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15 Times Queer Christians And Their Allies Fought The Good Fight For Equality

These moments gives us hope.

21/05/2017 12:05 AM AEST | Updated 21/05/2017 12:05 AM AEST
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It is a testament to the incredible vitality of queer spirituality that, despite centuries of both physical persecution and theological abuse, many queer people still have faith. 

According to a Pew Research Center survey, about 59 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans report being affiliated with a religious tradition. Forty-eight percent identified as Christian, while a significant number identified with non-Christian faiths like Judaism and Buddhism.

Those affiliations aren’t easy to maintain.  Overwhelming majorities of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans say major American Christian traditions are unwelcoming to their community. Seventy-nine percent of the LGBT adults Pew surveyed described the Catholic church (79 percent) as unfriendly towards people who are LGBT, while 73 percent said the same about evangelical churches. Queer Americans are also much less likely to be Christian than the general public.

And with vehemently anti-queer religious conservatives filling out the ranks of President Donald Trump’s administration, it’s clear that the complicated relationship between Christianity and the LGBTQ community will get even more tense. 

Still, because the relentless work of queer Christian activists and theologians, there is much to be thankful for. Their activism has revitalized and challenged America’s faith community in important, history-altering ways that must not be forgotten.

And the victories certainly aren’t contained to Christianity ― there have been advances in Judaism, Islam, and other faiths.

In honor of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which falls on May 17 every year, HuffPost has gathered together these 15 iconic moments of hope in queer Christianity from around the world.  From evangelical churches embracing their LGBTQ members to Christian musicians making the choice to come out, these moments from the past five years are reminders of how far we’ve come, and how much more we need to accomplish.

Special thanks to Brandan Robertson, a queer Christian activist, John Gustav-Wrathall, of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, Rev. Broderick Greer, an Episcopal priest and queer theologian, and Ross Murray, GLAAD’s lead on faith matters, for offering their suggestions for this list.

  • Christian Musicians Came Out As Queer
    Alex Douglas / Courtesy of Vicky Beeching
    Being out in the Christian music industry could cost you your career. But over the past five years, a number of queer Christian artists have taken that difficult step -- British rock star Vicky Beeching (pictured here), Everyday Sunday's Trey Pearson, and country singer Ty Herndon are a few.
  • Christians Rallied With Other Faith Groups For Transgender Rights
    Carlo Allegri / Reuters
    In 2016, progressive religious activists strongly opposed North Carolina's HB2 bill, which tried to force people to use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth. And this year, more than 1,800 religious leaders from a variety of denominations signed an amicus brief in support of Gavin Grimm (pictured here), a transgender boy who was banned from using the boys' restroom at his school.
  • Some Evangelical Churches Pledge To Wholeheartedly Embrace Queer Christians
    In January 2015, Tennessee pastor Stan Mitchell announced that his congregation, GracePointe Church, would from fully embrace LGBTQ members into its fold, welcoming them to take up leadership roles and celebrate the sacraments. Other evangelical mega-churches have done the same -- including Highlands Church in Colorado and EastLake Community Church in Washington state. Although some churches have faced financial repercussions and a drop in membership, that hasn't always been the case. When Denver Community Church, an evangelical megachurch in Colorado publicly affirmed their pro-queer stance earlier this year, its pastor Michael Hidalgo claimed that only a handful of people decided to leave the church as a result. And some evangelical pastor who were kicked out of their denominations for supporting queer Christians now have thriving new congregations. Rev. Danny Cortez (pictured here, left) is one of those pastors. After the former Southern Baptist pastor's son came out as gay, Cortez expressed his love for his son in front of his congregation. Cortez later went on to form a new, queer-inclusive church. 
  • A New, Inclusive Christian College Campus Ministry Is Born
    Niklas Emmoth via Getty Images
    In May 2016, Christian activists formed a new campus ministry called Incarnation. The group is founded on principles of racial equality and LGBTQ inclusion. So far, Incarnation has chapters at five campuses across the country, and has partnered with four other organizations.
  • The Episcopal Church Refused To Back Down On Equality
    Philip Dumas via Getty Images
    In 2015, the bishops of the Episcopal Church decided to allow clergy members to perform same-sex weddings. The church defended that decision in 2016 in front of its international umbrella organization, the Anglican Communion. That resulted in a three-year suspension from the Anglican Communion -- but the Episcopalians aren't backing down. 
    Michael Curry, the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, said after the suspension that “Many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as the Bible says, [where] all are truly welcome."
  • The Gay Christian Network's Annual Conference Continued To Grow
    GCN Conference
    Since 2005, the Gay Christian Network Conference has brought hundreds of queer Christians and their allies together to share stories and renew their faith. Today, the conference bills itself as the "world’s largest annual LGBTQ Christian event."
  • The Rev. Karen Oliveto Became The Methodist Church's First Openly Gay Bishop
    RJ Sangosti via Getty Images
    Bishop Karen Oliveto became The United Methodist Church's first married lesbian bishop in 2016. The denomination's top court recently found that she was in violation of a church law that bars clergy who are “self-avowed practicing homosexuals," but decided not to remove her from her post. Although she may be suspended or forced to retire in the future, Oliveto remains sure that her presence "changes the conversation."
    "It's no longer an issue. It's about people," she told Religion News Service.
  • A Pastor Who Conducted His Gay Son's Wedding Is 'Refrocked'
    The Washington Post via Getty Images
    Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist Church minister, had his ministerial credentials revoked in 2013 after he presided over his gay son's wedding. Schaefer continued to speak out and in 2014, an appeals committee reinstated him as a minister.
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Embraces LGBT-Inclusive Definition Of Marriage
    Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc via Getty Images
    Since 2014, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), America’s largest Presbyterian denomination, has allowed its pastors to officiate same-sex ceremonies. In March 2015, the church adopted a more inclusive definition of marriage in its constitution, describing it as a union “between two people.”
  • Ex-Gay Ministry Exodus International Shuts Down
    studioportosabbia via Getty Images
    Exodus International was a Christian ministry that promoted conversion therapy, which attempts to alter a person's sexuality or gender identity to fit with heterosexual or cisgender norms. The harmful practice has been thoroughly discredited by psychologists and medical experts, but it was peddled by Exodus International for 37 years. In 2013, the organization's president issued an apology for the harm its caused to queer people, and announced that the ministry was shutting down. Although other conversion therapy groups pledged to take up the mantle, Exodus International's closure was a pivotal moment for conservative Christians in America, and since then, many conservative leaders have actually denounced conversion therapy.
  • America's First Catholic Vice President Blessed A Gay Wedding
    In 2016, former vice president Joe Biden presided over the nuptials of his White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie. Biden was America's first Catholic vice president, and his blessing of this marriage was a reminder of the incredible shift that American Catholicism has experienced over the past few years on the topic. Although top Catholic bishops have consistently denounced marriage equality, 58 percent of American Catholics support same-sex marriage. And the future is bright -- 85 percent of self-identified Catholic millennials believe homosexuality should be accepted by society.
  • The Chicago Consultation Met In Africa
    ChristianChan via Getty Images
    The Chicago Consultation is a group of Episcopal and Anglican clergy and lay people who work toward full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Anglican Communion. In 2015, the group had its third meeting in Africa, this time in Elmina, Ghana. The Rev. Broderick Greer, an Episcopal priest and queer theologian, described the important work of this group in an email to HuffPost. 
    "Every day, I heard a new story about the ingenious ways they were resisting stigma around HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ visibility, and equitable access to health care. People from five different countries told stories of courage and resilience motivated by a nagging sense that their full humanity should and will be affirmed. The small scale and quiet setting of the gathering is indicative of the manner in which social transformation often takes place: over a drink, in a huddle, or elbow-to-elbow."
  • Mormons March At Pride
    Jim Urquhart / Reuters
    Mormons Building Bridges brings together members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who want to show support for the queer community. In 2012, this group marched at Utah Pride for the first time. For John Gustav-Wrathal, a gay Mormon activist, this was an iconic moment. 
    "Since then, there have been some crushing, traumatizing moments as well... Most of the hope has come from queer Mormons themselves. Attendance at Affirmation conferences has quadrupled since 2012," he told HuffPost. "LGBT Mormons are coming together in a spectacular way and finding new ways to provide mutual support and engage with their faith."
  • A Gay Couple Became The Pastors Of A Historic DC Church
    skynesher via Getty Images
    The Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC hired Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen as the leaders of their 155-year-old congregation this year. The Baptist ministers told HuffPost their mission is "to sit at bedsides, to march for justice, to proclaim ‘belovedness’ when the world (sometimes even the religious world) proclaims ‘otherness,’ and to set the table of hospitality for those who need it most."
  • Transgender Pastors Celebrate Mass In Cuba
    Pekic via Getty Images
    As part of a conference on queer theology earlier this year, three pastors from Brazil, Canada and the United States flew into Cuba to lead an LGBTQ-friendly worship service. The mass is believed to be a first for Cuba. 
    One participant, a 26-year-old Cuban trans woman named Malu Duardo, told Reuters, "I leave with having learnt a lot of things I can share with other trans, in particular that there is a God for everyone."
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