Religious Leaders Are Stepping up to Welcome the LGBTQ+ Community

Some religious leaders are taking a stand to say that LGBTQ+ people have a place in their house of worship.

Last December, more than 370 religious leaders from around the world called for a ban on conversion therapy — the attempt to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The signatories to the declaration represent all the world's major faiths, and many are known LGBTQ+ advocates.

Signatories include South African cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland David Rosen. The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, and Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland, are also among those who have signed the declaration.

The practice of conversion therapy, which can range from electric shock treatment to religious teachings or talking therapies designed to change someone's sexuality, is already outlawed in Switzerland and areas of the U.S., Australia, and Canada.

Several LGBTQ+ faith leaders are at the forefront of rising acceptance within the religious community:

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons is a gay man and a deacon at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky who told the Center for American Progress that “identifying as both a Christian and a gay man makes me deeply committed to the work of collective liberation,” he said. “I’ve come to fully accept myself in the fullness of both identities. This recognition of my own God-given dignity is also a calling to recognize the same dignity
of all people.”

Reverend Nancy Petty is an openly lesbian pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, a church that has been LGBTQ+-affirming for more than 25 years, a position which led to its exclusion from the Raleigh Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and the Southern
Baptist Convention. 

After the church was excluded from these groups, its membership actually increased, as both LGBTQ+ people and their allies became aware of the presence of a welcoming and affirming church community, she told the Center for American Progress.

Mahdia Lynn

Mahdia Lynn is a disabled transgender Shi’a Muslim woman who serves as the co-founder and executive director of Masjid al-Rabia, a mosque in Chicago that commits to being LGBTQ+-affirming, anti-racist, accessible, and woman-centered.

“You can live true to Islam while remaining inclusive and affirming and be a part of a justice-facing community that is feminist, that is affirming, that is uncompromising in its inclusivity,” she told NPR.

Reverend Frederick Davie

Reverend Frederick Davie is a gay Black man and ordained Presbyterian minister who serves as executive vice president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He was previously appointed to former President Barack Obama’s White House Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where he provided strategies on relationships between government and religious social services organizations, issues of religious liberty, and partnerships with state, county, and
city officials. 

Having inclusive religious communities is more important than ever because nearly half of LGBTQ+ people are religious, according to an October 2020 report from the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.

According to the authors of the report, the 5.3 million religious LGBTQ+ adults in America “are found across the age spectrum, in every racial-ethnic group, among married and single people, among those who are parenting, and among rural and urban dwellers.”

The findings surprised lead author Kerith J. Conron, research director at the Williams Institute, considering how unwelcoming most churches have been toward LGBTQ+ people historically, she told NBC News. Plus, even non-LGBTQ+ Americans have cited their church’s treatment of the gay community as part of the reason they’ve left, she said.

Through continued community-building and advocacy, LGBTQ+ faith leaders and community members will push forward toward true freedom, acceptance, and equality for all people.

Article Details

April 30, 2021

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