Monday, May 16, 2016

In the News: Impact Magazine

First-Ever LGBTQ Religious Children’s Books Now Available!

Rohrer, Faithful Families - 400 px
A page from “Faithful Families”
LGBTQ-affirming religious books for kids are available for the first time ever with the launch of the Good News Children’s Book Series this spring.
Books such as “Faithful Families” remind children that God loves them, no matter what their family looks like — even if they have two mommies or two daddies.
Mr. Grumpy Christian” is for LGBTQ families to read if they hear Christians telling them that God cannot love them.
Transgender Children of God” affirms transgender parents and children by declaring that God will love us no matter what we wear, who we love or how we identify.
What to Wear to Church” was written with transgender children in mind, while the gender diversity of God’s creation is affirmed in “Is it a Boy, Girl or Both?”
The books are published by Wilgefortis Press as a project of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco. All nine books in the series so far are written byMegan Rohrer, pastor at Grace Lutheran and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church.
Megan Rohrer
Megan Rohrer
Not every book in the series specifically addresses LGBTQ themes, but each one is promoted as “a safe book for reconciling churches and diverse families.”
Aimed at children from pre-school up to age 12, each book expresses God’s all-inclusive love with simple language and beautiful pictures by a variety of illustrators.
“My thought with these books is that as a collection they could help kids know that they are loved no matter what they wear, who they love and no matter what others tell them about it,” Rohrer told the Jesus in Love Blog.
The books grew naturally out of the ministry at Grace Lutheran. “A longtime welcoming congregation located in San Francisco, with a transgender pastor, we knew that our children’s books had the ability to be full of the grace that our congregation was named after,” Rohrer explained.
The first nine books were published quickly in February and March so they would be ready to use as prizes for the congregation’s Easter Egg Hunt.
“The children who received them over Easter were really excited and loved getting something they could take home with them from the service,” Rohrer said.
The books delighted adults in the church too. “Many wished they had books like this when they were younger,” Rohrer said.
Faithful Families” was inspired by the many families and children at the church’s Grace Infant Child Care Center. Rohrer co-wrote it with Pamela Ryan, director of the center for more than 30 years. It is illustrated by Ihnatovich Maryia and aimed at children up to 8 years old.
Rohrer wrote “Mr. Grumpy Christian” after meeting a 7-year old-boy who tried to kill himself because a pastor threatened him with hell. It is suitable for LGBTQ families who face hostility from other Christians. Children ages 5 to 10 are the target audience. The rhyming book affirms:
When a grumpy Christian ruins your day,
Remember God’s love is here to stay.
In the true spirit of Christ, the book goes on to add, “But remember that God’s love extends to grumpy Christians too.”
What to Wear to Church” reminds children that God will always love them no matter what clothes they wear. The illustrations were designed from a photo of Rohrer’s real-life grandmother, who inspired the story.
“‘What to Wear to Church’ is a short book for toddlers that I imagine my grandma reading to me if she knew I was going to grow up to be transgender,” Rohrer said. It is illustrated by Daren Drda.
Is it a Boy, Girl or Both?” is one of the series’ most popular books with children. Pictures of animals illustrate the point that God’s creation includes many kinds of gender expression.  It is geared to children up to 8 years old. After exploring everything from koalas and penguins to banana slugs, the book concludes:
But, no matter your favorite color,
what your body looks like,
if you have a baby or not,
if you are in charge,
if you are a girl, boy, both or do not know,
or how any of these things change in the future,
God will love you no matter what.
And so will I.
Others in the series of Good News Children’s Books include “Church Bugs,” “Jesus’ Family,” “The Parable of the Succulent” and “The Children’s Crumbs.”
“We even have a book on the Holocaust that has some of my favorite illustrations of the series,” Rohrer said. “Never Again” was inspired by Rohrer’s wife Laurel, whose relatives who were killed in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Illustrations are by Eugene Ivanov.
Wilgefortis Press works with a variety of artists to illustrate the Good News Children’s Books. “We gave the artists the story and creative license to illustrate,” Rohrer explained.
Rohrer received a master of divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and is currently a candidate for the doctorate of ministry degree there. Rohrer created Wilgefortis Press to publish books about queer, disability and poverty issues. Other books by Rohrer include “Queerly Lutheran” and “Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect.”
Rohrer was an art major at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD before switching to religion. That artistic training will be put to use when Rohrer serves as both writer and illustrator of the next book in the series. It addresses how hard it is to come to church for the first time by telling the story of a dog coming to church.
The Good News Children’s Books are published as both ebooks and paperbacks, and are available on Amazon.com (see links below for quick ordering). Discounts on paperbacks ordered directly from the church are available by contacting pastor@gracesf.com.

This post is part of the Artists series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series profiles artists who use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer spiritual and religious imagery. It also highlights great queer artists from history, with an emphasis on their spiritual lives.
Cherry-KittredgeKITTREDGE CHERRY is a lesbian Christian author who writes regularly about LGBT spirituality and the arts for the Jesus in Love Blog. She was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its national ecumenical officer, advocating for LGBT rights at the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. She holds degrees in religion, journalism and art history. Her most recent book is The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.  (Read IMPACT’s review of her book here).




Thursday, November 19, 2015

In the News: San Francisco Magazine

 an excerpt from San Francisco Magazine's December Women in Power Issue  - See more at: http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/saluting-37-soldiers-of-social-change#sthash.rWFIoj0n.dpuf


One soundbyte from any presidential debate makes it clear: The country is divided as never before. From abortion to immigration to racial injustice, the clashes are fierce and the stakes are high. And if we are a society at war with itself, those pictured here are the battle-hardened commanders on the front lines. “There’s a historic consciousness in the Bay Area of the fights that have happened here,” says Celeste Faison, cofounder of the BlackOut Collective, an Oakland-based black activist group.

Within the past five years, the Bay Area has become ground zero not only for pervasive local issues like discrimination in tech and housing abuses but also for national causes like Black Lives Matter, transgender rights, and reproductive justice. Though these movements encompass all genders, an outsize number of those leading the charge are women. They organize grassroots and big-picture efforts, from advocating for groundbreaking legislation to teaching underprivileged kids to code.

Throughout the ranks, there’s the sense of a common goal. “Activists today are attracted to an intersectional framework,” says Samara Azam-Yu, co–executive director of the reproductive justice organization Access. “We’re not just about abortion or housing or immigration anymore. We’re interested in every issue and how they overlap.” The movements’ leaders include doctors, lawyers, doulas, engineers, pastors, and a self-professed “diva and screaming queen.” They’ve found strength in diversity, says Theresa Sparks, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission: “These people represent every element of our culture in San Francisco.” Whether taking to the streets or to social media, they’re shaping the future of our society.



One soundbyte from any presidential debate makes it clear: The country is divided as never before. From abortion to immigration to racial injustice, the clashes are fierce and the stakes are high. And if we are a society at war with itself, those pictured here are the battle-hardened commanders on the front lines. “There’s a historic consciousness in the Bay Area of the fights that have happened here,” says Celeste Faison, cofounder of the BlackOut Collective, an Oakland-based black activist group.
Within the past five years, the Bay Area has become ground zero not only for pervasive local issues like discrimination in tech and housing abuses but also for national causes like Black Lives Matter, transgender rights, and reproductive justice. Though these movements encompass all genders, an outsize number of those leading the charge are women. They organize grassroots and big-picture efforts, from advocating for groundbreaking legislation to teaching underprivileged kids to code.
Throughout the ranks, there’s the sense of a common goal. “Activists today are attracted to an intersectional framework,” says Samara Azam-Yu, co–executive director of the reproductive justice organization Access. “We’re not just about abortion or housing or immigration anymore. We’re interested in every issue and how they overlap.” The movements’ leaders include doctors, lawyers, doulas, engineers, pastors, and a self-professed “diva and screaming queen.” They’ve found strength in diversity, says Theresa Sparks, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission: “These people represent every element of our culture in San Francisco.” Whether taking to the streets or to social media, they’re shaping the future of our society.
- See more at: http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/saluting-37-soldiers-of-social-change#sthash.rWFIoj0n.dpuf
THE CAUSE: TRANSGENDER RIGHTS  “Fifteen years ago, a trans person couldn’t walk around the city without being the object of ridicule, discrimination, or violence. That’s different now. This year alone, San Francisco is contributing over $1.5 million to transgender programs. We’re doing more than any other city in the country.” —Theresa Sparks

Theresa Sparks, executive director, San Francisco Human Rights Commission
Before leading the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Theresa Sparks served as CEO of Good Vibrations and then as a commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission. "One common thread over the last 20 years is that I have the privilege of serving the good people of San Francisco,” says Sparks. “These positions have allowed me to give back to this great city a small amount of all it has given me." 
Janetta Johnson, executive director at the Transgender, Gender-Variant, and Intersex Justice Project
The TGI Justice Project serves low-income transgender women of color who are in prison, formerly incarcerated, or targeted by the police. Recently, Johnson survived three years in federal prison, and has dedicated herself to limiting the recidivism rate in the transgender community by developing new interventions and strategies.
Clair Farley, associate director of economic development at the San Francisco LGBT Center
At San Francisco's LGBT Center, Clair Farley helped build the nation’s first ever LGBT-specific economic development department from the ground up. The center has a small-business program for those interested in entrepreneurship, as well as employment services to connect LGBT individuals to employers in the Bay Area. “We try to look at our work holistically, with an emphasis on social and economic justice,” says Farley.
Rev. Megan Rohrer, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church
The first openly transgender Lutheran pastor ordained in the United States, Reverend Rohrer currently serves as executive director of Welcome, a nonprofit that has worked with San Francisco homeless since 1996. Many of those Welcome serves identify as LGBT, and Rohrer says the organization is teaming up with Project Homeless Connect to study the needs of LGBTQ people who are homeless. Through Welcome and ministerial work, Rohrer says she works “to use the power I have to advance the rights and basic survival needs of my kin in the LGBT community who continue to struggle to find affordable housing, sobriety support, educational opportunities, and jobs.”

JoAnne Keatley, director of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at UCSF
“I look for what’s fresh and current in the field of trans healthcare,” says JoAnne Keatley, director of the UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health (CoD). She has developed numerous healthcare and service programs for the transgender community in San Francisco, as well as several federally funded research and HIV-prevention projects. During Keatley's tenure, the CoD has begun to explore access to gender-affirming healthcare on a national level.
Nikki Calma, program supervisor for Trans Thrive
Trans Thrive is a drop-in center by and for the transgender community in San Francisco. The center, a program of the Asian & Pacific Wellness Center, offers everything from HIV prevention to counseling and health services. “We use a holistic approach,” says Calma, aka Tita Aida. “We want to address the issues that people here immediately need: housing, employment, healthcare, social support, and HIV testing.”
Felicia Flames, transgender pioneer and activist
Better known as Felicia Flames, activist and icon Felicia Elizondo has been fighting for transgender rights for well over 50 years. “I’m a Mexican spitfire, a screaming queen, and a diva,” says Flames, a 29-year surveyor of AIDS and a Vietnam veteran. Flames, 69, participated in the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots of 1966, a turning point in the LGBT movement and one of the first recorded riots over violence against the transgender community. “The people who started the cafeteria riots and Stonewall were transgender people of color,” says Flames. “We need to remember who sacrificed their lives. We went through a lot to get where we are now.” 
- See more at: http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/saluting-37-soldiers-of-social-change#sthash.rWFIoj0n.dpuf

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In the News: The Gaurdian

Transgender woman jailed for eight days sues Iowa hotel

Meagan Taylor jailed after hotel staff at the Drury Inn called police to report ‘men dressed like women’ were engaging in prostitution, ACLU complaint alleges

Drury Inn & Suitess hotel in Brentwood, Missouri. Photograph: Paul Sableman/flickr
in New York


A transgender woman was jailed for eight days after staff at the hotel where she was staying with a friend called the police to report two “men dressed like women” were engaging in prostitution, according to a complaint filed by the ACLU on Tuesday.

Last July, Meagan Taylor and her friend, both black transgender women, spent the night at the Drury Inn in West Des Moines, Iowa, on their way to Kansas City for a funeral. But Taylor ended up spending the next eight days in a county jail for possessing her hormone drugs without a copy of her prescription, according to the ACLU’s complaint.

After the women checked into their room, staff called police to report that they suspected the two hotel guests, described as “men dressed like women”, were engaging in prostitution, according to the lawsuit. The next morning, the women were woken up by loud bangs on the door.

The lawsuit alleges that the Drury Inn discriminated against Taylor based on her gender identity and race, a violation of state law which defines gender identity as “a gender-related identity of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth”.

For Meagan, a stop at a hotel on the way to a funeral landed her in solitary confinement because she is black and transgender,” said Chase Strangio, attorney in the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project, in a statement. “This type of profiling of transgender women of color is all too common and is part of the cycle that results in 41% of black transgender women having been incarcerated at some point in their lives.”

In the complaint, Taylor describes her ordeal as “humiliating, scary and traumatizing”.

She said that the hotel staff were suspicious of her and her friend from the moment they arrived, casting “disgusted” glances their way and whispering about them as if they weren’t there. At one point, the front desk clerk asked to make a copy of Taylor’s ID card even though the hotel had already processed her payment, she says in the complaint. The ID reflected Taylor’s birth name and gender because she said that she could not afford to legally change her name and update her documents.

West Des Moines police said that they were notified of “two males dressed as females who checked into the Drury Inn”, and that the hotel staff expressed concern about “possible prostitution activity”.

When the police searched their hotel room the following morning, the found no evidence of prostitution. However, Taylor was arrested and charged with possessing her hormone pills without a copy of the prescription, as well as two other charges.

She spent eight days in Polk County jail, several of them in solitary confinement, before activists raised enough money to post bond.

All charges were later dropped.

“As a black trans woman, I am used to unfair and discriminatory treatment, but this was extra upsetting because we were paying customers at a hotel and on our way to a funeral,” Taylor, 23, wrote in a post published on the ACLU’s website. “I felt like I had no rights.”

The jail Taylor was held at did not have a policy for transgender people, Taylor described in the post.

When they did the pat down, they had a woman pat down my top half, but a man pat down my bottom half, as if I’m not one person but two,” she wrote of her experience.

She said, however, that the jail had made attempts to accommodate her while she was there and had contacted an LGBT organization for assistance. They have since begun the process of creating a policy for housing transgender inmates in the prison.

But at the time there was no such protocol, and as such she was placed in a medical unit away from the other women in the general population. There she was given access to a telephone and video conferencing, but said she felt isolated and lonely.

Local residents staged a small protest in support of Taylor outside the Drury Inn following news of her arrest. Pastor Megan Rohrer, who heads Welcome, a San Francisco-based LGBT outreach program, raised over $5,500 to cover Taylor’s $2,000 bond and for fines related to an earlier charge. The additional funds will be used to help Taylor pay for her name change and an ID that matches her preferred gender identity.

“When I came out as transgender, I expected I would experience some discrimination, but I didn’t know how strong it would be,” Taylor wrote. “When something bad happens, I try to think about things and sort out why they happened. When this all happened, I knew exactly what it was: the racial profiling, the transgender profiling, the harassment, the solitary confinement. I knew why it was happening, and I knew it wasn’t right.”

The Drury Inn did not respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

In the News: SFist

IMG_20150829_192055.jpg
State Senator Mark Leno honors composer Kathleen McGuire, one of the composers of Street Requiem, and singer Frederica con Stade, one of the performers, prior to the SF premiere of the work. Photo credit: SFist
Street Requiem: Despite being nominally retired, Alameda resident and famed diva Frederica von Stade, aka Flicka, still shares her big talent and bigger heart for worthy causes. Last week, she brought her voice to a choir of singers recruited from the homeless ranks of San Francisco for the West Coast premiere of Street Requiem, an oratorio celebrating people who lived and died on the streets. The evening supported Singers of the Street, an organization funded in 2010 by Kathleen McGuire, who with her fellow Australian Andy Payne and Jonathon Welch, also composed the music for the requiem. Singers of the Street is a choir for homeless people, who get a sense of purpose and achievement from participating in the choir, a community to be part of, and provide a positive and human experience of homelessness to audiences. They accept donations.

We thought we should check in our cynicism at the door for a concert where the betterment of humankind is achieved by singing together. Heart-warming stories don't necessarily make great art. This was reinforced by a little welcome pitch from Rev. Megan Rohrer, whose congregation hosts the rehearsals and who asked for our leniency for the singers, and extolled their "courage to sing the wrong note." And it turns out that these guys are pretty darn good and would match any amateur choir in the city. No need for indulgence on the audience's part.

The concert was set in two halves, the first devoted to covers by Singers of the Street, and the second to the Street Requiem, with Flicka and a bunch of experienced singers. The acronym for the organization is SOS, and the first song was appropriately the Beatles' "Help"; it was followed by calls for solidarity and songs of positive affirmation, and they all took a pretty emotional color from the context. The performers of SOS literally sang their hearts out: you could hardly imagine performers giving more into a performance.

As for the Street Requiem, it is composed of ten sections, each with a different color, re-interpreting the typical Requiem format with Kyrie, Gloria, Dies Irae, Agnus Dei, etc, but updated with current texts in different languages. The opener gets Middle Eastern scales, an Irish folk song is appropriated for the ninth movement, percussive South African beats in the eighth. It is meant to be inclusive of all cultures. Some movements are of more indeterminate origins, but were always rooted in tonal harmonies. Flicka gets the most beautiful melody in the Pie Jesu. The orchestration sometimes feels a bit studious, it could be a bit more free and unpredictable; but there is a lot of generosity in the writing of the score and the energy of the Gloria is contagious. The Street Requiem has been performed in Australia, Dallas, and will be sung in Seattle, and we hope the composers keep staging it and tweaking it, it is a piece of great emotional power. And a testament that you can better the lives of people through singing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

In the News: Lutheran Magazine

Extending an receiving welcome

Megan Rohrer’s path to ministry could be likened to that of Jonah. Time and again Rohrer heard God’s call to become a pastor in the urgings of professors, pastors and friends. Yet saying “yes” meant facing challenges that the lifelong Lutheran wasn’t ready to meet upon graduation from Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S.D., in 2001.

Instead, Rohrer became a counselor at the Children’s Home Society in Sioux Falls. There the call came in the whisper of a 6-year-old boy who had tried to commit suicide for the 12th time. He confided to Rohrer: “I heard in church that if you’re bad, you’ll go to hell. I know that I’m a naughty boy. I want to kill myself first before I go to hell.”

The encounter pushed Rohrer in 2001 to enroll as a master’s student of theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif. “I realized I was going to have all these experiences happen to me,” Rohrer said. “I wanted to make sure no kid ever heard anything like that from a pulpit again.”
In the year that followed, Rohrer became executive director of Welcome, an organization of San Francisco congregations responding to homelessness in their community. In that job, God called again: the homeless people kept calling the graduate student “pastor.”

“I tried to correct them and afterward they’d just shake their heads and say, ‘Whatever, pastor,’” Rohrer said. “Then I decided that they have called me and I should finally give up running away from the whale. So I changed my study to the master of divinity.”

What held Rohrer back? Rohrer is transgender, an umbrella term for a diverse group of people who understand their gender to be outside the traditional definitions of male and female.
Nevertheless, Rohrer finished seminary, saying, “I had wondered if the Lutheran church would be able to have me in it, but I never wondered if I was a Lutheran. I’ve always had this deep sense in my gut that God was with me.”

Welcoming the outsiders
Rohrer, however, could not be rostered in the ELCA, which prior to 2009 expected pastors to “abstain from homosexual sexual relationships” (Vision and Expections). On Nov. 18, 2006, Rohrer was ordained and rostered by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, an organization that works for the full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (GLBTQ) people in the Lutheran church. Next came a call from St. Francis, Santa Maria y Martha (St. Mary and Martha), Christ and Ebenezer Lutheran churches to work with Welcome.

That ordination and call was not sanctioned by the ELCA. That changed when the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted for “a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to be ordained and rostered.” And on July 25, 2010, Rohrer was received onto the ELCA roster.

Rohrer is believed to be one of the first openly transgender pastors on the ELCA roster. This July, Asher O’Callaghan, a transgender person, was ordained at House for All Sinners and All Saints in Denver.
Rohrer now serves Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco and continues as executive director of Welcome.

The pastor remains committed to serving and speaking out on behalf of individuals who are homeless. “The Bible says a lot that we should listen for God’s voice,” Rohrer said. “Spending time with the homeless was a place where I could listen to God’s voice in the world and be paying attention to potential prophets.”

Part of this commitment to the homeless comes from knowing what it feels like to be on the fringe and unsure if the church will welcome you, Rohrer said.

Grace under fire
Members of Grace have been welcoming to their pastor, but the call has not been without challenges.
Last year a Presbyterian congregation that rented space at Grace took offense to Rohrer’s hiring in February 2014 and to the congregation’s welcome of LGBTQ people, said Grace council president Sally Ann Ryan. At one point the rainbow window clings Grace posted to express welcome were removed, she said.

As tensions rose, Grace’s members concluded “they didn’t want anyone to come to any service in their building where people didn’t feel welcome,” Rohrer said. “A congregation of almost all straight people said that welcome is the most important thing here.”

The Presbyterian pastor did not agree. After a 20-year relationship, the congregations parted ways in December.

The loss of rental income left a gaping hole in Grace’s strapped budget. With Rohrer’s leadership, parishioners organized “Grace Under Fire,” a benefit dinner to recognize congregations and individuals that welcomed LGBTQ people even when it meant facing great odds. The event raised more than $12,000 for Grace’s operating expenses.

Under Rohrer’s leadership, the congregation is trying new ideas for outreach and evangelism, from a Beatles worship service to the imposition of ashes in the subway station. Evangelism also expands beyond the congregation’s walls through a weekly online Bible study focusing on issues of justice in the lectionary readings. ELCA pastors Amanda Zentz-Alo and Dawn Roginski collaborate on the project, which reaches between 2,500 and 3,000 people.

“It has been so healing to be part of a congregation that loves you so much,” said Rohrer, reflecting on Grace. The pastor feels astonished by and grateful for the new ways church and society are welcoming LGBTQ individuals, but also thinks there is more work to be done.

“For a long time we didn’t talk about alcoholism or abuse or cancer. I feel like [being transgender] is like anything difficult that you go through. I hope the way that I serve as a pastor is that it never serves as a barrier or declaration,” Rohrer said. “Any time we can have pastorsthat embody the diversity of our full creation, our church is better for it.”



Q&A: Being transgender
Earlier this year, Caitlyn Jenner’s headline-making interview with Barbara Walters and Vanity Fair spread brought transgender issues into the public eye. In this interview, Megan Rohrer, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, San Francisco, offers insight about transgender issues.

The Lutheran: What does it mean to be transgender?
Rohrer: Transgender is an umbrella term that includes a very diverse group of people who understand their gender to be outside of the traditional definitions of male and female. That is as broad as someone who is female and doesn’t want to wear a bra, all the way to someone who has had hormonal changes from male to female.

How many people are transgender?
While there is no accurate count, some say there are 700,000 trans individuals in the U.S. This number is likely low due to fear of violence, lack of family support or health care, and the desire of many trans people to keep their medical choices private. The best practice is to allow trans people the choice to self-identify.

How do I refer to someone who is transgender?
In church, I hope we see everyone simply as a child of God. In conversation, it is best to use the name and the gender or non-gender pronouns (they/their) they prefer.

What about people who say being transgender is a sin?
Thankfully, as Lutherans we believe God’s grace is more important news than who and how we are sinning. God’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch [is a] biblical reminder that God’s love stretches to include all of us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

In the News: SF Bay Times

Opera Superstar Frederica Von Stade to Sing Street Requiem in Support of Homeless Choir 

reposted from:  http://sfbaytimes.com/opera-superstar-frederica-von-stade-to-sing-street-requiem-in-support-of-homeless-choir/

operaladyFamed mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade will join with a mass chorus of singers and chamber orchestra in two California premiere performances of Street Requiem by Australian composers Dr. Kathleen McGuire, Andy Payne, and Dr. Jonathon Welch AM. Other vocal soloists include Blake Quin, Ilyas Iliya and Mark Jackson.

This week, it was also announced that Street Requiem has been selected as a semi-finalist in the professional choral composition division of The American Prize national non-profit competitions in the performing arts. (For more information, see http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/composer-semi-finalists-2015-choral.html)

McGuire, who is well known to Bay Area audiences having led the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and others from 2000 to 2013, will return from Melbourne, Australia, to conduct Street Requiem on Saturday, August 29, at 7:00pm at Old First Presbyterian Church at 1751 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, and on Sunday, August 30, at 2:00pm at the Congregational Church of San Mateo, 225 Tilton
Avenue in San Mateo.

The concert is a benefit for Singers of the Street (SOS), which McGuire founded in 2010. Now led by Ashley Moore and a project of Welcome, SOS is a choir of San Franciscans who have experienced, or are at risk of, homelessness. Its mission is to raise their voices for justice, healing and joy. SOS will open the concert and will also sing with the mass choir in Street Requiem.

opera2Street Requiem provides a musical opportunity for us to mourn not only the homeless who have passed away, but also our own frustration that there are still so many homeless individuals living in streets and shelters,” said the Rev. Megan Rohrer, Executive Director of Welcome. “Beyond a one of a kind concert experience, audience members can also celebrate that the price of admission enables homeless individuals to heal and express themselves for years to come.”

Composed in 2014, Street Requiem has already received international acclaim. Music critic Wayne Lee Gay (Dallas Magazine) said: “A remarkable, unique and beautiful work…an unfailingly engaging cantata. The religious texts were constantly questioned, but with an effect that produces transformation rather than blasphemy. The audience is never let off the hook: in the final movement, the chorus intones, as if to remind those who observe suffering are as much in need of divine intervention and guidance as those who suffer directly: ‘Given them peace. Give us peace.’”

Street Requiem is a 40-minute multi-movement cantata scored for choirs, soloists, and chamber orchestras. It aims to bring a sense of peace, remembrance, and hope to communities struggling with homelessness, poverty, war, hate-crime and street violence. The work is neither secular nor religious, but is intended to be spiritual and includes English and African lyrics, as well as traditional Latin texts. While at times deeply moving, the work is optimistic and uplifting, and employs Gospel, Celtic, neo-Romantic, neo-Baroque, and contemporary compositional styles and instrumentation to reflect the multicultural and multi-faith traditions of modern city living.
opera
McGuire said, “Street Requiem provides an opportunity to mourn those we’ve lost—often ‘nameless’ on our streets—and to protest the tragic injustices we witness every day. These are global issues, but we can each make a difference, one by one. Ms. von Stade’s generous participation is a testament to the importance of this project and the wider cause.”

Ms. von Stade will be joined on stage by a mass choir including singers from The Choral Project (San Jose), the Chancel Choir of the Congregational Church of San Mateo, singers from CREDO (Dallas, Texas, who performed the U.S. premiere in January), and Singers of the Street (San Francisco). Accompaniment will be provided by members of the Community Women’s Orchestra, and Carl Pantle will play piano.

Rehearsals led by Stephanie Lynne Smith, Grace Renaud, Daniel Hughes, Dana Sadava, Dr. Jonathan Palant and Carl Pantle are currently underway in San Francisco and San Mateo; singers wishing to participate should visit: trybooking.com/IEJK

Tickets for Street Requiem range from $15–$50 and are available online at http://streetrequiem.blogspot.com/p/tickets.html or by calling (415) 731-1305. All proceeds benefit Singers of the Street.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In the News: Christian Post



Who Are America's Transgender Clergy?

By Matthew Maule , CP Op-Ed Contributor
July 28, 2015|8:18 am
  • gay pride parade
    (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi)
    A participant holds a rainbow colored placard during Delhi queer pride parade, an event promoting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, in New Delhi, India, November 30, 2014. Hundreds of participants on Sunday took part in a parade demanding freedom and safety of their community, according to a media release.

Transgender clergy now serve openly in several mainline and progressive Christian denominations. Churches that espouse traditional Christian theology have not allowed transgender persons to be clergy as they do not accept transgender identity as a Biblical expression of personhood. Several of the transgender clergy below caused disorder in their churches and denominations when they insisted on recognition. Several of them have left diminished or destroyed churches in their paths. Below are brief biographies of the openly transgender clergy serving in the United States today.

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The Episcopal Church (approved transgender ordination at its 2012 General Convention)
The Reverend Carolyn Woodall is a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, California. Formerly the Deputy Public Defender in Sonora, Woodall now has a small criminal defense practice in addition to serving as deacon for St. James Episcopal Church. Woodall serves as the Chair of the Stakeholders' Council of Integrity USA, "the leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Episcopal Church."

The Reverend Vicki Gray is a deacon at Christ the Lord Episcopal Church in Pinole, California in the Episcopal Diocese of California. A Vietnam War combat veteran and retired Foreign Service Officer, Gray also serves on the Executive Council and Commission on Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California. Gray assists with Open Cathedral, an open-air weekly worship service takes place in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco that ministers to the poor and homeless.

The Reverend Dr. Cameron Partridge is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts where he functions as the Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University and a lecturer and counselor at Harvard Divinity School. Partridge was the first transgender priest to preach at the Episcopal Church's National Cathedral in Washington D.C. where he spoke during "Pride Month" 2014.

The Reverend Carla Robinson is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. Robinson is the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Seattle. Before transitioning, Robinson was an ordained minister in the conservative Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Previously, Robinson was the priest of All Saints Episcopal Church in Seattle, this church has seemingly ceased to exist as they no longer have a website and are no longer listed in the diocesan directory. Robinson then became a non-stipended priest at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle before moving on to the Church of the Ascension.

The Reverend Gwen Fry is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. In 2014 Fry shocked his parish, Grace Episcopal Church, by identifying as a transgender person and was removed from his position by the Bishop of Arkansas, Larry Benfield. Fry is a Diocesan Coordinator for the aforementioned Integrity USA and is a member of TransEpiscopal, representing the group at the 2015 Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City. Fry was a panelist at a Wild Goose Festival 2015 session entitled "LGBTQ Lives: Hurt & Healing."

The Reverend Christopher Fike is the Priest in Charge at St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church, Wilmington in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts . Before transitioning, Fike was the Episcopal Chaplain at Tufts University, the Priest in Charge at St. Paul's Cathedral in Boston, and the Interim Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University. The film To Cold Out There Without You details Fike's experience.

The United Methodist Church (the denomination's Book of Discipline does not address the issue of transgender clergy)
The Reverend Drew Phoenix, formerly pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church – a "primarily LGBT congregation" in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, now serves as the Executive Directorof Indentity, whose mission is to advance Alaska's LGBT community through advocacy, education and connectivity. Phoenix' transition, while an ordained and active pastor, caused controversy at the 2007 Baltimore-Washington annual conference and at the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The Reverend David Weekley is the pastor of St. Nicholas United Methodist Church in Hull, Massachusetts. Weekley transitioned from female to male in 1975, seven years before becoming an ordained UMC minister; he did not reveal this transition until 2009 while pastor at historic Epworth United Methodist Church in Portland. While that church, begun as a mission in 1890, had 220 members in 2011, it has now shrunk to 30 members according to the UMC website. One hopes that St. Nicholas will not suffer the same fate.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) implicitly recognized transgender persons in 2009 in their social statement on human sexuality.
The Reverend Asher O'Callaghan became the first regularly ordained transgender minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America on July 2, 2015. O'Callaghan was called to serve at Zion Lutheran Church in Idaho Springs, Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Synod. He was ordained at the House for All Sinners and Saints and ELCA church where celebrity pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber ministers.

The Reverend Megan Rohrer is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in the San Francisco Conference of the ELCA. Rohrer is also the Executive Director of Welcome, "a communal response to poverty." Rohrer also [served] as Associate Pastor at St. Aidan's Episcopal Church and is overseen by both Lutheran and Episcopal bishops. Rohrer's passions include creating services from popular music including a "Beatles Mass," a "Bob Dylan Folk Mass," and a "Lady Gaga Mass." Because the ELCA did not ordain transgender persons before 2009, Rohrer was ordained by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, an ordination mill for LGBTQ persons denied ordination by the ECLA. Their ordinations have now been recognized by the ELCA.


The Reverend Jay Wilson was also ordained by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries at First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco, an ELCA congregation. He was ordained to the aforementioned Welcome ministry and also led First United's Children's Ministry. According to his Linkedin profile he was only at the church for a year and a half before becoming a Data Management Specialist at MinnesotaHelp.Info and then an Access Consultant at the University of Minnesota's Disability Resource Center.

Nicole Garcia is an ordination candidate in the ELCA's Rocky Mountain Synod, and serves as a seminarian at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Boulder Colorado. Garcia is now vice chair of the board of directors of ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation. Huffington Post reports "Garcia still wonders if a congregation will accept her as a minister just as she is. 'How can I feel comfortable as a Latina with dark skin in a denomination where inevitably at least 90 percent of the congregants in any ELCA church will be white?'"

The United Church of Christ (UCC)
The Reverend Lawrence T. Richardson is the founding pastor of Shift UCC an "out of the box ministry for out of the box people" in St. Paul, Minnesota. Richardson is also the founder and CEO of Stand-To-Urinate, a transgender supplies company (no website could be found). Additionally, Richardson is a social media strategist for The Center for Progressive Renewal, a writer for The Salt Collective, and a "digital evangelist" for Extravagance United Church of Christ, "an online faith community."
The Reverend Malcolm Himschoot serves as the Minister for Ministerial Transitions at the UCC headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. His previous stints include three months as Interim Pastor at Community UCC in Boulder, CO, fives months as adjunct professor at The Iliff School of Theology, fourteen months as pastor of Parker UCC in Parker, CO, four months as Interim Sabbatical Minister at Arvada UCC in Arvada, CO. Himschoot has also worked on the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, serving as Interim Open and Affirming Program Coordinator and as the Open and Affirming director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of the UCC.

The Reverend Rebecca Steen is the pastor of First Congregational Chu
ch UCC in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Steen had been a longtime minister in the United Methodist Church's Baltimore-Washington Conference prior to transitioning in 2000. Because the UMC had no policy on transgender clergy, Steen was reappointed after a medical leave of absence, causing significant controversy in the conference. Charges were filed against Steen by members of the conference, and Steen resigned ministerial credentials in the UMC. Steen then transitioned into the more accepting United Church of Christ.

The Reverend Pat Conover is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Conover served with the Justice and Witness Ministries of the UCC. Conover also worked as Information Officer of Church and Society and as Policy Advocate for the Poverty Affairs Office. Conover is a member of Religious Committee International Foundation for Gender Education, the oldest international committee addressing concerns of transgender education.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Reverend Dr. Erin K. Swenson, is a parish associate at Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and pastoral psychotherapist at Morningside Presbyterian Church. Swenson serves the board of More Light Presbyterians an organization devoted to the full participation of LGBT people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Transitioning in 1996, Swenson was "first known mainstream Protestant minister to make an open gender transition while remaining in ordained office."
The Reverend Dr. Julie Nemecek is an elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MI chairing the Discipleship Ministry Team. Nemecek was ordained a Baptist minster and served in several churches before transitioning. After transitioning, Nemecek was terminated from Spring Arbor University, a Free Methodist affiliated school, and filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They eventually agreed on a settlement. Nemecek has served on the national boards of Soulforce and PFLAG and currently serves on the advisory board of Trans Youth Family Allies (TYFA) and is an honorary board member of Inclusive Justice Michigan.

The American Baptist Convention
The Reverend Allyson Robinson served as transitions pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., an American Baptist Convention church. After a career as an Army officer (and a graduate of West Point), Robinson pursued the ministry and was ordained while still identifying as a man. Robinson served at Azorean Baptist Church in Portugal and as pastor of Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple, Texas. After transitioning, Robinson resigned the pastorate of Meadow Oaks and began working as a LGBT activist for the Human Rights Campaign. In 2012 Robinson served as Executive Director of OutServe-SLDN whose mission is to "to empower, support, and defend our military's LGBT community while working to build a culture of inclusion in the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs." Robinson now works at Warrior Poet Strategies, whose mission is to "to help leaders and the organizations they lead discover, refine, communicate, and live into their values."

The Metropolitan Community Church
The Reverend Sky Anderson served as pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Jose; this church has now closed its doors. Anderson was ordained by the MCC at its General Conference in 1979 after having openly transitioned.
The Reverend Aaron L. Miller serves as the pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford, CT. Miller had previously served as the Associate Minister for Pastoral Care at Metropolitan Community Church in New Haven, CT. Miller serves on the MCC Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council "Trans/Gender Nonconforming People." Miller is alsochaplain at Yale New Haven Hospital, serves on the Board of Directors for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice CT, is a member of the Connecticut Clergy for Full Equality (an interfaith collaboration of progressive faith leaders throughout the state).

The Reverend Justin Tanis is the Managing Director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion. Tanis has served as the interim pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Boston, pastor of Ke Anuenue O Ke Aloha (Rainbow of Love) MCC in Honolulu, and associate pastor of MCC San Francisco. Tanis then served as Director of Leadership Development for Metropolitan Community Churches. Tanis has a long history of LGBT activism including working with ACT-UP and Queer Nation, serving as spokesperson and media coordinator for the Hawai'i Equal Rights Marriage Project, serving as the Community Education and Outreach Manager at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), and serving the Director of Communication for Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/who-are-americas-transgender-clergy-141997/#vRHtAtULliQQp5HJ.99