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NGLTF and the Institute for Welcoming Resources Join

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    National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Institute for Welcoming Resources join forces Program is umbrella for more than 1,300 lesbian, gay, bisexual and
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 14, 2006
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      National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Institute for Welcoming
      Resources join forces

      Program is umbrella for more than 1,300 lesbian, gay, bisexual and
      transgender welcoming congregations, seminaries and campus ministries

      Unprecedented joining of secular and faith-based organizing efforts

      Speakers also available for follow-up interviews and comment.

      WASHINGTON, March 13 - The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
      announced today that the Institute for Welcoming Resources (IWR), an
      umbrella organization for leading Protestant lesbian, gay, bisexual
      and transgender (LGBT) welcoming church programs, has merged with and
      will become a program of the Task Force. The move, an unprecedented
      joining of LGBT secular and faith-based organizing, is designed to
      provide new resources, training and strategies that will increase the
      number of people of faith supporting equality for LGBT people.

      "We are extremely proud the Institute for Welcoming Resources, an
      essential leader in the effort to win support for lesbian, gay,
      bisexual and transgender people in key denominations, is joining
      forces with us," said Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman. "The
      more than 1 million individuals in the 1,300 congregations supported
      by IWR are some of our movement's most valuable allies in the fight to
      reclaim 'moral values' from those who try to justify anti-gay bigotry
      as 'deeply held religious beliefs.'"

      IWR works with the welcoming church movement in seven mainline
      Protestant denominations: the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church
      of Christ, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in
      America, Community of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
      and the American Baptist Churches. Through this movement,
      congregations decide - through a formal vote - to offer an
      unconditional welcome to people of all sexual orientations and gender
      identities and their families. To date, more than 1,300 congregations
      - with more than 1 million congregants - have adopted statements that
      explicitly welcome LGBT people to full inclusion in the life and
      ministry of their congregations.

      "Those of us in the welcoming church movement see it as our job to
      proudly claim the witness and language of our faith traditions," said
      the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, executive officer of IWR. "Unfortunately for
      those of us who are Christian, some of that language has been hijacked
      by the radical right and used to attack and abuse LGBT folk. We are
      determined to change that." Voelkel, a minister in the United Church
      of Christ, will continue to lead the IWR program as a member of the
      Task Force staff.

      With new resources and expertise resulting from this move, IWR expects
      to place faith-based field organizers across denominations in
      strategic locations around the country; produce new resources for
      welcoming congregations, seminaries and other settings; train clergy
      and lay leaders to work for LGBT equality; and exchange lessons
      learned between faith-based organizing in the mainline Protestant
      churches and progressive people of faith in other religious
      traditions. As part of the Task Force, the IWR program will continue
      to organize the "Witness Our Welcome (WOW)" conference as the national
      convening of welcoming people of faith. It will also continue the
      outreach work of the Shower of Stoles project, a visual and liturgical
      representation of the leadership gifts of LGBT people of faith and the
      loss that occurs when they are banned from leadership.

      "We are confident our becoming part of the Task Force will help us
      grow this critical movement and take us to a new level of
      participation and effectiveness," said Voelkel.

      Faith-based LGBT activism - a parallel stream

      Like the Task Force, which was founded in 1973, many of the
      organizations with which IWR works have been in existence since the
      early 1970s, with a substantial history of LGBT organizing. This
      "parallel stream" of faith-based LGBT activism has grown alongside the
      secular political movement. For instance, Lutherans Concerned/North
      America, an organization of LGBT and allied Lutherans, has been
      working within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the
      Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada since 1974. Over the years,
      these faith groups have given spiritual strength to LGBT people, bound
      up wounds caused by religious abuse, and advocated for full inclusion
      of LGBT people within their denominations and in society as a whole.
      In the process, they have won hundreds of thousands of dedicated
      heterosexual allies in their churches and achieved significant
      institutional change.

      While extraordinary progress has been made within Protestant
      denominations, including the United Church of Christ's recent General
      Synod resolution endorsing marriage equality for same-sex couples, it
      has been done with comparatively few resources. A recent report
      released by the Task Force National Religious Leadership Roundtable,
      David v. Goliath: A Report on Faith Groups Working for LGBT Equality
      (and What They're Up Against), found that pro-LGBT faith organizations
      were out-spent by their anti-gay opponents by an average of 8 to 1.

      "Much of the most important and heroic work to win hearts and minds on
      LGBT issues has been within religious denominations," Foreman said.
      "It's long past time for the secular and faith-based wings of our
      movement to share resources and expertise and advance as a united
      movement."

      IWR as part of the continuing interfaith outreach of the Task Force

      Working with faith leaders is not new for the Task Force. Since 1998,
      the Task Force has convened the National Religious Leadership
      Roundtable, an interfaith collaboration of more than 40 faith
      organizations from across the spectrum of American religious
      traditions. National Religious Leadership Roundtable members act as
      spokespeople, educators and citizen advocates in order to change the
      public dialogue on religion and LGBT issues. In addition to the
      denominations represented in the IWR, the National Religious
      Leadership Roundtable includes Episcopal, Metropolitan Community
      Church, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Missionary Baptist,
      Unitarian, Quaker, Mormon, Seventh-Day Adventist, Eastern Orthodox and
      spiritualist representation.

      A Muslim member of the Roundtable, Imam Daayiee Abdullah, spoke about
      the value of the Task Force working more closely with the Institute
      for Welcoming Resources. "A rising tide lifts all boats," Abdullah
      said. "As churches become more welcoming, there becomes less of an
      idea that all 'people of faith' oppose LGBT equality. I'm glad to work
      with my brothers and sisters in the welcoming congregations and learn
      from them, and I think they, too, will learn something from me."

      To find out more about the IWR, including a comprehensive and
      geographical list of all the welcoming congregations around the
      country, visit www.welcomingresources.org.
      IWR partner organizations include:

      * More Light Presbyterians (Presbyterian Church USA)
      * Open and Affirming Program (United Church of Christ)
      * Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodist Church)
      * Reconciling in Christ (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
      * Gay and Lesbian Acceptance (Community of Christ)
      * Open & Affirming Ministry (Christian Church - Disciples of Christ)
      * Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (American
      Baptist Churches)

      ---------
      SPEAKERS:
      Matt Foreman, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
      Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Institute for Welcoming Resources executive officer
      Rev. Troy Plummer, executive director, Reconciling Ministries Network,
      United Methodist Church
      Emily Eastwood, executive director, Lutherans Concerned/North America,
      Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran
      Church in Canada
      Michael Adee, national field organizer, More Light Presbyterians,
      Presbyterian Church USA



      -30-

      Founded in 1973, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation
      (the Task Force) was the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and
      transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization and remains
      the movement's leading voice for freedom, justice and equality.

      MEDIA CONTACTS:
      Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
      (Office) 646.358.1465
      (Cell) 917.704.6358
      rsklar@...

      Inga Sarda-Sorensen, Deputy Communications Director
      (Office) 646.358.1463
      (Cell) 202.641.5592
      isorensen@...
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