Mount Pleasant religious leaders discuss inclusivity in Pride Month panel


Panelists participate in a Faith Panel on April 8 during Pride Month. From left to right, Pastor Dana Hendershot, Rev. Drew Frantz, Rector Diane Stier, and Pastor Audra Hudson.

A faith panel discussing religion and the LGBTQ community was held on April 6 in the French Auditorium marking Central Michigan University’s third Pride Month event.

Panelists included religious leaders from four Mount Pleasant churches. Rev. Drew Frantz was from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Michigan, Rector Diane Stier was from St. John's Episcopal Church, Pastor Audra Hudson was from Wesley at CMU and Pastor Dana Hendershot was from the Immanuel Lutheran Church.

“(Faith) is about perspective and recognizing the dignity of every human being and dignity in creation," Stier said. 

An audience member asked panelists their thoughts on the fact that people within the LGBTQ community are not supported by religious loved ones due to their identity.

Hudson said Wesley tries to accommodate everyone’s religious journeys.

“The mark of good pastoral care is to meet people where they are,” she said.

Rev. Frantz discussed the tension a person may feel when they are alienated within their faith. He explained it may be necessary for someone in this situation to leave an unsupportive religion and said people should find a community where they are welcome.

"If your faith tells you that who you are is bad and wrong, then my answer is find a new religion," Frantz said. 

The churches represented in the panel prioritize inclusion in different ways.

Both Wesley and Immanuel Lutheran provide pronoun stickers to their members. Wesley and the United Unitarian Fellowship start their services with an inclusive welcome. Stier said St. John’s does its best to show the community they are an inclusive space. 

“We're trying to be conscious in making sure that we live what we say,” Stier said. 

The panelists discussed how to encourage other churches to become more inclusive. Because Hudson leads the only LGBTQ affirming, on-campus ministry, she said she feels a personal responsibility to make the church explicitly inclusive.

Hendershot talked about providing resources to shift mindsets of less inclusive churches. She said creating relationships with other ministries will help them all become more inclusive.

"You can get further with somebody when you have a personal relationship and you're trusted by them," Hendershot said.

Pride Month events are taking place on campus all throughout April. The next event is "Gayme night" from 2:30 – 5 p.m. on April 9. Hosted by Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM), the event is geared toward building awareness of the RSO and recruiting mathematics students.