Wednesday, June 22, 2016

At PCUSA General Assembly, Against Reparative/Conversion Therapy



This is my testimony against reparative/conversion therapy, debated yesterday at General Assembly of the PCUSA:

For Bill/Motion #11-23

The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell

In Psalm 139: 13-15, the Psalmist wrote, “For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well.  My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.”

These words from Ps. 139 are my touchstone as I came out of the gay closet I lived in for forty years and realized that our Creator made each of us: male, female and non-binary identity, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex, and it was good.  Nowhere in this Psalm or any Scripture do we read or hear that God didn’t make us as we are.  As one popular poster in the 1960s boasted proudly, “God don’t make junk.”  The Creator created us just as the Creator wanted us to be in this world.

This positive message of Holy Scripture has been conveniently forgotten by many in our faith community who promote the misconception that an individual can change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity through what was erroneously titled “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, which implies my being gay, or another person being lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or non-binary, was a mistake by God, and thus human beings needed to “repair” we who were created by the Creator. The research on such efforts has disproven their efficacy, and also has indicated that a person who is a client for one who practices reparative therapy may be harmed for life.  How is one harmed?  In this supposedly “therapeutic” approach, the LGBTQ person is filled with the societal prejudice and family rejection that many of us experienced earlier in life. Indeed, the very architect of reparative therapy, psychiatrist L. Spitzer has since denounced this very practiced and has apologized for endorsing the practice.   

I urge you to vote for #11-23 and against any motion that comes to this committee or the floor of General Assembly that endorses this rejected form of therapy. After all, the God who beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb, fashioned me.  Therefore, I will thank God because I, as an out gay Presbyterian pastor, am marvelously made (Ps. 139)

The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
3228 SW Sunset Blvd.,
Portland, OR 97239

919-444-9111

Friday, June 17, 2016

Happy General Assembly and Happy Pride!



There was a convergence today in my life that I never ever expected: when my being a Presbyterian met my being a gay man, and both are living relatively (yet still some times awkwardly) together.

It doesn't happen often in life when we take two parts of who we are, which were, for a long time, at odds with one another, and bring them together and find peace.

For years, I feared that my ordination, my "The Rev." would be revoked because I would be outed as a gay man, and censured or de-frocked for writing such publications as "On Being a Gay Parent." I was told by my former Presbyter Exec. that I should stay away from plate glass windows in my home and not be seen holding my partner's hand or kiss him in my home or on the streets of Chapel Hill, Durham, or Raleigh.

Today, I walked around the halls of the General Assembly and didn't care who knew that I was gay.  I was a ministered, called to be an interim pastor at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, and by being gay was not going to take that honor of serving the people here away.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Zero.

Pax!

B


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orlando, Guns, Vigils, and Churc


The Pulse Night Club attack came across my Facebook feed and Huffington Post as I prepared to preach on Sunday morning. At first, the report was 20 were killed, which was a horrific amount.  By 9:30 am, it was 50, including the killer, Omar Mateen.

I was shocked.  Horrified.  Stunned.

I went into the pulpit to preach a sermon that I had eerily titled, "Healing a Broken Community". To say the least, it was easy to weave in the story of Orlando in the part of the sermon that covered the sense of "brokenness."

But then I surprised myself toward the end of the sermon when I recounted that the gun violence towards gays/LGBTQ people is not isolated in Orlando, but also here in Portland, Oregon.  There are some streets and areas of this city where I would not kiss a partner because of my fear of violence. And four years ago, I could not be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) if I were an out LGBTQ person.  In fact, I know that charges were being drawn against me by another ordained clergy person in New Hope Presbytery because I am out and gay and an ordained clergy person.

Violence: my mom realized by the end of the sermon that I could be a victim of violence because I am gay and live in the USA, where guns and AR15 rifles can easily be purchased.

Friends of mine are visiting from Australia.  I asked them before the shooting if they thought we were a gun loving country and they laughed: "Of course! You have guns everywhere, don't you?"

My friend Paul Fukui and I went to one of two vigils in downtown Portland, outside of Embers, an LGBTQ night club. 2,000 people were there.

But there were no vigils near where I live and preach.

So tonight there is a vigil at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.  I bought the church's first rainbow flag. I expect 25-30 people to arrive.  I touched base with the rabbi in the neighborhood and president of a nearby mosque, but haven't heard back from them.

And I will pray.

We will read the names.

There is a sheet to give people an idea of what to do to curb gun violence.

This is a solemn week.

Prayers.

Silence.

Writing letters to representatives and senators.

Action.

God be with us.

Pax! B

Friday, May 27, 2016

NC humor





So my dentist in NC asked me how I was enjoying my short stay in NC.  "It's going well!" "What have you done in NC while you've been here?" he asked. "I've gone into every women's bathroom in the state," I said.  He laughed so hard he almost fell off his padded stool.

Crazy times in NC.

Hate-filled times in NC.

Time to take the state back to the 21st century rather than the 1950s.

Pax! B

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Make NC Great Again!

Even though I now live in the state of OR, I must confess that my heart aches for what is going on in the state politics that is NC. I'm not surprised. I am sad.  I am not surprised because I remember watching when the General Assembly in 2010 pass a bill to amend the NC Constitution, to deny us marriage equality, watching Dems and Republicans alike sign on with it, knowing that then-Gov. Perdue couldn't veto it (not in her powers). I remember phone bank calls and attending rallies in RDU area, only to drive 10 miles out of the bubble of Chapel Hill to see the pro-Amendment 1 votes to deny us marriage equality. We were the last state in the South to enact something so vile. .

Now we lead the nation in a more vile bill, HB2, that discriminates against a large minority group. The General Assembly Republicans know what they are doing: they are driving out their base voter for 2016.  This is all about getting out the vote in 2016, driving out by rallies and phone calls, etc.  But voting matters.  This is how these men and women got into power: by the people who voted for them.

So let's make NC great again.

Pax!

B

Welcome, UMC Folks who are LGBTQI and In and Out of the Closet!




Dear LGBTQI United Methodist Pastors: As an out gay pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), serving St. Andrew’s in Portland, Oregon, and as a former faculty member of Duke Divinity School (a United Methodist Church seminary), welcome to Portland! There are many out LGBTQI clergy in the Portland area who are praying for a change in your Book of Discipline that will allow LGBTQI people to be out and ordained, or marry the one you love. Here, kissing on a city street is permitted. Here, unlike North Carolina, citizens can use public restrooms without being asked about their gender or gender identity. Here, you can go see a movie and hold hands with little fear of violence; go to a concert and put your arm around your date; and hug each other after a Portland Timbers or Thorns soccer game goal with no one staring. There are so many bars and restaurants that are LGBTQI friendly that going to a specific gay or lesbian bar is unnecessary to find community. If coming to a welcoming city is a new or unique experience, consider trying this: breathe. Set aside whatever remnant of your LGBTQI closet is holding you back from stepping out, and breathe. Go to one of our many beautiful parks and breathe. Walk. Run. Live. Love. Feel free to sing, dance, shout, and tell your story. Be the person our Creator created, and the one that Jesus loves unconditionally.

One last word as you make your case with allies for marriage equality and recognition of being who you are? Courage!

Pax, Brett

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

NC causes me pain as a man who is gay



From afar I am watching the "going-ons" in NC, and I am sad and mad.  Having lived in NC for 25 years "plus", I came to love the state for its then-progressive ways, the culture of storytelling, food, and the geography.  Some of my family members still live in NC.

Today, I am angry in the way that the hate-filled NC Republican and apparently some Democratic legislators are voting in the House in overturning Charlotte's action to practice non-discrimination when it comes to LGBTQ people. Currently the bill is before the NC Senate.  I know the outcome already.

From sitting in my office in Portland, OR, with a unisex bathroom or 2 down the hall, the actions of the legislature is hate-filled and seems crazy.  Living in a state (OR) in which there is a more libertarian "live and let live" attitude, this incredible move to push NC backwards seems crazy.  But, as one of my clergy friends said in a sermon years ago, "When the 1950s come back, NC will be all set for its return."

Pax!

B