Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Message from Integrity NYC Metro on the Anniversary of the Death of Matthew Shepard

The Passion of Matthew Shepard
by Father William Hart McNichols
We address this message to you on the anniversary Matthew Shepard’s death The brutal murder of this young gay man (coincidentally an Episcopalian) in 1998 sparked a conversation with mainstream America about violence against LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) people.

This past weekend, members of your Integrity NYC Metro Leadership Team had the privilege of meeting with over 300 Christians from more than 12 denominations at the Believe Out Loud Power Summit in Orlando, Florida. This extraordinary opportunity for worship, witness and networking is just part of an historic nationwide ecumenical inclusive church movement that is still unfolding. It was the birthplace of numerous local and regional initiatives about which you will be hearing in the next few months.

Our collective and individual joy was tempered by the continuing barrage of news stories about violence and prejudice towards LGBTQ persons, much of it in our own area. In just the past few weeks we have seen a number of suicides, three separate acts of anti-LGBTQ violence, and a string of hateful rhetoric by a high-profile political candidate.

None of these are new phenomena. LGBTQ people of all ages (and those perceived to be “queer” simply by the way they present themselves) are far more likely to commit suicide than other populations. Violence against our communities persists, in part, because it is still considered “okay” by many in our society to make hurtful and biased statements about us, and in many cases they do so without censure.

Much progress has occurred in the years since Matthew’s murder. Some feel the burst of violence we are witnessing be may be a reaction to that progress. Much remains to be done. To that end, Integrity, the leading voice for full inclusion within the Episcopal Church, has joined with its ecumenical partners in adopting the Believe Out Loud program to create visible and intentional congregational welcome. An Integrity representative will be contacting your congregation in the coming months to discuss this program and encourage you to consider taking part. We hope you will see this -- as we do -- as a witness of our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being.

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