National Cathedral to Honor LGBTQ Youth Harmed by Violence

The Washington National Cathedral will host a weekend of events in October to honor and remember LGBTQ youth who have suffered hate-inspired bullying, discrimination, and violence. Sunday, October 6 marks the 15th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death after a brutal hate crime in Wyoming. The weekend includes the East Coast premiere of the new documentary film, Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine. The Cathedral is not only the most visible faith community in the Episcopal Church, but plays a role in the spiritual life of the nation – a sacred place for our country in times of celebration, crisis, and sorrow.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Cathedral, will use the event to call people of faith take a stand with the LGBTQ community and speak out against violence. Part of taking a stand involves acknowledging how LGBTQ youth have been made to feel unwelcome in faith communities and how that exclusion or unwelcome contributes to a system of hate that justifies violence against them. Hall also wants to raise up the National Cathedral as a model of Christian community where all people can experience God’s boundless love and grace, especially LGBTQ youth.

According to the press release from the National Cathedral, speakers will include Judy Shepard and Jane Clementi who both lost children Matthew and Tyler to anti-LGBTQ violence.

Fifteen years ago this October, Matthew Wayne Shepard (pictured above) was abducted, tied to a split-rail fence, and left to die in a remote area of Wyoming. His death was one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in U.S. history and became a catalyst for activists determined to stop violence against LGBT people…

Unfortunately, Shepard’s death did not end hate crimes against LGBT people. More recently, in September 2010, 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi ended his own life after he was secretly broadcast via webcam in an intimate act and intensely cyber-bullied…

“For too long, LGBT people have been ostracized by or unwelcome in faith communities who have used the Bible like a weapon,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Cathedral. “Washington National Cathedral is a house of prayer where all are welcome, and where all people can experience God’s boundless love and grace.”

LGBTQ youth advocate Joshua Deese will also speak for The Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth.

The film Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine explores the life of Matthew Shepard and examines the wreckage left behind after his death. Framed through a personal lens, the film follows director Michele Josue, a close friend of Matt’s, as she travels to pivotal locations in Shepard’s life, interviewing other friends and family members, and gaining insight into the beautiful life and devastating loss of Matthew Shepard. It’s a story of loss, love, and courage in the face of tragedy. You can watch the trailer here:

More Light Presbyterians commends the bold action of the National Cathedral in honoring LGBTQ youth. As a pillar of public mainline Protestant faith, the Cathedral’s acknowledgement of the hurt and pain the exclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the church has caused on an individual level and making the connection between individual hurt and the systemic violence reinforced by church’s unwelcome is extremely powerful. We believe true healing cannot happen by ignoring legacies of intolerance and exclusion.

On October 6, MLP Executive Director, Alex McNeill, will join in the events at the National Cathedral. If you are in the Washington, DC area, you can join us for these events by contacting alex@mlp.org or by simply meeting us there. Here is a schedule of the events:

Friday, October 4, 2013
3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

7:30 p.m. – Film screening of Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine in the Cathedral nave. You may purchase tickets at the cathedral website.

Sunday, October 6, 2013
3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

10:10 am – Forum with Judy Shepard, Jane Clementi, Joshua Deese, and Dean Hall

11:15 am – Special service of Holy Eucharist to pray for LGBT youth
Cathedral Dean Gary Hall, a leading advocate for LGBT equality, welcomes guest panelists for a discussion about Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi’s legacies

Whether you are near or far, we invite you to say a prayer for healing and reflect on how we as a movement can continue to honor and welcome LGBTQ youth in our communities.

In January, the Washington National Cathedral began performing same gender marriages and in June the Cathedral bells pealed in celebration of the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

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