Planted By the Waters (continued)

Spring 2000

© Andy Ryan

A four-year-old by with leukemia and malnutrition. He weighs 15.4 pounds. He weight should be approximately 34 pounds. Mansure Pediatric Hospital, Baghdad. From UNSanctioned Suffering, Center for Economic and Social Rights, 1996.

Sex and the Bible?
A Matter of Purity of Heart

by Marilyn Jackson

[EPI Board member Marilyn Jackson shares this struggle going on in her own church as well as in a number of other faith contexts.]

The issue of whether or not to allow gays and lesbians to serve as clergy has occupied a segment of the attention of many congregations in recent years. University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley called Rev. Jeff Johnson to serve as their minister this past year. While the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America permits gays and lesbians to become ministers, it instructs them to remain celibate and Johnson has openly stated that he will not obey that requirement. Other Lutheran churches in the Bay area have called gay or lesbian ministers in recent years, yet the road so far, is not much easier for University Lutheran Chapel. Earlier this year, their funding for campus ministry was withheld. Bishop Mattheis of the Sierra Pacific Synod recently threatened to censure and to file discipline charges on the University Lutheran Chapel.

According to a recent SF Chronicle article, three major religious denominations have adopted national policies allowing same-sex ceremonies: the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ and very recently, rabbis of the Jewish Reform movement. Between May and June, national policy-making conventions of Methodists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians will address the issue of homosexual marriage. There will not be a national church wide assembly of the Lutheran church/ELCA until August 2001, however.

Rabbi Allen Bennett of Temple Israel, a Reform synagogue in Alameda, is quoted in the Chronicle as saying that he and his colleagues do not believe the Hebrew Bible condemns homosexuality as it is understood in modern society. Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D. writes in “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality”, that the Bible has been used to justify racial segregation, slavery, sexist oppression of women, and to condemn basic scientific theories which are well accepted today, such as whether or not the earth revolves around the sun.

I suspect that many Christians may not really want to know what the Bible meant in its original form as it was written in foreign lands many centuries ago. Customs and cultures were in many ways very different then than what we in the USA experience today. What has been translated to English has lost a lot of meaning. To take a few passages literally and out of context as evidence for discrimination is a subjective reading of the Bible.

The story of Sodom in Genesis, chapter 19, has been used to condemn homosexuality. Two angels come to the town of Sodom and Lot offers them lodging. The men of Sodom came to Lot’s door and demanded that Lot turn them over, so they could “know” them. Lot then offers his two virgin daughters to the crowd instead but they are fixated on the visitors. The sin of the town of Sodom was that they wanted to abuse the travelers who Lot offered hospitality to. Homosexuality in itself was not condemned. Many today might well feel that Lot's offering his daughters to be raped is just as shocking. According to Dr. Helminiak, in Leviticus 18:22, lying with a man as with a woman is an “abomination” or basically, “unclean,” according to the original meaning. It violates Israeli purity rules. Leviticus 20:13 adds that the punishment is death. Leviticus also prescribes the same punishment for lying to one's parents, however. Thus, homosexual acts are forbidden as they make one unclean; they break Jewish religious and social convention and associate one with the practices of Canaanites. They are not condemned as being morally sinful, however, according to Helminiak.

In Romans, Paul begins his letter by describing the degrading passions of having sex in any unnatural way as well as the breaking of Jewish codes of purity. However, Helminiak writes that what Paul is building up to in his letter is a way to make a point about the gospel. Paul finally says to the Jews that “a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart–it is spiritual and not literal” (Romans 2:29). Paul states, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.” (Romans 14:14).

Again, in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, supposed references to homosexuality are difficult to translate. According to Helminiak, the original meaning for what has been translated as homosexuality referred to the use of sexuality between men that was exploitive.

Thus, according to Dr. Helminiak, the Bible makes no blanket condemnation of homosexuality, but does frown on exploitive relations between people. I have not read or heard any quotes from Jesus about homosexuality. Thus, upon closer examination, to use a few passages from the Bible to condemn homosexuality takes the original meaning out of context, perpetuates discriminatory behavior, and turns away from the gospel message.

For more information, the University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley has a website at

There will be a broadcast premiere of “Call to Witness,” a video documentary about the courageous struggle for gay and lesbian rights within the Lutheran Church.

June 18, 10:30PM: KQED, Channel 9, San Francisco.

“Call to Witness,” will also be screened at the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 17, 11AM, Victoria Theater.

Co-Presented with St. Francis Lutheran Church. Check

Parole for Leonard Peltier
– Act Now

Leonard Peltier, a Lakota-Chippewa Native American, has been arbitrarily detained in U.S. federal prisons for 24 years. He has a parole hearing on June 12, 2000. Supporters are asking that letters be written for presentation at the hearing, and that the White House be called weekly in order to remind President Clinton and the Justice Department that he needs to be released. Amnesty International calls him the most obvious political prisoner in the U.S. There is a world wide campaign to obtain his freedom. EPI has supported efforts for his release for many years.

Mr. Peltier recently had an operation on his jaw, after 4 years of requesting this surgery. Recovery time will be 6 weeks or longer, but is is a huge step toward better health for Leonard. He needs to be out of prison in order to deal with diabetes, heart problems and near loss of sight in one eye. He has served much longer than other prisoners convicted of the same crime, and there is a wealth of evidence that shows him to be innocent of the charges for which he was sentenced.

A clemency petition for Leonard’s release was filed in 1993 and was then moved to the desk of the President, where it has sat unanswered since. These petitions are usually answered within 6 months, so the one filed by Ramsey Clark is still viable, however, this June we need to encourage parole. President Clinton is being asked to voice his support for Leonard Peltier to the Parole Board and request that they release him, and the public continues to ask President Clinton to grant him executive clemency. As in the Elian Gonzales custody battle, in which the White House referred to public opinion as a consideration, calls to the White House DO COUNT.

Supporters are suggesting that if Leonard Peltier is not released from prison this year, they will be discouraged from voting for Vice President Gore in the coming election. •People are being urged to call the White House weekly. The public opinion line is 202-456-1111.

•Please send letters urging parole to the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, P.O. Box 583, Lawrence KS 66044.

Big Mountain

Traditional Dine people continue the struggle to stay on their land in Big Mountain. Having been denied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Manybeads religious freedom case is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Individuals, both non-Indian supporters and Navajo from the land itself are being given exclusion orders prohibiting their entry onto what is now called Hopi Partition Land. There are attempts to prevent people from coming to religious events. Plans are clearly in the works to limit further the livestock permitted to those Dine who have chosen to stay in their homes. Peace Walk Dates at Big Mountain have been set for July 8 - 16. Tree Day is set for July 12. Supporters are asked to truck in juice, melons and other supplies on July 6 & 7. If you want to support or participate in this event, please call 415-559-1328.

Haiti Alert:
Participatory Democracy in Danger

derived from a report co-authored by Pierre LaBoissiere

“As members of a recent human rights delegation to Haiti, we wish to express our grave concerns regarding the electoral process and its potential consequences. At this time, local and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 21, 2000, with Presidential elections slated for late fall. . . . it appears that serious errors in the planning and execution of the voter registration drive may irreparably taint the results. . . . According to numerous reports up to 25% of the eligible voters have been prevented or deterred from registering. . . . Given that this electoral process was conceived of and executed with the technical assistance and financial support of various U.S.-based agencies, this problem raises special concerns.”

Many high-ranking members of certain political parties landed positions on the CEP, Conseil Electoral Provisoire, the agency responsible for organizing the electoral process, while other parties have complained of exclusion from the CEP. Money to support the electoral process did not flow through the appropriate channels in Haiti; funding was passed directly from the United States Agency for International Development to two U.S.-based organizations engaged to assist the CEP.

There is reason to fear that elections will be highly exclusionary in nature because of several problems including the requirement of photo ID cards for voting, a first in Haiti's history, and the short registration period. There was a scarcity of bureaus for registration, far fewer than provided in 1995, and even those were closed for hours and even days at a time. The delegation heard reports that cameras were missing or broken and film ran out. Registration lists have been lost or withheld by CEP employees who claim they were never paid.

Jean Dominique, a famous and popular 70 year old journalist, was shot to death in front of Radio Haiti Inter. He had been investigating the electoral process, and had been highly critical in his commentaries.

Readers of Planted wanting to get the full report of the delegation seeking to get involved in some manner, are encouraged to call the EPI office at 510-548-4141. We will forward your interest to Pierre.

Call Congress

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Ask your congressperson or senator to co-sponsor:

          •H.R. 4357, East Timor Repatriation and Security Act of 2000, introduced 5/2/2000

“To continue the current prohibition of military relations with and assistance for the armed forces of the Republic of Indonesia until . . . until the President determines and certifies to the Congress that the Government of Indonesia and the armed forces of Indonesia provide for the territorial integrity of East Timor, the security and safe return of refugees, and have brought to justice those individuals who have committed murder, rape, torture, and other crimes against humanity in East Timor and elsewhere.” (excerpted from text of bill)           Two Death Penalty Moratorium bills, a very small step in the right direction.

•S 2463, the National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2000. S 2463 which would immediately suspend executions in the United States while a national commission reviews the administration of the death penalty. The moratorium would bar execution of individuals sentenced under either state or federal statutes. S 2463 would create a commission to determine whether the constitutional principles and requirements of fairness, justice, equality and due process are upheld in the administration of the death penalty.

•HR 4162, the Accuracy in Judicial Administration Act of 2000. This bill would also establish a moratorium on all executions in the U.S. The moratorium would continue for a minimum of seven years in order to ensure that persons able to prove their innocence are not executed. It would also provide certain resources to assist them.

An Ecumenical thanks
to Daniel Zwickel, the PeaceHost.

In addition to this Web site, hosts School of the Americas Watch – West, dedicated to shutting down the infamous “School of Assassins”, and Daniel maintains the Web site for Guatemala News & Information Bureau (GNIB), a human rights watchdog organization. He designed all three sites.

Daniel's most active personal site is which he dares you to visit, but be warned: Pacifist Nation is no place for wimps!

You can still e-mail EPI

End the Sanctions
Stop Killing Iraqi Children

Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC would like to share information with your congregation, adult class, youth group, social justice committee or other group regarding the situation in Iraq and to help you find ways to respond to this ongoing tragedy.

Among the possible actions for individuals and groups:

          •the anti-sanctions vigil each Tuesday noon at the Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street, near 12th Street BART
          •lobbying congresspeople and senators. We can let you know of congressional letters and measures as they arise. Email is the fastest if you have it.
          •support of acts of resistance. This includes raising funds to send needed materials whose import has been hindered by U.S.-dominated UN committees.
          •sharing of information. We keep the EPI website posted with timely information on this and other subjects. Feel free to download and print anything you find useful.
          •civil disobedience.

T-shirts and films are available.
Please get in touch.

Ecumenical Peace Institute •
P.O. Box 9334, Berkeley, CA 94709 • (510) 548-4141

Regarding that Envelope included in each issue of Planted by the Waters. If each person who received Planted By the Waters put a check into the envelope and mailed it to EPI/CALC, it would greatly improve our ability to do the work for justice and peace which we are called to do together. It doesn't have to be a lot. Every little bit counts.

Please help by being part of the Peace and Justice work of Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC and sending your tax-deductible contribution of::

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Please make checks payable to E.P.I., and thank you for the generosity of your your support.

"Planted By the Waters" has been archived. You may access past issues by clicking on the date (just Winter, 1999 has been on-line):

          Winter, 1999

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