Unprecedented Turnout for Faith Institute Marks Beginning of Task Force Creating Change Conference
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
|Rev. Penny Nixon, pastor of San Francisco Metropolitan Community Church, Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of Tikkun and Rev. Phil Lawson, veteran of the civil rights movement, speak at Empowering People of Faith to Create Change, a pre-conference institute during the Task Force Creating Change Conference. The institute brought together people from across the spectrum of religion to change the dialogue on faith and LGBT issues.|
The key theme during the Creating Change pre-conference institute, Empowering People of Faith to Create Change, was relationships. The conference speakers stressed the need for relationships between faith-related and secular progressive activists, relationships with straight allies who can appeal to audiences that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists can’t access, and even building relationships with those who may initially oppose LGBT equality.
Leaders on the front lines of the struggle for equality in churches presented the first panels. Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians, Emily Eastwood of Lutherans Concerned North America and Rev. Rebecca Voelkel of the Institute for Welcoming Resources.
The speakers, who work daily in changing hearts and minds within their churches, encouraged conference attendees never to underestimate the power of personal stories to change opponents into allies.
Task Force organizer Jonathan Boland trained attendees in methods to reach out in a systematic way to religious communities. Boland, who is organizing faith outreach in California, informed attendees that mobilization of pro-LGBT religious people will be key to defeating anti-gay constitutional amendments that could appear on both the June primary and November election ballots in California in 2006.
The best-attended and most profound panel of the day involved noted preacher and activist and pastor of San Francisco Metropolitan Community, Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon, Rev. Phil Lawson, a United Methodist minister and veteran of the 1960’s civil rights movement, and anti-war activist and founder of Tikkun, Rabbi Michael Lerner. The moderator of the panel was Christian de la Huerta, author of Coming Out Spiritually and founder of Q-Spirit.
Rev. Nixon encouraged religious communities to examine the misogynistic roots of homophobia and to begin to find ways of referring to the Divine in feminine terms. She encouraged those who feel excluded by their churches or religious traditions to “keep showing up,” and set a place for themselves at the table.
Rabbi Lerner, who was a major influence on president and Hillary Clinton’s “politics of meaning,” encouraged progressive activists to realize that the right wing’s “values” appeal is based on a genuine spiritual crisis being felt in America today. He attributed the lack of meaning to a genuine crisis of spirit in a world that is based on bottom-line capitalism and the devaluation of human relationships. It is not enough for progressives to offer to fix economic inequalities through economic appeals, or even to appeal to fears of loss of rights or liberties under right-wing policies, they must provide a spiritually-fulfilling alternative.
Rev. Lawson inspired attendees with the wisdom brought from years of struggle on issues of racial equality and economic equality, in addition to his work as an ally of the LGBT movement. Quotes from Rev. Lawson included:
“The only image of God you will ever see is another human being.”
“One of the seeds of oppression is to accept the values of the oppressor.”
“The civil rights movement of the 1960s was not about ‘rights,’ which are individual, but about the creation of a beloved community, which benefits everyone.”
“Transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum: it can only happen in relationship with other people.”
Rev. Lawson stressed that LGBT activists must “make your opponents a part of the solution:” those who work for equality must develop relationships with opponents and allow those relationships to transform. He encouraged activists to see their progress toward justice as being more than about winning rights for themselves or their immediate community. “It’s not about my salvation,” Rev. Lawson said, “it’s about the salvation of all creation.”
More than 100 people attended Empowering People of Faith to Create Change, a record attendance for a faith pre-conference Institute at Creating Change. The pre-conference institutes, which had more than 2000 total attendees, included discussions of the LGBT community and racial justice, aging policy, youth issues, campus issues, same-sex marriage, labor and economic justice.
First convened in 1998, the National Religious Leadership Roundtable of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is an interfaith collaboration of more than forty denominations and faith-related organizations. The Roundtable seeks to reframe the public religious dialogue on issues involving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community by amplifying the voices of LGBT-affirming people of faith, countering religious voices of bigotry and intolerance, and working to advance full equality for all.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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