Friday, June 30, 2006

Putting on the brakes

This news nearly had me dancing around my living room this morning.

The Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo puts the brakes on what has been a sharp expansion of executive powers and raises fresh questions about other aspects of President Bush's war-on-terror policy.

If there's one thing post-9/11 expansion of executive powers needs, it's brakes. Though not an alarmist nor conspiracy theorist by a long shot, I have been getting increasingly nervous about the power the president has accumulated in the past five years. I'm half expecting him to ask for term-limit circumvention so he can run again in 2008 and then declare himself Emperor.

Okay, not really, but this decision really has me breathing a sigh of relief. And the fact that it's about Guantanamo, which is something our nation should be deeply ashamed of, makes it all the better. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we can't claim to be the good guys unless we act like it. Fighting terrorism is not an excuse for abuse of power, it's not an excuse for taking away people's rights to due process, and it's not an excuse to torture (and no, the fact that these prisoners aren't American citizens does not make it okay. Do we need another reminder of how Jesus defined neighbor? It had nothing to do with citizenship of any given country, that's for sure.)

Remember when Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty or give me death"? It scares me to see how 230 years later we seem so willing to trade liberty for safety. Actually, we haven't even traded it for safety, we've traded it for the illusion of safety. This ruling gives me some hope that maybe we're not too far down that path. Let's take some of that liberty back and be the country we were founded to be.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Won't you be my neighbor?

Wingspan, the Southern Arizona gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered community center, is launching an absolutely wonderful image campaign called "Neighbors You Know." (You can also read about it in the Arizona Daily Star here.)

The basic idea is eight community members featured in eight different spots. (Nine, actually, since one of them does a separate Spanish spot.) They basically talk about their contributions to the community and finish by saying "I'm ________, and I'm your neighbor." The group includes (among others) a doctor, an Episcopal priest, a test pilot/systems engineer, a retired banker/active volunteer, and a former army sergeant. All of them are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.

The purpose of this campaign is not political. It's not connected to any political issue nor is it trying to raise any money. It isn't looking for viewers to take any particular action. It simply is highlighting something a lot of people either don't realize or would like to ignore: GLBT people are our neighbors.

When Jesus was asked what one must do to inherit eternal life, he answered that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves. The person who asked the question, a lawyer, was looking for a loophole, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" The answer was the parable of the Good Samaritan, which basically means EVERYONE is my neighbor. No exceptions. (Luke 10:25-37)

Thank you, Wingspan, for reminding us who our neighbor is.

Friday, June 16, 2006

And again I say, I'm proud to be a DSW Methodist

A press release from the Desert Southwest Annual Conference last week.

For Immediate Release
Update June 15, 2006

United Methodists Oppose Arizona Marriage Amendment

Churches in the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church , which encompasses the entire state of Arizona , took a strong stand in opposition to a constitutional initiative commonly called the "Protect Marriage Amendment" which reads:

"To preserve and protect marriage in this State, only a union between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage by this state or it political subdivisions and no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or it's political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage."

The resolution to oppose the marriage amendment titled "Protection of Human and Civil Rights" was passed with a wide margin by the Desert Southwest conference during their annual meeting in Scottsdale held from June 7 to June 11 at the Doubletree Resort.

Resolution 21.30
(Submitted by Church and Society)

Whereas Christians have always been people of the covenant,

Whereas nowhere in Scripture are people prohibited from making covenants or committed promises to each other.

Whereas people who live in covenant should be able to exercise that commitment in hospital visitations, inheritance matters, child custody and other family matters without interference from the state.

Whereas marriages are threatened by forces within marriage such as infidelity, violence, addictions, lack of communication and commitment, not how marriage is defined.

Whereas it is the responsibility of the Church to be in active ministry with homosexual persons, no less than heterosexual persons in all their respective challenges and dimensions of life, and

Whereas the Constitution of the State of Arizona has been established in an attempt to ensure the rights of all citizens of the State, and

Whereas the formation of families has been supported by many civil guarantees including protecting the rights of couple to health benefits, hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, child custody rights and many others, and

Whereas same sex couples of the State of Arizona are already denied many of these rights, and

Whereas the proposed Constitutional Amendment reads:

"To preserve and protect marriage in this State, only a union between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage by this state or it political subdivisions and no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or it political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage."

Whereas Arizona voters are being asked to support a Constitutional amendment the result of which will prohibit the State, counties, cities and school districts from offering employee benefits for unmarried partners, straight or gay, and this ballot initiative targets Arizonans who live together for financial and other reasons. It would prevent such couples from obtaining any legal recognition, including policies necessary for medical safety and retirement. Further, it would seize the decision making authority of local communities and force repeal of domestic partner benefits now provided by the cities of Phoenix , Tucson , Scottsdale and Tempe .

Whereas the ballot initiatives currently being proposed to amend the State Constitution will further erode these rights,

Therefore be it resolved that the Desert Southwest Annual Conference oppose this Amendment and we ask the Conference Secretary to communicate this resolution to all elected State officials and major media in Arizona markets.

And be it further resolved that political leaders and faith communities be challenged to focus their energies on the forces such as those named above that are truly undermining marriages and destroying families.

Resolution Passed Saturday June 10, 2006
Scottsdale, Arizona

Contact Steve Hustedt, Director of Communications
Desert Southwest Conference
The United Methodist Church
1550 E. Meadowbrook
Phoenix, Arizona 85014-4040

602.266.5343 (fax)
602.266.2196 (fax)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

But a good Desert Southwest Methodist

Despite my frustration with the United Methodist Church on the national level (hence the title of this blog), I am quite pleased with our local conference, the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, which covers Arizona and a small part of Nevada. I didn't attend our Annual Conference this year (June 7-11), but I heard reports that a lot of really good resolutions were passed.

1. A resolution to support the so-called "protect marriage" amendment that would eliminate domestic partnership rights and possibly invalidate domestic violence laws for unmarried couples was defeated by about a 60/40 margin.

2. A resolution to oppose the amendment was passed by the same margin. Not sure what that will look like yet, but it's nice to know my local conference will be fully opposing this hateful initiative. It's also interesting to note that this is roughly the same margin polls say Arizonans as a whole oppose this amendment.

3. A resolution that all are welcome in the United Methodist Church, that pastors are not allowed to deny membership to anyone (as happened in New Jersey not long ago when a pastor denied membership to a gay man because of his sexual orientation), passed by a landslide.

4. A resolution that it is not wrong and should never be illegal to provide aid to an illegal immigrant in distress was passed nearly unanimously.

These are the kinds of issues that make me proud to be a United Methodist. I'm proud of my denomination when they stand for Christ's love and mercy and against discrimination and hate. So until the denomination as a whole changes, I'll remain a Bad Methodist, but locally, I'm a Good Desert Southwest Methodist.