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    My Dinner With Andrew Marin

    Saturday, April 4, 2009, 7:56 PM [General]

    Earlier this month, I blogged about Andrew Marin and his Marin Foundation.  You can read about it here.  If you look back, you will find several questions that I had about Andrew and his Foundation, which holds itself out as a bridge-builder between the Christian and the gay community.  John Roberts, a UCC pastor and leader within the Faithful and Welcoming Churches (FWC) movement, was helping to organize a Marin Foundation program for a mixed assortment of pastors within the UCC.  He told Andrew about my blog entry and Andrew responded.  I was directed to Andrew's blog and have commented a few times and we "friended" each other on Facebook.

    Fastforward a couple weeks.  I learned from a comment on Facebook that Andrew was going to be in Des Moines for the weekend and I commented that I live in a nearby community.  A couple backs-and-forths later and I was being invited to dinner with Andrew and his wife as he drove through Iowa City on his way back home to Chicago. 

    I initially said "no thanks".  The weekend was busy and I was fairly certain that his wife wouldn't want to meet some virtual stranger.  He asked again and I realized that I would be free when he actually made it through town.  So I thought, "what the heck."

    Husband Mark's reaction was priceless.  "You're going to meet some guy from the Internet at the Steak & Shake.  And you're taking our 8-year-old son.  And you think this is a positive choice?"

    "His wife will be there," I persisted.

    "Uh huh..."

    Anyway, Dan and I ended up meeting Andrew and Brenda at the Steak & Shake for an early supper.  And it worked out okay.

    I wasn't quite sure if we were there to discuss the Marin Foundation or the whole GLBT vs. ECOT thing or to just chit chat.  It turned out that we did all of that.

    I'm still not certain what all went on at the UCC Pastor event in St. Louis a few weeks back, but it sounded like it yielded fairly positive results.  It sounded like it was attended by folks on all sides of the GLBT track.  The main goal wasn't to hash out arguments about whose marriage was valid or about gay ordination or ECOT vs. progressive theology.  It was mainly to get everyone to build relationship with each other with our commonalities.  Or at least that's the way it sounded to me.

    But I also got to learn a bit about the Marin Foundation as a ministry.  Contrary to some assertions on the now-defunct uccforums board, it's annual budget is pretty tight.  A few thousand dollars less than my church's annual budget, which is pretty tight.  And we're not based in Chicago.

    I learned that his ministry has experienced some of the difficulties that Jay Bakker's Revolution Church experienced when he began preaching a gay-affirming perspective.  (I'm a huge fan of Jay's, BTW)  If you ever watched "One Punk Under God", you would have seen how Jay's church lost most of its financial backers after he discerned that gay people can indeed be Christians.  The main difference between the two was that Andrew started out on the edge of acceptance because of his willingness to make relationships with gay people.  He didn't lose support like Jay did.

    It was interesting to learn that the Marin Foundation gained a lot of ECOT creds following a hostile radio interview with Mike Signorile on Sirius satellite radio.  It was an ambush interview and Andrew wasn't expecting the attack.  There were several accusations made against Andrew in that interview and with a follow-up Advocate article.  Several of those accusations have since been retracted by the Advocate and an official apology was made by the magazine.

    Interestingly, that radio interview was my first exposure to Andrew.  It was obvious that Andrew was still hurt and angry about that interview.  I remember listening to the interview and clearly remember thinking that Mike was being extremely antagonistic.  I like Mike's show a lot, but he's always been hostile towards religion and religious leaders.  Unfortunately, Andrew didn't know this.

    I did learn that I was the first person that he has met that actually heard the interview live.  I don't think it endeared me towards him.  LOL!

    Anywho, we talked a bit about church and church stuff (I learned some neat gossip about Jim and Jay Bakker that I won't repeat here.  :P), but we also talked about Dan's soccer experiences and our plans to visit Disney World later this spring.  We chitchatted about a lot of stuff, actually.

    I could see myself hanging out with Andrew and Brenda in the future without much difficulty.  They were friendly, outgoing folks and they both had an engaging ability to bring those same traits out into me (I tend to be a bit reserved).  Dan loved them.  We ended up visiting for over an hour without a single complaint from my son, which is a feat in and of itself.

    I thanked both of them for taking a break from their long trip back to Chicago to visit with us.  They said that it wasn't a big deal, but I am still thankful for the opportunity to meet them.  I am hopeful that this is the beginning of an ongoing friendship between four otherwise strangers, brought together by one man's ministry and another man's religious cynicism.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients?

    Saturday, April 4, 2009, 7:54 PM [General]

    I read an interesting news article about various states that are contemplating bills that would, among other things, either randomly or universally drug test recipients of various financial welfare programs such as food stamps, WIC, and unemployment compensation.  According to one West Virginian legislator, "Nobody's being forced into these assistance programs....  If so many jobs require random drug tests these days, why not these benefits?"

    It is an interesting concept.  And certainly not a new one.  I know that locally people can become inelligible for Section 8 housing assistance for a few years if they have been convicted of drug-related offenses.

    But I'm wondering how this type of rule might work.  Let's say that I apply for food stamps for me and my kids.  After being called in for a random drug screening, I come up positive for some type of drug (let's say pot).  Does that mean that my entire household is restricted from those benefits or just me?  If my kids were entitled to food stamps, but not me, how would the state know how to prevent me from benefitting from my kids' food stamps money?  Would my family be automically referred to the Department of Human Services for an investigation?  Would we see an increase in states costs due to potential increases in foster care, Medicaid, and related expenses if my kids were removed as a result of these random tests?

    Reading through the article, I found many concerning bulletpoints:

    *Kansas' state house will be voting soon on a measure mandating drug testing for all people receiving cash assistance.

    *Oklahoma requires drug testing for those seeking TANF (i.e., WIC) benefits.  Hawaii and Missouri are also looking into this.

    *Florida is considering a bill requiring drug testing for those receiving unemployement compensation.

    *Tennessee is considering a bill limiting lottery winnings for those receiving welfare to no more than $600.  I vaguely recall that one of the last Powerball winners had just been laid off before striking it rich.  Imagine if her winnings were capped.  I am fine with the state seeking reimbursement for money actually spent on the lottery winner's behalf, but limiting their entire winnings?  C'mon...

    The sad part about these bills, especially the new attempted restrictions on food stamps and unemployment, is that this is a time of recession when more people are needing those forms of assistance.  Is this really a time to start mandating drug testing for those needing unemployment assistance?  What are these people meant to do to support them and their families if cut off?

    I am hopeful that these new restrictions are reconsidered.  You can read the original article at this link.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Remembering Romanovsky & Phillips

    Saturday, April 4, 2009, 7:53 PM [General]

    I recently pulled out one of my old CD's, "Trouble in Paradise" by Romanovsky & Phillips.  They were a gay singing duo back in the 80s and mid-90s.  Kind of a secular version of Jason and DeMarco.  Kind of. 

    I was introduced to their music back when I came out in '91 or '92 by a friend.  Bob was a gay Catholic man who was matched up with me as an older mentor by a Rochester, MN,-based gay/lesbian social group.  He introduced me to other gay men; listened (very patiently, I'm sure) as I talked about my fears, concerns, and hopes for my future as a gay man; and offered some good advice.  He also nudged me away from some potentially bad stuff and nagged at me when I began flirting with my first "bad boy" crush.  Very nice guy who I've lost track of since moving to Iowa. 

    Bob lent me my first Romanovsky & Phillips cassette tape, which I promptly dubbed and listened to incessantly during my overnight group home shifts.  Their music addresses stuff like fighting back against heterosexist bias, dealing with parental stress, and reacting to break-ups, among other topics.  It was good material for my young gay mind and helped me work through a lot of issues internally that I probably wouldn't have thought about at that time.

    My next major exposure with Romanovsky & Phillips came in spring 1994 when my college's GLBT group, AWARE, arranged to bring the duo to Luther College.  I was part of the planning committee and a couple of my friends hosted the group at their bed & breakfast.  I remember fawning over Ron Romanovksy and getting humored by Paul Phillips.  I also remember polka dancing in the aisles of Luther's CFL with my friends Brian and Steve to their music.  Very fun times.

    Fast forward to today.  I was listening to their CD "Trouble in Paradise" and remarking how much things have changed for gay people since this music was recorded back in 1986.  Some of the basic assumptions about gay life that they wrote about and challenged in the early 80s have shifted quite a bit since then.  Some of the same issues crop up 25 years later, like gay couples encountering housing discrimination or lesbians losing jobs because of homophobia.  But we generally have the balls to call people on such bias and we're overcoming this type of bias by and large.  And I attribute this backbone to pioneers like Ron and Paul.

    If you get a chance, check out their music.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Pastors: Beware and Behave

    Saturday, April 4, 2009, 7:50 PM [General]

    I recently spent a weekend with my parents.  I got to reading their local newspaper, The Harmony & Mabel News Record.  In it, I read an article about my former pastor pleading guilty to two counts of felony fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.  He now will be placed on probation, attend sex-offender treatment, be placed on a registry, and will have his pastoral license suspended.  This all came about following a sexual incident involving him and one of the parishioners at his church in Winona.

    There must be something about the Methodist church in my old stomping grounds.  A year or so ago, a newer pastor began socializing with a female parishioner and her husband.  Within weeks of their social relationship, the two women became sexually involved leading to the one woman's divorce and the other woman's defrocking (interestingly, only because of the lesbianism; not the adultery).

    These two incidents involved Methodist pastors, but could just have easily involved pastors or priests from any denomination.  Hopefully, any pastor reading this blog entry knows the advice I'm going to offer, but you never know: Don't get involved with your congregants.  It's not worth it.  You can lose your freedom, your financial resources, your family, and your profession

    If you find yourself tempted by a parishioner, don't put yourself in the situation to give in to that temptation.  Don't meet with him/her in private locations.  Or refer them to others for pastoral counseling.

    If you are struggling with your current marriage or domestic partnership, deal with and resolve those issues before seeking relationships outside of your household.  If you must have an affair, choose somebody from outside of your flock.  If your paramour wants to become involved with your church, tell them "no" and, if necessary, seek advice from some supervisory someone.

    The excitement of the affair and the potential orgasm are not worth the familiar, professional, legal, and/or political fall-out.  Just don't do it.

    In case anyone thinks that I'm picking on ministers, the same advice goes for any social workers, psychiatrists, counselors, nurses, care providers, etc.  I've seen more than one career destroyed because of sexual exploitation of those being served by human service professionals.  And, like it or not, pastors becoming sexually involved with parishioners is a form of sexual exploitation.

    Don't do it.

    BTW, here's the text of the News Record article in question: 

    Former Harmony Methodist pastor admits to inappropriate sexual contact with parishioner

    A former Harmony pastor admitted on Tuesday, March 10, to having inappropriate sexual contact with a woman parishioner seeking his advice in 2003 and 2005. He was serving as pastor at McKinley United Methodist in Winona at the time.

    The Winona Daily News reported that the Rev. Donald Dean Budd, 65, was convicted on two counts of felony fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped eight other felonies.

    Budd will not face any jail time when he is sentenced in May.

    He will be placed on probation, undergo a psychosexual evaluation, attend sex-offender treatment and register as a predatory offender, under terms of the agreement. A special condition of his probation requires him to suspend his license to be a pastor and bars him from seeking a license renewal until after his probation has expired, said Rich McCluer, his attorney.

    Budd admitted Tuesday that he counseled the victim on religious and spiritual matters in his capacity as pastor at McKinley United Methodist Church. The relationship eventually led to emotional intimacy and sexual contact, when he touched her "breasts and genital area" in the late summer of 2003 and between September and October 2005, he said.

    State law forbids such contact between a member of the clergy and someone in the congregation seeking advice, even if it's consensual.

    The contact happened at both the woman's home and in the church basement men's room, according to the criminal complaint.

    Budd was placed on a leave from the church when charges were filed in January 2007, and he said he has since retired. He is scheduled May 28 for sentencing.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    The Creation Science/Evolution Divide

    Saturday, April 4, 2009, 7:45 PM [General]

    A few weeks ago while gritting away at the gym, working off my perpetual gut while blocking out pain caused by a hole in the bottom of my foot (long story), I watched a couple episodes of TLC's "17 Kids and Counting" (since re-named "18 Kids and Counting" following the recent birth of the latest Dugger child).  The one episode focused on the family's trip to Creation Museum near Cincinnati, OH.

    It was interesting to listen to the family and the museum creator talking throughout the half-hour episode about the merits of creation science, the pitfalls of evolution, and the scientific proofs contained within the Bible.  It was balanced by a couple interviews with creation science skeptics (basically guys on the street).  One of them in particular made me laugh when he conceded that mankind and dinosaurs could well have co-existed given the proof presented through episodes of "Land of the Lost".

    This all got me thinking about Evolution Sunday, recently recognized in various churches in an effort to support evolution.  It just happened that I've read various articles recently about Evolution Sunday.   Though I like the concept behind Evolution Sunday, I've never been too keen about it.  Mainly for the same reasons that I don't support the teaching of creation science in biology classes.  Science teachers aren't there to promote religious theory in the guise of scientific theory, just as pastors aren't usually educated to teach or preach scientific theory related to evolution.

    I have never really understood the battle behind Biblical creation.  I mean, I read Genesis 1 and 2 and see two conflicting Biblical origins.  So for others to turn around and tell me that Genesis is a literal re-telling of our universe's beginning doesn't hold much water.  I also don't understand the need to insert these stories into our science classes. 

    But I also don't understand the desire to create counter-movements behind the pulpit that highlight the scientific theory of evolution.  I guess I can see some merit behind the thought that church leaders need to affirm the co-existence of science and religion.  But that's essentially what creation science was created to accomplish.

    So essentially science has become evolved into its own form of denominationalism.  Instead of Baptists, Methodists, UCCers,etc; we're creating Evolutionists, Creation Scientists, etc.  Each with its own distinct, but similar traits, but each divided by belief.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Marriage Equality in Iowa!

    Friday, April 3, 2009, 2:12 PM [General]

    Good news!  Iowa's Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling striking down the state's DOMA law.  In less than a month, all couples -- mixed-gender or same-sexed -- will be able to obtain marriage licenses!

    What this doesn't mean: Churches and ministers will not be forced to marrry gay couples.  They are not forced to marry any straight couple right now and this will not change.  Churches can set whatever wedding policy they want: no weddings; only weddings for members; only weddings for members or family members of members; only weddings for members of their denominations or faith; etc.  If First Congregation United Church of Christ in Anytown, IA, decides that it doesn't want to marry Jim & Jerry, nothing can force them to do this.

    What this means: I'm engaged to my husband, Mark!  No specific plans currently exist, but we are going to get a marriage license to protect ourselves and our children.

    Even with a DOMA law in place, we were able to wed at my church, Faith United Church of Christ, back in 1997.  It was a purely symbolic ceremony.  Even if the state wasn't going to recognize our union, it was important to both of us to find a church that was willing to unite us as a couple. 

    The church honors our marriage.  Our state doesn't.  Still doesn't until we obtain a license.

    Now we have the opportunity to become legally married.  We will definitely do a "justice of the peace" type ceremony.  We want to make it clear to anyone and everyone that this license has nothing to do with God, with the church, or with religion.  It's a license that offers specific state-honored rights and responsibilities.

    It is possible that we will hold a follow-up religious wedding.  That's still being considered.  But we already did that nearly 12 years ago.

    Either way, it's an exciting day for us and many other Iowans!!!!

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Not happy with this transition

    Friday, February 27, 2009, 4:04 PM [General]

    I lost over one month of journal entries.  They said we'd lose a couple days, so I didn't do anything during the past days.  But OVER ONE MONTH OF LOST JOURNAL ENTRIES????  I'm pissed off.  I don't know if I'll be staying.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Operation: Third Child Begins

    Saturday, February 21, 2009, 12:34 PM [General]

    A couple weeks ago, I posted on journal entry on Beliefnet expressing my interest in having a third child and beginning the first stages of my plan to convince the others in my family that this would be a good thing to do.  I believe that I’ve had progress.

    As communicated earlier, the first step in this plan was to plant the seed.  Very quickly after planting the seed, Husband Mark went to “Absolutely No” to “Maybe when Les has moved out”.  I let it lie…

    Fastforward to last weekend.  Dan and I went to the movies to watch Coraline, which was a very good movie that everyone should see.  On the way home, we got to talking about names.  I shared how Dan and Les (not their real names) have names that I never would have picked, but that I now cannot imagine either of them with different names.  Somehow, Dan and I began discussing new names for a new fictional brother.  After a while, Dan observed that there are lots of guys in our home and that we should get him a younger sister if we really get another child.  He also said that he wants to be older than his new sister and that she should be a year or two younger than him.

    I’ve never actually been too keen about getting a daughter.  I’m not opposed to the idea, but there are practical complications about having a girl with two dads that seem easier to avoid by having sons.  But Mark would love a girl and I know my mom (who has a half-dozen grandsons) would love a granddaughter.  So I suggested that Dan talk with Mark about having a little sister.

    This sparked a conversation between the three of us about a third child.  We eventually all decided that our house doesn’t really have enough room to introduce a girl into the mix.  Either Dan would have to share space with a sister or Les and Dan would have to bunk up, and they don’t want to do that.  But Dan liked the idea of switching bedrooms with Les and sharing with a younger brother.And then we ended that conversation and let it lie for another day.

    The next day, Mark and I were doing something.  Don’t even remember what.  He turned to me and asked, “Are you serious about getting another child?”I told him that I was.  He is concerned that we don’t have enough time to put into the kids we have now.  I told him that my schedule has opened up and we can always make room for things if we really want to.  He said that he would think about it.

    Last night, he dreamt that we had a daughter and we were teaching her martial arts moves so that she could become the next Xena: Warrior Princess.  This was heartening, because it shows that he is open to the idea of another child and is still subconsciously problem solving and planning (however fancifully).  I asked him if we could name our daughter Xena Gabrielle.  He told me not to push it.

    I’ll keep you updated…

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Review: Fostering Love

    Thursday, February 19, 2009, 7:45 PM [General]

    Last night was my gay parenting night.  Ironically, I spent very little time actually parenting my own kids.  My evening started out in Coralville, Iowa, at that community’s public library watching a panel discussion called “Let My Parents Marry!”, sponsored by Lambda Legal and COLAGE.  The panel consisted of three children of lesbian parents (“children” being loosely stated as one of the panelists is in her early twenties) and one lesbian mom.  The panelists told their stories and talked about why marriage equality is important to them.  It was an okay presentation, though it was one of those “preaching to the choir” events.  My guess is that their primary goal was to promote networking amongst gay families here in the state of Iowa.

    Because of the timing of “Let My Parents Marry!”, I missed Discovery Health’s premier of “Fostering Love”.  Fortunately, I was able to watch a second showing of the program at 10 PM.  As discussed in a previous post, “Fostering Love” is a documentary about a gay male couple, their kids (mostly foster kids), and their zoo. 

    I originally thought that it would be a multi-episode series, but it turns out that it was only a one-hour documentary.  And they stuffed A LOT into that hour.  They showed the family moving from the city to the country.  They spotlighted their 16-year-old son.  They talked about the couple’s two previously failed foster-to-adopt placements.  They talked about their 2-year-old adoptive son’s MS diagnosis and treatments.  They talked a lot about their baby foster daughter’s placement with them and how precarious things remained until the adoption was signed.  In fact, the narrator spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME reminding the viewers about the instability of being foster parents – especially if your goal as a foster parent is to adopt your foster child.  Interestingly, they spent very little time addressing their foster daughter or her care – just her status as a foster child that the couple would like to adopt.  The program introduced a teen foster son to the show in the second half-hour and suggested a possible adoption of that boy sometime in the future.  It also addressed a possible surrogacy.  The show also spent a lot of time on the couple’s Alpaca farm (along with the Llamas, and the chickens, and the dogs, and the donkeys…) and the kids’ chores on the farm.

    I will say this.  This couple has some serious coinage or deep credit.  Their country ranch and property was huge.  Even in rural California, that’s gotta set one back a bit.  The animals can’t be cheap.  Even if they plan to sell the Alpaca wool, that’s not going to bring in much income.  The one dad is a stay-at-home parent.  Not to mention the cost of the whole surrogacy thing.  But I digress… 

    When watching documentaries like this, I’m often on edge waiting for that “cringe moment”.  That moment where the gay person says or does something so off the wall that you can’t help but wonder what kind of negative reaction their actions or their statements will  garner from those who oppose families like ours.  Fortunately, I didn’t experience any parental cringe moments.  No wishy-washy parenting.  No “out of control” kids.  No inappropriate social outings.

    My only real “cringe” centered on their animal acquisitions.  I mean, they started out with a dog, which grew to three dogs to keep the first dog company, which grew into a ranch with twenty-some Alpacas, which led to the purchase of a Llama to protect the Alpacas, which led to the purchase of two more Llamas because they got a good deal, which led to the purchase of a couple mules because they looked cute…  That doesn’t event touch the cat(s?) and the chickens!  All of this within a few months!  Holy buckets!

    The one thing I would’ve liked to see more of was the reaction of their new small town community to this nontraditional family.  Maybe the lack of air-time signifies that there haven’t been many problems.  The biggest problem came, expectantly, from the Catholic church where Jim’s family was participating in various rites.  But I didn’t get the impression that that event even happened in their new home town .

    Basically, there’s a lot going on in this home.  Lots of kids.  Lots of animals.  Lots of people.  Lots of action in a one hour documentary.  I don’t know if there’s a possibility for a “Fostering Love” series in the future, but I’m curious to see how things work out with these men and their various kids.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Program to Check Out: Fostering Love

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009, 9:43 PM [General]

    There are about three types of "reality" programming that I enjoy: 1. Court Shows (especially my beloved judicial diva, Judge Judy); 2. Profession-Based Competitions (pretty much anything on Bravo: Top Chef; Project Runway; Top Design; but also Animal Planet's Groomer Has It); and 3. Unique Family Shows (pretty much anything on TLC or Discovery).  This entry has to do with a new show under catergory #3: Discovery Health Channel's Fostering Love.

    I've been obsessed lately with TLC and Discovery Health.  I love shows like "Jon & Kate Plus 8" (an inter-racial family with two sets of multiple birth kids); "Joined for Life" (about a pair of conjoined twins and their lifelong challenges); the various "Dugger" shows (about a religious family and their 18 kids); "Little People, Big World" (a family of little persons and their kids); and various other similar shows.  I've often thought it would be fun to watch a show about a family of little people with conjoined multiple birth children, some of whom have to go to a clinic to be treated for extreme obesity.  But that would be silly.  Last week, I was watching a newer show called "Six for the Road" and saw a portion of an advertisement for a new reality family show called "Fostering Love".  I didn't see much, but I saw enough to keep my eyes and ears open for more info.  I'm glad I did.

    "Fostering Love" will premier tomorrow night (Wednesday, 2/18; 8:00 PM PST).  It tells the story of a gay male couple and their family as they relocate to their new farm home.  Their family consists of a teen-age birth son, a 2-year-old adoptive son, and an infant foster-soon-to-be-adoptive(?) daughter.  According to some promotional materials that I've read, the show will address relational problems with their foster daughter's birth-mom that threaten the child's permanent placement.  It will also address the couple's wedding, their acclimation to small-town California, and it will also address the placement of an older child in their home before the end of the series.

    I'm looking forward to watching tomorrow's program.  I'm all for any program that addresses not only gay parenting, but also the need for more foster families.  However, I'm hopeful that the storyline involving the foster family is dealt with tactfully.  I understand that foster family disruptions can be upsetting, but I also realize that foster kids and their birth families are still familiy and their needs should come first during the whole reunification process.  Ideally, foster care is meant to be temporary -- not a step towards adoption.  If that happens, it happens.  But it's not the primary purpose of foster care.  Or, as my daily mantra used to be back when we were foster parents & pre-adoptive parents: It's not final until the judge signs off on the adoption order.

    Check it out!

    0 (0 Ratings)

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