Faith in America Makes History With Volunteers and Message About Saving Kids at Southern Baptist Convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Media Contact: RHarrington@faithinamerica.org, RBrockway@hmapr.com (Phoenix)

Medical Professionals, Clergy, and Volunteers Have Arrived in Phoenix to Ask Southern Baptist Messengers to Save yOur Kids!

Phoenix, AZ -- Today, Faith in America has organized medical professionals, clergy, and a coalition of volunteers in Phoenix in an unprecedented effort to focus the nation’s largest protestant denomination on what they must be doing to not harm and, instead, protect America’s teens and kids who are LGBT.

America’s LGBT teens and kids are in crisis. For example:

  • LGBT kids raised in non-affirming religious families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than their LGBT peers from accepting homes.
  • Nearly half of America’s homeless youth are LGBT.
  • More than a quarter of LGBT youth say they have been personally bullied or harassed since the 2016 presidential campaign began, compared to 14 percent of non-LGBTQ youth.

Faith in America (FIA), an organization that exists to end religious-based harm to the LGBT community, realizes Americans can no longer sit by while our children and teenagers are being hurt. FIA has launched a 3-year program called “Save yOur Kids!” (SYK). Our SYK project is developed to address religious-based practices that condemn our teens and youth, creating hostile environments both at church and home, places most needed by our youth.

“This is an historic moment and we, at Faith in America, are taking action,” says Mitchell Gold, FIA co-founder. “We ask the media to cover this with the seriousness this deserves. This is not about conflict and division. It is about speaking the truth, and standing up for our kids and teens being hurt. It is also about finding common ground around our children and youth.”

Faith in America is in communication with Southern Baptist Convention leadership and a meeting is pending scheduling.  They are aware of our presence beginning on June 13 at their Phoenix meeting of SBC Messengers. While the SBC has initially articulated their disagreement with FIA regarding homosexuality as a sin, they also offered their desire to meet and find initiatives and ways forward that do not harm our youth. We find the potential progress here and look forward to soon meeting with SBC leadership.

FIA ACTIVITIES AT SOUTHERN BAPTIST PHOENIX CONVENTION:

Medical Professionals will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to the media about the health crisis our LGBT teens and kids are living through.

  • Jack Drescher, M.D. – Professor Psychiatry, New York Medical College. Past President of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Drescher is an expert media spokesperson on issues related to gender and sexuality. He has published and teaches extensively around this subject at New York Medical College and New York University. 
  • Joshua Wolff, Ph.D. – Asst. Professor, Adler University. Dr. Wolff is a professor of psychology with significant published work on the role social stigma on LGBT hostile religious campuses plays in the attendant mental health and substance abuse challenges afflicting the college students.
  • Robert Hoffman - Co-Chair and acting Executive Director for Faith in America. A former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive, Hoffman now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group and is an MPH candidate at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

Clergy with Open Affirming Churches will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to media about their theologically based decisions to open their doors, affirm all believers, and support who God made them to be.

  • Pastor Stan Mitchell, GracePointe Church, Nashville
  • Pastor Aaron Sprietzel, One Church, Phoenix
  • Pastor T. Anthony Spearman, Greensboro, NC
  • Pastor Lara Forbes, Faith Evangelical Lutheran, Phoenix
  • Pastor James Pennington, First Congregational UCC, Phoenix

Thirteen coalition groups are joining Faith in America to add their direct experience working with and supporting LGBT children who have been forced out of their homes onto the streets and who are at the greatest risk of trafficking and suicide.

  • The Trevor Project
  • Nomad Partnerships
  • Matthew Shepard Foundation
  • Tyler Clementi Foundation
  • Soulforce
  • The Reformation Project  
  • Campus Pride
  • Equality California
  • Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
  • Auburn Seminary
  • PFLAG
  • Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, Phoenix
  • First Congregational United Church of Christ, Phoenix

Jane Clementi co-founded the Tyler Clementi Foundation alongside her husband Joe because she wants to make sure that our society learns the consequences of discrimination and bullying, as she learned all too personally through the loss of her son, Tyler. Jane speaks passionately to parents and community leaders about the need to not merely “accept” or “tolerate” children who come out as LGBT, but to embrace them as wondrous creations of God. Jane, a registered nurse, speaks on the need for parents of LGBT children to come out and speak openly of the love they have for their children, and in doing so each one of us can impact the world around us and create accepting environments.

Billboards, static and roving, throughout Phoenix reminding Southern Baptists that all our children matter and we must stop harming them.

Volunteers will have handouts and kind words for the Southern Baptist Messengers and will be on the streets and visible throughout the entire Southern Baptist Convention meeting.

A robust social media campaign incorporating real time updates and videos, facts, and photos will be taking place, as well, throughout the SBC event.

“Science is clear: LGBTQ youth are at risk and need our help. People of faith unhappy about these findings may deny them, and some may even distort them. Unfortunately, denial and distortion of science can expose their LGBTQ children to potentially harmful practices and interventions,” according to Jack Drescher, M.D., of New York Medical College.  “We know parents love their children and want to keep them safe, regardless of religious beliefs. We join FIA in formally calling upon SBC’s leadership to alter its course of religion-based harm to one of religion-based help. Faith communities can be sources of great support to LGBTQ youth if they stop condemning them and begin instead to embrace these children with unconditional love."

WHAT DO WE WANT:

Ultimately, we at FIA believe LGBT people should be removed from the sin list. We know interpretations and new revelations come to light. We believe the Church will one day stop diminishing the lives of those who are LGBT and we strive to help this come to pass. We are optimistic people and see the glass 75% full!  We appreciate and respect how the SBC has changed teachings and interpretations based on new, important information. We applaud how in 1995 the SBC issued a formal apology to People of Color for their role in the inhuman practices of slavery and segregation.

We also have a simpler, direct request: let’s stop hurting yOur kids and teens. We can’t deny the impact condemning religious teachings have had on people’s beliefs toward those who are LGBT. If we deny the Church has had any influence, we would be kidding ourselves. This means negative as well as positive impacts must be claimed.

We know Baptists care about yOur kids and we believe we can start a conversation and find common ground and common purpose. No one wants these LGBT SBC kids to feel they’d be better off dead or on the streets than with their family and community. And, we would like to discuss what we might do to help ensure no child ever has to feel that way.

“The level of depression and anxiety existing in the lives of LGBT teens and kids is sadly outpacing those maladies in other groups,” says Rev. Stan Mitchell. “We use the word “condemning” to describe the churches that are bad players and hurt LGBT teens and kids with harsh messages that alienate, diminish, and stigmatize. This hurts youth and creates animosity within the hearts of parents, siblings, and other kin that, in turn, also serves to abandon our youth, leaving them feeling alone in a cold world. These teachings create bullies.”

“Faith in America believes there is a great work to be done through us,” added Robert Hoffman, FIA Executive Director. “We have made ourselves available to grasp and follow our calling, to go and join in the work where it’s most needed. Along the way, we hope to build new bridges, make new friends, and serve a purpose higher than us all.”

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Faith in America website:  www.faithinamerica.org

Faith in America on Twitter: @faithinamerica

Faith in America on Facebook: www.facebook.com/faithinamerica

Save yOur Kids website: www.save-yOur-kids.org