As churches become more accepting of people in the LGBT community, the need for information to bridge the gap between God and gays has prompted a new discussion series at Affirmations community center in Ferndale titled “Gay, Pray, and Stay OK!”
The six-week series takes place on Tuesday nights from 7:30-9 p.m. at Affirmations beginning on Sept. 15. It is organized by Pastor Henry Brinker of Community of the Open Door (United Church of Christ) in Washington, Mich. Topics include: What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, Sexual Sodomy and Sin, The Holy Bible Used for Unholy Purposes, Same Sex Marriage and Interfaith Religious Tolerance.
Brinker hopes that by having presentations and discussions with people of all backgrounds, it can create understanding and healing.
“When people are gay they may feel guilty, condemned, rejected, excluded or alienated from the church of God,” he explained. “They need to understand what God really says.”
“It also helps to bring understanding with our allies,” he added.
Brinker himself once struggled to make peace between his sexuality and his religious beliefs. In 1996, he was ousted from his position as a pastor from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod because of his homosexuality. “I had given up on God and the ministry,” he said. “A minister told me I was going to hell and I wandered around for six or seven years like I was lost.”
Brinker worked in secular positions and avoided his faith, until he found out there was a way to love himself and his God.
“When I came to find out there were churches that are accepting, I got back into it,” Brinker said. “One day I was dragged into a United Church of Christ. Of course I didn’t want to, but it changed my life. They asked me to be a guest preacher and I did that more and more. I couldn’t believe that they accepted me as I was.”
Brinker said he will never forget his times at Trinity United Church of Christ in Warren, but that he is also honored to have the opportunity for his own Ministry at Community of the Open Door, which is part of the United Church of Christ. The congregation is made up mainly of people from the gay community who wanted a welcoming church environment, though there are allies too.
The discussion series at Affirmations is one more way that Brinker hopes to connect gay people of faith. The program brings in several local gay leaders, including Triangle Foundation Executive Director Alicia Skillman and Michigan’s first openly gay Judge, Hon. Rudy Serra of Michigan’s 36th District Court in Detroit.
Serra will kick off the series by talking about “What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality.”
Serra was appointed to the 36th District Court by Governor Jennifer Granholm. His book “Bag A Fag,” published by the Triangle Foundation, talks about anti-gay police misconduct. He has also written for The Journal of Psychology and Christianity and The Journal of Intergroup Relations published by the National Association of Human Rights Workers.
Serra will be presenting at several of the discussions, which will also include time for members of the audience to share their stories and ask questions.
“We’re really excited about this series,” said Affirmations Chief Administrative Officer Kathleen LaTosch. “It is the second of three programs Affirmations now offers relating to spirituality and faith in the LGBT community.”
Two months ago, the LGBT community center began an interfaith group called “Growing in Spirituality” which meets on Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. They will also be hosting a one-man, 90 minute play called “Jesus Phreak” that explores Bible passages and uses mixed fabrics as a metaphor for homosexuality.
For more information on the “Gay, Pray and Stay OK” series or any of Affirmation’s other programs and events, please go to http://www.goaffirmations.org.
Gay, Pray and Stay OK
7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Sept. 15-Oct. 20
Affirmations, 290 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale