The text that I chose
is from Paul's letter to the Galatians, the third chapter. I think
a fairly familiar text:
Now before faith came, we were
imprisoned and guarded under the
law until faith would be
revealed. 24Therefore the law
was our disciplinarian until
Christ came, so that we might be
justified by faith. 25But now
that faith has come, we are no
longer subject to a
disciplinarian, 26for in Christ
Jesus you are all children of
God through faith. 27As many of
you as were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with
Christ. 28There is no longer Jew
or Greek, there is no longer
slave or free, there is no
longer male and female; for all
of you are one in Christ Jesus.
29And if you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s
offspring, heirs according to
We have heard this text so many times
before that I think we do not often grasp the radical nature of it in
the first century. The idea that men and women, Jew and Gentile,
especially slave and free, could be equal in that society was absolutely
absurd. And perhaps it still is.
Paul's basic message that comes to us
today is simply this: the unity we have in Christ breaks down all
the societal barriers. Class, gender, race, whatever keeps us from
being a true community where all are welcome to share faith in God.
One of those barriers, which has been
just as damaging to Christian community (as well as all community) as
any other barrier, is sexual orientation.
I have previously made the case for why
homosexuality is not a sin. I have copies of the sermon I gave
back in 2000 on the table in the back for any who would like to see
that. It's also on our web site,
May 28, 2000.
But I'm not going to repeat all of that
this morning. I can sum up the entire sermon with this one quote
that someone gave to me this week, knowing the topic that I was going to
preach on. It says:
contains 6 admonitions to homosexuals and 362 admonitions to
heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love
heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision.
I think that's nervous laughter I hear
out there J.
As many of you know, I served on the
Governor's Equality Task Force, which spent most of 2006 working on
recommendations to the Governor [Ted Kulongoski] which were then enacted
in 2 bills: The Oregon Equality Act, which makes it illegal to
discriminate in the state of Oregon on the basis of sexual orientation,
and the Family Fairness Act, which allows same-sex couples to register
as domestic partners. That
full report is contained in a long document, I just want to share
the conclusion of the task force on the latter issue. They said:
"The task force is
persuaded by the public testimony it heard, and by analysis
performed in other states that concluded that the rights, benefits,
and responsibilities that flow from governmental recognition of
domestic partner relationships are fundamental and deeply important
to all persons in such relationships -- both heterosexual and
homosexual. These rights often provide critical protection to
people in times of crisis. The task force heard compelling
testimony about the difficulties and great expense incurred by
same-sex couples in their attempts to obtain these rights, benefits,
and responsibilities by contract or through other legal procedure to
the extent legally possible.
There is no
substitute for governmental recognition of the relationship".
Those two bills that passed the
Legislature with considerable bi-partisan support were to become
effective January 1st this year. The Oregon Equality Act (that
prohibits discrimination) did take effect on January 1st. But the
Family Fairness Act (that provides for domestic partnerships) has been
held up in the courts -- federal court -- pending a review sought by an
out-of-state organization that does legal work for conservative
As a result, there was a vigil, very
quickly organized -- the decree was issued on Dec 30th -- over the
holidays, and they asked if they could come here and use our chapel.
I suggested the chapel might be a little too small, and so we held it
here in our sanctuary. And indeed, we had over 350 people here for
that vigil, including many of the Soromundi Chorus who are here singing
with us today.
Coming together to show support not
just for that bill, but more importantly for all those couples who
thought that they were at long last to gain that legal standing in our
community, and then for whom that has (hopefully) temporarily been
postponed. But nevertheless was a significant setback for those
who were looking forward to that day.
And I told the group gathered here that
evening that it was especially important for me as a religious leader,
when religion has too often been used to condemn and to judge gays,
lesbians, bisexuals, and trans-gendered persons, and to deny basic
rights to same-sex couples, that it is vitally important to speak out
not in spite of my religious beliefs but precisely because
For at the heart of my faith as a
Christian is the belief in the equality and dignity of every person as a
child of God (as Paul states in this letter), created in God's image,
whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, young or old, black or white,
gay or straight. The point is that we are all human beings endowed
with certain inalienable rights, as Thomas Jefferson penned, including
the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
When the laws of our government inhibit
that pursuit, when they deny that liberty, when they devalue that life,
they must be changed. That's what these two laws seek to do.
We have come a long way in our society.
The attitudes on this issue are rapidly changing. And the church,
as Martin Luther King Jr. liked to say, needs to be the headlights, not
the taillights, leading the way forward.
When I came to this congregation, now
nearly 17 years ago, there was not a single openly gay or lesbian person
in the congregation. Over the last dozen years I am pleased to say
that we have had 3 different gay members on staff, a number of gay,
lesbian, and trans-gendered members in the congregation, and several
same-sex couples in leadership roles in the life of the church.
And our story is not unique. It
is being repeated in congregation after congregation across this
country. Witnessed by the fact that there are over 100
congregations in Oregon alone that are celebrating this 'Equality
Sunday' this weekend or next.
So to make it more personal, that we
might all see how important it is for us to be a welcoming, open and
affirming congregation, I invited two couples to share their story with
[Two couples came forward to share
their stories. The first was a heterosexual couple who's adult son
confided to them he was gay roughly 8 years ago. The second was a
lesbian couple that is active in leadership committees at First
Dick and Ginny Busic spoke first --
Ginny started, followed by Dick:
Dan asked us to share a little bit of
our story today. He gave us five minutes! We’ll talk fast.
Our son Mike is gay. As he was growing
up, he was just like the other boys in our family, having lots of
girlfriends and into school activities. He made friends easily and
talked about the girls he met at school. When he graduated from college
and moved to Portland, he would often bring a “girl friend” to family
events. I remember one girl in particular whose name was Molly, and we
thought they would be such a great pair….Mike and Molly. When he called
us one day, I asked him how things were going with Molly and he said:
she is getting really weird Mom”. When I asked him how, he said she
calls me every day. My comment was, She likes you Mike.” We began to
wonder why this happened with most of the girls he dated.
He worked in Portland for a while and
then moved to Atlanta for a job. He came home for Christmas party about
7 years ago and had a good time with the family. He called us when he
got home. He asked me if Dad was home because he had something to tell
us. When I told him Dick was not home, there was this long
pause…….Finally he said, “I have something I need to tell you both. I
tried to find a time while I was home but the opportunity didn’t occur.
I need to go ahead and tell you. I’ll call dad later.” I knew in my
heart what he was going to say.
After he finished telling me he was gay
and had found a partner, I told him that he was our son and we loved him
no matter what. I will never forget his response, “I knew you and Dad
would love me no matter what, but it is always harder to tell the ones
you love the most.” I remember saying to Mike, we always wanted you to
have someone in your life – we thought it would be a woman – but we are
happy that you have found a soul mate.
I think our only concern at that time
was that he be safe. There had been so many stories of terrible things
happening to those who were homosexual. We worried about the violence
toward gay people.
We took these concerns and other
feelings to Dan first, as our pastor. We found him very helpful and
We have three grown sons, two that are
married and have wives who bring balance and blessing in their
relationship and our whole family.
Our middle son has a partner of nearly
8 years, now. We can see the balance in Michael’s life and the
blessing that David has brought to their relationship and to our whole
As a pastor I received opportunity in
seminars and conferences from early on in my ministry to reflect on my
own sexuality, how I would counsel individuals and couples, and how
scripture speaks to healthy and unhealthy sexuality. One experience I
have never forgotten was the chance to view a film of parents who
learned that their grown son was gay. The father turned his back
on his son, disowning him and shutting him out of his life. I vowed that
if I had a son who was gay, I would not be like that father.
When Michael told us he was gay, the
response that came from within me, was – “I love you, son. Nothing can
Some things did begin to change,
however, when Michael was able go tell us he was gay on that February
day just after the dawn of a new century.
You remember he had moved away,
geographically, from us – clear out to Atlanta, Georgia. We had
also begun sensing some distance in our relationship as well, especially
when we kept bugging him about dating and working at finding a wife.
That distance disappeared with that
phone call. We not only gained our son back; we also gained
another loving son into our family, whom our grandchildren
affectionately call, “Aunt David.” Made sense to them, “Uncle
Mike, Aunt David.”
Another change for us was to be
introduced to a number men and women with same-sex orientation. We
have gained new friendships and the privilege of listening as they
shared their stories, insights, hopes, and faith with us.
Does this mean I have all my questions
about homosexuality answered? NO! I do have a growing file on the
subject and added another shelf to the bookcase.
It does mean that I have been motivated
to comb the Bible, which I hold to be the authentic record of God’s
people before me and their expressions of faith and God’s will for their
lives. It does mean that I have explored the maximum of 10
passages, a minimum of references, which can even be construed to refer
to homosexuality. Dan Bryant helped in this study through a series
offered a few years ago. It does mean that I have concluded the
Bible speaks very little, if any about sexual-orientation, but a whole
lot about how we treat each other. And the greatest message – the
good news – is God’s love for all. There is the wrath of God in
the Bible, but it comes when we forget the main message of God’s love
I’m still learning about and need your
help in confronting my own prejudices and projections I place upon
others. And the more I discover, the more I confess, the more I
long, and the more I work for a just world where we stand together with
our differences, learning and growing in God’s love.
Ginny and I are grateful for the
invitation and opportunity to share our story with you today. And
we want you to know that if you have questions or want to explore our
story further, we are open to conversation. We promise to respect
your points of view, just as we anticipate your respect of ours. It is
characteristic of the balance and blessing of life and work in this
[Janet Anderson and Evelyn Anderton
Twenty-two years ago on International
Women’s Day, March 8, 1986, I attended a celebration and fair at the
Presbyterian Church in Eugene. I was leading citizen diplomacy trips to
the former Soviet Union at the time … and was trying to find women to
join me on a Women’s Journey for Peace. Organizing the event for Rape
Crisis Network was this articulate, beautiful woman that I’d noticed in
the community before, but had been too shy to approach. Her name was
Evelyn and I was immediately smitten.
We talked, found a mutual interest in
working against nuclear weapons and I invited her to join Women’s Action
for Nuclear Disarmament or WAND. For the next six months we worked
together on WAND projects, organized booths and events and carried on
lengthy conversations in the parking lot after meetings.
Finally, that fall, I asked her out . .
. Our first date was dinner and a romantic evening at the crowning of
the Slug Queen J.
A year later, we moved in together and have been together since. My
parents, who lived in Portland and had a wonderful marriage, had often
worried that their only child wouldn’t marry or find a life partner. I
think they breathed a sigh of relief when I brought Evelyn home with me
and it became evident that I’d found the love of my life.
But, of course, we couldn’t marry. And,
in fact, I never said the “L” word in front of my father. So the way we
told them that we were in a committed relationship was that we got our
wills written and left everything to each other, filled out the forms
for medical power of attorney naming each other as primary caretakers.
Then we shared the documents with my parents over drinks before dinner.
Soon my mother took to introducing Evelyn as “Janet’s Partner” or “my
other daughter” – and she did so for the rest of her life.
I’m one of the lucky ones. Every day
I’m grateful to God for giving me the love that Evelyn and I share. I’m
grateful all that we have together, our laughter, our tears and our
growth and exploration, including our return to the church.
I was raised in the Episcopal Church.
My parents were lifelong churchgoers. But after leaving home, religion
took a backseat and I only attended when visiting my folks. A couple of
years after my dad died, Mother moved to Eugene to be closer to us. At
that point Evelyn and I started attending church with her regularly and
discovered a spiritual aspect to our lives that hadn’t been touched for
What we love about First Christian
Church – about all of you – is that you provide an oasis not only for
gays and lesbians, like ourselves, but for all of God’s people – be they
homeless or housed, rich or poor, ducks or beavers, black or white or
brown. In this congregation, all worship side by side, the lives and
gifts of everyone are gratefully received and all loving relationships
are acknowledged and nourished. There are no outsiders here … all who
desire to be so are family. This gives us hope for the church as a whole
and for the future.
We thank God for our blessings.
Like Janet, I was raised in a church –
in my case it was the Roman Catholic Church. After graduating from
my catholic high school, I also stopped going to church and gave it very
little thought for decades. Then, I got to a point where I felt there
was something missing in my life. I had friends who meditated and became
involved in Eastern religions, but that wasn’t a draw for me. I kept
going back to Jesus’ message of peace and love. It was so simple
and so right. Was there any place that I could go where that could
be the basis for my spiritual journey and not the old sin and guilt of
my early years?
It took a couple of false starts before
we discovered First Christian Church. We weren’t sure what the teachings
were, but we had gotten to know Dan through our work in human services
and figured if there was any place that might work, it would be with
Dan. We have never been sorry.
The idea that each of us is on our own
spiritual journey and we can interpret the words of Jesus in whatever
way works for us was revolutionary. It was clear from the
beginning that this was a congregation that would accept us as a couple
and have no judgments. Then we found out that it wasn’t just this
church, but the leadership of Disciples of Christ is encouraging all
congregations to declare themselves open and affirming church to gays
This is a very exciting and scary time
for us as lesbians. It is exciting because it feels like the
acceptance of our life style by more and more people is growing.
It is scary because we know from history that the backlash against
oppressed people can be so sudden and devastating. Being part of a
community like First Christian Church gives us hope. It’s proof
that there is a strong Christian presence in this country that is based
on love and justice for everyone.
We want to thank you and tell you how
proud we are to be a part of such an accepting congregation.
Thank you for sharing with us today.
I have to make a confession. When I was thinking about this
Sunday, I actually invited someone else to speak. And that is
Senator Frank Morse, who is a good friend. I invited him for two
reasons: number one, he was author of SB-1000 that pre-dated the
two bills that were approved in the last session, that would have done
the same thing but a little bit differently. And secondly, because
he's a Republican, and would provide political cover for me
Former chair of the Board at Northwest Christian College, we actually
sang in the church choir together at First Christian Church in Albany,
so I've known him for a long time. I thought he'd be the perfect
person to speak. But the stories and testimonies these couples
have provided us are so much more powerful because it comes from within
the congregation, and I just truly want to thank you for that.
In the first service, another member
had to tell her story at the end of the service, and I want to share
that story with you. She was told that she could not give birth
due to some defect, I don't remember what it was. She gave birth
to a child who died 3 days after birth, and that's when she learned that
it was dangerous for her. A year later, she became pregnant again,
and gave birth a second time. Her son revealed to her as a young
adult that he was gay (her only son). In her previous church,
someone told her that God does not love homosexuals. And she said:
"How could God not love this child, who is such a miracle, who wasn't
even supposed to be?". That's how she came to us. Just an
incredibly powerful story.
My concluding thoughts about all of
this comes back to this revolutionary idea we have in this church that
every individual has the freedom to believe as they see fit within the
very broad parameter of the person of Jesus Christ. We do not a
creed, we do not have a doctrine, we do not say you have to believe all
of these things. That allows for all of this incredible freedom,
which means that you can disagree with everything that has been said
this morning, and still be a good member of this church. And
indeed, many people do disagree with things that I say and are good
members of this church.
But if we are going to unite around
that person of Jesus Christ, then I truly believe that at a minimum it
means this: that the time has come for us to say without
hesitation and without equivocation, that there is no longer Jew nor
Greek, male nor female, straight or gay, all are one in Christ in the
love of God.
For that we give thanks. May it