History of Progress
How the Light Has Grown
Below is the history of progress in various faith communities since 1991. Progress is slow—two steps forward, one step back—but is steadily moving towards inclusivity. OUR PRAYER In the next ten years, may there be such progress that there is no longer a need for the Interfaith Advocates for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People. Oct 5, 1991 Invited by the Episcopal Diocesan Committee on Homophile Ministry and Presbyterian Task Force on Homophobia, 16 people from 9 faith traditions (American Baptist, Episcopal, Metropolitan Community Church, Mormon, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Society of Friends, United Methodist, Unitarian Universalist) meet at Gates Presbyterian Church. They agree to continue to meet as the “Interfaith Task Force for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Justice.” Nov 26, 1991 The Presbytery of Genesee Valley overwhelmingly approves call of openly lesbian Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr to pastorship at Downtown United Presbyterian Church. Nov, 1991 “Would Walt Whitman be Welcome Here?” a sermon by Rev. Richard Gilbert starts First Unitarian Church education series to consider becoming a “Welcoming Congregation.” Jan 26, 1992 “Interfaith Advocates for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People” becomes new name. Mar, 1992 Eight Rochesterians meet at Chicago conference on gay and lesbian ministry and form what becomes Catholic Gay and Lesbian Family Ministry. April, 1992 First Unitarian GLB Concerns Task Force contributes $450 to the Presbytery of the Genesee Valley Defense Fund for legal expenses to defend appointment of Rev. Jane Spahr. Sep 20, 1992 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES approves mission statement composed of a purpose and goals. Nov 9, 1992 Roman Catholic Bishop Matthew Clark meets with members of St. Mary and Corpus Christi gay/lesbian & friends groups. Jan 10, 1993 In response to Nov, 1992 vote of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley to comply with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), forbidding Janie Spahr’s call, Downtown United and Westminster Presbyterian Churches approve “That All May Freely Serve.” This mission program sends Rev. Janie Spahr, as a “living presence” evangelist, to spread God’s good news in her national travels, endeavoring to educate individuals, congregations and church leadership about homosexuality, and to work for the welcome and full inclusion of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into the life and ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Jun 5, 1993 First same-sex wedding takes place in the Rochester Friends’ Meeting, four years after the Meeting approves same-sex weddings in 1989. Mar, 1993 First Unitarian Church congregation adopts amendment for church bylaws to include all people as full participants, and naming sexual orientation among diversities to be honored. Jun, 1993 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES first participates in the Rochester Gay Pride parade. Nov, 1993 The congregation of the First Unitarian Church votes to become a Welcoming Congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association. May 19, 1994 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES sponsors “In Remembrance of the Pink and Black triangles – An Interfaith Memorial for Gay and Lesbian Victims of Nazi Bigotry” at the First Unitarian Church. Over 25 people participate, including the late Joel Bloom, Cantorial Soloist at Temple Sinai. 1995 Lake Avenue Baptist Church votes to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. 1995 Lake Avenue Baptist Church hosts Candace Gingrich to speak to Rochester GLBT community. 1995 The Third Presbyterian Church approves Covenant ceremonies for same sex couples. 1995 Five Presbyterian More Light Churches of Rochester help organize and host the National More Light Conference. Nov 16, 1995 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES sponsors dinner for 250 at High Falls to honor four faith community leaders who have made significant contributions to justice for lesbian, gay and bisexual people: Virginia W. Davidson (Presbyterian); Kay Heverin, S.S.J. (Roman Catholic); Rabbi Judea B. Miller (Reform Judaism); Rev. Walter Szymanski (Episcopal). Rev. Jane Spahr (Presbyterian) is the guest speaker. 1996 Local chapter formed of American Baptists Concerned for Sexual Minorities, a support group for LGBT persons and friends and allies from churches of the Rochester/Genesee Region of the American Baptist Churches USA. Jan, 1996 Headquartered in Rochester, NY, the Presbyterian “That All May Freely Serve” initiative starts regional partnerships across the country. (In 2002 there are eight active regions). Sep, 1996 Catholic Gay and Lesbian Family Ministry enters accord to minister on behalf of Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester. 1997 Local Lutheran Youth sponsor three resolutions at Annual Upstate NY Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Synod. The proposal for ongoing study/dialogue about GLBT advocacy and more welcoming churches passes. 1997 Welcoming and Affirming Ministries forms to be liaison with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and to advocate for LGBT issues at Lake Avenue Baptist. 1997 The Presbytery of Genesee Valley votes to defend any Presbyterian churches attacked for More Light sentiments. Mar 1, 1997 Roman Catholic Bishop Matthew Clark celebrates Mass with Gay and Lesbian People, Families and Friends at Sacred Heart Cathedral—1200 people attend despite 75 protesters. Nov 9, 1997 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES and Women of Reform Judaism, B’rith Kodesh Sisterhood sponsor “Respect is Elementary” at Temple B’rith Kodesh, showing film, “It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School.” Program wins two Reform Jewish Social Action awards. 1998 Lake Avenue Baptist takes lead in organizing speaker series “Christian Faith and LGBT Experience” with Downtown United Presbyterian Church and the Program in Women and Gender of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. Dr. David Bartlett of Yale Divinity School is first speaker. 1998 The Bishop of the Upstate NY Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America forms task force to discuss welcoming GLBT persons in churches, ordaining openly gay pastors, and other GLBT advocacy issues. Jul, 1998 With strong local support, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly resolves not to exclude anyone from membership on the basis of age, race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. Sep 17-20, 1998 National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries (NACDLGM) holds 5th annual conference in Rochester amid protests. Bishop Clark celebrates conference Mass for 600 at St. Mary, Downtown (admission by ticket only) with mounted police monitoring some 50 protesters. Oct, 1998 First Unitarian Church task force adds “Transgender” to name. 1999 Lake Avenue Baptist initiates annual Welcoming Sunday focused on LGBT issues. 1999 Lake Avenue Baptist helps American Baptist Churches of Rochester/Genesee Region accept membership of First Baptist Church of Granville, OH, dismissed from fellowship by its own region because of its welcoming position. 1999 Members of Greater Rochester Section of the Jewish Council of Women, partnering with the GAGV and Family Services of Rochester, complete development of “Project Teaching Respect.” This educational program, with video, resource package and speakers’ bureau, educates school administrators and staff about issues of teen homosexuality and how to maintain safety and support for GLBT students. Jun, 1999 Bishop Jack McKelvey is narrowly elected Episcopal Bishop of Rochester over openly gay Canon Gene Robinson. Nov, 1999 Ten Rochester Lutheran church representatives serve on Bishop’s Task Force on ordination of gay/lesbian persons. Dec 4, 1999 At his invitation, the Dignity-Integrity (joint Roman Catholic and Episcopal gay and lesbian faith community) Contemporary Music Group sings as Bishop Jack McKelvey is installed as the Episcopal Bishop of Rochester. Saying the diocese is open to all, he later names lesbian and gay persons as committee members and chairs. 1999 and 2000 “That All May Freely Serve” National Conference (Presbyterian) held in Rochester. Mayor Bill Johnson declares April 10, 1999 “That All May Freely Serve Day.” 2000 Lake Avenue Baptist hosts meeting of national council of Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. 2000 Sunday morning class organized at Lake Avenue Baptist to read and discuss books on GLBT liberation theology. 2000 The Jewish Community Center and GAGV sponsor “It’s About YOUth”: a series of community forums on issues facing GLBT teens and allies. Mar, 2000 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES adds “Transgender” to name. Sep, 2000 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES and Women of Reform Judaism, B’rith Kodesh Sisterhood, plus Rochester Gay, Lesbian Education Network, repeat “Respect is Elementary.” Sep, 2000 “Gay and Straight: We Can Talk” is presented at Rochester area Lutheran Synod. Sep 24, 2000 Episcopal Bishop Jack McKelvey presides at Dignity-Integrity Mass celebrating 25 years of mission and ministry. Nov, 2000 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES becomes part of Ad Hoc Committee to Save Scouting in Rochester. 2001 Lake Avenue Baptist successfully advocates for membership in Rochester/Genesee Region for San Leandro, which was dismissed from fellowship in its own region. 2001 Union of American Hebrew Congregations continues to advocate for full inclusion and participation of gay and lesbian persons in all aspects of Reform Jewish Life. The Social Action Committee and The Women’s Club of Temple Sinai sponsors “Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price,” a panel forum for discussion of beliefs, biases, and the continued need for advocacy and inclusiveness. 2001 Committee for Homophile Ministry of Episcopal Diocese of Rochester celebrates 25 years of existence. It is the longest serving committee in any Episcopal Diocese. 2001 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES faith communities work with Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley to educate Otetiana Council of Boy Scouts of America about homosexuality and to support policy change to penalize inappropriate behavior. 2001 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES faith communities continue to lobby New York State to pass laws prohibiting discrimination against GLBT people and to protect students against abuse based on sexual orientation. May, 2001 Upstate NY Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Resource Team for Gay & Lesbian Concerns sponsors three resolutions for Synod body: 1) Becoming a “Reconciling in Christ” Synod 2) Including pastoral support for performing same-sex blessings and unions 3) Allowing ordination of pastors in faithful gay relationships. The first two pass easily, the third fails by ten votes. May, 2001 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES supports approval of an inclusive Human Rights Ordinance for the City of Rochester. Jun 15, 2001 Presbyterian USA General Assembly votes for amendment to remove restrictions against ordaining gay and lesbian elders and pastors. Though the amendment is later rejected by vote of the presbyteries, there is still hope for eventual acceptance of ordination for GLBT. 2002 Elder Ralph Carter serves on the Board of Directors of More Light Presbyterians and Rev. John Wilkinson serves on the Executive Committee of the Covenant Network, a national network working for inclusivity. 2002 Rochester’s Presbyterian More Light Churches, among 108 nationwide, celebrate More Light Statement anniversaries. • Downtown United Presbyterian Church – 23 years • John Calvin Presbyterian Church – 23 years • Calvary-St. Andrews Presbyterian Parish – 22 years • Third Presbyterian Church – 15 years • Westminster Presbyterian Church – 9 years April, 2002 American Baptist Churches of Rochester/Genesee Region vote to recognize validity of ordination of persons whose ordination is revoked by another church body solely because of sexual orientation or their support of the welcoming position. Oct 3, 2002 INTERFAITH ADVOCATES celebrates Ten Years of A Growing Light with dinner at St. Mary, Downtown Church.