BRONX, NEW YORK. STEPHEN PARELLI. OCTOBER 19, 2013. Celebrating their 20th anniversary on October 11-14 in Providence, Rhode Island (home of 17th century Baptist Roger Williams, founder of religious freedom in America), the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists – the unofficial pro-gay ministry of the American Baptist Churches – offered its conference participants an emphasis on international faith-based pro-LGBT ministries.
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Rev. Robin Lunn, Director of AWAB, set the international tone with her global-focused and visionary comments at different stages of the conference, especially notably during the Sunday afternoon (2- 4 pm, October 13) Membership Meeting held in the Fellowship Hall of First Baptist Church of America.
At the Membership Meeting, Lunn enthusiastically reported that some Baptist churches in certain countries (names of countries withheld) outside of the United States were asking to come into association with AWAB as welcoming and affirming churches (churches that are publically pro-LGBT). When, during the Membership Meeting, small discussion groups were formed for brainstorming and feedback around different topics of AWAB interest concerning their United State churches, Lunn spontaneously called for a discussion group with Other Sheep and interested participants to discuss specific AWAB possibilities for international ministry.
On Saturday of the conference, Other Sheep, an ecumenical Christian ministry that works worldwide for the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within their respective faith traditions, conducted a workshop and maintained an exhibit table. At the Other Sheep exhibit table, The Children Are Free (a book on the Bible and homosexuality) sold several copies, and participants signed up to receive, by email, any of Rev. Steve Parelli’s four papers: (1) Achieving Gay Rights in Africa: What the Christian Faith Community Must Know and Do, (2) Queering the Epistle to the Galatians (Gal. 4:21 – 5:1) – John Cotton and Roger Williams Contrasted, (3) The Historical impact of ‘Liberty of Conscience’ in the West, with applications to Uganda, and (4) Talking Points – What you need to know and say when they say: “But the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality!”
In their workshop (offered twice) on “International Faith Based LGBTQ Landscape,” Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz discussed different aspects of their Other Sheep summer-travels’ experience since 2005 in more than 20 countries.
Parelli made the observation that experienced, educated and committed people already in ministry throughout the world are the faith-based LGBT movement’s greatest resources. Parelli said faith-based LGBT organizations in the United States cannot wait ten years to first accomplish what is needed within their respective denominations here at home before working abroad, but that now is the time to network and collaborate with other like-minded pro-LGBT religious leaders and workers in countries around the world.
In relationship to discussing the Global South and the growth of evangelicals since the beginning of the last century, Parelli, on strategizing how to reach evangelicals and quoting George Bernard Shaw, said “ . . . you must get at a man through his religion and not yours.”
The film God Loves Uganda, a documentary on the exploitation of homophobia in Bible-saturated Uganda by a few fringe American evangelicals, was the major Saturday-afternoon event with a panel discussion of Uganda immediately following the film. The four panelists were Rev. Kapya Kaoma, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, Rev. Stephen Parelli and Jose Ortiz.
Rev. Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz are members of The Riverside Church, an AWAB church. Parelli and Ortiz represented The Riverside Church at the Members Meeting.