Local Pastor Takes a Stand for LGBTQIA+ Youth

Local Pastor Takes a Stand for LGBTQIA+ Youth

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"This is why my Christian faith requires that I speak out to remind us that human rights belong to everyone as equally beloved of God. No exceptions. This knowledge is the foundation of my faith, and my life as a follower of Jesus. It is for many others as well. We want our voices heard too."
With powerful words like these, Rev. Ruth Shilling Hainsworth publicly took a stand for LGBTQIA+ youth and students and spoke out for their right to visibly queer-friendly spaces and access to books with queer representation.

The pastor of the United Congregational Church of Westerly, CT, and president of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Clergy Association, felt compelled to react to different instances of queer- and transphobia in the area. In one case, a group of parents tried to push the Stonington School District to remove Pride flags from classrooms. In a related situation, a group in neighboring Westerly, RI, actively campaigned to ban books - supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community - from the high school and middle school libraries. Among those calling for the removal of the books claiming them to be "pornography," were also clergy members.

Deeply rooted in her faith in God’s love and liberation, Rev. Shilling Hainsworth responded with a guest opinion piece in the local newspaper. She reminded the public that, even though there is a diversity of thought within Christian spaces, many voices in the church, like hers, call for equity and inclusion for all of God’s children. We are happy to share these encouraging examples of local lay people and clergy within the UCC and beyond living out the Gospel message of radical love and transformative justice. And we invite you to read and be inspired by Rev. Shilling Hainsworth’s words published by the Westerly Sun.
 
If you feel encouraged to dig deeper, here are three ways to learn more and contribute:
  1. If you want to find out more about the increase in book bans and how it affects LGBTQIA+-friendly books disproportionately, you can read more here.
  2. If you want to learn more about ways to make your church space more inclusive and safer for LGBTQIA+ people, you can look at this tool kit.
  3. Local journalism exists almost everywhere and is an important part of our democracy. Follow Rev. Shilling Hainsworth's example, sign up for your local newspaper and reach out to them. Offer your opinion in support of queer justice, and feel free to share these articles with us by emailing our Queer Justice Advocate at streibm@sneucc.org

Author

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Michael Streib

Michael is the Queer Justice Advocate for the Southern New England Conference UCC, and pastoral resident at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Somerville, MA

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