AWAB Member Baptist Church of the Covenant, Birmingham, AL, marching in Central Alabama’s Pride Parade.

Photo Copyright: Erica Cooper/private archive.

Marching with Pride

Rev. Brian Henderson

June 27, 2024

With defiance, courage, and conviction, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and allied individuals reacted on June 28, 1969, to the police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. This outcry for justice prompted Craig Rodwell, Fred Sargeant, Ellen Broidy, and Linda Rhodes to propose on November 2, 1969, the first gay pride parade to be held in New York City.

Fifty-five years later we witness Gay Pride parades, festivals, and events the world over. Famed artist, Vincent Van Gogh, once wrote to his brother: “To make progress is a kind of miners’ work, which doesn’t advance as quickly as one should like, and as others also expect; but standing before such a task, the first things that are necessary are patience and faithfulness.”[i]

Today, as a community of Baptist LGBTQ+ people and allies, may we remember that our work for equality, equity, and justice is not in vain. Because of the patience and faithfulness of others before us, our Pride marches are more than just events. We can be proud of how far our culture and society have come. In healthy and hope-giving ways, we can be filled with pride knowing each one of us is a beautiful human being endowed with goodness and ability to make this world a more welcoming, affirming, and caring place. With proud spirits, and pride-filled acknowledgement of our humanity, we must always be prepared to take the next steps to see equality, equity, and justice become reality, especially in discouraging times such as we are now experiencing.

These steps will challenge us each to listen more carefully and compassionately to one another. These steps will challenge us to take often the high road of character, especially when the words and actions of others dismiss and disrespect our human dignity. These steps will challenge us to carry the welcoming and affirming movement for everyone from courtrooms and sanctuaries to our homes and places of work and recreation.

As we experience the uncertainties of these days, AWAB is ready to help congregations stand strong and together through all that will be.

Though AWAB came into being in 1993 during an intense period when congregations were being disfellowshipped from regional bodies simply for honoring the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals, it was really the dream of three queer identifying ministers at a tiny gay bar in Lincoln, Nebraska back in 1973 that gave birth to the welcoming and affirming movement in Baptist life, and that paved the way for AWAB to come into existence.

Today, as a community of Baptist LGBTQ+ people and allies, may we remember that our work for equality, equity, and justice is not in vain. Because of the patience and faithfulness of others before us, our Pride marches are more than just events.

Half a century later, AWAB is expanding its scope and ministry across Baptist landscapes. Our current strategic plan includes a dynamic and fully engaged Board of Directors, a staff of four, and a menu of resources including webinars, continuing education opportunities, consultation services, a lectureship, annual awards, grants, education partners, and general support for congregations and individuals for all matters related to welcoming and affirming ministry. Most recently we hosted a webinar for parents of transgender and nonbinary children and youth.

Earlier this year, at the end of February, AWAB held a virtual vigil for Nex Benedict, the 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma whose life tragically ended because of being bullied and beat up in a school bathroom simply because of their desire to be who they were.

I wish the work of AWAB was no longer necessary, but with all that is happening today, in denominational regions, congregations, state houses, Congress, and in society at large, some could say that the work of organizations like AWAB is needed more now than ever before.

Folks often ask where AWAB[ii] is located. While our staff are decentralized across the country and we work from our homes, technically, our “office” address is in Louisville, Kentucky.

One of our member congregations, Crescent Hill Baptist Church, has graciously provided AWAB with an oversized closet where we keep our archives and inventory of resources. And so, I like to say, all these years later, AWAB must come out of the closet over and over again.

Well, speaking of coming out, I hope you and those you love will come out and keep on marching for equality this year. Check out AWAB related Pride events around the country here.

Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to helping us do together what none of us can do on our own. Keep marching with Pride.

Rev. Brian Henderson is executive director of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

[i] Van Gogh, Vincent. The Letters of Vincent van Gogh to His Brother, 1872-1886: With a Memoir by his Sister-in-law J. van Gogh-Bonger. Vol. II. London: Constable & Co/Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1927, p. 113.

[ii] An easy way to learn about AWAB is by visiting our website or you can “like” our Facebook page and keep up with us there. You can also join the Rainbow Circle, a monthly donor program that is helping us support the month-to-month expenses of ministry.

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