This weekend, LGBTQ clergy from across the country will gather in Portland, OR to create a plan to engage their congregations and communities on the “Black Lives Matter” movement. The four-day conference will include strategic working sessions, media training, a public interfaith prayer service, and other inspirational activities.
The first conference of its kind is the brainchild of Rabbi Debra Kolodny, Executive Director of Nehirim, a National LGBTQ Jewish Retreat and advocacy organization. Professor Dr. Pîr Ibrahim Abudrrahmani-Farajaje and Reverend Tara Wilkins will also be co-facilitating during the weekend. Dr. Abudrrahmani-Farajaje is a Provost and Professor of Cultural Studies at the Starr King School for Ministry and Reverend Wilkins is the Executive Director of the Community of Welcoming Congregations in Portland.
“I conceived of this idea about a year and a half ago. I was attending the Queering Islam event. During the course of the day, something became clear. Queer folks had to take on issues far beyond what effects the LGBTQ community,” says Rabbi Debra.
The conference is exclusively open to LGBTQ clergy of all faiths. It was important for organizers to create a space where they can figure out how to engage their constituents on Black Lives Matter. They also want to focus on additional topics like “helping LGBTQ congregates with religious wounds and celebrating diversity in the community”.
With same-sex marriage legal across the country, the campaign for marriage equality has essentially disbanded. Many people in the community are asking what issues are next in line, and if marriage equality was the ultimate goal. According to Rabbi Debra, there are too many intersectional connections that should not be ignored. She agrees that “freedom to marry is a non-issue at this point”. She feels that there has been much talk about the next steps for the community and Black Lives Matter, but it’s become “a lot of rhetoric and no action”.
When asked about why it’s important for the LGBTQ community to pay attention and get involved with the Black Live Matters movement, she says “Because there are black LGBTQ people. Because it’s literally life and death. When I want to prioritize my advocacy, it’s where the most urgency exists. We can’t ignore that this week the 20th trans woman has been murdered. Unfortunately I’ve lost count of how many black lives have been killed by police. As clergy people our job is to speak to those issues. How can I live in integrity as an ally without doing this?”
After the conference, Rabbi Debra and other organizers hope that clergy will come out of the weekend with more clarity on what’s possible for them and their community. Whether it’s school curriculum or vigils or supporting black churches, organizers are confident that clergy will develop strategic action that is necessary in supporting Black Lives Matter.
“I’m driving this agenda. I invite people to commit to at least a year of activism; that this is a part of their ministry for the next year, and hopefully trigger a lifetime commitment,” says Rabbi Debra.
The LGBTQ clergy gathering for Black Lives Matter takes place October 15 – 18, 2015. For more information, visit http://www.nehirim.org/interfaithclergy.