Religious leaders in the Twin Cities are reaching out to LGBT individuals to let them know that Bloomington and Normal offer open places for spiritual growth. Representatives from Christian, Unitarian Universalist and Jewish faiths gathered at a panel discussion to give their perspectives on the importance of welcoming all people into their faiths.
Reverend Jennie Edwards Bertrand of Hope Church in Bloomington said being accepting of all people goes back to her core beliefs.
"It is part of what we're called to as a faith community: to love, and care for, and support, and welcome, and encourage, and push, and provide leadership opportunities, and discipleship opportunities for every person,” she said.
The religious leaders also talked about the next steps in making it easier for LGBT individuals to be a part of a faith-based community. Reverend Jim Warren of First Christian Church in Bloomington said it's important to keep an open dialogue.
"I hope we can find ways and places that we can all come together, learn from one another, learn about each other, and begin to be one people,” he said.
Warren said part of that is understanding that Christians have a terrible track record when it comes to being accepting of LGBT individuals.
"Perhaps one of the first steps towards bringing our communities together would be for us to acknowledge that we have done wrong, that we are sorry, that many of the things that have happened, and still happen, hurt others," he said.
The panel also gave the religious leaders a chance to network and find ways to work together. Bertrand said she loved being able to connect with other leaders in the area committed to being open to the LGBT community.
"I really loved the opportunity to meet all of the other leaders, and by the end of the meeting I have coffees and appointments and emails with a number of other leaders,” she said, “And I'm excited for this to just be a jumping off point to really connect with other community leaders."