Religious leaders invite gays to embrace spirituality

By By Carlos Mayorga

By Carlos Mayorga

“I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” said David Knowlton, quoting a scripture from the Book of Matthew in the Bible.

Knowlton, a professor of anthropology at the U, told about 30 attendees at the Utah Pride Interfaith service on Tuesday to remember that no matter what others or churches say about queer individuals, the Lord is with them.

The event, held at the Fort Douglas Chapel and co-sponsored by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center and the Pride Interfaith Coalition of Salt Lake City, brought together local religious leaders and musicians from various Christian denominations and the Kanzeon Zen Center, a Zen Buddhist Organization in Salt Lake City.

“We’re a mixed bag just like everyone else,” said Nick Critchlow, a junior in mass communication. “Some of us are spiritual, some atheists, some rich, some poor.”

Whatever the religion, the message seemed to follow a common theme — queer individuals can hold on to their spirituality, and although some religions and congregations shun those who openly embrace their queer identities, many local places of worship welcome the queer community.

“Many feel that on the event of coming out, they must shed their faith,” said Duane Jennings, chair of the Utah Pride Interfaith Council of Salt Lake City. “Tonight, we proudly proclaim that is not the case.”

The council is a local coalition of Christian churches and congregations where queer individuals are welcome — listed are the Baptist, Unitarian, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, gay Mormon organizations and the Zen Center.

“Many have come from conservative backgrounds and their congregations or religions are struggling with the issues,” Jennings said. “As people are coming out, they often feel that they are evil.”

The service included a number of musical performances and talks by a minister from the Sacred Light of Christ Metropolitan Community Church, a Buddhist from the Zen Center, a minister from the Salt Lake Center for Spiritual Living and a pastor from the Lumen Campus Ministry, which is an organization with Lutheran and Episcopalian roots.

“Everyone is a child of God, and everyone has gifts and something to offer,” said the Rev. Joel Nau, a minister from the Lumen Campus Ministry. “We celebrate that and we welcome everyone in our ministry.”

Lama Thupten, a Buddhist from the Zen Center, also extended a welcome to queer individuals to seek enlightenment and be compassionate for others.

“In Buddhism, we don’t care what you are or what you’re not,” he said. “Those that came to the Buddha, they were beggars, prostitutes, lepers — Buddha didn’t care about that — all are endowed with the potential to reach enlightenment.”

Chet Cannon, a former U student affiliated with the Zen Center, said that Buddhism helped him become enlightened, and others might take the same away from it, whether straight or gay.

“You’re OK just the way you are,” he said.

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Tyler Cobb