Meeting will teach LGBT advocates to counter religious right’s arguments
There’s a knack to defending the LGBT community against conservative religious criticism and promoting tolerance among people of faith.
That’s why the Human Rights Campaign’s local Religious and Faith Committee has scheduled a seminar to share their expertise and help people effectively respond to criticism and advocate for equality. The seminar, “Faith and Fairness,” will be held at the Lakewood Theater on June 7 from 6:45 p.m. to 9 p.m.
It will open with a performance by the Turtle Creek Chorale before the coordinators of the seminar get down to the business of advocacy training. The seminar will feature the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, who is the author of 13 books and a translator for two languages of the Bible.
Other speakers will be the Rev. Peter Johnson, founder of the Peter Johnson Institute of Non-Violence and the Dallas Common, Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor, the Plano Police Department chaplain and rabbi for Beth El Binah and the Rev. Charlotte Coyle, senior minister of Midway Hills Christian Church.
Harry Knox, director of HRC’s national Religious and Faith Program, will moderate the seminar.
“It really is vitally important that as we train people to advocate for LGBT equality that we teach them to use faith language because that is the language our of legislators and other leaders,” Knox said in a telephone interview. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with this to help people regain the rich language of community and unconditional love and care for the neighbor that is so much a part of all of our major faith traditions.”
Roger Wedell, chair of the Local Faith and Religious Committee, said LGBT people and their friends who have failed to effectively advocate on behalf of their community in the past would become knowledgeable and skilled.
“LGBT people will go away with the tools they need,” said Wedell, who is a longtime local advocate and an ordained minister. “We want people to have the information they need to be the advocates they want to be.”
Wedell said the local seminar is a follow-up to HRC’s recent outreach to religious communities and congressional leaders on Capitol Hill in Washington. The national group recruited members of the clergy from across the nation to lobby members of Congress in support of a hate crime bill protecting against violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The goals of the national effort and the local effort are similar, Wedell said.
“They want people who are active in religious communities and who are advocating for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons to know that they are not alone, that there are lots of folks in religious communities who are advocating for inclusion,” Wedell said. “Second, we want to help educate folks to give them language and tools to improve their advocacy.”
Wedell said the audience will consist of both LGBT and straight people.
“The overall goal of the project nationally is to increase the level of advocacy and understanding in communities of faith,” Wedell said. “So the primary targets for that advocacy are non-LGBT persons.”
Wedell said the choice of the Lakewood Theater for the seminar is part of the strategy to bring together the most diverse audience possible.
“It’s a neutral space,” Wedell said. “We can make it what we want it to be.”
Wedell said the local committee began talks with the national group about the seminar six months ago.
Local coordinators have reached out to religious communities in recent weeks through phone calls, e-mails and letters.
There currently are 15 cosponsors helping HRC put on the seminar.
They are Agape Metropolitan Community Church, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance Don Baker Education Fund, the Dallas-Fort Worth National Coming Out Project, the Cathedral of Hope, Celebration Community Church of Fort Worth, First Community Church, Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church of Carrollton, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, Midway Hills Christian Church, PFLAG Dallas, the Turtle Creek Chorale, Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff, White Rock Community Church, Lambda Legal, Beth El Binah, Kessler Park United Methodist Church and Northaven United Methodist Church.
Each organization represented at the seminar will receive a complimentary copy of the Turtle Creek Chorale’s new DVD, “The Power of Harmony.”
Wedell said the coordinators of the seminar are pleased with the responses they are getting to their outreach.
The Lakewood Theater is at 1825 Abrams Parkway in the Lakewood Shopping Center.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 25, 2007.