UCC “Pastor” Calls Devotion to Traditional Family “Idolatry”

From our friends at MassResistance: A letter to the editor from a Massachusetts United Church of Christ “pastor” who is responding to Tom Mountain’s article about a GLSEN activist/grade school social worker explaining “transgender” to a class of third graders, without their parents’ permission.

Likewise, here in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, “Parish Minister” Julie Denny-Hughes of Palatine’s Countryside Unitarian Universalist “Church” passionately defended the use of Perks of Being a Wallflower by teachers in District 214. “Perks” is written at a third or fourth grade reading level, but was planned for a high school class. Should you find this “book” on your child’s required or recommended reading list, you might be interested to know that it offers quite an education in masturbating with a hot dog, forced oral sex, forceable sodomy, voyeurism, attempted drunken sex with a dog, and so on. (Read the excerpts for yourself.)

We’ve heard quite enough from the UCC and Unitarian leaders. Where are the Bible-believing pastors and youth ministers (the ones like Pastor Vincent Fields)? Their voices are sorely needed. — Sonja Dalton

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New low in narrow-mindedness
By Reverend Richard Malmberg/ Guest column
Published Nov 15, 2006, in Newton Tab

Flaunting his biases with characteristic reliance on hearsay information, Tom Mountain accused Franklin School Principal Cindy Marchand of overreacting to an irate parent. As a Franklin parent, I know her to be a competent and knowledgeable principal. She was right to defend her staff, especially such a dedicated and professional social worker as Laura Perkins. Further, Ms. O’Shea should have been reprimanded for humiliating a Franklin family and attempting to derail a school meeting to press her own agenda. Other parents present at Curriculum Night confirm that Ms. Marchand handled an awkward situation calmly and capably. I generally try to ignore Tom Mountain’s weekly bitter tirades. They do little to edify, and nothing to enhance the civility of public discourse in Newton. At the risk of responding in kind, I have to say that his column in the Nov. 8 TAB reached a new low in mean-spirited narrow-mindedness.

I have had kids in Franklin School for more than eight years, and had numerous contacts with the family whose presence seems to so outrage Mr. Mountain and Ms. O’Shea. It might surprise them both that my first conversation with the parent who underwent gender reassignment took place at a Little League game. Our sons were on the same team. As we sat in our folding chairs, we had a friendly and stimulating conversation. When I told him I was a minister, the conversation turned to Biblical scholarship. He (then still living as a man) was obviously quite well-read and genuinely interested in the subject. I learned that he is an active lay leader in his own church.

Only after the “teachable moment” Mr. Mountain described did I learn through the Franklin grapevine that this other Little League dad was going through a gender reassignment. I confess that for a while after that, I felt a little awkward – my problem. I regret not being more openly supportive during what must have been a difficult time for their family. I admire the quiet dignity and courage they display through it all. They have not allowed the self-appointed sexuality police to harass them out of full participation in the community. Newton is fortunate to have such solid citizens, active in their congregation, supporting their kids, their school and pursuing happiness in our midst. Their modest refusal to hide makes our city safer for diversity.

I find it interesting that Mr. Mountain, champion of traditional family values, hints at snarky disbelief that this couple remained married after gender reassignment. With divorce rates what they are in our society, he should celebrate a durable commitment and intact family. Mindless devotion to a “Leave It to Beaver” mirage of “traditional family” is simply idolatry. Our fixation on an imagined norm undermines our ability to value real families whatever shape they take. We endanger the actual relationships that sustain us, while damaging our psychic and spiritual well-being. Consider the tragically self-loathing, self-destructive Rev. Ted Haggard. He crusaded against gay marriage in public, and engaged in risky gay sex and drug abuse in secret. This man of deep faith and extraordinary charisma was twisted by intolerant theology that had no room for the man God created him to be.

At our church, we celebrate marriage and we celebrate families. I define a marriage as two adults bonded in sacred loving covenant, creating a home, sharing a life, supporting and nurturing one another, whatever joys and hardships the world may send their way. Gender configuration of the parents is irrelevant to what makes a family. Since gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, I have officiated at exactly one same-sex wedding. The couple had been members of our church longer than I have been pastor. At their wedding, a large number of the people in the pews were church members. The reception was held in our Fellowship Hall, and much of the food was provided by members of the congregation. Despite the fact that there were two brides, it was easily the most traditional, home-spun church wedding I have ever had the privilege of officiating. It offered refreshing contrast to so many weddings that seem to merely endure the religious significance of the ceremony in order to get some pictures in a pretty church before the real event, an outrageously expensive reception.

I had to laugh at Mr. Mountain’s indignation over Superintendent Young’s alleged failure to acknowledge Ms. O’Shea’s infant during their meeting. Had the superintendent doted over the baby, would Mr. Mountain have accused him of trying to avoid the issue? How many appointments should Dr. Young devote to listening to a one-note complaint from a parent he had already answered, albeit not the answer she wanted? Still, Mr. Mountain suggested that Newton Schools should bear the cost of private education for a student who functions adequately in a standard classroom. Budgets are already stretched to provide necessary services for students with real, diagnosable disabilities. One parent’s intolerance is a liability, not a disability.

Richard Malmberg is pastor at The Second Church in Newton, United Church of Christ, and chairman of the Newton Interfaith Clergy Association.

This article was posted on Friday, December 15th, 2006 at 2:45 pm and is filed under "Civil Unions" & "Gay Marriage", Boards, Administrators, Teachers, Counselors, Gender 'Fluidity' (Confusion), GLSEN, News, United Church of Christ-including many Congregational. You can follow any updates to this article through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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