Inter-faith panel discusses sexuality

Sunday, March 6, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:16 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Faith-Based Outreach Committee, a branch of the Mid-Missouri Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Coalition, wants to dispel many of the myths and misunderstandings about homosexuals being circulated in local churches and promote positive discussion on the issue of homosexuality in the religious community.

The committee held its first meeting Saturday afternoon at the Columbia Public Library in an attempt to bring together people of all faiths. Members of several community organizations and churches attended.

“Sexuality is a gift from God every person has,” said Audrey Mortensen, a member of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.

The committee wants to include people from more local churches.

“Eventually, we hope to develop a speaker’s bureau program that can come to various churches to discuss this issue,” said Linda Hayes, a Mid-Missouri LGBT Coalition board member.

The meeting began with an icebreaker. Hayes stuck quarter-sized colored stickers to people’s foreheads, without telling them what color they were wearing. Without speaking, their job was to find other people with a color they thought matched theirs. The goal of the exercise was to show that people are always searching for their identity.

Committee members said most of the objections people have to homosexuality are based on biblical interpretations. Handouts were available with excerpts from books giving scholarly opinions on traditional Scriptures used to condemn homosexuality.

“We respect other people’s religious beliefs and know there are various interpretations of biblical text,” Hayes said. “Often people are only told one side of the story. We want to educate local congregations about this issue.”

At the meeting, two MU students that work with MU’s LGBT Resource Center gave a presentation to encourage people to feel comfortable asking questions about the LBGT community.

“We don’t want gay people to be a mystery anymore,” Jason Ksepka said. “Our goal is to educate people so we can start a positive dialogue in the community.”

Sandy Gilbreth, an unlicensed minister at Christ the King Church, thinks it is necessary to discuss homosexuality in the religious community.

“It is important for us to get the word out that God loves all people,” Gilbreth said. “God did not intend for us to be treated differently.”

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 2 in Conference Room A at the Columbia Public Library.

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