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John and Pepe's
31-Day Mission Trip
to Central America
by Tom Hanks
Take Back the Word
by Bob Goss
& Mona West
| Other Sheep Spring 2000 Newsletter
Inside this Newsletter
MISSION JESUS STYLE, CHAPTER 2
(with an UPGRADE!!)
A 31-Day Mission Trip to the Seven Principal Cities in Central America
by José (Pepe) Hernández and John Doner,
Other Sheep Coordinators: Latin America
Executive Director of Entre Amigos, a gay rights group in San Salvador, El Salvador, declared
himself an agnostic after, among other factors, having been sexually abused by a priest as a
youth and then observing his church's condemnation of gays. But by Saturday afternoon he
stated that the material we had brought and our discussions had "stirred up a lot of things,
things that maybe we didn't want to be stirred up.... [But] we are going to begin asking
questions about whether many of the things we were taught are true or false. I see a positive
future in terms of the faith of gays and lesbians.... Some of us [leaders in the gay/lesbian
groups] come from a strong background in the Catholic Church and I feel God is giving us the
opportunity to see that it is not the church itself [that is the problem] but the politics and the
men who run the church."
We sensed this kind of impact throughout the 31 days of the January-February (2000) trip
through the six countries of Central America which my partner, José (Pepe) Hernández, and I
took as part of our Other Sheep ministry. Other Sheep funds were not available for the trip
and our personal finances were limited, so I planned to go alone. But when a San Diego friend
heard of this, he contributed the $1500 necessary for Pepe to accompany me. Praise God!
The Rev. Dr. Tom Hanks, Executive Director of Other Sheep, needed to travel to San José,
Costa Rica, his former home for 22 years, and he asked us to accompany him. For several
years we had been wanting to return to Central America to continue the efforts we began on
our 1994 "Jesus-style" mission trip to look for and encourage leaders for the development of
Christian ministries with lesbians and gays, and this was the impetus we needed! Here is a
quick overview of Christian ministry with gays and lesbians in the seven cities we visited.
SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA: Bemal Esquivel, Associate Creative Director in a global advertising
company and a lay person of Pentecostal background, began an ecumenical Christian
support group in 1997, now known as the COMUNIDAD Arco Iris (Rainbow Community).
Attendance now is around 30 at their Monday night meetings, basically a time of praise and
study. They are planning to rent their own facility within six months. Invited to speak at their
weekly meeting, Tom encouraged them to expand their vision and work with Other Sheep to
extend their ministry to other Central American countries.
We of course also visited Latin American Biblical University (formerly Seminary, to which Tom
is still related as adjunct faculty), and they are eager to have an updated version of an
extension course on ministry with sexual minorities.
PANAMA CITY: With the encouragement of Bernal and the group in Costa Rica, a Christian
group began in May 1999 in Panama, but after a few months internal problems broke up the
group. We contacted the former leaders and Ricaurte Garrido, a Catholic lay person who
plays the guitar, responded to the need to begin the group again. We also met several times
with a gay Dominican priest who first made contact with us months ago via our web site and
with representatives of one gay and two AIDS Groups and found significant interest in spiritual
matters. After our departure Ricaurte restarted the group "Gente Como Tú" (People Like You)
and, although the response so far has been disappointing, his dedication should soon result
in a strong group.
MANAGUA, NICARAGUA: The Iglesia de la Comunidad Metropolitana Paz y Alegria (Peace
and Joy MCC) has been struggling for existence in this impoverished country for nearly ten
years and is now in a restructuring mode, moving from a target population made up primarily
of marginalized transvestites in one part of the city to a more middle-class group. The leaders
are Mario Gutiérrez, an architect, and Armando Sánchez, a former Roman Catholic priest with
a recent doctorate in psychology who has been accepted by MCC for ordination. Both men,
especially Mario, have long been leaders in the gay community and are well-known among
AIDS activists and in the struggle for peace in their country.
SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR: This city perhaps showed the most exciting prospects for
development of Christian ministry. Mario Bran, 35, was actively involved in his Central
American Mission church most of his life and in 1992 felt a call to mission work, especially
among Muslims. In addition to local training he spent one month at the US Center for World
Mission (Pasadena, CA) and two months in mission work in Eastern Europe. In 1997, however,
he was strongly encouraged to leave his church because of his homosexuality, even though
he was celibate. He gradually left he church and "entered the gay world." Although estranged
from the church, he maintained his relationship with Jesus and recently began a Bible study
group with four young Catholic men. We showed the Spanish version of the MCC video, "God,
Gays and the Gospel," to 14 Salvadorans and a church for gays and lesbians was an exciting
new concept for the Salvadorans.
TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS: In spite of several leads and significant interest expressed by
members of both AIDS/gay rights groups in the Honduran capital, Colectivo Violeta and
Prisma, we were not able to identify a leader to begin a ministry. Both groups, especially the
former, have searched for help for their spiritual concerns among local church leaders, but
with only very limited success. The MCC video created a thirst among those present for a
reconciliation with God, and we need to return to continue searching for adequate Christian
SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS: Contacts with the two gay rights/AIDS groups and others in
the city again indicated a real concern among gays for their relationship with God
(unfortunately there apparently are no lesbians involved with these groups). Luís Roberto, a
gay Catholic priest, initiated a Christian group two years ago, but fear related to the murder of
one of their leaders caused the group to disband. Luís Roberto and Brian, a fellow priest who
was not in the country at the time of the earlier group, now appear ready to begin anew.
GUATEMALA CITY: Three Christian leaders -- Antonio López, Guillermo González and Donald
Byrne -- are now planning to again start a ministry (the first effort failed last year) in their
community. Donald is a former Catholic deacon who was denied ordination, probably because
he is gay, but who also has a doctorate in international law. He and the others have a strong
burden for the spirituals needs of lesbians and gays in Guatemala, and the video "God, Gays
and the Gospel" was a "great stimulus" to them.
We are now in the follow-up process with our contacts in these seven cities, writing letters
and email of encouragement and counsel, sending material and encouraging them to network
together. In several cities potential leaders for Christian groups told us they felt a relationship
with an international organization would be of assistance to them, and we of course offered
Otras Ovejas (Other Sheep) as this affiliation. Soon we plan to send another mailing of
materials to all our 60 resource centers in Central and South America (seven added as a
result of this trip!). We request your prayers and support, especially for the development and
growth of Christian ministries with the lesbians and gays of Central America. We feel the need
to return, as soon as funds permit it.
PS John was assaulted on a bus their last evening in Managua, Nicaragua. Three youths,
one with a machete (fortunately using only the flat side!), tried to steal his bag carrying their
documents and video equipment. Pepe, trying to ward off the attackers, received a small cut
on the leg requiring four stitches, but otherwise they were unharmed. The assailants finally
gave up and jumped off the bus, empty-handed!
NEW BOOKS BY TOM HANKS AND BOB GOSS AND MONA WEST
Gospel: A New Testament Commentary For Liberation (Pilgrim Press) is scheduled for
publication late this Spring. While awaiting the proofs (due April 1), Tom and John Doner
(translator and editor) continue to update and revise the original Spanish version, which has
been used as a teaching text for several years in Latin America. Each New Testament book is
analyzed for its teaching on the poor, women, sexual minorities, Judaism, and the sick and
physically challenged. One conclusion is that the New Testament is largely a book written by
sexual minorities for sexual minorities, and utterly lacking in references to "families" or "family
values" in the modem ideological sense.
Take Back the Word by Robert Goss and Mona West, will be published in the fall of 2000.
It is an anthology of some contributors reading the scriptures from GLBT Jewish and Christian
perspectives. Also in the works is a thorough revision of Bob Goss' classic Jesus Acted Up, a
pioneering work in gay liberation theology. Bob is Chair of the Religious Studies Department at
Webster University in St. Louis and a member of Other Sheep's board.
OTHER SHEEP HELPS WITH APRIL 9 EVENT IN ST. LOUIS
program featuring speeches by two noted psychiatrists and a variety of workshops, will be
presented in St. Louis on Sunday, April 9 from '2 to 6 p.m. The St. Louis Chapter of Other
Sheep joins GLSEN, PFLAG, MCC, PREP and other advocacy groups in sponsoring the
program with the Eastern Missouri Psychiatric Society, the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute
and St. Louis University Department of Psychiatry. Alice Kitchen, MD, member of Other Sheep
Board of Directors, is chair of the planning committee.
Susan Vaughan, MD, lesbian psychoanalyst, clinician, researcher and author from Columbia
University, New York, will speak on "GLBT's: Who We Are, How We've Developed, and Our
Role in the 21st Century" from 2 to 3 pm. Ralph Roughton, MD, gay, supervising/ training
psychoanalyst from Emory University in Atlanta, will speak on "Overcoming Homophobia,
Heterosexism, lsolationism and Racism" from 3 to 4 p.m. Both segments will include local
respondents and question and answer time.
Seven concurrent workshops from 4:15 to 5.45 p.m. will include "GLBT and Spiritual
Communities," planned by Other Sheep with Board member, Robert Goss Ph.D. as leader,
joined by clergy and lay persons from various congregations. Other workshop titles are: Can
Sexual Orientation Be Changed?; Supporting Gay Adolescents; Racial Issues Among GLBT's;
Inside View of GLBT Parenting; ComingOut/Finding Out; and Domestic Partnership: What
Does It Offer? There is no charge for the program which will be held at St. Louis University
Medical School Learning Resources Center, 3545 Vista Ave. Free parking is available.
Telephone St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute 314/361-7075 for more information.
GROUPS GATHER IN INDIANA FOR GAY ADVOCACY
by Barry Cramer
seven denominations gathered at West Richmond Friends Meeting house Jan. 30 to celebrate
Ecumenical Welcoming Sunday through worship, reflection and dialogue.
The centerpiece for "Extending the Welcome: A Challenge to Congregations" was a panel
discussion with representatives of four welcoming congregations -- Northview Church of the
Brethren, Indianapolis, IN; Clear Creek Friends Meeting, Richmond, IN; First Baptist Church,
Granville, OH, an American Baptist Church; and Faith United Church of Christ, Dayton, OH.
Denominational diversity also reflected a diversity of paths by which the congregations came
to be open and welcoming of gay, lesbian and transgendered persons. At Northview, the
process was sparked when a beloved former pastor came out. Clear Creek, the only openly
welcoming congregation in Richmond, began its process when the Yearly Meeting asked each
local meeting for a statement on its stand on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Youth led the way at First Baptist in 1983, when the youth group invited a gay advocacy group
to do a program. A series of affirming actions followed. Faith UCC, a new church resulting from
the merger of two existing congregations, was challenged by its pastor to live out existing
statements on inclusion. Periods of educational efforts and small group discussions marked
the welcoming process for most of the churches. Although Northview barely failed to muster
the needed vote to join the Supportive Congregations Network, First Baptist did join the
Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. Despite negative responses from without,
and sometimes from within, the churches remain committed to their welcoming stances.
"The love of God moves us to do things that are amazing," said the Rev. Steven Camp of
Faith UCC. "We were going to communicate what we believe to the wider community and not
allow the wider community to define us."
Bracketing the presentation was worship based on Psalm 18:22-23, "The stone which the
builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and Luke 19:39-40, in which Jesus rebukes
those who want him to silence his followers, saying "I tell you, if these were silent, the very
stones would cry out." Through music, meditations, prayers and personal stories, those
attending gave voice and presence to the worship theme and words of scripture. Observance
of Ecumenical Welcoming Sunday was the result of planning by an ad hoc committee of
Richmond residents, many from Earlham School of Religion and Bethany Seminary.
Other Sheep Chapter Development and
Campus Ministry in Richmond, Indiana
text, "The Stone which the builders rejected became the cornerstone of a whole new world."
This worship was compelling enough, apparently, that after two hours of program and a half-
hour of socializing, most people returned for our final half-hour of closing worship. To the best
of my knowledge, "Extending the welcome" was the first event focusing on sexual minority
persons which has been done here in Richmond as an ecumenical venture. The feed-back
which we received was quite favorable and our committee has indicated an interest in a similar
event again next year.
Since the event I have begun circulating a "Prospectus" which describes the possibilities for
ministry with sexual minority persons in the region, and two persons who attended "Extending
the Welcome" have agreed to serve on a local steering Committee. Perhaps four years of
spade-work and seed-planting will begin to flower this spring.
SAVE THE DATE: WITNESS OUR WELCOME 2000
and gays in the full life of their congregations will come together for an historic gathering
August 3-7, 2000 on the campus of Northern Illinois University. Organizers of "Witness Our
Welcome 2000: God's Promise Is For You" (WOW2000) expect 1,500 to 2,000 participants to
attend the event, which is sponsored by the welcoming movements within ten denominations.
Other Sheep will be there as a "Partner." For more information access the conference web site
at www.wow2K.org, or call 800-318-5581. Contact Other Sheep
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Other Sheep, 319 N. 4th St., Suite 902,
St. Louis, MO 63102, USA
Phone: 314/241-2400 Fax: 314/241-2403
English, Spanish/academic: www.othersheep.org
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|Other Sheep Newsletter Spring 2000
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