Andy Lang remembers the first panel of faith representatives to lead a discussion at the annual National Conference on LGBT Equality two years ago. It was one of the first times the LGBT community truly viewed religious groups as allies rather than opponents, said the executive director of the United Church of Christ's Coalition for LBGT Concerns, and the partnership has only grown from there.
"That was an eye-opening experience and a turning point," Lang said. "It was all part of the hard work that had been happening for several years. It was a game-changer."
The UCC will be an active participant again at this year's National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. UCC representatives will lead workshops, facilitate panel discussions and host networking caucuses during one of the largest annual gatherings for the LGBT community Jan. 23-27 in Atlanta. Hosted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, this year marks the 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality, an annual organizing and skills-building event for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and their allies, and is expected to attract more than 3,500 people from throughout the United States.
The event will include various workshops led by UCC representatives; the Rev. Kelly Burd, minister for leadership development, and the Rev. Elizabeth Leung, minister for racial justice. The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, UCC executive and minster for LGBT concerns, will co-facilitate an academy session which will discuss how the U.S.-based LGBT community can work effectively with the global LGBT community. Schuenemeyer and faith directors of marriage equality campaigns from the 2012 elections will also participate in a panel discussion to talk about the contributions faith groups made to the cause. The Rev. Jim Moos, member of the UCC collegium of officers and executive minister for Wider Church Ministries, will be a first-time attendee.
While the National Conference on LGBT Equality is typically a hopeful and upbeat event, Lang and Schuenemeyer agree this year may bring some extra enthusiasm due to the reelection of President Obama and recent progress for marriage equality.
"I expect there will be a great deal of excitement and energy coming out of the 2012 election, but with that comes a recognition that we still have a lot of work to do," Schuenemeyer said. "A lot of what we will be doing at this meeting is taking what we learned and understanding how we can make that even more effective going forward."
For more information, to register, or for a full schedule of events, visit the Creating Change website.