Reason Number 10 why we'd rather be in Atlanta this weekend: It's the setting for a major discussion on lgbt rights among black faith leaders—not a small feat considering that the Bible Belt and the black church have not been known to be tolerant of the gays.
The Reverend Al Sharpton and the City of Refuge Ministries' Bishop Dr. Yvette Flunder are the main speakers in the two-and-a-half day event sponsored by the NBJC. Rev. Sharpton's speech was the keynote address this morning; he's been an outspoken proponent of trying to build bridges between the black church and gays. Bishop Flunder's ministry is associated with the United Church of Christ, which is tremendously supportive of lgbt. The weekend event is being hosted by ATL's historic First Iconium Baptist Church. Keith Boykin is at the conference and is filing reports between sessions, such as an in-depth analysis of the Sharpton speech and discussion points.
On a personal note, it should be fairly obvious that we regularly attend church services—the reconciling congregation of the United Methodist Church, which is fairly activist on social justice and lgbt. Religious items are regularly posted here and few people comment, as opposed to exposing this or that homophobic reverend. That's okay, This summit is so important because many black lgbt are hurting from the past and are looking for healing. But what so many of us forget is that you can't have a dialogue with the church if you aren't involved. It's so easy to sit in the comfort of your home and fire off emails and comments on reverend such and such or pastor so-and-so. But if you really want to get involved and are so inclined, there are gay-friendly churches, congregations, rabbis and pastors; you just have to look for them. That's exactly why Rev. Sharpton and Bishop Flunder are leading the dialogue with the pastors.
One More Postscript: On Saturday morning there's been considerable coverage of the summit. Numerous major media outlets fielded reporters to Atlanta. This is brilliant.Black Churches' Attitudes (NYT) Black Clergy Tackle Homophobia (LA Times) Sharpton Kicks Off Summit (Keith Boykin) Meeting of Minds (SF Chronicle) Black Gay Group Reaches Out (Advocate) Black Churches Seek Answers (Detroit News)