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New project to highlight pro-LGBT Christians

Videos to give voice to Christians who proclaim they’re ‘not all like that’

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Dan Savage, gay news, Washington Blade

Dan Savage in the debut video for the NALT Christian Project. (Screenshot via YouTube)

A new project inspired by the popular “It Gets Better” campaign aims to give a voice to pro-LGBT Christians who proclaim they’re “Not All Like That,” referring to the anti-gay rhetoric espoused by some conservative Christians.

The effort, dubbed the NALT Christians Project, debuted on Wednesday and will allow Christians to post videos on its website to express support for LGBT people and refute anti-LGBT rhetoric. It’s similar to the “It Gets Better” project, which enabled LGBT people and public figures to tell LGBT youth their lives will improve.

Dan Savage, an LGBT advocate who founded the “It Gets Better” project, created the premiere video for the NALT Christian Project and called on Christians to create videos to demonstrate they’re “not all like that” in terms of holding anti-LGBT views.

“If you don’t speak up, then know that your silence allows the Tony Perkins’ and Pat Robertsons’ of this world to speak for you, and to continue doing real harm not just to young LGBT people, but also to Christianity itself,” Savage says in his video.

Savage says he came up with the term “NALT” after hearing from Christians who told him they’re “not all like that” to distinguish themselves from anti-LGBT leaders who call themselves Christians.

“I heard that so often that I started thinking of the Christians who said that as NALTs, ‘not-all-like-that’ Christians,” Savage says. “Christians who support us on LGBT civil rights. I used the phrase a few times on my blog and in podcasts — and it stuck.”

The initiative was created by Christian author John Shore as well as Wayne Besen and Evan Hurst, activists associated with Truth Wins Out, an organization dedicated to countering widely discredited “ex-gay” sexual orientation conversion therapy.

Besen said he doesn’t think of the project as a shift in his work at Truth Wins Out because he’s always considered the “ex-gay” industry as broader strategy to undermine LGBT people.

“The ‘ex-gay’ industry thrives by exploiting religious guilt and shame to recruit new clients to its programs,” Besen said. “They deliberately contrive a conflict in the hearts and minds of many LGBT people, where they are made to falsely believe they have to choose between their faith and their sexuality. The NALT Chrisitans Project says that no such choice has to be made, and that there are many supportive Christians who will love LGBT people exactly as they are.”

Co-sponsors of the project include: Reconciling Ministries Network, Faith in America, The Evangelical Network, GLAD Alliance, Methodists in New Directions, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Many Voices and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.

As of Wednesday morning, the NALT Christian Project already had 24 videos featuring Christians from around the world, including Presbyterian Minister Mary Lynn Tobin of the Covenant Network.

“I can’t tell how many times over the years I had a giant button that said, ‘I’m a Christian, and we’re not all like that,'” Tobin said. “It drives me crazy that a knock off of Christianity has become an instrument of the right-wing political agenda and become labeled as the real thing by the media. No wonder so many people are hostile to Christianity. I would be, too.”

In another video, Pentecostal Bishop Carlton Pearson said he came to support LGBT people after a long period of soul-searching in which he concluded homosexuality “is not going away.”

“It’s now time for the church — particularly the African-American church — to wake up to the fact that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ mentality has run its course, and to open up and embrace,” Pearson says. “Because what you fight, you invite, you ignite, and what you resist, persists.”

The website also features a page set up on The Bible with the headline “The Bible does NOT condemn homosexuality” that disputes the notion that the Bible is a rulebook.

“Whenever a specific biblical injunction is found to be incongruous with contemporary mores, a reshaping of the conception of that injunction is not only widely accepted by Christians, it’s encouraged, as long as the new thinking is understood to be in keeping with overriding timeless biblical moral principles,” the website says. “This is why Christian women no longer feel morally constrained to follow Paul’s directives to leave their hair uncut, to keep their heads covered in church, or to always remain quiet in church.”

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Deb Whalen Word

    September 5, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Congratulations Evan Hurst for getting this going.

  2. Sarah Tiers

    September 5, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    I grew up in the Catholic Church feeling that LGBT was sinful. In my late 40's, I went back to college and was working at the University. A young woman came up to my desk with a button: "I'm lesbian and proud of it," I wondered why she was proud of it. The lesbian women invited straight women to a meeting to help us understand them. I was the only straight woman who appeared. I listened to many stories of how women discovered they were lesbian and it made a great difference to me. I never judged them again and had a lot of compassion. Today, I sign many petitions for equal marriage, etc. God Loves every one of us, regardless of sexual orientation. Our hearts are what matter: how we Love and treat each other. That's the bottom line. Peace and Love, Sarah Tiers.

  3. Peter Ngu

    September 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Peter Ngu September 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm
    I have an LGBT friend that is a devoted catholic. I love her dearly, but I can’t support the same-sex practice. God doesn’t make mistakes in the creation of us. He gives us choices in how we live our lives, as long as we follow certain boundaries and guidance. Let look back to the Garden of Eve. He created a man in His own image. He saw that he was lonely, so He took a rib from the man and created a woman as a companion and a mate. He gave them all in the garden except for the fruits from the tree in the middle of the garden. Due to their weaknesses, they disobeyed God’s wish and let the evil snake tempted them into eating the forbidden fruit. What happened there after we all know…Because of His fatherly love for us, He couldn’t watched His children perished forever, He sent down His only Son to pay for the very sin that Adam and Eve had committed and open the Heavenly gate to let us in to be with Him eternally. He will send His Son again in the near future to judge us for how we had lived our lives. “Eternal” is forever. This life is only a seconds compare to eternal. So let me ask you all good people who are practicing same-sex lifestyle, do you really want to live forever in shame in the eternal fire just so you can have moments of forbidden pleasures?

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National

U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

Joint statement says church teachings support equality

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More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” DeBernardo said. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position,” he said. 

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Bridgeport, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.

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Activists reflect on Black Trans Lives Matter movement resurgence

Blade speaks with Alex Santiago, Jasmyne Cannick

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An I Am Human Foundation billboard along Atlanta's Downtown Connector expressway on Feb. 22, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The world came to a standstill last year as a video surfaced online that showed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. The video went viral and sparked numerous protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world as many people felt it a potent time to relay their frustrations with and to their governments.

For the LGBTQ community, these protests brought to light the need for human rights for transgender individuals as the murders of people like Tony McDade in Florida and Nina Pop in Missouri reawakened the flame within the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., in June 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade more than a year later spoke with Alex Santiago, executive director of the I Am Human Foundation in Atlanta, and Jasmyne Cannick, a Democratic political strategist and journalist in Los Angeles, to reflect on last year’s Black Trans Lives Matter movement, how far it has come, and what’s in store for the future. 

Uplifting voices often silenced

Participating in the Black Lives Matter protests was an easy decision for Santiago. He is a member of the Legendary House of Garcon, a ballroom house headquartered in D.C. 

Although the house is composed mostly of LGBTQ members, Santiago still felt the need to center trans voices and experiences by visually representing them during Black Lives Matter marches. 

“[I decided that] when I go I’m going to have signs that say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ After talking to a couple of the people in the house, they said it was a great idea. So, they got these t-shirts made that incorporated the trans colors [baby blue, baby pink and white],” says Santiago.

Out of the 250 people in the Legendary House of Garcon, 175 showed up to D.C. from other states to march in solidarity with Black trans people. Santiago says that from what he was told, his was the largest group of activists representing Black trans lives at protests. 

“At first I thought people were going to look at us crazy, like, ‘Why are you separating yourselves or being exclusive?’. But, we got a great response from the general population that was there that day. It was a good day,” says Santiago.

Cannick, who was in Los Angeles during the protests, lent her efforts to platforming pertinent issues. She identifies herself as an ally and a “friend” to the LGBTQ community. 

“I’m active in the LA community and everybody knows me. So, whenever something happens, someone is hurt, someone is killed or someone needs to get the word out about something that’s going on particularly as it relates to the trans community, I’m always asked to get involved, and I do,” says Cannick. 

Over the past year, she reported on multiple LGBTQ issues including the trial of Ed Buck, a Democratic political fundraiser who was convicted in the deaths of two gay Black men who he injected with methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

What happened to the BTLM movement and what needs to change?

The nature of many social movements is that as the intense emotion surrounding them fades, people’s fervor for change wanes as well. This is especially true with allies who are not directly linked to the cause.

“Fatigue and frustration at the relatively slow pace of change to a growing backlash on the right against efforts to call out systemic racism and white privilege — has led to a decline in white support for the Black Lives Matter movement since last spring, when white support for social justice was at its peak,” US News reports about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cannick believes this is the same for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She says Americans allow the media to dictate how it behaves and responds to issues. Thus, when stories “fall out of our media cycles … they fall out of our memories.”

“I think that’s not going to change, and that’s a psychological thing, until we learn how to not let the media necessarily dictate our issues,” says Cannick. 

She suggests that individuals remain plugged into their communities by “doing anything to make sure they keep up with an issue” including following the “right people” on social media and setting up Google alerts for any breaking news. 

Jasmyne Cannick (Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick)

Santiago also echoes Cannick’s sentiments. 

“We wait until something happens before we do something. And, I don’t want to be retroactive; I want to be proactive. I want people to see me when things are going well [and when they’re not going well],” says Santiago. 

Upon returning to his home in Atlanta after the D.C. protests, Santiago contacted a billboard installation company and paid for a billboard labelled, “Black Trans Lives Matter” to be displayed on University Avenue near downtown Atlanta. He says that the billboards got attention and helped to spread much-needed awareness. Following this success, he is now in the process of installing a new billboard labelled, “Black, Trans and Visible. My life Matters.”

“Unless you’re in people’s faces or something drastic happens, people forget. Unless you’re living it, people forget,” says Santiago.

As time progresses, both Santiago and Cannick nest hope for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. However, this hope can only persist when crucial steps are taken to ensure Black trans individuals around the country are protected, most importantly through legislation.

The New York Times reports there are close to 1,000 elected LGBTQ officials in the U.S., with at least one in each state except Mississippi. 

“We need to have more legislation. We need more voices in power like the council Biden has right now,” says Santiago. 

“You know that [Biden] has a lot of trans people and Black trans people [involved], and a part of that’s a positive step in the right direction, but we need that times 10,” says Santiago.

He believes that political representation should extend to local governance where ordinary Black trans individuals can be trained to assume leadership roles. 

Cannick’s focus is on the Black community. 

“[Trans women] are usually murdered by Black men. If we ever expect that to change, we need to start talking about that,” says Cannick.

She’s open to having conversations that put people, including her as a cis-identifying woman, in uncomfortable and awkward spaces. 

She hosts a podcast titled “Str8 No Chaser” and recently aired an episode, “Why Are Black Men Killing Trans Women,” where she discussed with three Black trans women about the gender and sexuality dynamics within the Black community and their perils. 

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Evangelical Lutheran Church installs first Trans prelate

The bishop will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.

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The Rev. Megan Rohrer (Photo Credit: Vince Donovan)

SAN FRANCISCO – The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer was installed as the first openly transgender bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Saturday, in services held at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The presiding bishop of the ELCA, Elizabeth Eaton, led the installation ceremony.

“My call is to be up to the same messy, loving things I was up to before,” Rohrer told those gathered in the cathedral. “But mostly, if you’ll let me, and I think you will, my hope is to love you and beyond that, to love what you love.”

The bishop will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.

Rohrer, who uses the pronouns they/them, was elected to serve as bishop after the retirement of their predecessor. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota native had moved to the Golden State to pursue master and doctoral degrees at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. In 2010, they became one of seven openly out LGBTQ pastors accepted by the Evangelical Lutheran church after it allowed ordination of pastors in same-sex relationships.

The bishop and their spouse are raising two children and prior to installation, Rohrer was pastor of the Grace Lutheran Church and served as a chaplain coordinator for the city of San Francisco’s police department. Rohrer has assisted in ministering to the city’s homeless and LGTBQ community for a number of years.

“I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing,” Rohrer said in a statement. “My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward.”

The synod Rohrer leads is part of the largest Christian denominations in the United States with about 3.3 million members.

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