Our Faith, Our Families, Our Communities: Building a Brighter Future for Our Youth
October 17, 2011 by Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program
On Oct. 16th, 75 people gathered in Nashville for our road to equality forum: Our Faith, Our Families, Our Communities: Building a Brighter Future for Our Youth. We met at the beautiful Belmont United Methodist Church, where Rev. Pam Hawkins welcomed us and offered a moving invocation. After a discussion and film showing featuring the groundbreaking work of the Family Acceptance Project, I moderated a discussion with panelists: Dr. Monique Moutrie, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and African American Studies at Western Kentucky University; Melissa Gordon, community organizer with Urban EpiCenter and Highlander Research and Education Center; Duncan Teague, M.Div., long time HIV/AIDS activist and ministerial intern at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church; Robbie Maris, student at Belmont University and leader in the student group, “Bridge Builders;” and Rev. Judi Hoffman, pastor from Edgehill United Methodist Church.
The discussion brought imaginative and inspiring new insights into the relationship between faith, families and communities. Rev. Judi Hoffman from Edgehill United Methodist Church captured the sentiment in the room most succinctly when she declared acceptance is for her just the starting point and that our religious institutions need to be about celebrating our diversity “My salvation, she told us, “speaking out of my own faith tradition, is tied to the salvation of all of us.” Only when our religious institutions embrace our rich diversity are we truly doing the work of salvation.
In response to a question about scripture and LGBT lives the panel resonated with Dr. Monique Moultrie’s claim that we always need to come back to “what is God calling us to do?” Bringing religious voices together to speak about the challenges, the profound possibilities and gifts that people of faith bring to our movement for equality feels to me like a calling. I remain profoundly grateful and moved by the work of religious people I have met throughout our bus tour. These are people working to create what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King termed the Beloved Community, where all of us can break bread together at the table of hospitality and fellowship.
This event was created in collaboration with our cosponsors: Vanderbilt Divinity School's Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality; Belmont United Methodist Church, Vanderbilt Divinity School's Student group GABLE; and the Tennessee Equality Project. Special thanks go to former HRC staff member, Laura Rossbert, who was the linchpin for the event’s overwhelming success.
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