HRC Blog

Divine Intervention? Conflicted Faith Leaders Take Bold Steps to Support LGBT People

Post submitted by Michael Toumayan, HRC Religion and FaithProgram manager 

“Today I want to say as a Christian, as a priest, to all the LGBTI community, I am deeply sorry for our part as religious people, in the pain you have experienced acrossthe ages. I have a dream that in my lifetime, I will hear all the leaders of all our great faith traditions making the same apology.”

That was part of a powerful closing homily delivered by Fr. Michael Lapsley before the World Council of Churches gathering. It was met with a warm applause from the 5,000 people who arrived in South Korea's second city, Busan, from all around the world to assess and plan the journey for the ecumenical grouping that represents some 560 million Christians.

Fr. Lapsley pleaded with the world’s Christian heads, “Do we believe that Revelation ended with the closing of the Canon of Scripture or does the Holy Spirit of God continue to lead us into all truth? Where is the cutting edge of the ecumenical movement going forward – however controversial it may be?”

Meanwhile, 7,000 miles west of Busan, clergy from the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Philadelphia are promising that they will no longer inflict pain in the lives of LGBT people. We see this in the action of nearly 50 clergy who gathered at Arch Street UMC, in an act of Biblical Obedience, to perform the wedding of Bill Gatewood and Rick Taylor. We see this as Bishop Talbert, a retired United Methodist Bishop, performed the wedding of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince in October of this year. We see this in vigils across the country in support of Rev. Frank Schaefer who will be on trial in The UMC on November 18-19th for performing same-sex wedding of his son out of profound love of his son..

The UMC doctrine accepts openly LGBT church members, but official Church law bars openly LGBT pastors and the blessing of same-sex marriages. Reconciling Ministries Network has been working for decades in UMC to free individuals, congregations, and the denomination itself from anti-inclusion discrimination.

In another clear shift in the decades-long debate over LGBT equality, last week the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) joined a broad interfaith coalition in support of ENDA on “the fundamental premise that every human being is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.” This has prompted a widespread Muslim American support of ISNA’s unprecedented move.

Indeed, conservative religious discourse on LGBT people is increasingly being framed within the contours of human dignity. Despite silence on sexual orientation and gender identity at the WCC Assembly, one of the newly elected presidents, His Holiness, Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, reminded the participants that “to regard our fellow human beings, without exception, in the full dignity and holiness of their personhood.”

Fr. Michael Lapsley concluded, “Much more importantly, I hope that in my own tiny way, I can be a sign that stronger than evil and hatred and death are the forces of justice, kindness, gentleness and compassion - of peace - of life - of God.”

To read the full homily, visit website of WCC 10th Assembly

To learn more about HRC’s Religion and Faith Program, go to hrc.org/religion

 

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