LGBT folks can expect to get some love not only from their romantic partners this Valentine's Day but also from a perhaps unexpected source -- mainline Protestant churches.
The Believe Out Loud campaign, an interfaith effort launching Sunday, calls on church members and clergy who support LGBT equality to become more vocal and visible, and make it clear that the religious right does not speak for all Christians.
"We want more [LGBT-friendly] people of faith speaking publicly about what they believe," says Michael Adee, executive director and field organizer for More Light Presbyterians, the LGBT-supportive group within the Presbyterian Church USA, and one of the groups involved in the effort. They need to speak out not only about church policies but also but also civil matters like marriage equality, employment policies, hate crimes, adoption rights, and many others, he says.
Believe Out Loud, coordinated by the multifaith social justice organization Intersections International, targets the seven largest mainline Protestant denominations -- American Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist -- but other churches are welcome to participate, says Sung Park, Intersections project manager.
These faith groups have varying policies on gay rights, both within the church--some ordain partnered gay clergy and bless same-sex unions; others do not--and in the public policy sphere. Studies, like one done three years ago by the think tank Movement Advancement Project, have shown that many clergy members in these denominations support LGBT rights but have not taken action on the issue, Park says. "We need to start shedding light and amplifying the voices of those who are supportive," he says.
He characterizes Believe Out Loud as an appeal to people in the
"movable middle" on gay rights and a "booster shot" to the work that
has been done for decades by gay-friendly groups within various
denominations, such as More Light Presbyterians and the United
Methodist Church's Reconciling Ministries Network.
movements, says Reconciling Ministries executive director Troy Plummer,
are "one of the best-kept word-of-mouth secrets in the faith." He adds,
"There are many, many people in the United Methodist Church who have
been intimidated by our conservative friends for way too long."
of the launch will vary from one congregation to another. Some will
note the occasion in their weekly bulletins; at others, ministers may
announce it from the pulpit. At still others, there may not be an
official sanction of Believe Out Loud, but supportive members may show
up sporting the campaign's buttons or T-shirts.
already a Facebook page for the campaign, and Sunday will bring the
launch of its official website, www.believeoutloud.com, which will
provide ample resources to foster conversations about LGBT rights, Park
says. He calls the Valentine's Day activities a "soft launch," as
activities will amp up to a more "hard launch" in June, Gay Pride
Month, and go on from there.
In a sense, though, Valentine's
Day is certainly an appropriate day to begin the campaign. Says Adee:
"We really want people to stand on the side of love."