ELPC members, pastoral leadership, and staff stand in prayer and solidarity with the families of the victims of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We issue a clarion call for all of God’s children to pray that violence against the LGBTQIA+ community and ALL people will be no more. The prayer offered by Pastor Patrice Fowler-Searcy at The Pittsburgh Clergy Consortium’s City-wide Candlelight Vigil for Orlando Victims on Monday, June 13, 2016, is below. (more…)
Comments Off on A Letter to Delta Foundation
The staff, Session and LGBTQIA Ministry of East Liberty Presbyterian Church join their voices with many others who are grieved by the decision of the Delta Foundation to contract with singer Iggy Azalea for the 2015 Pittsburgh Pride concert. The fact that the selected performer has publicly offended LGBTQIA and people of color within our community is a serious breech of our safety and solidarity as a community. This isn’t about her style of music, her race or gender. This is about her inability to embrace the community for which she has been asked to perform. If she cannot do that, she should not be performing at Pride. Her racist, homophobic, transphobic, and discriminatory comments have no place within a community that values diversity and respect for all. Iggy Azalea has demonstrated an inability to embrace the community for which she has been asked to perform. Therefore, it is wrong and painful to have her performing at this year’s Pride.
East Liberty Presbyterian Church has been a proud and active participant in Pride since it was held in the park on the Northside, when the GLCC was still organizing the event. Our participation was incredibly significant for us because as a congregation we were taking a public stance on welcoming the LGBTQIA community to worship and to membership at a time when our denomination did not. We were celebrating our understanding of God’s love for ALL individuals.
It has taken years of denominational struggle to win inclusion within our church. Today we celebrate that our denomination has voted to allow LGBTQIA individuals to serve in congregations in an ordained capacity, to allow clergy to perform same-gender weddings, and most recently to change the definition of marriage to a commitment between two people rather than specific to man-woman.
Our congregation continues to search for ways to demonstrate our commitment to full inclusion. We have taken a pledge, which says in part, “We will seek to stop jokes and unkind language about anyone, including LGBTQIA persons, when spoken in our presence. Words that hurt and bigotry are not funny. We will speak out against slander, debasement, lies or dehumanization of anyone, even when spoken by political or religious leaders.”
Pride is not just entertainment. It is a celebration for all of us. Each organization represented at Pride has gone through similar struggles and deserves to be a respected part of the celebration. It grieves us that some members of our community, including members of our own congregation, have been so offended by the hurtful words of Iggy Azalea, and Delta’s lack of empathy, that they do not want to attend Pride. We honor their decision to express their woundedness and voice their protest in this way. We likewise affirm the dignity and worth of all members of the LGBTQIA community, and remain committed to working together toward the authentic full inclusion of all.
Despite the divisiveness this decision is causing, after prayerful consideration East Liberty Presbyterian Church will participate in the Pride March and have a booth at Pridefest. We see a distinction between the concert and the public witness of the parade. We will use our presence at the latter event as an opportunity to speak out for the disenfranchised and to proclaim the dignity and respect each person deserves. We will continue to offer a gospel message of inclusion, welcome and hope for people pushed to the margins for too long. However, we will actively demonstrate our opposition to Delta’s decision to invite Iggy Azalea as we march in the parade and staff our church’s booth. Pride’s public witness is too important to allow it to be compromised by the message of an ill-spoken performer.
We also seek reconciliation of our community members, seeking a constructive conversation with Delta Foundation leadership including all members of our LGBTQIA community represented at the table. We seek to be a partner in this process and pray for reconciliation for our community.
Comments Off on Got Questions?
A membership video from the Presbyterian Church (USA) includes the following quote: “In our church we do not claim to have all the answers, but rather we seek to ask the right questions.” At ELPC, we believe that is a healthy response for anyone striving for a vibrant, growing, healthy faith.
- We ask questions about things we care about.
- We ask questions when we want to understand difficult things or find resolution for that which is troubling us.
- We ask questions to make sure we are hearing clearly what another person is sharing with us.
- We ask questions as a humble practice acknowledging that there is always more to learn in life.
- We ask questions as a mark of a curious, open mind anxious to engage fully with all that God wishes to reveal to us.
Asking questions is not the same as expressing doubt. Nor are questions automatically designed to challenge or contradict what is being taught in church. Sincere questions engage the persons being asked and seek to walk together with them in a dialogue of respect and mutual learning.
The best example of this type of “faithful questioning” comes from early in John’s gospel. Jesus was passing by the region where John the Baptist was teaching his disciples. When Jesus was spotted, two people ran to catch up with him and asked him a question: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” In response, Jesus simply said: “Come and see” (John 1:35–39).
If you’ve got questions, know that we do, too. That’s why our response is to invite you to ELPC to “come and see.” Let us grow in our faith and knowledge and active service together!
Comments Off on Learn. March. Pray.
World AIDS Day is TODAY. This is a yearly opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
While the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) affects people across all walks of life, infection rates are disproportionately high within the LGBTQ community. The populations most vulnerable to HIV infection are gay and bisexual men and transwomen, especially those of color.
Source: DHS LGBTQ Resource Network December 2014 Newsletter: http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=86c7d3a440e3645b9ed5fa015&id=b6cf6ff0b3&e=8f46936629
As a public show of support and compassion there will be a Candle Light Vigil for World AIDS Day TODAY at 6:30pm being sponsored by the Delta Foundation. The processional will go down Forbes Avenue from CMU to Pitt. All congregations and interested community members are welcomed to participate. There will be a service including the RCC at Heinz Chapel following this Vigil starting at 6:45pm.
Learn. March. Pray.
Comments Off on You are Beautiful
You are beautiful. God knows, God made you.
Celebrating the beauty God has made in creating our LGBTQ sisters and brothers on this National Coming Out Day.
God made you. God loves you. Be yourself.
Comments Off on Come Out for Fun and Fellowship
This Saturday is the next LGBTQ Ministry Spiritual Gathering. WE will spend time enjoying each other over games, food and stories. All are welcome! Contact Wil Forrest for more detail.
Get the details at http://cathedralofhope.org/event/lgbtq-spiritual-gathering/
The Dignity & Respect Champion is… East Liberty Presbyterian Church!
(July 2014 award from the Dignity & Respect Campaign of Vibrant Pittsburgh)
East Liberty Presbyterian Church (ELPC) has long been called the “Cathedral of Hope” and its pastors strive to be a beacon of compassion and hospitality to all people. The Reverend Dr. Randy Bush, along with his fellow pastors – Rev. Patrice Fowler-Searcy, Rev. Heather Schoenewolf, and Rev. Mary Lynn Callahan – endeavors to create an environment where everyone is welcomed and valued regardless of race, culture, ability, socioeconomic status, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
East Liberty is a vibrant neighborhood in the midst of redevelopment and change, adding to its mix of people from all backgrounds. This change is not new to the neighborhood, as it’s been happening for decades. During the late 1960’s moving forward into the 1970’s, urban renewal pushed East Liberty into transition and decay leaving the community divided and searching for hope. However, throughout these chaotic years, East Liberty Presbyterian Church remained as a force for good in the community. The church became an anchor of support by providing the community with soup kitchens, homeless shelters, educational programs, and services open to people from all faiths and backgrounds.
As the years progressed into the new millennium, the church began to take an even more proactive stance in the community, as the pastors do not shy away from advocating for issues of equity, equality, social justice, and peace. In the midst of the current redevelopment in the neighborhood, the pastors have taken on leadership roles in the community to be sure the community plan was implemented and to stave off gentrification.
East Liberty Presbyterian Church has opened their arms for all to worship including, the LGBTQ community. Pastor Randy and his colleagues have been supporters of the community and advocates for full marriage equality. Additionally the church has also done a lot of outreach into the small, but growing Latino community, even conducting portions of the services in Spanish. The pastors take their mission of welcoming all people and celebrating their differences very seriously. This mission is lived out loud, not just spoken.
When asked what we can do better as a society to assure all people are included and differences are valued, Pastor Randy states, “Every church billboard may say ‘all are welcome’ but that isn’t always apparent in the actions of the congregation. We rejoice in welcoming all people here at ELPC.”
Nicole Molinaro Karaczun, who nominated the pastors for this honor said, “The pastors at East Liberty Presbyterian Church don’t just say the words inclusion and diversity; they breathe life into them with behavior and action. The church consistently works to advance issues around social and economic justice, making sure all people are included and cared for. I love attending a church that welcomes everybody and advocates for all people to live with equality, justice, and love.”
Comments Off on Radical Hospitality at ELPC
Most churches have written on their sign out front or in their bulletin that “All are Welcome” with the best of intentions. However, just being inviting is only a start to making all God’s people feel welcomed in our churches.
LGBTQ individuals have faced generations of being excluded from the life of the church and, by extension, from a Christian relationship with God. We have been ignored, condemned, excluded and persecuted all supposedly in the name of Christianity. It takes courage to for an LGBTQ person to walk through the doors of a church, any church, including our church. Why would it be different at ELPC than in most other houses of worship? Well, it is different here. We seek to reflect God’s inclusive love to all of God’s people.
To demonstrate our radical hospitality it helps to have a visual reminder …something that we can actually show our welcoming love to one another and clearly to those who visit. Being that the rainbow flag is the most recognized symbol of LGBTQ support and inclusion, we have asked the congregation to consider wearing a rainbow ribbon while at ELPC. Both gay and straight individuals wear this ribbon as a witness of support and inclusion.
In the pews at ELPC you will find a bookmark with a rainbow ribbon attached to the top. One side of the bookmark offers a pledge you are asked to consider before wearing the ribbon. The other side offers some information about our new LGBTQ Ministry at ELPC. This ribbon and this ministry is for all of us, regardless of orientation. Those who have a nametag already may prefer to have a rainbow sticker instead, so they will be available by the hanging nametags both at Journey and in the Narthex.
The rainbow ribbons will be available for those who want to show their support. They will be there for visitors. They will be there in the pews and on our shirts as a public witness to our visitors and to one another that at ELPC all people are welcomed and loved and that God’s love excludes no one.
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GOD CREATED YOU. GOD LOVES YOU. BE YOURSELF.
Each month the LGBTQ Ministry has two regular meetings. One is a business meeting to continue the work we have started in prayerfully and intentionally forming this new ministry. Business meetings are currently scheduled for 2/16/14 at 2pm, 3/30/14 at 12:30pm, 5/4/14 at 5pm, 6/1/14 at 12:30pm, 7/13/14 at 11:30am and 8/24/14 at 11:30am. These meeting will take place in the Pastor’s Conference Room on the second floor.
The other monthly meeting is a spiritual gathering where we will focus on relationship, education and spiritual growth. Spiritual gatherings are currently scheduled for 2/8/14 at 2pm, 3/8/15 at 5pm (Cabaret at 7:30pm), 4/12/14 at 3pm, 5/17/14 at 5pm, 6/7/14 at 3pm, 7/26/14 at 5pm and 8/9/14 at 3pm. Spiritual Gatherings change location, please consult a weekly bulletin or contact Wil for locations.
All are welcome to be involved with the LGBTQ Ministry at ELPC. Please contact Wil Forrest (email@example.com; 412.441.3800 x14) for more info and/or to get on the d-list.
Comments Off on God created you. God loves you. Be yourself.
Interested in getting involved with the new LGBTQ Ministry forming at ELPC? We are in the process of beginning two regular monthly meetings. One that is a business meeting to continue the work we have started in prayerfully and intentionally forming this new ministry. Our next business meeting will be Sunday, February 16 after the Congregational Meeting (about 2pm) in the Pastor’s Conference Room. And the other that is a spiritual gathering where we will focus on relationship, education and growth. Our next spiritual gathering will be Saturday, February 8 at 2pm in the First Floor Lounge. Please contact Wil Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-441-3800 X14 for more info, to get on the d-list and/or to come to the next business meeting and/or spiritual gathering in February.