Pride Network hosted an “affirming panel discussion” titled “Did God Make Gay?” on April 3 to reassure the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community that places of worship do accept and welcome homosexuals.

“People are created in the image of God,” Director of Rochester area Hillel Rabbi Rob Morias said, initiating the discussion. “A committed homosexual relationship should be celebrated, and the community should be open to this.”

This sentiment was echoed by the six other panelists, some of whom have very close connections with the LGBT community.

“I felt a very strong sense of calling after I came out,” Community Christian Church Pastor Reverend Lee Ann Bryce said. “I had sort of an enlightened sense of faith. I was raised in Texas in the Bible belt and I have had sort of a love-hate relationship with the church. I love the church at its best and I hate what it can be.”

Although Bryce admitted that there are churches that are not welcoming and affirming to the LGBT community, there are many that are and this number is continually growing. This trend is seen across religions and places of worship.

“You are God’s work of art,” Sister of Mercy representing the Newman Community at the Interfaith Chapel Jackie Reichart said. “I am reminded of a Peter, Paul and Mary song that says ‘it’s what’s inside that counts.’ Our sexual self is ours and we should celebrate it. As people of faith, we are called to be people of inclusion.”

Although some argue that religion condemns homosexuality, all seven panelists disagreed.

“The role of the church is meant to be a vehicle to God, but sometimes it can be a road block,” Catholic Family Minister at Spritus Christi Reverend Denise Donato said. “We are sorry for the pains of being excluded. Jesus Christ was the most inclusive person, and it must pain him to see people being excluded.”

The seven insisted that even in the Bible, there is nothing that states that homosexuality is wrong.

“What should we do with the text that forbids homosexuality?” Morias asked. “We should look at it in its context. Those words are in the context of inappropriate relationships, like incest and bestiality.”

American Baptist Minister Reverend Will Seals agreed and added that the time period in which the text is referring to needs to be taken into account as well.

“Many years ago, the Bible was used to defend against slavery,” Seals said. “Now we don’t do that anymore. There are passages in the Bible that say that men should not sow two different seeds in the same field, but we don’t abide by that anymore.”

To conclude the discussion, the floor was opened for audience members to question the panelists. When they were asked if they thought that homosexuality was a sin, the unanimous answer was no.

“I have received more grief over getting a tattoo than many LGBT have about their denomination,” Unitarian Universalist Pastor Reverend George Tyger said. “We have come a long way in a very short time.”

Much of the audience was inspired by the openness and acceptance of the panelists.

“It is nice to hear from gay-affirming people, which is the purpose of the program,” Associate Dean of Students in charge of discipline Matthew Burns said. “There are an awful lot of people who are not gay-affirming, though, and it would have been educational to hear from them as well. That is not Pride’s job to do. Perhaps another group will put on a program like that.”

Many students agreed with Burns.

“There is something to be said for arguing out an issue,” junior Ted Elton said. “They could have had a more diverse opinion, but it is nice to see such a strong declaration of solidarity.”

“To hear representatives from so many denominations all with an alike mind was remarkably educational,” graduate student Erez Solomon said. “Unfortunately, these are the open-minded people.”

Paret can be reached at

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