Monday, February 29, 2016

Sunshine Cathedral: More than an MCC

     Sometimes people will refer to Sunshine Cathedral as “MCC” (which stands for Metropolitan Community Church). But Sunshine Cathedral is so much more than a Metropolitan Community Church!
     Sunshine Cathedral is currently affiliated with Metropolitan Community Churches (a denomination founded by and for LBGT people in 1968), and  is also affiliated with the Divine Science Federation International (Divine Science is the oldest of the New Thought schools of thought; New Thought emphasizes the power of positive thinking, the unity of all life, and the omnipresence of God).
     Additionally, Sunshine Cathedral is an affiliate of the Global Justice Institute, an independent ministry housed at MCC New York that focuses on social justice throughout the world. Sunshine Cathedral also participates in the pension plan of the American Baptist Churches USA (which is also used by the International Council of Community Churches), and Sunshine Cathedral is in the process of applying for affiliation with the Progressive Christian Alliance (and other ecumenical organizations). In the past, Sunshine Cathedral has held affiliations with The Center for Progressive Christianity and the International New Thought Alliance.
     Sunshine Cathedral’s staff ministers hold licenses and ordinations from MCC, Interfaith organizations, Divine Science, the Assemblies of God, a Baptist denomination, and Centers for Spiritual Living. The Samaritan Institute at Sunshine Cathedral is the religious education program for the Sunshine Cathedral, the diaconal training school for Sunshine Cathedral members who wish to pursue ministry as a deacon, and it is also a ministerial training school for the Divine Science Federation International!
     Sunshine Cathedral members and friends come from New Thought, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, Muslim, and Humanistic traditions. So, while Sunshine Cathedral began as a Metropolitan Community Church, it has become so much more! Please do not refer to your deeply ecumenical church as just “MCC”…we are Sunshine Cathedral, a different kind of church!

Hate the Sin of Homophobia, Not the Homophobic Sinner

We knew that those who oppose marriage equality would not just go away. Legislatures and political candidates are calling for laws and constitutional amendments that would attempt to continue to dehumanize, demonize, and demoralize same-gender loving people.
The evil of state mandated discrimination should horrify all good people, but what is as bothersome to me is when the extreme Religious Right has the temerity to claim that denying them the opportunity to discriminate is somehow discriminatory toward them!
Religious people do not have to welcome LBGT folk into their congregations (decency would demand that they do so, but no law requires it). Religious people are free to even teach their children to hate LBGT people (again, decency is trampled upon in such a case, but not the constitution). Both freedom of religion and freedom of expression entitle one to be a jerk, but those freedoms do not extend to denying LBGT people full citizenship and full equality.
Now, in response to the Queer community demanding full and equal citizenship, the far Right will accuse us of being “intolerant.” What a bizarre argument! If we do not thank them for their intolerance, then we are intolerant of their intolerance, which, they insist, makes us intolerant. That would be, by the way, a prime example of nonsense.
You can't condemn people and say that is your religious right to do so, and then say those who resent being condemned are intolerant of your religion! Religion is about how YOU relate to the God of YOUR understanding; it is not about YOU deciding who is unworthy of dignity and respect.
Yes, gays will no longer tolerate being bullied. Yes, gays will insist they are fully human and deserve equal rights. Yes, gays will call out homophobia and bigotry no matter how much one insists that such hatefulness is faith-based. No one wants to deny anyone their religious experience; we simply deny that any religious experience is a good enough excuse to oppress the LBGT community.
Finally, those who swing religion like a club will say, “We hate the sin but we love the sinner." I don’t consider being called a sinner terribly loving, but also, that phrase is ridiculously misused. “Hate the sin, not the sinner” or “hate the sin, love the sinner” are derivatives of something Gandhi said. He was referring to the "sin" of colonization. Gandhi, in his non-violent way, was telling people to hate oppression without hating the oppressor. The Religious Right has stolen that phrase to justify their prejudices, cheapening their own religion and dishonoring Gandhi's intent at the same time. The truth is, fundamentalists don't wage war on every "sin” but have a couple of hot topics they focus on and when called out on it, then refer to that old, tired, trite, misunderstood sound bite to justify their prejudices.
I suppose in response to their hateful, myopic attacks on the LBGT community, we should hate their sin of homophobia without hating the self-righteous perpetrators of that sin, but even without hating them, we must resist their attempts to marginalize us.

Durrell Watkins is the senior minister of
Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.
Sunshine Cathedral is a “different kind
of church.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The "Spirit" Isn't Necessarily the Cure for Disagreements

My pneumatology, like my theology, christology, and ecclesiology, is rather "low." Important, of course, but I don't use words like "god" and "spirit" (or even "the universe") to suggest that groups, even principled organizations, are somehow guided infallibly by cosmic forces. In my spiritual view and experience, devout, sincere people can  make mistakes. In my understanding, organizations can mean well and ask the god of their understanding for assistance and still do really bad (or at least, ineffective) things. "God told me" and "trust the spirit" and "just pray about it" and "God will provide" are trite phrases that can become utterly meaningless, and worse, abusive. Honest disputes, real questions, faithful disagreements, and differences of opinion do not suggest an unwillingness to be open to spiritual insights. When church people disagree, and choose to hide behind tired old verbiage of simple piety rather than respectfully addressing the honest differences, they are neither honoring the Divine particularly nor are they offering anything helpful to a possible resolution of differences. My having an opinion that differs from yours is not an affront to the Olympian deities! However, someone insisting that honest disagreement is a mistrust of spiritual energies does cheapen the religious enterprise.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Global Justice Church

Sunshine Cathedral is a Global Justice Church!
     On February 9th, the Sunshine Cathedral Board of Directors voted unanimously for Sunshine Cathedral to partner with the Global Justice Institute.
     GJI sends out press releases and calls to prayerful action in response to a number of justice issues throughout the world, and often sends representatives to justice-seeking and consciousness raising events, such as peace conferences, the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Selma to Montgomery March, a gay pride parade in Jamaica, a visit to an AIDS orphanage in Africa, etc. GJI also does important on the ground work in places where it is very dangerous to be lesbian, gay, or transgender; such work has included encouraging people in Malaysia and training women in Pakistan to have a trade so they can be independent and safe.
     The Global Justice Institute was originally comprised of MCC spiritual activists from around the globe …They were passionate about the Gospel as a radical social manifesto and about the belief that Queer rights are human rights.
     GJI’s work quickly expanded to include projects or partnerships in Pakistan, Malaysia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, parts of the United States, Eastern Europe and parts of Africa.
     They were committed to the Yogyakarta Principles and to general guidelines that stipulated GJI would
     *go only where invited
     *assume there was a lot to learn
     *listen to those who hosted GJI teams
     *forge partnerships
     *respond when required
     *understand that the  priority was always the furtherance of the human rights effort on the ground
     GJI adopted a Mission Statement that read in part: “to be an agent of change by building bridges that liberate and unite voices of sacred defiance…in acts of justice.”
     The Global Justice Institute was started by MCCers but as of 2011 is a separately incorporated 501{c}3 that is housed in the offices of Metropolitan Community Church in New York City (a church with a passionate outreach to homeless LBGT youth).
     The Rev. Elder Pat Bumgardner is the Executive Director of the Institute. The Institute is incorporated in New York State and its bylaws comply with requirements therein.
     Sunshine Cathedral’s partnership with and support of the Global Justice Institute will allow us to reach more people not only with a message of hope but also with life-changing aid. With this partnership, Sunshine Cathedral is officially a Global Justice Church.

Remembering Antonin Scalia

It is bad form, and probably bad karma, to rejoice when an enemy falls. So, while Justice Scalia used his power and influence to marginalize, demonize, and dehumanize same-gender loving people, even so, I wish him the peace in death that he denied so many in life. The only condition I place on my blessing is that free from the limits of society and physicality, he might know and deeply regret the pain he caused. And my prayer is that the forces of homophobia and hatred that Scalia represented may never do psychological or spiritual damage to any person or community ever again.
Jesus said to bless those who curse you, and so, I bless Scalia's memory - may it inspire us to always work for "liberty and justice for ALL" and may it serve to remind us that we must be diligent against hate, and while we work against hatred, may we also be intentional about not allowing it to infect our own hearts even when remembering those who were not always just toward us. And may those who loved and who will miss Justice Scalia be comforted in their time of grief. Amen.