As acceptance of LGBT people, relationships, and legal equality spreads in communities of faith, churches and other religious groups are boosting their visibility in pride celebrations. The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein noted the trend on the eve of D.C.’s Capital Pride celebration this past weekend:
Organizers of this weekend’s Capital Pride named 14 faith-based groups participating in Sunday’s festival for the first time. They include Baptist, Lutheran and Quaker churches as well as the country’s largest Buddhist denomination, a Conservative synagogue and a Mormon advocacy group.
Perhaps the most prominent first in 2013 will be the participation in Saturday’s parade of Washington National Cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Church and the site of many presidential funerals and major national interfaith gatherings. The Episcopal Church, a small but prominent Protestant denomination, has been generally in favor of gay equality for years but the Cathedral leadership has been raising the bar in the last few months.
It’s not that religious groups haven’t been part of celebrations before – it’s that gay-affirming groups working within various religious traditions are increasingly joined by straight allies, congregations and denominational leaders. Another Post article featured the participation of the Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Cathedral, in Saturday’s pride parade. In March, Hall spoke at a marriage equality rally before the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two marriage cases; the Cathedral announced in January that it would perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.
“Religion row” at Sunday’s Capital Pride festival featured a wide range of offerings. For some LGBT people who walked or were pushed away from their faith, having members of a Baptist church waving them over to their booth might have been a little jarring. Some attendees were thrilled to find their tradition represented. While I was speaking with a friend who was volunteering at the booth of Axios, an organization for LGBT people from Eastern and Orthodox Christian traditions, two men came to the table surprised and delighted to find that such a group existed.
More evidence of change: on the eve of Pride Month, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America elected its first openly gay bishop, The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, a professor of religion and history who will lead the Southwest California Synod. From GLAAD:
Because he is openly gay and partnered, Dr. Erwin did not seek ordination in the ELCA when he was completing seminary. Instead, he completed a PhD in Lutheran history and spent most of his career as a teacher of Lutheran history. He met his partner Rob Flynn while he was studying for this PhD at Yale University. He and Rob are members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, CA.
He is currently Professor of Religion and History, holder of the Gerhard & Olga J. Belgum Chair in Lutheran Confessional Theology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, a seat he has held since 2000. Following the policy change allowing clergy in same-gender relationships, Dr. Erwin was ordained on May 11, 2011.
Predictably, religious conservatives did not cheer Erwin’s election. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced that the ELCA no longer qualified as evangelical or Lutheran or even as a church. Not that a lot of Lutherans look to Mohler for his opinion of their faith.