Global LGBT conference seeks to change attitudes

29 January 2016

GCN CONFERENCE

"We must not compromise safety": Allyson Dylan Robinson

"We must not compromise safety": Allyson Dylan Robinson

SPEAKERS at the largest LGBT Christian conference in the world have called on Christians to show compassion to the LGBT community and to “drive a change” in churches, campuses, homes, and society.

More than 1400 people attended the Gay Christian Network (GCN) conference in Houston, Texas, this month to discuss ways of tackling homophobia, supporting LGBT children, and “fulfilling faith” as a transgender person. It came weeks after the city voted to repeal its Equal Rights Ordinance, which protected its inhabitants from discrimination against sex, sexuality, gender, race, and religion.

The four-day event began on 7 January with welcome talks, worship, and Q&As. Workshops included “Beautiful Bible? Finding Ourselves in the Story (Again)” and “Coming Out to Conservative Parents”.

Among the guest speakers was the assistant curate of Grace-St Luke’s Episcopal Church, Memphis, the Revd Broderick Greer, and a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, the Revd Allyson Dylan Robinson, who is thought to be the first openly transgender person to be ordained in a Baptist church.

Ms Robinson — formally known as Daniel — was married for ten years before she told her wife, Danielle, that she wanted to be a woman.

“LGBT people of all kinds still face discrimination and violence at the hands of their neighbours, their schools, their employers, and, sadly, their churches,” she said. “We must not compromise their safety or their dignity, or with laws that claim to protect religious liberty but in reality protect privileged prejudice. We must leave no one behind.”

Mr Greer, who also lectures on human rights and racial justice, told the conference: “If theology can be used to oppress, murder, and brutalise women, black people, trans people, queer people, bisexuals, and people with disabilities, then why can’t theology be used to liberate us, dignify us, and renew us?”

The theme of the 12th annual conference was “What’s Next?” — that is, for parents whose child has just come out; for new couples; and for Christians, congregations, and families with LGBT members. The talks also tackled issues of gender and race.

“We need to specifically affirm that black lives do matter,” the founder and executive director of the Gay Christian Network (GCN), Justin Lee, said. “I have experienced what it’s like to be on the outskirts; so I have to care about people who have been on the outskirts in ways that I am not, who have been hurt or marginalised in other ways.”

Since its inception in 2005, the GCN has doubled its numbers. The director of communications, Jamie Least, said that promoting the conference within the Church was now its “top priority”.

The focus was “shifting change” on LGBT issues within the Church, and so the presence of church leaders was essential, he said: “Thankfully, we’ve seen noticeable growth in the attendance of ministry leaders.”

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