HRC is encouraged by recent signs that leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are positively evolving on their treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and the issues important to them."A recent news report by National Public Radio (NPR) indicates that a growing number of influential SBC leaders are expressing the importance of treating LGBT individuals with respect and dignity.
“We appreciate the openness emerging from some in the Southern Baptist Convention. We are ready and willing partners for such dialogues,” said HRC Religion and Faith Program Director Sharon Groves. “We are willing to meet anyone with an open heart.”
In the NPR report, Pastor Jimmy Scroggins of Florida says LGBT people are “sitting in his pews and shouldn't be the butt of preacher humor.”
According to a 2010 study by the Association of Religious Data Archives, there are more than 18 million SBC members across the United States. The heaviest congregations in the Deep South are located in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. A recent survey conducted for HRC by Anzalone Liszt Grove --the largest survey of its kind on the needs, experiences and priorities of LGBT people in the South—shows that only a quarter of LGBT people can comfortably share their life experiences with their respective religious leaders and fellow members.
“Dialogue doesn't mean agreement. But, if we are going to make life better for all in our community, including our LGBT friends and family members, we need to start talking to one another,” said Groves.
Last month, the HRC launched Project One America, an effort to expand equality in Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. The community-based program focuses on building lasting relationships with people in the Deep South, including leaders and members of religious institutions.