The 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, was held in Atlanta last week. Sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the conference is an annual organizing and skills-building event that attracts over 3,000 attendees each year.
For the third year in a row, the "Practice Spirit, Do Justice" track featured workshops and speakers around the theme of religion and LGBT equality.
This theme culminated during Sunday's closing plenary when Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be named a bishop in a major Christian denomination, accepted the Susan J. Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement.
During the Interfaith Worship Service preceding the plenary, Bishop Robinson spoke at length about how LGBT activists can sustain their commitment to the movement. He challenged attendees to measure their success not by external results of their actions, but rather, to consider their own ability to witness to the love of God a success in itself:
"Don't get so enamored with change that your satisfaction depends on results. We must learn to be satisfied having witnessed to who we are, who we love, and the light of God within us. Let God do with that what God will."
Bishop Robinson joked that de-emphasizing milestones of "change" might get him in trouble at a conference entitled "Creating Change," but his uniquely spiritual message resonated well with attendees, many of whom have committed their lives to the struggle for LGBT equality.
The bishop's view is not one without hope. In every speech, he displayed a kind of confidence that can only grow from faith in God:
"At the end of the day—God wins. God's love wins. We can keep up this fight because we know how it ends."
Bishop Robinson's impact on the movement was clear on Saturday when a young, gay attendee stood up during the bishop's packed Q&A to ask one simple question:
"Bishop V. Gene Robinson, will you give me a hug?"
Without hesitation, the beloved bishop stepped into the crowd to embrace the young man with open arms.
Photo via National Gay and Lesbian Task Force