Keeping the Faith

HRC plans interfaith event for justice and equality

Not every preacher, not every church, not every congregation opposes the rights of GLBT people — but far too many people believe that’s the case.

Religious leaders from across the country who support GLBT equality will join forces in Washington May 4 for ”Clergy Call for Justice and Equality 2009.”

Sharon Groves, the lesbian deputy director of Religion and Faith Programs at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the organization sponsoring the event, says the two-day meeting includes a conference, an interfaith celebration and a press conference on Capitol Hill.

”We will be asking our clergy that are coming to speak about hate-crime legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA),” she says, adding that those registered clergy number more than 300.

The Capitol Hill showing will take place on May 5, just six days after U.S. House of Representatives approved hate-crime legislation that is now headed to the Senate. The same day, a large group of pastors and others opposing marriage equality are expected at a different District venue, the City Council chambers, to show opposition to recent Council moves toward equality.

”They’re allowed to do that,” Groves says, ”but they aren’t the only voice in town — or in the country.”

Thinking of religious voices on GLBT issues as the voices of the religious right, she says, is an image people have had ”for way too long.”

Groves says HRC hopes to confront that conventional wisdom with Clergy Call, particularly with Monday night’s interfaith celebration, ”Advocacy from a Spirit of Abundance,” at the Calvary Baptist Church in the Penn Quarter neighborhood.

”If you tend to look at the arguments that get used against LGBT people, there’s often a faith component to it,” Grove says, pointing to the need to talk to many people within the context of their faith. The conference is ”about really showing that there is this movement out there, there are religious leaders all over this country, from all different faiths, that are really kind of sick and tired of the Christian right claiming to be the voice of religion on LGBT issues, because it’s just not true.”

One of those leaders is Darlene Nipper, who will speak at the interfaith celebration. Nipper is prominent in the metropolitan D.C. GLBT community as an interfaith minister and as the former director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs. Today, she’s the deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force — and an ordained minister.

”It’s important for people of faith who support full equality for all people to come forth, to stand up and let people see us, and recognize that there are people of faith who do support full equality for LGBT people,” says Nipper.

Others scheduled to join Nipper during the interfaith celebration are: Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ at the General Synod in Providence, R.I.; Bishop Yvette Flunder, the presiding bishop of Refuge Ministries; Rev. Amy Butler of the Calvary Baptist Church; Saria Idana, a poet, musician, dancer and arts educator; Rev. Louise Green from All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Columbia Heights; Rabbi Toby Manewith, who starts her tenure at the local Bet Mishpachah GLBT congregation July 1; and the Metropolitan Community Church Gospel Choir.

Nipper plans to talk about the theme of the celebration, ”Advocacy from a Spirit of Abundance,” from a Buddhist perspective.

”I was raised Catholic, and like all good Catholics I’ve converted,” she laughs. ”I’ve always been a questioning personÂ… and over the last 20 years or so, I’ve been rooted in meditation as the primary practice of my spiritual practice.”

Nipper says she finds that meditating daily helps her when dealing with issues of controversy and conflict.

”There’s something very centering about just going within and sitting quietly and sort of tapping into something that’s not seen, but that you can feel. My experience has been that when I do that, I can feel the abundance that is being talked about.”

For more information about Clergy Call for Justice and Equality 2009, visit www.hrc.org/religion or call 202-628-4160. Calvary Baptist Church is located at 755 Eighth St. NW.

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