Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Action Alert from MCC

from Metropolitan Community Churches

LGBT Jamaicans Need Your Help Today!

An Important Messagefrom Rev. Pat BumgardnerChair, MCC Global Justice TeamFebruary 28, 2007

Your help today -- just a few minutes of your time -- can help protect the lives of LGBT across Jamaica.Time Magazine has designated Jamaica "the most homophobic country in the Western hemisphere." Over several years, MCC has documented an alarming pattern of overt hostility, violent attacks, and murder of LGBT people in Jamaica. These incidents have received little coverage by the Jamaican media and have often been ignored by the civil authorities.In the latest incident, three gay men in St. Andrew's parish were attacked by a mob on Valentines Day 2007. While being rescued by police, one of the gay men was gun-butted by an officer. Another was hit by a rock thrown from the mob. All of the men were taunted with anti-gay slurs by police officers.Now is the time for all people of goodwill to take a stand for justice and against intolerance. No person of conscience should remain silent in the face of the continuing horrific attacks on gays in Jamaica.By taking action today -- in less than five minutes -- you can help make a difference in the lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters in Jamaica.Won't you take two simple steps right now?

First, write a brief e-mail directly to Jamaica's Prime Minister... The Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller at Keep your message brief and write from your heart. Ask her to speak out publicly against the violence, to establish a tone of respect and tolerance for all life, and to guarantee the human rights and safety of Jamaica's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. (And to help us track responses, please send a copy of your e-mail to MCC's Communications Department at

Second, forward this Action Alert... to your friends, distribute it to your e-mail lists, and post it on listserves to which you subscribe. Reprint it in your newsletters, post it on your website, and send it to publications and media outlets in your area. Help get the word out.Your actions -- today! -- will focus international attention on the horrific pattern of anti-gay violence in Jamaica and can help bring about legal protections for LGBT Jamaicans.


Rev. Pat BumgardnerChairMCC Global Justice Team


For Additional Information, ContactMCC Communications DepartmentE-Mail: info@MCCchurch.netWeb:

Danish Study Says Vitamins Can Kill

I'm sure you've seen the report. Vitamin C doesn't contribute to longevity, Selenium may be good for your health but "more study is needed," and Beta Carotene, Vit A and Vit E supplements can actually cause you to go belly up.

Of course, critics point out that the study may be flawed. most of the people studied were terminally ill before they started taking vitamins, and the vitamins studied were synthetic and not "natural" and not the vitamins found in fruits and veggies. So, basically the study was crap.

But, you never know. I'm expecting a new study out any day now showing that air, water, sleep, laughter, and the loyalty of a pet can all cause early death. The study will also cause us to doubt the wisdom of physical activity, flossing, and sunscreen.

I'm very annoyed (oops, that is probably caused by B-Complex and/or potassium).
Can you stand it?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My 100th Blog Post!

"When people ask me about their personal relationships, I can read the future simply by the attitude of the question. If they talk about what the other person is not doing for them, I know the relationship is probably doomed...[Neediness is a symptom] of desperation...To create a lasting relationship...means thinking about what we are willing to give before looking at how much we are going to get." - Sakyong Mipham

The Sakyong reminds us of exactly what Jesus is remembered to have taught, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Sometimes we make the mistake of wanting church or a lover or a friend or a job to make us feel good enough, important, special. But we don't get our needs met by demanding, begging, complaining, or expecting others to give us what we think we need.

Religion is a relationship. Romance is a relationship. Work is a relationship (or several). Even being on a diet is to redefine our relationship with food.

Relationships aren't one-sided. Relationships aren't about getting what we want, when and how we want it, and punishing the other by vilifying or abandoning him or her if what we want or think we need isn't handed to us. Relationships are mutual. Yes, we receive. We even have specific desires and expectations, but we also have responsibility. We need to offer something. Giving and receiving become the exchange of energy that provides health and well-being to a system, a relationship.

A body of water that has no outlet will stagnate. There must be give and take in order for the body to be fully alive, fresh, and life-giving. When we aren't getting all that we need, sometimes the question to ask is, "Am I giving all that I can give?" If we aren't doing our part, the other will never be able to fill the void.

Whether in a friendship, a religious community, a career endeavor, or any other sort of relationship, we must remember that relationships aren't one sided. If we aren't getting what we need from them it is often because we aren't giving enough to them. Before blaming the other, let's honestly look at how much responsibility is ours. The good news is that whatever is ours we can change, and the ability to change is the power to achieve. As we learn to give what we can, we may find that we receive much more than when we simply complained about what we didn't have.

February Is When I'm Forced to Feel the Most Grown Up

I know that Black History Month is very important and I should post some thoughts about such historical giants and heroes as Thurgood Marshall, Howard Thurman, and fellow native Arkansan Maya Angelou. And I know that February offers us Presidents Day when we can reflect on Washington and Lincoln. And, of course, there is a day for lovers - Feb. 14th, St. Valentine's Day. February, for the shortest month, is packed with meaning and remembrance.

However, as important as February is for other reasons, it means something else to me as well. My maternal grandmother was born on Feb. 17 and my paternal grandmother was born on Feb. 21. Both are now dead.

My paternal grandmother, "Mama D," (in the south grannies are often called "mama," "big mama," Mama [Name]," as well as "Mother," "Nana," "Granny," "Grandma," and other such terms of endearment and respect), influenced me in ways that I hardly recognized until she had died. She was a storyteller, a poet, a teacher, a bit of a traveler, and a fiercely independent soul. She tended toward plumpness and liked to cook. She was the first and one of the few in my family who took my aspirations as an artist seriously and was the first to let me know that higher education was in my future. I never doubted it. She was stern in some ways, not the nurturer that some nanas are, but she was a powerful figure and the truth is the two masters degrees that hang on my wall and the doctorate I am pursuing are probably in some measure the result of her influence. She would be very proud of my academic achievements.

My maternal grandmother, "Grandma," was the nurturer. She never traveled much and never had a career. But she gave me a home where I could feel safe and loved. I was in many ways an unhappy child, but after high school I moved in with her, attended community college, and left two years later for university only 80 miles away. Forever thereafter, when I would "go home," that meant going to Grandma's house. She didn't understand all my dreams and plans, but she did indulge them, even helped pay for some of them, including my two undergraduate degrees. She was the first to accept the news of my "coming out," and she would show great pride in any accomplishment of mine, great or small, whether she understood it or not or even agreed with it in principle or not. I don't think anyone has ever beamed with delight the way she always did when I would come home to visit her. She, too, is in no small way responsible for who I have become.

Mama D didn't understand all this gay business, and she was very conservative in her politics. Grandma never even went to high school, and was very invested in my getting my BA, but probably thought I was over doing it a bit with all this graduate school. But even though their grandson (Mama D's youngest child's oldest child and Grandma's youngest child's oldest child and her first grandchild) became a left-leaning, gay identified, artist-theologian which was probably beyond anything in their Arkansan frame of reference, they both are largely responsible for who I am, and PS - I like who I am.

I have to do some math to remember when my grandmothers died...I lose track of the time. One died about 5 years ago, the other about 3. One was 85 when she died, the other 83. I believe they died in April and July respectively. But I always remember that they were born in February.

I think of them a lot, especially in February. I miss them. I regret that I wasn't closer to Mama D. I think she wanted us to be and now, I want for us to have been.

I wish that I had been able to do more for Grandma at the end. I lived in New York at the time, and though I wrote her often and visited a couple of times each year, she always wanted more. Calling became so painful for me that I all but stopped doing it. Between fearing her death and feeling guilty for not being able to be more present for her, I withdrew some. And if I had called more in her final months, she might have felt better, and I would have one less regret in life.

In the final analysis, I loved my grandmothers, I inherited some of their best qualities, and I benefited from the ways that they knew to express love. February is when I miss them the most, and when I am most aware, I'm all grown up, making it on my own. Luckily, they gave me enough that I'm doing that fairly well.

Grandma and Mama D, I love you. I miss you. You both live on in my memory and affection. Let light perpetual shine upon you. Amen.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Let Us Not Be Agents of Our Own Oppression

"Let us not be agents of our own oppression." That's how a wise priest I know ends every sermon. He's a statesman in the Episcopal Church, a Canon, an administrator, a justice-seeker, a quiet activist, a public theologian, an urban priest, and a teacher. He's been around. He's seen it all. He's done most of it. He knows where the bodies are buried. He speaks with authority, and what he says goes right to the heart. At the end of his brief but brilliant homilies, "Father Ed" says, "Let us not be agents of our own oppression."

When choosing whether to vote and for whom to vote, let me not be an agent of my own oppression.
When choosing associates, let me not be an agent of my own oppression.
When conversing with others about issues of liberation and justice, let me not be an agent of my own oppression.
When choosing whether and where to worship, let me not be an agent of my own oppression.
When choosing whether and how to "come out" as the person I am, let me not be an agent of my own oppression.
When choosing which organization to support or assist, let me not be an agent of my own oppression.
When deciding that my life is sacred and not a mere issue for others to debate or to try to control, let me not be an agent of my own oppression.

Its a good prayer, really. I hope more people will say it, or similar words, "Let me not be an agent of my own oppression." Enough people praying those words, and allowing themselves to be the answer to their own prayer would undoubtedly change our society in radical and wonderful ways. Let us not be agents of our own oppression. Amen.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Yes Virginia, Slavery was Bad

Wow. It took this long, and only one state has done it so far. But it has finally, at long last happened. The Virginia legistlature unanimously agreed to a non-biding resolution that expresses regret for the state's participation in the evil institution of slavery. The resolution also acknowledges the wrong done to Native Americans. An entire legistlature, in the U.S. yet, in the South at that, grew up. How'd that happen? Who knew it was possible? Suddenly I believe in Big Foot and Santa Claus and the Klingon Empire.

Now, reparations would have been a better step, but any step is more than has been offerend to date. For a political body to acknowedge the evils of the past and express regret (stopping short of actual atonement which might have required reparations) is something. Making amends is a healing act, and the injuries inflicted by racism are still in desparate need of healing.

Why should people in the 21st century make amends for something that happened so long ago? Because, much of this country was built by forced labor. Some have inherited fortunes and many have received societal benefits that are a direct result of the unpaid labor of others. That must be acknowledged. As long as some (and, in fact, many) continue to benefit from the injustices of the past, the injustice isn't left in the continues and WE perpetuate it. To acknowledge that truth, apologize for it, and make healing gestures (one day to include, hopefully, reparations), is what is just. And isn't that what we who live in, "one nation...with liberty and justice for all" want? I applaud Virginia's effort and look forward to other states doing the same. It is, after all, only right.

Let's Clear Up This Non-Theist Business

I'm a non-theist. I say it often. I say with conviction. I say it without apology.

However, there seems to be some confusion when people learn this about me. They find it strange that as a non-theist I remain religious, OR they assume non-theist means "atheist" and therefore label me "godless."

Now, I don't really care. My opinions are my own and your opinion of my opinions isn't likely to change them. A good argument might, a sound case, but just a differing opinion probably won't.

Still, it doesn't feel quite right to hear that I don't believe in "god." The god I contemplate and seek to worship isn't a separate Other. The god I contemplate and seek to worship isn't gendered, human-like, or provable. It may in fact be only a concept, and this possibility doesn't disturb me.

When I say I'm a non-theist, I mean I don't believe in Zeus (by any name, including the generic "God"). But mystery, that's something else! Beauty? Absolutely! Hope? You betcha. The interconnected, infinite web of all existence? Without doubt!

So, I do believe in the field of infinite possibilities, the energy of life, the great and grand Whole that is more than the sum of its parts (and in which we each "live and move and have our being"). One could call It spirit or principle or life or mind (and, of course, each of those words could be capitalized: Spirit, Principle, Life, Mind).

When we examine it all closely, I seem to believe in much (maybe even most) of what "god" represents - I just don't think that god is judging or condemning anyone. I don't think god is making arbitrary decisions or controlling every event in life. I don't think god is someone/something separate from us (or from the earth or the universe).

I believe in the powerful process of life in which we each participate. The "isness" that many call "god" is not separate from you and me - we are part of It! That's my theology. God is all, and because god is all, we can call It anything we want. I usually don't call it "god" but It is no less what It is regardless of what we call It. The energy field of existence and possibilities is definitely something in which I believe, but that still isn't a warrior-thunder god on a throne, punishing the wicked and rewarding the faithful, is it? So, until I find a better term, I'll stick with non-theist. And yes, a religious non-theist at that. That's the fun part!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Response to Bishop Charleston's Open Letter

Thank you, Bishop Charleston, for articulating a progressive and just understanding of the Gospel and for standing so boldly in defense of inclusive Good News. A message that values human dignity over institutional power makes me want to affirm in Pauline fashion, "I am not ashamed of the gospel..."

As a same-gender loving person, I must confess to growing weary of having my human expression reduced to an issue, a topic, a matter for debate. To be so routinely dehumanized by those who claim to represent Christ is not only painful for people like me who enjoy the comforts and consolations of other societal privileges, but also for others whose very lives are at stake because church condoned homophobia continuously leads to violence, oppression, and even murder of same-gender loving people. Such horrors are daily realities in Jamaica and other places, as you know.

It is refreshing and encouraging to read such a passionate statement from a bishop of the institutional church and from the president of such an important divinity school. I am proud and honored to be associated with EDS and I am grateful for your courageous leadership on this very important issue.



Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
DMin Program student

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

An OpenLetter from Bishop Steven Charleston: To Everything There is a Season

An Open Letter to the EDS Community
From The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

By now I imagine all of you are aware of the outcome of the Primate’s meeting in Tanzania, February 15-19, 2007, and the reactions to it. You know that many of us applaud the attention that was given to the Millennium Development Goals and the need for action in responding to the global epidemic of HIV/AIDS. You also know that many of us were deeply concerned about the call for the Episcopal Church to provide more assurances that we will not authorize same-sex blessings or consent to the election of a bishop who is living openly in a same-sex relationship. Finally, I hope you know how proud many of us felt at the way our Presiding Bishop conducted herself in this difficult role at such a difficult time.

Because you know all of these things, my purpose in writing to you is not to repeat what you may have already heard, but to invite you, as a member of the EDS family, to join me in making a witness in light of what we have learned from the Primates.

To everything there is a season. At EDS, we are accustomed to living in change. We understand that creation is as organic as human community. God’s engagement in our lives always evolves, grows, and challenges us to respond.

But some things do not change.

The heart of this community has always been its commitment to a gospel that supersedes all human institutions. EDS is a community centered in Christ Jesus. We believe that Christ calls us all to be witnesses to justice, to truth, and to compassion. Our faith in Christ impels us to embrace that call and live it out, no matter the consequences to our own comfort or convenience.

We will not change our devotion to doing what we believe is right. We will not delay justice for the sake of making our lives easier. We will not deny a truth that we are certain is from God. We will not play politics with human lives.

Let our witness be clear. Even in the midst of great change, EDS stands on the rock of faith that every human being is created equal in the eyes of God and that we are all acceptable to God in whatever roles of leadership we may be called to perform for the people of God.

This we will not compromise.

There is absolutely no reason that gay and lesbian people should be denied the right of a blessing. There is absolutely no reason that a gay or lesbian person can not be a respected member of the clergy of this church. There is absolutely no reason that we should abandon either of these positions for the sake of political accommodation.

To everything there is a season. This is our season to make a witness to justice. I hope all of you will stand with me in doing this with integrity, honesty and dedication. Millions of our GLBT brothers and sisters around the world, both those who can speak openly of their lives and those who must hide for fear of their lives, deserve our visible and unequivocal support.

Enough is enough. It is time to make our intentions clear, come what may. I pray that you will help EDS carry that message to every corner of the Church, in humility and with an open mind, but carry it with a resolve that will not bend under pressure or falter under threats. This church is either truly open to all, or it is closed to the Spirit. We either stand for what we know is just and embrace our GLBT members, or we stand aside as justice is denied. There is no easy way out of this choice. There is only a gospel way forward. This school intends to walk forward and we are prepared for the fact that many may not want to walk with us. If the Anglican Communion must separate over this fundamental issue of human rights, then so be it. To everything there is a season. Perhaps this is the season for the growth of the gospel in truth and in love in ways that we could never have imagined.



Episcopal Divinity School
February 21, 2007

Letter to Jamaican Embassy in U.S.


I forward this public statement from MCC’s Office of the Moderator along with my concern that Jamaica seems to be such an unfriendly and dangerous place for lesbian and gay persons. I join my voices to others worldwide calling for an end to human rights abuses against gay and lesbian people in Jamaica. No one should live in fear of their safety simply for being who they are or for being in a consensual adult relationship with another person of any gender. It is time for the leadership of Jamaica to do something to protect the gay and lesbian minority from violence and abuse.

Yours most sincerely,


The Reverend Canon Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
Sunshine Cathedral


For Immediate Release: February 20, 2007
Leader of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC)Expresses Outrage Over Attacks on Gays in Jamaica
Issues Urgent Call For Prayers, Actions To SupportJamaicans Targeted For Violence And Abuse
Statement byRev. Elder Nancy L. Wilson
Office of the ModeratorMetropolitan Community Churches

A series of escalating attacks against gays and lesbians in Jamaica has prompted our call today for island officials to guarantee the human rights and safety of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons across Jamaica.Today I am calling upon people of conscience around the world to speak up and to support those who are struggling for human and civil rights in Jamaica.The lethal combination of homophobia and AIDS-phobia must stop. We cannot stand by and watch as our sisters and brothers are tormented, beaten, raped and killed solely for being who they are. There are leaders in Jamaica, including political and religious leaders, who have failed to speak up. Such silence is not acceptable. Now is the time for all people of goodwill to speak out for justice and against intolerance. No person of conscience should remain silent in the face of the continuing horrific attacks on gays in Jamaica.

The Valentine's Day attack on three gay men at a pharmacy in Tropical Plaza in St. Andrews parish of Jamaica is part of a pattern of violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons. This pattern of anti-gay violence, which has included public beatings and numerous murders of gay people, has often flown under the radar of the Jamaican press and received scant attention from civil authorities.According to the gay rights group Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), three men were shopping in a local pharmacy in the parish of St. Andrew when two of them were targeted by an unnamed woman who reprimanded them for what she termed "distasteful" behavior. According to eyewitnesses, she left the store and made a phone call that resulted in a large crowd gathering at the Monarch Pharmacy. The crowd called for the three men to be "sent out" to face them. The incident is tragically reminiscent of the infamous biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, found in the 19th chapter of the Book of Genesis.

The management of the pharmacy locked the three men inside for their safety until police arrived. To get the men out of the pharmacy and into a waiting police van, officers fired tear gas into the crowd. One of the men reported he was gun-butted by the police and another was hit in the head with a stone. All three men report they were repeatedly taunted by the police officers with anti-gay slurs.

Since the Valentines Day attack, the tragedy and violence have continued to grow. Over the last few days, other gay people reportedly have been attacked in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, and at least one gay person in Montego Bay has been murdered. And on Sunday, there was an unconfirmed report that one of the three men attacked on Valentines Day had attempted suicide in the aftermath of the attack.Metropolitan Community Churches, which recently opened a worshipping community in Jamaica, offered to relocate the gay men to a safer venue. The men have also been encouraged by their friends to go into hiding until their safety can be assured. We are deeply concerned for the safety of these men, and for the well-being of thousands of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons in Jamaica -- a country designated by Time magazine as "the most homophobic country in the Western Hemisphere."

One of the young men, whom we will only identify by his first name of Gareth, said, "They may kill me, but I am dead already if I do nothing." He said he will stay and continue to fight for the human rights of all Jamaicans, including its lesbian and gay citizens.While viewed throughout much of the world as a vacation paradise for its pristine beaches, the sad truth is that Jamaica harbors the world's highest murder rate. Over the past several years, Metropolitan Community Churches has confirmed a pattern of abuse, hostility, attacks, and murder of persons solely because they may be perceived to be gay or lesbian, from the mutilation of gay rights activists Brian Williamson and the murder of Steve Harvey, to the killing of two lesbians whose bodies were left in a ditch and whose known slayer was for days left unquestioned by police, to the father who upon learning of his young son's gay identity, invited a crowd to the boy's school to lynch him.In light of these developments, I have asked the Global Justice Team of Metropolitan Community Churches, led by Rev. Pat Bumgardner, to monitor the situation in Jamaica and to assist the Office of the Moderator in developing an on-going plan to support human rights for the gay community there. I have also designated Rev. Robert Griffin as MCC's representative to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and groups across Jamaica.On behalf of Metropolitan Community Churches, I am today calling upon people of goodwill everywhere to stand up and say, "Enough is enough!"

There can be no moral or Biblical justification for the targeting and slaughter of any group of people simply because of who they are. It was wrong to target Jewish people in World War II, and it was shameful to target U.S. citizens of Japanese origin for internment during that same time. It was wrong to target ethnic groups in Eastern Europe and Chesnya; it was wrong to target the Hutu and Tutsi tribes of Rwanda for genocide in the 1990's; and it is wrong to target the people of Darfur in the Sudan today. And such targeting is just as morally reprehensible when used against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people in Jamaica.It is imperative that the world raise a united voice once again -- this time against the violence, hatred, and murder that is targeted against God's gay children, not only in Jamaica, but also around the globe.Today I call upon political leaders and spiritual leaders in Jamaica to work publicly for an end to identity-motivated violence.Today I call upon all people of goodwill to speak out on behalf of those whose lives are marginalized and jeopardized by hatred, bigotry, and violence in Jamaica.

Today, I call upon people of faith to hold these three men who were attacked on Valentines Day in your prayers, along with a growing number of individuals and families across Jamaica whose lives have been touched by a pattern of anti-gay violence.

Today, I call upon the leaders of all religious communions to join in declaring Ash Wednesday a day of fasting and prayer for an end to the violence against gay people in Jamaica.

And today I call for concerned people everywhere to write directly to Jamaica's Prime Minister, The Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller, by e-mail at Ask her to speak out publicly against the violence, to establish a tone of respect and tolerance for all life, and to guarantee the human rights and safety of Jamaica's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.This Lenten season is an appropriate time for people of goodwill everywhere to change course and live together in ways that honor the sanctity and value of all life./signed/Rev. Elder Nancy L. WilsonOffice of the ModeratorMetropolitan Community Churches (END)

For Additional Information, OrTo Arrange Media Interviews, Contact:Rev. Pat BumgardnerChair, MCC Global Justice Team(212) 629-7440E-Mail:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Letter to the PM of Jamaica - Please send your own calling for an end to homophobic violence in Jamaica

20 February 2007

The Reverend Canon Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
Sunshine CathedralFort Lauderdale, FL USA

The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller
Office of the Prime MinisterJamaica, West Indies

Madam Prime Minister:

I write to you as a concerned citizen of the world who is particularly dismayed by frequent reports of anti-gay violence in Jamaica. I am concerned that anti-gay violence may be under reported by official agencies in Jamaica and that not nearly enough is being done to assure the safety of Jamaica's lesbian and gay citizens.

As a resident of the United States, I live less than two hours by airline from your beautiful nation. As your neighbor, I happen to meet rather a large number of lesbian and gay Jamaicans, both those who continue to live in Jamaica and those who have left Jamaica for the sake of their safety. My friends report to me regularly about horrifying violence and even murder that is waged against gays and lesbians in Jamaica. Some of the violence my friends have witnessed, and some of the violence my friends have experienced. These first hand reports coupled with reports from international human rights agencies and radio and newspaper reports in your own country all confirm that Jamaica is a very dangerous place for same-gender loving people.

Not only is violence against gay people apparently epidemic in Jamaica, but also little seems to be done to change that reality. And, when Jamaican media report anti-gay violence it is often to deny that it is truly a problem or to blame the victims for somehow deserving the abuse.
Whereas it is true that every nation has a right to govern itself without undue interference from outsiders, it is also true that every human being has the right to live safely in her or his own country.

Homosexuality may not be well understood as part of normal sexual diversity in Jamaica, and it may not be embraced as desirable by the culture at large; and yet, gays and lesbians, however misunderstood or unappreciated they might be, still have a right to live their lives as the people they are without fear of violence or death. All people, no matter what racial, ethnic, religious, economic, or sexual minority group they may represent, are entitled to equal opportunity in a society and to equal protection under the law of a society.

Regardless of what any individual believes about human sexuality, surely all people of conscience and character can agree that assault, harassment, and murder are immoral and criminal acts that harm not only the intended victim but all of society.

I appeal to your sense of human kindness and decency and ask that you take firm leadership in protecting lesbian and gay citizens of your country. Increasingly, the world is taking notice of the plight of homosexuals in Jamaica, and your leadership in increasing tolerance and goodwill in Jamaica can only strengthen the relationships between Jamaica and other nations that are concerned with justice for all people.

I call on your government to act in the interest of human rights, full equality, and safety for all. For the sake of the people I know and love in Jamaica, please do all that you can to protect them from hatred and violence.

Yours most sincerely,


The Reverend Canon Durrell Watkins

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Praying for an End to Homohatred

No jokes.
No witty quips or one-liners.
No long stories.
No homilies.
No detailed arguments.
No philosophical ponderings. Not today.

Today I'm just tired. Sad. Worried.
When I think of Jamaica and Nigeria and other places where government, police, religion, and angry mobs all routinely dehumanize gay people and work to erase them from public view and concern, I just wonder when it all will stop. When will people be able to live out loud as the people they are without fear of being killed or raped or beaten? How can we bring civility to civilization?

On other days I can point to military campaigns, political movements, missionary endeavors, and other historical travesties that have led us to this point of mass homohatred in the global south and other areas, but today I don't want to play the anthropologist, the sociologist, the political scientist, or the social analyst. Today I'm just concerned and sad that people living in hiding and others are dying because hatred is so alive and well in our world. Today I'm just praying for change. Maybe that's something. I hope so, because today it's all I have.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Response to Anti-Gay Attack in Jamaica (Released Feb. 16)

Sunshine Cathedral’s Pastoral Response to Anti-Gay Attack in Jamaica
For Immediate Release

We, the pastors of the Sunshine Cathedral, express deep sorrow in response to the attack suffered by three alleged homosexual men in Tropical Plaza, St. Andrew, Jamaica on Wednesday, February 14th, 2007.

According to news reports the three men were trapped in a pharmacy while a mob outside the pharmacy called for the men to be handed over to them. Some in the mob reportedly called for the men to be killed.

As people of faith, we hope for a world where peace prevails over violence and justice wins over oppression and human kindness replaces brutal prejudice. As people who preach and pray for the equality of all people, we are alarmed and grieved by the reports of three men being targeted, threatened, and even injured simply for being suspected of being gay.

Our hearts go out to the men who were terrorized by the mob and we wish the three men safety and recovery from their ordeal. We are also mindful of their families and friends at this time and of all who work to change homophobic attitudes and the violence that results from such attitudes.

As religious people and as members of the human family, we are appalled by acts of violence and we call on all people, both secular and religious, to remember and respond to what is often called The Golden Rule, which is simply to treat others as one would wish to be treated.

We ask every person of public influence to discourage violence against same-gender loving people. We hope that all people who know of this story will ask themselves, “How would I feel if the men being threatened were my friends, brothers, sons, or grandsons?” We then hope that each person will pause to realize that each of those men is in fact someone’s loved one. And in the name of human decency we hope and pray that attacks motivated by hatred and prejudice will come to an immediate end.

Finally, we applaud the law enforcement personnel who defended the men who were under attack. We hope the civil authorities will continue to work for the safety and welfare of all people. We are thankful that the men were saved from the mob’s intentions. And we hope that all who live in the fear of violence because they are or are suspected of being homosexual will remain strong and will one day soon be able to live their lives without the threat of abuse.

The Sunshine Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church affirms the sacred worth of all persons and promotes equality and human rights as core religious values. Additional comments will be released from both Sunshine Cathedral and Metropolitan Community Churches.


The Right Reverend Grant Lynn Ford and The Reverend Canon Durrell Watkins
on behalf of the Canon Circle of the Sunshine Cathedral
954.462.2004 (office) 954.462.7070 (fax)
Email contact:

Friday, February 16, 2007

Say it with me: Gay is good

I'm no follower of sports. I'm a homosexual. That means I'm exempt from watching sports. I don't even like the "gay" ones, like ice skating. Power drinking, competitive sleeping, professional bubble bath taking...these are my ideas of sports (though, I don't expect crowds to cheer me as I play them).

So, it will come as no surprise that until yesterday I had never even heard of Tim Hardaway. But there on my email news was the story of how this athletic superstar, Tim Hardaway, proudly announced in an interviewed that he hates gay people! Hates. Of course, as unenlightened as his view is, he had even more to say. In the end, he didn't seem like a very nice person and many of his associates who do want to be nice people, or who at least want to be viewed as nice people, distanced themselves from him.

The days when public figures can openly declare their hatred of entire groups of people is coming to an end (thank gods). People may continue to judge and condemn others because of racial, ethnic, or religious differences or because of sexual orientation, but they can no longer be celebrated for their bigotry. That's not just who we want to be. We want being human to mean something a bit nobler than that. Hallelujah!

Now, who cares if some ball bouncing celebrity can't cope with the diversity of the human family and thinks he has the right to say so across the air ways? Well, we all should as it turns out. When people of influence inject hatred and intolerance into the lifestream of society, it infects others. When enough people are sick with the disease of hatred, they behave reprehensibly. For example, on Valentine's Day in Jamaica, a few young men in a pharmacy were thought to be gay and were harassed as a result. One thing led to another and an hour later the police are gasing a crowd of 2000 people in order to get the men out safely. One of the men was beaten and some members of the mob hurled degrading and dehumanizing insults (and at least one stone) at the young men. The crowd demanded that the men be released to them and at least one person in the crowd called for the men's deaths!

One woman went so far as to blame the victims of the mob violence! She said the dress and demeanor of the men amounted to "flaunting" their sexuality, and in her mind, that justified gang violence and attempted murder.

The Hardaway incident and the Jamaican incident were unrelated, but then again, not. When clergy, politicians, parents, and celebrities preach and promote hatred, they are creating an atmosphere where the "other" is viewed as subhuman, and once a person is no longer a person in the eyes of potential attackers, there is nothing to prevent rabid violence. When people like Hardaway (or the pope or a political candidate or radio "shock jock" or a hyper-religious blood thirsty Hollywood film-maker, etc.) dehumanize gay people, they encourage ignorance, hatred, and violence.

Never mind "Love your neighbor." I'll settle of the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I bet Hardaway doesn't want people to say that a cultural or subcultural group to which he belongs is detestable. I bet no one in the crowd on Valentine's Day would have wanted to trade places with the young men in the pharmacy. You don't have to understand others, agree with others, or like them. But why publically vilify, humiliate, or threaten them? When we deny the humanity of others, we diminish our own. So yes, Mr. Hardaway, I do hold you responsible for some of the homohatred in the world. But not just you...anyone and everyone who uses influence to degrade and damage the lives of others. Let's just fix all this foolishness right now...say it with me, "Gay is Good." And so it is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Queer Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. People all over rush to wedding chapels to get married on this day of romance. Well, those who have the option of getting married do anyway.

A statistically significant number of people are physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same-sex. This has always been true and its true cross-culturally.

People naturally enough form supportive relationships wherein they care for one another and share their lives together. I see no legitimate reason to place legal restrictions on loving, consensual relationship regardless of the genders that make them up. Covenantal fidelity makes a marriage, not gender. To define marriage as being between one man and one woman shows that it ain't necessarily so. If it was self-evident, it wouldn't require legislation!

In some states in th U.S., bi-racial marriage was illegal (well into the last century even!). Surely we look back on that time of ignorance and bigotry with shame and embarrassment today. Now it wouldn't occur to most reasonable people that the race/races of a couple made a marriage more or less legitimate. One day we will have similar enlightened tolerance regarding same-gender loving couples who wish to legally wed.

This is really a human/equal rights issue. Strange to bring it up on the day of romance. But, until same-gender loving people have equal access to the responsibilities and benefits of marriage wherever they happen to live, romance will remain a socio-political issue that must be brought up time and again until there is truly "liberty and justice for all."

May love prevail! Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Sin is NOT Homosexuality by Debra Haffner

The following web log posting is from the Reverend Debra Haffner ( I share her thoughts because they are brilliant. And, because I am proud to say that she was one of my seminary professors (she taught my human sexuality course). Rev. Haffner is a Unitarian Universalist minister with a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and a Master of Public Health degree from Yale. Enjoy her wise words below:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Sin is NOT Homosexuality
I've read a lot of the news reports on Rev. Barnes' resignation from his megachurch after he "confessed" his homosexuality. They all quoted a religious leader on the right who declared homosexuality a sin, and several stated their belief that homosexuality was a choice. None directly quoted a religious leader who flatly countered these positions. Let me do that here.

There is no sin in being homosexual or in engaging in same sex eroticism in a loving, just relationship. The sin is homophobia, the denigration of our neighbors because they are physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same sex. The sin is heterosexism, the presumption that heterosexuality is normative for all people and morally superior. The sin is forcing people to deny their God-given gift of their sexuality and to suffer to try to live their lives in a way that is antithetical to who they really are. The sin is violence and discrimination against GLBT persons and denial of their civil rights. The sin is when any of us, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, violate our commitments to our partner and hurt our families. The sin is making sexual decisions that hurt us and hurt others.

Reverends Haggard and Barnes are primary evidence against the myth that people choose their sexual orientation. Both confess that they have struggled with their same sex attractions their whole lives. They tried to pray it away; they tried to marry it away; they tried to make it go away by having sex with women they loved; they tried counseling to make it go away. From the news reports, it certainly seems that they did everything they could to "change."But, they couldn't. No more than I could change my sexual orientation...or you change your's. It's time for the churches that condemn homosexuality to learn that lesson. It's time for the congregants to think through what it means to "love your neighbor as yourself."

I am reminded of this line from I believe Meister Eckart, "When will grown men and women stop believing in a God that makes them sad? It is a lie, any talk of God that does not comfort you."


When I can see it, feel it, know tends to happen. What's the "it"? Doesn't matter. Any it! If I can visualize a situation and if I can summon the feeling of the occasion, sooner or later, it materializes in my experience. It may happen overnight. It may take a month, or a year, or a decade. Sometimes I forget that I created the picture and felt with intensity what the outcome might be like. But then it happens and I recall, "Oh, that's exactly what I visualized, imagined, prayed for."

So, my advice on how to pray for success, health, prosperity, happiness, or anything else is not to beg God for these blessings, but to see them in Mind and feel them as accomplished.

Don't get distracted by details (though making plans is a good plan). Imagine the result, feel the joy that comes from accomplishment or from hearing good news. And that's prayer and eventually, in some way, the picture you've created in your mind must be made manifest in your experience.

Of course there are two caveats. (1) It works no matter what the picture is. If we hold a fearful picture, that situation will become imprinted on our subconscious and our Mind will work to bring that into reality. So, anxiety is as much prayer as hope is. Keep the pictures positive. (2) Pay attention and be grateful. For instance, you imagined yourself being wealthy. But the mansion, the limo, the summer house, and the pool still aren't here. But you do have a comofortable home, you have unlimited access to the beach, you have a dependable car, and you have friends in fun places to visit. You have everything that the mansion/limo/summer house/pool combo represents. So, notice how your dreams of wealth are already coming true and be thankful.

The question isn't if you'll pray. The question is how you'll pray. Postive, mental imaging accompanied by feelings of fulfillment and gratitude make up the prayer of power, and it works.

Friday, February 09, 2007

3 Religious FAQs

These are questions I am frequently asked. If you have had any of these questions, I hope this blog entry will be interesting to you. If you know someone who has any of these questions, feel free to share this entry with them. Enjoy:

1. How can you believe in God?
A belief is just a habitual thought. I've spent my entire life thinking about God, so, believing in God is the natural consequence. Put another way, to believe in something is to focus one's attention on it. I have given a lot of attention to this question, so, naturally, "belief" is the result.
Now, WHAT do I believe about God? That complicates the issue. I'm 40 years old. I don't believe today what I did at 35, or 25, or 18, or 12, or 6. I'm not sure I believe what I did three weeks ago! That I believe seems natural. What I believe is constantly growing, changing, and being worked out.
I'm not married to god-language, and in fact, am quite put off by some speech and vocabularies about God. I personally don't "need" the word "god" for my spirituality at this moment, but in this western culture, we have inherited art, imagery, music, literature, and philosophies that use god-language. So, it is easier to follow the path of least resistance.
What I mean by "god" is the totality of All That Is, ultimate reality, the way life works, the substance of all form, the best aspects of existence (i.e., love, beauty, truth, hope, etc.). I believe in God because I believe in all that God represents. I could call It "Law" or "Love" or "Spirit" or anything else. The power of God isn't in what we call It, but in what we do with the concept once we've identified It.

2. Do you really believe Jesus is the son of God and/or the savior of humankind?
The real Jesus is shrouded in myth and mystery, legend and lore. The stories we have about Jesus were all written to promote specific agendas, many of which are largely unknown to the average person today. So whatever anyone believes about Jesus will involve a good bit of conjecture.
However, what Jesus represents to people on an emotional level is very real and important. The Jesus of our sacred stories and historic creeds represents a path to freedom, empowerment, and enlightenment, and those are things that I not only believe in but also strive to obtain and share. If stories about Jesus help offer some of us an experience of healing or liberation, then the hero of those stories is divine enough and does save us from needless limitation. That does not negate the heroes of other stories, nor does it diminish people who find freedom apart from mythic heroes, but for the Christian, Jesus is (at least rhetorically) the son of God and as such demonstrates that we too are sons and daughters of God, or more simply, that we all are persons of sacred value.

3. What happens to the soul after death?
To answer this one, I simply quote Dr. Ernest Holmes, the founder of the Science of Mind movement: "Immortality is not something we purchase from the Almighty, nor is it a bargain we make with the universe. Immortality either is a principle in nature and common to all [people] or it has no existence whatsoever."
I don't know what is next beyond this life. I don't know what is next for any of us in this life! I couldn't tell you what tomorrow holds. But the energy of life didn't begin in 1966 when I was born and I doubt if it ceases to be after my body stops functioning. I trust that we somehow, in some way, continue to exist beyond this experience of life. I do not believe that immortality is the reward for holding one kind of belief or that it is withheld from those who don't embrace a certain belief. If immortality exists, it exists for us all and the best way to prepare for it is to live this life well. If immortality does not exist, then the most reasonable approach to our one shot at life is to live it well. In either case, our goal should be to live life well. A life well lived will have few regrets, whether it is eternal or not. That having been stated, I continue to suspect that immortality is a reality.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Haggard Tragedy

Could Ted Haggard be more tragic? Not because he's's just an innate orientation whereby one is attracted to people of the same gender. It's perfectly natural (at least for those who are gay). Not because he had an affair with a sex worker...that may have been painful or embarrassing for his family, but his mutual, consensual relationship with another man was probably harmless enough. Not because he lost his position of influence in fundamentalist circles...the hypocrisy of condemning a lifestyle that he was living should have damaged his credibility. No, the tragedy of Ted Haggard is that he believes he has received legitimate counseling and the thinks that counseling has left him straight.

You see, Haggard received counseling for three weeks. Not three months. Not three years. Three weeks. Three weeks is not a therapeutically significant period of time. And, I don't know the credentials of his so-called counselors, but I doubt if they have been certified by the American Psychological Association as psychotherapists (or, if they have, the APA must surely now be embarrassed).

The "counseling" has left Haggard with the conclusion that he is and always has been straight and was simply "acting out" during his homosexual affair. Of course, this has not restored Haggard to evangelical leadership. And my guess is that this 3 week exercise in denial has only given Haggard another excuse to hide his true feelings (whether he is homosexual or bisexual) and to hate himself for having them. Neither Haggard, his family, nor the faith communities he once led have been well served by the bizarre notion that legitimate therapy can take place in less than a month and that therapy of any duration can change one's innate sexual orientation.

I have great respect for the behavioral sciences and those who practice the mental healing arts. But I have no confidence that Haggard has genuinely accessed any such healing art or science. The result of his counseling isn't any real healing, but more likely continued denial, self-deception, self-loathing, and pain that could have been avoided by appropriate therapy, self-acceptance, and a rejection of homophobic prejudice. I don't know how this will all end for Haggard, but my guess is that it won't end as well as it might have had he benefited from real counseling from a qualified therapist over a respectable length of time.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I'm Religious; I Hope My Government Isn't

"There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as The Dark Ages." - Ruth H. Green

My reasons for being religious are my own. Some of the best people I have ever known I met in worshiping communities. Some of the best music I have ever enjoyoed was composed as tributes of faith. In fact, one of my favorite songs ever is Schubert's Ave Maria, a prayer to the mother of Jesus.

In moments of crisis, religion has comforted me. Sacred texts have challenged me and caused me to wrestle with important questions, a process that has led me to empowering ideas and conclusions (often in opposition to the institution that introduced me to those texts!). The sacred stories of my tradition are true for me because of the inspiration they provide, even when I don't believe the stories are historically factual (I don't believe, for instance, that Moses magically parted a sea or that a snake spoke in a prehistoric garden or that Jesus walked on top of water, but the fictive elements of these stories do not prevent the stories from revealing deeper truths).

I pray daily (though, by prayer, I mean quieting my discursive thinking, expressing hope for myself and others, and affirming possibilities rather than begging a far away but always spying deity for favors or forgiveness). I worship weekly. I support my church with time, talent, and treasure. I am seminary educated. I am baptized, confirmed, and ordained. I am a religious person.

It is my choice to be religious. My reasons are personal, and I believe valid. Everyone is entitled to be religious for their own reasons, or to be non-religious, also for their own reasons.

However, in a secular democracy, the personal religion of individuals (no matter how many they number) cannot be legislated by local or federal governments. I am religious and will share my religious views with anyone who shows the least bit of interest, but my government must protect and serve and represent the Muslim, the Jew, the Catholic, the Protestant, the Atheist, the Buddhist, the neo-Pagan, etc. Theocracies are by definition un-democratic, and whereas I may invite the god of my understanding into my daily life, I am very much afraid of the god of anyone's understanding sitting on the imaginary throne of my nation. As deeply as I value religion in my life, I value liberty at least as much.

The freedom of religion in life requires freedom from religion in government.

"Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated." - Ulysses S. Grant

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Virgins Don't Have Babies, But Why Mess With A Good Story

I love stories. I've heard people try to dismiss the bible as just "fairy tales" and others who defend the bible by saying it isn't "just" fairy tales. Others try to insist that the bible is "all true or not at all true," and such poorly thought out comments are meant to suggest that every word found in the bible is somehow factual. Of course, its easier to pretend to believe that than it is to try to make sense of the contraditions, unethical practices, historical inaccuracies, and scientific impossibilities that fill the bible.

The mistaken belief that the bible must be factual to be valuable means that people will either do terrible things in the name of the bible, or they will reject the bible from their lives. I think there is another alternative.

I love taking the stories of the bible and sharing them as stories. They are not for me "just" stories, they are sacred literature, a powerful art form that offers truth independent of fact. If not one thing in the stories ever actually happened, if not one person in the stories ever really lived, the stories remain true for me because they activate my imagination where new truths can constantly be discovered. The power of the bible doesn't depend on its being factual, but in its being creative. The stories are powerful. And if we let them be stories, they can be true by helping us discover new truths with each reading of them.

Virgin Birth? Resurrection? Walking on water? Raising the dead? Fiery chariot? Water into wine? Did these things ever really happen? I have my doubts, but the power of the stories for me isn't whether or not they happened. And that's why they can be true for me even if they didn't happen. More important than being true, they are relevant, and therefore sacred.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Match Game

The original Hollywood Squares and Tattle Tales are in the same ball park, but the all time best game show must be the Match Game. Not the original in the late '60s, and not the later remakes (such as the 1990 travesty), but the long running version beginning in 1973. I bless the television deities for allowing the re-runs to be shown nightly on the Game Show Network!

Sure, I'm glad to see some star struck contestant win some extra cash. And, yes, I'm amused to revisit what passed for fashion in the 1970s. And I enjoy the quirky unhummable theme song. But what I like most is the chemistry of the celebrity panel (and, of course, the host Gene Rayburn).

The regulars: Brett Summers (wife of Jack Klugman), Charles Nelson Reilly (accomplished theatre actor and director and fairly obvious homosexual), and Dick Dawson (television actor and game show host).
The rotating semi-regulars: Betty White (television actor), Patty Deutsch (voice over actor), Joyce Bulifant (I honestly don't know what the hell else she ever did), and the FABULOUS Fanny Flagg (brilliant author).

In addition to the two contestants and broadcasting veteran Gene Rayburn, there was the gender balanced panel of 6 celebrities. Somehow, this arrangement lent itself to humorous, smart, and even naughty play. It was a combination party/variety entertainment/improvisational theatre that included audience participation and almost at the margins, two contestants competing for fairly modest sums of money.

In addition to the 3 regulars, 3 other "stars" would rotate in from week to week. The first celebrity panelist would be either a charming (Bob Barker), sexy (Bert Convey), or quirky (Nimpsey Russell) personality, always male. Next to this rotating first chair was Brett and Charles.

The next row on the panel would be Dawson with two women on either side. The first woman usually played the part of a sexy, buxom, "airhead" (Ethel Merman and Dr. Joyce Brothers being notable exceptions) and the final panelists would rotate funny, smart women who could be counted on to give off-the-wall answers (Flagg, Bulifant, White, Deutsch).

This formula created an energy on stage that has not been matched in American television history. The Match Game modeled community building, use of intellect and wit, spontenaity, and the value of fun. I long for that kind of intelligent, clever, cohesive (but not overly rehearsed) entertainment again. The Match Game made me feel smart, witty, sophisticated, and part of a group of people who would never meet me in person. That kind of magic is needed in our world today. I hope such a spell can be cast over the airways again.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ethical Vs. Religious

Earlier today, a friend of mine included the following line in an email to me:
"I can surpress the urge to curse old ladies, steal candy from convenience stores and kill anyone who cuts in front of me in the check-out line without relying on a Supreme Being for help."

In response, I wrote:
"In my bible study last night, I told the story of Hagar, Sarah's slave. I pointed out that having a slave disqualified Sarah from being a good person. The bible and the god of the bible are not always good sources for ethical behavior. In fact, the most ghastly things ever done by man to man, man to woman, man to child, man to environment, etc. have almost always been done by religious people! So, I can think of a few good reasons to be religious, but ethics don't make the list. In fact, if ethics were my primary concern, I could probably NOT be religious."

It's true. Slavery, child abuse, misogyny, war, religious bigotry, and other atrocities fill the pages of the bible. Such heinous acts are usually not condemned and sometimes even glorified. The bible cannot be for people of conscience a rule book of behavior. Rather, the bible is a collection of sacred stories from ancient peoples. As we engage, diologue with, struggle with, argue with, and contemplate the scriptures, they become our stories and we become part of the story. The experience is a useful one and can lead to spiritual growth. But the bible is not a rule book that can be relied upon to tell us what is and isn't good behavior. The bible can be relied upon to show us how flawed but devout people can search for meaning in life and remain as faithful as possible in good times and bad. Once we become clear about what the bible is and what it isn't, then it can no longer be used as a weapon of oppression against us or others.

For ethics, use your common sense. For an example of people in their own cultural and historical context trying to understand the mysteries of life, read the bible.