Sea Change in the Churches
Back in June, we published a round up of LGBT issues on the docket for a cluster of denominations. The result was a sea change in the churches. Here are the exciting results:
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH USA
The Presbyterian Church USA led the way this summer as it voted on a constitutional amendment on ordination equality. Ratification by the required half of the 173 regional presbyteries was not expected so LGBT faith leaders worked with GLAAD to keep the focus on “growing support.” Early in the voting, regions like North Carolina, Alabama, Texas and Arkansas voted for equality. GLAAD helped LGBT Presbyterians blast an early media release through Religion News Service which laid emphasized messages of “growing support” and “churches are changing” to shape coverage of all LGBT church stories. When the vote was final, four LGBT Presbyterian groups worked with GLAAD on a media release. The Associated Press carried the “change” message nationwide.
Young LGBT and allied Mennonites made national news for the first time ever as they protested anti-LGBT policies and practices in the Mennonite Church. GLAAD helped young and old alike to get their voices into media. Wearing pink and prepped with talking points, young people expertly used the media to tell the Mennonite Church USA Assembly, June 30 – July 5, in Columbus, Ohio, that youth are leaving the church because of discrimination against LGBT church members. Hundreds of Mennonite pastors signed an open letter calling Mennonites to heal the harm done to LGBT people.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
In July, bishops and elected deputies gathered for the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention in Anaheim, California, where they bravely moved forward, despite high-profile opposition, to approve a resolution to officially allow ordination of gay and lesbian priests. They affirmed that God could call anyone to ordination, including people in same-sex marriages or partnerships. Shortly after the ban was lifted, two Episcopal dioceses announced the nomination of openly gay and lesbian priests for bishop. The Convention also recognized transgender rights and inclusion, and delegated the task of proposing blessing rites for same sex-couples.
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
The watershed event of the summer was when the mother church of Protestantism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, voted for inclusion at their biennial Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis on August 17-23. After decades of struggle, the body was ready to vote on an inclusive Social Statement on Human Sexuality as well as ministry policies that allow clergy to be in committed same-sex partnerships. After defeating an attempt to change the voting rules, the body took on the Social Statement on Human Sexuality. For passage it required 2/3 of the 1000 plus voting delegates to support it. When the electronic vote was projected, people gasped. The vote was precisely 66.67%. Expert long-term strategies by the LGBT Lutheran coalition combined with GLAAD’s spokesperson training and media pitching helped bring about these mounmental changes. When the third and final vote was taken on LGBT concerns, the ELCA put the icing on the cake by dropping the celibacy requirement for gay clergy and allowing clergy to be in same-sex unions. Change happened!
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
The United Church of Christ, the first mainline denomination to support full equality for LGBT people, held its General Synod in June. At the weeklong event, UCC representatives approved a resolution to support diversity education in public schools and to encourage other denominations to build ecumenical support for basic respect for all people, including LGBT individuals and families.
The Unitarian Universalist United Nations office, which now has a staff person designated for sexual orientation and gender identity work, initiated an action of immediate witness against the ongoing violence targeting gay men and lesbians in Iraq. With hundreds of victims in recent years, the church is raising awareness and actively encourages advocacy on the issue.