Big faith moments of 2014

The theme of LGBT people and faith continued through 2014 with milestones, setbacks, and the addition of new allies. Take a look at some of GLAAD's biggest LGBT moments from 2014.

Covering LGBT People and Faith

GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation released "In Focus: Faith, LGBT People, & the Midterm Elections,” a groundbreaking resource guide that empowers journalists to challenge anti-LGBT talking heads who mask bias as a "tenet of faith." The guide was designed to help the media provide accurate information about LGBT people and faith in the lead up to the 2014 midterm elections.

Faithful New Allies

2014 also saw several new and outspoken allies to the LGBT community. In July, GLAAD broke the news that Yvette Cantu Schneider, one of the leaders of both the anti-LGBT and "ex-gay" movements, was renouncing her involvement with both movements, and calling for a ban on "ex-gay therapy" for minors. Yvette worked with GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper, who asked her tough questions about her time with the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and California's Prop 8 campaign. Yvette released her own statement, speaking about how she has grown and changed since being an "ex-gay" spokesperson. Yvette later went on to join several other former ex-gay leaders in signing an open letter, denouncing the harmful practice.

Another high profile ally came in the form of His Holiness, the Gyalwang Drukpa, who visited the GLAAD office to share his call to "Live to Love." The Gwalwang Drukpa is the Buddhist spiritual leader for much of the subcontinent of Asia. GLAAD created and shared a video of His Holiness speaking about against anti-LGBT laws in India and elsewhere around the world. Also, check out photos of the visit!

The Roman Catholic Saga

One of the most closely followed and twisting faith stories of 2014 was the Vatican's relationship with LGBT people. In May, Carl Siciliano, a Roman Catholic and former monk who runs NYC's LGBT homeless youth center, The Ali Forney Center, published an open letter to Pope Francis in a full page ad in The New York Times. The letter calls for the Pope to end Church teachings that categorize 'gay conduct' as a sin and to educate Pope Francis and the public about how the Church negatively influences parents of LGBT youth, as well as the devastating harms that such parental rejection can have on LGBT youth.

While the letter went unanswered, the Vatican did call together hundreds of delegates to the Vatican for the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family. LGBT advocates were given a glimmer of hope at the conference, as a couple of LGBT affirming parents addressed the synod. But what gathered the most attention was draft language for a statement on marriage and family that stated that gay and lesbian people "have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community." However, this draft was quickly denounced by anti-LGBT activists, and no pro-LGBT language was included in the final draft.

The Vatican then followed up the Extraordinary Synod with a gathering dedicated solely to the "complementarity of man and woman."  This was mainly a gathering of the leading anti-LGBT figures, including those who were not Catholic. This gathering, as GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper noted, had a much more anti-LGBT tone and quality.

What does that mean for Pope Francis? That's a little more difficult to say. At the Extraordinary Synod, he appeared to be advocating for the more inclusive language. He concluded the synod with a homily in which he stated that "God is not afraid of new things." He also reassigned Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Bishop of St. Louis and prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, who has been outlandish and outspoken in his opposition to LGBT acceptance, as the patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta. His last major anti-LGBT quote before being reassigned was that children should be "protected" from "exposure" to LGBT family members.

Meetings and Conferences about LGBT People

The Vatican wasn't the only religiously-themed conference on LGBT people. At around the same time, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention held a conference, which they titled “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” As Jeremy Hooper noted, while the official theme of the conference was "religious liberty," most of the speakers were leading anti-LGBT activists, and the event included a standing ovation for florists who refused to sell flowers for a gay couple. However, the biggest story to come out of the meeting was a series of closed-door meetings between Southern Baptist leaders and pro-LGBT Christian leaders. And the tone of the closing speech was markedly different from the opening, with Russell Moore denouncing the harmful practice of so-called ex-gay therapy.

Following the Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic conferences, The Reformation Project held opportunity for all Christians who want to advance the dignity of LGBT people, especially Christians in non-affirming churches, denominations, or communities who seek to have more loving, fruitful, and informed conversations with non-affirming friends and family members. The Reformation Project is headed by Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian.

Responding to Anti-LGBT Faith Claims

But even in 2014, anti-LGBT faith leaders said outlandish and extremist things about LGBT people, and LGBT people and allies spoke up. In Harlem, New York, GLAAD worked with LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent to place an ad in response to an offensive church sign that was making the rounds in the media. GLAAD's Ross Murray, wrote commentary about the viral video of a family using their Christian faith to disown and assault their son. Ross wrote that the message this family was taught was not a Christian message, but one that bears "bad fruit." "If we encounter preaching and teaching that this sort of discrimination is acceptable, or even desirable, we have a duty to call it the false teaching that it is. Calling out bad theology isn't anti-Christian. In fact, it may be exactly what Christianity needs to survive and even thrive in this day and age." That disowned son, Daniel Pierce, eventually raised and donated nearly $100,000 for an LGBT youth homeless shelter in Atlanta. He also made an appearance at the GLAAD Atlanta event.

Increasing Affirming Spaces

But more and more communities are becoming safe places for LGBT people. The Presbyterian Church (USA) approved a motion to make language about marriage more inclusive of gay and lesbian couples at its General Assembly in June. GLAAD worked closely with More Light Presbyterians to break the news and bring it to the nation's attention.

GLAAD also helped boost the work of the Level Ground Film Festival, an arts festival in its second year organized around the themes of gender, faith and sexuality.  You can read a post about GLAAD's work with the festival here.  You can visit the festival website here.

Finally, The Minneapolis Star Tribune highlighted the campers who attended The Naming Project Summer Camp, a groundbreaking summer camp that is a safe haven for Christian youth of all sexual and gender identities run by GLAAD's Ross Murray. In the Star Tribune article, many campers expressed what the camp means to them. Farley, a transgender 16 year old, said "It's such a feeling of coming home."