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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

Newsom & LGBTQ Caucus lift up California’s fight for equality 

Governor joins LGBTQ Caucus 20th anniversary Pride celebration, announces signature of AB 1741 to honor victims of transphobia

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Governor Newsom joins members of the LGBTQ Caucus at the Governor’s Mansion (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom today joined members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus at the historic Governor’s Mansion for the Caucus’s 20th anniversary Pride celebration and to highlight California’s leadership on LGBTQ rights.

“In California, we fight for and celebrate our LGBTQ community’s right to live their lives out loud,” said Governor Newsom. “I’m proud to stand with our LGBTQ Caucus today and lift up their commitment to advancing equality, freedom and acceptance. As we push back on the forces of hate that seek to undo our progress, California will continue to lead the way to a better, fairer future for all.”

“I’m so proud to live in California where we understand the value of diversity and support and embrace everyone who lives here,” said First Partner Siebel Newsom. “We’re committed to supporting members of the LGBTQ community to live as their most authentic selves and will fight to safeguard the policies that protect those rights. Alongside the Governor and the LGBTQ Caucus, I encourage us all to continue to lead with California’s values of respect, equality, kindness, and acceptance because that’s the California Way and the best way forward.”

Governor and First Partner join members of the LGBTQ Caucus at the Governor’s Mansion for 20th anniversary Pride celebration
(Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

Governor Newsom today announced that he has signed AB 1741 by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), an LGBTQ Caucus priority bill that designates November 20 as “Transgender Day of Remembrance” to honor those who have been killed as a result of transphobia. The Governor also signed AB 421 by Assemblymember Christopher M. Ward (D-San Diego), which makes technical changes to the procedures for changing gender and sex identifiers on official documents, such as a marriage certificate.

California was the first state in the country to officially form a caucus of openly-LBGTQ state legislators and continues to lead in advancing policies that create safer, more inclusive communities. Governor Newsom has signed a number of measures to advance these efforts, including AB 493 to develop a training program for educators to better support LGBTQ youth; SB 932, which ensures comprehensive data collection to understand how COVID-19 is impacting the LGBTQ community; AB 2218 to establish the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund to provide grants for programs focused on trans-inclusive health care; AB 1094 to collect data on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identify in cases of violent death to help inform prevention efforts; and SB 1255 to end the practice of insurance companies discriminating against individuals because of their HIV status.

In 2020, the Governor appointed Justice Martin Jenkins to serve as the first openly gay man on the California Supreme Court, and this year appointed Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Andi Mudryk, the first openly transgender person to serve on the state’s judicial bench. Shortly after taking office, the Governor launched a new initiative to pardon people who were prosecuted in California for being gay.

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California

EDD recovers $1.1 billion in Unemployment Insurance funds

Recovery follows EDD’s recent thwarting of 47,000 potentially fraudulent claims worth up to $560 million across California

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The California Employment Development Department HDQTRS (Screenshot/ KGO-TV San Francisco)

SACRAMENTO – In another major step toward continuing to investigate fraudsters and recover unemployment insurance funds, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) today announced it has recovered $1.1 billion in unemployment insurance funds.

The recovered funds were located on approximately 780,000 inactivated benefit cards. Most of the recovered funds will return to the federal government because the fraudulent claims are from the emergency federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which was the primary target of fraud nationwide.

“Fraudsters and criminal organizations ripped off California, along with every other state, during one of the worst crises in history – we’re taking aggressive action to return that money to the taxpayers,” said Governor Newsom.

In July 2021, California hired McGregor Scott as EDD Fraud Special Counsel. Scott aids the state’s work with law enforcement to combat fraud—including supporting state, federal, and local investigations and prosecutions. Working with EDD, he has leveraged his experience to deliver leads and evidence to aid prosecutions and strengthen ongoing investigations.

“We will continue working with law enforcement to put fraudsters behind bars and recover every stolen dollar that we can,” Scott stated.

Today’s billion-dollar recovery furthers the monumental efforts of EDD and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to investigate and prosecute criminals who defrauded federal emergency unemployment benefit programs. Within the past 15 months, ​​total investigations, prosecutions, and dollars seized in the counties reporting information to the state  include:

  • Total investigations – 1,525
  • Arrests – 467
  • Money seized – $3,474,448
  • Convictions – 162

Other actions California has taken to strengthen its fraud fighting include:

  • Stopping over $125 billion in attempted fraud by deploying a new identity verification system, ID.me, in 2020 and partnering with Thomson Reuters to help detect and prevent UI and PUA fraud.
  • Setting up the 1099-G call center to help victims of identity theft deal with any tax related questions—work that answered 24,000 calls. Fraud can be reported by selecting Form 1099G in Ask EDD or calling 1-866-401-2849.
  • Working with Bank of America to issue chip-enabled debit cards that enhance security and to strengthen fraud-prevention strategies.
  • Working with the California Office of Emergency Services Fraud Task Force on over a thousand active investigations, arrests, and prosecutions across California.
  • Creating law enforcement investigative guides and offering technical assistance to law enforcement partners who are working fraud investigation cases.
  • Setting up designated regional contacts for each division of the state and working with any agency that needs assistance with an unemployment insurance fraud case.
  • Continuing to issue consumer scam alerts throughout the pandemic that warn about cell phone and email phishing schemes designed to steal personal information.

EDD runs one of the nation’s largest public benefit systems. Over 20 million people filed over 60 million unemployment, disability insurance, and paid family leave claims over the past decade. EDD prepared, printed and mailed 45 million documents to customers through the most recent fiscal quarters. EDD was mailing nearly 600,000 documents a day during the height of the pandemic.

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California

Newsom proclaims Juneteenth day of observance

“This Juneteenth, I urge all Californians to reflect on the ongoing cause of freedom for Black Americans” – Gov. Gavin Newsom

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Juneteenth flag raised over the State Capitol in Sacramento (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today proclaimed June 18, 2022, as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day: A Day of Observance” in the State of California.

PROCLAMATION

America does not only celebrate our independence on July 4. On June 19 each year, we look back to this day in 1865, on which Union General Gordon Granger led troops into Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the Civil War and the insidious institution of slavery. Thousands of enslaved people in Texas – among the last to learn of their independence – tasted hard-won freedom for the first time.

Over the next several decades, African-Americans who journeyed out of the South seeking better lives brought Juneteenth celebrations with them. The thousands who settled in California, especially in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, taught our state that America’s struggle for independence did not end in 1776 or 1865, but continues to this day.

This Juneteenth, I urge all Californians to reflect on the ongoing cause of freedom for Black Americans – remembering that, though General Granger’s announcement in 1865 called for “absolute equality,” that vision was, and remains, far from complete.

With the Juneteenth flag proudly raised over the State Capitol, let us celebrate how far we have come and take stock of how far we must go, and honor all those who have lived and died in pursuit of a more perfect union.

NOW THEREFORE I, GAVIN NEWSOM, Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim June 18, 2022, as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day: A Day of Observance.”

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 17th day of June 2022.

GAVIN NEWSOM
Governor of California

ATTEST:

SHIRLEY N. WEBER, Ph.D.
Secretary of State 

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