This year has brought unprecedented progress toward LGBTQ inclusion and equality in the United States and around the world. Even as we gain traction in our work, debates over Christian faith and LGBTQ equality persist.
Here are the top ten moments from these conversations in 2013:
10. Pope Francis Shifts LGBTQ Dialogue In Catholic Church
In August 2013, Pope Francis surprised the world by asking a simple question on the topic of gay priests: "Who am I to judge?" The next month, he challenged the Catholic Church to focus more on becoming a "home for all" than topics like homosexuality. Pope Francis has yet to affirm LGBTQ identity, and he continues to uphold the Catholic definition of marriage, but his change in tone is undoubtedly shifting dialogue on LGBTQ equality in the Catholic Church.
9. Protestant Organizations Elect First Openly Transgender Leaders
In July 2013, More Light Presbyterians announced that Alex McNeill would be the organization's new executive director. Less than a month later, Integrity USA named Vivian Taylor as Integrity's new executive director. McNeill and Taylor are, respectively, the first openly transgender man and openly transgender woman to lead mainline denominational Protestant organizations.
8. Washington National Cathedral Stands For LGBTQ Inclusion
In January 2013, the Washington National Cathedral announced it would begin holding weddings for same-sex couples. In June 2013, the iconic church celebrated the Supreme Court's rulings for marriage equality by ringing its bells, and in October, the Cathedral took a stand for LGBTQ youth to mark the fifteenth anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death.
7. Video Campaigns Share LGBTQ Stories And Support
In July 2013, My God Is Not A Bully launched a video project sharing the message of God's love with LGBTQ people. In September 2013, Not All Like That Christians launched, encouraging LGBT-affirming Christians to upload videos expressing their support of LGBT people. In October 2013, Many Voices launched a video campaign illuminating the powerful presence of black gay and transgender Christians within the church.
6. Exodus International Shuts Down, Apologizes For Harm Caused
After three decades of practicing "ex-gay" ministry, Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, apologized for the harm Exodus caused the LGBTQ community and announced the organization would close. While many advocates and ex-gay survivors welcomed this news, others challenged Chambers to go one step further by changing his theology to recognize LGBTQ persons and relationships as “holy.”
5. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Installs First Openly Gay Bishop
In May 2013, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) installed its first openly gay bishop when Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin was appointed as Bishop of the Southwest California Synod. Erwin, who serves as one of 65 synodical bishops in the ELCA, is also the denomination's first Native American bishop.
4. Welcoming & Affirming Baptists Celebrate 40 Years
In 2013, the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (AWAB) celebrated its 20th anniversary and commemorated 40 years of work toward LGBTQ inclusion in the Baptist world. To celebrate, the organization took a tour across the country, ending their 30-day, 3500-mile, and 15-state Living Jubilee Revival Tour in Providence, RI, the historic birthplace of the Baptist movement (and freedom of religion!).
3. Groundbreaking Films Spark LGBTQ Christian Dialogue
This year, four new films sparked dialogue at the intersection of Christian faith and LGBTQ equality. God Loves Uganda and Call Me Kuchu each examine the influence of American evangelicals in Uganda's struggle for LGBTQ equality. Religion is also a central theme in The New Black, which examines the African-American community’s diverse responses to the movement for LGBTQ equality. Seventh-gay Adventists, which profiles gay members of the conservative Seventh-day Adventist Church, sparked dialogue in conservative communities around the country. The first LGBTQ Christian film festival, Level Ground, will be held in Los Angeles, CA, in February 2014.
2. Ministers Challenge Methodist Bans On Homosexuality
In October 2013, retired Bishop Melvin Talbert challenged the United Methodist Church’s ban on same-sex marriage by officiating the wedding Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw in Birmingham, AL. In December 2013, Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked for officiating his son's wedding to another man.
Bishop Talbert and Rev. Schaefer are just two leaders risking their ordination to include LGBTQ people in the ministry of The United Methodist Church. In November 2013, more than thirty UMC clergy officiated a same-sex wedding in Pennsylvania to stand in solidarity with Rev. Schaefer. In addition, Mary Ann (Kaiser) Barclay, who was preemptively removed from her ordination process after she married a woman, was reinstated this month.
1. Christians Support Marriage Equality
From politicians to clergy, and families to faith leaders, Christians joined together to support LGBTQ people as the Supreme Court considered two cases on marriage equality in March 2013. Believe Out Loud’s graphic proclaiming “This Christian Supports Marriage Equality” was shared more than 30,000 times during the Supreme Court hearings. The video below, filmed in front of the Supreme Court, shares a powerful message from Christians to the LGBTQ community.