Finding Religion

By Lavender January 17, 2008

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As a relative newcomer to the Twin Cities (though no stranger to the Midwest, stereotyped as the “land of churches and bars”), I’ve been absolutely floored by the abundance of progressive GLBT-welcoming faith communities in the area. In many parts of the country, progressive or inclusive religious institutions are unheard of; in much of the United States, religion and visions of social justice for GLBT people are held to be mutually exclusive.
Not here. It seems—though I acknowledge I surely display my own ignorance of faith diversity in writing this—that almost every branch of religious truth with adherents in the United States has at least one progressive, GLBT-inclusive outpost in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Or, if you’re Lutheran or United Church of Christ, more like 20.

Such a diverse picture, however, is a relatively recent development. Twenty years ago, as my mentors and fellow congregants at Spirit of the Lakes (SOTL) United Church of Christ—<spiritucc.org>—tell me, separate, predominantly GLBT communities of faith like SOTL and All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church—<agcmcc.org>—had to take the lead.

“When SOTL started, being ‘GL-friendly’ [‘B’ and ‘T’ were not on our radar then] was the issue, and people came from every denomination,” longtime member Roger Youngs tells me. “Theology was secondary. As more and more churches have become some form of Open and Affirming, many people decided that they needed to go back to the denomination that they grew up in. “SOTL became a ‘revolving door’. ‘People reconnected with church, and then returned to their ‘roots.’”

Yet SOTL—which is currently working to build a green, affordable community for GLBT and allied seniors—and other such communities have put down strong roots, continuing the work for GLBT inclusion and a broader social justice agenda in diverse communities of faith.

Minneapolis has the unique (if, given its history, not surprising) distinction of being home to the Institute for Welcoming Resources—<welcomingresources.org>, —a project of the Welcoming Church Movement and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force—<thetaskforce.org>. Founded in 2002, the organization works to affect a “paradigm shift in Christianity” by providing information, support, and coalitional space for inclusive faith communities and those seeking them.

Across diverse communities of faith, resources abound. Take the local chapter of the national group Affirmation—<affirmation.org/Minneapolis>,—which provides, “support, community and advocacy for GLBT Mormon church members, former members and non-members.” The organization’s Website is packed with a range of resources, providing support on the individual, family and community levels. Or St. Paul’s Clouds in Water Zen Center—<cloudsinwater.org>, —a very active community that emphasizes its stance as “a welcoming Zen Buddhist Zen Center.” Welcoming Jewish communities in the Reform—<mzion.org>, <shirtikvah.net>, <templeisrael.com>, Reconstructionist—<mayimrabim.org>—and Conservative—<beth-jacob.org>—traditions as well as community resource group Keshet Ga’avah—<keshetgaavahmn@mac.com>—all call the Twin Cities home.

One important community that hasn’t gotten as much attention in the community, GLBT or “mainstream” media is the Progressive Muslim Union’s Minneapolis chapter—<progmuslim.meetup.com/cities/us/mn/Minneapolis>. Dedicated to representing and creating space for Muslim communities in all their “social, ideological and political diversity,” the group is concerned with eliminating all forms of intolerance, including homophobia. In addition to creating safe worship and community space for GLBT Muslims and friends in the Twin Cities, the group stands as a reminder that at the end of the day, intolerance of Islam—including by non-Muslim GLBT advocates—is just as insidious and inhuman as the homophobia non-Muslims are fighting in their churches, synagogues, temples and centers.

Faith communities in the Twin Cities have had an important history in combating sexism and homophobia, and in welcoming and supporting immigrant and refugee communities in the United States. The work of institutions and communities across a wide array of faith diversity continues, and it is clear that the region will continue to act as a leader. GLBT and allied people of faith across the spectrum can benefit from exploration and acknowledgement of our simultaneous solidarity and diversity.

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