San Bernardino Sun, 20 April 04
SB mission calls first gay minister
By GUY McCARTHY
SAN BERNARDINO - A gay woman became a minister at a Lutheran mission
Sunday, a move that resonated in the faith community far beyond her
church's Westside neighborhood.
The controversy stemmed in part from the Rev. Jennifer Mason's
refusal to take a vow of celibacy, which is not required of straight
But while some church officials and a few protesters passed judgment,
many people who live near the Central City Lutheran Mission on North
G Street said they don't care about the new pastor's sexual
orientation or what goes on in her bedroom.
In a low-income neighborhood with its share of single-parent
families, gun violence, drug addiction and teen pregnancy, many
residents said they're grateful for the services Mason and her church
offer to at-risk teens and the homeless.
"Her sexual preference makes no difference whatsoever," said Amado
Cortes, 19, a church worker who lives next door to the mission, takes
part in after-school programs and works with a youth ministry.
"People trust her because of who she is and the way she treats
A mural painted on the side of the church depicts a dark tribute to
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and includes the flags of El
Salvador, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Honduras. Another mural warns
against exploiting women, drug use and incarceration. They were
painted by about 50 former graffiti artists, said the church's
cultural director, Alex Avila, 25.
"Some have turned around," Avila said. "They're working on (general
equivalency diplomas), or community college, or trade school. This
isn't about sexual orientation, or race, or gender. It's about
Nelson Martinez, 40, said Mason and her church are filling an
"They're helping get people off the streets," Martinez said. "When
the kids here get out of school, where do they go? The police know
the crime rate around here. The city knows a large percentage of the
teens here go into the criminal justice system. The kids come here
and we help them.'
The Central City Lutheran Mission served 68,000 meals last year and
works with 100 children and teens from the 13th and G Street
neighborhood every day, said Tom Dolan, the church's administrative
Mason, 41, said she was excited before her installation service.
"Gays are everywhere we're doctors, lawyers, politicians, police,'
she said. "Part of our gifts come from our sexuality.'
Mason's partner, Jodi Barry, 36, said she was disappointed that a day
she would remember as "a joyous occasion" had turned into a media
event for some participants.
Four protesters, men who said they came from Las Vegas and Los
Angeles to make themselves heard, chanted "Shame, shame, shame" and
other slogans for about an hour before Mason's 2 p.m. installation
service. Gilda Lucky, 34, who lives up the street from the church,
was angry and warned other residents not to stand near the
"What are they doing for the after-school program for the kids around
here? What are they doing for the mission helping the people who
don't have enough money at the end of the month?" Lucky said. "This
lady (Mason) does so much for the people in this community.
"Don't stand next to their signs!" Lucky shouted at a curious
neighbor. "They're haters!"
Elsewhere in the U.S. on Sunday, two gay men were appointed as
ministers at Lutheran churches in Hollywood and Minneapolis. The
Bishop Murray D. Finck of the Lutheran Church's Pacifica Synod, which
includes San Bernardino, had urged last week that Central City
Mission reconsider Mason's appointment.
Finck could not be reached for comment.
The Rev. Howard Lincoln of the San Bernardino Catholic Diocese
reiterated his church's stand on homosexuality.
"The Catholic Church believes that sexual orientation is a given, not
a choice," Lincoln said. "Her ordination as a pastor is a matter
within the confines of the institutional Lutheran Church."