Clinton School of Public Service Forum to Examine LGBTQ+ Community, Future of American Church


Over the past half-century, debates over homosexuality have divided many of the world’s largest Christian bodies.

Next week, nationally recognized religious leaders will discuss how their faith traditions address issues of human sexuality in the 21st century.

“The LGBTQ+ Community and the Future of the American Church” is the topic of Wednesday’s forum, which is hosted by the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton School of Public Service, and the Clinton Presidential Center.

Panelists include:

• Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and prolific author whose books include “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensibility”.

• Sarah Wilke, Director of Global Relations for the Richard and Julia Wilke Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern College, a United Methodist Church affiliate located in Winfield, Kan. Wilke’s testimony as a lifelong lesbian Christian is included in the DVD series “Faithful and Inclusive – The Bible, Sexuality, and The United Methodist Church.”

• Frederick A. Davie, Presbyterian minister and member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, who is also senior strategic advisor to the president of Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Frank Lockwood, editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Religion, will serve as moderator.

The event is the latest installment in the Clinton Center’s Distinguished Kumpuris Lecture Series, which honors the late Kula and Dr. Frank Kumpuris.

This coincides with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Pride Month.

“The Clinton Center’s Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series was created to bring our community together to discuss important and timely topics on a range of issues with speakers from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. The Month of Pride gives us the opportunity to deepen our knowledge of some of the ongoing challenges facing our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and we are grateful to these respected religious leaders for sharing their insights on the intersection of human sexuality and faith,” said Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation. “Although each panelist represents a distinct faith tradition, they share a common message and commitment to inclusivity.”

For much of American history, gays and lesbians have been outcasts.

Until 2003, states could criminalize consensual intimate relationships between adults of the same sex. Until 2015, states could ban same-sex marriage.

While barriers to equality are falling in the secular world, they remain common in religious circles, though gay rights advocates are increasingly making their way there.

In an interview on Wednesday, Martin said it was important for Christians to stand with the oppressed.

“The first thing is that’s what Jesus did, which was to reach out to marginalized people. And there’s no one more marginalized in the Catholic Church than the LGBTQ person,” did he declare.

“Secondly, it is a community at risk: at risk of violence, harassment, beatings, discrimination and contempt. Moreover, when you look at young people in particular, at risk of suicide, self-harm and homelessness is also about standing with those who are persecuted and who need our help,” he said.

LGBTQ Catholics, he stressed, are full members of the community of faith.

“They’re part of the church. It’s as much their church as anyone else’s,” he added.

Martin, editor of the Jesuit publication, America magazine, will share this message today at Outreach 2022, a conference on LGBTQ Catholic ministry, being held at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center in New York City.

Topics include “LGBTQ Ministry in Catholic Parishes” and “Who Am I to Judge?” Theological Approaches for LGBTQ Catholics”.

(In 2013, Pope Francis told reporters, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”)

Francis knows and supports Martin’s work with homosexual Catholics. The pope held a private Vatican audience with Martin in September 2019 and sent him a handwritten letter ahead of last year’s outreach conference.

In his message to Martin, Francis wrote: “You are a priest for all men and women, just as God is the Father of all men and women. I pray that you continue in this way, by being close, compassionate and with great tenderness.

“And I pray for your faithful, your “parishioners” and all those whom the Lord entrusts to you, so that you protect them and make them grow in the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”


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