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And just like that we’ve reached the end of June. With the turn of the calendar page, we look back on a month that celebrates graduations, ordinations and weddings; summer, fathers and LGBTQ Pride.

Here in the Diocese of Los Angeles, this year we celebrated the 30th anniversary of diocesan ministry with and to the LGBTQ community. Fredrica Harris Thompsett famously said that the reason we learn our history is to back up and get a running start on our future – so here’s a little history.

“I want to be very clear – this church of ours is open to all – there will be no outcasts – the convictions and hopes of all will be honored.” These words – spoken in September 1985 by Presiding Bishop Ed Browning in his acceptance speech after his election – are words that continue to call us to action on this present day.

Susan Russell and Melissa McCarthy take a selfie before the Pride Eucharist at St. John’s Cathedral on June 26. McCarthy, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Los Angeles, preached at the Sunday morning service.

They were words that inspired our own Bishop Diocesan Fred Borsch to call the Rev. Mac Thigpen to convene the first gay and lesbian ministry team here in the Diocese of Los Angeles in 1992 – combining “… the authority of the diocese with the directive of the bishop to organize diocesan ministry and local parish ministry as well to the gay and lesbian community in Los Angeles, to educate, encourage, and change hearts and minds within and outside the church; and reach out to the gay and lesbian community with God’s Good News of hope and healing.”

This commitment to live out God’s inclusive love paved the way for many, many more acts of inclusion throughout the years – all grounded in the radical theology that what needed healing was not homosexuals but homophobia  – and that the church was called to live out Jesus’ values of love, justice and compassion – not echo the culture’s values of exclusion, judgment and condemnation.

That work continues – thirty years later – and as we mark that anniversary, we mark not only the continuity of the ongoing work but the changes that have happened along the way. We mark the many resolutions adopted by the General Convention of our own Episcopal Church over those 30 years – many originating from the Diocese of Los Angeles — which have moved us closer to being a church where all the baptized are included in all the sacraments and have helped us to live more fully into our baptismal promise to truly respect the dignity of every human being.

Christopher Montella, rector of St. Stephen’s Church, Santa Clarita, and chair of the diocese’s Program Group on LGBTQ+ Ministries, greets the crowd attending the June 26 garden party at the episcopal residence. Photo: John Taylor

We mark the many changes that have happened in our communities and our nation – from the progress made around civil marriage equality and employment protections to greater awareness of diversity within the LGBTQ+ community (reflected in the additional letters in the evolving acronym) to the current backlash tragically impacting the community in general and transgender and non-binary youth in particular.

We mark our past and we recommit ourselves to be agents of change as we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. During the month of June, we’ve seen social media posts celebrating some of the landmark moments over the last thirty years and also some of the unsung heroes whose courageous leadership overcame so many obstacles.

On June 26 members of the diocesan community came together for two special events. We gathered at St. John’s Cathedral for a festive Eucharist celebrating 30 years of work and witness to LGBTQ+ equality and giving us strength for the journey and work ahead. Canon Melissa McCarthy was our preacher. (The service, including the sermon, may be viewed here.) And then we were delighted to return to the bishop’s residence for the Annual LGBTQ Garden Party (cancelled for the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic).

Dan Ade and Mark Kowalewski, co-deans of St. John’s Cathedral, pose with Mark Hallahan, rector of St. Paul’s Church, Pomona. All three are retiring this year. Photo: John Taylor

Looking ahead, our diocesan LGBTQ+ ministry is “rebooting” as we expand and explore new opportunities for ministry in the months and years ahead. Building on conversations that happened before the pandemic hit – as well as on feedback received at our recent clergy conference – ministry chair Christopher Montella and a leadership team are hard at work preparing us to step into the next 30 years.

And we will want to hear from you, our LGBTQ+ siblings and allies. We want to hear from you what resources you need and what resources you can offer. What programs, projects and ministries you have in place and which ones you would like to have help creating. What events you have on your church calendars that we can share with the whole diocese – and what events might be happening in adjacent parishes or online that members of your community would benefit from knowing about.

To educate, encourage, and change hearts and minds within and outside the church; and to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community with God’s Good News of hope and healing. This 30-year-old vision cast by  Bishop Fred Borsch in 1992 remains the core mission of the LGBTQ+ ministry of the Diocese of Los Angeles. And so we thank you for celebrating both that history and that vision during this Pride Month 2022 … and to be partners in the work as we continue to journey forward together into God’s future.

— The Rev. Canon Susan Russell (srussell@ladiocese.org) is canon for Engagement Across Difference for the Diocese of Los Angeles and an associate priest at All Saints Church, Pasadena.

At left: The Episcopal Church booth at the Orange County Pride event on the weekend of June 25-26 welcomes all. At right: Nathan Biornstad, rector of St. Wilfrid’s Church, Huntington Beach, and Wayne Kempe of St. Paul’s Church, Tustin, staff the booth. Photos: Nathan Biornstad