First Coast churches stepping up in gay rights movement

Posted by Jeff Brumley on


"Valerie Williams has a passion for preaching the Christian gospel and the right of gays and lesbians to marry and live free of discrimination.

"It's a message that may seem contradictory in the Bible Belt but comes naturally to Williams, the lesbian pastor at St. Luke's Community Church in Jacksonville.

"'You have all these people who have longed for a relationship with Christ and decided to take a chance and reconcile their sexuality with their spirituality,' she said.

"It's why her Riverside congregation is growing and why, she said, churches that minister to homosexuals are becoming an increasingly powerful voice for gay rights.

"'We have to be part of the civil rights movement ... to be able to educate the community and share God's good news for them,' she said.

"Once viewed with suspicion by the vast majority of American homosexuals, religious lesbians and gays have been coming out of the spiritual closet for decades, lending clout to their faith and giving a spiritual dimension to their struggle, scholars and ministers say.

"Their involvement gives the movement new strength and vocabulary, especially when arguing for the freedom to marry, said the Rev. Troy Perry, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, the nation's first denomination created specifically to minister to homosexuals.

"'We're the ones who are going to have to talk to religious leaders - we speak the same language,' Perry said from his home in Los Angeles."

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