“Absolutely and unabashedly welcoming”: How some Pittsburgh faith communities embrace LGBT worshippers

Rev. Shanea Leonard, the pastor of Judah Fellowship Christian Church, sings along with the congregation during worship. Anita Levels directs the worshipers in song. (Photo by Terry Clark/PublicSource)
After former public defender Turahn Jenkins announced in early July that he would challenge Stephen A. Zappala Jr. in a bid to become Allegheny County’s next district attorney, Jenkins quickly came under fire for his views on sexuality and gender identity. He is affiliated with the Bible Chapel, a church that teaches that homosexuality is sinful, a view that Jenkins reportedly said he shares. Because of his stance, many community members, including leaders from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] community,* were not satisfied with Jenkins’ stated commitment to inclusive and unbiased law enforcement. They asked Jenkins to end his campaign, but he’s chosen to remain in the race. The election is scheduled for 2019.In an effort to understand the LGBT community’s place in the Pittsburgh area’s religious landscape, PublicSource is exploring a variety of faiths, denominations and places of worship. This article features churches and synagogues with LGBT-inclusive theologies and policies. Future installments in this series will chronicle a variety of religious views and trace several Pittsburghers’ personal religious journeys.
At PublicSource, we recognize that religious experiences vary widely. Even within the same denomination, worshippers may have very different attitudes about sexual orientation and gender identity based on nuanced understandings of ethics, morality, history and religious texts. We also recognize that faith and sexual identity can be deeply personal and difficult to discuss, but controversy around Jenkins’ candidacy only highlights the need to have authentic conversations about these topics.


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