Naps, iPods, and Self-examination . . . OH MY!

by Jonathan Awtrey

I’ve never been farther west from Dallas than today. My day was spent reflecting on two very specific topics: my coming out anniversary and the rest of the ride.

April 1 marks the two-year anniversary of my coming out. I define my official coming out as the day I came out to my parents. Have you put two and two together yet? That’s right, I came out to my parents on April Fools Day. It should be noted that this was probably not my shining moment, but the opportunity presented itself and I couldn’t let the moment pass.

The question most people pose here is, "Did your parents think it was a practical joke?" I believe that the question should be, "What kind of opportunity could you not pass up in order to come out to your parents?"

My mother had just told me about my aunt’s pastor, and how at their church, a unique "mission field" had just opened up. See, the pastor and his wife had just shared with their congregation that when they were younger they had an abortion. The congregation had two options: to dismiss the pastor and his wife and their call to that church or show just how much God loves everyone, forgives, and widens his circle of followers every chance He gets. They chose the later, and because of that choice, the church opened up a new ministry to single mothers/expecting mothers/single expecting mothers/young women/ young expecting women/ young single expecting mothers/….well you get the idea…

So I took this chance. "Well, Mom, I too have a unique ministry that I feel every church is lacking. I am gay, and Christian."

That’s how I came out to my parents…well my mom. Coming out to my dad ended with me saying, "…Hallmark just doesn’t make a card for this kind of thing."

This brings me to my second reflecting point: why I was on the Ride and just how much of it was left.

In one month, we will all be saying goodbye– goodbye to this family we have created, and goodbye to this part of our call to seek justice. The Ride will be over, and we’ll all go back to our lives, dispersed across this great nation; but we will still have that call (A call which some of us would really like to see in yet another Ride…). So what becomes of what we’ve done? Have we done anything at all? Did we actually make an impact?

I’m sure most people would say, if not shout, "YES!"

Here’s where I’ll be honest. Being on the Ride, I feel, has shielded me from the differences we’re making. Sometimes I feel, "If it weren’t us doing it, someone else would; the difference would be made anyway." (Here’s where the iPod segment comes in…) Then a song started playing– one that made me realize that time we have together on this Ride is short, and the difference we make might not be known to us for some time. And by the time we do realize we’ve made an impact, we might all be long gone (But I really hope that’s not the case).

 

Michael Tolcher – "Kings In Castles"

[Verse 1]
People said it would go so fast
Before you know it you’ll be here
Living life innocent just don’t last
It gets harder every year

See yourself in a place beyond today
Yeah the future can be scary
Just be wise to the games you play
Don’t let your spirit get heavy

[Chorus]
By the end, we’ll be making history
We’ll be writing fairy tails
We’ll be stars in movies
By the end, we’ll be raising families
Living off of memories
We’ll be kings in castles
By the end

[Verse 2]
Having fun was the only rule (It’s all about the fun)
Yeah, there was nothing in the way
Being left out or being uncool (Won’t catch me)
Was the hardest game to play
People said very soon your games would end
If you grow up like you should
Because in this life you have to fend
For yourself like no one else would

[Chorus]

[Verse 3]
We’ll be the heroes
Oh, say can you see those bright, shining stars
Can you see those bright shining stars?

We’ll be making history
We’ll be writing fairy tails
We’ll be stars in movies
By the end, we’ll be raising families
Living off of memories
We’ll be kings in castles
By the end

[Chorus]

When in Rome…

by Jarrett Lucas

We pour onto Texas A & M’s campus, an army of individuals connected by a common dream; we wish to live in a world devoid of discrimination. The diversity of our group is quite apparent. But, even more visible is our unity. With affable smiles and sincere greetings we allow our shirts to ask the question, "Would you serve with me?"

Rain does not delay our Wednesday morning rally, nor does it scare away the audience. Students, cadets, and faculty approach us, excited by our presence and interested in our message. Haven Herrin and I both speak. Although we cannot amplify our voices, we make ourselves heard, "It is time to end the ban." Our nation’s leaders have written into law the notion that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are abnormal and less than. Our nation’s legislators have codified the very prejudice we seek to end. Our military, which seeks to promote and protect truth in the world, asks its own soldiers to lie about who they are so as to ensure ‘unit cohesion’. Although we cannot make people listen, we make the voices of many people heard. The "Don’t ask, Don’t tell" policy dishonors the service of its 65,000 GLBT service members and discredits the intellectual potential of their heterosexual comrades.

After the rally, Commandant John Van Alstyne proudly invites a group of Equality Riders to have lunch with Corps members in Duncan Hall. It is clear that his pride extends to us as well as his cadets. He says we are brave for acting on our beliefs. He knows we are servicing society by advocating our own liberty. Constantly quieting salutes, he traverses the large dining hall captivated by our honest, articulate discussions. At a dozen tables, Riders successfully engage the minds of students whose individualistic cerebration is often suppressed. Simple conversations about military policy quickly lead into the exchange of curious inquiries, personal testimony, and scriptural understanding. This is why we are here.

At one table a cadet asks, "What if the entire military were gay?" Despite his dismal tone, Riders respond by saying, "Then, the uniforms would be more stylish." The Riders proceed to address both ancient and contemporary militaries that allow openly gay citizens to enlist, among those many of the United States’ most powerful allies. It is explained that in regards to military service, sexual orientation is benign a characteristic as skin color. Perhaps the cadets at that table leave uncertain of where they stand. But, one thing is sure. The issue of serving with GLBT people has been personalized, and the human element of prejudice can no longer be denied.

A forum is held in Rudder Tower later in the evening. Gay students and straight allies, including the Commandant, arrive to show their support of the Soulforce Equality Ride’s current and future endeavors to end injustice. I have never seen such a diverse group gathered for a single concern; a three star general, a straight cadet, a gay student leader, a former soldier, and dozens of youth activists. But, we put our differences aside and recognize that which threads our lives: our humanity. And very much like the Corps at Texas A & M, we honor ourselves with dignity, courage, and integrity.

Grateful for Abilene

by Robin Reed

Sunday night, after a long day of travel from Oklahoma City to Abilene in a stuffy bus with no Freon (thus no air conditioning), we arrived at Abilene Christian University in time for a nice dinner sponsored by the university. This is the first school to offer us an official welcome and provide us with forums and the space to give presentations and attend classes and have structured dialogues with students, faculty, and staff. It struck me when we first arrived in the room to eat dinner that the smallest of courtesies — providing us with name tags — indicated that they cared about who we were and wanted to get to know us as individuals. We had some good discussions the first night with graduate students in the theology program, then a number of us went to an a capella praise service.

The following morning, we met students and staff members for breakfast at 7:30. They served us an amazing Texas breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and fruit. No one left that room hungry. We had hosts escort us to a marriage and family therapy class that had invited several of us to discuss LGBT relationships, while other riders went to a forum and gave a presentation on physical, emotional, and spiritual violence perpetuated against LGBT individuals (and others throughout history, including people of color, women, and people of other faiths). Both were well attended and students seemed interested in interacting with us in a constructive and respectful manner.

At lunch, a couple of riders (Jessie and Rebecca) told their stories of coming out, discussing the process of reconciling their sexuality with their spirituality. They were followed by a woman who discussed her struggle with her sexuality and childhood trauma and how she felt that her attraction to women was the result of an unhealthy relationship with her father. After resolving these issues through therapy and prayer, she is no longer a lesbian. The tension in the room was palpable as she concluded her story. We had discussion questions for table conversation afterward, but no one at our table felt that the tension could (or should) be ignored, so we set aside the questions and honestly met one another at the table of humanity for an important but extremely difficult dialogue. We told of some of our own struggles with attempting to change our sexual orientation and of the spiritual disconnection we felt until we realized that God loved us exactly as we were, without reservation, and that our sexual orientation was a gift from God to be lived with integrity, not a sin to be forgiven or a sickness to be healed.

I personally feel that everyone has the right to their own story and that it is not constructive to argue with someone’s experience. That said, I know that, according to a coalition of mental health associations representing nearly 500,000 mental health professionals, reparative therapy (which attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation from gay to straight) is ineffective at changing one’s orientation and has a great potential for causing harm. So while I respect this woman’s experience, I do not believe that it can or should be the norm for all LGBT individuals. The very assumption underlying attempts to make gay people straight is that being attracted to individuals of the same sex is not a valid orientation, that there is something wrong with being gay. This is the misinformation that leads well-intentioned but misguided people to treat LGBT people in a way that makes them feel less than human. When this misinformation is backed up by religion-based discrimination, the implication becomes that God cannot and will not love people unless they are straight. This declares open season on LGBT people; violence in its many forms (physical, emotional, and spiritual) becomes tacitly accepted or at least not condemned. This oppressive environment also leads far too many LGBT people to believe that they are unloved and unlovable, which can lead to feelings of despair and attempts (sometimes successful) at suicide.

This is why we are here: To bring this issue out into the open. We want to have these conversations so people can hear that LGBT people are also made in the image of God, that God loves everyone equally, that there is nothing wrong with being gay, and that there is nothing Christian about discriminating against LGBT people. Abilene Christian welcomed us with open arms and permitted us to have these discussions with students. We sat together at the table of brother- and sisterhood, acknowledging both our disagreements and our shared humanity. No other school has given us such a welcome, and for this we applaud the administration of ACU. We were told by individuals within the administration that conversations had taken place that day that could not have happened in the classroom. Students were given the safe space necessary to ask the hard questions and, in some cases, sit with a lack of answers. We stand in the tension and wait, believing that the willingness to approach tough issues and deal with ambiguity will lead us to a place of reconciliation in the end.

I, for one, am tired but grateful.

Oklahoma Escape

by Jacob Neal

Oklahoma City, OK

Our first day off! What a relief! The question looming in everyone’s mind after our mentally taxing days at OBU was how should we spend this glorious day off here in Oklahoma City, the thriving metropolis of the Midwest? Bill provided us with the clear answer: breakfast at IHOP. It may not sound like an adventure, but when you gather 15 or more Equality Riders together at least two things are inevitable. One, Jesus is present, and two, you’re in for a smashing good time. The trip to IHOP was no exception. Us Equality Riders never know when the next meal will be coming, and the half of us who are vegetarian never know if the next meal will be palatable, so we laden down our table with short stacks and tall stacks and omelets and hash browns and eggs galore. The two hour feast was an experience that will live on in my mind (and tummy) for days to come.

When we arrived back at the hotel, the breakfast bunch quickly dissipated in the halls of the Habana to a myriad of tasks. Laundry was high on the list for some while others settled down for a long afternoon nap. Industrious as a busy bee, I snuggled under the covers of my voluptuous bed with my book and half-heartedly attempted to make some headway into the 1069 riveting pages of Ayn Rand’s epic novel, Atlas Shrugged. Sitting on the bed, I could hear the sound of the waves and the wind rushing through the palm trees calling my name, "Jaaaa-cob," beckoning me down to the pool. (Okay! Okay! I imagined the palm trees, but it really was a windy day — hence the waves.) Journaling on the edge of the pool, I casually dipped my toes into the leafy waters, only to find I’d lost all feeling in the lower half of my body. With the aid of my arms, I was able to extract my toes from the frigid water but from that experience decided that swimming in Oklahoma would have to be the task for another Saturday.

At 3:00 pm, we all gathered in the darkened Habana theatre (Room 214) to watch the new Jake Reitan flick. After the 7 minute MTV feature, the Equality Ride celebrities practiced signing their autographs for the hoards of fans we were sure to encounter at our next stop at Abilene Christian. Then my day got interesting — really interesting. The moment I’d been waiting for all morning finally occurred — Jonathan and his exboyfriend Nate had come to rescue me from the humdrum life I’d been leading for so long (all morning) and took me back to Nate’s house where I could experience the rapturous joy of doing my laundry. Little did I know that I was to join in a family tradition, complete with extended family and friends, shish kabobbed mushrooms and peppers, cute beer bottle identifying braclets, and a viewing of Best in Show.

Five hours later after the festivities had finally concluded, Nate gave us a lift back to the hotel. The evening ended in a flurry of activity with frantic packing and hurried preparations for the early morning departure. Content with life, I settled into bed and drifted off to sleep with dreams of welcoming Christian universities dancing in my head.

Presentations Unveiled

by Angel Collie

Finally a day to actually sleep in! It was time to move on from the maze-like hotel in Tulsa and venture on to Oklahoma City– a stop I had been excited about for quite a while. We left around noon and arrived at our new hotel around 2:00. We were welcomed with the hotel billboard reading "Welcome Equality Riders."

Our hotel was the Habana Inn, a very interesting hotel to say the least. It was in the gay part of OKC and the hotel seemed quite gay itself. It housed three gay bars including Finishline (a country and western bar), The Copa (a dance club), and a restaurant called Gushers made famous by its karaoke night. Among all of that, it also included a pride shop where many of us re-upped on rainbow stickers and pride gear.

We didn’t have much time to spare that night because we had to get ready for our dinner and service at Church of the Open Arms. For the first time, the History of Violence team and the Bible team gave our presentations. It was positive and affirming to be able to present in front of a gay affirming audience.

The bible team went first and each of us got up and gave our stories. Jarrett spoke of how his grandfather had kicked him out when he came out in response to coming out to family. Next up was Kate who spoke of coming out to herself and the internal struggles she had been through. Oh No! It was my turn, so I spoke on coming out to the church and how I had been told I was making a mockery of the church by praying on the altar with my body piercings and homosexual colors. Jonathan spoke on coming out to his friends, most of whom already knew before he did. The last spot was saved for Kayla as she spoke on coming out to God. It really tied it all together for us and was a wonderful ending. Together we made up coming out to Self, Family, Friends, Church, and God. It is through our stories that people are moved and I believe it showed that night.

Next up was the History of Violence. I must say it is a quite tear-jerking presentation. It is a timeline of events in history when the bible has been used to promote hate and violence. It began with the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and quickly moved on to modern day. For example, in America, the Bible has been used to justify slavery and racism. It has also been used as a tool to suppress women, taking away their voice in the church and in the world.

Now, as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people, we are the "other" in the church. We are in the same position that African Americans and women have been in the past, and we must continue to fight for our rights just as they did. The team also took time to give examples, photos, bios, and even letters from our GLBT brothers and sisters whose lives had been taken away too soon. They showed murder and suicide resulting from hate and fear that comes from taking a few Bible verses out of context and turning it into a weapon.

To conclude, Pam shared a very personal story about the effects of hate and homophobia. She told how she had just moved to Hawaii and was attacked because she looked like a dyke and refused to lie about who she was. I was brought to tears along with many others in the room. The pictures are horrific and it blows my mind to believe people, especially the church, can sit back and continue to teach a theology that lets this violence happen to God’s rainbow children. Once that ended, we headed back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation. There was a drag show at the Copa that night, so a few of the riders enjoyed a little late night entertainment before heading to bed. To the surprise of many, it was snowing out. Over an inch was predicted. It was beautiful waking up to a snow covered ground as we prepared to head to Oklahoma Baptist University.

GLAAD Comes to Oklahoma

by Nathan Bengtson

Today was a rather low-key day. Our schedule was one that allowed us quite a bit of free time and some time to sleep in if we so desired. Sleep is one thing that many of us do not get on a regular and consistent basis on this ride. I personally slept until about 11:00 am! Our only real obligation today besides preparing mentally for our next stops and working on presentations for our stops was to attend a 4-hour training put on by GLAAD for media purposes. I found the meeting to be interesting and a good practice of our skills when faced with an interview with the press. I felt as though GLAAD did a good job working with us to practice many of the skills that we have become somewhat comfortable doing with the media thus far. I thought the training was a good idea to prepare us all to be able to go to these schools and to speak with conviction and confidence. It brings our professional image to an even higher standard.

After our training was finished we all boarded the bus to have dinner at a local GLBT community center called The Tulsa Oklahoman’s Human Rights center (TOHR). TOHR was generous to provide us with two meals for the two nights that we stayed in Tulsa. The members of the center and several community members came to support us and to eat with us. Once dinner was over, we had the rest of the evening to ourselves. A group of us headed down to the restaurant in the hotel and socialized for a while before heading to bed. All in all, the day was rather chill.

Our stop in Tulsa was organized for the most part by myself and Rachel. I felt that our stop’s logistics went smoothly. The day we visited Oral Roberts was a bit hectic, but that can be expected. I think we handled the situation with cool, calm, confidence. That’s it for now.

Oral Roberts Blocks Message

by Rachel Powell

I just saw a clip of the Equality Ride visit to Oral Roberts University on the 10:00 news here in Tulsa. It lasted a whole of what I’m sure was 18 seconds, mentioned that ORU had a policy that discriminated against gays and lesbians, and informed viewers that "at least seven were arrested" (actual number was nine). The lack of information given about the Ride was astounding, especially considering that Jake (as director of the Ride) and Nate and I (as ORU liaisons) intentionally gave statements to the press.

This, I feel, is symbolic of the way Oral Roberts treated our visit: suppress and oppress. Nate and I were never allowed to talk with the administrators via phone; rather, we engaged in painfully slow written dialogue. Students told us that the administrators blocked access to the Equality Ride from all computers on the school’s network. Several Riders had to meet students in a coffee shop several blocks from campus to engage in dialogue so that those in power would not see the students interacting with Riders and thus inflict consequences.

Nonetheless, the day was a success. Sure, our vigil outside ORU was a short one, several Riders spent eight hours in jail, and few students approached us during the visit. How can we consider a day like this a success? Despite the fact that our free speech, our message, was so horribly shut down and blocked off, we feel that even reaching the few students that we met for coffee is planting a seed of change for Oral Roberts Univeristy. Through sharing our personal stories and showing closeted students and straight allies just how far we will go to have our message heard, we are planting seeds of change and inspiring hope in those who need it most.

A Day to Reflect

by Dawn Davridge

Hello all,

Okay, so we spent today on the bus driving from Memphis TN to Tulsa OK. Not exactly a thrilling day but for me this was particularly tough because of several things, the first being that I have pneumonia. Not exactly the fun thing to get on a bus ride where you’re touring the country and obtain very little sleep but even less fun when you get it on the only 3 days of the entire 2 months that you get to see your wife. Then you add on top of that that at 3:30 am this morning I had to say goodbye to my wife for 6 weeks and you get the level of exhaustion that I’ve experienced today. It was soo hard and it’s still really getting to me. I mean when I said goodbye 2 weeks ago it wasn’t as rough because I knew I’d see her shortly and also because I had soo much to do to get ready for my two schools and really didn’t have the time to seriously get upset. As long as I talked to her at least once a day and heard her voice I was okay. Well, now it will be 6 weeks and my 2 schools have just finished (which I’ll cover in a bit) and now I have no pressing things to keep my mind off of thinking about my gorgeous incredible wife and how much I miss her. But whenever I feel down about missing Kat I go talk to Jen and Dianne because I know that they’re in the same boat. We all share stories about our womyn and it makes it that much easier to bear as we all remind each other of why we’re on this ride and give each other strength to keep going. Today was a particularly tough day but I know I can make it because any time I start feeling like I want to give up I just see my wife’s face and hear her telling me how strong I am and how important it is that our story get out there and that people learn so that others don’t have to go through what we went through 2 years ago.

This conveniently brings me to Union University, the place that changed my life (both for the good and bad). But let me first say a few things about Lee, since that was the other school I was in charge of. I have a lot of mixed feelings about what happened there, mixed being that I was incredibly excited about the dialog and help we were able to offer the students but completely frustrated by the political B.S. that Dr. Conn threw our way at 10:10 the night before we were supposed to come onto campus. I mean really, I understand that he’s under a lot of pressure and I know that he really wants to ignore the gay student population that obviously does exist at his school, but as a Christian, to make a deal with us and give us his verbal contract on something and then to go back on that agreement at 10:10 the night before is just not right. Then again, it really shows how scared these administrations are that if the truth is heard then they’ll loose the power they derive from making another group less than because their students will see that GLBT people are loved, accepted, and affirmed by God.

Hilariously, Dr. Conn’s betrayal hurt and quite frankly was not something I was expecting. I had heard such wonderful things about him from both gay and straight students at his campus that I thought that if nothing else he was at least a man of his word. Well that just shows how much I care about people and always hope for the best. I would say I guess that will teach me but it never will, I just can’t give up on people, not even Dr. Conn. I just pray that someday he has the guts to admit that he was wrong and bring the unconditional love of God to all of his students, gay and straight alike. Now as for Union’s Dr. Dockery, his "mud pile" reception was not unexpected but at the same time it still hurt.

I mean I went to his school for 2.5 years and Kat was there for 3.5 years and just because one person knew we identified as gay and even though we stayed celibate until we were married he thought just our simply existing on his campus was a huge enough threat to warrant kicking us out!! So for this guy, 34 gay activists from across the country coming to spend an hour on the first Saturday of spring break was enough of a threat that he would not allow us to actually set foot on campus but would rather give us a mud pile in the buffer zone to hold our vigil and press conference. All I can say is predictable. But like I said, although I thought it was too good to be true when I heard we were allowed on campus I truly hoped that Dockery at least had some tiny change of heart from 2 years ago. Who knows, maybe if Kat and I go back every 2 years and keep reminding Jackson of how un-Christ like Union is, just maybe things will change. I truly believe that if the students at Union gathered together and gained a united voice that says we are tired of being indoctrinated and we would rather be educated then the administration would have no choice but to listen. I know that GLBT issues are not the only things that are taboo to talk about or even contemplate dealing with at Union. Basically anything that goes against the SBC guidelines is suppressed. If every voice that is hushed on that campus concerning all of those different issues were to band together and say that you can not keep us quiet, we have a right to question, we have a right to learn then I believe that Union would truly become a university of higher education that reflects the true Christ, as opposed to the SBC cloning station that currently exists there. So let’s practice, all together now, "We will not be assimilated!!!"

Love to all,
Dawn Davridge

Why We Must Look For a New Church Home

Randi ReitanWhile Amy Gage’s Sept. 10 Seeker’s Diary "The courage to leave — or to stay" hit home with me, it doesn’t speak to the reason a person leaves a faith community.

Sometimes it is not the lack of courage but the fear of losing the very faith you hold dear. It is the fear of becoming bitter souls no longer able to live in the precious gift of grace Christ gave to us all.

Our family has a gay son. We have struggled with the issues surrounding that issue in our church as our denomination spent the last four years studying homosexuality. It was a difficult time as the church discussed our son and all in the gay community as subjects in a research project. But we held on to the hope that through education, the day of acceptance and understanding would dawn.

This August, at the national assembly, the Lutherans voted to keep in place their discriminating policies. They tried to open the door a little by stating the bishops don’t have to discipline a congregation that calls an openly gay noncelibate pastor, but what remains is simply discrimination. It teaches society to view our son and all in the gay community as either sick and sinful based on their sexual orientation or as lesser children of God.

We can no longer be Lutherans. We honor those who feel the pain yet continue to stay and work to change this church — but for us the pain is just too great and we have grown weary in this struggle. We need to nourish our battered souls in a church that lives in Christ’s teachings.

Our family has been Lutheran for generations and it is hard to leave behind our heritage in this church.

Phil’s family has Lutheran clergy in all generations. His great-grandfather preached in Swedish many years ago in Minneapolis; both his grandfathers were pastors here for many years; his father started as a pastor at Oak Knoll Lutheran Church, and his brother’s first parish was in Minnesota after graduating from Luther Seminary

My family life centered around our small Lutheran church in northern Minnesota. My dad was a surgeon and he wanted us to experience the mission field, so he took our family to Madagascar for a summer while he did surgery at Manamboro Lutheran Hospital. My mom was one of the pillars of our congregation, as well as leading programs on the conference level. There was never a Sunday morning our family wasn’t sitting in the fifth row on the left side in our little white church.

When it was time for me to go off to college, my dad said I could pick any college as long as it was Lutheran. Phil and I met and fell in love at that Lutheran college. We wanted to start our marriage in service and we spent a year teaching on the mission field in Chieng Mai, Thailand, through a Lutheran organization.

With thankful hearts, we brought our four dear children to the baptismal font and raised them in the Lutheran Church.

To leave this church, which was at the core of our family, is one of the most painful things we have done. But we can no longer worship in a church that treats God’s beloved gay children as sick and sinful based on their sexual orientation.

We can no longer sing songs of justice on Sunday morning, knowing the injustice this church lives each and every day with its policies against God’s beloved gay community. We can no longer hear pastors preach of God’s love for all people when the church policy treats its beloved gay members as lesser children of God. We can no longer hear words of love and concern spoken to us in private but never hear them spoken from the pulpit or never see the hierarchy of the church lead with justice.

We have prayed for guidance; we have met privately with the presiding bishop, many other bishops, pastors and lay leaders; we have stood vigil at church conventions, written hundreds of letters; we have helped with educational forums and luncheons; we have flown in speakers and held benefits in our home. We have tried at every level to see change come to this church that nourished our family for generations.

We are weary of fighting a battle that never should have taken place in God’s House.

We know without a doubt our gay son is God’s beloved. He is precious in God’s House. Now we must find a church home that truly understands that most basic truth.

Randi Reitan lives in Eden Prairie.

Soulforce Asks You to Remember Our LGBTQ Families in Katrina Relief Efforts

Please give as you are able to help those in need.

Our hearts go out to all those who have suffered unimaginable loss due to the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Though we are all connected and part of the same human family, the reality is that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters can have unique legal and personal battles to face in such a monumental tragedy. We ask that you lift them up in prayer as they begin the difficult restoration process.

While most churches and religious figures have responded with genuine compassion, some fundamentalist groups just can’t help but use this national tragedy as a means to bash those with whom they disagree. Extremist groups have already issued warnings, claiming that God flooded the region because of pro-choice advocates and homosexuals.

Soulforce remains committed to confronting such outrageous claims and the toxic religious teachings that lead to so much unnecessary suffering. But for now, our primary focus must be on working together as a global community to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The staff and Board of Directors at Soulforce encourage you to donate generously to the emergency relief organization of your choice. If you are looking for a way to donate, please consider the National Youth Advocacy Coalition. Several organizations around the country have partnered together to support the Hurricane Katrina Emergency Relief Fund, which will provide emergency help to LGBTQ youth and families. You can donate and learn more about this fund by visiting www.nyacyouth.org.

Blessings from all of us at Soulforce.