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“COMMUNITIES OF FAITH AS ADVOCATES AND VOICES FOR LGBT EQUALITY” Reverend Sarah Odderstol, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Park Ridge, IL Equality Illinois Prayer Breakfast, May 8, 2012

YOU KNOW, you all know, it does not take much for one human being to decide that another human being is “other.” On the other hand…a great deal must be overcome for a person to decide that the person, that is someway different from them, is as deserving of God’s blessing as they are. In my experience as a clergy person, relationships are the only thing that can bridge the differences of “otherness.” Relationships change hearts and minds. Several years before I came to St. Mary’s, the parish called a partnered lesbian to serve as an assisting clergy person. Although St. Mary’s had been an “Open and Affirming Parish” for decades, initially there was some resistance to Aimee’s call and a few families left the congregation. But Aimee was so truly called to ministry and she was so gifted at her craft that she quickly charmed the socks off the place. She and her spouse Alison were involved in everything together. They modeled Christian service and Christian marriage. The congregation could not help but compare Aimee and Alison to the senior clergy member and his spouse who never seemed to be around because she was a clergy person who served another congregation. Aimee and Alison had such an impact on the community that when the congregation was preparing to call a new clergy leader—me—the same octogenarians that had resisted Aimee’s coming told those in charge of hiring a new clergy leader that they wanted their new priest to have a “normal marriage” like Aimee and Alison. Relationships change hearts and minds! I am convinced that God wants communities of faith to be in the business of building relationships that bridge “otherness.” As much as some of us who live in places like Park Ridge would love to have things be different, we are not the first place the LGBT community is going to think of when looking to explore God’s call to journey in faith. That doesn’t mean we don’t have an important role to play in advocating for LGBT equality! Two and a half decades ago, when St. Mary’s first proclaimed itself a place of welcome, I’m pretty sure the congregation had no idea where that designation of hospitality would take them. Since then we have become a haven for families, friends, supporters and those questioning. We are a safe place to engage in big questions. We are a resource to congregations around us testing the waters of full inclusion. Faith communities should be a place where people can come to know and love those who they consider to be other. Faith communities should be a place where people can experience a same-sex marriage that looks more “normal” than a hetero-marriage. Faith communities should be a place where all people know themselves to be worthy of God’s blessing. …I’d like to offer you a prayer used here in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago during The Witnessing and Blessing of a Holy Union: Most gracious God, you have put into the hearts of your people a yearning for union with you and one another. You call us into covenant and endow us with heart and will that we may honor and keep our commitments. Pour out your blessing upon this couple, that they my honor one another in all times and in all places. Bless them in their loving faithfulness; touch others through them, that many may know more fully the grace of your love. Deepen their joy, sanctify their celebration; guide and console them in difficult times; ever sustain in them an awareness of your loving care; and finally bring them to know you face to face… This prayer and others like it are a step in the right direction, but they do not mark the end of the journey. Communities of faith need to continue to advocate for full marriage equality for all of God’s people. We all need to love and to be loved and to know God blesses us in doing so. This is the work of faith communities.

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The Religious Case for the Freedom to Marry  
The Religious Case for the Freedom to Marry  

Prepared by Equality Illinois, the case for allowing faiths to decide which marriages should be consecrated. (Updated 9/13)