Mainline Protestant churches are the target of a new campaign that urges "loud," rather than silent, support for gays and lesbians.
Though mainline denominations already welcome LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) persons, the multifaith group Intersections says it's not enough.
"[W]e must sing their welcoming as loudly as we sing the hymns," the group declares.
The "Believe Out Loud" campaign was launched on Valentine's Day and seeks to increase acceptance of LGBT persons in religious communities – mainly the collective body of some 40 million Americans who attend Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and other mainline churches. Specifically, the initiative is aiming to move believers from privately believing in the full inclusion of homosexuals to speaking out publicly.
"If you really believe in something, believe out loud," the campaign touts.
Intersections Director Robert Chase maintains the "'God vs. gays' dichotomy is false" and "reflective of only part of Christendom."
"The religious right's divisive paradigm is paralleled by more progressive stances that have resulted in inclusive institutional transformation," he stated.
A 2008 survey of clergy from mainline Protestant denominations revealed that a majority of ministers (79 percent) agree that "homosexuals should have all the same rights and privileges as other American citizens." Most (65 percent) also support either same-sex marriage (33 percent) or civil unions, according to Public Religion Research's Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey.
A Pew Research Center's survey also found wide support for homosexuality among lay people in mainline Protestant churches. More than half of members of the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Anglican Church, the United Church of Christ and The Episcopal Church say homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society.
Gwen Ashby, a consultant in Dayton, Ohio, wants Christians who support the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the church to speak up, according to Intersections.
"It's an important message for us to lift up because those who don't believe that (welcoming gays) are lifting up their message and they are grabbing more attention than we are," Ashby said. "It's important that we make it clear that their Christian voice is not the only voice out there; that a welcoming, loving, Christian voice is an alternative ... for all people who believe."
Gay rights voices are already present in mainline denominations such as The Episcopal Church and the PC(USA). Integrity, a group within The Episcopal Church, has launched an Episcopalian version of "Believe Out Loud" with the goal of getting the word out about their "inclusive" congregations.
"By the end of the year I hope that parishes and missions in every diocese of The Episcopal Church will register themselves as 'Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations,'" said John Clinton Bradley, Integrity's acting executive director.
Mainline denominations have been wracked by division over homosexual matters for decades. Their increasing liberalization of policies on homosexuality, including the ordination of sexually active gays and blessing of same-sex unions, has forced many conservative members to find more orthodox or evangelical homes. While conservatives welcome gays and have urged believers to love them and offer pastoral support, they do not support their behavior. Membership across the mainline groups, meanwhile, has continued to decline.