HRC Blog

HRC Equality Bus Stops in Louisville

Post by Joanna Blotner, Relgion and Faith Program Coordinator.

HRC events in Louisville, KY got off to a rainy but inspiring start this morning. A group of nearly 50 clergy and lay leaders from across Louisville’s diverse faith community gathered bright and early at Highland Baptist Church to discuss LGBT inclusion in faith communities and to catalyze the formation of a Faith Leaders for Fairness Coalition in Louisville and ideally growing into a statewide network of people of faith who support fairness.

This morning’s event was a two-part forum beginning with a panel presentation and moving into workshop discussions.  Each of the panelists spoke to their own experiences, challenges and success doing justice in the faith community for LGBT inclusion. Rev. Joseph Phelps, Senior Pastor at Highland Baptist Church, addressed the balancing act and processes that often go into congregational navigating justice priorities; Rabbi David Ariel-Joel of The Temple spoke to the example of the Reform Jewish movement which has been ordaining LGBT rabbis and marrying LGBT couples for well over a decade and the positive impacts of inclusively.  Father Michael Mernagh of Anamchara Faith Community discussed some of the struggles around LGBT issues in the Catholic community and implored the audience to hold certain faith leaders accountable for the vitriol directed at the LGBT community and the devastating impact that has had upon queer youth (and others!); Rev. Jeff Smith, one of the spiritual leaders of Open Door Community Fellowship, provided excellent insight into the work that is needed around acceptance in African American faith communities and about the importance of serving as an agent of change by simply being out.  Ms. Holly Knight, who leads the local transgender support and activism group Sienna, facilitated the panel.

During the breakout sessions – one focused on building a welcoming congregations and the other focused on putting faith into action and activism – participants had the opportunity to dig deeper with their fellow community leaders about the next steps needed for a religious coalition that will advance inclusion and fairness in Kentucky.  The tremendous energy, enthusiasm and wealth of ideas in the room was exactly what was and is needed to support a Faith Leaders for Fairness coalition.

This important event could not have been possible without the vision and leadership of Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard who leads the True Colors Ministry at Highland Baptist and Revs. Derrick Penwell and Ryan Kemp-Pappan of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church.  I'm excited to work with all these leaders to take the next steps in organizing and empowering the work of Kentucky's Faith Leaders for Fairness!

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