Tag Archives: HRO

Ally Profile: Pastor Reginald Gundy

Pastor Gundy_FP

Born in Jacksonville, Pastor Gundy is a graduate of Troy State University with a BS Degree and hold two Masters Degrees, Masters of Arts in Pastoral Ministries and Master of Divinity.

He is a retired public school teacher, and is also retired from the US Army with two Meritorious Service Awards. He is the recipient of the Congressional Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for outstanding and invaluable service to the community award, Jacksonville’s Florida Mayor’s Distinguish Award, Trailblazers Award, Teacher of the Year Award and many other U.S. Army Awards

He is currently the Pastor of the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church and past Jacksonville Local Chapter and State President Florida Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He has 14 years of experience in working with Not-for-Profit organizations specializing in advocacy for Juvenile Justice and Civil Rights issues. He is married to Wallette, they have a son named Andrew and two grandchildren, Darrion and Savia. He is a pastor with 33 years ministerial experience and serves on the Boards of several Not-for-Profit Organizations.

Recently, Pastor Gundy has publicly changed his stance on the need to expand the HRO in Jacksonville.  Once a vocal opponent of amending our city’s protections, Pastor Gundy has expressed why it is important to protect the rights of everyone in our community.

It is time for me to write the letter from the “Jacksonville Jail”.  It must address the conservative evangelical and black church as a whole:

The history
The harm
The hurt
The healing
The hope

The LBGT community has a right to be heard, but also others.  The voices of change must also respect the voices of resistance.  We must also deal with the voices of fear. I see the plan to introduce the law that will address the fears, but that is not what many others see.   It is very important that Bible base-believers be heard, along with the others.   That did not happen in the first meeting and must not happen hence forth.

I have set on the new ordinance for 18-months that specifically addresses the protection of the church.  You cannot blame a culture of resistance  based on their Biblical beliefs.  My belief is tied deeply with the Bible, as it relates to all matters of sin, and all have and all sin, and all fall short.  But, thank God for Jesus, all can be saved and forgiven.  Anger and mistrust, on either side, does not allow acceptance, respect, forgiveness and reconciliation.

LBGT issues have divided churches, communities and families.  This should not be, there must be honest dialogue, disagreements and forgiveness.  The evangelicals must be part of the long-term solutions and we all must love each other, even if we do not agree:

1.  The law protects the church.
2.  The law protects housing, jobs and public access.
3.  The law protects people against discrimination.

The conversation is tough but it must be held.  Discrimination against any human being is discrimination against all humanity.

Love should not divide, but bring all of us together.

Pastor Reginald Gundy, pens An awakening to what it means not to discriminate, featured in the Orlando Sentinel on February 5, 2016

Reverend Dr. Bruce Havens

Every Sunday at Pastor Havens’ church they say to people, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here!” Havens believes, “we can disagree about how we practice our faith and still be for justice and against discrimination. That is the legacy of all faiths. If the business community can stand for justice and what is right, then the faith community should surely not lag behind.” That’s why he’s a “Straight Ally,” for the Human Rights Ordinance.

Read more about Pastor Havens here: http://wp.me/p3PnKk-ge

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Ally Profile: Rabbi Joshua Lief

Rabbi Lief_FP_Print_R3Rabbi Joshua B. Lief is the Senior Rabbi of historic Congregation Ahavath Chesed. He grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia where he was active in all sports, music, and was an Eagle Scout. He attended Princeton University, where he swam on the varsity squad, competed on the debate team, and graduated with a degree in History.

After Princeton, Rabbi Lief attended the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  After living in Jerusalem for the first year of the seminary, he completed his studies at HUC-JIR’s campus in Cincinnati, Ohio where he was ordained as a Rabbi in May of 2003.

Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Rabbi Lief served as the Rabbi of Mizpah Congregation in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he helped grow the congregation and reached out to the larger community. Here in Jacksonville, he serves on the boards of ONEJAX, JCCI, and the Community Hospice. He is an avid athlete, a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow, member of the Downtown Rotary Club, a graduate of the Leadership Jacksonville New Leadership Summit, enjoys and supports the arts, and is honored to engage in civic activities.

Rabbi Lief is married to his beautiful wife Rebecca. They are delighted daily by their adorable daughters, Leah and Ellie, and are proud to make Jacksonville their home.

As a Rabbi, I am relieved that Judaism only demands of me that I make myself the best person that I can possibly be.  I am not required to change anyone else to be more like me.  Indeed, with my faith in a God who is wholly (and holy) beyond my comprehension, and a conviction that all people are made in the Divine image, how could I ask anyone not to be who they are?  Many people are fond of taking Biblical verses out of context and frequently Leviticus 18:22 is cited as an injunction against homosexuality.  From my perspective, the operative verse on the issue of civil rights is actually to be found one chapter later, at Leviticus 19:17, “Reprove your neighbor, but come to no guilt on his account.”  The issue is not the perceived rightness or wrongness of any individual’s private behavior.  Rather, the issue is the absolute wrongness of public discrimination against our fellow human beings for simply being who they are.  It is quite fitting that the very next verse is Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.”  Would that we could all reach that level of holiness.  Let’s keep trying.

To contact Rabbi Lief, please email him at rabbi@thetemplejacksonville.org.

Ally Profile: The Calise Family

Calise_FP_PrintMeet Matthew and Jill Calise.  Matthew J. Calise is a native of Jacksonville, Florida and a proud supporter of his hometown. With a diverse upbringing, he found a passion in the arts. Matthew graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and now proudly serves on the Alumni Board. He has been a long time friend, volunteer, and advocate of Theatre Jacksonville, Players by the Sea, and the 5 & Dime Theatre Company. After high school, he attended Florida State College at Jacksonville where he received his Associate in the Arts degree. Matthew then moved to Tallahassee to pursue one of his dreams of graduating from Florida State University with degrees in both marketing and management. He began his professional career with the Wounded Warrior Project, and is now a marketing coordinator for Swisher International, Inc.

Jill Flowers Calise was born in 1954 in Norfolk, Virginia, to Max and Lantha Flowers (a proud Navy family) along with their first daughter, Cindy. Jill attended Duval County Public Schools, Cedar Hills Elementary, JEB Stuart Jr. High School and N. B. Forrest High School. She pursued a teaching degree at the University of Florida and attained a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Florida.

Jill considers herself a patriot and LOVES America. She is passionate about teaching and loves the students she serves. She goes home every day from teaching to two of her other great passions, gardening and her little dog, Gizmo.

We are incredibly grateful that Matthew visited our booth at One Spark this year and bravely chose to  share his family’s story with us.  Matthew’s parents, James (Jimmy) and Jill Calise, were married a little more than 25 years ago.  It was through her sister, Cindy, and her daughter, Jill Anne, that Jill met Jimmy in 1987.  One month before their wedding day,  Jimmy learned that he was HIV positive.  After sharing the news with Jill, he thought maybe they should call off the ceremony.  After careful consideration, Jill knew she still very much wanted to marry Jimmy.  Above all, they loved each other very much and she knew that would get them through any challenge life had ready for them.

In 1988, Jimmy and Jill married and the next year in May of 1989, they had Matthew.  His name means, “gift from God.” Jimmy and Jill lived as a couple for 8 years before deciding that Jimmy needed to openly live his truth.  So, when Matthew was 7-years-old, his father came out to him as gay.  At the time, Matthew says he didn’t fully understand what ‘being gay’ meant, but he clearly remembers how challenging life had been for his parents because of this fact.   Jimmy was disowned by by some of his family members and friends.   Matthew also found it difficult to be open with his friends about who his father was.

It wasn’t until Matthew was almost to middle school that his father’s HIV had progressed into AIDS.  Knowing that he didn’t have much time left, Jimmy’s only hope was that he would live long enough to see Matthew graduate from high school.  Matthew was just shy of 16 when his father passed away.  To honor the impact that Jimmy had on their lives, the wonderful father he was, and the great man he had been, Matthew and Jill each got a tattoo that they display with great pride.  Jill and Matthew are still very close. She tells those she meets, that they are “as thick as thieves.”

Their story seems uncommon, but they are not alone.  Today, many people live ‘under cover’ for fear of discrimination, abandonment, or threats of violence simply because of who they are, or who they love.  We have lost millions of spouses, loved ones, children, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers due to complications from AIDS while millions more currently live with HIV.  In their statement, Matthew and Jill explain why it was important to them to join the ‘We Are Straight Allies’ community, “In our family, we believe that it takes a village to raise a child. We also believe it takes a village to make a change and create a movement. Today, we become a proud part of that community. One that believes in both love and equality for all.”

We appreciate the Calise family’s willingness to share their story in hopes that our community will begin to celebrate our differences, rather than fear them.

We’d also like to thank the Florida Times-Union for also sharing Matthew and Jill’s story with their readers on this very special Father’s Day.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, please visit AIDS.gov

PRESS: Ignite Media JAX/One Spark

Huge “thank you” to #ignitemedia for featuring our We Are Straight Allies One Spark 2014 Creator Project!  Read more: http://ignitemediajax.com/2014/03/09/340/ 

#IgniteMedia is an independent news bureau that was created, designed and is currently updated by student journalists from the University of North Florida. #IgniteMedia will appear across a variety of platforms ranging from print-ready stories appearing on this website to photos, images and short bursts that will appear on social media platforms.

All the content will focus on events and issues concerning the One Spark festival that will take part in Jacksonville, Fla., from April 9 through April 13. The content is offered not only for public consumption but also to any news media outlet that may want to publish our content. #IgniteMedia asks that any news outlet utilizing our content give the reporters appropriate bylines. Reporters may be identified as #IgniteMedia reporters or University of North Florida student reporters.