Summer Heats Up with Churches Debating LGBT Issues
In the past few weeks the Los Angeles Times, Charisma Magazine and the Toledo Blade published overviews on the various summer conventions where Protestant denominations will be engaged in debating LGBT inclusion. We here at GLAAD thought we'd share these and other highlights of the summer:
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH USA
Presbyterians worked diligently and strategically to garner prayerful support for a constitutional amendmenton equal ordination. Passed by the General Assembly in 2007, and voted by each Presbytery over the last six months, LGBT supportive groups pulled GLAAD in around communications support as they shaped a message of inclusion for all God's baptized and called people. With a 49% to 51% popular vote and unprecedented numbers of regional presbyteries supporting equality, messages like "historic levels of support" showed up in both mainstream and opposition media. Even though the proposed constitutional amendment for equality did not pass, articles with positive messages were carried nationwide in both the Religion News Service and The Associated Press wire services.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
July 8-17, in Anaheim, Calif., bishops and elected deputies gathered for the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention will consider dozens of resolutions to move their denomination beyond its de facto moratorium on additional LGBT bishops and forward on civil and ecclesiastical marriage equality. Furthermore, among these resolutions are four in support of transgender equality, marking a first in the convention's history. The convention's process will be impacted by a recent controversy in which a committee chair refused to publish the names of a panel of theologians who were appointed to prepare a paper on same-sex relationships in the life of the church. In addition, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and primary leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion will visit General Convention and is expected to pressure the Episcopal Church to halt its progress on LGBT inclusion.
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
After eight year process of drafts, hearings and revisions, the Social Statement on Human Sexuality, itsImplementing Resolutions and separate recommendations for ministry policies will go before the biennial Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Minneapolis on August 17-23. Lutherans will be taking several votes which could allow congregations to appoint ministers who are in committed same-gender relationships. Social statements require a 2/3 majority vote and are the basis for policy-other resolutions and recommendations only need a simple majority. Even if the Social Statement fails, other recommendations could still open the door, so opponents are strategizing to change the rules to require a 2/3 vote on all sexuality-related items, even though two previous such attempts having failed. Lutherans Concerned/North America is part of the Goodsoil coalition that is preparing for advocacy on the votes on these documents and is working with GLAAD to amplify their message in mainstream media.
REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA
Reformed Church in America (RCA) pastors and elders continued the conversation around gay equality at the 2009 General Synod on June 3-9. Members of pro-LGBT group, Room for All, were telling their stories as the discussion, which has been ongoing for thirty years, continued. A mid-point document for the most recent conversation is online. Significantly, the RCA voted to make the Belhar Confession a fourth doctrinal confession. Written in 1982 in response to Apartheid, it concludes, "Therefore, we reject any ideology which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel." The General Synod delegates will look at how the Belhar's relates to gay and lesbian justice. To revisit the Synod you can visit the blog.
To reopen dialogue about welcoming LGBT people, a group of young Mennonites are making their presence known at the Mennonite Church USA Assembly, June 30 - July 5 in Columbus, Ohio, by asking supporters to wear pink to highlight the discrimination in the denomination against gay and lesbian Mennonites. Also, several pastors issued a Lenten open letter to the Mennonite Church calling for confession and healing in the church's relationship with LGBT people. Many of the 1,300 signers will offer hospitality and seminars at the Assembly this summer,
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
The UCC Coalition's June 22-25 2009 gathering kicks off the UCC weeklong General Synod in Grand Rapids, MI. The UCC is the leading mainline denomination that supports full equality for LGBT people, and the UCC General Synod will consider many resolutions. One such resolution will work for "Affirming Diversity/Multi-cultural education in Public Schools" and hopes to lay the groundwork for an ecumenical partnership to support this crucial work.
Unitarian Universalists will be meeting June 24-28, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Leaders from their United Nations office, which now has a staff person designated for LGBT work, will bring a resolution to protest the targeting of gay men in Iraq for murder in the streets. The former mayor of Salt Lake City will be honored for his human rights work and the president of the board for the UU United Nations office is a former Mormon and will reflect on her journey from there to being a Unitarian.