In January the Session approved five first-time mission partners and renewed 10 others for a new, three-year funding cycle. Starting today, and for the next four weeks, we introduce each of our new mission partners and the ministries they pursue. Read about all of our mission partners here.
In 2005 Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church became a member congregation of Presbyterian Welcome, an eight-year-old organization with a two-fold mission: to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians who felt called to ministry, and to change the denominational polity that would deny them this opportunity to serve.
A dozen years later, that discriminatory polity is gone, Presbyterian Welcome has changed its name to Parity, and the organization has broadened its scope to include education and advocacy programs for youth, young adults and the elderly, interfaith engagement, and new collaborations with a range of faith-based and secular organizations.
And FAPC’s support of this work is stronger than ever. Last month, Parity became one of five new mission partners endorsed by the Session for three years of funding, volunteer engagement and shared ministry.
"The pastors and Elders of FAPC supported polity changes in the Presbyterian Church (USA) that now allow for same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly LGBTQ ministers," says the Rev. Kate Dunn, associate pastor for Congregational Care and Outreach. "But Parity reminds us that there is much work still to do to ensure that LGBTQ people of faith are fully seen, fully embraced and supported at every stage of life."
An Evolving Mission
Presbyterian Welcome took the name Parity in 2014 as it began to broaden its outreach beyond the Presbyterian Church (USA). Last fall, the Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen, an ordained minister in the Reformed Church of America, became the first non-Presbyterian to lead the 19-year-old organization.
A seasoned nonprofit executive, Edmonds-Allen formerly served as national program director of the Family Acceptance Project in San Francisco and executive director of the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City. A former church planter and chaplain, she is an expert in the intersection of faith and LGBTQ identities and practice, interfaith relationships, youth suicide and homelessness.
"Parity is a dream job for me, because we are at a moment in our history when the national focus is on where religion and LGBTQ meet," she says. "Thanks to congregations like FAPC, Parity has had an incredible impact in supporting LGBTQ clergy and youth. Now we have an opportunity to expand our influence and impact to meet the growing needs of LGBTQ persons and their allies during a time of tremendous challenge and change."
On March 26, Edmonds-Allen will be the special guest of A Circle of Caregiving, FAPC’s new monthly ministry that explores the issues and techniques of pastoral care. She will address the particular spiritual needs of LGBTQ persons, from an increased risk of suicide and homelessness to finding community in houses of worship.
Questions about the new administration’s views on marriage equality, "religious freedom" laws, transgender rights and other issues have heightened anxieties in the LGBTQ community, particularly among the most vulnerable populations. Parity is working across multiple fronts, and with a range of partners, to help address those concerns.
Among the new programs the organization is exploring this year:
- Virtual Support Groups for LGBTQ persons in need, led by volunteer clergy and therapists and supported by lay volunteers. Currently close to 100 volunteers in 26 states are taking part.
- Center-in-a-Box, a set of online resources that will enable churches and other faith organizations to minister to LGBTQ youth in rural and underserved areas.
- Pew to Pulpit, an expansion of Parity’s emerging pastors program that seeks to engage youth, adults and seniors in leadership and other active roles in their faith communities.
- A collaboration with SAGE (Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) to provide a spiritual component to SAGE Table, a national movement with the AARP to build intergenerational connections within the LGBT community and faith organizations.
- A community engagement project to connect faith communities with at-risk and in-need neighbors, including transgender persons, homeless youth, victims of hate crimes and other vulnerable groups.
"In all of this work, we rely on congregations like FAPC for their pastoral wisdom and guidance," Edmonds-Allen says. "Our spiritual lives are nurtured and strengthened in community. Together, Parity and FAPC can ensure that our LGBTQ friends and families will be fully part of this life-saving ministry."