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International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Conceived in 2004 by French activist Louis-Georges Tin to commemorate the decision of the World Health Organization (1990) to de-pathologize homosexuality by removing it from the International Classification of Diseases, May 17th has become a globally recognized day to raise awareness of LGBTQI lives and call attention to efforts to end discrimination and violence and promote equality.

This year, from China to the Congo and Canada, LGBTQI peoples and our allies in over 150 nations will sponsor conversations, festivities and events, as well as demonstrations and marches for an end to the criminalization of Queer life and the implementation of IDAHOBIT17May2016policies that recognize and respect the diversity of God’s creation.  The themes are Mental Health and Well Being.  The focus is designed to ensure that everyone, including those within the LGBTQI community, receive all the supports for mental health that are necessary.  This will refute the ways in which government and societal leaders wrongly characterize people of different genders, sexualities, and gender expressions as mentally ill.  The goal is to create opportunities for well being and to confront/eliminate violence and discrimination.
We join organizers in encouraging people to: 

  • Push for the depathologization of transgender identities
  • Oppose “conversion therapies” and specifically protecting young people

In Hong Kong, community activists will honor businesses that have supported LGBT equality.  Organizers will celebrate the fifth LGBTI pride event in Albania, also gathering people from Kosovo and Macedonia.  Activists on every continent will pause to remember slain LGBT journalist in Bangladesh who were hacked to death last month.

Everyone can do something to highlight LGBTQI life and our victories or address the challenges that remain before us.

The Public Policy Team invites MCC congregations around the world to mark May 17th INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA, BIPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA!Here are some suggestions for you, your congregation, or your ministry:

  • Host a Bible Study, preach and pray about ending discrimination and promoting peace and goodwill throughout the earth.
  • BE CREATIVE
    • Organizers encourage the use of dance and the arts in hosting the events.
    • Use music, host a flash mob, busk, hold street performances, be improvisational.
  • Advocate for full equality.
    • Add your community’s support to a local legislative drive to promote equality and safety for all youth.
    • In the United States, contact your U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative and encourage them to move the Safe Schools Improvement Act to end bullying against Queer youth out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.
  • Host a gathering and invite your neighbors, family and friends to the movement for equality in your location and make them aware of what volunteer or organizational opportunities are available.  Invite a local activist group to speak or provide resources.

Every word offered, every event celebrated, every step taken, every prayer lifted up can and will make a difference for God’s LGBTQI peoples and a world at peace with its own diversity.  You can inspire others around the world by sharing what you do.  Send your stories and photos to the Public Policy Team at mccadvocacy@mcccchurch.net.

 

Thank you for making this world a better place.

 

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Take Action During National Torture Awareness Month

Plan an Event at Your Church

 

Every human being is created to reflect the image of God and is worthy of dignity and respect. So we unite around the belief that no one should face inhumane confinement or
torture a moral issueany form of torture. We have an opportunity to join with faith leaders and activists of all stripes in calling on the U.S. government to end systems of torture and torturous confinement in the Guantanamo prison complex. While President Obama has transferred additional prisoner out of that facility, 80 are left. The days of his Administration are waning and the opportunity to ensure that Guantanamo Prison is shut down are quickly drawing to a close.
 

June is Torture Awareness Month, and the Global Justice Institute and MCC are asking our pastors, clergy, lay leaders, friends and associates to join the campaign to close Guantanamo by leading a worship service, holding a vigil, or appearing at another appropriate event wearing an orange jumpsuit in solidarity with those held at Guantanamo. We are also inviting you to ask your fellow faith leaders from other traditions to consider events and wearing a jumpsuit.  Along with the organizers, we believe that in the middle of a rancorous presidential election, this sort of highly visible public action is necessary to break through the political back and forth and make a clear statement that torture and indefinite detention without trial are wrong and Guantanamo should be closed now.

wear orange

Please ask your faith leaders if they would be willing to support this work by wearing a jumpsuit. Organizers will provide the jumpsuit.  Here are other resources you and your congregation and faith partners may use to participate in this national event:
 

 

You are encouraged to take pictures from your events and share them on social media. Use hashtags #TortureAwarenessMonth and #TortureFreeWorld.  The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) will use these to demonstrate support for closing Guantanamo to national lawmakers and the national media.  To request an orange jumpsuit, write Matt Hawthorne (NRCAT) at mhawthorne@nrcat.org or call him at 202-547-1920.

Join Faith Leaders for a Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence

The Global Justice Institute and Metropolitan Community Churches are committed to cultivating a world in which peace can thrive. One of the first steps in creating peaceful places to stand against violence, gun violence in particular.  We invite you, your1-8May2016congregation, and your faith partners to join the International Action on Small Arms (IANSA).  Held annually, this week of action is a chance to raise awareness of how gun violence affects people’s lives, and to draw attention to issues such as people becoming disabled because of gun violence; lack of support for survivors or the families of victims; and domestic violence becoming far more lethal when guns are involved.
This year’s Global Week of Action will be held fromMay 1-8, and will focus on the theme “Time to End the Deadly Flood of Guns!”  This theme was chosen to raise awareness of guns flowing across national borders, into communities, into schools, and into homes.  The actions coordinate with meetings held at the United Nations to discuss small arms problems.  Organizers invite MCC leaders and congregations to participate in this week of action in the following ways:
  • Address the issue of gun violence in any services you may hold between May 1-8, even if only briefly.  We are providing background information for your reference.
  • Help educate your members about how and where to dispose of unwanted guns (see information here)
  • Print out the attached information sheets and exhibit posters and display them where viewers can learn more about the issue.
  • Personalize the Global Week of Action logo (included in this alert) and theme, and post it on your social media, and/or send it to IANSA for us to post.  Engage the theme in your own special way and share.  Use the hashtags:  #TimeToEndTheDeadlyFloodOfGuns  #GlobalWeekOfActionAgainstGunViolence

 

If you have questions or special needs, you may contact the Public Policy Team atmccadvocacy@mcchurch.net or Rose Welch with IANSA at rose.welsch@iansa.org and  00 1 703 474 4520.

Faith Leaders Combat Chemical Dependency and Substance Abuse

Conference Call with White House
Friday, 15 January 2016, 1pm Eastern USA
A Call to Action for Faith Based Leaders: 
Combat Substance Use Disorders in Your Communities
 
ONDCP
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships invites all faith leaders, including the laity and clergy of Metropolitan Community Churches, to join an important webinar “A Call to Action” for faith leaders and health ministers for taking action to end the opioid epidemic and increase access to health care. The webinar will take place on Friday, 15 January 2016 from 1-2pm eastern standard time.  

 

Faith groups play an essential role in supporting health and wellness in communities across the country; we have a demonstrated history of providing spiritual, social, and emotional assistance for persons struggling with substance use disorders and chemical dependency.  Recognizing this, the Obama Administration will have selected faith leaders share their stories on how they are engaging their communities to address the opioid epidemic, building coalitions, reducing stigma and building trauma-informed congregations.  Additionally, federal officials overseeing health care and criminal justice programs will highlight several government funding and programming opportunities. They will offer strategies on how faith groups can access these programs, either directly or in partnership with state and local government grant recipients.
You may register for this event HERE.road to recovery

 

Be prepared to offer questions when you register. This will allow the presenters to address them as part of their prepared remarks. Because of the webinar format, you will also be able to ask questions live during the webinar.  The White House has asked MCC to share this information broadly, beyond our roster of clergy and lay leaders. You are invited to share this as broadly as possible, especially to our partners in recovery ministries and substance abuse disorder prevention and treatment.

 

For more information, contact mccadvocacy@mccchurch.net

Global Justice Institute Marks World Human Rights Day with Call to Prayer and Action

Part of our founding vision in Metropolitan Community Churches includes responding to the Biblical mandate to shape a world of just and right relationship. Over the years we, as people of faith, have preached a Gospel of equality, offered safe space and worked to address the intersections between homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, mass incarceration, poverty and economic inequality. With the formation of the Global Justice Institute, we have been able to expand our outreach and our work in these areas.

This year for the first time, as the United Nations marks the 67th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, the focus will include economic development and addressing the intersection with human rights.

The GJI has been a leader in linking economic well-being, Queer rights and the social change necessary to insure the security and freedom of human beings around the world. Our projects in East Africa, South and Central America and Pakistan testify to the change possible when people learn to work together for the common good.

This year, as we mark World Human Rights Day, join GJI in promoting peace on earth and goodwill among all by supporting our most recent project in Mtito Andei, Kenya. Bringing water to the land of our new satellite location will enable local women currently caught in the sex-for-survival trade to have the opportunity to pursue an alternative means of securing food for their families by growing vegetables on the land hosting our new building. It is a way to move the wider population from judgment to compassion and community.

And, please remember to pray daily for the work God has called us to embrace in this world. Join your brothers and sisters around the globe in praying that we might all act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God.

Click here to make a donation to the water project in Mtito Andei.

Giving Tuesday

Dear Friend of The Global Justice Institute:

Tuesday, December 1, is National #GivingTuesday. The Global Justice Institute is coming together with LGBT organizations around the U.S. for a day of focused philanthropy. #GivingTuesday allows everyone to honor phenomenal success in the LGBT equality movement by investing in its future. Our work is unfinished. The Global Justice Institute (GJI) is the world’s premiere faith-based community organizing and advocacy organization dedicated to LGBT justice in the U.S. and the world. You can visit our website or check us out on Facebook  and Twitter to see our work in action. Because of your generosity, we:

 

  • Broke ground on a Global Justice Center in Mitito Andei, Kenya to provide safe space to all in need.
  • Provided ongoing funding for LGBT safe houses in Nigeria and Uganda, following the adoption of harsh, anti-LGBT legislation in those countries.
  • Marched alongside out LGBTQI siblings in the first Vietnam Pride Parade, and had talks in 15 cities across Asia.
  • Continue to forge a groundbreaking partnership in Costa Rica among HIV/AIDS service providers, LGBT-oriented homeless shelters, and a Central American refugee initiative.

 

This work can be brought to an even larger scale with  your financial support

 

people

 

The GJI is forging a better tomorrow for LGBT and allied people, fighting bigotry and violence that masquerades as “faith.” Our work stands at the intersection of faith, freedom of expression, freedom from fear and violence, social justice, liberation, and equality for all. Indeed, faith is a source of liberation (not oppression). Your generous support will not only root out discrimination, but will also sow the seeds of equality and liberation for all of God’s children, all over the world.

 

Make your secure, online donation HERE. 100% of your contributions provide program support.

 

In faith and solidarity,

RevPatSignature

Rev. Elder Pat Bumgardner

Executive Director

Join the Movement to End Mass Incarceration

In her bestselling book The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander likened the U.S. criminal justice system to the Jim Crow caste system of the U.S. South, in which a class of Americans are subject to a basic political, economic, and judicial system of legalized discrimination.  Her powerful analysis inspired a new look at the impact of the mass incarceration of African-American men and people of color on communities of color, causing many lawmakers, sociologists, and activists to conclude that “mass incarceration in the United States…is a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of social control.”  Now, there is a growing consensus that something must be done to bring balance to our criminal justice system.

The statistics tell the story and highlight the challenge before us.  According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, the USA has the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world (794 per 100,000).  The U.S. prison population has quadrupled since 1980, increasing from approximately 500,000 to 2.2 million in 2013.  President Barack Obama has taken action to address mass incarceration, helping to shepherd through Congress and sign into lawlegislation that reduced the sentencing disparity between possession of crack and powder cocaine.  In a recent speech to the NAACP, President Obama called for lowering long mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses; investing in alternatives to prisons, like drug courts and treatment and probation programs; and rewarding offenders with reduced sentences if they complete programs that make them less likely to re-offend.  The President has also advocated for “Ban the Box” on job applications for state, federal, and private employment to give ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society a fair chance to reenter society by getting and holding good jobs.  Major corporations like Target and Wal-Mart have removed the criminal history box from their job applications.  Amidst the startling statistics, there are glimmers of hope.

The United States Senate is now joining the effort.  On October 1, Senator Charles Grassley introduced S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, which would permit a court to reduce the mandatory minimum prison term imposed on certain non-violent defendants convicted of a high-level first-time or low-level repeat drug offense.  It would also permit a court to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum for certain non-violent, cooperative drug defendants with a limited criminal history.  The bill would reduce the enhanced mandatory minimum prison terms associated with high-level repeat drug offenses and those where a firearm was present.   It would improve programs for non-violent elderly offenders and pre/post release programs for certain juvenile offenders.

The Global Justice Institute and Metropolitan Community Churches join with all those who seek to address the problem of mass incarceration.  We encourage our lawmakers to take affirmative steps to reduce mandatory minimum prison terms for nonviolent defendants, invest in programs that help offenders become less likely to re-offend, and fund and support early childhood development and juvenile justice community-based interventions.

Here Are Some Actions You Can Take to Change U.S. Policy Toward the Incarcerated

  • Please contact your Senator today to urge them to SUPPORT S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015:
    • Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 1-800-270-0309 and ask for your Senator.
    • When you are connected to your member’s office these are things that you might say:  I want Senator ___________ to know that it is now time to reform our criminal justice system by ending mass incarceration.  Please support reducing the mandatory minimum terms for nonviolent defendants convicted of drug offenses and programs that encourage early release for good behavior.  Please support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
  • Participate in the Grassroots Faith Organizing Call on 2 December at 3pm (eastern) with Senator Durbin.  We will gear everyone up for a national call-in day (that will take place on 3 December) to support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. On Thursday, December 3rd in conjunction with the Call-in Day, we will participate with civil rights and criminal justice advocacy groups on a lobby day in support of SRCA. Contact Bill Medford (faith organizer) for the call in information.
  • Come to Washington, DC on 3 December and Lobby Congress. Organizers hope to have 50 people. The ACLU and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights are helping to fund travel for those from target states.  They will also set up the visits with Members of Congress and book the travel and hotel stay.  Contact Bill Medford (faith organizer) to express your interest.
To learn more, please see:
For more information, contact mccadvocacy@mccchurch.net
This statement was prepared by the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute (Rev. Elder Pat Bumgardner, Chair).  

One Faith Leader’s Perspective on Houston Voters’ Rejection of Equal Rights Measure

Dry Bones in Houston
Rev. Dr. Michael Diaz
Days later, I’m still in disbelief. One hour I want to cry out at the top of my lungs, and the next hour, I want to sit in deadening silence. As I move from frustration to tears, I remember the last time I was this emotional. Back in May of 2014, Houston City Council passed the historic Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), ensuring Houstonians have the right to access employment, housing, and public accommodations without discrimination. I remember the courage exercised by so many friends. Many spoke their truth like never before in front of city officials, risking the little stability found in the closet by coming out for the first time ever on public television.

I was proud of my city that day. I feel ashamed today.

Despite our collective efforts as people of faith and equality, this week Houston voters emphatically repealed the Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. Let’s be honest. It wasn’t simply an ordinance. It was a statement about our values and how we as followers of Jesus commit to treating one another – with love and without discrimination. We had the chance to affirm the sacred value of every Houstonian. We had the opportunity to prove to the rest of the country and one another that we indeed value being the most diverse city in this USA.  Instead, we sent a message of blatant disregard for people like my own mother who years ago had to endure ridicule from apartment managers not wanting to rent to an unwed mother and child.  Blatant disregard for African American Houstonians who are forced to pay outrageous cover charges at establishments where our white neighbors get in for free. Blatant disregard for Latina lesbians being denied a job because of the languages they speak or the person they love. Blatant disregard for the dehumanization of children of God, our trans* neighbors.

In a year where we are experiencing record numbers of trans* people (especially trans* people of color) being murdered in cold-blood, a small minority group of evangelical pastors and right wing activists has the nerve to fear-monger, make up lies, and engage in spiritual violence towards our trans* siblings, all for political purposes. MCC’s Moderator, Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, saw how anti-LGBT faith leaders rooted their advocacy in bigotry and hatred, “It is a sad day when church leaders use fear to enforce prejudice.”

I, too, am sad because like many of you, I feeI did all I could do and it was not good enough. The brittle bones of HERO and the brittle bones of hope-filled people were finally beaten down by hate, racism, transphobia, and oppressive rhetoric. After all of the organizing, phone banks, and volunteer hours from so many fair-minded Houstonians, it still wasn’t good enough.

As I wrestle with this phenomenal tragedy, scripture reminds me that the Prophet Ezekiel speaks of a valley of dry, brittle bones. Notice the story is grounded in a valley, not a mountaintop. Maybe that’s where unique opportunities for transformation are supposed to take place – in valleys. Yes, positive change happens on mountaintops by way of broad coalitions of community organizations like we had in Houston. But justice-minded people must also work directly in the valleys where dehumanized Houstonians, our trans* siblings, have been made to feel like dry, brittle bones. As justice-minded people, our goal is not only to change public policy, but to transform dry bones into hopeful hearts and transformed minds.

I firmly believe the Houstonians who voted against HERO did so out of fear. After being preyed upon by vicious transphobic and homophobic forces themselves, I wonder how dry are the bones of voters themelves, especially those from communities of color. Maybe it’s time we come down from the mountaintop and and commit our work to the valleys of dry bones all around us.

Rev. Troy Plummer-Treash, Senior Pastor of Resurrection MCC here in Houston, declared that “Our struggle is not over,” and he is right. Just as Ezekiel stood among the dry bones and prophesied of their resurrection and transformation into a revived community, maybe that’s our first step as well….

Stand alongside our LGBT Houstonians, especially are trans* siblings. Speak life into dry bones, not only with our words but with our presence. Love our neighbor anew. Hug and comfort our neighbor. Allow our trans* friends to authentically share their stories, share their commitment, and share their leadership. Let’s make space for them to find and use their voice so they are not longer dry bones, but empowered Houstonians.

Then, let’s engage Houston voters in the valley also. We now know more about what our neighbors think about this issue.  We know that we must engage them where they are.  We know that we must be true and authentic, sharing our stories of transformation, our commitment to equal protection for all people, our resolve to work toward an end of economic exploitation, racism, the sexual exploitation of young people, equal rights for women, homelessness, and so many other social justice issues.  We must struggle in the valley with all people on the margins so that we truly see each one another as children of God.

I prophesy, not from the mountaintop, but from within the valley. I prophesy over dry bones, bones battered with homophobia and transphobia, bones that rest in the ballot boxes of Houston. Through our organizing and advocacy, and our love, we will make space for Spirit to breath new life into voters. They will rise up, new and transformed and we will work hand in hand in the valley.  The valley will be restored. Houston will be restored. We will redeem the outcome of Tuesday’s election. We will be proud of Houston once again.

Our work and ministry continue.  Let’s cause some #HolyTrouble.  Here are actions you can take to help to advance equality for LGBT and anyone who faces discrimination and marginalization:

  • Participate in the 40 DAYS OF FAITH IN ACTION campaign by the National LGBTQ Task Force (a follow up to the Faith & Family Power Summit) with resources available here.
  • Add your name to Believe Out Loud’s open letter to Houston voters telling them the discrimination is not a Christian value.
  • Use social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram) to share your story about how natural and loved by God your family is.  Use the hashtags #HolyTrouble and #FaithFamilyLGBTQ
  • More firmly establish partnerships among your congregation, other local faith groups, and social justice organizations so you can host educational forums on religious liberty, religious exemptions, and equal rights.  The Public Policy Team is available to consult and help organize. If you would like our support send us an email.
For more information, contact mccadvocacy@mccchurch.net

Sign the petition – stop the drownings

We’ve been shocked by the image of the drowned innocent boy all over the media this morning and have joined this campaign demanding EU politicians take urgent action to save lives and give sanctuary to people fleeing war and hunger.

They’re meeting in a few days so we need to act fast. Join me here by signing the petition, sharing the link on any social media you’re on, and forwarding the email below to friends and family:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/no_more_drownings_510/?kDbxJjb

Help End the Ban on Gay Blood Donations

For the first time since 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering amending its blanket ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM). The proposed new policy would only permit donations from men who have abstained from sex with men for at least twelve months. The FDA says the waiting period is needed because “compelling scientific evidence is not available at this time to support a change to a deferral period less than one year while still ensuring the safety of the blood supply.”

donotuse blood

Though we applaud the incremental progress this represents, we find the FDA’s rationale highly problematic. Should the change take effect, the FDA would continue to base its MSM selection and screening policy on outdated theories and centuries-old stigma rather than evidence-based criteria. For example, the viral life cycle of HIV is not linked to behavior. Based on the FDA stance, it would follow that all persons engaging in penetrative sexual acts should be subjected to this year long abstinence period.  Current laws and regulations mandate all blood donations be screened for a range of potential threats, most of which are no more common among MSM than other groups. Therefore, we believe the system will remain safe with no ban on MSM donations. 

As the “church with AIDS” we know that all blood is sacred and raise significant concerns over the role of stigma and homophobia in the FDA’s proposal. Giving blood to save lives is a sacred ritual. It is an act of kindness and compassion. In the practice of our faith, we seek to model Jesus commandment to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:29). Gay men care about our neighbors. The government should not prohibit MSM from serving others with its proposed continuation of the ban on blood donations. 

 Here are actions you can take to help end the ban:

  • Write the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability at ACBSA@hhs.gov and tell them that the proposal is inadequate and unscientific and that the ban should be completely overturned.
  • Sign up for action alerts from the National Gay Blood Drive.http://www.gayblooddrive.com
  • Sign the Global Justice Institute’s Petition at http://bit.ly/1BP6IwY
  • Read and familiarize yourself with the details of the FDA’s current policyhttp://1.usa.gov/1fr2gEI

For more information, contact mccadvocacy@mccchurch.net

This action alert was prepared as a collaboration between MCC’s HIV/AIDS Advisory Council (Dr. David Williams, M.D., M.P.H., Chair) and the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute (Rev. Elder Pat Bumgardner, Chair).