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


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.







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.



Writing letters to representatives and senators.


God be with us.

Pax! B