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Diversity Lecture Series brings up LGBT discrimination in the Church

The Diversity Lecture Series opened Tuesday with a screening of an Emmy award-winning documentary film, which highlights the struggles and the discrimination that North Carolina gay and lesbian Christians face at the hands of the Church.

Approximately 340 people attended the screening of “Coming Out ~ Coming In: Faith, Identity and Belonging,” and a panel discussion, said Gus Pena, director of Multicultural Student Development.

Following the film, a panel of faith leaders in the campus and community discussed LGBT rights, issues in their denominations and the greater Christian church.

“Several dozen students and community members stayed for post panel conversations,” Pena said. “This indicated to me that the selection of this topic was timely and that there is a significant, ongoing need for more supportive dialogue around sexuality and religion.”

Keith Martin, an executive producer of the film and a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, orchestrated the screening with the sponsorship of the Office of Equity and Compliance and the Office of Multicultural Student Development, as well as support from the Counseling and Psychological Services Center.

Martin made “Coming Out ~ Coming In” in the early 2000s with four members of the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations, but he said he thinks it may be even more relevant to audiences today.

“You’ve got same sex marriages being recognized – every month it seems there’s another state that’s been changing their laws or courts striking down their laws,” Martin said. “It’s being used at the current time as a catalyst for conversations in the legal and political arena, which was not our intention, but a nice unintended consequence.”

The panel that spoke after the film screening consisted of seven faith leaders – five women and two men – who represented different Christian denominations of the High Country while Martin acted as the moderator.

Father Dave Broszka of St. Elizabeth’s of the Hill Country said the film helped him to put a human face on issues that are often relegated to the vague and theoretical in matters of theology.

“Whatever the issue is, to see a person in the situation is really important rather than just talking about it in the theoretical,” Broszka said. “I’m encouraged to be a part of this insight.”

The Rev. Derek Boggs of Grace Lutheran Church echoed his thoughts.

“This is an important time we live in,” Boggs said. “Christ came for all, not for a selected few.”

He described the film as a “true reflection” of what he sees in the gay and lesbian faith communities to which he ministers.

“My heart goes out to them when I watch the movie because I know these people,” Boggs said.

Opening a dialogue on LGBT issues while also providing resources to students struggling with their orientation and faith were the overarching goals of the evening. Support services, centers and hotlines were listed on the back of each program. Panelists implored students to reach out to these services if they ever felt the need.

“Some people who aren’t religious anymore think that all Christians think the same way on matters of human sexuality,” the Rev. Beth Turner of 3rd Place Boone said. “We want people to know that there are faith leaders who are loving and welcoming.”

STORY: EMMA SPECKMAN, A&E Reporter

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