Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Change & Challenges in Communities of Faith

Across all denominations, LGBT people of faith are becoming more visible in their houses of worship, and working more than ever to make their congregations and communities of faith more welcoming. As our policy intern Christine Holcomb has pointed out here on the blog, some denominations are still struggling to fully open their doors and arms, yet others are making great strides, or being challenged by their own flock to take important steps toward embracing everyone.

Yesterday brought two stark examples of how far the LGBT community has come in some cases, and how much work is left to be done, in others.

In Norman, Oklahoma, our local PFLAG chapter was excited to announce on Monday that St. Stephen's United Methodist Church has joined the Reconciling Ministries Network, a group of LGBT-friendly congregations within the United Methodist denomination. St. Stephen's voted to change its Welcoming Statement to add gender identity and reached a unanimous decision to join the Network. In the past, St. Stephen's has marched with PFLAG Norman in the local pride parade and many congregants are actively involved with the chapter.

Yet, as our families in Norman celebrate the news from St. Stephens, yesterday also brought a reminder of how important it is to educate other houses of worship about including us.

In Salt Lake City, Affirmation, the national organization representing LGBT Mormons, showed up for a planned meeting with the Mormon church . . . only to find themselves the only ones to show up. Church officials, who agreed to the meeting in February, backed out. The group has attempted to meet with church leaders for 31 years.

On Top Magazine reported yesterday that, "Affirmation officials released to the public what they had hoped to have discussed with the LDS – a request for an affirming statement by the LDS on homosexuality at their next general conference, to have a prominent female leader tell mothers a child's homosexuality is not their fault and does not require curing, a request for a meeting with President Monson, extend an invitation for Monson to speak at the next Affirmation conference, and the possibility of jointly developing gay & lesbian training materials for LDS clergy."

"Affirmation has undertaken the heroic task of challenging the church to live up to the principle of 'love thy neighbor as thyself', and church leaders should meet with them and take steps towards makings everyone feel welcome," PFLAG told the magazine.

That important work, we know, will continue as Affirmation works to educate its church leaders about our families and our faith. The church, in turn, should sit down with the group - with an open mind and open ears - and remember that each of us are called upon to 'love thy neighbor as thyself.'

For complete coverage of yesterday's Affirmation press conference, visit On Top Magazine online.

No comments: