Sunday, April 10, 2011

Coming Out as Christian at GAAMC

On Monday, April 4th, three of us "came out" at a regular meeting of the Gay Activist Alliance of Morris County (GAAMC), the oldest LGBT community organization in New Jersey... as Christians.

Given  the ongoing controversy over what the Bible (and, thus, God) is really saying about same-sex attraction in the way we understand it today, it is not surprising that the intersection of these two worlds is a  thorny one, and there is considerable distrust or at least bemusement at those who claim to be both.  And yet, that is where many of us find ourselves.  Our visit was intended to witness to our own very different experiences, and also to let people know that there are many Christian congregations in the area of various denominations where they will be welcomed, as part of the Believe Out Loud welcoming congregation program.  Integrity, the national organization for LGBT Episcopalians, is working with its peer organizations in thirteen other denominations to identify and support congregations that are striving to be more welcoming and affirming.

As it turned out, there were members of three different Episcopal congregations in the audience.  They also shared testimony of how they had been made to feel welcome, some after very negative experiences in other churches.  Others expressed pleasant surprise that there were so many places taking intentional steps to be more inclusive.

Some good networking followed the event, and we hope to forge cooperation with folks that are already "believing out loud" in their own congregations to keep building the groundswell of inclusion.  Panelists were The Rev. Robert Solon, Vicar at St. Thomas' Church in Vernon, N.J.; Mary O'Shaughnessy, Convenor of Integrity NYC-Metro; and Christian Paolino, Diocesan Organizer (Newark) for IntegrityUSA and a member of the OASIS Commission, the Episcopal Diocese of Newark's ministry to LGBT persons.

Much thanks to Sherry Rase, the program coordinator at GAAMC, for her assistance and hospitality.

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