Epiphany, Thursday, January 6th, 2011

This won’t be news to most people involved, but since my website’s been getting a lot of hits from people searching for “Epiphany Lutheran Church” and “John Bradosky,’ I figured I might as well include links to the news here as well:

First, as reported last month in the Dayton Daily News, Pastor Bradosky decided that he “can no longer support” the ELCA or “continue to be associated with it.”

Second, as reported in a letter released earlier this week to the Epiphany congregation, Pastor Bradosky decided back in November to accept a position as the General Secretary of the NALC.

I suppose it’s fitting that this news, already published in the December 2010 NALC newsletter, finally be released to Epiphany this week and hit my blog and others today on the Day of Epiphany.

P.S. While googling for NALC and divorced clergy, I came across this fun Spirit of a Liberal blog post, entitled “Wisdom from Herb Chilstrom.” Herb Chilstrom, for those of you who, like me, are not Lutheran and had never heard of him, was the first presiding Bishop of the ELCA.

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Date: Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
From: David Lauri
To: Pastors and Congregation Council members of Epiphany Lutheran Church
Subject: Your church’s debate over homosexuality

Dear Pastors and Council of Epiphany Lutheran Church,

I read with interest the Dayton Daily News article about your church’s struggles with reconciling homosexuality and Christianity and your church council’s recent vote in favor of leaving the ELCA because of the ELCA’s decision to “open the ministry of [your] church to gay and lesbian pastors […] living in committed relationships.” I was interested not because I’m Lutheran (I’m not and never have been) but because I’m a gay Christian and because several years ago I attended a Centerville Washington Diversity Council community conversation about “Gay and Lesbian Issues at the Intersection of Faith and Public Policy” at which both Mike Castle, a friend and the openly gay pastor of my church, Cross Creek Community Church, UCC, and your senior pastor, John Bradosky, spoke.

Reading about the struggles in your church, both your congregation and your denomination, makes me glad I found the United Church of Christ, a denomination that’s settled this issue (although individual UCC congregations are allowed to differ), that supports the calling of openly gay clergy and that supports full equality for LGBT people, including marriage equality. As I said, I never was Lutheran, but I was raised Methodist, and as I’m sure you know, like Lutherans and other denominations, the United Methodists have long debated and continue to debate this issue. The ongoing debate in what was my church as to whether I was an abomination “incompatible with Christian teaching” or whether I was who God created me to be made me tired, tired enough to leave Christianity altogether for a time and then, after a brief return to Methodism, too tired to want to work for change in that denomination when I could find acceptance elsewhere.

You may well be wondering why I’m e-mailing you given my gladness that I’m not part of your struggles. You may well think what your church does on this issue is none of my business, and to a certain extent, if you think that, you’d be right. It isn’t my business. Whether Epiphany Church stays in the ELCA or leaves the ELCA will have no direct impact on my life; I’m not going to change my beliefs or change my church affiliation based on what you all say or do (and I recognize the irony inherent in my assuming, after such an arrogant statement, that you might change your beliefs based on what I say, but oh well).

However, having read that your church has 3,000 members, I thought to myself, wow, that means your church has a fair number of LGBT kids and teenagers and even adults, closeted or out. Take a conservative estimate, say two or three percent, and that'd be about 60 to 90 (or take a liberal estimate of ten percent, and that'd be 300!). These are the kids and the teenagers and the adults who are hearing your senior pastor say that homosexuality is “to’ebah,” that who they are is an abomination, that unless they manage to change who they are or at least suppress it, God will never accept them. These are the kids and teenagers and adults who are witnessing your church declare that you must take a stand against accepting homosexuality even if it means giving up your denominational ties, a stand that your congregation did not feel compelled to take on the issues of divorced clergy or remarried clergy or female clergy. A queer kid attending your church is getting the message that it’s better at Epiphany Lutheran Church to be divorced than it is to be queer. Perhaps as importantly, the non-queer kids at your church are getting the message that queer kids are “less than” and perhaps deserving of being bullied.

My telling you this, my pointing out to you that the message you send out makes you partly to blame for anti-gay bullying and for suicides committed by LGBT people, is probably not a message you want to hear, least of all from a faggot like me.

However, perhaps you’d better appreciate that same message from a heterosexual conservative Christian pastor, and to make you aware that there is such a person with that message is partly why I decided to write to you all. I’d urge you to become familiar with the Rev. Dr. Leslie David Braxton, Senior Pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship. Apparently, according to an article on TheStranger.com, Braxton used to be an anti-gay preacher but now thinks the church’s rhetoric on homosexuality is partly to blame for anti-gay bullying and gay suicides and who thinks that “[t]he church definitely needs to have a conversation about sexuality.” I’d never heard of Braxton before today, but it’s rather serendipitous, isn’t it, that I read an article about him the same day I read an article about your church’s struggles.

I also want to point out some resources that you might find useful in your continued discussions about your LGBT brothers and sisters. One is a film, available on Netflix, called Fish Out of Water. My church in conjunction with the Dayton chapter of PFLAG sponsored a viewing of that film last month, and for us, of course, it was rather like preaching to the choir, given that folks at Cross Creek and many folks in PFLAG think it’s quite possible to be openly gay and Christian (and not just in a chaste Catholic celibate for the rest of your life kind of way). We lamented at the viewing that people who didn’t agree with the film’s message would probably never see it. I’d urge you, at least the pastors and leaders of your church, to watch it; it’d be even better if you had a viewing of the film for your entire congregation (even if you disagree with the film’s premises, surely your faith is strong enough then to be able to withstand challenges to what you believe).

Another resource that you can have access to is folks both at Cross Creek and in Dayton PFLAG. Although I am a member of Cross Creek’s Coordinating Council (I’m the chair of Cross Creek’s Justice and Witness Ministry), I am sending this message to you as an individual, not as a representative of Cross Creek, and I have no official capacity with Dayton PFLAG, but if you’d be interested in dialoguing about this issue with people who may hold a different perspective than you do, I’m fairly confident that I could bring folks from Cross Creek and PFLAG to the table.

One last point I want to make is that at first I was disheartened to see that 10 out of 15 of your church council’s members voted in favor of your congregation’s disaffiliation from the ELCA. However, after thinking about it more, I realize that’s the wrong way to look at it. Fully 1/3 of your church council voted against that decision. I don’t know who among you to whom I have addressed this e-mail feels one way or the other, but there’s a good chance that at least some of you to whom I’ve sent this e-mail are part of that 1/3 minority. I don’t know whether those of you in that minority fully accept your denomination’s decision about queer clergy or whether you disagree with it but also disagree with breaking your denominational ties, but I figured it might be good for you to know that there are gay-affirming progressive Christians in Dayton, Ohio, who are your neighbors.

My sending this message is also a reminder to myself that you all are my neighbors too. If I profess to be Christian, I have to try to love you, as distasteful as I may find what you say and what you do.

I wish you and your church luck as you continue to work on this decision, and I won’t bother you again if you choose just to ignore my e-mail.

David Lauri

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006
Yesterday evening I attended a Community Conversation put on by the Centerville Washington Diversity Council at Centerville High School on "Gay & Lesbian Issues at the Intersection of Faith & Public Policy." I would not have chosen to go to this on my own — I'm way past the point where I need to hear the same tired arguments brought out by conservatives that homosexuality is wrong and homosexuals need compassion and cures — but my friend and pastor, Mike Castle, was on the panel and asked for people to come be in the audience to support him. Another friend and Cross Creeker called me at work a few hours before the event to see if I'd be going; he was worried about going alone. As you can see from the picture, he needn't have worried. Between Cross Creek and PFLAG there were lots of supportive people there.

Tom Harry
Tom Harry
Normandy United Methodist Church

John Bradosky
John Bradosky
Ephiphany Lutheran Church
Mike Castle
Mike Castle
Cross Creek Community Church

Paul Pyle
Paul Pyle
Dayton Christian High School
I suppose it's good that Centerville and Washington Twp. have a diversity council and that they're willing to discuss gay issues. Still the diversity of the panel selected for the program was a bit ironic — four white men, all Christian, all Protestant. That last bit was unplanned; Dr. Brad Kallenberg, professor of theology at the University of Dayton was originally supposed to be a panelist (no, wait, Kallenberg may actually also be a Protestant), but his spot was filled by Mr. Paul Pyle, who teaches Bible and Yearbook at Dayton Christian High School. Rounding out the panel, in addition to Mike, were the Rev. John Bradosky of Epiphany Lutheran Church and the Rev. Tom Harry of Normandy United Methodist Church. I hadn't met any of these other panelists before. It was only upon hearing about the event that I learned that Harry is the father of a friend of mine at Cross Creek, and it was only after googling Bradosky that I learned he is Centerville's official chaplain (thank God I don't pay Centerville taxes or I'd be pissed).

The format of the evening was that the moderator, WDTN's Marsha Bonhart, posed six questions (presumably written by the Diversity Council), each of which was answered by two panelists (one from each side). Then after a break there was a very brief time during which she read selected written questions from the audience for various panelists to answer. I liked how Bonhart started her duties as moderator; she said she had to be impartial but implied (especially later) that she personally supported the pro-gay side. Rather than echo the questions and responses, I'll highlight some points that caught my attention.

is an
incest is not!
(You still
fuck kids!)
Bradosky talked about the holiness code found in Leviticus and pointed out that although lots of sexual behaviors are banned, such as adultery and incest, it is only homosexuality to which the term "to'ebah" or abomination is applied. Since Bradosky took such care to point that out, I suppose he feels that homosexuality is worse than incest. I guess it's refreshing that unlike most conservatives he sees a difference between incest and homosexuality.

Bradosky also went multiple times to the creation story in Genesis (surely he realizes there are two creation stories in Genesis) and said that since the story's all about God creating Man and Woman for each other, homosexuality must be wrong. Sex, he said, is about the reunion of two parts. Penises and vaginas fit together. Poor guy doesn't seem to realize that penises and rectums fit together too, as do penises and mouths.

Bradosky certainly knows the party line on homosexuality. Other old faithful points he trotted out include:
  • love the sinner and reject the sin
  • marriage has always been defined as heterosexual (hmm, well marriage hasn't always been defined as one man, one woman, though, has it?)
  • that the majority decides issues is the American way (too bad the majority in the South couldn't vote to continue slavery or Jim Crow laws?)
  • Scripture doesn't promise that life will be fair (hmm, I guess there's no need to work for justice here on Earth; just believe in Jesus and you'll get your rewards in heaven)
  • research on long-term same-sex marriage says such relationships last only 7 years, while the average heterosexual marriages last 21 years — pressed later for a source he said the Institute for Sex Research, which I couldn't find online (does he mean the old Institut für Sexualwissenschaft from Berlin? does he mean the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction?)
    What I did find online says that marriages last an average of 9.4 years, not 21.

Pyle did pretty good for his team too. He kept insisting on two things, that we have to live our lives by Biblical authority and that homosexual behavior leads to destructive behavior. Pyle does acknowledge that the Bible is silent on some "disputable matters" on which people may disagree, but lest we think that Jesus was silent about homosexuality, we need to remember that Jesus went back to Genesis to answer a question about divorce and Genesis is, as Pyle's teammate Bradosky already pointed out, all about Man and Woman fitting together, so actually Jesus said homosexuality is wrong without having to resort to so many words. In the words of the Church Lady, how convenient! that we have Pyle to interpret the Bible for us.

Responding to a later followup question about what he would do if a child of his came out as gay to him, Pyle told us about his daughter who suffers from mental illness and how he struggles to help her find counseling that will help her avoid destructive behaviors. It's obvious that Pyle didn't get the memo that the American Psychiatric Association doesn't consider homosexuality to be a mental illness and that he doesn't know a whole lot of gay people. After the forum, I went up to Pyle to invite him to come to Cross Creek where he can get to know some gay people whose lives aren't all about destructive behavior. (I suppose I should hope Pyle never finds the pics I took at Folsom, though he can find plenty of pics of heterosexuals engaged in destructive behavior too if he cares to look.)

Harry did an okay job explaining what he saw the purposes of marriage to be (procreation, faithfulness, sacrament which points to God's loving nature, and support/companionship) and explaining that procreation was more than fertilization but also nurturing and caring for children. I'm sure he came across as wildly secular humanistic though to the conservative members of the audience because when asked in a followup question what the authority for his beliefs was, he said he'd sort of come up with his views on his own (an honest answer which probably mirrors my own thoughts but not appealing to people who like Biblical Authority).

Mike personalized the issue, talking about his partner Dan and their children Gideon and Jamie, about how Dan wouldn't receive Social Security spousal benefits if Mike died and about the difficulty in providing legal protections for their non-heterosexual family. Oh well, in the words of Pastor Bradosky, "Scripture doesn't promise that life will be fair."
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