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Meet Rev. Bos, first out lesbian Evangelical Lutheran bishop

‘My spirituality and sexuality are intertwined’

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Rev. Brenda Bos was elected to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (Photo by Amber Marten Bergeson)

GLENDALE – When the Rev. Brenda Bos was growing up as a good Christian girl in Chino in San Bernardino County, Calif., no one talked about being gay.

When after college Bos realized she is a lesbian, she was closeted about it with her family.  

“After I began to see that I was lesbian, I decided my first partner would be this woman,” Bos said in a telephone interview with the Blade. “But I figured I couldn’t talk to God about it.  It didn’t feel so much as a sin as that God wouldn’t want to hear about it.”

On June 5, Bos, 56, was elected to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA is a mainstream, mainline, Protestant denomination.

Bos will take office as bishop on Sept. 1. Her installation will take place on Sept. 12. She will be the first openly lesbian bishop in the ELCA.

Some people know early on – as a college student or even as a teenager – that they want to go into the ministry.

This wasn’t so with Bos.

“My family were Dutch immigrants,” Bos said, “they bought a dairy farm.”

When she was a teen, Bos was a theater geek. She did a lot of community theater and thought about going into acting.

“But people told me that acting was too frivolous,” Bos said, “they thought I’d never be successful if I tried to have a career as an actor.”

So Bos pursued what she calls an “adjacent profession” – broadcasting. She received a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting from Pepperdine University in 1986.

Bos started out in broadcasting as an intern at MTM.  She was there after the glory days of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda.”  But the studio was still producing “Hill Street Blues” and other respected shows.

Bos went on to work for 18 years in production on some of the most beloved shows on TV, including “The George Lopez Show,” “Mad About You” and “The Golden Girls.”

Bos knows that Blanche, Rose, Sophia and Dorothy (and the actors who played them) on “The Golden Girls” are gods to many queer folk.

Bos was a writer’s assistant on the sixth season of the “The Golden Girls.” “Every actor was at the height of their power,” she said. “They knew who their characters were and how to emphasize the fabulous in each of them.”

The studio audience would go nuts, Bos said, “there was so much joy. It was magnificent to see what comedy could be at its height.”

While Bos engaged in her TV career, she was exploring her sexuality.

Her relationship with her first partner, a woman, lasted a year. “The pressure of being a closeted lesbian was too much,” Bos said.

She met a man and became attracted to him. “I thought I wasn’t gay,” Bos said.

Seven years later, the woman who’d been her first partner came back into her life. She and Bos were together for 12 years.

It was difficult for her family when Bos came out to them. “They worried that if they accepted me, God would judge them,” Bos said, “it took them a decade to accept that if God loves me, God loves them.”

Bos is grateful that her family did the hard work that needed to be done so that they could come to terms with her sexuality.

Though Bos was back with her first partner, she couldn’t imagine being a lesbian and being connected to the church. “I let church life lie,” she said.

But Bos had always enjoyed thinking about God. She liked to talk about God in a way that made God accessible. Bos thought she might have a gift for not being judgmental or dogmatic.

Bos volunteered at a church and the people there liked her. But it went badly when she came out to the pastor.

“They said ‘you’re gifted, but we can’t use you in leadership, there’s no place for you,’” Bos said. It was devastating to her.

Though the people at that church didn’t see that Bos had a gift for talking about God, others did.

One day, Brenda was at work on a TV show when a woman on the crew named Jenna collapsed and died. She’d been training for a marathon and had an unexpected heart defect.

Many people asked Bos — though she wasn’t a minister — to conduct the memorial service for Jenna.

Somehow, she knew she was the right person for that job at that moment. “I talked about how much God loved Jenna, and how she was in heaven,” Bos said, “people talked about their own faith as well as Jenna’s.”

People told Bos that she was in the wrong line of work and that she should be a pastor.

“I’m an atheist,” someone at the service said to Bos, “but this was such a sacred thing.”

Bos started to feel that being in TV production was too much of a rat race – that she wanted to try to enter the ministry.

In 2007, she was rejected by a seminary because she came out in her application.

After that rejection, “in a drunken stupor – my partner was out of town,” Bos said, “I Googled churches that were LGBTQ-welcoming.”

She saw that the ELCA was listed as a welcoming denomination.

Bos was accepted by the Claremont School of Theology in 2009. In that same year, the ELCA began ordaining openly LGBTQ pastors.

She earned a master’s of divinity degree from Claremont in 2011. In 2013, Bos received a Certificate of Advanced Theological Studies from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.

While in seminary, Bos was a bridge pastor to a congregation at Faith Lutheran Church in Canoga Park, Calif., and a student pastor at a church in Danville, Calif. She was the first of eight vicars (interns) at St. Paul’s in Santa Monica, Calif.

From 2014-2019, Bos was pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in San Clemente, Calif. She was ordained in 2014 at her home congregation, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, a LGBTQ welcoming church.

Since 2019, Bos has served as the assistant to the bishop for rostered leadership in the Southwest California Synod. In this position, she’s been providing support to clergy who are on leave, become disabled or in spiritual crisis.

Bos lives with her wife Janis, a licensed clinical social worker. They have an adult son and two dogs named Santos and Knight.

“My spirituality and sexuality are intertwined,” Bos said, “it’s what makes me the whole person that I am.”

She doesn’t believe that God has any gender. “I can understand how back in the day, we assigned God the pronoun ‘he’,” Bos said.

But, as our understanding of what it means to be non-binary grows, Bos said, our imagination about God expands. “It might make some uncomfortable,” she said, “but to me it makes sense to think of God as ‘they.’”

God has a sense of humor, Bos said. After all, “God’s best ideas are laughter, sex, and food,” she added.

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California

California expands broadband infrastructure & internet access across state

The initial project locations based on unserved/underserved areas that don’t reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Advancing California’s commitment to bridge the digital divide, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state has identified 18 projects to begin work on an open-access middle-mile network that will provide missing infrastructure paths to bring broadband to all communities.

As part of the historic $6 billion broadband investment advanced in partnership with legislative leaders earlier this year, the initial project locations are based on known unserved and underserved areas across the state. The projects will connect to the core of the global internet and interconnect to last-mile infrastructure, which is the final leg that provides internet service to a customer.

“California is committed to taking on the challenges laid bare by the pandemic, including the digital divide holding back too many communities across the state,” said Newsom. “These projects are the first step to delivering on our historic investment that will ensure all Californians have access to high-quality broadband internet, while also creating new jobs to support our nation-leading economic recovery.”

The initial 18 projects represent a range of geographic locations and technical approaches. Projects are being initiated in the following tribal communities, counties and cities: Alpine County; Amador County; Calaveras County; Central Coast; Coachella Valley; Colusa Area; Inyo County; Kern County; Kern/San Luis Obispo Area; Lake County Area; Los Angeles and South Los Angeles; Oakland; Orange County; Plumas Area; Riverside/San Diego Area; San Bernardino County; Siskiyou Area; and West Fresno.

Evaluation of project areas included consideration of public comments, prioritization of unserved or underserved areas of the state, and inclusion of tribal communities, cities and counties. An unserved or underserved area has households that do not reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload of at least 3 Mbps.

“Core to our success will be the deep partnerships we’ve built with a diverse set of community organizations and last mile providers. Through many years of engagement with metropolitan planning organizations, CPUC-supported broadband consortia, Tribal organizations, community-based broadband advocacy groups, and organizations like the Rural County Representatives of California, the NAACP, and the California Emerging Technology Fund, we are now ready to take this historic step towards broadband equity for California,” said Louis Fox, Founder and Chair of GoldenStateNet, the state’s third-party administrator.

State partners implementing the middle-mile initiative include the California Department of Technology, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Caltrans. GoldenStateNet was selected as the Third-Party Administrator (TPA) to manage the development, acquisition, construction, maintenance and operation of the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network. As the TPA, GoldenStateNet will partner with key stakeholder groups across the state to investigate the best technical, financial and operational models to meet the needs of the project sites.  

A map and additional information on the initial projects can be found here.

“A reliable broadband connection makes the difference between having access to full-service health care, education and employment or sometimes going without,” said State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong. “Through a historic partnership between our Governor, the Legislature, state agencies and a third-party administrator, we are taking immediate action to improve connectivity for Californians in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.”

“These initial routes have been identified to accelerate projects in areas of the state that are unserved because of the lack of open middle mile infrastructure to serve them. We are accelerating the selection of a diverse set of routes — those that are ready to build and those that are not ready to build.  This allows the state to partner with locals on these diverse projects and learn by doing, as we concurrently work to finalize all the needed routes in the State. There are many more communities like those in Phase I that will be included in the final map,” said Martha Guzman Aceves, Commissioner at the CPUC.

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California

Names of Trans dead projected onto Netflix HQ

2021 was the deadliest year of violence against LGBTQ+ people since records began- greatest harm to Black Trans women, migrants & sex workers

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Activists projects names of trans dead on Netflix HQ (Photo by Alan Marling)

LOS GATOS – On the Trans Day of Remembrance, the names of trans people who died this year were projected onto Netflix’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

The words of light were visible from Winchester Boulevard, over the archway entrance to the headquarters. Earlier this year, Netflix was criticized for spreading transphobia as well as for firing a trans, Black, pregnant employee for organizing a walkout. 

Local trans activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith said of the projection, “The CEO of Netflix, Ted Sarandos, spoke earlier this year in defense of Dave Chappelle’s comedy special, ‘The Closer,’ stating that, ‘We have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.’ It is a fitting rebuttal, therefore, that the names of those who were murdered in the name of anti-transgender violence end up projected on the walls of Netflix’s offices. Perhaps this will serve as a reminder that there are, indeed, real world consequences to consider when you platform transphobia disguised as comedic expression.”

2021 was the deadliest year of violence against gender-diverse people since records began, with the greatest harm done to Black trans women, migrants, and sex workers. The recorded number of 375 deaths is likely also severely underreported, according to Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide. 

“I cancelled my Netflix account,” said local projection activist Alan Marling, “but I’ll be happy to renew it once the company meets the demands of the walkout.”

The demands include investment in trans and non-binary voices, acknowledging the harm done, and hiring of a trans executive.

The full list can be found here.

Video by Alan Marling

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California

At West LA VA Medical Center, Newsom announces new partnership

Governor Newsom also issued a proclamation that declared November 11, 2021, as Veterans Day

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Governor Newsom speaking with a vet at the West LA VA Medical Center (Photo credit: Office of the Governor)

LOS ANGELES – Ahead of Veterans Day, California Governor Gavin Newsom visited veterans receiving COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center Wednesday, where he highlighted the state’s ongoing efforts to increase vaccination rates and promote booster shots for eligible populations and investments to address veterans’ homelessness. 

Joined by California’s U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, California Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. Vito Imbasciani, and California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, the Governor also announced a $750,000 donation from Lennar Homes and Five Point Communities that will purchase 86 tiny homes for veterans on the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus to help ensure that veterans have a safe and dignified place to live. Most of the veterans from the “Veterans Row” encampment at San Vicente and Wilshire recently moved onto the campus. 

“California is home to over 1.6 million veterans, the most of any state in the nation. We’re continually working to ensure that our veterans and their families receive the resources and support they need and have earned many times over,” said Newsom. “Thanks to a partnership between California, the VA and Los Angeles County, more veterans in the region have a safe place to go to receive mental health services and health care, including their COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic, and boosters are how we keep our immunity strong.”

The Governor also issued a proclamation declaring November 11, 2021, as Veterans Day.

The West LA VA Medical Center administers 90 to 100 boosters on-site daily through walk-ins or by appointment, and is still administering first and second vaccinations regularly. The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS), which includes the West LA center, is one of eight VA Healthcare Centers in California and offers services to veterans residing in five counties in Southern California. VAGLAHS is organizing a number of outreach events and efforts to vaccinate all veterans and eligible individuals.

The Governor & Senator Alex Padilla visited the West LA VA Medical Center to announce a new tiny homes project, and promote vaccinations. (Photo credit: Office of the Governor)

The Governor today also announced a partnership with the Hilton Foundation on a $69,000 grant to provide coordinated services to veterans to find more permanent housing. The announcements build on the Governor’s unprecedented $22 billion investment to address housing and homelessness, including $12 billion for homelessness and behavioral health services to help get tens of thousands of people off the streets or avoid homelessness altogether. This package includes $25 million specifically for homeless veterans services and $20 million to support the West LA Veterans Affairs campus.

Administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development in collaboration with the California Department of Veterans Affairs and the California Housing Finance Agency, the Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program (VHHP) finances the development of a variety of rental housing for veterans and their families, and has announced three awards today that are part of the West LA campus. VHHP will fund 189 of the 192 units, with awards for the three programs totaling $39.6 million.

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