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40 UM Bishops Join In Declaring Homo-erotic Sex A Biblical Value At UM Sponsored Homofest!

...From this we learn that there are over 550 folks in attendance and that over 30 Bishops have sent welcoming notes. Later that number was expanded to nearly 40, including the 7 who are here.


Friends:

Here is HOF journal from Winifred Keefer in the Yellowstone Annual Conf.

Take care, Sam


From: WKeefer1@cs.com
To: sam_isley@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: [rum-nc]
FW: HEARTS ON FIRE CONFERENCE -- MY EXPERIENCE
Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2005 00:10:43 EDT

Sam,

I am Winifred Keefer in Yellowstone AC. I send items of interest to a group of Reconciling folk in YAC as well as a few others. I have sent my summary to this group. I am now sending a copy of Mark's summary to the group. I will copy my report so you have it, in case you find it useful. I normally send a daily report from gatherings like this, but my new computer did not work, so I composed nightly and then sent the reports as one document.

Keep up the good work you are doing in North Carolina. I am moving from Billings, Montana, to Tucson, Arizona, to be near family. Minerva Carcano will be my bishop!

Winifred

=======================

Hearts on Fire! Reconciling gathering in Lake Junaluska, NC.

September 2, 2005, through September 5, 2005.

September 2, 2005 Friday in the South. Today we registered for the Eighth National Reconciling Convocation that will end at noon on Labor Day. A word about our accommodations. We are staying in Lambuth Inn which is about a mile uphill from the meeting areas. We eat three meals here. We are here because it is on the list of historic places and it is very nice. However, we are driving or taking the trolley to the meetings. The trolley runs quite regularly.

The other feature of our conference that you may be aware of is that we have many security measures being taken for us. As we wander peacefully about this resort area, just across the street from the main entrance is a large tent housing Southern Baptists who have a sign "Christian Biblical Values" and it is reported that 20 KKK (Klue Klux Klan) members are also outside the area. Many folk from this area reported getting many e-mails that were negative to our gathering. We feel well protected. All this was referred to as "manufactured controversy."

I will describe the worship area so you can visualize the setting. There are two long black banners about 3 feet wide spanning the top of the stage to the floor painted with a dove above the eye of God on the left and a large lighted candle on the right. The pulpit Bible has large rainbow ribbons falling over the front of the pulpit and in front of the pulpit is a yoke for two oxen. The flame that was brought in Friday is in a bowl in front of the stage area and on sitting closer is not real fire, but waving red material that looks like flames. It is wonderful. Later it was moved to the back when other items were placed in the front.

As you read this document you will find the various Biblical passages used and the messages given us by the Bible study leaders and the various preachers. Other comments will also be made. Throughout this convocation many folks have been wearing small stoles in rainbow colors. I wear the one I got at General Conference as did many others. Indeed, the stole seems to be a major piece of apparel. Sunday morning the flame at the front was replaced by a yoke carried in by two people. More about that later.

And now to Friday evening. What a wonderful, energetic, and inspiring way to begin our conference! We began the evening worship with learning four part harmony on the opening song, "Freedom Is Coming." The vibrant chorus of over 500 folks was equal to attending to any gathering of Welsh folk. (In other words, I loved it!) Other high points were the opening processional with the flame brought in by male and female Korean dancers in containers similar to box kites; other liturgical dances; more music; and wonderful preaching. The printed program was departed from at the beginning to take an offering for UMCOR to go to hurricane relief. As of Sunday the total collected was $11,578.

The preacher for Friday night was the Reverend Beth Stroud whose trial last winter stripped her of her ordination because she openly stated that she is in a partnership with another woman. The appeal reinstated her credentials, but that is appealed to the Judicial Council which meets in October. She preached from 1 Kings 19:4-15 and Elijah. She admonished us to listen for each other, to hear God in the silence. She mentioned that we are in the heart of a hurricane of prayer asking to transform us. But how? And to what?

The Bible studies were designed by the Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan and the Rev. Karen Oliveto. Dr. Kuan was not able to attend as his gout made it difficult to walk. So Karen read his portions with great drama. She claimed he is the Biblical scholar and she the preacher. To let us know whose work was being read, pictures of each was put on the large screen.

The Bible study was Acts 1:6-11 with emphasis on verse 8. The Rev. Karen Oliveto urged us to not stand staring at the heavens at the disciples did after Jesus ascended there (verse 10). We are not to be rooted to old ways and traditions. We need to look to our future.

Following the Bible study those who had signed up went to "covenant groups." My group of 10-14 (varies from time to time) is a good mix of folks.

====================================== Saturday

The word is HOPE! We begin with breakfast in the Lambuth Inn. Alice Ann and I are useful as we pass out the daily news letter. From this we learn that there are over 550 folks in attendance and that over 30 Bishops have sent welcoming notes. Later that number was expanded to nearly 40, including the 7 who are here. There is a RMN Blogsite at rmnetwork.blogspot.com. I don't know if it will be active when the convocation is over but I accessed it from the Hotel on Tuesday.

The scriptures for Bishop Minerva Carcano's sermon were 1 Kings 17:8-24 and Matthew 14:13ff. Her message was well received. Some statements were: --In the feeding of the 5000 men (women and children were not counted) no one was excluded. The disciples expected only themselves to be fed, but Jesus fed all. --Exclusion of any one was wrong. --"Amicable separation" excludes some; that is what is wrong with it. (This is a term used by the confessing, Good News folk who think we can become two churches.) --Jesus gives us more than we need. As United Methodists we need to avoid the "scarcity attitude" of hoarding our resources. What if all funds of UMC used to marginalize GLBT were to be spent on hospitality to all.

In welcoming us to Lake Junaluska Jimmy Carr (director of Lake Junaluska Retreat Assembly) mentioned that Bishop Charlene Kammerer would be with us, but is instead with her son who is going to Iraq. Under Miracle Moments Jorge Lockward reported that over a thousand clergy had signed the e-mail response to the letter from Rev. Heidinger, the head of Good News, asking Jimmy Carr to refuse to let us meet here. Some of you may have signed that letter.

Acts 2:1-13 was the passage for Bible Study. The Pentecost story reversed the story of the Tower of Babel. Those hearing the message understood it differently as each had a different background. We as UMs have different answers to basic questions. We must not devalue others. No one of us has a full understanding of God. Before lunch the covenant groups met.

A highlight of our Convocation is the afternoon with the bishops. The attendance for this session was attended by more than 600 folk. Bishop Richard Wilke (he and his wife are authors of the Disciple Bible Study series) informed us that controversy is no stranger to the church. They cause our many denominations and have existed since the time of Paul. Following his message a panel of 5 bishops moderated by a 6th was presented. The moderator was Bishop Sally Dyck of Minnesota Episcopal Area. She and three others were elected in 2004. The others are Bishop Minerva Carcano of Desert Southwest, Bishop John Schol of Washington (DC) area, and Bishop Scott J. Jones of Kansas area. Bishop Susan Morrison of Albany (NY) area and retired Bishop Melvin Talbot rounded out the panel. They responded to about 5 questions that were pointed to their thinking as bishops. It is from their responses that I gave this day the word of HOPE. Change is happening in the Council of Bishops. Noted was the fact that in 1996 15 bishops supported inclusivity in the church and that was reported as scandalous. Refer to the previous fact that nearly 40 have sent messages of support or are present here today.

The panel was followed by ten stories of "us" told to the bishops. They were stories of fear, of being denied the lead of worship, of being "uninvited," of wanting to be part of a "family," of parents excluded when their children are, and celebration of a marriage that took place in Canada. When can it be celebrated in our church?

The workshop I attended was led by Bishop Wilke who led us in looking at how Jesus was in "tension" with the scriptures of his day. He broke laws to heal people and to make life better. The evening ended with mountain music (we are in the Smokies) and an ice cream social.

================================ Sunday, September 4, 2005

Another great day, jam-packed with worship, thinking, learning.

The preacher for the morning worship was the Rev. Margaret Mallory, a dynamic black woman from the West Ohio Conference. The scripture was 2 Kings 2:1-14, the story of the passing of the mantle of Elijah to Elisha. We were challenged "I dare you" to pick up the mantle. We are all called by God, often in a down time, when we are willing to let God take control. Elisha was a risk taker and we are called to be as daring. Remember, we are saved and sanctified and moving on to perfection.

Her sermon led us into taking our yoke by moving to various places where folks were standing with basins filled with cloth yokes made for this conference by many folk across the country. Following having this "stole" placed on each one, we could go to the front and touch the yoke there. My new stole was placed on me by the Rev. John Lewis of Yellowstone Conference. The invitation to take the yoke of Christ was based on the membership vows beginning with "Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness." You recall the rest. Looking at the room full of folks with rainbow stoles created a picture to recall by memory. (I am sorry I could not photograph during the sessions. I do have photos of the worship area taken prior to the sessions.) The Bible study was Acts 10, the whole chapter. It is the conversion of Cornelius and others. The point made was that all who have received the Holy Spirit should be baptized. Of course that means inclusion of all people.

Our lunch was in box lunches which we took to rooms designated for the various jurisdiction. Western Jurisdiction had about 50, pretty good for coming so far. Yellowstone was represented by John and Linda Lewis and myself. We discussed the need for leadership in our conference.

The workshop I attended was "Burnishing Your Shield: Combating Homophobia with Scripture" led by Youtha Hardman-Cromwell of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. The most important thing she said was that these responses will not change those who are "literalists." The discussion on various passages was excellent. I have the copy of the slides used for the presentation.

The Forum I attended following the workshop was on Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions, Holy Unions & Marriage. The information from those who have worked with these situations, including Massachusetts where same sex marriage is legal.

Following dinner the Award Celebration was held. Three were nominated for the Voice in the Wilderness Award given for taking risks, despite isolation in a wilderness. The award went to Elsie Vega, lay person from Spearfish, SD, who came out as a lesbian at 76 years. She helped the church in Vermillion to become Reconciling. The Cup of Justice Award given for taking bold action to invoke justice was given to the Retired Reconciling Clergy of the New England Annual Conference for their officiating at same gender marriages and committing to stand together should any be charged by the church.

The end of a very full day was a great concert by Jason and deMarco, a very energetic duo whose voices blended beautifully.

========================= Monday, September 5, 2005

Today the convocation ended at noon. The major items were the Bible Study with Karen Oliveto and the closing worship with communion.

The morning began with the final gathering in Covenant Groups. Mine was excellent. The goal for these optional groups was to enable those who wished to have a small group to discuss anything pertinent to the convocation.

The artist who designed the worship environment was introduced. Bon-Jeong Koo is a Korean with limited English and wonderful ideas. I have mentioned the eye of God and other pieces of the visual environment. One piece I have not mentioned is that the ceiling (high) was draped across with wide white cloths. The cloths also fell from the ceiling across the side of the balcony to the windows where they were cut into streamers for wind to blow. These represented the tabernacle that was the place of worship while the tribe of Israel wandered in the desert. We are still on our journey in the wilderness. The flaming torch, which was moved from the front to the back of the worship area, is for poor people and especially for prisoners.

Though the majority of the participants were white, the team designing the convocation included many of the minority groups which make up United Methodism.

Part of the visual environment at the back of the worship area, hanging from the balcony as well as in the resource center was the Shower of Stoles. The stoles that were given by or for some of my friends were all present. We were told that of the more than 1000 stoles in the collection 260 represent United Methodists. This is one fourth of the total. There are 25 denominations and 6 countries represented now.

The Bible study was on Acts 16:16-34, Paul's missionary journey. Paul's teachings vary as he was not systematic but contextual. This story tells of his driving a demon from a slave girl. The comment is that this made his life more comfortable, but deprived the slave girl and her owner of the income she had earned him. This did not help the girl. This is followed by his being placed in prison because of his interruption of the economic system for which he was unable to make restitution. When the earthquake opened the doors, he and the other prisoners stayed put and kept the jailer from killing himself. The commentary was that he cared more about the jailer than the slave girl. In viewing liberation the statement was that no one is free until all are free. We were to ask ourselves, "Who liberated me? What was my response?" In working for the liberation of others it is noted that marriage needs to be available for all. The statement was made: "Holy unions are so 20th century." Marriage is available for all in Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, and other countries. We are committed to follow the radical gospel of Jesus Christ and find our own liberation as well.

The Rev. James Preston was the worship preacher. The scriptures were 2 Kings 4:38-44 and Luke 10:17-20. The passage from 2 Kings is of a pot of food that was poisoned. He compared the UMC with this pot of food containing death. The exclusions in our church make it death for some. We must work for inclusion of all. We must be the church to transform the church. The sacrament of Holy Communion was celebrated as a conclusion of the convocation.

Following lunch Alice Ann and I were privileged to be included in the group of folks helping to take down the Stoles and place then in the containers for transport to the next location. We consider this to be a sacred act as each stole represents a story of someone who was not able to be both out and a pastor, or some other sorrowful story.

A few comments:

The count of attendance was over 600. In August the count expected was over 450. Some of the increase was in response to the publicity about the Baptists and KKK objecting to our presence. Folks in this area learned of our existence and came to participate in the welcoming we offer. The collection for UMCOR was $12,528 received as cash or checks. The pledged support for Reconciling Ministries Network was $30,100. The folks gave $1,400 for gratuities for the staff. The Parents Reconciling Network gathered 60 people for a workshop. The Reconciling Clergy folk all left with tasks to perform.

At the 1996 General Conference the RMN used the theme "Open the Doors" and literally opened doors for those entering the building. Following this the General Church adopted "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors, " as its theme. In 2000 the theme was "wide is God's Welcome: Extend the Table" with communion offered each noon at an outdoor site. In 2004 communion was offered each noon in the meeting hall by the UMC. In 2004 our witness was "Watermarked: a Ministry of Assurance." "Remember your Baptism" was high-lighted by bowls of water as folks entered. From a small beginning in the fall of 1982, the RMN now has 198 congregations, 27 campus ministries, and 22 communities.

For me a conclusion for this came not from the convocation but from a quote read when Alice Ann and I visited the home of Carl Sandburg near Asheville (at Flat Rock). In 1936 he wrote in "The People, Yes" this statement. "The people have come far and can look back and say, ‘We will go farther yet.'"

Shalom, (peace, harmony, health, wholeness, justice in one word)

Winifred

 
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