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Church leadership post for an openly gay Mormon
Mitch Mayne, who is openly gay, hopes his newly assumed Mormon leadership position will increase understanding.
September 24th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Church leadership post for an openly gay Mormon

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Early on in life, Mitch Mayne knew exactly who he was.

He would race home from school to watch reruns of “Star Trek” and swoon over his crush, Captain Kirk. At 8, after his parents converted, he was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith he embraced. Even after he drifted away from the LDS Church following his parents’ divorce, he came back to Mormonism on his own in his mid-20s.

It is where he feels spiritually at home, irrespective of the fact that, for the past 10 years, he’s been openly gay.

“I’m a man that lives in two worlds that a lot of people don’t think intersect,” Mayne said. “Both sides of myself exist in me. It’s part of my DNA, part of my makeup.”

Actively Mormon and openly gay: It's the sort of combo that might leave people wondering. After all, the LDS Church teaches that homosexuality, specifically if same-sex attractions are acted upon, is a sin. And the church has actively backed measures to ban same-sex marriages.

Now, Mayne finds himself in the spotlight as he embarks on a journey he says “belongs to all of us.” In mid-August he was selected, or called (as Mormons say) by local church officials to serve in an LDS Church leadership position in San Francisco.

Mayne’s appointment may have generated attention, but he’s not the first gay Mormon to assume a leadership role in the church.

In Seattle, Washington, and Oakland, California, gay men have reportedly served in LDS Church leadership roles, Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote in her piece about Mayne in The Salt Lake Tribune. What makes Mayne unique, Stack said, is that he "may be the first local LDS leader to announce his orientation over the pulpit.”

Late last month, from the pulpit, Mayne revealed - to anyone who didn't already know - who he is:

"I am a gay Latter-day Saint.

"I don't want pity. To pity me is to make me a victim. I want understanding. To understand me is to love me as an equal.

"I don't want tolerance. If I am tolerated, I am disliked in some way. I want respect as a fellow striving child of God - an equal in his eyes.

"I don't want acceptance. To accept me is to graciously grant me the favor of your company. To accept me is to marginalize me with the assumption that I am less than you. I am your peer. I am neither above you nor below you."

Mayne shared these words during a farewell address to the Oakland ward he long attended, amid an announcement that he would be leaving because he had been named the executive secretary to the bishop of the Bay Ward. It is a role in which he'll offer administrative help but also take part in shaping congregational work.

“While that’s not a big accomplishment in and of itself,” Mayne said, “it is a remarkable accomplishment for the simple fact that maybe for the first time, a man was called to a priesthood leadership position not in spite of the fact that he is gay, but partly because he is gay.”

For those unfamiliar with LDS Church vernacular, a ward is essentially a congregation or, to use Catholic terminology, a parish. Various wards fall under the auspices of a stake, the rough equivalent of a diocese. In this case, the Bay Ward is one of three wards that make up the San Francisco Stake.

The LDS Church, which entrusts local leaders to determine local callings, does not pay clergy, nor does it send would-be bishops to seminary. So Mayne, like the bishop who called him to serve, is a volunteer who works for the church on top of his full-time corporate communications job.

Don Fletcher, an ophthalmologist, said that when he was called last month to serve as the bishop and leader of the Bay Ward he wanted to make sure every Latter-day Saint in his ward knew they were welcome, including the vast majority who weren't showing up. Of the 950 members on the books, only 150 were appearing in the pews.

Because the Bay Ward serves a geographic area in San Francisco that includes the famously gay, rainbow-flag-waving Castro neighborhood, it stands to reason that a segment of those not attending church are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Among those who have been absent are members who grew up steeped in Mormonism, faithfully served as missionaries and have families still active in the church. For Fletcher, making members of the LGBT community feel comfortable enough to walk through his congregation's doors is personal.

Fletcher has a gay family member with AIDS and says he has seen firsthand how isolating that can be in the Mormon world.

“I love my church and have a lot of faith, but culturally we haven’t done a good job in dealing with people who are gay when they face life challenges,” whether that be coming out, depression or struggles with suicide or illness, Fletcher said. “I wanted to address it in the ward I live in.”

The response in his ward, and from other Mormons he has heard from, has been nothing but positive, "uniformly, no exception," the bishop said. And, he added with a laugh, in the past month he’s broadened his own knowledge – or, rather, his lingo base - learning about “the ‘Moho community,' Mormons who are homosexual. That was a new one to me.”

The LDS Church's top leadership, and by extension many Mormons sitting in pews, heavily supported the campaign behind Proposition 8, the 2008 California initiative to ban same-sex marriage, which is currently tied up in the state’s high court.

Church doctrine says members should avoid sexual relations until marriage, which only can exist between a man and a woman. But the church’s involvement in the Prop 8 battle, and the Mormons who financially fueled the effort, created rifts in wards, spawned protests outside LDS temples and pushed some members, likely already on the churchgoing fence, out the door.

The Oakland First Ward, which Mayne attended for more than a decade, held a series of meetings to help heal those post-Prop 8 wounds. He said he sees his new church position in San Francisco’s Bay Ward as an extension of such bridge-building and a positive evolution from where he once was. The appointment will allow him to do extensive outreach in the LGBT and Mormon communities.

“It’s been hard to be a gay Mormon,” Mayne said. In the course of his life, he said he came out "no less than three times to bishops and stake presidents, and each time I was pushed back into the closet. … This is an opportunity to take my own pain and challenges and make it an opportunity to help. How can I not do that?”

He and Fletcher have already seen dividends from Mayne's calling. On a recent Sunday, Fletcher said he looked out to see seven formerly absent members take their seats in the pews because Mayne is there.

“I talked to a couple that hadn’t been to church in 20 years,” Fletcher said. “I’m not reinventing doctrine. I’m just trying to put in place what Jesus Christ would have us doing. … Even if you’re in a gay relationship and have no interest in living all the commandments, you’re still welcome in church, by all means.”

The development has stirred up discussion far beyond California. In one week, Mayne said, his personal website, which links to a blog in which he writes openly about who he is, received 30,000 views from 67 countries.

“I’m not a lone wolf on this,” he said. “I just happen to be a face of it. … There is a place for everyone at our savior’s table.”

But not everyone is as confident that Mayne’s calling will make a difference.

“I’m conflicted about this,” said Eric Ethington of Salt Lake City, the founder of the LGBT blog PRIDEinUtah.

“On the one hand, I view this as a positive step forward for the church, a church that has a history of extreme persecutions against the LGBT community,” he said. “But on the other hand,  I worry about LGBT people … because the church teaches you that you cannot reach your full potential and have full acceptance in the church unless you marry someone of the opposite sex.”

Ethington was raised in the LDS Church and says he was kicked out of the house when he came out at 17. He later closeted himself and married a woman in an LDS temple, only to divorce a couple of years later after realizing he was kidding himself.

“I can’t share (Mitch’s) optimism, but I share his hope,” he said. “Whether the church is ever going to change its policies, that’s a question for (LDS Church President) Thomas Monson. But one thing I hope the church will do, and maybe Mitch can help with this, is educate local leadership. Some kids are gay. … And that’s OK.”

Ethington pointed out, though, that Mayne, who was in a longtime monogamous relationship until a year ago, was only able to get his church calling because he’s not currently with someone.

“If he falls in love again and wants to be with that man, he won’t be allowed to serve,” he said.

Matt Mosman, a high councilor with the San Francisco Stake, said that if Mayne were to find himself in another romantic relationship, there would be an expectation that he would step down.

But the expectation that Mayne will abstain from premarital sex while in a leadership role, Mosman added, is no different from what would be expected of a single man who is not gay.

“The idea that a gay man who is not currently active in a gay relationship could serve actively in a high-ranking calling – that is a policy in the Mormon church that you could argue has been around since the church’s inception,” said Mosman, who works in corporate development.

For now, Mayne looks forward to his service and to promoting conversations and understanding. He will not, however, commit to a life of celibacy and hopes, “for all my gay brothers and sisters,” that same-sex marriage will someday be an option.

“I’m not saying I have an intent to go out and sin,” he said. “Here’s where I am; I am able and willing to serve. But I don’t have a crystal ball and don’t know what the future holds.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Homosexuality • Mormonism • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (1,700 Responses)
  1. Yurijm Helfrichp

    All right this YouTube video is much enhanced than previous one, this one has fastidious picture feature as well as audio.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:45 am |
  2. Sana

    Larry and Kathryn,We continue to pray for you as you make your ppoaarrtiens for the big move. Thankful the new pastor has arrived. We are praying for the legal items to be secured. Your website is very nice!The Rings

    June 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  3. audrey

    get a life people! if you don't like it, leave it alone....simple. leave those who do believe in this church alone and go about your day! it's not You, so don't get all caught up in arguements and go about your own life! it's easier that way!

    June 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  4. eat dinner

    I think that is among the such a lot significant info for me. And i am satisfied reading your article. But want to observation on some normal things, The web site taste is ideal, the articles is really excellent : D. Just right job, cheers

    June 1, 2012 at 6:03 am |
  5. Sergei

    So what- a gay man is a secretary. I don't call that a "leadership" position. He's not leading anyone. He's a secretary. Mitch Mayne is so full of himself. Look at his blog. Every post, no matter what it's about, has a hue picture of him looking at himself. Now if you wrote an article about him and said "gay mormon is extremely arrogant" then I would know you were talking about Mitch Mayne.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  6. trxsuspension

    Hello. everyone.
    would like to make new friends with you guys.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  7. Adrianna

    No one seems to be quite understanding like they say they are. LGBT are BORN THAT WAY. They don't just "feel" that way, it's who they are and will always be. Why would someone create something they don't like and will send to "hell"? That makes no sense. Open your eye's people... even when you say that you support them you don't.. cause you turn around and say that you don't agree and say that the bible says they're bad and aren't going to "heaven". You can't do that.. that's not fair.

    November 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Shirley

    I also have a gay younger brother and we accept him unconditionally. At first, it is difficult for us to accept the truth but later on, we understand him and love him even more. Though we know that in the bible it says that "heaven is not allowing those who are trans gender" but there's nothing we can do 'coz it is how they feel. Let us just support them.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  9. Glenda

    I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for 50 years and first off let me say that anyone who says we are not Christian haven't paid attention to our name or been to our meetings which clearly teach of Him. We teach of Faith, Prayer, Virtue, Family, Individual Worth, I Love my religion, it is who I am it has given me knowledge, Peace, Friendships, and Uncomprehensible Joy. I also am the Mother of a Lesbian who is Amazing Beautiful, Creative, Smart, and very Loved by Everyone that knows her. She has taught me so much and doing anything but Love her Unconditionally would be unthinkable. Any parent who does not love their child who is LGBT or struggeling with anything else and disowns them should not consider themselves Christian because that is the Compassionate Unconditional Love the Savior has for them. I loved this story and though my church has a long way to go as does the world, things are definitely changing for the better of which I am grateful... for my daughter, myself and for Everyone?

    October 30, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Candice and Megan

      Can we click a like button? 🙂
      Thanks mom. We love you!
      Guess what!? I'm going with Megan's family to church tomorrow. 🙂

      October 30, 2011 at 4:44 am |
  10. Adrianna

    I grew up in the mormon church. I grew up learning that being LGBT is a SIN. I left the church after hearing the bishop answer a question concerning Gay people. He said that the church accepts LGBT's. BUT.... But they are NOT ALLOWED to act upon their feelings because it is a SIN to do so. I'm sorry, but that's pathetic. LGBT's are BORN THAT WAY. They did NOT choose to be that way. I find it appalling and offensive that they would say that they are "accepting". It's really, really sad because LGBT's go through so much already. Here's how I see it: They say that they accept everyone, no matter what, that way more people join.. the more people who join the more popular they become. It's about power and becoming the biggest religion the world has ever had. I have plenty of knowledge about the church to make those accusation. And I know them to very TRUE. Don't be fooled. It's unfair to be told that you are "accepted" but then be told that you are a sin. Think about it.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  11. David F

    The church has taken a correct stand. I find it interesting that this calling came in San Francisco while there are thousands of gay members worldwide. Will it take another 200 years for the church to make an outreach to other cities? I like the church's position, but it's a little too late.
    My main question is why did the church allow so many gay people to drift away because there was noone that would take them in and include them? I guess we wait and see how the san francisco saints deal with the situation.
    And eternity will have to make up for mortal mistakes on this part.

    October 9, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • kelly

      Actually David, it has occured in other areas. As the article stated, shere in the Northwerst, Seattle I have some very dear friends who have served in priesthood leadership positions. I have many wonderful friends who are both G/L. Some remain members of the church, while others have left. I think the thing that I hang onto is that our Heavenly Father knows our hearts. I am sorry that you have such a negitive feeling about the church that you needed to write your reason for leaving the church in capitals. As it denotes yelling. But, i pray that you are happy in the life you have chosen. That you continue to stay close to your Father in Heaven. That when the Holy spirit speaks to you, that you follow those promptings.

      Unlke you, I know this is the true church. Is it hard at times, yes. Are there things I dont understand, yes. Do I wish some things were different, yes. But, for me, I am going for the end result. Because i know that this life is only but a moment in the vast space of fime. God bless

      October 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Jane

    This can only help the Mormons.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  13. Tina

    It's kind of humorous that this move seems progressive and tolerant to some and completely un-newsworthy to others. As a lifelong, more liberal member, I have to say I'm in the latter camp. Most "leadership" posts in the Church have little to do with ministering to others as Jesus would do (something this Mitch guy might really be good at, given that he could probably offer compassion and empathy for those with big struggles in their lives). Rather, a "leadership" position, like a Ward or Stake Executive Secretary, is largely a bureaucratic, paper-shuffling job. So Church leaders have relegated him to paperwork minion while touting how much responsibility he has? LOL. Seems a bit disingenuous to me, personally. Still, if this guy is happy staying in the Church (a very gay-unfriendly organization) and finds it helps bring him closer to God, then good for him. (And good for the congregants who are glad to welcome each Sunday, as they ought to.) Different strokes for different folks, I say. I hope it continues brings him spiritual strength.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Tina

      That should read "welcome him" and "continues to". 🙂

      September 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Mike

      I do tend to agree it's a bit of a non-story, not to take away from Mr. Mayne's courage. That said, I wouldn't diminish the importance of his position. He plays a big role in helping the Bishop to do what you say Christ did in ministering to those in need and helping a Bishop organize his schedule so he can be a more effective leader and minister. It also helps that the church is so good with record keeping and holding coordinating meetings so that a bishop and stake president knows who is most in need of their attention. Yes the church can be a bit corporate in its organization, but it works well and helps those in ministering positions to stay organized and to be more effective in the use of their time. I happen to be an executive secretary to a stake president, and very little of my job is about paper shuffling but about helping the stake president to maximize his ability to reach out to members. With all of a bishop or stake president's responsibilities, he could not possibly hope to be effective at his job of reaching out to their congregations without an effective behind the scenes coordinator that takes a lot of the time burden off their hands. It's exactly the same as a president needing a good chief of staff to be most effective, though it's of course on a much smaller scale for a bishop ot s.p. Maynes' position is actually an important one and I wish him well with it–and express my hopes members will continue to act as true Christians by reaching out to him with love and acceptance.

      September 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  14. Argle Bargle

    Bleah!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  15. Marcus Rhodes

    'Mormons' are quite fond of reminding themselves that 'the prophet will never lead the church astray'. But the church is very clearly going astray, and has been from the day Joseph died. And, why? Because the members themselves lead it astray. God has also said that he will grant you the desires of your hearts, even unto your own destruction. And the scriptures are full of examples of this very thing. Well, pull up a chair, and enjoy the show.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Brother Foster

      I have to agree with you on this. It is one thing to welcome all whom want to attend services and share the word of God, but to allow someone that does not understand the doctrines of the church to take a leadership position is just plain backwards. It's like taking a car-wash employee and giving them an executive position at GM or Ford. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense.

      September 28, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • gerald

      Mormonism is not Christ's Church. The promise of Matt 16:18 is to the CC which traces back to Christ and the Apostles and has not caved on faith and morals.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Blue Bayou

      Uh, Gerald...you poor lamb. Too blinded by the understanding of men to see the truth. You go, girl.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • gerald

      Is it I that is too blind? Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail but the mormons say that they did over the church for 1700 or so years. There is no evidence of Mormonism or its remnants in the early church fathers. Only historical revisionism and a story about some golden plates and a translation through and urm and thumin that some how put out King James English and a book that has 60,000 words copied straight out of the bible allows one to believe that mormonism is true. The book of Mormon is a hoax. Sorry. It has people saying "bible, Bible, we've got bibles" 1000 years before there was anything called a Bible.

      September 29, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  16. blackcode1

    Hilarious. It appears that Mormonism, like the churches that came before, is moving right along the path to irrelevancy.
    Maybe soon god's senile mouthpiece will get that "special revelation" (backed by statistical analysis and political/financial research of course) that "gay is ok".

    September 28, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Mike

      I would dare so every Mormon prophet despite their age are as lucid, clear thinking and on the ball as religious ministers half their age. You've never heard them speak or read what they've written, that is clear by your calling them "senile." They are actually very smart men with a great deal of wisdom if you'd but open your ears and your heart to hear them. You sound just like the people of the Bible who attacked the prophets of the Old Testament, notably Noah, because of being taken with your own worldly wisdom–as you see it. Tune into the LDS General Conference this week. Channel 374 on DirectTV or on your local cable carrier since most now carry it. Listen to Thomas S. Monson, the current LDS Church leader. There is nothing senile about the man. I daresay he'd tax your energy if you spent the day with him.

      September 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  17. C.G.

    > "may be the first local LDS leader to announce his orientation over the pulpit.”
    Mayne is neither the first openly gay Mormon leader nor the highest ranking in the Oakland stake. There is a higher ranking leader in the Oakland stake who serves openly and talks about his orientation from the pulpit. This is a nice article, but it is hardly news, at least here in the bay area.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  18. Dave

    BS man, to let a person serve as a highranking member of the church should be unconditional. His ability to lead should speak volumes about him. His orientation should not be a factor! Then to tell this man that an openly gay person is needed as a flagship only if he's not in a committed relationship? hypocrisy at it's finest. Go LDS dimwits.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • jluc

      Except that leadership in the LDS church does not have anything really to do with ones ability to lead. Sometimes that can play a role but people are called based on worthiness (obedience to the commandments) and through inspiration. I think it's wonderful that his was an inspired call to serve those in his area who may benefit from his example and his understanding.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  19. Reality

    From p. 23:

    From p. 17:

    "Abrahamics" (that includes Muslims) believe that their god/allah created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    And of course, such monogamous relations should be called same s-ex unions not same s-ex marriages because of the following:

    From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, gay se-xual activity is still mutual masturbation caused by one or more complex se-xual differences. Some differences are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

    And yes, heteros-exuals practice many of the same "moves" but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  20. krisman47

    Listen; all you people out there who are raggin on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, you think you know the bible, you think you know what we believe, you think you know what is in the Book of Mormon. Here is your reality check. You Don't Know Diddley. You want to know?

    September 27, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Ryan

      Nope.

      September 27, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • gerald

      I am not mormon. Lived in Utah for 8 years and studied the mormon religion. I agree that the majority of comments on here are as bigoted as the claims that the mormon church is bigoted. While I do not agree with much of your religion, I do share your moral values in general and applaud your religion for the stands it takes. In this case I think they should cut this guy loose as he does not stand with the Church and is a wolf in sheeps clothing.

      September 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      geraldine sez: "I am not mormon." No, you aren't. You ARE, however, a moron. Get a clue, Cletus. You aren't the authority on anything at all.

      September 27, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Nephisux

      no

      September 28, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Jean Clelland-Morin

      I'm a 73 y.o. ex-Mormon and graduate of Brigham Young University. I want to "seminary" in high school. Why any rational person would want to believe what the church teaches is beyond me.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:13 am |
    • paul bauer

      well whtyher someone is lds or not why do you not agree on the bible with other christians....

      September 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • ironman1995

      well newflash, i was baptized in 1975, went on a mission, read the Book of Mormon 8 times, to have lasted that long i only had to do two things , close my ears and eyes,but last week i read a letter wrote to Gov George Romney of Mi, father to Mitt, it was Jan 1964, i could not believe it was from a Apostle, Elder Delbert Stapley, it sounded like something Gov George Wallace would write at that time in history, but it was from a special witness of Jesus Christ, telling the Gov not to support the civil rights movement,only few months back in Oct 1963 Apostle H B Brown read a statement in General Conferance , only after pressure from protesters in SLC UT ,within months after that Conf , another Apostle Elder Benson spoke out on the civil rights movement, in the Articles of Faith number 12 it states " we believe in being subect to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying , honoring , and sustaining the law, IAM A FORMER MORMON NOW, BECAUSE I HAVE OPENED MY EYES AND EARS AND HEART THAT THOSE LEADERS SINCE JOSEPH SMITH ARE SIMPLY MEN , NOT ANYTHING MORE THAN THAT, THIS ABOUT A OPEN GAY ,SAME AS CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE 60'S, PRESSURE, NOT THE TRUE CHURCH

      September 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • gerald

      God bless you tommy tom.

      September 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.