Other Sheep News
                                                                    Christmas 2004

    We rejoice in the birth of our Savior.
    We rejoice in the gifts of God this year.
    We rejoice in the gifts of your prayers and support.


Tom Hanks' Report, Nov. 9, 2004

    Post-election context
    USA election results, although a crushing disappointment, dramatize the importance of Other
    Sheep's ministry. "Moral issues," named as the most common explanation of negative votes,
    was simply a euphemism for being against recognition of gay marriage and abortion rights
    (concern for the poor and oppressed, evidently no longer counts as a moral issue, despite
    the Biblical emphasis). The incompetence of most Democratic candidates and the media in
    the religious area was demonstrated daily. While Other Sheep represents a certain diversity
    of perspectives in many areas, our network represents an astounding array of expertise on
    religion and sexuality and as the only worldwide ecumenical organization working with sexual
    minorities, we are majoring on the issues where society, the media and LGBTT organizations
    most need help. We have repeatedly witnessed a replay of my experience in querying leaders
    at the 1991 ILGA in Mexico: "What is your biggest problem?" "Religion!" "What are you doing
    about it?" "Nothing because I'm not religious."

    A Theology of Hope for 2005
    Even a glance at recent history confirms that who wins elections may not be as significant as
    what happens to leaders and institutions in between the elections. This year Log Cabin
    Republicans refused to support Bush, New York and California GOP leaders have taken pro-
    gay and feminist positions and Bush's vice president has proudly and publicly recognized his
    lesbian daughter. Three years ago, in an eloquent decision, Reagan appointees to the
    Supreme Court eliminated anti-sodomy laws in the remaining 13 states. As a result, the
    current battle is our turf: the right to civil unions and marriage. Continual media chatter about
    gays makes clear that no longer is homosexuality/sodomy the "unmentionable sin!" Three
    years ago we were still faced with criminal charges and prison sentences, and a century ago
    (with all the same Bible texts and arguments) the fundamentalists were busy upholding the
    death penalty for "sodomy." So now is the time to redouble our efforts to testify and educate.
    Thankfully, advocates of anti-sodomy laws and the death penalty for sodomy seem to be a
    vanishing breed even in the most reactionary Republican and fundamentalist circles.

    The Aging Problem
    While many of us were in our frisky fifties and sixties when Other Sheep was launched in
    1992, we all recognize that we are now faced with a scarcity of younger leaders. Ourselves
    something of a spin-off of MCC (seeking to replace condemnation with a positive Christian
    approach to sexual minorities), we have been much more successful in birthing publications
    and spawning sister organizations than in strengthening our own organization ("Mine own
    vineyard have I not kept", Song of Songs 1:6 AV). Quite possibly in the foreseeable future
    Other Sheep as an organization will disappear in St. Louis, Mexico and Buenos Aires, but the
    fruit of our ministry will continue to grow in a wide diversity of specific ministries. Should Other
    Sheep per se disappear, the diversity of other ministries eventually will have to reinvent the
    wheel and recreate some kind of international network in order to share resources and avoid
    duplication. Perhaps the breadth and depth of perspective needed for a less narrow frame of
    reference more often comes with the maturity of age. My confidence is that if God wants us to
    continue, we will encounter leaders who share our vision. If not, our aim was never
    organizational empire building, anyway, but ministry to the glory of God.

    Developments in Latin America
    Epifania, the publishing house launched in Buenos Aires with $10,000 capital in Dec of 2003
    has had a good year, entering the market with many Roman Catholic publications for children,
    but in December planning to publish 2000 copies of Chris Glaser’s work on Henri Nouwen
    (Henri’s Mantel). Also already translated and awaiting publication are Donald Boivert’s Out on
    Holy Ground, Bob Goss’s Queering Christ, and Ted Jennings’ work on the Beloved Disciple.
    Originally written in Spanish are my Subversive Gospel (Pilgrim Press, English translation,
    2000), and The Subversive Hebrew Bible (translation into English in progress, now with help
    from my son Stan in France). John Doner has just received news that the translation he
    supervised of Daniel Helminiak’s The Bible and Homosexuality, already published in Spain, will
    be republished in Colombia, making possible broader distribution in Latin America. Given the
    distribution bottleneck in Latin America, we need to develop a chain of sympathetic publishers
    and outlets throughout the continent and now have a firm foundation and experience to build
    on. My two invitations to Colombia (Bogotá and Medellin) this year (see following report)
    confirmed that the world of Biblical studies and theology is ripe for the kind of quality
    publications we have been distributing (mainly by Xerox copies for many years). The new
    technologies that make feasible print runs of a few hundred in each country mean that we can
    publish works for seminary and university texts that will profoundly affect the coming
    generation of leaders.


    Just before leaving Buenos Aires, I received notice that our Other Sheep Foundation of
    Argentina was granted legal status, and this week it received its CUIT (tax-exempt number)
    and is ready to start work on projects. The foundation board includes the kind of ecclesiastical
    diversity we have in our St. Louis board, but with a lot of younger friskier Other Sheep. Simply
    by using its CUIT number two organizations represented on the board (including Pflag) can
    start running ads of their meetings in the main newspaper at no charge! Our 3-year plan
    includes projects only in Spanish, but there are a lot of other exciting possibilities. I am
    encouraging our Mexican leaders to consider taking advantage of the two years preparatory
    work in Argentina and consider starting a foundation in Mexico. Among other things, it
    facilitates getting both local and international funding and inheriting property that can be used
    to provide meeting space for hard pressed local organizations. And if the board can get
    funding to employ a capable administrator, instead of relying on volunteers as we have done
    since 1992, it can lead to rapid growth.

    Personal
    This year I finished commentaries on Romans and Hebrews for Bob Goss' Queer Bible
    Commentary, to be published in 2005 by Sheffield Press. Currently I am working on an
    expository devotional commentary for gays on John. I have been feeling good, but my annual
    medical exam in St. Louis revealed an extra heart beat, which the doctor hopes will disappear
    with reduction of thyroid medicine (more tests in 6 months). Nov. 10-14 I participated in the
    Creating Change Conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which
    providentially was in St. Louis while I was there for our Other Sheep Board Meeting. And Nov.
    16-23 I was in San Antonio for the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of
    Religion; Thanksgiving weekend I spent in Mexico, giving a course on John; Nov. 28-Dec. 2 I
    was in Costa Rica, and I was back in Buenos Aires Dec. 3. Prayers for all the above activities
    and concerns will be deeply appreciated.



Colombia Report, Sept. 29 – Oct. 12, 2004 (Tom Hanks and John Doner)

    While Spain (Europe’s most Catholic country) was approving gay marriage with adoption, we
    visited Bogotá (Sept. 29-Oct. 3) and Medellin (Oct. 3-10), where it became obvious that also
    Latin America has entered a new stage in the struggle against heterosexism and
    homophobia—appropriately centering in Medellín, the birth place of Liberation Theology in
    1968. Two months ago in Bogotá we learned from a representative of CELAM that Latin
    America’s Catholic bishops are preparing a document on pastoral ministry to homosexuals.
    Riding the crest of the wave of gender and masculinities studies, the outstanding Biblicists
    (both Catholic and Protestant) have now opened wide the door to positive affirming
    presentations on homosexuality.

    • I discovered that, as far back as 2000, Latin America’s major ecumenical journal of biblical
    studies published an article on the youth who fled naked (Mark 14:51-52), which concluded
    (interpreting the text in the light of the Secret Gospel of Mark): “Does the text therefore speak
    of homosexual love? And without any sense of scandal? So it would appear” (Gabriele
    Cornelli, RIBLA 37, p. 79). Thus ended the censorship of this theme and of pro-gay articles.
    One editor requested that I submit articles (one I wrote for a Festschrift published by the
    Universidad Bíblica in San José was published, but then, due to one professor’s protest, torn
    out of the journal and a substitute article pasted in before mailing!).

    • A book just published this year in Bogotá includes a chapter by Brazilian Lutheran gay
    theologian, André Musskoph, on Biblical Queer Hermeneutics as an example of the many
    liberation theologies in Latin America.

    • After 15 years of marginalization from the main stream of Latin American Biblical studies
    (since my “coming out” in Jan 1989) and courses limited to the “gay ghetto” (groups in Mexico,
    Costa Rica, and Argentina), I was amazed a year ago to receive the invitation to teach a
    course on homosexuality and the Bible in Medellín, team taught with a Brazilian woman,
    specialist in gender studies. The week was exhilarating but exhausting (5-8 hours class a
    day). Almost 30 participated in the basic 5-day course (with representatives from all Latin
    America), another 30 or so for an intensive Saturday course (mainly from Medellín and
    nearby) and another 30 (locals) for an evening forum. We also spoke about Other Sheep’s
    ministry at Medellin´s largest gay group (some 50 in attendance, including an Anglican woman
    seminary graduate who wants to start an MCC in Medellín) and also to a new Christian gay
    group (some 20) under the leadership of a leading heterosexual theologian. We spent an
    afternoon with Padre Carlos Ignacio Suárez, who started Colombia’s first gay Christian group
    more than a decade ago in Bogotá, who always gives newcomers a copy of our “Fifth Spiritual
    Law” folder and emphasizes that our sexual orientation is a gift of God.

    The response to the courses and presentations was overwhelmingly positive and many
    expressed enthusiasm and deep gratitude for Other Sheep’s materials and ministry (John and
    Pepe visited Medellín coming and going in their historic 1994 bus trip). A gay Anglican New
    Testament prof mentioned that for seven years daily he has used my version of John Baillie´s
    prayers (fully inclusive, with references to sexual minority concerns added)! In Buenos Aires I
    was greeted with the news that our Argentine Other Sheep Foundation has been legally
    constituted. Also that our European coordinator, my son Stan (just turned 40 and moved from
    Germany to France) and his musician partner Emannuel are planning a gay civil union.


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"I have other sheep that are not of this
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John 10:16
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Other Sheep News
Christmas 2004

We rejoice in the birth of our Savior.
We rejoice in the gifts of God this year.
We rejoice in the gifts of your prayers and support.
"I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  I must bring them also."  
John 10:16 NRSV
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