Archive for May, 2004

The Episcopal Church of Michigan: Spending Your Offering on Neo-Pagan Queer Activism

May 16th, 2004 No comments

Chris Johnson alerted me to this bit of nonsense about to happen in my own backyard:

Hosted by the Faith Action Network, a project of the Michigan office of The American Friends Service Committee Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Issues Program, Together in Faith will bring together LGBT and Ally people of all ages, races, religions and spiritualities from around the country for skill-enhancing workshops led by nationally renowned activists and community-building activities with like-minded progressive People of Faith/Spirit/Conscience. Attendees will leave with new information, tools and networks to help them create LGBT-affirming cities and faith communities.

Together in Faith will begin with a multifaith service and reception on the evening of Friday, May 21, 2004. Presentations and workshops will begin Saturday morning and the conference will conclude Saturday night. All events will take place at or near Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Here are some of the workshops offered:

For your inner neo-pagan:

Speaker: Macha Nightmare

“Sex & Spells: Gender and Political Activism in the Witchen Community”

We will sit in circle for focused discussion about gender, power, and the many ways that people change culture. We will address our values and the ethics of spellwork, after which we will plan, create and empower our own collaborative spell for change in harmony with our values and in accordance with our wills.

For those of you who didn’t get enough of the “Christianity is inherently anti-Semitic” meme during the run-up to The Passion of the Christ, you can get some more with a Queer Power/Jews Rule! twist:

Speaker: Debra Kolodny

“Challenging Christian Hegemony in Interfaith Organizing”

Interfaith activists usually share the powerful, transformative and holy call to ensure that justice and respect flow to all people, regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, national origin, economic class or other identity variable. What obligation do those on this journey have to understand and stand in solidarity with those whom Christianity has negated or diminished? Come explore how Christian scripture, theology and practice can and does diminish if not dismiss the holiness of Judaism. Discover how failure to address this can create an insidious, often subtle, and frequently unconscious anti-Jewish climate, even in the most progressive of circles. Finally, work together to unlearn this harmful dynamic and stand as an ally and appreciator of Jews and Judaism.

And, of particular interest to Michigan Episcopalians, here’s this little gem:

Speaker: Jim Toy

“Advocating vs. Trans/Bi/Homophobic Harassment, Discrimination, and Assault”

A discussion of the characteristics of initiative politics and issues of ethics and morality.
Jim teaches us how to spot an Anti-LGBT argument and fallacy. He discusses helpful pro-LGBT tactics. Learn to teach others how to tolerate, support and advocate for LGBT concerns.

So who is Jim Toy? I hadn’t heard of him before, but his bio according to “Together in Faith” shows that he’s kept busy:

Jim Toy, MSW, Interpersonal Practice, University of Michigan, 1981. First homosexual person publicly out in Michigan (1970). Co-founder of first staff office for queer concerns in a U.S. institution of higher learning (University of Michigan, 1971). Co-author, City of Ann Arbor nondiscrimination ordinances on sexual oriention (1972) and gender identity (1999) Advocate for queer concerns, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan (1970 – present) [emphasis mine] Co-Founder, various HIV/AIDS agencies and groups (1983 – present) Founding Member, ASFC LGBT Issues Program “Towards Understanding” Committee. Founding Member, AFSC Faith Action Network.

Now, I suppose that could just mean that Mr. Toy is a crank who’s been harrassing Michigan bishops for 34 years — “Advocate for Queer Concerns” doesn’t really sound like the title of a diocisan position (yet). Let’s see what else is out there about Jim Toy

Oh look. An old version of the American Friend’s Service Comittee page lists Jim Toy as the contact for “Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns, Diocese of Michigan.” Maybe that job title isn’t too far off.

[Sidebar: I tried looking up that committee’s membership, just to verify whether Mr. Toy is still on it. No luck there — but I did find Church and Society Committee: A Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. This would be the committee which boasts of funding both Planned Parenthood and the Triangle Foundation. More of your offering dollars at work.]

Not to mention, Mr. Toy’s name appears as a member of the editorial board of The Record (the diocisan newsletter) as recently as last year. I assume his term expired then, since he’s not listed as a current board member. I am thinking this may explain some things about the editorial tone of the paper regarding all things “human sexuality”-related.

Jim Toy even managed to get himself quoted in the Detroit New’s coverage of the controversy prior to GC2003:

“It sends a message to the entire Christian community that God is a God of everyone. If God is all accepting, can we be less?” asked Jim Toy, a member of St. Matthew and St. Joseph Episcopal Church in Detroit.

Either there are two Jim Toy’s in the diocese, or the Detroit News’ religion page writer simply fails to note that her random parishioner quoted “just happens” to be a longtime gay activist with a committee position and and editorial board position within the diocese. I’m so glad we can leave this kind of journalistic integrity to the professionals.

Greg Griffith claims to have verified that diocesan funds are being directed toward this conference. I suppose that leaves it ambiguous at best whether Jim Toy’s workshop there is supposed to simply represent himself or if he is there as a reprentative of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.

Remember, Michigan Episcopalians: these are your offering dollars at work. And remember that Bishop Gibbs has asked Episcopalians lay aside the “issues over which we disagree” and to “further our commitment to improving our relationships with one another.” Just keep those checks coming, folks, and don’t question the program. That wouldn’t be good “dialogue”, you know.