It’s here! After months and months of planning, today is the day that New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium begins! Entitled From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, the three-day meeting will be held at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, 202 East Pratt Street,Baltimore, Maryland. Over 350 Catholic leaders from across the country will gather to discuss the state of LGBT issues in the church and society.
You’ll be able to follow the Symposium on Twitter by checking out its hashtag: #NWM12.
The Baltimore Sun carries a news report today announcing the Symposium, citing the need for discussion on LGBT issues in the Catholic church:
” ‘Across the country, Catholics are facing the issues of marriage equality, bullying, whether or not lesbian and gay people can work in church institutions,’ Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said Wednesday. ‘All of these items need further discussion in the church, and people are eager to discuss them. . . .’
“DeBernardo says support among churchgoing Catholics for lesbian and gay church members is growing. He predicts that the issue will go the way of artificial birth control, which is prohibited by the church but practiced widely by Catholics.
” ‘The Catholic people are supporting lesbian and gay issues not in spite of their faith but because of their faith,’ he said. ‘Catholic laypeople see this is an issue of human dignity, of justice, of equality.’
” ‘The statistics keep showing that the next generation is far more supportive than previous generations. I think that the bishops have to start realizing that these are not dissenters of the Catholic faith. These are solid Catholic people’ “
The meeting’s timely theme of “relationships” will be examined from a variety of different perspectives from national and international Catholic speakers and thinkers:
1) Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia, author, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church
2) Patricia Beattie Jung, Professor of Christian Ethics, St. Paul School of Theology, author,Catholic Sexual Ethics in the 21st Century;
3) Luke Timothy Johnson, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Emory University, author, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation;
4) Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, author of Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way;
5) Richard Rodriguez, a gay author, whose book Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Additionally, eight workshops facilitated by national leaders on Catholic LGBT issues will focus on: youth and young adults; African-American issues; Latino/a issues, marriage, transgender issues; gay priests; lesbian nuns; and coalition-building.
Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, who recently signed a law establishing marriage equality in Maryland, will address the gathering at a luncheon on Friday, March 16th.
“As Catholics, we are proud of Governor O’Malley’s ardent support of marriage equality,” said DeBernardo in a press statement. “His support is in the best tradition of Catholicism’s legacy of social justice for all. We are happy to have this opportunity to thank him for his work and to show how faithful Catholics support full equality for LGBT people.”
Barbara Johnson, the Catholic lesbian woman who made national news recently when she was denied communion at her mother’s funeral Mass will also be addressing the Symposium, to offer thanks for the outpouring of support she has received from Catholics around the country.
“We are honored Ms. Johnson will be present at our meeting,”DeBernardo added. “Her presence will help heal the pain that so many Catholics have felt because of the disgraceful way she was treated.” Ms. Johnson will speak during the morning on Saturday, March 17th.
Bondings 2.0 will try to provide Symposium updates over the next few days.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry