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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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At Equality Illinois, we envision a fair and unified Illinois where everyone is treated equally with

dignity and respect, and where all people live freely regardless of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. As part of our work toward that vision, we have launched the Faith & Freedom Initiative to build bridges and strengthen relationships between communities of faith and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality movement. There are people of faith and religious leaders who are already strong advocates for LGBT equality, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender congregants, and have welcomed them as an integral part of the life of their faith communities. In a step toward advancing that vision, we have reached out to communities of faith to assess their needs. Many respondents told us of their desire for a guide to inclusive practices. In an effort to make this possible, we began amassing information from affirming clergy and congregations regarding what they do in their communities on a regular basis to include LGBT and Questioning individuals. The Guide to LGBT-inclusive Religious Practices is a compilation of contributions from faith communities across Illinois and is designed to share best practices based on real experience and grassroots learning. Some communities of faith already practice these thoughtful and creative ways to show their support, and some are looking for ways to further their inclusion and deepen their welcome. Many are seeking a way to become a welcoming and affirming community through and through. We trust this guide will serve the needs of all communities of faith regardless of where they are in their inclusive journey. Some of the practices included in this guide can be utilized every day, while some are much larger and more visible. Please feel free to take from this what you feel you can comfortably implement, and use this guide to continue to nurture and develop your spiritual community. In our effort to keep this a living document, we continue to welcome submissions to this project via our website at www.eqil.org. We want to keep spreading the word that there are faith communities who love and welcome the LGBT community, and that the advocates for true equality are as widespread and diverse as the people of the world. Thank you for dedicating your time and energy to the inclusion and affirmation of all individuals. |

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Table of Contents Chapter 1 Visible Inclusion................................ 4 Chapter 2 Educational Efforts........................... 8 Chapter 3 Outreach and Contributions............13 Chapter 4 Connecting Faith & Sexuality...........18 Chapter 5 Personal Resources.........................26 Acknowledgments..........................................28

A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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Chapter one Visible Inclusion Every journey begins with a small step. In regards to creating an open and welcoming environment, visual aids can be the simplest and easiest of these steps. You and your faith community can begin by placing an LGBT-friendly sticker on your door sign, or putting an equality symbol on your community’s billboard or monthly bulletin. Though these are only small visual representations, they can have a powerful impact on an LGBT person entering your place of worship.

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Use Welcoming Language and Literature

Begin your journey to LGBTQ Inclusion by publishing a welcoming statement both on your website and in in-house literature.

The Community of St. Francis, Chicago IL From their website: http://www.csfcecc.org/html/about.html

Example: The Community of St. Francis is a family of women and men who choose to live an ordered life in the tradition of St. Francis and St. Clare. Membership is open to Christians who are married or single, gay or straight, lay or clergy. Our common bond is formed by a commitment to service to others in the name of the living Christ, an expression of our faith through the Catholic tradition of the Early Church, and a simplicity of life style in the midst of a world in the thrall of materialistic consumerism. The only requirements are adherence to the Rule of the Community and both the ability and willingness to contribute effort to our ministries.

Church of the three crosses, Chicago IL From their website: http://www.churchofthethreecrosses.org/index.html

Example: Who We Are. We encourage one another by sharing how we act out our faith in everyday situations, inviting others to participate in our mission, and allowing for questions to arise that do not always have easy answers. All are welcome to worship, study and participate with us at their own level of comfort, without regard to membership status. Church of the Three Crosses is an Open and Affirming Congregation (UCC) and a Reconciling Congregation (UMC) and as such, we affirm that all people are made in the image of God, and therefore, with God’s grace, we seek to be a congregation that includes all persons, embracing differences of race, nationality, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, marital status, mental and physical ability as well as socioeconomic background. We welcome all people to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities and blessings of our c ongregation. All members of this faith community will have access to the blessings and rites of the church. We commit to building a fellowship of faith that offers openness and understanding, justice, healing and wholeness of life for all people.

A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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St. Clement’s Episcopal Church of Harvey, IL

For more information, please see http://stclements.episcopalchicago.org/index.html You can also include a statement of reconciliation both in your community bulletin, monthly and on your website.

Example: Whether you are new to the Episcopal Church, or have always been involved in God’s work, we welcome you to our community of faith. St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, in Harvey Illinois is a dynamic, thriving Christian Church that seeks to know, love and serve God by doing the work of Jesus Christ in this world… By faith, we live the via media, or “middle way”, that is inherent to our Anglican and Episcopal heritage. We prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to powerfully reveal God’s love to us and through us. We are a church of every race and many languages and nations. We welcome young or old, lay and ordained, singles, families, or “emptynesters,” gay or straight, veterans or civilians, the assured or seekers. All are welcome to explore our vibrant community within these 110-year-old walls. Come join us as we grow in faith and love. Help us proclaim “by word and example, the Good News of God in Christ.” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 305)

Berry United Methodist Church of Chicago, IL For more information, please see http://www.berryumc.org/

Example: As Christians, we intend the church to be a community that embodies love, grace and justice for all people. We are distressed by the presence of homophobia within the United Methodist Church and our society. As a sign of faithfulness to God’s covenant with all humankind, we recognize that God is challenging the Christian community to welcome lesbians and gays as sisters, brothers and co-workers in the household of faith. We affirm the participation of lesbians and gays in all aspects of our life together. We seek to address the needs and concerns of gays and lesbians in our church and society. We strive to utilize the gifts of all persons in our ministry. We hope that our affirmation of the wholeness of all persons will bring reconciliation to all people within the church, who because of prejudice, homophobia or ignorance find themselves in exile from the family of God.

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Many Community of faith home pages now feature reconciliation or welcome badges, expressing with a simple picture their open and affirming affiliations.

Example: Affirm United, The Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, and the Reconciling Ministries Network are just three of many denominationally-based reconciliation organizations.

Have welcoming literature present and available; posters that include many types of families (e.g. blended, same-sex parents), pamphlets about LGBT-related issues, or language-sensitive prayer books. Furthermore, post rainbow flags on windows, posters, literature, or other high-profile places.

Example:

Congregation Or Chadash of Chicago, IL has developed a Jewish Pride Flag for its LGBT members.

Example:

The United Campus Christian Foundation of Normal, IL has developed a handout for anyone looking for a welcoming church home

A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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Chapter two Educational Efforts Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to keep up with the ever-changing lingo or terminology, but there are services you can use to ensure you stay ahead of the game. Just as YouTube has instructional videos for the hottest new dances, there are innumerable state and national organizations willing to talk to you and your community of faith regarding LGBT issues and concerns. It’s always better to be in the loop than out of it, right?

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Make the mostof what LGBT Organizations have to offer Encourage Faith leaders and congregants to attend specific classes to learn about sexual orientation; terminology, issues, welcoming, inclusion, etc. Host a Speaker Example:

Is your group or organization looking to learn more about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality in Illinois and beyond? Equality Illinois can speak on a variety of different topics from the new civil union law to transgender equality in the workplace and can work with you on a presentation that will best fit your group’s needs and priorities. Programs can be created to raise awareness in the community or for religious groups with a concern for LGBT equality and rights. Your community is already probably interested in these issues and would appreciate an informed conversation. Host info sessions to inform yourself of the important points of the debate. For instance, what are the differences between marriage and civil union rights? There are numerous local organizations willing to help your faith community get the right answers! Speakers are available for a variety of presentation formats, including participation in forums or panels, speeches, workshops and classroom discussions. For more information, please contact Caroline Staerk, Equality Illinois’ Field Director, at cstaerk@eqil.org or 773.477.7173 to request a speaker or presenter in English or Spanish. Please make sure to include the name, location, date and time of your event as well as the specific topic. Please note: Invitation of a speaker or participation in the Speakers’ Bureau program does not constitute lobbying or political activity, and churches, synagogues and public colleges and universities are welcome to participate.

Nonprofit Consulting on LGBT Issues Example:

Jewish Mosaic provides consulting services to Jewish communal organizations (synagogues, JCCs, day schools, etc) to help them initiate or expand LGBT-outreach programs and to modify their existing programs and policies to be inclusive of LGBT Jews and their families.

A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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Sexual and Gender Diversity Training Example:

In collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE INSTITUTE, Jewish Mosaic’s national roster of diversity trainers provides diversity training workshops focused on sexual orientation and gender diversity. These workshops help organizations foster inclusive environments that are welcoming to LGBT Jews, their families and allies. *T  here are two individuals who oversee Diversity Training in the Chicago Area, please see http://www.jewishmosaic.org/page/people From Jewish Mosaic, The National Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity For more information, please see http://www.jewishmosaic.org/page/load_page/2

Take the next step to LGBT inclusion by educating yourself and others on vital issues.

Support Groups Example:

“Everyone is welcome to our monthly chapter meetings. We regularly have interesting educational speakers and always provide an opportunity for both newcomers and old-timers alike to share and learn. At most meetings, we have a library, which includes books, pamphlets, and audio/video materials about LGBT issues. All meetings are confidential; PFLAG is a safe place for you to talk, listen and learn. You do not have to be a member to attend a meeting; there are no meeting fees to pay; you do not have to make an appointment as walk-ins are always welcome. PFLAG chapters generally meet regardless of holidays; however, contact the chapter via their email to confirm the schedule. Typically at a meeting you can expect to hear introductions from other PFLAG members, hear a speaker about LGBT topics, then a break, then the members break up into support groups where members talk about their experiences of having an LGBT loved one or being LGBT. We strive to make these meetings as welcoming as possible. Please note that you do not have to come to the PFLAG meeting in your area. You can go to any meeting you wish. We understand that if you do want to keep your appearance at a PFLAG meeting confidential, you are certainly welcome to go to another meeting where you feel you have the best chance of remaining anonymous. Please contact the general email address at info@pflagillinois.org if you have questions about which meeting is best for you to attend.” Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Chapter of Northern Illinois From their website: http://www.pflagillinois.org/

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Law firm Prather Ebner LLP offers four presentations which deal with LGBT issues: Example:

1) Estate Planning for Same-Sex and Unmarried Couples 2) The Illinois Civil Union Act 3) Wealth Transfer Planning for Same-Sex Couples 4) LGBT Planned Giving In addition, Prather and Ebner recently conducted a Q&A session entitled “Legal Issues for LGBT People & Our Friends” at a gathering of Metropolitan Community Church member congregations entitled “Piecing It Together.” This is a good example of a way in which to incorporate an issue which touches the LGBT community within a much wider agenda. Prather Ebner LLP For more information, please see: http://www.pratherebner.com/

Request a toolkit from a reputable organization such as Lambda Legal’s “People of Faith Speak Out!,” a toolkit on marriage equality in religious communities. Example:

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. For more information, please see: http://www.lambdalegal.org/publications/toolkits

“transACTION: A Transgender Curriculum for Churches and Religious Institutions” Example:

Most transgender Christians are searching for the same things that other believers want: a connection to their God within a loving community where worship and working for equality and justice are the focus of the Christian experience. Unfortunately, these searching transgender people are too often left without a place to call their “church home” because many congregations and religious institutions have not readily welcomed them as their Christian companions. transACTION is designed to help churches and institutions address this issue of understanding and welcome by providing step-by-step training about the needs, apprehensions and gears of transgender people – as well as the wealth of gifts and graces they bring – while responding to the concerns of the church or religious institution. transACTION is a toolkit broken up into three sections, each reaching one step closer to full inclusion of transgender members. Session one is entitled “How do we get to understanding?” Session two is “How do we get to acceptance?” And finally, session three is “How do we get to welcoming?” The end result, the institute hopes is that congregations “will be ready to offer a welcoming environment to any transgender people who walk through your doors.” From the Institute for Welcoming Resources: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force For more information, please see www.welcomingresources.org or www.welcomingresources.org/transgender.xml A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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Sponsor an educational session hosted by LGBT members of your place of worship or by an LGBT organization such as, LGBTQ Faith Journey: The gift and challenge of being LGBTQ and Christian Example:

Regulars and newcomers welcome as we continue to explore the challenges and possibilities of living a queer Christian life. We will engage with relevant texts but will also benefit from the presence of guest speakers and spend some time thinking about how we might craft and share our own spiritual autobiographies. After group, we will continue to go out to dinner together for fellowship. From Urban Village Church of Chicago, IL For more information please see: http://www.newchicagochurch.com/ or http:www.newchicagochurch.com/groups/faith-lgbt-life/

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Chapter three Outreach and Contributions Once your faith community begins its journey to inclusion, it is a thoughtful and rewarding step to help support your local LGBT community. Oftentimes, it is through the work of LGBT “allies� that important legislation, community change and institutional efforts are made possible. You, too, can support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in a myriad of ways, from walking in your local pride parade to organizing LGBT-friendly get-togethers. These endeavors serve to build communal and familial relationships in your faith community, strengthening your bond both in life and in faith.

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Support and Donate time and effort s to the LGBT Community Support LGBT congregants in a myriad of ways, such as walking in a local Pride Parade!

Ebenezer Lutheran Church of Chicago, IL at Chicago’s 2011 Pride Parade

Temple Sholom Chicago at Chicago’s 2011 Pride Parade

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Volunteer your faith community to host/display the Shower of Stoles Project Example: The Shower of Stoles is a collection of over a thousand liturgical stoles and other sacred items representing the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of faith. This extraordinary collection celebrates the gifts of LGBT persons who serve God in countless ways, while also lifting up those who have been excluded from service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

MISSION STATEMENT: To end religious discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. CORE OBJECTIVES: The Shower of Stoles Project will use its collection of liturgical stoles and other sacred pieces from GLBT people and their supporters, each with its own individual story, to: • Educate people about the gifts of GLBT persons who serve God. • Support people, churches, denominations, and other groups in their quest to end discrimination against GLBT persons. • Provide a voice for GLBT persons who cannot speak for themselves to religious communities.

McCormick Theological Seminary Unitarian Church Chicago, IL

Evanston, IL

For more information, please see: http://www.welcomingresources.org/sosp.htm

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Participate in a local Run/Walk whose proceeds benefit AIDS research. Example: 2011 marks 30 years since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recognized AIDS. Even though medical advancements have changed AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic disease, we are still without a vaccine or a cure. In fact the CDC projects that each year nearly 60,000 Americans become infected with HIV – disproportionately impacting young minority communities and young gay males. With this, the need for sound and effective HIV/AIDS prevention, service, and policy programs are more critical than ever before. Since its establishment in 2001, AIDS Run and Walk Chicago has raised more than $3 million net to fight HIV/ AIDS. With your participation, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago can continue as a local and national leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS and support more than 150 Chicagoland HIV/AIDS service organizations whose work is so invaluable to this cause. For more information, please see http://www.aidschicago.org/events-home/aids-runwalk

Donate a Sunday collection plate, Tzedakah box, or give Zakat to an LGBT or LGBT-friendly organization. Example: Basically, our church has a “share the plate” program where we select a different recipient organization every month to receive half of the cash from our offering plates. This generally equals at least $500 a month that we give away. Members of the church get to nominate organizations. Generally, these are organizations where members work, volunteer, or receive services. The church invites representatives of the organization to come to make a brief speech during the Sunday morning service. …we have also shared with organizations that provide services to vulnerable members of the LGBT population, such as Chicago House and The Night Ministry. From Gregory Potts of the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, IL For more information please see http://www.secondunitarian.org/

Example: “Since 1976, The Night Ministry, a non-denominational, non-profit organization, has served Chicago’s most vulnerable. We accept people where they are regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or social status. The Night Ministry is not affiliated with one particular faith tradition. Our staff and volunteers come from a wide variety of faith traditions or no faith tradition, as do the youth and adults we serve. We provide our services to all, regardless of their religious beliefs. We offer services in a welcoming and affirming environment. Our “ministry” is one of serving others, being present with them.” For more information, please see: http://www.thenightministry.org/ 16 |

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Host or plan brunches, pot-lucks, or get-togethers for LGBT congregants, families and friends Example: The GLBT group at First United is called UP! - United and Proud. We meet for a monthly Bible Study, plus social activities for UP! members and their families too. We do community-building and advocacy. We are singles, couples, and families with kids. We are long time First United members, and we are new folks just checking us out. Many find First United to be an oasis of welcome after coming from churches that are less open to the gifts of GLTB Christians. We also plan to explore ways to advocacy for full inclusion in our denominations, and in our legal system. For more information, please see www.firstunitedoakpark.com/

Donate time to LGBT organizations Example: Local and National organizations are always looking for volunteers to work parades, festivals and other pride events. Contact local organizations whose objectives align with your own to find out when you and your community of faith can offer your time and services! Remember: Lasting change requires human determination and commitment. Build a list of LGBT-related resources so that you can refer anyone of that population who is in crisis or in need to the appropriate group, institution, or organization: • w  ww.equalityillinois.org - Equality Illinois – the state’s oldest and largest LGBT civil rights organization with resources for marriage equality, anti-bullying, equal employment, etc. • www.aamft.org - The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists - professional association of counselors trained in marriage and family therapy, with links to finding local therapists • www.thetrevorproject.org - The Trevor Project - a youth suicide prevention organization advocating in schools, online, and in communities • www.itgetsbetter.org - The It Gets Better Project - an online video project founded on positive messages for LGBT and Questioning youth • www.rainbowhealth.org - The Rainbow Health Initiative - an organization advancing the health and wellness of the LGBT communities through education, research, and advocacy • www.pflag.org - Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays - a network of support groups and chapters for straight allies of LGBT people • www.glsen.org - The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network - an organization for students, parents, and teachers that affects positive change in schools • www.glaad.org - The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - alliance that promotes and ensures fair an accurate media representation • www.auburnseminary.org - Auburn Media - seminary provides media expertise to religious leaders and religious expertise to the media For more information on Welcoming LGBT members please see the Institute for Welcoming Resources’ “Building an Inclusive Church” toolkit, available for free download on their website, http://www.welcomingresources.org/. The guide is catered towards communities of faith with few inclusive practices currently in place, and is the work of numerous Clergy members representing an array of Faith Communities - under Resources tab “How to Become a Welcoming Church” or through www.welcomingresources.org/welcoming.xml For Jewish Communities of Faith, please see the Union for Reform Judaism’s “18+ Ways to make Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Members feel Welcome in your Congregation,” available for download on their website, http://urj.org. A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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Chapter four Connecting Faith and Sexuality Though your journey to inclusiveness may be a long one, the rewards are vast and long lasting. In an age where interpretation can be the path to enlightenment, one can use religious texts to shed light on examples of love, friendship, and boundless compassion. Start by offering accepting tones in prayers and continue your faith journey with sermons and programs designed to express uninhibited love for all people. Visualize where you see your faith community in its path to inclusivity and incorporate these sentiments into your everyday liturgy.

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Extend a WelcomingHand within your Religious Services

Equality demonstrates itself in many ways – big and small, and starts with reconciliation. You can do your part to reconcile Faith & Sexuality on a daily basis. Begin by incorporating blended, same sex families in your publications and on billboard and continue by utilizing LGBT-related sermons as you see fit.

Excerpts from Pride: Too Little or Too Much? Example: “When pride comes, then comes shame,” says the book of Proverbs. Or perhaps you have quoted Proverbs’ more famous line: “Pride comes before a fall.” In the Letter of James we read: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” And Jesus himself said, “Whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” John Ruskin wrote that “In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” The monastic Thomas Merton said, “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” Samuel Johnson was typically blunt: “Pride is a vice.” And Lao Tzu said: “Pride attaches undue importance to the superiority of one’s status in the eyes of others.” With this as introduction, here we are at the end of June which in the gay community is called Pride month. Today at noon something called a Pride parade will kick off in the city for its 40th anniversary edition! What’s that all about, you may wonder? On the bumper of our car there is a rainbow sticker with the Christian symbol of the fish over the top of it. On the other side of the bumper there is a small navy blue sticker with a yellow “equal” sign on it, the symbol of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lobbying group and political action committee in the United States. Both have occasionally generated a conversation at the gas station when I have been pumping fuel. Someone will ask me what they mean. I also often wear this rainbow wristband. It too has prompted a question from some who have seen it. My usual response about these things is that they stand for inclusiveness and mean that one is either gay or gay friendly. I don’t usually tell them that “it’s a pride thing,” although that would be an accurate statement as well. Generally my typical response is enough information for them, and then they move on. If I thought these persons were really interested in hearing more, I might tell them that for most gay people the wristbands, or signs, or bumper stickers mean a couple of things. First, they are a way of inoffensively selfidentifying. For example, stores and churches that display the rainbow flag as we do here at Congregational quietly on their doors tell lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folk that they are welcome. Second, these symbols are a way of showing a rather small amount of pride in who we are as individuals, as a constituency, and as a part of the greater community. A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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Still you may be wondering, why do gay people feel the need to wear or display things like that? Straight people don’t. The simple fact is – straight people don’t need to. Well, the truth is, straight people do self-identify on a regular, daily basis; perhaps not with bracelets and the like, but in many, if not all aspects of life. Consider this: when a straight couple walks in the park holding hands, they are self-identifying. When a boy gives his girlfriend a peck on the cheek or lips in a public place, they are self-identifying. When a straight boy at school talks about his crush on the girl in his English class, he is self-identifying. When the construction worker whistles at the pretty woman walking down the street, he is self-identifying. When endless love songs play on the radio, they convey a self-identifying message for the straight community. When a car or pickup races down the street displaying a cute little white bunny with bow ties there is no question as to sexual identity. Nor is there when you have lunch at Hooters. The list could go on and on and on. It’s so everywhere - this straight identification – that you don’t even notice it. You just assume it. You just take it for granted. Those of you who are married, I invite you to look at your left hand. What you see there (your wedding ring, of course) is almost exclusively a heterosexual self-identifier in most of the US, except for a few places like Massachusetts and Iowa. Do you who wear such a ring wear it with pride? Of course you do. But you don’t think of it as self-identifying, do you? And that is my point. Heterosexual self-identity is so much a part of normal life for the straight person operating at both the subconscious and conscious levels – that for the most part it goes undetected, unnoticed, and people are mostly unaware. Why would straight people need a bracelet? Or a bumper sticker? They can self-identify in almost everything they say and do right out in front of God and everybody, and most of the time it’s applauded and even encouraged. Contrast that to when gay people walk down the street holding hands. The sight of that is often met with angry thoughts and even sometimes with agitated vocal statements like, “Why do they have to flaunt it?” And yet straight people have no qualms with “flaunting it” on any given day, in any given situation or place. Why do I wear a rainbow bracelet? Why do I display a rainbow bumper sticker on my car? Well, the simple answer is: because I like myself as a gay man; I don’t hate myself anymore! Let me say more: I spent 45 years living in a straight world that communicated to me in the most uncertain terms that I was unacceptable, that the person I knew myself to be at the very core of my being was somehow abhorrent and a threat to some perceived and “natural” order of things. And while the messages I received were, thank God, not the strident, condemning ones which many LGBT folk have experienced, they were strong and direct nonetheless. Gay folk growing up within religious communities as I did heard sermons and lectures and programs about the evils of homosexuality from every side. And as most young people do, we trust that the information given to us by the adults in our lives is accurate and true. It is spoken by those whom we love and respect and admire, after all. And then it hits us, some of us sooner rather than later, but we discover to our horror (that with absolutely no choosing on our own) we are what everybody hates so much. And many of us take that external hatred and then internalize it so that it becomes self-hatred. And out of that hatred and fear, we isolate ourselves in our closets, closing and locking ourselves in a place where I know God never intended for any of his children to be. Thank God most of us find a way out of that closet. Thank God most of us finally come to the realization we are not abominations in God’s sight. So I think a little healthy self-pride is in order. 20 |

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A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


In fact, I think it is necessary to counteract what we’ve felt about ourselves from a very early age. I’m not talking about the pride that is “haughty” or that sees oneself as “better than.” I am talking about a self-worth that is intrinsic to a “created in God’s image” way of thinking about yourself. I am talking about the same pride with which straight people, including my parents, wear a wedding ring. Perhaps not all gay people need to wear a pride ring or a bracelet or put a bumper sticker on their car. But far from flaunting anything, I see these as symbols of healthy self-love, the kind of self-love Jesus said we absolutely must have for ourselves if we are to truly love others. Many gay folk have come from non-accepting families and all of us live in a homophobic society and many have grown up all too sadly in condemning churches. There are few places LGBT folk get a positive message of self-acceptance. Gay pride exists for the sake of counterbalance. It is a must if LGBT folk are to survive in a society where many still hate us, will not grant us civil rights, and call us by our worst traits. Our desire to enjoy the benefits and status of marriage is said to threaten the very institution of marriage. [Yet bozos like the South Carolina governor and the Nevada senator, both of whom espouse a conservative, pro-family agenda with their words but then carry on affairs, and that is somehow not perceived to be a threat to the marriage institution.] It’s that kind of world gays live in and it’s that kind of world that almost requires of us a sense of pride in who we are. We battle groups and churches that make up lies about us to scare people into giving money to subjugate us, tell families not to accept their gay children. I read a story yesterday about a small fundamentalist church in Connecticut that performed an exorcism on a 16-year-old- boy to cast a “homosexual demon” from his body. Of course, far from changing this young man’s orientation, they were in fact murdering his spirit. Chris Glaser, perhaps one of the leading spiritual writers in and for the gay community, wrote this in 2001: “The world is uncomfortable with our pride. A straight minister took me aside to tell me he had been honored by being invited to preach at an interfaith Gay & Lesbian Pride service in his hometown. He said he had no problems with the gay and lesbian part. But he had always been taught that pride is a sin! I described to him the relatively recent movement to address issues of self-esteem and self-worth among those who have been shamed emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. I explained that among those of us who are lesbian and gay, bisexual, or transgender, our “sin” may not be pride, may not be thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. Our “sin” may be a failure to value who we are, beloved children of God. And like most sin, or ways of “missing the mark,” it is a collective sin, a communal missing the mark. All of culture has conspired to tell us we are less than we are, to shame us, to deny our cultural and spiritual integrity and inheritance. Thus it’s no mistake that, to counteract this cultural and religious message, Pride festivities evolved. Pride festivities do not celebrate that we are more than we are. Pride festivities celebrate that we are no less than we are.” I too would like to imagine a day when our society was not homophobic but affirming of all orientations. A day when a young gay man is just as free to bring home, to meet mom and dad, a boy that he fancies as his straight brother is a girl that has his full attention. Then I can stop wearing a rainbow bracelet and putting a bumper sticker on my car. Or maybe then we’d all wear rainbows, straight and gay, because everyone would be welcomed and accepted and valued for who they are and what they contribute to the greater human community. When that day will come, I don’t know. But I know it will come. Until then, I’ll wear this bracelet and be proud…proud that I don’t hate myself…proud that I love myself… From Reverend Rex Piercy Congregational United Church of Christ, Arlington Heights, IL

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Include sentiments of LGBT inclusion in congregational prayers Example: Gracious God, Spirit of the wind, Spirit of the grass and the wild sea, Spirit of the human heart – we gather with and for one another, seeking glimpses, whispers and shouts, the glancing, evocative touch of your presence. We come from many places. We come together in our longing for you, and we come, trusting that your spirit thrives in the gathering of our diversities. Help us all…all of us, richer and poorer, gay and straight, older and younger, man and woman and infant child…help us all to love ourselves as you intended and love our neighbors as you commanded. Amen. From Reverend Rex Piercy Congregational United Church of Christ, Arlington Heights, IL

Encourage LGBT members at your place of worship to share their stories at services, events, trainings, on your website, etc. Example: Lent Devotional for April 18, 2011 When I was 18, I decided I would go on a 40-day fast during lent. No food, no caffeine, just water and light juices. It was not a rash decision; I spent several months researching the health risks, possible complications and long-term effects. My parents, as you might imagine, were not terribly keen on the idea, which only increased my excitement. The tradition of fasting among Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus encouraged me to put my “faith” to the test. And it was a test. I wish I could say that I was motivated entirely by the noble desire to experience intimate communion with God, but I had actually constructed an elaborate barter out of my fasting plan. I read, countless times, the beginning of the fourth chapter of Matthew, in which Jesus fasts for 40 days and is tempted by Satan. All the while I was hoping that my fast would likewise afford me the opportunity to give “Satan” the boot. “Satan” was gay. Well “Satan” himself wasn’t gay, but the temptation I was trying to rid myself of was living out my “homosexual inclinations.” I thought that I could prove to God and “the gay” that even when I was at my weakest, I would not give in to (what I had been told my entire life was) heretical belief. At which point I expected God to relieve me of my desires. Or at least I thought I would finally realize that intimacy with God was sustenance enough and I could finally abandon any hope of reconciling my sexuality and Christian faith. I recognized that theologically, this rational was naive and unbiblical, but five years of earnest prayer and some pastoral counseling had not done the trick and I was becoming increasingly distressed. And so I embarked on my fast. I was working three jobs at the time and had pre-arranged trips to spend time at a convent and to hike part of the Appalachian Trail. Truly, I was grateful to be so busy because I knew this would make avoiding food easier. And that did make it easier, but it also made finding and maintaining time alone difficult. Even when I was physically alone hiking, or in my room at the convent, my mind raced to keep busy. I avoided pure silence in meditation and instead read books about prayer. Looking back, I think I was scared to be

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alone with myself; scared that my mind would conclude without my permission that it was okay to be gay. The actual “not eating” part was not quite as hard as I had imagined. The first week was tough, but after that I wasn’t really hungry. I was working as a youth pastor (or the 18 year old approximation of one) taking students on weekend retreats. The most difficult part was answering all of the questions about why I wasn’t eating, so I passed off meal preparation to other leaders and avoided communal breakfasts and dinners altogether. While I did miss eating, what I missed more was sharing meals with people I cared about. I felt like I was missing out on a fundamental part of maintaining a community. I certainly found joy in my time alone meditating and praying, but God seemed tangibly absent. I had heard stories of people feeling intense unity with God during fasting so I was especially surprised and increasingly concerned at God’s disappearance. My thoughts transitioned away from questions of sexuality to other things, namely the mundane, practical chores that fill most days. I probed God and my own mind for a definitive answer about homosexuality, but inconclusiveness boomeranged back to me. By day 25 I had become quite frustrated. The great temptation, Satan’s presentation of the world to Jesus on the mountain, had not occurred. God was gone, I had no answer, and I felt distant from my friends and family. Work was hard, money was tight, the usual. And that’s how it ended- no climatic peak, no great realizations, nothing. I wondered how I could be certain of anything if I was not even certain about God’s perspective on homosexuality after completing this fast (I was admittedly riddled with heaps of teenage angst). If 40 days of not eating wouldn’t do it, then how would I know? Like, for sure, really, really know. About anything. Do you just have to wait for some external conclusion about life and love to inform you at random? Could you not simply usher it in yourself? Clarity about my fast has only come years later, after introspection and retrospection, but I sort of think that was the whole point. Uncertainty; no longer about being gay- I currently live with my wonderful partner in Lakeviewis a fundamentally human burden. I once read that “no one gets out of space and time alive.” This is, in part, what I think it means to be human; to wrestle with our own mortality, to wrestle with questions of faith and God and reality of the suffering world around us, often without resolution. And while fasting, during 40 days of questioning with no answers, I learned a little bit more about what it means for me to be human. Caelyn Randall From Urban Village Church’s Blog, please see http://www.newchicagochurch.com/

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Perform and honor same-sex unions and marriages. Example:

Equality Illinois has a Comprehensive List of Open Religious Organizations throughout Illinois. Please contact the office if you would like to be added to our list and discovered by LGBT individuals searching for a religious home.

Grant Ellet and John McNeal II with Rev. Sonja Ingebritsen of Church of the Good Shepherd of Carbondale, IL

Find meaningful ways to incorporate important announcements concerning LGBT current issues Example: Second Station Condemned (LBGTQ) Presented by Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ Reader 3: Our sisters and brothers around the world continue to be condemned on the basis of their sexual identity. Like Jesus, our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are condemned, often with the complicity, direction and insistence of today’s religious leaders and high priests. A severe anti-homosexual bill was recently proposed in Uganda. This US Religious right-fueled bill would raise the punishment for repeated homosexual acts from an existing 14 years in prison to death; a single homosexual act could result in life imprisonment, and helping, counseling, or treating a homosexual could result in seven years in prison. Equally disturbing are calls for violence against Gay men and Lesbians from a coalition of the country’s religious leaders representing the Church of Uganda, the Catholic Church, and the Muslim Supreme Council, with names and places of employment of Gay men being publicly announced. Homosexuality is illegal in more than 30 African countries, and international human rights activists say Gays, Lesbians and Bisexual people are under increasing attack in many parts of the continent, most often on religious grounds. All: Together, let us trouble the waters! Sing: We who believe in justice will not rest; we who believe in justice will not rest until its won. We who believe in justice will not rest; we who believe in justice will not rest until it comes…

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Reader 5: Hate crimes are a daily reality all over the European continent. Political and religious leaders vilify LGBTQ people and encourage extremists and ordinary haters. They use labeling and marginalization, demonizing and spreading misinformation about LGBTQ people. Hate crimes continue across the US as well. In January, while riding the ‘L’, Daniel Hauff, a Gay Chicago man, came to the rescue of a young Gay man who was being harassed by three men from Evanston. Those men turned on Hauff and brutally beat him while screaming “stupid faggot.” In Michigan three pastors have joined together in filing a lawsuit to strike down US hate-crime legislation. All: Together, let us trouble the waters! Sing: We who believe in justice will not rest; we who believe in justice will not rest until its won. We who believe in justice will not rest; we who believe in justice will not rest until it comes. Reader 1: In the US thousands of LGBTQ youth are forces out to the streets every year. They make up approximately 40% of the total homeless youth population. They face homophobia, violence and brutality on the streets and in the youth shelter system, and are at high risk of HIV infection and drug addiction. LGBTQ youth face bullying, verbal harassment and physical and sexual assault. Many have committed suicide seeing no other escape. Reader 2: In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he states that nothing can separate us from the love of God, yet many religious leaders and high priests work tirelessly to drive LGBTQ people from the church and their faith communities, denying them a place at the Table, denying their place in God’s kingdom, and denying them God’s love. They stoke the fires of hatred, tearing families apart, hardening hearts and causing immeasurable suffering. All: Together, let us trouble the waters! Sing: We who believe in justice will not rest; we who believe in justice will not rest until its won. We who believe in justice will not rest; we who believe in justice will not rest until it comes. Reader 3: “In Illinois, many religious leaders, including Cardinal George and his predecessors over the years have worked behind the scenes to vehemently oppose every piece of equal rights legislation for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender people that has ever been proposed, including opposition to: equal employment rights, equal access to housing, equal access to public accommodations, equal access to adoption, and equal marriage rights.” – Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network All: Together, let us trouble the waters! Sing: We who believe in justice will not rest; we who believe in justice will not rest until its won. We who believe in justice will not rest; we who believe in justice will not rest until it comes. Reader 4: How is it that many of us support through our membership, attendance, participation and donations institutions and churches that continue to foster hatred and exclude and condemn our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer brothers and sisters? Would we belong to country clubs that excluded people of color of Jews” All: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to Me.” – Matthew 25:40 Reader 5: Let us pray. From the 30th annual Good Friday Walk for Justice A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices

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Chapter five Personal Resources Many faith communities are searching for the means to inclusivity from the goodness of their hearts, despite the fact that they may or may not be familiar with what it means to identify as an LGBT individual in modern society. We want you to know that it is okay to have questions or concerns and that no question is too small to ask. Equality Illinois’ multi-faith Faith & Freedom Committee is continuously exploring new approaches to the question of affirmation, welcoming, and reconciliation. Oftentimes, the most enlightening conversations stem from questions thought to be too trivial to put forth. Remember, this is a living document, and as such, we will be continuously updating it with your questions and comments. We’re here for you, and together we can make your faith community a sanctuary for those in need.

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Self-Assessment Survey

Congratulations on embarking on your welcoming journey! It is good to keep track of what you have done and what you can do to make your community that much more welcoming. Visible Inclusion q q q q

Does your faith community have signs or stickers denoting it as Welcoming? Do you have a published Welcoming and/or Reconciliation statement? Do you recognize same sex couples and families in your literature and on your community bulletin board? Do you have registration forms? Do they say partner or spouse rather than use gender-specific terminology?

Educational Efforts q q q q

Has your faith community taken the necessary steps to learn gender and sexuality-conscious language? Has your faith community invited LGBT speakers or advocacy groups to come speak? Have your faith and lay leaders attended informational sessions on current LGBT issues? Has your faith community screened LGBT films or documentaries, such as Ky Dickens’ “Fish Out of Water”?

Outreach and Contributions q Has your faith community participated in a local pride event? q Have you dedicated the proceeds of a donation plate, Tzedakah box, or given Zakat to an LGBT organization? q Has your faith community offered free space to a local LGBT organization? q Has your faith community actively aided its LGBT members and local organizations on an important issue, such as handing out pamphlets for Marriage Equality?

Connecting Faith and Sexuality q Has your faith community welcomed LGBT clergy members or lay leaders? q Have you organized outreach groups or mission trips for LGBT members and allies? q Has your faith community welcomed children from all types of families by holding their baptisms, brit milah, or other rites?

Use, Customize and Learn

Use these practices as is or customize them to your congregation and where you are on your welcoming and affirming journey. Be innovative and creative. Make these your own. Learn from what proves successful and even what doesn’t meet your expectations. Share that learning within your organization and with your network of other congregations. As we continue to expand and enrich this guide, you will be invited to share your learnings, innovations and ideas.

Share the Good News

Use this guide as a marketing tool and for outreach to other clergy with whom you associate locally and who you believe are considering moving toward becoming an affirming congregation. Or, use this guide as a form of outreach to those clergy in your local ecumenical association, region or others within your faith tradition who are not actively engaged in becoming an affirming or welcoming congregation. This guide might provide you with the opportunity to open lines of communication and help other clergy to find their own specific path on the journey to inclusion and true welcome for all.

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Acknowledgements We would like to thank the following communities and individuals for their help with the guide: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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Temple Sholom of Chicago, IL Reverend Rex Piercy The Community of Saint Frances of Chicago, IL Church of the Three Crosses of Chicago, IL Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Matt Richards, Caelyn Randall and Urban Village Church of Chicago, IL Leah Fowler and the First United Church of Oak Park, IL Reverend Kevin Downer and AChurch4me of Chicago, IL Pastor Michael Fick and Ebenezer Lutheran Church of Chicago, IL Berry United Methodist Church of Chicago, IL The Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, IL Reverend Rod Reinhart and St. Clement’s Episcopal Church of Harvey, IL Congregation Or Chadash of Chicago, IL Thomas Kyle Meadors and the 8th Day Center for Justice Ray Prather and Dan Ebner of Prather Ebner LLP Jewish Mosaic, The National Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity Lambda Legal The Night Ministry Grant Ellet and John Mcneal II

A guide to LGBT-Inclusive religious practices


Equality Illinois’ Faith & Freedom Committee: Maher Alhaj Jerry Boomershine Toby Eveland William Hall Jason LeCompte John Parro Christopher Pett Gregory Potts Katherine Wolf Bernard Cherkasov Caroline Staerk and O. RenÊ Dillard

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a l u it y q E in your

Faith Community

www.eqil.org 773.477.7173 info@eqil.org


Equality in Your Faith Community: A Guide to LGBT-Inclusive Religious Practices