Advocates deliver petition urging UMC bishop not to take Dallas minister to trial over gay wedding

UMCpetition


The Rev. Pamela June Webb, left, talks with Bishop Michael McKee’s assistant after she and others delivered a petition with more than 22,000 signatures urging the bishop not to bring a retired Dallas minister to trial for officiating a gay wedding. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Christian LGBT advocates called on Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Tuesday not to escalate a complaint against a Dallas pastor into a formal trial for presiding over a gay wedding by delivering a petition to the bishop at the North Texas Conference headquarters in Plano.

The petition, started on the website Faithful America, calls on McKee to oppose putting retired United Methodist Pastor Bill McElvaney, who’s 85 and battling cancer, on trial. It originally called for 15,000 signatures, but as of Tuesday when it was handed to Joell Stanislaus, the bishop’s executive assistant, it’d garnered more than 22,000 signatures. McKee was out of the office in meetings, but Stanislaus said she would make sure he received it.

McElvaney, emeritus pastor at Northaven United Methodist Church, married longtime gay couple Jack Evans and George Harris on March 1 at Midway Hills Christian Church. The celebration took place at Midway to prevent Northaven and its current pastor from coming under attack for allowing the ceremony to take place there. McElvaney announced in January that he disagreed with the Methodist Church about same-sex weddings and he’d officiate at them.

A complaint filed by the Rev. Camille Gaston of Richardson came a week later. It requires him to sit down with Gaston and McKee, bishop of the North Texas Conference. Gaston is also the district superintendent of the North Texas Conference.

The parties will meet for a joint resolution to discuss how to replace the issue, ranging from anything from suspending McElvaney to defrocking him if the bishop files charges to take his case to trial. While ministers have been defrocked after a trail before, some bishops have come out publicly that they would not try ministers for wedding same-sex couples. McKee has not.

Shelbi Smith, a junior at Southern Methodist University and co-president of the college’s of LGBT group Spectrum, said as a Methodist she was told growing up that the church is a vehicle to spread love but that homosexuality isn’t compatible with the church’s teachings. But over time, she came to accept her sexuality and realize the church’s mission as to love everyone, including LGBT people.

“It’s about much more than this one case. We need Bishop McKee to follow Bishop McLee’s example of New York to not try the case,” Smith said. “We need that vocal leadership from him if we want to promote leadership in the church.”

McElvaney has asked that people let the process with the bishop play out, asking for “no other response” to the bishop’s letter informing him of the complaint.

Northaven Pastor Eric Folkerth took to his blog this morning to voice his concerns about Faithful America and condemning the action against McElvaney’s wishes.

“‘Faithful America’ has done this, despite the fact that Bill specifically asked for people to take no action on his behalf,” Folkerth writes. “Given all of this, the only assumption I can draw is that “Faithful America” either never bothers to ask, or really doesn’t care, about the actual people involved in their stunt-like escapades. To my knowledge, they have not contacted anyone directly involved with this ‘action.’”

The Rev. Pamela June Webb, an out retired minster and a member of Midway Hills, said she attended the petition delivery because she wants the Methodist Church to become completely affirming of the LGBT community.

“This has been a very important part of my vision, and my hope for the churches to come together and to be more than affirmative,” she said. “ The church’s theme is to have an open door and open hearts and yet so many of the people who could use their love are feeling rejected. So we are praying for the future of the church.”

—  Anna Waugh

Methodist convention votes down equality

Eric Folkerth

The General Convention of the United Methodist Church voted down any new acceptance or equality of its gay and lesbian members.

While still the largest mainline Christian denomination in the United States, the number of Methodists is shrinking in this country and growing overseas. About 40 percent of the delegates to the convention taking place in Tampa were conservatives from Asia and Africa.

Gay and lesbian Methodists as well as allies would like to remove a line from the Book of Discipline that says, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

At their quadrennial conference, two agree-to-disagree proposals were voted down.

One would have changed the Book of Discipline to say gays and lesbians are “people of sacred worth” and that church members differ about whether homosexual practice is contrary to God’s will.

That was voted down 54–46 percent.

Another proposal was voted down 61–39 percent. That one would have acknowledged limited understanding of human sexuality and refrained from judgement of gays and lesbians.

Eric Folkerth at Northaven UMC, the Methodist church with the longest history of welcoming the LGBT community in Dallas, was unavailable for comment today, but previously told Dallas Voice, “After the last conference, we lost members,” and he’s bracing for that again.

—  David Taffet

SMU sends 18 to Midwest LGBT conference

Iowa State University is hosting the 2012 Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay Transgender Ally College Conference Feb. 10-12. One student from Texas Women’s University, 17 from Southern Methodist University’s LGBT group Spectrum and an SMU professor are attending, according to the Daily Campus. Spectrum Co-President Harvey Luna put the group together after attending last year’s conference, according to the SMU newspaper.

Karen Click at SMU Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives called it a national conference for student leaders. She said this is the second year SMU has participated.

“They come back inspired to create change on campus,” she said.

Registration for the event is $80 per person and the group chartered a bus from Dallas.

“The SMU Student Senate paid for them to go,” Click said.

The MBLGTACC conference began in 1991 and takes place annually in the upper Midwest. The goal is to learn new strategies to face problems LGBT students face on campus daily.

Two weeks ago, Youth First Texas hosted a conference of North Texas gay-straight alliances.

—  David Taffet

Rev. Amy Delong, tried by Methodists for being a lesbian, to preach at Bering Memorial Methodist Church

Rev. Amy DeLong

Paperwork can be the bane of any job. For Rev. Amy Delong a simple annual report catapulted her into the maelstrom of the United Methodist Church’s debate on accepting LGBT people. DeLong visits Houston’s Bering Memorial United Methodist Church (1440 Harold) on Sunday, Feb. 12 to preach at both the 8:30 and 10:50 service.

In 2009 DeLong was approached by two women who wanted to get married. After conducting premarital counseling with the couple Delong agreed to perform the ceremony. As a clergy person, DeLong was required to report on her activities at the end of the year, including any weddings she had performed. She knew that the Methodist Church did not allow same-sex marriage but thought “I don’t know if anybody even reads these.” Boy, was she wrong!

With-in three days she was hauled into the her boss’s (the bishop) office. DeLong’s relationship with her partner Val was well known to her colleagues. “I’ve never had a bishop or a leader in the church or a pastor who didn’t know that I was gay,” says DeLong. “Everyone knows Val.” But the church was determined now to make an example of her, and DeLon’s relationship would now be an issue.

In 2011 DeLong was tried in the church’s court with violating the Methodist “Book of Discipline” by being in a same-sex relationship and by performing a same-sex wedding. During the trial she refused to answer pointed questions about her and her partner’s sex life. “No heterosexual couples are ever asked if they
still engage in genital contact in their marriages,” says DeLong. That refusal left the court with no evidence against her on the first charge.

She was convicted of performing the wedding and suspended from ministry for 20 days. The court also required DeLong to work with a group of ministers to prepare a statement on how to “help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant, create an advesarial spirit or lead to future trails.” “This sentence is complicated,” says DeLong. “It doesn’t lend itself well to media soundbites. So a lot of folks have been saying to me ‘I can’t tell, is this penalty good?’” DeLong responds with a resounding “Yes!” Saying that she welcomes the opportunity to write, teach and study on a topic dear to her heart.

DeLong recalls that during that initial meeting in the bishop’s office one of the bishop’s assistants referred to her as a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” To which she responded “Val and I aren’t practicing any more… we are pretty good at it by now.” The assistant laughed. More than anything that is the impression one gets of DeLong: someone with a lot of humor and aplomb who is unwilling to back down from a fight for justice.

After the jump watch a clip of DeLong talking about her experience.

—  admin

Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit harrisvotes.org to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Local briefs • 10.14.11

RCD hosts ‘The 5 Factor’

Resource Center Dallas, in partnership with Dallas Modern Luxury, presents the third annual “The 5 Factor” event on Thursday, Oct. 20, at eM the venue by Marc, 1500 Dragon St. in Dallas.

“The 5 Factor” event recognizes five of Dallas’ finest in areas such as cuisine, fashion, media and literature.

This year’s “5 Factor” honorees are journalist and award-winning author Jenny Block; Emmy Award-winning journalist Ron Corning, who recently joined WFAA Channel 8 as the host of News 8 Daybreak; Dallas restaurant owner Monica Greene of Monica’s Aca Y Alla in Deep Ellum and BEE in Oak Cliff, who recently began providing commentary on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars for WFAA; award-winning fashion designer Prashi Shah who created her own label, Prashe, and recently opened a showroom in Dallas’ Design District; and Bronwen Weber, executive chef and general manager of Frosted Art Bakery and Studio in Dallas who is perhaps best known to many for her appearances on television’s Food Network Challenge programs.

The evening will be hosted by Angela Betasso, with state Rep. Eric L. Johnson and his wife as co-chairs and last year’s honorees serving as the honorary host committee.

General admission is $50 per person, available online at The5Factor.org. Proceeds benefit the programs and services of Resource Center Dallas.

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GLAAD holds ‘Get Amped’ 5K

The local chapter of GLAAD presents Get Amped, a 5K run/walk on the Katy Trail on Thursday, Oct. 20, in conjunction with similar chapter events around the country.
Check-in begins at 5:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Center.

The starting gun goes off at 7 p.m. The celebration takes place at the finish line, also at the arena, at 9 p.m.

An after-party takes place at 9:30 p.m. at the Round-Up Saloon.

Each runner has a goal of raising $250. The money raised will benefit the national organization.

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VNA holds Service of Remembrance

The Visiting Nurse Association will host a Service of Remembrance on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Preston Hollow United Methodist Church, 6315 Walnut Hill Lane in Dallas.

The event is open to the public and will feature special music, readings and the opportunity to light a memorial candle.

Attendees of all faiths are welcome to attend the service.

For more information call Sue Rafferty, bereavement coordinator with the Visiting Nurse Association, at 214-689-2922

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Hold Your Peace’ Dallas premiere tonight at Angelika

Free movie? Yes, please

When Southern Methodist University alum Wade McDonald set out to make his debut feature film, the one thing he didn’t want to do was make a “typical” gay film: No naked boys as the selling point, no ridiculous gay-angst drama, no coming-out story. McDonald loves romantic comedies and wanted to make his own — just with men.

His plan worked. The result, Hold Your Peace, seems to have resonated with audiences.

Read the entire article here.

DEETS: Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane. Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. Free (passes at Buli or Skivvies). HoldYourPeaceMovie.com.

—  Rich Lopez

ANNIVERSARY • CUEVAS-CUSIMANO

Leo-and-Tony-30-yearsCUEVAS-CUSIMANO |  Tony Cuevas and Leo Cusimano celebrated their 30th anniversary on Monday, Sept. 12. Cuevas works for Southern Methodist University. Cusimano is advertising director for Dallas Voice. The couple live in Oak Cliff with their two sons, Elijah and JJ.

—  Kevin Thomas

Auditions for Resounding Harmony & The Women’s Chorus

Sing it like ya mean it

For those with major vocal talents, tonight could be your night. Think of it. Packed venues, a plethora of like-minded individuals all singing in unison. And those snazzy outfits. The philanthropic-based group Resounding Harmony holds auditions tonight for its fourth season as does The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, as it prepares for its upcoming season. Although each have criteria for auditioning, you shouldn’t have too much problem getting on the process. Unless you’re auditioning for both, then more power to ya.

DEETS: Resounding Harmony auditions at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, 3014 Oak Lawn Ave. 7 p.m. Visit website for more information. To register for TWCD auditions, visit here.

—  Rich Lopez

Local Briefs

CCGLA surveys candidates, sets meet-and-greet events

As municipal elections approach, the Collin County Gay & Lesbian Alliance has sent an online survey to city council, school board and mayoral candidates in Allen, Frisco, Plano and McKinney, and “meet-and-greet” sessions for candidates are planned in Frisco, Plano and McKinney in April.

The organization will also create and distribute a voters’ guide.

The Plano “meet-and-greet” will be held on Friday, April 8, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at a private residence. For more information, go online to CCGLA.org.

Results of CCGLA’s candidate surveys will be posted on the CCGLA website prior to each event. The events are informal, non-partisan, and all candidates are invited.

Oak Cliff Earth Day to feature vendors, info booths and more

Oak Cliff Earth Day, which has become the largest all-volunteer-run Earth Day since it started five years ago, will be held on Sunday, April 17, from noon to 5 p.m. at Lake Cliff Park, located at the intersection of Colorado Street and Zang Boulevard in Oak Cliff.

There is no charge to attend the event, which will include art, food, plants and other environmentally-friendly products available for purchase.

There will also be educational booths on topics such as how to save energy and clean up the environment, along with locally-grown honey, animals to adopt and native plants for gardens.

Parking at the park is limited, however, free parking is available at Methodist Hospital, in Lot 10 only, located at 1400 S. Beckley Ave. across from the hospital entrance on Beckley Ave. Methodist Hospital is providing a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the event.

Participants are also encouraged to take DART to the event or walk or ride a bicycle. There are a number of bike racks, funded by Oak Cliff Earth Day, at the park.

Mayoral candidates to speak Sunday on animal issues in Dallas

Dallas’ mayoral candidates will participate in a forum on animal issues in the city of Dallas on Sunday, April 10, at 2 p.m. at the Central Dallas Library, 1515 Young St., in downtown Dallas. The Metroplex Animal Coalition is sponsoring the forum, with is free and open to the public. Journalist Larry Powell with Urban Animal magazine will moderate.

The mayoral candidates are former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, Councilman Ron Natinsky, real estate consultant Edward Okpa and Mike Rawlings, former Pizza Hut CEO and Dallas homeless czar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright