May 17, 2008

The Next Step in Soulforce's "Great American Outing"

This might be the best initiative Soulforce has undertaken since I've been involved in GLBT ministry.


The American Family Outing now prepares to visit Bishop T.D. Jakes who has graciously agreed to share food and conversation with us on Sunday afternoon, May 18th. Our families also look forward to attending worship services at The Potter's House. Several dozen families making the visit will be led by Pastor Troy Sanders of Atlanta, Georgia, and other clergy leaders.

Pastor Troy says, "I've joined the American Family Outing team because I have a passion to see us engage in healthy, holistic dialogue around sexuality and faith. I have experienced oppressive theology first hand and I see the damage it does to men, women and children on a daily basis. I am constantly in contact with people who have lost faith in church and spiritually because of the damage done at the hand of individuals who think they are doing God's will. We are quickly approaching a time in our community and culture where we can no longer avoid having these type conversations. I look forward to fostering the kind of environment with American Family Outing that lends itself to peaceful discourse with clergy and families without the fear of being badgered or imposed upon."

The American Family Outing is a nationwide fellowship effort which aims to connect one-on-one and family-to-family with congregants at six prominent mega-churches. Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, and Hope Christian Church in Maryland, have also agreed to meet lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families and we approach these opportunities with the belief that it is possible for families to have meaningful conversations in spite of perceived differences. Rice University Professor Stephen L. Klineberg's data can confirm the impact of simply getting to know someone who is gay or lesbian:

"One of the most powerful predictors of area residents' attitudes toward gay rights, as powerful among religious fundamentalists as it is for the more secular respondents, is the simple question, 'Do you have a personal friend who is gay or lesbian?'"

"It seems clear that the opportunity to get to know someone who is homosexual helps to break through the stereotypes and fears, and to reinforce the sense of common humanity," says Klineberg, who is a Professor of Sociology and the founding-director of the Houston Area Survey (1982-2008), which has tracked Houston's demographics and public attitudes for the past 27 years.

"Support for gay rights (e.g., allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, or to teach in the public schools, or to be legally permitted to adopt children) has continued to increase steadily and consistently among Harris County residents over the past two decades," Klineberg continued.

Please join me in praying that these efforts result in understanding which leads to acceptance, just as Jesus accepts ALL of His children.

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