Seeking to heal historical rifts between religious congregations and the gay community, organizers of this year’s Pride Parade have moved the faithful closer to the front lines.
More than a dozen religious organizations — Protestant, Jewish and, for the first time, Mormon — will lead the 2012 Pride Parade down its new route Sunday to show onlookers that despite the “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach in some pulpits, many people of faith not only love the gay community but also support whom they love, too.
“I felt deeply grateful to be part of something where I felt like I was letting people know in a very public way that they were loved,” said Rabbi Shoshanah Conover of Temple Sholom, about marching alongside a float in the parade last year. “It felt good to me that collectively here we are in this huge parade, all of us together, to show this openness and welcoming. It was truly pride.”
Parade organizer Richard Pfeiffer said religious leaders requested the more prominent position in this year’s march to offset tension after Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, in an interview last December, compared participants in the event to the Ku Klux Klan. George’s comments came in response to questions about whether the parade’s timing and new route would interrupt morning services at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in the Lakeview neighborhood. Unbeknownst to him, the issue had been resolved, and the cardinal later apologized.
The Rev. Thomas Srenn, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, said the higher profile of religious groups as a result of the dust-up comes as a relief.
“Religion and spirituality is part of our being, regardless of our orientations,” Srenn said. “It’s good to see religion being portrayed in a positive way. It’s good to see the gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual lifestyle portrayed in a positive way.”
“We’re not really adversaries in those areas that people force us to be sometimes,” Srenn said. “One of the most beautiful things about this neighborhood (is that) with all its diversity, the temptation to quarrel could be great. But people have always resisted that temptation, and there’s really been that wonderful history of mutual respect. That’s what we really want to promote.”
Srenn said he doesn’t expect to mention the Pride Parade in his homily on Sunday, but he does anticipate petitions of prayer for “all of God’s children to feel welcome.”
The prominence of religious groups also illustrates the evolving relationship between the LGBT community and some denominations. Last month, northern Illinois Methodists vowed to defy the global denomination’s disapproval of same-sex marriages, and more than 100 clergy from various religious traditions signed a petition calling for gay marriage in Illinois.