New Birth to Meet with LGBT Families

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: May 30, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org

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(Atlanta, GA) Steve Parelli is a former Baptist minister. His partner, Jose Ortiz, also studied for the ministry and spent several months as a Southern Baptist lay minister. Since meeting and falling in love at an "ex-gay" support group in Manhattan, the couple has learned a thing or two about faith, family, rejection, and redemption.

And that’s why Parelli and Ortiz are leading a group of gay and lesbian families and clergy who will meet with members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church this Sunday, June 1.

"At some point, at some place, constructive conversations must begin between the church and the gay son or gay daughter who grew up in that church," explained Parelli, who was spurned by his family and lost his ministry upon coming out. Parelli has since found a new calling in supporting LGBT-affirming ministries around the world.

Atlanta-based minister Troy Sanders, founder of Preach2me.com, concurs:

"I have a personal investment in this visit, because my family is in New Birth. And when I say family, I mean both kinds.

"I have biological family who are still caught in the conflict between their theology and having an openly gay clergy person as kin, and I have lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters who — for whatever reason — have chosen to make New Birth their church home," Sanders explained.

The visit to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church is part of a nationwide fellowship outreach called The American Family Outing, which issued an invitation to Bishop Eddie Long and members of his Lithonia, Georgia, church to share a meal and conversation with LGBT families and clergy.

The American Family Outing (AFO) is a collaborative project of Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

The AFO aims to open dialogue between LGBT families and families at six American mega-churches. In previous weeks, AFO families have visited Lakewood Church in Houston, The Potter’s House in Dallas, and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD. In these successful visits, American Family Outing participants and church congregants have engaged in thoughtful and inspiring dialogue and fellowship.

Parelli and Ortiz also participated in the visit to Hope Christian Church. For Ortiz, who grew up in an evangelical church, it was a homecoming of sorts:

"In the presence of my fellow AFO brothers and sisters, I was able to affirm myself as a child of God created just as God intended, fully belonging to God AS I AM, fellowshipping with God as his gay child," said Ortiz.

In weeks to come, LGBT families will visit Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and Saddleback Church in California.

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.
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