The civil rights movement has undoubtedly led to a more just and equal society over the past half-century in America, but there is still controversy over gays and their place in organized religion.
Two churches in Albuquerque that are most recognized for welcoming homosexuals are Metropolitan Community Church of Albuquerque and the Unitarian Universalist Westside Congregation. The Metropolitan church specifically caters to the gay, lesbian and transgendered community but welcomes anyone. The Unitarian church is primarily made up of straight people but accepts and welcomes gays into their congregation.
Doug Long, co-chair of the social action committee at the Unitarian church, said, "We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person."
Two of the largest local evangelical Christian institutions, Calvary Chapel and Hoffmantown, did not return Alibi calls, and The Church of Albuquerque refused to speak about the issue.
The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, has made its position clear. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan wrote a statement posted on the Archdiocese website on Feb. 20 regarding homosexuality, marriage and the Catholic stance. "Our opposition to same sex marriages is in no way an instance of unjust discrimination or animosity toward homosexual persons. The church teaches that individuals and society must respect the basic dignity of all persons, including those with a homosexual orientation. Homosexuals have the right to and deserve our respect, compassion and defense against bigotry, attacks and abuse."
A Catholic nun, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the Catholic Church does welcome homosexuals, just like they welcome heterosexuals. "We're inclusive—they are welcome at any of our [places of] worship."
She said that she supports the official Catholic Church stance on homosexuality. The statement by the archbishop goes on to say: "Our teachings make a distinction between homosexual orientation, which is not immoral and homosexual acting out, which is immoral."
According to the sister, homosexuals are accepted with this one condition: "As long as they are not acting out (their homosexuality), that's where we draw the line."
The term acting out refers to sexual intercourse that should only be performed by married, heterosexual couples according to the archbishop in his statement. "There are same sex couples who live together as more than roommates. There are many heterosexual couples who are living together without marriage as well. Both would be seen as sinful by the church."
Therein lies the conflict and disagreements between the organizations' beliefs, not to mention obvious discomfort with the concept of, let alone the word, sex.
Pastor Judith Maynard of the Westside Community Church said that same sex couples should not be shunned and only accepted under certain conditions. "We're not asking for special rights. We're asking for rights that everyone else is entitled to."
Long said that society in general should not judge, because "that's God's job."
Family values are another thing that these individuals differ on. The sister said that she believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, and the Catholic Church is a strong advocate of this. Long and Maynard have a different take and are not pleased with the president, in their collective opinion, making homosexuals second-class citizens.
"I get very alarmed when (President Bush) talks about a constitutional amendment (banning same-sex marriage). The constitution is about human rights," Maynard said.
A unanimous response in each organization was that Jesus can definitely still be a part of you if you are gay. Maynard said that Jesus was a social activist and that he is calling on all people to be the same way.
Long said "A lot of people say they can speak for God, I am not one of them. I can't speak for what God wants. One of the most crucial elements of morality is responsibility." He said that people need to take responsibility for their actions and do what is right. According to Long, this means treating all people equally and with respect.
The Catholic sister had the same sentiments as Maynard in this specific instance. "Jesus loves us all. Being what we are, he still loves us. It's unconditional."
There is no denying that not enough is being said and done about the conflicts facing organized religion and homosexuality and each representative from the different organizations agrees that they need to talk more about the issue and try to resolve conflicts.
Long said we can learn from conflict and discussion. "We need to get things out in the open and talk about it. When you get somebody that disagrees, it makes you think."
"I'm originally from West Virginia," adds Judith Maynard. "I find Albuquerque to be a great area in which gays and lesbians are celebrated."