By Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
“Gay Christian? Yes! Campaign
I love the fall. This is an exciting time when we start preparing the earth, laying the groundwork and nurturing the land for the promise of future blooms.
Such is the work of our fall season with GIFT. This is an exciting time as we create and collaborate with others. This is the time we nurture one another with the hope of future allies and stronger lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith. We pray for and act to help create a stronger and vibrant church community where all God’s children are welcomed, encouraged and allowed to share their God-given gifts. Some upcoming new programs seem like answers to prayer.
After a summer break, our support group for all ages – GRITS – held its first meeting of the new season in September. It was an exciting session with good conversation including one with an ally from a conservative church who wanted to know how to get the conversation going in his church. It is always inspiring and hopeful when allies join the conversation. All are welcome.
GRITS has decided to meet twice a month on Wednesdays with the first session of the month allowing more time for talking and support and the second session with more time to explore issues and get to know one another better with activities. To that end we are exploring discussions following specific movies. Other second session events could include book clubs, dinners, outings, speakers. Give us your ideas as we look forward to seeing old and new faces on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Vine at the First Place Building, 207 East Fulton Street.
It was wonderful that an ally wanted to know how to get more involved and we provided mutual encouragement. Here is another fantastic opportunity for all people of faith who want to learn how to have the conversation in their church communities. The nationally recognized Institute for Welcoming Resources will hold its “Building an Inclusive Church” three-day conference in Grand Rapids on October 27-29 at Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, 514 Eastern Ave. SE.
Through sound Biblical and theological education, faith-based community organizing skills, meaningful worship, and discussion of lesbian, gay, bisexuality and transgender issues, this conference will prove helpful to lay leaders, clergy, denominational leaders and members and leaders in denominational LGBT groups.
The premise of the conference comes from the belief that “every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves to be honored as a beloved child of God and celebrated at Christ’s Table.”
“Building an Inclusive Church” offers powerful tools to help the Church be the church it is meant to be – just, loving and extravagantly welcome.”
This is exciting news for West Michigan. The $25 conference is hosted by “All One Body” and “Room For All,” two inclusive-building groups that come from the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church of America faith traditions. The conference is open to all denominations and organizers are hoping to attract a large number of people from various Western Michigan churches and denominations, said Sheryl Mulder spokesperson for All One Body.
She said both the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church of America have “the same current struggles with the official stances on LGBT issues within our denomination and we are working towards helping our denominations begin to dialog and listen to different viewpoints.”
Mulder said she recognizes that the Christian Reformed Church “has a lot of work to do” to be fully inclusive. ”We feel that baby steps are what we are hoping for at this point. We also recognized that change on the current stance of the Christian Reformed Church will be much more effective if it is created from the ground up (laity) versus from the top down (Synod).” She is hopeful that members of the Christian Reformed Church will engage in the conference.
The Institute is an ecumenical consortium of denominations in the Welcoming Movement. They have full scholarships available and the deadline to register is October 11. So make this a wonderful National Coming Out Day present to yourself and register.