LGBT Families Share Their Witness with Hope Christian, Bishop Jackson

Dinner Builds a Bridge to Future Dialogue

For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771


(Washington, D.C.) On Saturday, May 24, a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and straight-ally families shared dinner and conversation with families from Bishop Harry Jackson’s Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.

According to The Washington Times, Bishop Jackson, who is known for his opposition to marriage equality and hate crimes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, called the meeting with same-gender-loving families "historic."

Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of Religious Affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition and a lead organizer of the meeting said, "We knew that there were distinct theological chasms between Hope Christian and our group of lesbian, gay and bisexual folk, and those differences were not expected to be breached in one meeting. However, the purpose was for Hope Christian church families to get to know our families and see that the commonalities we share are greater that the differences."

The dinner was part of a nationwide fellowship outreach called The American Family Outing, which issued an invitation to Bishop Jackson and members of his Maryland church to share a meal and "heart-to-heart" conversation with LGBT families and clergy.

The initial invitation to fellowship was issued in letters dated December 1, 2007, and March 20, 2008. The letters were released last week in response to a press release from Jackson’s High Impact Leadership Coalition, which mistakenly suggested that members of The American Family Outing planned to protest outside Hope Christian Church. (See links to letters below.)

The event was comprised of about 30 people from Hope Christian Church and about 30 people from The American Family Outing (AFO). The conversation began with opening statements from each group. Then moderators from each group accepted questions from those assembled. Rev. Phil Lawson, Soulforce board member and veteran African American civil rights activist, acted as the moderator for the AFO.

Some of the topics discussed were hate crimes protections, free speech, marriage equality, civil rights, and attitudes toward gay and lesbian sons and daughters who come out in evangelical families and churches such as Hope Christian. Many of the AFO families were able to share their experiences of discrimination and spiritual violence in the one-on-one conversation and the larger forum.

"Where do we go from here?" asked Sylvia Rhue. "There is a mutual agreement to continue the conversation."

The American Family Outing is a collaborative project of Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

The AFO aims to open dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches. In previous weeks, AFO families have visited Lakewood Church in Houston and The Potter’s House in Dallas. In these successful visits, AFO participants and church congregants have engaged in thoughtful and inspiring dialogue and fellowship. In weeks to come, LGBT families will visit Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and Saddleback Church in California.

To read the full text of the letter dated December 1, 2007, go to:

To read the full text of the letter dated March 20, 2008, go to:

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC) is an international fellowship of Christian churches with a special ministry to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The National Black Justice Coalition(NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. The Coalition works with our communities and our allies for social justice, equality, and an end to racism and homophobia.

COLAGE is a national movement of children, youth and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy.