Connect with us


Rev. Wayne Schwandt dies at 65

Pastor, longtime advocate of LGBT rights



Wayne Schwandt, gay news, Washington Blade
Wayne Schwandt, gay news, Washington Blade

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Schwandt

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Edward Schwandt, pastor of a progressive Christian ministry affiliated with the United Church of Christ in Annapolis, Md., and a longtime advocate for LGBT equality, died May 5 at Prince George’s County Hospital. He was 65.

Chuck Riley, his husband and partner of 30 years, said Schwandt suffered what doctors believe was a seizure at the couple’s home in Southeast Washington on May 3 that led to complications, including heart failure.

A native of Wisconsin, Schwandt received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin before receiving a Master’s of Divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary. He later received a Doctorate of Creation Spirituality from Wisdom University of the San Francisco Bay area.

Rev. Ryan Sirmons, pastor of United Church of Christ in Annapolis, said Schwandt in the mid-1990s founded Evolve Chesapeake, a ministry associated with Creation Spirituality, a progressive branch of Christianity that embraces diversity. The ministry, which welcomed the LGBT community, was based in various locations in the Annapolis area, Sirmons said, before it merged in 2013 with United Church of Christ in Annapolis.

Starting at that time, Schwandt performed a 6 p.m. service each Sunday at the church, which he preferred to call an Evolve Sacred Gathering, Sirmons said.

Among other things, Schwandt performed marriage ceremonies as an officiant in the Chesapeake Bay area for gay and straight couples alike. Many of the couples whose weddings he performed offered both high praise and condolences in postings on Schwandt’s Facebook page after learning of his passing.

Schwandt is credited with founding Chesapeake Pride, an annual LGBT Pride event held along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay in a rural section of Anne Arundel County that Sirmons said helped spread the message of LGBT equality.

Sirmons and Gale Ransom, president of Evolve Ministry Network, called Schwandt a dedicated and committed minister who reached out to people, including members of the LGBT community, who often were not welcomed in the more conservative Christian denominations in which they were raised by their families.

“Wayne was somebody who was especially called to minister to or to find people who felt like they were on the edge of society and outside of the mainstream and tell them they were beloved of God,” Sirmons said.

“That’s what Wayne did,” he said. “He went to the outskirts of society to people who weren’t included in the main discussion, who were outside what was considered acceptable or normal and he made them know they were loved. And I think that’s a rare gift.”

Riley said Schwandt volunteered for a number of other organizations, including an HIV support group associated with the Anne Arundel County Health Center.

“He gave of himself to his church and the organizations he worked for,” said Riley.

“How lucky I am to have loved and known the man, Wayne Schwandt,” Riley wrote in a posting on Schwandt’s Facebook page. “Lucky is the right word, for he makes saying goodbye today so hard for us all.”

Riley said he was especially moved by a note he received in a condolence card by one of Schwandt’s friends, Ellen Spence.

“Wayne was a man of passion, love and ideals,” Spence wrote. He had compassion to his fellow travelers and a desire to bring the love of God and self-acceptance to his flock. He lived his life with a contagious joy. He walked the walk and talked the talk.”

A memorial service celebrating Schwandt’s life was held May 9 in Annapolis.

In addition to Riley, Schwandt is survived by four sons that the couple raised – Scott Riley of Ranson, W.Va.; Kyle Riley of Sydney, Australia; Matthew Riley of Dover, Del.; and Jason Schwandt of Durham, N.C.; a brother Bill Schwandt of Appleton, Wis.; and sister Roxanne Corpus of Delevan, Wis.; five grandchildren; and an aunt.


District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

Continue Reading


Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’



Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out just before the pandemic in collaboration with Wells Fargo. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship each year of their community college experience as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

Meanwhile, the foundation is also expanding its new BIPOC scholarship, which announced its next round of recipients on May 22. The scholarship is currently supporting between 500 and 555 scholars across the country.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

This year, Point also did a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade