SALT LAKE CITY – Two-hundred LGBTQ faith leaders are gathering in Salt Lake City this week to address religious and politically motivated attacks on the gay and transgender community.
It’s an effort to elevate the LGBTQ faith community before the World Congress of Families meets in Utah next week.
Hosted by the national LGBTQ task force, the four-day gathering at the Radisson Hotel in Salt Lake City is bringing to light the issue of faith in the LGBTQ community.
“People didn’t believe they could be gay and be Christian,” said Bishop Allyson Abrams from the Empowerment Liberation Cathedral. “They didn’t believe they could be gay and serve a higher power. They didn’t believe they could be gay and express that faith that they had on a regular basis.”
Leaders of different religions are ministering to people, giving them hope and encouragement that they can be both gay and a person of faith.
“Because, every time we try to put a block up and say who God accepts, whether it is based on race or it is based on gender, or it is based on any other phobia, God always tears those walls down,” said Bishop Tonyia Rawl of the United Church of Christ.
The conference comes a week before the gathering of the World Congress of Families – an organization that preaches against LGBTQ activity. Muslim leader Imam Abdulah said he hopes the convergence of both conferences creates a positive conversation.
“And I think this gives them an opportunity to articulate their particular points of view, but then it gives us an opportunity to articulate responses and I think that’s very important because it’s a dialogue,” Abdulah said. “It’s not a yes – finger-pointing one way only, but it’s a dialogue.”
People in attendance say it’s helping them feel more comfortable in their churches.
“I think that this is a really great place for people who are faithful and have been faithful and maybe have felt like they weren’t welcome,” said conference attendee Emily Shannon.
The conference goes until Oct. 23. Leaders say they hope the conference starts a narrative for other leaders of faith to make members of the LGBQ community feel safe and welcome in their congregations.