Comics-themed podcast that I really enjoy called The Riverdale Podcast. The podcasts are run by an Archie fan named Jonathan Merrifield and each one has a basic three-point schedule: 1. His favorite Archie Comics (past or present) that week; 2. Archie-related news; and 3. Upcoming releases.

I reviewed the podcast series earlier this week and, low and behold(!), Jonathan read my iTunes review on his latest podcast! Check it out:
I loved this podcast! I grew up reading Archie comics and have, over the past couple years, fallen in love with Archie all over again. Like Jonathan, LIFE WITH ARCHIE has become my favorite Archie book and one of my favorite five monthly comic books overall.

I appreciate Jonathan's love for all thing Archie and his knowledge about past creators and upcoming events. I think he does a great job of avoiding lengthy digressions and keeping each podcast limited to roughly 12-20 minutes. Just enough to get caught up on this week's Archie offerings and upcoming news, but not too lengthy.

Good job with this podcast. I've subscribed and look forward to future episodes!
I'm glad that Jonathan like the review. I meant every word. I encourage you to check out The Riverdale Podcast. It gets released every Saturday.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Comic Book Gay Wedding

Remember that gay wedding at New York's Midtown Comics Downtown? Here is a sweet video clip of the wedding and reception. Very, very sweet:


Ms. Lion's Seizure

It's been cooler the last few days, so Mark and I decided to take the dogs to visit the dog park early this morning. We usually go to the Iowa City Dog Park located in the Peninsula neighborhood. There are three separate areas (one general area, one small dog area, and one private area). Mark and I usually split up at the park. I'm in charge of Nero and he's in charge of Ms. Lion. Today was no different.  Nero was darting around bugging a golden lab so I missed what happened next.

Ms. Lion had a grand mal seizure at the dog park.

She was walking along with the path with Mark. She was acting a little bit off, according to Mark. Nothing much. Just a little confused. All of the sudden, she toppled over and began convulsing. It only lasted a short time. A half-minute, tops. She seemed a little startled afterwards, but otherwise seemed quite peppy. She's been napping since we got home. Then again, she usually naps all day.

As far as we are aware, Ms. Lion has never had a seizure before. Our old poodle Moogie used to suffer from grand mal seizures every few months. We never determined a cause of them. However, his seizures began when he was much younger. Ms. Lion is 10-years-old. She hasn't been sick. The weather was comfortably cool. Who knows?

Our current plan of action is to wait and see. We'll likely take her to the veterinarian if she has another seizure. For now, we'll assume that her little brain experienced a one-time glitch that corrected itself.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shooting Death Late Last Night in Iowa City // Update: Victim Identified // Further Update: Arrest Warrant Issued in Donnelle Lindsey's Murder

Shortly after midnight last night, I received a Hawk Alert phone call about a shooting incident in the Melrose Avenue/Mormon Trek area of Iowa City. People were encouraged to stay indoors while they searched for the shooting suspect.

I have since learned that the victim was shot multiple times in the chest and has subsequently died. The shooting death occurred near the Pheasant Ridge apartment complex and, as of this writing, the shooter is at large, though there is a suspect.

Hopefully I'll have more to share about this later on today after work. Keep safe!

(source)
Update: Here are a few quick updates on last night's fatal shooting. Radio and online newspaper sources report that the victim's name is Donnelle Derrell Lindsey. It's possible that I have an incorrect spelling and I'll make any corrections if I learn that the spelling I included is incorrect. He was a 30-year-old man with a lengthy criminal history, but -- judging from interviews and posts left on his Facebook account -- well-loved by many.

The main suspect is still at large, though radio reports indicate that he is not expected to be in the Iowa City area at this time.

(source)
Later Update: I learned later this afternoon that the Iowa City Police Department has obtained an arrest warrant for 27-year-old Brandon D. Brown in connection to Donnelle Lindsey's murder. This is what Coralville Police Department has to say about the warrant:
According to eyewitnesses, Brown asked Lindsey to walk down the street with him. After walking a short distance, they argued. Brown produced a handgun and shot Lindsey multiple times at a relatively close range. Some of the bullets struck Lindsey in the chest. Brown was last seen running from the area. Lindsey was transported to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics but died from his wounds.

One of the witnesses is an acquaintance of Brown. In a photo lineup, other witnesses were also able to positively identify Brown as the shooter.

Brown has not yet been arrested and his whereabouts are unknown. He may have fled the area in an attempt to avoid apprehension. If you have information as to Brown's current location, call the Iowa City Police Department at 319-356-5276 and/or the appropriate local law enforcement agency. Do not attempt to apprehend Brown. Brown is considered armed and dangerous.
It is important to note that Brown has been accused by the IC Police of this crime, but accusation is not conviction. There is a $1000 reward for information leading to Brown's arrest.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Northstar and Kyle Got Married!!! Here's What I Thought

Last month, I wrote about Astonishing X-Men #50, which featured -- among other things -- Northstar's proposal to his long-time boyfriend Kyle Jinadu. Last issue, Kyle turned Jean-Paul down. As predicted, he changed his mind early this issue and Marvel Comics' first gay wedding went on without much of a hitch (if you don't count Karma's disappearance and Wolverine's exploding gut).

I thought I should check out Northstar and Kyle's wedding issue in Astonishing X-Men #51 and make a few observations:


This is one for the Alpha Flight fans out there. What happened to "Squatch Smash!"??? Last time I saw him -- and this has been continued in his subsequent appearance in the Red Hulk's comic -- Sasquatch was all big and bestial. His dialogue seems back to normal. Continuity glitch or vision of some out-of-sync spoiler?


In an interview last month, Astonishing X-Men writer Marjorie Liu noted that at least one of Northstar's team members would not be at the wedding due to "cultural differences". I assumed she was referencing one of the Catholic X-Men, Dr. Cecillia Reyes -- solely because she wasn't on the cover. But I was wrong. Alien bodyguard Warbird opted out of the wedding because it would be a lie for her to attend. The ceremony means nothing to her.

Couple thoughts: How tacky is it to come to someone's wedding just to tell them you can't come to their wedding? Show some tact and bow out at least a day or two before the event.

Secondly, Northstar should be thanking Warbird for skipping the wedding. I don't know how they do weddings in Shi'ar Space, but open-breasted battle suits are kind of tacky for wedding attire.

Lastly, I hope Northstar isn't torn up over this. He and she have shared one mission together. They barely know each other. If he wants to be upset over conspicuous absences, how about Heather Hudson, Talisman, Madison Jeffries and most of his former Alpha and Beta Flight team members???


Jean-Paul's sister Jeanne-Marie's (AKA Aurora's) gift (something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue) was extremely sweet. I wanted to give her a big hug myself!


I really hate that Marvel turned Jubilee into a vampire. I think it's one of the worst things they ever did. That said, do tree leaves block out sunlight enough to protect vampires from their final death?


This exchange between Alpha Flight's Puck and X-Factor's Havok makes me wonder if straight guys often talk about the weirdness of being at gay weddings when they attend gay weddings? Oh, and Havok? What would your parents think about the time that you were a member of that terrorist group known as the Brotherhood? Just wondering...

Sorry for being snarky, but Puck recently ruled Hell itself. Havok just returned from months of exile in deep space fighting wicked aliens. Individually, they have both come across mutants, villains, demons, aliens, gods, vampires, zombies, government assassins, and traitors. But Northstar's gay wedding is a lot to take in?


I love Beast. He's one of my all-time favorite X-Men. He just strikes me as an odd choice for a wedding officiant. Especially wearing a stole. He's never struck me as religious.


The wedding vows were sweet. In the tradition of Kevin Keller's and Clay Walker's wedding, I thought it would be fun to share:
Pastor Beast: Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here in this beautiful place to witness the joining of Kyle Jinadu and Jean-Paul Beaubier in marriage. An intimate union which only love can create. Kyle? Jean-Paul? This is your moment to speak from the heart, and seal your commitment.
Jean-Paul: Kyle, I know how precious life is. And how fleeting.
Kyle: And I know what a gift it is to have someone to share that life with.
Jean-Paul: I will never take that for granted. I promise you that.
Kyle: I promise to love you in good times and bad.
Jean-Paul: I promise to cherish you.
Kyle: I promise to inspire you.
Jean-Paul: I promise to be your home.
Pastor Beast: Kyle and Jean-Paul... Do you vow to give yourselves to each other, with love and compassion, and trust?
Kyle: I do.
Jean-Paul: I do.
Pastor Beast: Then I pronounce you husbands, and partners for life. You may kiss the groom. Both of you!
The newlyweds the floated in the sky and sealed their wedding vows with a kiss.

There was a party and there were some other plot issues not dealing directly with Northstar or the wedding, but I won't go into them here in this post.

One last thing before I go. I wrote last Thursday about different gay comic book fans who planned to get married this past Tuesday or renew their vows on the day that Astonishing X-Men #51 got released. I've included a pic of one of these weddings, particularly Scott Evenhart and Jason Welker of Columbus, OH, who got married at Midtown Comics Downtown! According to this article, the new grooms met online and had one of their first dates at the 2011 Free Comic Book Day! What an adorable couple! Congrats guys!!!

Will Gay Marriage Destroy the Family?

That's what Al Schumann of Eyota, MN, proposes in the following letter to the editor. Minnesota is one of four states where people will be voting on constitutional amendments to limit marriage recognition to only man/female married couples:
Marriage is celebrated in every country in the world, in all religious denominations, because this is the start of a new family unit. The ideal family has both a mother (caring parent) and a father (protector-provider, parent). I think that almost anyone who works with children will agree with that description.

Now we have the Democratic Party working to downgrade marriage by allowing homosexuals to marry and come under all the present marriage laws. In Minnesota alone, there are more than 300 laws relating to marriage and the protection of children.


Two men or two women in a marriage would produce zero children. Why would they need any of the laws relating to children?

Including homosexuality in the meaning of marriage will destroy the family unit as we know it.
When people marry, they become a new family. They don't need kids to become a new family. The marriage itself creates that new family. Many of those 300 Minnesota state laws related to marriage don't have anything to being parents. Al asked why childless couples might seek the protections of marriage laws. Let me present a website with some of your fellow citizens' stories on it and their cases for why they are seeking the protections of marriage.

That said, same-sex marriages can and do produce children. My husband and I are adoptive parents. We know other same-sex families who have become parents through adoption, surrogacy, and IVF. Are our children not worthy of marital laws that protect their parents and family unit?

"Including homosexuality in the meaning of marriage" won't destroy the family unit. It hasn't here in Iowa, nor has it in other states or countries where we have been granted the ability to legally marry. What destroys family units of constitutional amendments that seek to constitutionally shut out gay and lesbian couples from legal marriage, or civil unions, or domestic partnerships, or any other form of marital or couple recognition.

Marriage equality won't destroy your family, Al. Amending state constitutions to ban marriage equality will destroy mine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

George Takei to Visit Riverdale!

Oh My!!! This was kind of fun news today. I learned that original Star Trek actor, George Takei, will be making a guest star appearance early next year in KEVIN KELLER #6:
According to BuzzFeed, cartoonist Dan Parent met the actor at a comic convention, where he pitched him the idea of the cameo so Kevin, Riverdale’s first gay resident, could meet his hero. Takei was thrilled.

Takei, who’s best known for playing Sulu on the original Star Trek series and in six movies, revealed he’s gay in a 2005 magazine interview. He married his longtime partner Brad Altman in 2008, and has been vocal on issues of marriage equality, homophobia and bullying.
I have no idea what the story will be about, but I can't wait to read it!

New Iowa/Nebraska NAACP Prez Supports National Board's Support of Gay Marriage

Early this month, I wrote about Rev. Keith Ratliff Sr. stepping down as president of the Iowa and Nebraska branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in response to the national NAACP board's vote in favor of marriage equality.

Ratliff has been replaced and a new president has taken over the Iowa-Nebraska State NAACP Conference. His name is Arnold Woods of Urbandale, IA, and he has served as vice-president up until now.

Oh, and it looks like he supports marriage equality. Or at least he accepts the national board's support for marriage equality:
He told the Register that he supported the national NAACP board, saying, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and then we follow the dictates of the national board."
The referenced Des Moines Register article talks about varying levels of support for the NAACP national board's support of marriage equality, but also talks about aggravation that they made a decision about gay marriage without consulting with or preparing local branches.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Josie and the Pussycats Revisit LIFE WITH ARCHIE // My Favorite Five Archie Comics Characters that I Want to See In the Future!!! // Updated to Include Husband Mark's Favorite Four Choices!!! // Further Updated to Include Speculation about the Pussycats' Return!!!

(Originally written on 06/12/12): Bleeding Cool published a great variant cover for Archie Comics' LIFE WITH ARCHIE #24 comic book by Fiona Staples. As you can see, it features adult version of Josie and the Pussycats, minus their cat-ear-and-tail performance costumes that they've worn for years. Unlike the recently released LIFE WITH ARCHIE #23 zombie-themed variant cover (AKA AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE) which is pretty cool but likely won't feature actual zombies within the storyline, I'm hopeful that we will see what Josie, Valerie, and Melody (as well as Alexandra and Alexander Cabot!) have been doing with their lives since high school.

One of the things I enjoy about LIFE WITH ARCHIE -- besides its willingness to explore more serious topics such as breast cancer, marital strife, aging, dying, divorce, and marriage equality -- is the ability to look a few years into the future to see what our favorite Archie Comics folks are up in their adult lives. The first dozen issues or so looked at the major Archie Comics characters like Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Moose, and Reggie. Gradually, we began seeing more of less prominent and/or newer Archie Comics characters like Jughead's little sister Jellybean, Kevin Keller, and Ambrose Pipps.

After reading about Josie and the Pussycats showing up one way or another, I got to thinking about some of my other favorite Archie Comics characters who we have yet seen show up in LIFE WITH ARCHIE. I want to know if these characters got married. I want to know if they are parents. Have they gone to prison? Have they become famous? Maybe they traveled the world and learned some deep dark secret that will shake the foundations of Riverdale itself! Or maybe they just moved back home with their parents after getting laid off.

Here is my Favorite Five List of Archie Comics Characters that I Want to See in LIFE WITH ARCHIE!:

5. Jinx Malloy: Jinx is one of the Archie's classmates who is perpetually unlucky. He walks in the room and the power goes out. He brings you a glass of milk and the cup is likely to fall on your lap. People do their best to keep away from Jinx, much to his confusion. He doesn't seem to be aware of the bad luck that he generates or why others avoid him. Anyway, I got to thinking that it would be neat to see if Jinx's bad luck has stuck with him post high school? I'm imagining a scenario involving him working as a really bad insurance agent.

4. Anita Chavita: I have actually only seen one Archie Comics strip with Anita Chavita in it, but I really want to see more of her. She is a black paraplegic teen who appeared back in the 1990s. She apparently was a love interest for both Jughead and brainy Dilton Doiley, which would have made her part of Archie Comics' first interracial romances. That doesn't seem like much these days but years ago, the Powers That Be at Archie Comics were not very keen on interracial romance. Anita faded into obscurity, but I think she needs to come back and provide a bit of extra diversity for Archie and his friends. Jughead (in the "Archie Married Veronica World" just connected romantically with Ethel Muggs. Imagine Anita rolling back into Riverdale and into Jughead's heart. Imagine those sparks indeed!

3. Pureheart the Powerful: Long before the current LIFE WITH ARCHIE comic book, Archie Comics published another version of LIFE WITH ARCHIE featuring (at least for a while) superhero versions of Archie and the Gang. Archie's superhero alter-ego is Pureheart the Powerful. When trouble arose, Archie was tap into his pure-hearted "PH Factor', which magically transformed him into a spandex-wearing hero with super-strength and flying jet-boosters. His stories are typically cheeky and he doesn't really fit the more serious tone of today's LIFE WITH ARCHIE comic book. However, we have already experienced one story in this book featuring quantum physics and parallel dimensions. Who is to say that Pureheart the Powerful (or one of the other Super Teens) won't burst out Riverdale's interdimensional conduit, Memory Lane, and create confusion and mayhem?

2. Ginger Lopez: Ginger Lopez is a Hispanic girl with blond bangs who was created to replaced Archie Comics' bad girl Cheryl Blossom. She pops up occasionally in different Archie Comics story lines, but always seems like someone who is fun to be around -- unlike Cheryl Blossom! It is very possible that Ginger has been seen in earlier issues of LIFE WITH ARCHIE before I got involved with the book, but I'm pretty sure that we haven't seen her yet. I'm not quite sure what role she would play in the future Riverdale. Maybe she could join the local police force? She could be Riverdale's youngest investigative detective. Or a private detective! Maybe she could help one of the main characters out of a legal jam with her investigative skills! I think I'm liking this one already!

1. Sabrina Spellman: There is no way that Archie Comics' magical maven, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, couldn't be on this list. In fact, I would be shocked to learn that the Powers That Be weren't already trying to insert her into a future storyline as we speak! Sabrina Spellman is a young half-witch who frequently causes trouble with her mis-cast magical spells. I've actually been watching several old episodes of the 1970 Sabrina the Teenage Witch cartoon series a lot recently. Here is the plot of pretty much every episode. Her aunts tell her not to use her magic to make things easier for herself or to help her friends. She doesn't listen to them. Her spells backfire and create mischief. She fixes things, but ends up in trouble. I wonder what a twentysomething Sabrina would be like. Would she have better control over her magic? How would she use her powers? What if she began dabbling in black magic? Personally, I think it would be kind of cool to see a darker version of Sabrina running around Riverdale in LIFE WITH ARCHIE. Hmm...

How about you? Which older version of an Archie Comics character would you like to appear next in LIFE WITH ARCHIE? I want to know!!!

Updated Later on 06/12/12: I shared with Mark that I spent way too much time this evening coming up with this particular post. He decided that he had his own list of Archie Comics characters that he wants to appear in future issues of LIFE WITH ARCHIE. Fortunately, they're linked characters so this shouldn't take as long to update...

President Barack Obama and Governor Sarah Palin: A few years ago, Archie Comics published a storyline where President Obama and Governor Palin visited Riverdale, set aside their differences, and shared a milkshake. Mark thought it would be fun to reintroduce them to Archie Comics. His initial idea included a sub-plot where Bristol Palin gets into an argument with Kevin Keller. I told him that Bristol can't be part of the package, which he grudgingly accepted. Instead, he came up with an idea that Palin and Obama would argue over stimulus funds being used to keep one of Lodge Industries' factories afloat.

Alexandra Cabot and Sebastian the Cat: Like me, Mark was a fun of the old Josie and the Pussycats cartoon series. I'm totally behind his idea of bringing back Alexandra. Who knows? She might actually show up in the few months when the Pussycats appear in LIFE WITH ARCHIE #24. But I told him that it's unlikely that Sebastian would still be alive in the future timeline where these particular story lines take place. I suggested that he might choose Salem the Cat instead, who is an ancient warlock stuck in the form of a cat. Mark pointed out that Archie Andrews has managed to stay a teen since 1941 and that I'm taking this exercise in wishful hopes too seriously. So Sebastian the Cat ended up making the list.

Updated on 06/19/12: While walking the dog this evening, I had a bit of sudden inspiration about Josie and the Pussycats' appearance in LIFE WITH ARCHIE #24. In the "Archie Marries Betty" world, Archie, Jughead, and Ambrose have been designing a new night club called the Chowhouse Too, complete with performance space. I've already heard rumblings about an Archies reunion (as an opening act). But who are they opening for?

Let's consider the previews for LIFE WITH ARCHIE #23:
Archie Marries Betty” - Archie and his business partners have just booked the biggest band in the world for their club’s opening night! All that’s left is to schedule the opening act - is an Archies reunion in the cards? Cheryl continues to fight the good fight with her chemo treatments and having a friend like Veronica along makes it all the more bearable. Don’t miss this touching issue that proves no matter how rough life gets in Riverdale, the gang is ready to take on anything life throws at them - together.
I'm willing to bet that the adult version of Josie and the Pussycats, world travelers that they are, will be Chowhouse Too's "biggest band in the world" music act! That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!

Big Man Punches//Kills Tiny Poodle

I had to sit on this one for a couple days before blogging on it. It really pissed me off. Some former television writer got mad at his 4.5 pound poodle and punched the dog, resulting in the animal's death:
Ted Shuttleworth, who briefly wrote for NYPD Blue, was caught up in his own crime drama on Saturday when he was arrested for killing his poodle. A necropsy found that Shuttleworth's dog Lola died of a brain injury, and police say that the Sunnyside, Queens, man punched her in the head because he was angry at her. Shuttleworth is facing a year in prison, but his wife insists the incident was just "a horrible accident."
The deceased poodle's name was Lola.

My smallest dog weighs around 8 pounds. I worried about damaging her neck with the leash and collar sometimes. Whatever made this guy think he could punch this little creature without causing harm?

Man Arrested for Disrupting Iowa City's Pride Parade and Festival

(source)
I didn't spend much time at Iowa City's Pride celebration this past Saturday. Turns out that I missed some excitement. Some guy from Los Angeles found himself arrested following a couple separate disruptive incidents during the Iowa City Pride parade and later at the downtown festival.

Police originally encountered Oren at College Green Park and received a warning for yelling obscenities and disturbing the parade. Later, he went to the Iowa City Ped Mall, jumped on the stage, interrupted the scheduled performers, and went into an anti-Obama rant. He also got in trouble for "overzealous" dancing with various women. Oren was eventually arrested and charged with "interference with official acts" and "disorderly conduct/making loud and raucous noise".

Keep in mind, Oren didn't seem to have a problem with the Pride celebration itself. In fact, he was marching in the parade itself and seemed to support its goal. His problem was that he doesn't like the President's policies and got himself really worked up.

Both of Oren's charges are simple misdemeanors punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $625.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Is the Buckeye Anti-Family?

I learned of this "Letter to the Editor" via Twitter earlier today. I'm pretty certain that it's tonge-in-cheek... but I'm totally not sure! Either way, it was too good not to share. Enjoy!:
Something in the "Just Ask" column (Page A3, May 29) disturbed me. According to the column, "the Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, bears flowers with both male and female organs on the same tree. It is a monoecious species."

I couldn't believe this, so I did some research and, sure enough, a science website (forestry.about.com) states that "the Ohio buckeye is polygamo-monoecious, bearing both bisexual and male flowers."

The buckeye is our state tree and most of us gladly wear the nickname, "buckeyes." But it is shameful and unacceptable that a bisexual tree should represent us! We are flaunting the Holy Bible!

I urge everyone to contact their state representative and demand legislation removing the buckeye as our state tree and condemning the use of the term "buckeye" as a nickname for residents of Ohio.

Does anyone know if carnations are bisexual?

-Jim Flechtner Findlay

Christian Baseball League Shuns UCC Team Because of Bisexual Pastor

(source)
Here's another story that's slightly old news, but new news to me. Members of St. John United Church of Christ in Saint Clair, MO, were members of a local Christian softball league. Somehow, pastors from other league teams learned that St. John UCC's pastor (who doesn't even play softball!) is a bisexual man. At least three of the league's teams refused to play ball with the UCC church. Eventually, the St. John UCC team pulled out of the team to "avoid causing further controversy". Leaders within the larger United Church of Christ have come out in support of Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell, but the other Christian teams are unrepentant about their desire to keep Christian softball homo-free:
"We believe that God's word speaks clearly about boundaries, and that lifestyle is outside of those boundaries," the Rev. Ben Kingston, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We call ourselves a Christian softball league, and if we call ourselves that, we want to be that."

Darnell, who completed his seminary training in Washington, D.C., thought that his open sexual orientation might cause "some difficulty," but did not think it would prompt a boycott.

"It's very different than the nation's capital, but I certainly didn't expect this," he said. "I don't feel that anyone's sexual orientation has anything to do with how they play softball or [how they] enjoy each other's company during a game."
Rev. Darnell has reached out to other UCC churches and at least eight of them have agreed to either form their own softball league or to host some kind of tournament.

This is one of those events that tells the LGBT communities that we have no place in the Church. I mean, if they won't even play softball with us, what is the likelihood that they will allow us to join them for worship and fellowship on Sunday morning?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

NOM's Big 'Mo

(source)

Faux Pastor Jon's Latest Sermon: "Reconciliation and the Post-ONA Church"

I have shared before that I am a member of Faith United Church of Christ. We employ a part-time pastor. To fill the gap, we have a long tradition of Shared Ministry -- it's the idea that we all share the ministry of this church. Shared Ministry includes planning for worship service. Once monthly, a member will either organize worship or s/he will make arrangements for a guest pastor. Today was my day (again).

I was asked to address our church's Open & Affirming Covenant. We have been ONA for 20 years. What does that mean? How do we keep this covenant relevant after two decades? I've been playing around with this general idea for a couple months and the following sermon was given earlier today. Enjoy!:

Reconciliation and the Post-ONA Church

In May 1992, Faith United Church of Christ – after a long period of discussion and deliberation – became what I believe to be Iowa's first UCC church to become an Open & Affirming (an ONA) church. Our covenant read, in part:


We openly support the concerns of those who find themselves exiled from a spiritual community – including lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

We condemn racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism, injustice, discrimination, violence, indifference, and hatred as the antithesis of Christian faith.

God calls us to Christian faith manifested in love – love of God, of neighbor, of self. Such love honors diversity while seeking peace and wholeness within community. As the apostle Paul wrote, “There are many parts, yet one body. They eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,’ nor the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”

We acknowledge God’s gift of sexuality with its joyous power and challenging mystery. And we affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people as persons of God who are deeply valued by their Creator.


Since then, we have called two gay pastors to serve this church. We have welcomed LGBT people as friends and members to this church community. We have witnessed gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies and later on gay and lesbian weddings. We have welcomed the children of LGBT parents. This church has gladly and appreciatively welcomed the gifts of all members. If you have a drive to serve on Church Council or to help care for the yard or to organize a worship service, we will gladly welcome your offer and thank you for your efforts.

Since the decision to become ONA, we have struggled off and on. We have struggled to figure out how to be open and affirming and it hasn’t always been pretty. One of the more uncomfortable struggles, I am embarrassed to say, involved me pretty directly. The Boy Scout troop that shares a relationship with this congregation requested to do some work on the shed outside and a congregational vote was needed to approve this. A group of us questioned this relationship given our ONA status and the Boy Scouts’ overall policy against permitting gay scouts or troop leaders.

We brought a list to the meeting expressing our concerns about the Scouts’ discriminatory policy to the church membership and demanded accountability on this issue. If my memory serves me correctly, we asked the Scout troop to change their practices and to push for change within the larger organization. It was a long and uncomfortable meeting, our request was rejected, and the shed project was approved. But the community was frayed. We had a series of group discussions to work through our feelings on the subject and to bring about some level of reconciliation. We lost a few members in the process. And we probably sowed the seeds for still others to seek out other places of worship later on.

In other words, we messed up. We could have expressed our concerns more effectively. We could have displayed the level of grace towards our local Boy Scout troop that we as hypothetically excluded gay, lesbian, and bisexual people sought from the Scouts themselves.

I bring this up not to stir up old wounds and I sincerely apologize if I did that. I bring up this story to point out a specific example of the tension that continues to exist long after a church decides to address the issue of LGBT sexual orientation and identity. It’s not enough to have the discussion and make the vote. The discussion continues in one form or another as new folks arrive and as new situations arise locally and beyond.

Back in 2005, the 25th General Synod voted by a large margin to affirm equal marriage rights for all couples – both in and out of the church – regardless of sexual orientation. It was all over the news. Lots of folks within the UCC were ecstatic about the synod resolution. We were the first mainline Christian denomination that had ever come out in favor of marriage equality. The previous year had been an election year and gay marriage had been the topic – or at least a major topic that played out in numerous states that amended their state constitutions to exclude gay and lesbian couples from legal marriage. Most church denominations were silent or they were mobilized against gay and lesbian families and were often quite vocal (and incendiary) about this topic. So even though the UCC was a small denomination with a liberal bend, it was pretty big news for our General Synod to come out in favor of equal marriage rights.

And the denomination crowed about it quite a bit. Even though we have a bottom-up organizational structure and even though Synod is supposed to speak to the churches but not for us, Equal Marriage Rights and ONA in general became a defining point for the larger United Church of Christ – even though many within the church were still torn on this topic.

At Synod, the press showed images of people clapping and cheering about the EMR resolution. What you didn’t see as much were the Synod delegates from our Puerto Rico Conference walking out after the EMR resolution vote and didn’t look back. Within the year, the entire conference left the United Church of Christ. The entire conference. It’s only been within the past few months that representatives from the former Puerto Rico Conference has agreed to meet with UCC National staff to discuss reconciliation. It’s unclear if the conference will return to us or if some former churches will come back to us or if we’re just going to end up with a more positive split.

And Puerto Rico wasn’t alone. The UCC has witnessed a trickle of losses for quite some time – mostly over the issue of sexual morality, homosexuality, and the definition of marriage. Some of those losses have been significant and overtly noticeable, such was when we have lost entire churches or the before-mentioned conference. Other times, it has been less noticeable but still significant, such as when more conservative UCC members have quietly left our churches for other churches.

Faith United Church of Christ isn’t immune from this. Back when I was the church's office assistant, I remember receiving correspondence from more than a couple folks who loved our church but couldn’t reconcile our ONA stance. Keep in mind that these were new visitors who visited the church who really connected with our Twain projects or our correctional outreach programs, but couldn't connect with gays in the Church.

So the question becomes, how do we as an open and affirming church and denomination publicly claim our unique status as LGBT-affirming Christians while simultaneously nurturing and holding onto our relationship with Christians who either don’t affirm LGBT people or who are ambivalent and uncomfortable? Can we, Faith United Church of Christ, affirm and include Jon and Mark the gay dads while simultaneously welcoming "Joe X the Christian traditionalist"?

Quite likely we can’t – especially with those who cannot reconcile the notion of gay Christians.

HOWEVER… does accepting the idea that we cannot achieve Christian community with LGBT Christians and anti-LGBT Christians within the denomination jive with this one key UCC belief statement?:

In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity. In other words, we are united through our Christian belief and the rest of it is secondary to that belief. I’d say no, even though it’s difficult sometimes.

Several years ago, I learned of an evangelical Christian named Andrew Marin who was trying to change how we do this whole culture war thing – particularly when it comes to LGBT people and the Church. I wrote some stuff about him on the Internet because I couldn’t figure him out. Basically, I couldn’t figure out if he was anti-gay or ex-gay or kind of naive pro-gay. He wrote back to me and we began talking and I eventually became friends with him and his wife.

Back in his early 20s, Andrew found himself at a crossroads when all three of his best friends came out to him. He didn’t know how to deal with this information and he found that his church (an Assembly of God church) didn’t know how to help him process this information, so he cut ties with them and ran. He eventually mended bridges with his friends, but still didn’t know how to bridge the differences between his conservative Christian beliefs and his longtime loyalty to his friends. His response was to move with a couple of his friends to Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, which is the country’s first incorporated gay neighborhood, and learn more about LGBT people, beliefs, and culture.

During the next dozen years, Andrew befriended tons of LGBT people and found himself called to start an organization called the Marin Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between the Christian and LGBT communities. The reason it’s difficult for most to get him or the group is that it’s not a church, it’s not an ex-gay program, it’s not a pro-gay advocacy group. It’s a non-profit that does a few things:

1.     It gathers data about faith and sexuality.
2.     It accepts people where they are at (gay, pro-gay, anti-gay, ex-gay, whatever) and it sponsors events where all of the above get together and explore/discuss topics related to faith, sexual orientation, and sexual identity.
3.     It goes out and helps people or groups figure out how to more effectively cope with differences.

Andrew has his fair share of critics from both sides of this issue and for differing reasons, but I have found him and his group helpful for a couple different groups in particular: LGBT people who’ve been specifically chased from the Church and who no longer feel a place in the Church and Church people who have LGBT children, family members, neighbors, co-workers, friends who come out to them and they have no clue how to respond. Some of those latter folks are really trying to figure out when it’s best to tell their LGBT friend or family member that they’re living in sin and some of those former folks still might never step foot in the Church. But that’s not the point.

The longer picture is learning to build relationship with those who hold diametrically opposed belief systems and learning how to accept others where they are at despite differences.

Right now, it’s extremely difficult for people to cope with the idea of two men or two women marrying. It has gotten so that the kids are being expelled from Christian and Catholic schools because those parents are in long-term gay relationships. Or faculty are being fired for refusing to sign statements opposing marriage equality. Heck, it’s gotten so bad that a UCC in Missouri was recently expelled from the local church baseball league because their pastor (who isn’t even on the team) is a bisexual man.

On the other side, church folks feel besieged when gay or lesbian people learn that they oppose homosexuality or gay marriage. A Des Moines cake maker recently found her business boycotted because she chose against making a cake for a pair of brides. More recently, there have been a couple churches who’ve found themselves overwhelmed by protesters and callers and (in the case of a recent Massachusetts church) subject to the threat of arson for making pretty harmless statements opposing homosexuality or gay marriage.

What if, instead of protesting those churches or refusing to play baseball with that team, the people involved in these different scenarios sat down and got to know each other? What if they spent less time complaining about what’s wrong with the other and spent more time accepting that they don’t always have to agree on everything, but we can still learn to love each other and find commonality? 

That’s what it all comes down to: Relationship. Relationships don’t always have to be easy or comfortable. It was not comfortable for me after the Boy Scout situation. I could have left this church because of that. But I didn’t. I maintained friendships and I remained open to rebuilding friendships with those I’d aggravated through my earlier actions. I learned to shut my mouth and to listen and fortunately others did the same. And others learned to forgive, move on, and forge stronger ties to each other and with me.

I encourage you all to remain active and connected – not only to the people of this church, but to the people of our larger association, conference, and denomination. It’s important so we can maintain friendships and acquaintances that get strengthened every year (as well as to keep the larger business organization running of course). These relationships aren’t just helpful for us. These relationships are helpful for “them” too. Those UCCers who struggle with ONA churches. Those UCCers who disagree with the nature of my family and others like it. Those who think that pastors shouldn’t be L or G or B or T. It’s a lot harder for them to leave when they have bonds to others. And it’s a lot harder for us to keep going if they leave.

We never know where these relationships may lead. We might change their opinions through our everyday words, beliefs, and actions. And they might change ours’. And that’s okay. What’s important? Learning from each other, sharing with with other, and showing tangible love towards each other.

Amen.