Update on death of David Kato in Uganda – Vigil, Memorial to be held in NYC

I am sending this message on behalf of the International Program Committee (IPC) of Lutherans Concerned/North America.  By now, many have heard the tragic news of the brutal murder of one of the key Ugandan LGBT advocates, David Kato (see http://tinyurl.com/DavidKatoMurdered).  As news agencies have reported, David was targeted for harassment and bullying by those seeking LGBT repression–in this case, the most extreme form of bullying.  
In the professional work I did previously in Uganda, I sought to enable all Ugandans to participate in the future development of their country. I worked to build a future for Ugandan children particularly, children such as David was back then. As an adult, David gave his life in a tireless effort to enable the LGBT community to live safely and comfortably in the community of Uganda. That his murder comes during a period when certain Christian leaders from the U.S. have been actively campaigning against LGBT people in Uganda and other African nations is extremely disturbing to me (see http://tinyurl.com/UgandaChristian).

Many of you have begun to make plans to join the fund raising campaign mentioned in the all-member-email of January 16, which aims to support the St. Paul’s Reconciliation and Equity Center established by Bishop Senyonjo in Kampala (see http://stpaulsfoundation.com).  One of the focuses of the Center’s work will be on establishing sanctuary, so as to provide a shelter from the kind of violence that killed David Kato. We welcome your participation and will send more information on the steps to follow for consolidation of the funds raised.

While the fundraising details are being worked out, I ask you to offer up your prayers for David and all who mourn him.  And I, too, ask for your prayers–this intersection of oppression has proved a bitter one for me.  

There are two important, related events being organized as I write this.

  1. The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, LC/NA, and over thirty other organizations are co-sponsoring a silent vigil and procession in New York City to mourn David Kato’s ruthless murder. It will be held Thursday, February 3.  For the full info, please see http://lutheransconcerned.blogspot.com/2011/02/vigil-to-commemorate-slain-ugandan.html.
  2. On Monday, February 7, a Memorial Service will be held for David Kato at Riverside Church (490 Riverside Dr., New York, NY). Please see http://tinyurl.com/KatoService.

I implore all those who live in the Metro New York area to attend one or both of these events.

In Christ’s name, who reconciles all,
Philip Moeller
Director, International Program Committee
Lutherans Concerned/North America

Advocate for Full Inclusion and Staunch Ally, Former Bishop & Former Soulforce Board Member Paul Egertson Died Today

From Lutherans Concerned North America:

Paul Egertson smiling holding a rainbow umbrella and wearing a rainbow print stole around his neckFormer Soulforce board member Paul Egertson died suddenly this afternoon, January 5, 2011, in his home in Thousand Oaks, California. Egertson, staunch ally and advocate for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, had championed the ordination of LGBT candidates for ministry and an end to the policies and practices of the church that relegated LGBT people to a second-class.

While bishop of the ELCA Southwest California Synod, he participated in the 2001 ordination of Pastor Anita C. Hill of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minnesota. For this act, he subsequently resigned his position as bishop, and tirelessly advocated for the policy change that finally occurred as a result of the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Egertson was awarded the Jim Siefkes Justice-Maker Award by Lutherans Concerned for his efforts on behalf of LGBT Lutherans.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned, said, “Paul Egertson stood up for us and in opposition to the discrimination of the church against us when that was neither popular nor safe. His witness to Christ’s redemptive grace and his commitment to helping the church see the error of its position are a shining beacon of prophetic righteousness in the face of determined opposition – and he did it with grace and eloquence, as befits a follower of Christ. He was a friend and mentor — always available, with words of calming wisdom. He made a profound difference. He will be missed.”

“All of us at Soulforce grieve with Paul’s beloved family at his passing and we celebrate with them the memory of his world-changing prophetic witness to the worth and dignity of all people and to the Spirit that animates us. Paul was with us for our board meeting in the summer in Texas. We will cherish his counsel and his great smile, his abiding faith and conviction in a God who is big enough to include everyone,” said Rev Dr. Cindi Love

Paul Egertson, born in 1935, is survived by his wife, Shirley, also a Siefkes award recipient, and their 6 sons. Funeral arrangements will be communicated as soon as they are known.

ELCA Reinstates Openly Gay Minister Couple in a Committed Relationship

A visible sign of the wondrous changes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA) is the reinstatement of Pastor Bradley Schmeling and
Pastor Darin Easler to the roster of ministers of the ELCA.  Both had been
removed from that roster for being in a committed, same-gender

As a committed, same-gender clergy couple they will serve openly on the
roster of ELCA ministers under the now-revised policy.  The new policy is
the result of the decisions of the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly
directing the removal of the barriers to service in the church by
ministers in committed, lifelong, same-gender relationships.  That new
policy was implemented by the actions of the ELCA Church Council in early
April 2010.

Schmeling was on the roster of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA at St.
John”s Lutheran Church in Atlanta.  In 2006, he told his previous bishop
that he had found his partner for life.  That bishop filed ecclesiastical
charges for violation of the-then policy that required celibacy of gay
ministers.  Famously, at the end of the 2007 trial, the Discipline Hearing
Committee”s ruling said that they found nothing wrong with his ministry
or commitment to the work of the church, that they would hold him up as
exemplary, and that they thought the policy was wrong and ought to be
changed.  But, they said that, obedient to the law, he was to be removed
from the roster.

Schmeling”s congregation, which had thrown a celebratory party when first
told about his commitment to Darin Easler, informed the bishop they were
keeping him as their pastor, as they have done for the last three years.
No formal charges were filed against the congregation.  However, from that
time, the ELCA officially considered the pulpit at St. John”s to be
vacant.  But, no more.  Pastor Schmeling”s ministry will be officially
recognized by his reinstatement to the roster.

Darin Easler was on the roster of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the
ELCA, successfully came out to the congregation he had served for five
years in Zumbrota, Minnesota, but because of the previous policy, chose to
leave his call in 2003. He was later dropped from the clergy roster solely
because of his committed relationship with Schmeling.  Subsequently, he
received ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ, who welcomes
gay ministers in committed relationships.  His ministry in Atlanta is as a
chaplain and grief counselor to patients and families in hospice care.
Pastor Bradley Schmeling says, "One of the stones of injustice has been
rolled away from the door, and Christ now lives more fully in the life of
the church.  The old policy, a dead end for so many for so long, has
fallen in the face of Easter’s gracious power.  It’s been striking how
deliberately and how clearly the church has moved forward to make the
assembly’s witness a reality.  These are exciting days to be part of the
church, and I’m looking forward to years ahead in ministry both with the
church I love and with the partner that God has given me.  To be on the
roster together makes Isaiah’s vision of an everlasting place within God’s
house a wonderful, living reality in our lives."

Easler said of the reinstatement, "Today is a day of hope, not only for
those of us in the LGBT community who can return to our church family and
to the ELCA clergy roster, but for all those, young and old alike, who can
now imagine a future in the church, and truly experience the church as a
place of full welcome and unconditional love."

Laura Crawley, Congregational President of St. John”s Lutheran Church,
said, "St. John’s has seen history turn many corners in its 140-plus years
as a Lutheran congregation in Atlanta. With the change in ELCA policy that
enables Bradley and Darin to return to the ELCA roster of ordained
ministry, we rejoice that we’ve been a part of righting one of the wrongs
of history."

"The larger church continues to struggle with this issue. Many people are
saddened by the policy change and worry for the future of the Lutheran
church. I hope they’ll come to St. John’s to worship with us one Sunday,
so we can welcome them and make them feel at home again in their church.
"The St. John’s congregation never doubted Bradley’s and Darin’s calls to
ministry. We’re honored by their ministry gifts and by the example of
their loving, committed relationship. We’re so glad the ELCA is welcoming
them home!"

Ross Murray, Interim Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North
America, said, "We celebrate that Bradley is the first pastor to be
reinstated to the ELCA roster and that Darin is being restored to the ELCA
roster, both under the new policy.  And, we celebrate that they are able
to serve openly in the ELCA  as a same-gender clergy couple. Our continued
prayer is that they will be the first of many people who are able to come
out and serve the church with honesty and integrity.  Such a day calls for
celebration, not only in Atlanta, but by all who value full participation
and the continued spread of Christ”s message.

Murray continued, "We look forward to celebrating with every pastor and
lay leader who is being received or reinstated onto the ELCA clergy
roster, every person who is able to be more honest about his or her
personal life because of this policy change, and every congregation who is
freed to call the leader with the gifts that will suit them best.  There
is still much work to be done to achieve full inclusion of LGBT people in
the life of the church."

Pastors Bradley Schmeling, Darin Easler and the congregation of St.
John”s Lutheran Church will jointly celebrate the reinstatements at a
congregational event to be scheduled for mid-June.

About Lutherans Concerned:
Working at the intersection of oppressions, Lutherans Concerned/North
America (LC/NA) embodies, inspires, advocates and organizes for the
acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and
gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and
global partners. LC/NA is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Rev. Dr. Cindi Love: The Lutheran Church Embraces the LGBTQ Community!

Our Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Cindi Love wrote a piece for The Huffington Post titled "The Lutheran Church Embraces the LGBTQ Community!"

George Bernard Shaw once said, "Certainly all great truths begin as blasphemies." On April 11, 2010, those who identify as people of faith and as "non-heterosexual" were given particular cause to celebrate Shaw’s wisdom: a most unlikely church has given a most unlikely people a gift of love and truth, and I cannot stop smiling.

After twenty-five years of deliberation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Church Council has abolished its anti-gay policies, effective immediately. Following from discussions at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly last summer, the ELCA will now allow people in same-sex relationships to serve as rostered leaders. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) human beings are no longer considered abominations but blessed church members with full standing. Same-sex partners and families can now fully participate in the ELCA Pension Plan.

Best of all, the ELCA is reinstating people who were removed from ministry positions because they were truthful and came out of the closet, as well as those who conducted holy unions for non-heterosexual couples. The ELCA has practiced restorative justice. 

Well said, Cindi! Read the full article on The Huffington Post