Media Contact: Myrna Rogovin
A Forum on Homosexuality and Religion will be held at Florida Atlantic University on Glades Road Just East of I-95 in Boca Raton on Thursday, February 12, 2004 from 7-10 PM. It will be held in Room 101 of the Performing Arts Auditorium. Admission is free and the public is invited.
The Forum, which will be moderated by Professor Fred Fejes, Department of Communications, FAU, includes a diverse list of prominent and respected clergy from the Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic traditions. Perhaps most noted among the presenters is John J. McNeill, S.J., an internationally renowned moral theologian, psychotherapist, teacher, and scholar, who published the groundbreaking “The Church and the Homosexual” in 1976. The book, which has been published in five languages and was re-released in 1993, eventually lead to him being silenced by the Vatican and then dismissed. Fr. McNeill has published four other books.
Other presenters for the evening include Rabbi Geoffrey Botnick, Temple Torah, Boynton Beach; Rev., Dr. Lori Cardona, Interfaith Alliance Ministries, Ft. Lauderdale; Rabbi Greg Kanter, The Jewish Light: Ft. Lauderdale; Rt. Rev. Grant Lynn Ford, Sr. Pastor Sunshine Cathedral, MCC, Ft. Lauderdale; Bishop S.F. Mahee, Grace Church, MCC, Miami; Rev. Ronald Pearson, Sunshine Cathedral, MCC, Ft. Lauderdale; Rabbi Merle Singer, Temple Beth El, Boca Raton; Rev. Dr. Jerry Stephenson, New Hope First Community Church, Delray, Beach; and Rev. Roger Verse, The Sanctuary, Second Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale.
Keynote speaker for the evening is Karen Doering, a staff attorney with Equality Florida and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Doering, a Cum Laude graduate from Stetson University College of Law, has extensive experience litigating civil rights cases and race and gender discrimination class action cases.
The Forum gives voice to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in faith communities and their allies. Too often, when we hear about religious institutions it is in a homophobic light. Many of the world's most recognized faiths are outspoken opponents to the gay rights movement, particularly the issue of gay marriage. But there are many houses of worship and people of faith within and without the Lesbian/Gay/ Bisexual/Transsexual (LGBT) community that have built open and welcoming spaces of worship.
The Forum is sponsored by five organizations. They are Lambda United, the Gay Straight Alliance of FAU; COMPASS, The LGBT Community Center of Palm Beach County; New Hope First Community Church; Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Palm Beach County; and The Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service of South Palm Beach County, Inc., The Open Door.
For your reference biographies for the presenters are attached.
Rabbi Geoffrey Botnick, Rabbi of Temple Torah of Boynton Beach Florida since 1998, is the President of the Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis, and serves as a Federation Representative from the Board of Rabbis. He also is active on the Interfaith Clergy Institute of the Jewish Community Relations Council and is on a task force for Re-envisioning Jewish Life in Palm Beach County. His conservative Ordination as a rabbi was in 1974. Upon his ordination, he and his wife Annette traveled to Russia to meet with Refusniks. He has served as a Great Lakes Navy chaplain in the mid 70's and led congregations in Erie, Pa, Chicago, as well as on Long Island.
Since coming to Temple Torah, he has created an award-winning annual program of a Community Seder for the Developmentally Disabled and has initiated a younger family home discussion group. He has introduced learner minyanim, and has cultivated Torah Reading training for members of all ages. Rabbi Botnick recently received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary. His wife Annette is a Judaica indexer and librarian/researcher. They have two children, Josh and Leora.
Rev. Lori Cardona is an Interfaith Minister, Educator, Consultant, and Writer. With over 25 years experience in the field of Human Services, she holds a Masters Degree in Counseling from the University of North Carolina, and a Doctorate in Divinity from the American Institute of Holistic Theology. She was ordained by The New Seminary, NYC and Independent Unity, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She currently resides in Miami, Florida while serving as a Hospice Chaplain, Senior Minister Of Interfaith Alliance Ministries, and a therapist in private practice.
Karen Doering joined NCLR in February 2002. Doering has extensive experience litigating civil rights cases. She first joined Equality Florida in 1998 as a volunteer attorney, and left private practice in February 2001 to help create Equality Florida's Legal Advocacy Project. While at Equality Florida, she worked cooperatively with various national and statewide organizations including Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and NCLR. While in private practice, Doering handled primarily race and gender discrimination class action cases. She has also worked with NCLR and Lambda since 1995 as a cooperating attorney. Doering graduated Cum Laude from Stetson University, College of Law, in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Right Reverend Grant Lynn Ford is Senior Minister of the Sunshine Cathedral, one of the largest Metropolitan Community Churches in the world, and has served this congregation for nearly eighteen years. Prior to this pastorate he served Holy Covenant MCC in Chicago’s suburbs while also serving for five of those years as the Abbott of the Poor Servants of Jesus, an ecumenical religious order. He also was pastor during this same time at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wicker Park (Chicago) for 1½ years, bringing that inner city church back from the brink of extinction, and then became founding pastor of Church of the Resurrection MCC (Chicago) for 1½ years. Rev. Ford attended Bible Standard College in Eugene, Oregon, and then served a number of large Assemblies of God churches on the West Coast and in the Midwest, and was a candidate for Chicago’s City Council in 1979.
The Sunshine Cathedral is also home to Light University, an innovative adult educational program, and the soon-to-be-opened McCartor Adult Day Care Center, operated by Sunshine Social Services (SunServe). The Cathedral services are a blend of traditional liturgy and New Thought teaching. The Cathedral is also an affiliate of The Center for Progressive Christianity.
Rabbi Greg Kanter received his B.A. as a philosophy major from Knox College in 1987. Greg received his Masters of Arts in Hebrew letters and Rabbi Greg Kanter was ordained in 1993 upon his completion of studies in Jerusalem and Cincinnati. As a student, Greg served small congregations throughout the Southern U.S. including Lafayette, LA, Jackson, TN and Natchez, MS. Rabbi Kanter was the first full-time out Gay rabbi to serve Congregation Etz Chaim from 1995-2002. Last year, Rabbi Kanter founded the Jewish Light, a chavurah open to everyone with an outreach to interfaith households and families, singles, couples, all people regardless of sexual orientation. Everyone is welcome regardless of gender, income, religious background or age. Rabbi Kanter welcomes inquiries about membership in his chavuarh and officiating for your wedding ceremony.
BISHOP MA-HEE was the Founder/Pastor of Redefined faith Worship Center (formerly Redefined Faith Unity Fellowship Church); the first place of worship for African-American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered people, not only in the city of Atlanta, but in the Southeast as a whole making her the youngest commissioned Pastor in Unity Fellowship Church history. The Right Reverend Ma-Hee is founding and presiding prelate of the International Fellowship of Independent Churches (I.F.O.I.C), making her the first known openly lesbian consecrated Bishop with apostolic succession. She has also served as the initial presiding Bishop with U.C.M (United Christian Ministries). The Bishop is the Sr. Minister for The Great Congregation I.F.O.I.C. a place for spiritual growth. It is the first place of worship in the tradition of the Black Church for the lesbigaytrans; and other liberated thinkers in the city of Miami and South Florida as a whole. She was the founder/spokesperson for concerned clergy
John J. McNeill is a psychotherapist, a moral theologian, teacher, scholar, writer and lecturer and has had many articles published in numerous journals, magazines and books. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the Third Army and spent six months as a POW. John entered the Society of Jesus in 1948, and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1959. In 1964, he earned a Doctorate in Philosophy, with highest honors (Plus Grande Distinction), at Louvain University in Belgium.
For more than twenty-five years, John J. McNeill, an ordained priest and psychotherapist, has been devoting his life to spreading the good news of God's love for lesbian and gay Christians. One year after the publication of The Church and the Homosexual, McNeill received an order the Vatican ordering him to silence in the public media. He observed the silence for nine years while continuing a private ministry to gays and lesbians. In 1988, he received a further order from the Vatican directing him to give up all ministry to gay persons which he refused to do in conscience. As a result, he was expelled by the Vatican from the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) for challenging the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of homosexuality, and for refusing to give up his ministry and psychotherapy practice to gay men and lesbians.
Rev. Ron Pearson began serving as the Outreach Minister for Sunshine Cathedral in 2003, after studying at the Florida Center For Theological Studies, in the Master of Divinity program. Rev. Pearson develops teams of individuals that focus on outreach to both our Cathedral community and the community-at-large. Under his direction, Circle Of Light Ministries, provides weekly InterFaith services and Spiritual care for the residents of various Adult Care Living Facilities. Ray Of Light Ministries, the jail/prison ministry of the Cathedral, reaches out to people who are incarcerated, through letters, visitation and weekly Worship Services. Additional outreach programs include The Global Ministry Team, assistance to The Ft. Lauderdale Feeding Cooperative, Loaves & Fishes Sunday, and Sports. Rev. Pearson and his teams are currently planning other outreach services.
Rabbi Merle Singer: During his years at Temple Beth El, Rabbi Singer has repeatedly introduced a variety of innovative spiritual programs including progressive ecumenical relationships with several different houses of worship. Rabbi Singer has long been an advocate for children's rights.
Rabbi Singer was instrumental in founding the Palm Beach Daily Bread Food Bank. He has received two honorary degrees in honor of his work: a Doctor of Humane Letters from Gwynedd-Mercy College (Springhouse, PA) and a Doctor of Divinity from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) (Cincinnati, OH). Rabbi Singer was a major force in establishing a Holocaust Chair and Judaic Studies Program at FAU. He was awarded the President's Medallion for Distinguished Service from FAU. Rabbi Singer is a recipient of the Silver Medallion Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, in recognition of his involvement and dedication to ecumenical causes. In 1998, Bloomingdales and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation presented him with the Palm Beach County Leading Man Award.
On the local level, Rabbi Singer is a past president of the United Way of South Palm Beach, the Religious Leaders of Boca Raton and the South Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis. He serves on the board of the Florence Fuller Child Development Center and has served in various capacities with Planned Parenthood, the Mae Volen Center, the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County, and the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. Rabbi Singer has twice received the Key to the City of Boca Raton in recognition of his many contributions to the community.
Rev. Jerry Stephenson is an author, scholar, activist, hospice chaplain, and Pastor. He has been a teacher, counselor, speaker, and a college and Seminary professor. Rev. Stephenson holds a Doctorate in Theology from North Florida Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate in Christian Counseling from Grace Institute Bible College and Seminary. He has been on TV and Radio Talk Shows, featured in newspaper articles, and spoken at universities, churches, organizations, and groups educating people about gays and lesbians. He is the Pastor of New Hope First Community Church in Delray Beach, Florida, an independent Christian church built on love, where all are welcomed. He is also the author of “Out of the Closet and Into the Light, Clearing Up the Myths and Giving Answers About Gays and Lesbians”.
Rev. Roger Verse is pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, known in the community as “The Sanctuary.” The Second Presbyterian Church identifies herself as “Inclusive, Affirming, and Serving.” Before assuming this pastorate in 1993, he was a Transitional Consultant assisting churches in South Florida with issues of conflict, leadership, and visioning. Before moving to South Florida, Roger served as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Iselin, NJ Roger received his Doctorate of Ministry from Eastern Baptist Seminary, a certificate in Marriage and Family Counseling from the New Jersey Center for Family Studies, and a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. The Presbytery of Elizabeth ordained him in 1972.