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Thursday, February 3, 2011

National Conference on LGBT Equality focuses on faith

By Coralie Jensen -

The National Conference of LGBT Equality started wednesday at the Hilton Minneapolis, Minnesota, emphasizing a number of issues involving faith. According to the conference website, the 5-day conference is intended for young and old activists, organizers and activists of color, paid and unpaid staff people at LGBT political and community organizations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex advocates and straight allies, elected officials, and leaders of campus communities and local community centers.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Episcopal Church have been at the forefront of ordaining gay and lesbian clergy while other Protestant churches are leaning in the direction, but most of the successful battles that have taken part in traditionally white, middle-class denominations.The fact that the movement is a white one can be disturbing to other groups, trying to influence their churches. The AP announced that Nicole Garcia will lead a Latino working group aimed at greater diversity in gay religious activism. Many churches of color are even farther behind in moving toward equality.
Churches made up of people of color are slower to accept the concept that gays can worship side by side with heterosexual churchgoers. Even worse, Islam is said to be 40 to 50 years behind the Protestant denominations. The keynote speaker, Faisal Alam is a gay Muslim.
Earnest Simpkins, a black gay activist from a Pentecostal congregation, also leading a group at the conference, knew he was a homosexual from a young age, but his church taught him that his feeling were sinful and needed to be denied. He said:
It's a problem that's been faced by most gays who believe — talking about that with other gay people, you often hit a brick wall because so many of us had religion used against us at some point in our life and so we build these walls against it.
The five-day program features over 250 workshops and training sessions, four plenary sessions, and tons of networking opportunities. The goal of the conference is to build the movement’s political power from the ground up to secure their goal of full equality, social justice, and dignity for gay and transgender people in the US.


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