Affirmation members at the Creating Change Conference in Minneapolis
Greetings from cold but beautiful Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Executive Committee has been meeting here this past week, and hearing one message very loudly and clearly: that the LGBT community is no longer willing to cede our faith values to the conservative fundamentalist right.
We are in Minneapolis for the 2011 Creating Change Conference. Creating Change is an annual event, attended each year by over 2500 of the top LGBT leaders in the country. This is the third year that Affirmation has been a part of Creating Change.
For as long as anyone can remember, the far right has claimed ownership of faith values, often using the Bible, the Qur’an, the Torah, and the Book of Mormon to teach hatred or fear of their gay brothers and sisters. And in most cases, the queer community has gone along, with many rebelling against both organized religion and worship practices. But now things have changed. Many followers of the right are rejecting the values of extremism, moving away from the mega-churches and going to denominations and to congregations that are centered more around love than hate, that are smaller and more personal. At the same time, many gay men and women are returning to their spiritual roots, finding a home in the constantly increasing number of welcoming and accepting congregations. You can see this even in our own church, where a significant number of wards now welcome LGBT members, assigning them callings, and appreciating the unique perspectives and experiences that we can bring to the table. Whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or whatever, we are taking back our faith values and, in so doing, taking the higher moral ground.
When Jerry, a 40-something with a husband, a cockatoo, and a great condo in the city, came out of the closet twenty years ago, he knew that he had a choice, that he could be openly gay, living a full and honest life as the person that he was, and be excommunicated, or that he could stay in the closet and remain a member of the church, knowing full well that the day could easily come when he would make the lives of his wife and children a nightmare when the charade was no longer sustainable. When he left the church, after a failed attempt at so called “reparative therapy,” he left it completely. His memories of that experience are almost all negative.
When Kurt, who is 22, discovered that he was gay four years ago, it was not a big deal. Explaining things to his mother was a little awkward, but ended up being a pretty positive experience, and most of his friends claim that they knew before Kurt did. Kurt never saw a need to choose between his church and his sexuality. Today he and his boyfriend attend a ward near their university and are planning their wedding for this fall. Kurt is the ward organist, and Bill teaches the Gospel Doctrine class.
A question that was posed in one of the roundtable sessions was, “When the LDS Church does finally accept gay and lesbian members into full fellowship, should someone who has been away from the church because they did not feel welcomed or safe: (a) continue to stay away, (b) go back to a defective church that has previously caused them hurt, or (c) go back to a church that is better and stronger because they are now a part of it? Although it may sound a bit flippant at first, when you begin to think about it, there are some significant considerations here. I would like to hear your thoughts.
Congratulations to Affirmation Board member Sam Wolfe, who scored a significant victory for LGBT student rights as the lead attorney representing Minnesota teens Sarah Lindstrom and Desiree Shelton, who wanted to attend their high school Snow Days Pep Fest as a couple.
And congrats also to a good friend of Affirmation, Rev. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, who was named by President Obama this week to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and neighborhood partnerships. (). You will be able to meet both Sam and Nancy at this year’s Affirmation Conference in September in Kirtland and Cleveland, Ohio.
Have a great week. The groundhog failed to see his shadow on Wednesday, so hopefully an early spring is on its way.
With hope, faith, and love,
Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons