Sixth annual memorial vigil for Jeffery Owens is June 6th.

Michael Bussee said today in a comment that tomorrow night a vigil is being held in honor of the memory of Jeffery Owens, Michael’s best friend, who was killed in the attack that also resulted in injury to Michael. The attack was a cowardly and viscious hate crime directed at Michael, Jeffery and two friends.
In support for Michael, I want to post the details of the vigil in hopes that readers who are close by might attend and those of us who read here can offer prayer for Michael and surviving familiy and friends.

The 6th annual memorial vigil remembering the June 6, 2002 attack and subsequent death of Jeffery Owens for whom this center is named. Begins at 7:30pm on the steps of the First Congregational Church and then we walk to the site of the attack that led to the founding of the JOCC. Call 951-683-2032 or e-mail [email protected] for more information.

Let’s join Michael and the others in spirit tomorrow and use our comments on this post to share some love…

34 thoughts on “Sixth annual memorial vigil for Jeffery Owens is June 6th.”

  1. “Wow” is right. And Lisa is right. There are some very exciting things happening. Moments of humanity and reconciliation. Christians agreeing to disagree but still trying to reflect the love of Christ.
    Walls coming down. Old wounds healed. Connections being made. And not just for me — with Chuck Smith Jr, with John Smid of EXODUS and with those who expressed support regarding Jeffery.
    It’s happening to other people, too. Stay alert. These are opportunities of the Spiriti that we who really care about LGBT folks cannot afford to miss.

  2. I had mentioned I would post the healing that happened a the T-E-N conference between Michael Bussee and Chuck Smith Jr. with their permission.
    Its inspirational and a great example of TRUE “healing and Reconciliation.
    Some amazing things took place there from what I understand.
    Below is what Chuck Jr. wrote to me about his experience at T-E-N. and Michael’s Bussee’s response to Chuck Jr. follows it.
    Please take a moment and read … it’s priceless.
    From Chuck Smith Jr.
    I’m in this strange place since returning home. Barbara and I both felt
    it yesterday as we drove to the airport, flew home, and talked about it
    all the way home from the airport.
    Lisa, it’s one think to hear stories and to know how the hearts and
    spirits of people have been crushed by the rejection of “Bible-believing” Christians.
    And I have to say, I totally understand those believers who are
    convinced they cannot embrace their gay and lesbian brothers and
    sisters, because I know the culture and its powerful influence in a person’s mind. After all, you don’t want to encourage someone in a lifestyle that you fully believe will land them in hell. But, of course, what those religious folks don’t understand at all is the love of God in Jesus Christ. Because even if you believe the worst about a person, you still move toward them in love, treat them with love, and walk with them in love. In Jesus, the authentic believer has no enemies.
    But to actually see these beautiful men and women who have been so
    badly beaten by people who are supposed to be walking in the truth,
    tore me to shreds.
    O, Lisa, I feel so attached to the people we met–so “one” with
    my siblings. But I also deeply regret the times that I have been the
    “elder brother” in attitude or statements that I’ve made in my past ignorance.
    Even today I feel “post-op,” like I’ve had this really invasive
    surgical procedure that will heal me, but at the same time it has
    wounded me and will leave a scar. What I mean is that God broke my heart wide open. People whose souls are of such precious quality and of such value that Christ laid down his life for them do not deserve the attack, the bitterness, the rejection, and banishment that they have suffered.
    I suppose, at least for now, that is the overall impression that the conference has left on me. And it’s not because the topic was always being brought up. It wasn’t. In fact, it was mostly passed over lightly. But even the casual references to it were reminders to me of the deep and serious damage done to gays and lesbians in the name of God.
    Obviously Michael Bussee greatly blessed me when he embraced me at the
    end of Saturday night’s service. I’ll never forget that moment.
    I just hope that in some way I am to him–and to others who have
    been abused by Calvary Chapel–an extension of my dad and that movement
    (even though I’ve been ejected from it) that opened its arms to “everyone” back in the day, in the name of Jesus.
    I really enjoyed Troy Perry and the brief testimony that he shared. He came from a different brand of Pentecostalism than I did, but there’s a lot that we
    share in common–brothers of a different mother. Troy’s self-effacing
    attitude toward his lack of education totally ignores the fact that a person could attend seminary or a graduate school of psychology or sociology for a lifetime
    and never learn as much as he knows through walking with people in the
    way he has for these last two decades.
    Meeting Ralph Blair and listening to his testimony was also a highlight
    for me. In fact, I told him that he should publish the few pages that
    he read to the group, because it was very powerful.
    Janice, Maria, Louis, Carl . . . I could go on and on. All wonderful
    people who made a huge impression on us.
    Several people sat down with me, Barbara, or with the two of us and
    shared their stories. All of them emphasized the wonder and joy they
    have in walking with God today. So, all in all, the weekend for me was about the
    stories. Some that I had known of, but extended my knowledge and
    understanding, and some that I heard for the first time.
    Those are my initial thoughts–more like “emotional download.” I’ll probably come to a clearer, more rational perspective later this week. But for
    now I’m still enjoying the “high” of meeting long lost brothers and
    sisters I never knew I had.
    Michael Bussee’s Response to Chuck:
    Lisa: Could you please pass this on to Chuck Smith Jr. for me? He said:
    Obviously Michael Bussee greatly blessed me when he embraced me at the
    end of Saturday night’s service. I’ll never forget that moment.
    I just hope that in some way I am to him–and to others who have
    been abused by Calvary Chapel–an extension of my dad and that movement
    (even thoughI’ve been ejected from it) that opened its arms to “everyone” back in the day, in the name of Jesus
    Lisa, Please tell him this. It was divine appointment! I wasn’t even
    going to go to the conference, but then doors opened. Of course, it
    was good to meet Troy Perry and to re-connect with Ralph Blair, but it
    was that “moment” with Chuck that healed me from head
    to toe — from years of sadness and pain that Calvary Chapel had refused to do Gary’s funeral.
    I don’t think Chuck Smith Jr. even knew who I was when the time came
    for prayer. But, I had been watching him throughout the service,
    seated in the front row, with eyes closed, palms upraised on his lap —
    as though in prayer. There was a beautiful “presence” about him. He
    positively glowed. I felt compelled to stand up when Todd mentioned
    folks with pain or resentment who needed to “let go”.
    Then, Chuck looked me in the eyes and touched my forehead. He began to
    pray. I felt Jesus. Only once before did I feel it that strongly —
    years ago as a new Christian — when Lonnie Frisbee laid hands on me as
    we sang soft praises to God and Lonnie said simply, “Don’t use
    English. Use the words the Spirit gives:” Not a shock. No
    fireworks. I didn’t fall over. I just sang my love for Jesus softly
    — in a language I had never learned. I felt “sealed”, so sure of
    God’s abiding presence, love and power that in the years since, I have
    never doubted that I am His son.
    That’s what Chuck’s touch was like. I don’t know if he felt Jesus
    flowing through his hands, but I sure did. Layers of pain and anger
    melted away. Later, Chuck apologized for the insensitivity of his
    forebearers at Calvary. There was no need. We are both forgiven.
    Like Chuck, I will never forget that moment.

  3. Ann thats great …your in… and anyone else willing to step up and be counted in this historic effort let yourselves be know.
    It would be a mutual and peaceful gathering and a neutral no drama zone designed to encourage people to get to meet each other for the first time and or reconnect with old friends/acquaintences they may have not seen or spoken with for very long time.
    Some people will have been at odds and have carried unforgiveness for years and would be given a rare opportunity for healing or making steps toward it. Again the theme will be healing and reconciliation and how to encourage others to share and spread it to others. We all lead by example. . Topics could vary and it would be well organized and structured.
    People’s concerns, hurts anger and issues will be heard and hopefully remedies to some of our problems will be supplied. There could be a moderator or two from both sides. The Gold rule will be in effect and this could be the first annual Olive Branch Iniative meeting if it went well.. We need to find a neutral location and people willing to work together to organize and bring it to fruition.
    It has tremendous potential. And organizing a commitiee to pull it off will be madatory.
    Your help and the help of others will be paramount to it’s success. We could make it light hearted and fun in some parts. A 2 day meeting would probably be most effective.. Levity is alwys helpful. I have a few ideas in mind for entertainment.. It will be well organized , civil and completely respectful.
    We may agree to disagree in the end but we will all be encourage to do and hadle things in a better way in the future. Some friendship may also form. Imagune that possibility. I look forward to this potential event.
    Let me know. I have started a list of names who would be willing to attend.

  4. Lisa,
    Please count on me if you need a volunteer to help in any way facilitate this.

  5. First off let me address The hate Crime disclaimer, That would seem mandatory to most. As Christians I mean no diisrespect but it’s a no brainer. Its everything Christ stands for…
    As for everything else….
    Standing ovation! .
    Here’s to healing and reconciliation and doing the right thing . If we choose to err let’s do it on the side of Love.
    The rewards are great when we practice random acts of kindness, Mercy, Love , Grace and Forgiveness and extend it to others.
    By showing humility, sincerity, genuine care and concern for our neighbors we give them the greatest gifts of all.
    Is the Homosexual or Heterosexual our neighbor? Yes ! and he or she is so much more than those restrictive labels.
    The question should be is Humanity our neighbor? The answer is obvious.
    Loving without judgement , meeting people where they are and trusting that God will show up when we do it with the right heart and mind set is a guarentee. The proof is here on these pages.?.
    Michael one more showed up….”Concerned” just above your last blog.
    And “concerned” makes a good point:
    He said :
    “It has helped me realize that if I focus on the negative aspects of something I tend to miss out on the positives and still I can appreciate how difficult it must be to find positives in what has happened to you and your friends. Ann you have also shown us all what real love must look like”.
    How true and thank you for sharing! That is what Love looks like in its purest form.
    Now that you have been affected I hope that you will continue to share it with others.
    Warren, you started this and for that I commend and applaud you. These are steps in the most positive and hopeful directions . Thank you.
    Ann should be the new Poster face for Love in Action…because she lives it beautifully. Actually a group photo might be in order.
    Randy Thomas you set a great example by showing up and sharing here and we look foward to hearing more from you.
    My hope is that all of the leaders in the ministries show up here. I choose to believe at this moment in time that they care and would ask that Alan C, Melissa F, Mike H , Mike G, John S, Tom M, Frank W, Anita W, Nancy H, Joe D, Joseph N , Bill M , John P and Ann P , Kent P and others we would love to hear from show up and make an appearence on this blog in solidarity and for the sake of the Gospel and moving forward in ministry. Love and forgivess will be mandatory if any of us are going to reach the next level. A simple gesture and acknowledgement would be practicing a spiritual law and a few commandments.
    It never hurts to ask. I have spent over 2 and 1/2 year trying to encourage you all to talk to each other. I have met and spoken with each of you …my goal was to try and help brige the divide in this culture war by encouraging healing between many of the key players involved in it.. Because you all were having the most affect on people’s lives positively and negatively. Whom much is given much is required.
    I finally realized when very few people were willing to cross the picket line that the only way to get you all together in one place would be in the film. I keep wondering when the lights are going to come on and your going to realize and figure out what this project is all about. I have been saying it from the beginning and I’ll tell you one more time…”healing and reconciliation” For Such A Time As This” .
    I’m not a threat to any of you but you are a threat to each other and others and will eventually cancel each other out if you don’t find some common ground and come together soon. You will lose a generation as Wendy Gritter so eloquently suggested in her Exodus address. A house divided will fall. My suggestion is that you all bring down the wall first before it falls on you. It won’t be that hard to do if you will just make the effort.
    You will be featured in the film FSATAT and I’m hoping and praying for a happy ending…the thing you don’t realize is that you all are helping me write parts of the story and will ultimately help determine the ending. I’m in post now and I eagerly await the final chapter or a new and hopeful beginning that leaves the audience with a sense of Hope and security that God Loves them. Hopefully the ywill leave inspired and believing that the sky is the limit for all of us .
    The film opens with a scripture that says…
    Isaiah 43:19 “See I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it ? The Lord is doing something new. He is opening wells of Life-giving waters, which have been closed for many decades. The Lord is also digging new wells. He is giving us waters of new life that we have never had before. The Lord in his Mercy and by His Power, is changing the spiritual landscape and climate. The Lord is changing the deserts of our culture of death into the paradise and rivers of a new civilization of love and life. Therefore Rejoice in the Lord Always! Again I say Rejoice. Go into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.”
    I am still very interested in organizing a meeting with everyone from both sides. No media necessary. A Olive Branch Iniative or a Golden Rule Summit . Let’s talk.
    I would like to officially put this on the table. Most of you know how to get a hold of me. We have nothing to loose and much to gain in Christ’s name.
    I have list of people who have already agreed to participate should this actually get organized. Lets just do it.
    Lisa .

  6. Ann: I think it needs to be more specific. It needs to mention LGBT folks and violence/bullying/hatred by name. First, speak the general principle (Do unto others…) and then make it very clear who and what you are talking about.
    Sadly, you have to do that. You have to say — “We are all created equal, and that means blacks, hispanics, women, gays, etc.” People don’t seem to get it unless it’s specific. I guess that’s why we had to amend the constituiion twice to be sure folks knew it really meant ALL people. Same idea applies here.

  7. How about something very simple and clear like –

    Our ministry and it’s affiliates (or our organization and it’s affiliates) endorse and support zero tolerance in regard to any message of hate toward anyone.

    Does this sound like a good foundation for guiding any future conversation and comments and gestures and actions in the right direction – for everyone?

  8. Ann, you took the words right out of my mouth: “Put a clear and concise and succinct message on their home page indicating that they endorse and support zero tolerance in regard to any message of hate toward anyone.”
    I would like to challenge EXODUS, every EXODUS affiliate and every group that is either supportive (or critical) of EXODUS to “take the Golden Rule Pledge” and get this done by the end of Summer.
    Perhaps Wendy Gritter could pen a rough draft. There is really no good reason for delay. We all say we care about the LGBT community and abhor anit-gay violence/bullying and hatred. Now, let’s prove it.

  9. I completely understand that no organization or ministry or individual was under any obligation to come to the vigil. Those that came and spoke through the blog and elsewhere did so of their own volition and I know from others how much it was appreciated.
    I also know Exodus and other ministries and organizations have made a huge contribution in helping people who have come to them – for this I am very grateful.
    Fortunately or unfortunately I am an optimistic individual and thought there would be a representative there from a ministry – any ministry. Oh well. Like others have pointed out though – Exodus and other ministries were there in Randy’s and Wendy’s thoughtful and kind and loving posts. These posts could not have been possible without the recognition and acknowledgement of the memorial vigil from Dr. Throckmorton on this blog.
    I have never had any personal dealings with Exodus, however, I have with other ministries and organizations. To quote a Spice Girls song – “What I want, what I want, what I REALLY, REALLY want” – is to have their web sites put a clear and concise and succinct message on their home page indicating that they endorse and support zero tolerance in regard to any message of hate toward anyone.

  10. Once again, my sincere thanks. Ann asked earlier: “WHERE was Exodus or the other ex-gay ministries and organizations last night? WHY didn’t they come? WHERE were the local ministers and churches? WHY didn’t they come?”
    Ah! But they did come. Ann showed up. Fifty people — people of peace and faith, both gay and straight showed up. Here on this blog, Lisa and Karen, Arien and Wendy, Sarah and Anonymous, Mary and Dave G., Timothy and Warren showed up. Even Randy Thomas of EXODUS showed up!
    They left their thoughts and prayers on the asphalt and on this blog. Even if they could not make it in person, these people showed up and spoke up — and that’s all it takes. I am truly grateful..

  11. Michael,
    Thank you for sharing with us some of the pain that you must be carrying with you from this horrific event in your life. I also thank you for sharing the love and joy that you must have had and still hold onto in your relationship with Jeff. It has helped me realize that if I focus on the negative aspects of something I tend to miss out on the positives and still I can appreciate how difficult it must be to find positives in what has happened to you and your friends. Ann you have also shown us all what real love must look like.
    Thank you both.

  12. Ann, I want to commend you for making the trip to the vigil. I am blessed by all of these comments and your account of the trip. Michael thanks for making me aware of this, your account of the vigil and for your transparency. I am not sure I would be up to it…

  13. Well many of them may have been at the Love Won Out Conference in Florida that took place earlier this week. ???
    But it doesn’t matter because You showed up Ann. You showed up. That is HUGE! And came with the right heart and attitude. Thank you!!
    It starts with one person and then it spreads.
    Thank you both for sharing,
    People need to hear these stories.
    My prayer:
    “ For the Love of God and humanity …that we would becomed burdened and divinely inspired and encouraged by others to finally cross the picket lines and reach out to the gay community in new non judgemental and loving ways”.
    I pray that the gay community will begin to become receptive to people who are geniune and sincere. That we all have true compassion and real discernment.
    I hope Exodus, Love in Action , Love Won out , Focus on the Family and every ministry that says they love gays …will try the Gospel and for a good example…the Wendy Gritter and Ann approach to ministering to the gay community!
    Let’s not lose a generation and not allow past mistakes to define any of us. The climate may actually be perfect for real “change”. Lets start and continue it here and encourage it everywhere. Why not light a fire?
    If ministry leaders will make bold statements that they actually believe and follow through on more people will begin to trust the ministries and the leaders integrity. There has been tremendous skeptism after many disappointments and unfullfilled promises. But were looking ahead. Perhaps an apology and a fresh start?
    The meeting’s behind closed doors and the preaching to the choir is simply hidding your light under a bushel and becomes nsider baseball at best. Honestly both sides will need to put down their swords and trust will need to be built.
    Ann, it was awesome that you showed up at the Vigil! It’s another” Olive Branch moment”. We need more of them and I too hope Exodus and others show up next year. That opportunity will present itself.
    Michael’s a blast isn’t he? He’s funny, sweet, incredibly bright, very eloqoent and easy on the eyes.. I have been impressed on more than one occasion. He has become a very special friend and I am so grateful to have him in my life.
    Having walked the same path you took with him last night as he told the story of that fateful night and having documented much of his life on video , it becomes obvious that thes stories need to be told.
    Here’s a suggestion for Alan. Exodus could invite Michael back to talk at one of the conferences. Now that would be interesting and it would definitely draw a new and diverse crowd. Wouldn’t that be incredible to witness ? That would takie healing and reconciliation to a whole new level. . I’m not saying that you all would be in agreement on the main issue but WOW! what a message that would send to the world. Christian and non. It would be great if Wendy we one of the speakers too.
    For those of you who don’t know…. a wonderful healing took place at a conference in Arizona a few weeks ago between Chuck Smith Jr. (Calvary Chapel) and Michael Bussee that was truly inspirational. With Mike and Chuck Jr’s permission I will post their exchanges here on this blog. It is the perfect example of real Love in Action and healing and reconciliation.
    Another amazing and historic “healing ” event took place just 2 days ago. Mike Bussee and John Smid talked for the first time ever and another healing took place. Way to go guys. The ripple effects could be huge. True Love and Faith in Action. Amazing things happen when people are courageous and take small steps towards healing. Keeping meetings like these “secret” defeats the purpose of healing for all. These kinds of meetings are historical, inspirational and produce HOPE for others.
    It’s been an interesting few weeks. I look forward to all that lies ahead for all of us.
    Thanks for sharing your hearts so openly with us. Let the healing continue….

  14. I got so sentimental that I forgot something very important –
    WHERE was Exodus or the other ex-gay ministries and organizations last night?
    WHY didn’t they come?
    WHERE were the local ministers and churches?
    WHY didn’t they come?
    WHERE were the local church choirs to sing for Jeffery?
    WHY didn’t people come and bring refreshments and offer their condolences?
    What IS that about anyway? I couldn’t believe it!
    PLEASE show up now – write something, call the Jeffery Owens Center and offer condolences, put a statement on your websites that speaks of zero tolerance for hate messages, put out a press release. PLEASE don’t be invisible and indifferent – PLEASE!

  15. Last night I went to the memorial vigil for Jeffery Owens. Michael has done a great job of describing it and I would like to add some of my observations and experiences.
    It began with a gathering on the steps of the Congregational Church. This is a church that realizes we are all God’s children and are to be treated equally.
    That was a very good beginning. I asked a couple of very handsome gentlemen if they knew Michael and one of them said he was Michael and asked if I was Ann. We didn’t shake hands – I wanted to hug him and he complied 🙂 That was also a very nice beginning.
    I had been in the car a long time and needed to find a restroom – quickly. Michael took me to the nearest one – it was located in the bar he and his friends had been visiting “that” night. As we walked, Michael showed me the area he and his friends were celebrating a birthday and the gate they walked out of and then the space their van was in and the horror of what happened next. He told the story as though it had happened the day before. I did not need to use much imagination to envision what he was telling me. It did not surprise me how the horror of that night has remained with him so vividly. My heart was hurting. Time and grace has helped but it is still visibly obvious what is still with him and the effect it has.
    When we got back to the gathering, I wanted to look at the display of pictures at the church entrance. Jeffery was a handsome man with different expressions that spoke of his personality in each picture. In one he was acting silly, another very serious, another very serene with his partner and their dogs, another very happy with his friends. He was very much alive and happy and healthy and enjoying life until that night. Michael described each picture to me as though Jeffery was going to come alive again through them. The incredible friendship they had and the loyalty Michael still feels was very inspiring.
    Michael gave an eloquent talk on the steps. I’m not sure how he did it but he did. He spoke of Jeffery in a way that anyone who didn’t know him, did after listening to Michael. He described that night again – almost word for word what I had heard just moments before. He spoke of “learned” hate – how it happens and the effect it has on those that learn it. Through it all, Michael never talked or acted like he hated or was bitter – I thought to myself that I could never be that good of a person. He ended the talk with the same lyrics from South Pacific that he posted earlier on this thread.
    We all took candles that had been put in cups and walked to the memorial sight. Two women walked ahead of us with a banner that spoke of the purpose of the evening. The wind was blowing but I don’t think one candle went out – by that time I was not surprised – I knew the Holy Spirit was with us.
    At the site, which is simple and clean and beautiful and serene, we stood silently and then put our candles in the dirt around the marker. The level of love and respect and togetherness felt by all is still in my heart and cannot be put into words yet – I just know that I didn’t want to leave that place or the people I was standing with.
    Several started writing words in colorful chalk on the cement surrounding the site. Not hateful words, not resentful words, not revengful words – rather, words of love and hope and reconciliation. I will never be as good as anyone there – I don’t know if I could do the same thing if it had been my friend. I asked one of the girls who was kneeling down writing if she would write something for me. The words I asked her to write were “all of you are my brothers and sisters”. After she wrote it, she got up and hugged me – I didn’t want to let go.
    I took pictures of everything and sent them onto Michael – he has my permission to share them with anyone he wants to. There was one particular poignant one of him kneeling down inside a circle he drew of the place Jeffery was attacked. He wrote “In all these things, we are more than conquerors” and then added ” I miss you Jeff”.
    Shortly after this, people started to walk to their cars. Michael and I were parked in the same lot so we walked together. Before getting to our cars, I had the privilege of going on an adventure with him. It was the perfect balance to end the evening. Anyone interested in culture, exploring, people observing, funny remarks, and very good company, Michael is the person to spend time with. Thank you Michael.
    There is so much more to say and I am sure I will find a way to say it but here are a couple of things now – it is critical for all of us to spread the word to counter any message of hate or messages that can lead up to learned hate. Learned messages of hate and prejudice can and will stop if they are not tolerated – ever. Indifference is worse than anything and perpetuates learned hate messages. It needs to be an ongoing priority to keep our antennas up and to be ready to correct the hate message or gesture or action – it must never be tolerated – ever.
    Michael said something very profound to me last night and it was very healing to my heart. I was telling him how I felt about something and he said – “I understand”. He didn’t say he agreed with me or accepted that what I was saying was right – he said “I understand”. I thought about it on the long drive home and realized how magical those words are and how we don’t always have to agree with each other but how imperative it is to “understand” each other.
    Michael, I know you like show tunes – when you can listen to “Not while I’m Around” from Sweeny Todd.

  16. Thanks to all of you for the support. The vigil went well. Before the event, I retraced our steps of that tragic night, went into the gay bar, sat down, chatted with some friends, had a soda and walked out the back gate that opens onto the public parking lot — across from the Mission Inn Hotel. You would think that after all this time, that wave of panic would not sweep over me as I opened the gate — but it still does.
    Breathe in. Breathe out. Trust in God’s protection, Mike. There are angles watching over you. Step outside. An beautiful early June evening in Southern Califonia. Clear, warm and bright. Families strolling on the sidewalks in front of the historic old buildings, the Public Library where (at age 12) I learned that homosexuality was a mental illness that (maybe) could be “cured”. The Municipal Museum, the Art Galleries, the little red sandstone Unitarian Church. Kids dressed up for Prom in tuxes and cocktail dresses, walking hand in hand, oblivious to what had happened here six years ago.
    About fiftly people gatheded on the Steps of the Congregational Church — Riverside’s first church and the only church in town that expressed official sympathy and support in the days and weeks following Jeffery’s murder. The only church. Jeffery was quite a photographer and some of his work was on display. People came forward quietly to view the photos. That’s what he and I were doing the night we were attacked — just looking at photos he had taken.
    Then, the train hit. I was punched, beaten and stabbed, Jeffery came to my defense and was beaten to the ground by five guys yelling “faggot”, kicking and stabbing him — five times — in the back. He died a few hours later. I survived. Our community was stunned and hurt, but we survived, and we celebrated his life last night in the same parking lot where he fell.
    Ann, who posts frequently on this blog was there. What a charming and kind person she is! How wonderful to meet her, to finally put a face on the person — a real human being, not just an anonymous blogger. A caring, compassionate, deeply spritual woman who took the time to meet and speak with each person there. I thought, “We should all meet” — that’s what we need — to shake each other’s hands, to get to know each other, to share our faith and our common humanity. So often we are just faceless bloggers, shouting at each other across a great divide. That divide is what gets people killed.
    A said a few words, told the story (lest it fade from memory) and we lit candles. Fifty of us walked the sidewalk, and then stopped at the marker which reads “Jeffery Owens, Victim of Hate, We Will Not Be Silent”. We place our candles in the ground around the stone and stood silently for quite some time.
    Then, we took large pieces of colorful chalk and left our tokens of sorrow, hope and love on the asphalt in large pink, blue and yellow letters: “God Loves Gays”, “Stop the Violence”, “In all these things, we are more than conquerors” and “We Miss You, Jeff.” Ann remarked, “Someone from EXODUS ought to be here” — and I agreed. “Maybe next year they will, Ann, maybe next year…”

  17. All I can say is……”Let the healing begin”!
    I was so moved and impressed that you mentioned the Vigil for Mike Bussee’s slain friend Jeffrey Owens on your blog. That was huge . It was impressive, appropriate and most importantly appreciated.
    That was such a painful time in Michael’s life. He could have died too. I spent a few days with Michael in Riverside California where it happened. We filmed in order the sequence of events that took place the night that Jeffrey Owens was murdered . Michael was also stabbed and attacked with a group of their friends for being gay.
    He lost one of his best friends and with all that Michael has been through and survived you would think he would be a bitter and angry man. He is not. He is gracious and humble., loving and quick to forgive. He continues to dialogue with people who don’t share all of his views and who have judged him for years for leaving Exodus and becoming openly gay. And….He has remained a Christian.
    He talks and blogs with people who have been angry and disappointed with him and who don’t even know him. He could have gone and stayed out of all this for the rest of his life. Instead he hung around and showed up and continues to try and make a difference. Many people do not know that he and his friends were the victim’s of a Hate Crime or that his best friend was murdered that night for being gay. Many people don’t realize how personal a passing of a hate crime law is to Michael and many others. Many folks don’t know or realize that Michael was bullied as a child by many boys who taunted him for “being different” way before he ever had a sexual encounter, as it is with most children who are bullied for being gay.
    There are countless people who have died for being “different” at the hands of some pretty unconcionable folks who have on occasion claimed to be “Christians”. Many children and adults are still haunted and conflicted and often confuse “Christ” with the “Christians” who have mistreated and abused them in the name of God. Don’t be mistaken there are people who have felt “biblically justified” in hurting other people because of scripture that they believe condems gays and gives them the right to harm others. Clearly these people have missed the entire Gospel and have very little understanding of WHO Christ is and what was done for humanity through Him. People who practice this brand of “Christianity” are without a doubt “ Un Christian” and are partly to blame for why the church has the image problem it has today. Verbal and physical abuse is still abuse and unfortunately bullying from the secular community , the pulpit and the pews is still an an going problem within our society and our culture.
    It will only stop when the people who have been the most vocal come forward and apologize for helping to perpetrate this kind of behavior. When they say that it is wrong and it needs to stop more people may listen. Leaders with influence and power, Christian leaders need to be clear and come forward to help stop this kind of thing from happening. Passing a hate crimes Bill is just the beginning.
    Wether you agree or disagree with homosexuality , the issue is about treating people in a Christ like way whenever you encounter them. Treating each other with dignity , love and respect at all times and in all places will all people is the goal.
    Whenever we continue to try and build bridges, promote healing and reconciliation, ask people to be honest with themselves and each other and when we are willing to admit when we are wrong, we are making progress. Using these principle as s a guide or moral compass is always the right thing to do and it is also the “Christian” thing to do.
    Anyone who is willing to extend their heart and hand to people who have hurt them is admirable, note worthy and unusual. Some might think it foolish and futile while others consider it to be one of the Golden Rules and something we as Christians are commanded to do. Honestly It’s not always easy but the willingness to try is something unique and wonderful.
    None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, but being willing to try and make a difference is what matters most. Perhaps, we’re getting closer to the promised land.
    It’s always important to recognize the people who have died because of ignorace, fear and hatred. It’s important remind people that hate crimes are senseless, unexceptable and tragic and should have no place in this world. I am reminded of something my friend Wayne Jacobsen of Bridge Builders said in our interview, “that it is in the best intrest of all of us as a society to protect the rights of others because in so doing we protect our own right”s and ourselves. He’s right. That is true. Kind of sounds like Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
    I would love to at some time propose a meeting between all of the key players from both sides of the divide to come together and begin peace talks. Even if they end in agreeing to disagree. Much could and would be accomplished by a meeting like this….I’m putting it out there and trust if it’s meant to be it will come to pass.
    I suggest we revisit the Olive Branch Iniative /The Golden Rule Summit and we begin to break through the barriers that have separated and divided us all for far too long. Isn’t it time to find some common ground ?
    That is my prayer and I hope you will all think and pray about it. Some will feel called while others will complain and say that it is not possible. Doubters and naysayers need not apply. This will take people with open hearts and minds and who desire to be a part of “something new”. The one thing in life that is constant is change and it is inevitable and needed if we ever going to evolve beyond this point.
    It could be the beginning of something very special…For Such A Time As This”.
    It’s certainly worth a try. It will be intresting to see who would actually be interested. Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS!

  18. Micheal, I sat next to you at the TEN conference for the lunch and enjoyed the time getting to know you and hearing some of your story. It is amazing that, under dthe pressure of man, you have stayed faithful to God. That shows al ot about you. Glad I got to spend time with you, Kathy

  19. Michael I so want to be at the vigil but being that I live far from the event
    this will be very hard to do. However my prayer is with you and all those
    Who will be in attendance? Despite the divisions we have over sexuality
    both exgay/gays know the feelings of rejection and abuse caused by others.
    If there is one issue we can both work on is decreasing targeted violence.
    We should never stand quiet when any one is attacked or harmed. Dr. Throckmorton there are many Christian/Evangelical’s who would like to stand up be there for gay and lesbian’s who victims of violence are. I have gone to a few over the years. But I think there should be some organization of Christians who while traditional in beliefs stand side by side with any person or group who is a victim of a targeted hate crime.

  20. Michael,
    I also stand with you in this memorial and daily commit myself to work towards eradicating hateful attitudes and actions – particularly those perpetuated by people of the Christian faith.
    Oh that our hearts would break with the things that break God’s heart.
    Grace to you.

  21. Randy, thanks. Now please use your position and influence to urge EXODUS to clearly and permanently post an anti-hate, anti-bullying, anti violence statement on the EXODUS homepage. I have asked for this many times before and am frankly puzzled by the reluctance of EXODUS leadership to do so. Please take the next step. Put the love in action.

  22. Ann: Wow. Are you in the area? That would be very meaningful to me to meet in person some of the “blog” friends I have had the pleasure to have known, thanks to Warren’s very generous hospitality.
    I imagine there will be candles and flowers. It would be nice to capture some of the images on video. Just your presence would be a blessing.

  23. Michael, I say this with genuine motivations of good will and sympathy. I am sorry for your loss and you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  24. What can we do to prevent it? How about we start a list? How can we “carefully teach” the Law of Love?

  25. Warren, thank you for acknowledging this tragedy and the memorial. I wish more Christians would pay attention to the reality of violence against GLBT people and truly self-relect on what we can do to help prevent it.

  26. Thanks. I do appreciate the prayers and love. It helps. But I would rather that the focus not be on me, but on how such tragedies happen. In case there was any doubt that I am gay, I will borrow a reference from a Broadway musical:

    You Have To Be Carefully Taught

    “You’ve got to be taught
    To hate and fear
    You’ve got to be taught
    From year to year
    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!.”
    -Oscar Hammerstein, 1949 “South Pacific”

    Such hate and fear is learned. Every time a “researcher” like Cameron says that gays are “parasitic”, every time a ciongresswoman declares that gays pose a “greater threat than terrorism”, evey time a “ministry” preaches that gays are “broken”, “sinful” or “diseased” — someone listens.
    When anti-gays “jokes” are told and no one objects, someone listens. When an “expert advisor” suggests that gender variant kids should be teased and ridiculed, someone listens. When an EXODUS leader graphically describes the flames of hell that gays deserve, someone listens. And sometimes, they take action. You have to be carefully taught.

  27. I read here ofteb but this is my first comment. I am moved by this and even though I do not know any of you in person, I want to pray tomorrow night during the vigil.
    Much love to you Michael…

  28. Michael:
    Our prayers are for you, comrades families & friends during this vigil. Hatred and violence are a contradiction of the Gospel we proclaim.

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