HRC Blog

Faith, Family & Acceptance at Philander Smith College

This post comes from Donna Payne, Associate Director of Diversity

The bus tour continued their presence with a panel discussion on Faith, Family and Acceptance at the Historical Black College& University (HBCU), Philander Smith College.  The event was attended by 100 people and co-sponsored with HRC, Just Communities of Arkansas and Philander Smith College.   Enthusiasm is the best word to describe the audience’s openness to having this discussion about the crossroads facing faith communities and families when learning to accept the LGBT people in their lives.  The panelists were Greg Adams of the Little Rock School Board & Director of Palliative Care Service; Frederick Gentry, Assistant to Little Rock City Board of Directors; Andrea Gomez, Youth Program Director of Just Communities; Rev. Wendell Griffen, Pastor of New Millennium Church;  Anna Hearne, graduate student at University of Cincinnati;  Mary Lou Walner, Co-Founder of TEACH Ministries.  The Welcome was given by Philander Smith’s new Director of Social Justice, Dr. Joseph Jones.  The conversation started with prayer by Rev. Maxine Allen, AR Conference of UMC Ministers of Ethnic Ministries and followed by HRC’s Donna Payne delivering the importance of having this faith and family dialogue.

There is a tremendous amount of evidence that shows a higher rate of family rejection is significantly associated with higher rates of attempted suicide, depression, substance abuse, and unprotected sexual intercourse.  When families and faith communities practice learning to accept the LGBT people in their lives just a little, it goes a long way to decreasing negative outcomes.   Ruth Shepherd, Executive Director of Just Communities, challenged the panelist to tell what has occurred in each of their lives because they have either stood up for LGBT person  OR they have experienced the journey of coming out in the faith community.  Mary Lou Walner spoke from a parent’s perspective about losing a daughter through suicide and working with the film, “The Bible Tells Me So” to make sure others know now they are loved by God.  Frederick Gentry discussed his journey of accepting his own sexuality in a public city position.  Andrea Gomez talked about her Latino/a family accepting her bisexuality while working through their Catholic beliefs.  Rev. Griffen addressed the Black Church’s religious conservatism thought on sexual orientation and informed many young black attendees that if they are hearing condemnation from their church, remember “God’s love is portable.”  You can find another Black church that respects and loves you.

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