Churches looking for ways to reach out to gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Christians, and their families, can take advantage of a workshop being held next month in Pittsburgh’s North Hills.
The training session, scheduled for 12 to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 2, will be held at St. Brendan’s Episcopal Church, 2635 McAleer Road, Franklin Park (Sewickley area), and will be led by educators from Integrity USA.
Space is limited, but the training is open to interested clergy and laity from any denomination. Lunch will be provided and pre-registration by February 28 is required.
The workshop is free for dues-paying members of Integrity USA, and $25 for non-members. Students, senior citizens and others on fixed or lower incomes may attend for $10.
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Integrity USA is a national advocacy group that since 1975 has encouraged the full inclusion of LGBTQ people and their families in the sacraments of The Episcopal Church. The workshop is part of the interdenominational “Believe Out Loud” educational and informational program.
Many of the so-called “mainline” Protestant churches, including The Episcopal Church, have official policies forbidding discrimination against partnered same-sex couples and transgender people, but practices vary from church to church.
In recent years, public debates have divided members of the Episcopal, United Methodist and Presbyterian USA churches over issues such as allowing clergy to perform same-sex blessing ceremonies, and allowing openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to be ordained or hold church offices.
As a result, some congregations are reluctant to discuss issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, and some LGBT Christians are unsure if they’re welcome in their neighborhood churches.
“Our workshops are designed to teach people how to engage their parishes in meaningful conversations about becoming more welcoming to LGBT persons, and how to take the next steps in being public about it,” says Vivian Taylor, executive director of Integrity USA.
The workshops are designed to give participants the tools they need to start collaborative, non-confrontational conversations about welcoming LGBT people into their churches, Taylor says. “For churches that have already taken these steps, we help their parishioners reach out to other parishes and the diocese to help them take their next steps,” she says.
Taylor will be one of the presenters, along with Susan Pederson, Integrity USA coordinator for Province III, which includes the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Central Pennsylvania, Northwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Pittsburgh regional “Believe Out Loud” workshop is being hosted by the Pittsburgh chapter of Integrity USA.