By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
ANN ARBOR – At the end of this month, the American Friends Service Committee’s LGBT Issues Program will be turned over to new leadership.
Kate Runyon, an experienced interfaith and LGBT issues activist, will replace Michael Gibson-Faith as the director of the organization.
Runyon’s experience includes serving as executive director of Oasis Ministry, which works with LGBT individuals in the Episcopal church, and working with the National Conference for Community and Justice on interfaith issues.
As for her plans for AFSC, Runyon, who has worked with Gibson-Faith for the past three years as a community coworker, said she wants to continue “deepening the relationships he has already started to grow.”
Runyon said that she would like to see the Faith Action Network, which brings together people of faith to work on social issues, branch out across the state.
“We’ve already been doing work in Ludington and Marquette and Detroit, and we have another training coming up in Flint in September,” she said.
“I would like to continue doing non-violent dialog training to give people the skills to not demonize people different than themselves,” she said. “To focus on a large view of heart and mind and of ‘us’ being all people. I’m sure that will manifest in ways that I have no way to expect yet.”
Nor will the LGBT Issues Program limit its activism to LGBT civil rights during Runyon’s tenure.
“We will be working with affirmative action should that make the ballot,” she said, speaking of a potential ballot proposal to outlaw affirmative action programs in Michigan’s educational and governmental institutions. “We’re also concerned with that. That will involve educating people about the ramifications of their vote either for or against affirmative action.”
Runyon is a Michigan native who was born in Ann Arbor and raised in Oakland county, but she said she has strong ties to Detroit as well.
“My family has always been very engaged in being part of Michigan,” she said. “Traveling in Detroit has been very much a part of my upbringing.”
Runyon doesn’t limit her understanding of community to just “being part of Michigan.” She said that she and her partner, Dawn Fisher, “actively live our lives 24/7 in a way to be more connected with the global community – one way we do that is to be host parents for global exchange students.” On Aug. 10, she and Fisher picked up their next student, a young man from France.
In addition to her passion for creating and sustaining community, Runyon also has a passion for beauty, which she expresses through her potter’s wheel.
Runyon creates custom pottery in consultation with interior designers through her business, Organic Pottery. She also sells original works directly from her studio.
“I love adapting things in a design to people’s lives,” she said.
Describing her work, Runyon said that it is, “Mostly based on potter’s wheel work, but I do a lot of alterations and I play a lot with color. It’s what keeps me grounded – literally.”
Form more information on AFSC’s LGBT Issues Project and Faith Action Network visit www.afsc-fan.org.