UCC pastors, groups support the NALT Christians Project
Written by Emily Schappacher
September 25, 2013
"Being lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer is not a sin," says the Rev. David Soworski, pastor of Waverly Heights United Church of Christ in Portland, Ore. "Seeking and building loving relationships true to your own created nature – same-sex or heterosexual – is a blessing and the bedrock of the Christian community."
"I know there are many clergy who have made people feel guilty and shameful for being who they are," the Rev. Dr. Lou Kavar, a UCC pastor in Atlanta, says. "But I also know that many of my colleagues want to do as much as we can to help people understand that who they are is unique and precious and should be celebrated."
These are just two of the many voices speaking out for the NALT (Not All Like That) Christians Project, an initiative that lets the LGBT community know that, despite what society portrays, there are many Christians who support them, and that there is nothing sinful about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
The UCC's Coalition for LGBT Concerns has come out in support of the NALT Christians Project, along with groups and individuals from countless other religious backgrounds. Soworski, Kavar and dozens more have posted videos to the project's website sharing their personal stories and insights on why they lift up the LGBT community because of, not despite of, their religious affiliation.
"The basic premise of the project is to correct the impression that people of faith, and Christians in particular, are opposed to LGBT inclusiveness and justice," said Andy Lang, executive director of the UCC Coalition for LGBT concerns. "This is an opportunity for people who have been working hard for justice and inclusion in their congregations, communities and states to make their voices heard."
The NALT Christians Project launched in early September, and has nearly 100 visual statements of support posted on its site. Individuals and groups are encouraged to make videos stating that they are Christians who support the LGBT community and share those videos on the NALT site. Many of the participants are Christians who grew up in conservative homes and congregations, but have since changed their minds about homosexuality, sharing their personal experiences of what prompted their changes of heart. The campaign was inspired by the It Gets Better Project, initiated by author Dan Savage in 2010 as a way to let bullied LGBT youth know that their situations will improve with time.
Lang says he is not surprised by the initial success of the campaign, citing that there are 6,000 inclusive, welcoming churches throughout the United States, 1,100 of which are UCC. But while social media and campaigns like the NALT Christians Project help share these voices with the world, he believes it is the relationships formed between people that really help shift perspectives on issues like homosexuality. Lang says denominations like the UCC still have a tremendous challenge ahead to grow the ONA movement and increase the number of welcoming members and congregations, but that projects like this prove that it's a challenge that can be won.
"Our membership that supports inclusion grows, yes, because of social media, but also because people build relationships and engage with each other where they live and worship," Lang said. "One thing NALT has uncovered is there is a tremendous base of people of different faiths for whom full inclusion is a done deal.
"These are all over the map – Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Baptist – just about every Christian faith tradition has some kind of welcoming congregation," he continued. "There is tremendous depth and diversity in the number of faith communities that embrace LGBT people and are beginning to advocate for our rights in society."
The United Church of Christ has a long history of affirming and working for equal rights for LGBTQ persons. At its 2005 biennial General Synod – the main deliberative body of the UCC – the denomination passed a resolution affirming equal marriage rights for all couples, regardless of gender.
To share a video or to view videos shared by others, visit the NALT Christians Project website.