Central PA Pride Festival Announces Headliner: Antigone Rising

March 11, 2015

PRIDE FESTIVAL OF CENTRAL PA ANNOUNCES 2015 FESTIVAL HEADLINER
ANTIGONE RISING AND ENTERTAINTMENT LINE UP

Antigone Rising, headline act for 2015 Central PA Pride Festival

Antigone Rising, headline act for 2015 Central PA Pride Festival

The Pride Festival of Central PA is excited to announce Antigone Rising, a New York City based all-female alternative country rock band known for their powerful three-part harmonies and their engaging and electrifying live performances as the 2015 Festival headliner.

Having toured with The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Joan Jett and the Bangles, Antigone Rising has also appeared on The Today Show and The Tonight Show and on the pages of Billboard and Out magazines. The quartet was appointed cultural ambassadors by the United States government to tour Israel and the Middle
East; and has also played a huge role in LGBT advocacy, specifically in the fight for marriage equality. This will be Antigone Rising’s first time performing at the Pride Festival of Central PA.

Other scheduled first time performers at the 2015 festival include: Indian Summer Jars, a folk and bluegrass band with upbeat, dynamic and bold harmonies and vocals based out of York, PA. Octavia, a tight four piece group based in Lancaster, PA performing high energy dance and traditional blues and rock music. Funktion, a Mechanicsburg, PA six piece ensemble whose repertoire includes Funk, R&B, Jazz, and Classic Rock music.

The Elizabehtown, PA Tropical/Latin Dance Fusion band, Los Monstros returns for a encore performance this
year due to the groups popularity.

More information on all of the 2015 Pride Festival Entertainment can be found on our website:
http://www.centralpapridefestival.com/2015-entertainment.html

Since 1992, the Pride Festival of Central PA, a project of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, a 501(c)3 organization; has held a festival each July on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg to provide a safe environment for people of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) and straight ally
community to express and celebrate their diversity emphasizing acceptance of all individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The festival is a combination live bands, performances, commercial and nonprofit exhibitors as well as food vendors. An estimated 5,000 people attend annually. The 2015 Festival is scheduled for Saturday July 25, in Harrisburg’s Riverfront Park.

Local Programs: LGBT Health Awareness Week is March 23 – March 27

March 10, 2015

LGBT Health Awareness Week is March 23 – March 27.

Alder Health Services is collaborating with YWCA Harrisburg, PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence, LGBT Community Center of Central PA, and American Lung Association to present LGBT-specific programs on Health and Wellness, Partner Violence, HIV Prevention through PrEP, Tobacco Use, and support services for HIV individuals and couples.

Programs scheduled throughout the region include:

Mon., March 23, 6-7 p.m., Harrisburg, Partner Violence & How to Know If It’s Happening to You
A panel of representatives from YWCA Harrisburg, PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence, LGBT Community Center of Central PA, PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and Alder Health Services will discuss how to know if partner violence is happening to you. Free.

Speakers: Nick Hartman, PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency; Louie Marvin, LGBT Center of Central PA; MaryAnn Havalchak, Harrisburg YWCA, and Jan Davis, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Tues., March 24, 6-8 p.m., Harrisburg, Preventing HIV Infection – New Choice
Community Consultation on Preventing HIV Infection through Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP, a panel discussion with audience Q&A by Alder Health Services at the LGBT Community Center of Central PA, 1306 N. Third Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102, 6-8 p.m. Free. No RSVP required. Panelists: Dr. Jarrett Sell, Medical Director, Alder Health Services, and Penn State Hershey Medical Center; and Dr. Charis James, MD, Resident Physician, Penn State Hershey Medical Center. AHS currently offers PrEP consultations on a one-on-one basis for those interested in PrEP as one form of preventing HIV infection. Dr. Sell is affiliated with Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

“PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The purpose of the program is educate the community about this new approach to preventing HIV. The pill (brand name Truvada) contains two medicines (Tenofovir and Emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV. When someone is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection.

Wed., March 25, 6-7 p.m., Harrisburg, Tobacco & Your Health
Join the American Lung Association and Alder Health Services for a discussion about tobacco use and your health at Alder Health Services, 100 North Cameron Street, Suite 301, Harrisburg, PA 17101, 717.233.7190. Free. Speaker is Brandon Miller from the American Lung Association.

Wed., March 25, 5:30 p.m., 6-7 p.m., Lancaster, HIV and Your Partner
Alder Health Services hosts a support group on “HIV and Your Partner” at Grace Lutheran Church, 517 N. Queen St., Lancaster, PA. Facilitator is Sakinna Alston, Alder Health Services. Individuals and couples may attend. Participants will learn about HIV basics, how infection occurs, how infection may be prevented, what is and what is not a safer sexual practice. Participants are invited for a 5:30 p.m. free dinner provided by church.

Thurs., March 26, 6-8 p.m, Lancaster, Bridging the Gap, LGBT Health and Wellness
Bridging the Gap, an LGBT Health and Wellness panel discussion with Q&A on health and wellness issues unique to the LGBT community by Alder Health Services at AHS Lancaster Office, 1891 Santa Barbara Drive, Lancaster, PA. Topics include Behavioral Health, Physical Health and Relationships. Free. Presenters are Cassandra Weber, CRNP; Susan Thornsley, MD; Jessica Weiss-Ford, LCSW, Adjunct Professor, Millersville University; Jayleen Galarza, PhD, LCSW.

Thurs., March 26, 5:30-7 p.m., Harrisburg, HIV 101: Health Education and Safe Sex Practices
Alder Health Services presents the basics of HIV, how infection occurs, how infection may be prevented, what is and what is not a safer sexual practice. Facilitator is Samantha Dock, Alder Health Services, 100 North Cameron Street, Suite 301, Harrisburg, PA 17101, 717.233.7190.

For more information on LGBT Health Awareness Week programs, call 717-233-7190.
http://www.alderhealth.org

Indian Top Court Recognizes Transgenders

April 15, 2014

Reuters reports that India’s top court has recognized the country’s long marginalized transgender community as a third gender and, in a landmark judgment lauded by human rights groups, called on the government to ensure their equal treatment.

There are hundreds of thousands of transgenders in India, say activists, but because they are not legally recognized, they are ostracized, discriminated against, abused and often forced into prostitution.

“Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,” the Supreme Court’s two-judge bench said in its ruling.

“Transgenders are also citizens of India. The spirit of the constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender.”

A person who is transgender does not identify with the gender stated on their birth certificate.

The court ruling – which came after hearing a petition filed by a group of transgenders demanding equal rights – recognized the community as a marginalized group and directed authorities to implement policies to improve their socio-economic status.

The petitioners’ lawyers said that this would mean that all identity documents, including a birth certificate, passport and driving license would recognize the third gender, along with male and female.

The government will also have to allocate a certain percentage of public sector jobs, seats in schools and colleges to third gender applicants, said lawyer Sanjeev Bhatnagar.

Due to their lack of access to jobs and education, many male-to-female transgenders – also known as “hijras” – are forced to work as sex workers or move around in organized groups begging or demanding money.

Hate crimes in the conservative country are common, say activists, yet few are reported partly due to a lack of sensitivity by authorities such as the police.

Transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi said the verdict was a great step towards ending such discrimination.

“Today Justice Radhakrishnan and Justice A.K. Sikri said that any nation can progress only after it grants all the rights and human rights to its citizens. The transgenders have been given the biggest right,” said Tripathi. “Today I feel a proud citizen of India.”

The Supreme Court was slammed by human rights activists in December when it reinstated a ban on gay sex, following a four-year period of decriminalization that helped bring homosexuality into the open. The court said only parliament could change the law.

Human rights groups said they hoped the ruling on transgenders would encourage the new parliament to repeal the anti-homosexuality law as one of its first actions.

India is currently holding general elections with the results due on May 16.

(Writing by Nita Bhalla; Additional reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Sunil Kataria; Editing by Douglas Busvine)

Local Company’s Slippery Slope: First Reproductive Rights, Then LGBT Civil Rights?

April 7, 2014

By Mike Wood

Will a Lancaster County company’s legal challenge to providing contraceptive care eventually curtail LGBT civil rights?

With a final decision expected sometime in June, the U. S. Supreme Court on March 25 heard oral arguments in the case of Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby Stores & Conestoga Wood Specialities Corp. Conestoga Wood is based in East Eart, placing the local business at the crossroads of a national.

The two privately owned-companies named in the suit are seeking exceptions to healthcare requirements set forth in the Affordable Care Act. The ACA requires that insurance plans provided by employers include paid coverage for women seeking contraception. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are arguing that ACA’s mandate violates rights afforded them in the First Amendment.

supreme-court-of-the-united-states-logo-gif-1-300x300The Supreme Court heard whether or not corporations can opt out of the law on religious grounds and, after 90 minutes of oral arguments, the Court seems evenly split along conservative and liberal lines. This may leave the deciding vote to Chief Justice John G. Roberts. A decision on the case is expected sometime in June.

The Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby chain is owned by the Green family, evangelical Christians who say they run their business on biblical principles. They operate some 600 stores in 41 states across the country with more than 15,000 full-time employees who are eligible for health insurance benefits.

The other company named in the lawsuit, Lancaster County’s Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, based out of East Earl, is a far smaller company (less than 1,000 employees) that manufactures wood cabinets and is owned and operated by a religious family of Mennonite Christians. Both companies want an exemption from ACA’s contraception mandate. Hobby Lobby’s lawyers claim the healthcare reform law violates the corporation’s free exercise of religion by requiring that they provide their employees with a health plan that covers the intrauterine device (IUD) and oral contraceptive pills that go against their clients’ religious beliefs. According to Hobby Lobby’s website the Greens and their family businesses “have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan.” What the Greens do object to is having to provide contraceptive care to their employees that they deem to be forms of abortion (like the “morning after pill”).

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor of law at Cordoza Law School at Yeshiva University in New York City, who advises lawmakers on church-state issues, tells Central Voice that science refutes the idea that the four types of birth control Hobby Lobby refuses to cover are, in fact, abortifacients (abortion-inducing agents) , and asks, “what happens when the next employer fights funding for vaccinations, blood transfusions, or HIV medications? The primary problem for the believers in this case is that they have not offered a credible limiting principle to their theory.”

As noted by Hamilton, this case is inextricably linked to LGBT rights in this country because of what could become the slippery slope in varying interpretations of the Supreme Court’s decision to and its language that could lead to discrimination. One need only look to the highly-publicized case of Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoing the so-called “turn the gays away” bill only after pressure from outside sources warned her of its far-reaching implications. The case in Arizona is not an isolated incident. Similar bills are springing up across the country under the guise of religious protections and religious freedoms. On April 1 the Mississippi legislature approved a measure that would enable businesses and individuals to refuse services to any person they choose purely on religious grounds referencing the Religious Freedom Reformation Act (RFRA) of 1993 which prevents laws that burden a person’s free exercise of religion.

And while there is no mention of LGBT individuals specifically in the Mississippi measure, the legislation would certainly discriminate against LGBT people seeking any number of services in the state because these services—from dining at a restaurant or being treated at a hospital—could be refused or denied based solely upon one’s personal religious convictions. When one considers what a religious exemption could cover, the implications are frightening. Where is the line ultimately drawn? All the Mississippi bill needs is a signature from governor Phil Bryant and, at press time, he says he’s going to sign the bill, which means it will go into effect July 1.

Activists for religious freedom cite the First Amendment and believe individuals and corporations should be able to refuse service to whomever they choose if it conflicts with one’s religious beliefs. Because of the First Amendment, churches are exempt from nondiscrimination laws in most cases, but private companies are not religious institutions even if they are owned by religious-minded people. Hamilton believes the RFRA is “a license for mischief and for believers to pursue ends that are beyond the pale. It is a formula that invites discrimination and inevitably hurts the vulnerable.”

This may all sound familiar to those who remember Mitt Romney’s caught-on-video “corporations are people” catchphrase that exploded the debate about the differences between corporations and individuals back in 2011. Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby is poised to become the Citizens United of the war against marriage equality and refuel or add fuel to the already blazing cultural war in this country. The question at the heart of this case is nearly the same: Do corporations have, in this case freedom-of-religion, rights like individuals do? If the Supreme Court finds that they do, then religious employers of for-profit corporations will have grounds for refusing coverage on a litany of items that could include anything from HIV medications for a gay patient or pre-natal care for an unwed mother because of religious objections about that person’s “lifestyle.”

While only Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are named in the lawsuit, some 100 companies have also sued the U.S. government for the same rights to deny some type of medical coverage on religious grounds. If Hobby Lobby prevails in the Supreme Court case and its plaintiffs have religious or moral objection to providing contraception, surely it stands to reason that other types of privately-owned, for-profit businesses would be able to find convenient ways to discriminate against all kinds of people—LGBT, minorities, women—based on so-called religious freedom.

We reached out to Hobby Lobby and Conestega Wood but were told by their representatives they were not available for interviews or comment at this time.

Ready for Leadership Camp?

March 24, 2014

PA Students Eligible
By Central Voice

“Our goal is to teach, empower, and to be pro-active,” says Sean Bugg, executive director, Next Generation Leadership Foundation.

1395616202791His organization is seeking 20-25 LGBT individuals 18 years old for The Next Generation Leadership Camp 2014. April 18 is the deadline to apply online. The camp is scheduled June 16-20.

The Next Generation Leadership Camp 2014 is a new program that brings recently graduated LGBT high school students to Washington, D.C., to meet with successful LGBT leaders in a variety of fields; develop important leadership skills; and build a network of young LGBT peers for support and mentoring as they progress through college and careers.

Over five days, participants will have the opportunity to ask direct questions to LGBT elected officials in Congress; learn about the opportunities for LGBT people in professional sports; meet trailblazing LGBT leaders in both business and activism; and work with their own peers to develop skills that will help them take on leadership roles themselves.

Who can participate?

Recent U.S. high school graduates are eligible to apply. Applications will be reviewed based on academic achievement, community involvement, and an essay or multi-media submission on how participating in the Leadership Camp will make a difference in their lives as LGBT community members and their career goals.

Why organize a new initiative?

“It doesn’t get better everywhere at the same pace,” Bugg points out. “We want young, potential leaders to see how all the pieces fit together and how they can be successful,” he says.

While growing societal acceptance of LGBT people has had a profound change on our culture, many young LGBT people across the country still struggle to find acceptance and support. “On top of that, stereotypes and assumptions about LGBT people cause many of these young people to limit themselves when it comes to choosing careers and leadership opportunities,” Bugg says.

Apply online: http: www.nglf.org/leadership-camp-application

Fred Phelps Dead; Local Activist Shares Conversations with Son Nathan Phelps

March 20, 2014

2004: Phelps Children Protest in Harrisburg

By Frank Pizzoli

As the LGBT community vacillates between “Ding dong the witch is dead” and more reflective reactions to the death of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, 84, Central Voice talked with Alanna Berger, co-founder of The Silent Witness organization, about her and husband Blaise’s conversations of several years ago with Fred Phelps’ son Nathan Phelps.

“We started talking to Nate four years ago when we had our first Silent Witness Peacekeepers conference,” Berger said.

Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps

Estranged from his father and the clan that forms the nucleus of the church, the organization wanted to have him speak. The group couldn’t afford him then, but kept trying to find a way to bring him here. “Blaise was finally able to get him at Millersville University for an MU Allies’ event” a couple of years ago.

Alanna Berger has been I have been in conversation with Nathan Phelps.

Alanna Berger, co-founder, The Silent witness, at 2003 Phelps protest in Harrisburg

Alanna Berger, co-founder, The Silent Witness, at 2004 Phelps protest in Harrisburg

“He believes his family should be ignored. They thrive on attention,” she told Central Voice. Fred Phelps, his son told her, has been mentally ill for decades, and his family has suffered for it.

She believes that love and compassion have swayed many of his grandchildren to leave the cult. “The count is somewhere around 15-16 at this point,” Alanna Berger said.

Historically comprised of family members, the church, founded by Phelps Sr. in the 1950s, is best known for its “God Hates Fags” signs used during public protests, including in recent years the funerals of fallen soldiers from US Middle Eastern wars.

The church’s central belief is that the slow embrace by the US of LGBT civil rights puts the nation at odds with their definition of God and morality.

For before his death, many refused to refer to Phelps as “reverend” or his group as a “church,” citing their routine hatefulness as not worthy of either title. In recent years Fred Phelps, Sr., was deposed by the group’s arcane governance structure known only to family members. He had not made public appearances.

Local Phelps

Phelps family in 2004 protest at PA State Museum

Phelps family in 2003 protest at PA State Museum

In 2004, Phelps family members, including children, protested the public screening of “Jim in Bold,” a film about a troubled young man from the south central Pennsylvania region who committed suicide. Several hundred LGBT people and their allies formed a safety ring around the Pennsylvania State Museum where the film was shown.

In 2006, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder was killed in a non-combat-related vehicle accident in Iraq. On March 10, Westboro Baptist Church picketed Snyder’s funeral in Westminster, Maryland, as it had done at thousands of other funerals throughout the US in protest of what they considered America’s increasing tolerance of homosexuality.

Picketers displayed placards such as “America is doomed”, “You’re going to hell”, “God hates you”, “Fag troops”, “Semper fi fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers”.

Albert Snyder, the father of Matthew Snyder, made a legal claim against the Phelps family hoping to block their protest at his son’s funeral. Known as Snyder v. Phelps, the case ended up before the US Supreme Court, which held that speech on a public sidewalk, about a public issue, cannot be liable for a tort of emotional distress, even if the speech is found to be “outrageous”. By an 8-1 vote, the top court by 8-1 decided the protest was a First Amendment issue.

On March 30, 2010, the court further ordered Albert Snyder to pay the court costs for the Phelps defendants, an amount totaling $16,510. People all over the country, including political commentator Bill O’Reilly agreed to cover the costs, pending appeal. O’Reilly also pledged to support all of Snyder’s future court costs against the Phelps.

In early March, Phelps’ estranged son, Nathan Phelps, has reported on his Facebook page that his father was near death.

Phelps death brings mixed reactions from the LGBT community. Some activists and advocates are calling for a protest of Phelps’ funeral. Others are advising caution.

Last February, Marge Phelps, Phelps’ daughter, told Huffington Post editor Nick Wing that memorials were not in line with their church policy. Her communication said: We don’t worship the dead in this church, so there’d be no public memorial or funeral to picket if any member died. — GodHatesYourStars (@WBCMargie) February 4, 2014.

Although memorials are not within their church’s policy, given the number of times the Phelps’ family has shown up at the funerals and memorials of others, it is apparently within their church’s policy to protest funerals and memorials.

Family affair

The private relationships of the Phelps family were as controversial as their public profile.

Church elders eventually excommunicated Phelps after a power struggle in which Shirley Phelps-Roper lost a battle with male elders for control.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Fred Phelps Sr. was excommunicated from the church after advocating a kinder approach between church members. The excommunication occurred after the formation of a board of male elders in the church. The board had defeated Shirley Phelps-Roper, the church’s longtime spokesperson, in a power struggle, and Fred Phelps Sr. called for kinder treatment of fellow church members. The board then ejected Phelps Sr. The power struggle and excommunication was revealed by Nathan Phelps, who broke away from the church 37 years ago.

Nate Phelps said he observed that Shirley Phelps-Roper had fallen from grace and wasn’t as visible in the church as she had been while Drain and Tim Phelps had become more visible. In recent months, calls made to Shirley Phelps-Roper have been answered by Drain. Some observers have speculated that with the takeover by male members of the family, there may be a “tell all” book published down the road.

The elder’s decision had a big impact on Phelps Sr., Nate Phelps said.

“They took the one thing that meant everything to the man,” Nate Phelps said, referring to Phelps Sr.’s tie to the church. “That old man and his reason to exist have gone away.”

Right before his death, church representative Steve Drain refused to talk about the excommunication of Fred Phelps Sr. “We don’t discuss our internal church dealings with anybody,” he said.

Should He Die, No Funeral for Fred Phelps?

March 17, 2014

By Central Voice

Should Fred Phelps die, will he have a funeral?

Should the LGBT community and their allies protest his funeral like he, and the children he taught, did so many times?

Estranged son of Fred Phelps, Nathan Phelps, has reported on his Facebook page that his father is near death. Fred Phelps founded the Westboro Baptist Church known for its “God Hates Fags” and other signs carried when they protested funerals and other events.

Meanwhile, as word swirls around cyberspace on Phelps’ worsening medical condition, some LGBT activists and advocates are calling for a protest of Phelps’ funeral in the event he dies. Other members of the LGBT community are advising caution.

Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps

Last February, Marge Phelps, Phelps’ daughter, told Huffington Post editor Nick Wing that memorials were not in line with their church policy. Although memorials are not within their church’s policy, given the number of times the Phelps’ family has shown up at the funerals and memorials of others, it is apparently within their church’s policy to protest funerals and memorials.

Does Fred Phelps remain a member of the church he founded?

In his Facebook posting, Nathan wrote:
I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the “church” back in August of 2013. In response to the question, “Has Fred Phelps been ‘excluded’ from membership at Westboro Baptist Church?” the church wrote, “Membership issues are private.”

Members of the Phelps family showed up in 2004 when the film “Jim in Bold” was screened at the Pennsylvania State Museum. Hundreds of LGBT and allied individuals also showed up to form a human ring around the museum in order to provide for a peaceful way for moviegoers to make entrance.

UPDATE: United Methodist Church and No More Trails; Schism Ahead?

March 17, 2014

By Central Voice

Central Voice talked with defrocked pastor Frank Schaefer, Lebanon, on a decision by an upstate New York United Methodist Church conference to stop church prosecutions of pastors within their conference who perform same-sex weddings.

Rev. Thomas Ogletree

Rev. Thomas Ogletree

March 10, United Methodist Bishop Martin McLee and Rev. Thomas Ogletree announced that the church was dropping the case against Ogletree for officiating at his son’s wedding. There is a movement within the UMC to organizing its marriage ministry to all couples on an equal basis in open defiance of church law.

Bishop McLee said, “I call for and commit to cessation of trials,” the first time ever a sitting UM bishop has categorically declared he will not prosecute pastors for ministering to LGBTQ people.

“I am grateful that Bishop McLee has withdrawn this case and the church is no longer prosecuting me for an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love,” Ogletree said. “But I am even more grateful that he is vowing not to prosecute others who have been likewise faithful in ministry to LGBTQ people. May our bishop’s commitment to cease such prosecutions be the beginning of the end of the United Methodist Church’s misguided era of discriminating against LGBTQ people.”

Rev. Thomas Ogletree was scheduled to be tried March 10 after officiating his son’s same-sex wedding.

The new announcement means that these kinds of trials will no longer occur only within the upstate New York conference. The UMC is governed by many conferences, each of which participates in the larger governance structure of the international church.

“This decision, to end trails, effects only the upstate New York conference, nowhere else,” Schaefer confirmed for Central Voice. He is still defrocked within his own conference.

The entire UMC meets every four years, next in 2014. Schaefer says there is a real possibility that the church will experience a schism over same-sex marriage.

“We are deeply divided on same-sex marriage,” Schaefer says. “There’s lots of turmoil but perhaps this will bring change, but maybe not,” he reflects. “I expect this division could lead to a schism within the church when we next meet in 2016. If by then the rules stay the same – no same-sex marriage – then each church, each conference will have to decide. That may lead to a split,” he says.

Fred Phelps Near Death?

March 17, 2014

By Central Voice

Estranged son of Fred Phelps, Nathan Phelps, has reported on his Facebook page that his father is near death. There has been no official verification of Nathan’s report.

Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps

From Nathan Phelps:
I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the “church” back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.

I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.

United Methodist Church: No More Trails

March 13, 2014

It looks as if the United Church of Christ has acknowledged the adage ‘Father knows best.’

Rev. Thomas Ogletree was scheduled to be tried March 10 after officiating his son's same-sex wedding.

Rev. Thomas Ogletree was scheduled to be tried March 10 after officiating his son’s same-sex wedding.

The church has announced that it will no longer prosecute Methodist pastors for their support of the LGBT community, including when a pastor marries his own son. The church is dropping its case Rev. Thomas Ogletree, who was scheduled to be tried by the church on March 10 after officiating his son’s same-sex wedding.

You may remember a similar case reported on by Central Voice against local pastor Rev. Frank Schaefer, Lebanon, who also performed a same-sex wedding for his son in 2007.

The new announcement asserts that these kinds of trials will no longer occur.

From Joe.My.God.: At a joint press conference today, United Methodist Bishop Martin McLee and Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree announced that the church was dropping the case against Dr. Ogletree for officiating at his son’s wedding. In a huge victory for the Methodist movement that is organizing ministry to all couples on an equal basis in open defiance of church law, the bishop dropped the case without any conditions.

Furthermore, Bishop McLee said in his statement “I call for and commit to cessation of trials,” the first time ever a sitting United Methodist bishop has categorically declared he will not prosecute pastors for ministering to LGBTQ people.

“I am grateful that Bishop McLee has withdrawn this case and the church is no longer prosecuting me for an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love,” said Dr. Ogletree. “But I am even more grateful that he is vowing not to prosecute others who have been likewise faithful in ministry to LGBTQ people. May our bishop’s commitment to cease such prosecutions be the beginning of the end of the United Methodist Church’s misguided era of discriminating against LGBTQ people.”