October 13, 2013: The famous Chris Glaser returns to WeHoUCC!

Posted on : Oct 10th, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

In 1977 West Hollywood Church founded a ministry called “The Lazarus Project.”  At that time we were a Presbyterian Church.  The purpose of the Lazarus Project was to be “a ministry of reconciliation with the gay and lesbian community and the Presbyterian Church at large.”  West Hollywood Church had been in ministry with the gay community since 1965, so this project seemed like a logical “next step” in our growing ministry with the gay community.  The goal of this ministry was to help gay people reconcile their faith and sexuality.  Seems noncontroversial,  doesn’t it?

NOT!  This ministry became one of the most controversial in the history of the Presbyterian Church.  And, ironically, one of the most effective ministries in churches in southern California and across the country.

Just to put things in perspective, probably half of our current congregation was not born in 1977!  In 1977 we had no internet, no personal computers, and virtually no information about being gay, let alone being gay and Christian!  There were very few “safe” places where gay people could gather to learn about themselves or meet other gay people.  And in 1977 only a very few people were publically “out of the closet.”  So, the Lazarus Project was astoundingly innovative (and therefore, controversial!) in and of itself.

The Lazarus Project, led by Chris and members of West Hollywood Church offered weekly Bible studies that were GLBT affirming.  Teams of “out” gay and lesbian persons spoke in churches all over Southern California, sharing their “story of faith about being gay AND Christian” while building bridges of understanding and support with both gay and heterosexual Christians.  The Lazarus Project also sponsored 2-3 weekend Conferences per year.  These conferences featured gay and lesbian theologians, writers, professors, biblical scholars and supportive heterosexual scholars.  The Conferences were audio taped and distributed nationally.  The Lazarus Project also printed and distributed one of the first newsletters covering LGBT current events, information on sexual orientation and biblical and spiritual perspectives on being Gay and Christian.  Today, it is hard to believe, but this was the first time that GLBT-positive information was available to people!  Like I said, there was no internet and almost all LGBT people lived in isolation.  Just one example of how “radical” our little newsletter was, is that the newsletter had to be mailed in a sealed envelope with nothing but the church return address and a mailing label on the outside.  The “fear of being found out” was really high back then!  At the height of this ministry, the Lazarus Project mailing list was so large it took almost a full day with teams of volunteers to fold, stuff and prepare the newsletter for mailing!

The Lazarus Project continued for almost 30 years.  During that time it had 3 Directors, Chris Glaser, Rev. Peg Beissert and Rev. Donn Crail.  Dale Kraai, Moderator of the Project led the ministry in its final years.  Ironically, the Lazarus Project succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.  Hundreds of churches in Southern California opened their hearts and doors to LGBT people.  And nationally, its impact was huge.  The one place it failed was in reconciling the homophobic Presbyterian Church.

This Sunday we have the extreme honor of having Chris Glaser, the founding director of the Lazarus Project come back “home” to share with us some of the ground breaking history of this ministry.  Chris, who was continually denied ordination by the Presbyterian Church, went on to become one of the most famous and respected writers on LGBT spirituality and Christianity.  It is an absolute joy to welcome him.  I hope you will join us on Sunday to hear Chris share some of our history and the impact of this phenomenal ministry!



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 12: 1-11

(from the contemporary translation of the Bible, The Message)

Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living.  Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them.  Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.  Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray Jesus, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.”  He said this not because he cared one bit about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.  Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you. You won’t always have me.”  Word got out among the Jewish community that Jesus was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead.  So the high priests plotted to kill Lazarus because so many of the Jewish folk were going over and believing in Jesus on account of him.

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