Ok, I'm tired of talking about myself, so this entry is shameless publicity for other groups of which I'm a part. Mainly, I wanted to mention two things - a Mass Peace Gathering on March 19th sponsored by the KC Iraq Task Force and the Kansas City Coalition.
On March 19th from 3-5:30 pm at Mill Creek Park (47th and Main in Kansas City, by the large fountain at the Plaza district) the KC Iraq Task Force is sponsoring a large event - a Mass Peace Gathering. It's the 3 year anniversary of the war in Iraq, and I don't know about you but I remember exactly where I was when the war began. At the time, I lived in Oklahoma City and my partner was assigned on her second deployment to "Southwest Asia" but my mom and brother flew out to visit me and we took a road trip to Kansas City. It gave them a chance to see Saint Paul (and here Andy Bryan preach in chapel - you should check out his blog "Enter the Rainbow") as well as see the area where I'd be living for the next several years while in seminary. We had gone out to dinner and were going into one of the riverboat casinos (tsk tsk) when I heard a woman scream something along the lines of, "Woohoo, we're at war! We're finally going to get that Sadam bastard!" I remember thinking how odd it was that she was so happy about it and then the worry set in. I never hear much from offical Air Force National Guard channels about where people are going and when they might be back, but it was suddenly way too real a possibility that there would be serious injury or death to people that I cared a lot about. Afghanistan/Pakistan the year before had been bad enough. Well, anyway, three years later, the war continues, and things seem to be getting closer and closer to civil war rather than established democracy and peace. Regardless of how anyone felt about the war when it started, we're all getting tired of seeing the numbers of soldiers killed climb while we get nowhere closer to peace. I will personally be in the gathering next Sunday, holding a picture of one of the soldiers that has been killed in Iraq. My church is one of the endorsers - a fact that makes me proud - and I know that particular spot is popular for protests so it will be interesting to see how many people show up and what kind of response we get. If it rains, things will move to Unity Temple on the Plaza (at 47th & Jefferson), but I really want to be outside. There will be several speakers, including Bill Williams - a Marine Corps veteran, MO Rep. Beth Low, and VA National Board member Randy Barnes. I would encourage anyone to come join us or at least honk and wave in support as you drive by! :)
The Kansas City Coalition is an ecumenical group that focuses on faith-based community organizing to spread the welcoming movement in the Kansas City metro area. What does that mean, you ask? Well, the welcoming movement intentionally welcomes GLBT people in their places of faith - mainly churches, but I also know of synagogues in the metro area. Just about every denomination has some kind of a welcoming program associated with it - for example, there are More Light Presbyterians, and the United Methodist Church has the Reconciling Ministries Network. In some denominations, churches can become affiliated as welcoming, but what I especially like about the RMN is that it includes individuals, campus groups, Sunday School classes, etc. as well as congregations. That way, people can show their support no matter where they go to church or in what capacity. There's a network speicfically for Reconciling Clergy and another for parents of GLBT persons, a group for college and seminary students, etc. Back in December, the RMN cosponsored a faith-based community organizing training event (other sponsors were Community of Christ and Lutheran's Concerned - Reconciling in Christ program). I attended the training, which was at Community of Christ headquarters in Independence, and met a group of about 15 people from around the metro who felt like this was something important to work on and we formed the KC Coaliition. There's actually a little more to it than that, but it gives you the general idea. Our first event was held only a few weeks ago - we sponsored an education event called TRANSforming our Community which was a panel discussion about transgender issues. We had three MtF members of the panel and they spoke about their personal stories, faith life (or lack thereof depending on experiences), and answered a lot of questions. The big question is, now what? We've been trained on having conversations with people and helping groups talk about becoming welcoming, but we don't know how to let people know we're here for that. We can't just walk into random churches and say "Hi, we want you to become a welcoming church." So, if you know of a church who would like to start a dialogue - NOT to say that they definitely will become welcoming in the end, but you at least know of some people who are interested - please let me/us know. I'm only one of the dozen or so members of this group, and we're supported by the Institute of Welcoming Resources (a great website to check out if you're looking for anything from any denomination regarding LGBT issues) but you can check out our group by going to our Yahoo Group page.
Now that I've blabbed on about all of that stuff, I think I'm done for now. It's been a crazy week on our seminary campus - particularly regarding this welcoming issue, but I don't think it's appropriate for me to discuss here. Suffice it to say that as "liberal" as Saint Paul gets labeled, there are a lot of places where they could be more so. I graduate in one year, and while I don't claim to be the only or the loudest voice on campus, I am worried about what will happen when I leave and there isn't someone willing to speak up honestly about the fact that they are not the typical WASP straight male pastor-to-be. Only time will tell....