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National Religious Leadership Roundtable issues strong reaction to Washington Post article focused on condemnation of gay people

Date: 
November 17, 2006

Story should include the growth of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender welcoming churches

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 —  The National Religious Leadership Roundtable responded strongly to a recent Washington Post article titled 3 Christian Groups Move to Condemn Gay Sex, which examined and emphasized the exclusionary tactics of religious conservatives and recycled outdated stories about past struggles with the issue of homosexuality within the Baptist and Presbyterian denominations. The article gave the misimpression that these are new actions. They are not. What the article fails to do is take a closer look at the congregations that are welcoming and affirming of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, which in Protestant circles; such churches are increasing their numbers by about 10 percent per year.

Responses from members of the Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable

“The U.S. Catholic Bishops successfully squandered the modicum of moral authority on sexuality they had left with insulting guidelines on LGBT people and outmoded notions of heterosexuality. More to be pitied than scorned, they now vacate the ethical arena. They leave plenty of room for healthy, holy, sexually responsible people of diverse orientations who can discern moral wisdom quite well without them.”

–– Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.
Co-Director
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)

“The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a long tradition of social justice as integral to evangelism and ministry. Because of its roots within the Reformed tradition, Presbyterians often say its motto is ‘semper reformanda,’ meaning reformed, always reforming. The welcoming and affirming movement within the Presbyterian Church (USA) began in 1974 with the witness of one gay minister, Rev. David Sindt, and his supporters, known now as More Light Presbyterians. 
 
“In 1978 the General Assembly of our Church called for justice and the end of discrimination against gays and lesbians in civil society. West Park Presbyterian Church, New York City, became the first More Light Church in 1978 by offering a statement of welcome and acceptance to gays and lesbians. Today more than 500 Presbyterian churches offer welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) persons and their families. The 2006 General Assembly voted to offer options of conscience related to ordination of LGBT persons. Yesterday, charges were dismissed against Rev. Janet Edwards for conducting the wedding of a lesbian couple. 
 
“The strength and growth of pro-LGBT attitudes, ministries and churches within the Presbyterian Church (USA) blows through our Church like a Pentecostal fire illustrating that Presbyterians are getting it that the Gospel, the love of God and the Church are not for heterosexuals only. Old prejudices are dying and open hearts are the rule of the day in many Presbyterian churches as they joyfully embrace their LGBT sisters and brothers.”

— Dr. Michael J. Adee
National Field Organizer
More Light Presbyterians

“The North Carolina Baptist State Convention has disgraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ by moving to expel churches that ‘affirm,’ ‘approve’ or ‘bless’ same-sex relationships. This kind of language and church legislation goes beyond controversy. It is rhetoric that condones violence. These words kill. Furthermore, if the NC Baptist State Convention expels welcoming and affirming congregations it will be severing itself from its most vital, healthy, energetic, Christ-centered, peace-loving, justice-seeking congregations.

“Many Baptist lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people defy the darkness and hiddenness of night and live openly in the light. Many withstand negativity every day with courage and hope, and refuse to be invisible and silent any more. They will not surrender their faith or the practice of it. And they are thrilled and grateful to find Baptist congregations which welcome and affirm them, bless their holy unions, and release them to serve in public leadership.
 
“The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB, www.wabaptists.org) has 65 member congregations nationwide which publicly endorse all church members without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity, and advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT persons within Baptist communities of faith. Any churches disfellowshipped from the NC Baptist State Convention may find a home with AWAB and with its affiliate, The Alliance of Baptists (www.allianceofbaptists.org).”
 

— Rev. Kenneth L. Pennings
Executive Director
Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists


“The article in the Washington Post does two things. It puts the emphasis on exclusionary tactics and it gives the impression that these are new actions. Neither is true. In fact, the U.S. Catholic Bishops statement plows no new ground; it simply seeks to put a kindler and gentler face on old bigotry and bad theology. The trial of Rev. Janet Edwards in the Pittsburgh Presbytery is one in a long line of attempts within the Presbyterian tradition to silence the voice of justice and love. Like the other trials, this one was dismissed just yesterday. And the actions of the North Carolina Baptist Convention have been in the works for many months. Unfortunately, they too stand in a long line of ‘disfellowshiping’ congregations that seek to be a voice for God’s extravagant welcome.
 
“But the real news story, the real focus of this article should be on the fact that the life and growth within the Christian churches are within the congregations that have adopted a welcoming and affirming stance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks.  The numbers of these congregations are increasing by more than 10 percent in many traditions and the individual congregations are experiencing faster membership growth and better stewardship numbers than their non-welcoming counterparts.
 
“These individual congregations know what many others are learning — to open yourself up to the power of love and justice and speaking truth to power results in a kind of energy and new life that those rooted in fear and dogma cannot begin to imagine.”


— Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
Program Director
Institute for Welcoming Resources
A project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.