May 17, 2015 6:26 pm
Updated: May 17, 2015 8:09 pm

Human RITES conference aims to grow relationship between organized religion and LGBTQ community

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CALGARY – A first of its kind Human RITES conference was held in our city this weekend, examining the often complicated relationship between organized religion and the LGBTQ community.

Many feel religious leaders can do far more to be welcoming to the gay community.

Transgender Pace Anhorn is now one of the workshop leaders at the Human RITES conference.

One of the main goals was to break down barriers between the church and the LGBTQ community.

Anhorn grew up female, in baptist home in southern Alberta.

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“So even if it was learning to sing amazing grace or going to church or Jesus loves me or reading a book, there was always some sort of concept that god is there.  That there is a bigger power involved that Jesus’s love is there.”

Despite that affirmation, Anhorn faced inner turmoil. As a  female teen, he realized he was attracted to women.

“I even had pastors say to me that they were trying to pray the gay away. They tried and tried and tried and I begged and begged and pleaded god take this away.  I don’t want this. I don’t want to be different. This is not a lifestyle that I would choose by any means,” Anhorn said.

To want to ensure people don’t have to choose between their faith and their sexual orientation.

Organizers of the multi-faith conference say there are still conservative congregations that make religious  gays feel shameful.

“It’s a tragedy it’s a huge sadness to know that people are forced into making these decisions that are impossible decisions every single day,” Pam Rocker, a Human RITES organizer said.

“You are doing so much harm. I meet people still now in Canada 2015 who are so harmed right now by religion,  by people saying they need to change, that they can change,” Rocker said. “And what I say, is that it’s an immutable characteristic.  It’s something that’s just as natural as having blue eyes.”

The relationship between the church and LGBTQ community is complicated.

“What am I going to do? Am I going to embrace who I am or am I just going to embrace my faith? Instead, I embraced them both but it was a journey to embrace them both,” Anhorn said.

Those who have reconciled their faith with being gay, hope other congregations will promote full inclusion and welcome those who have felt marginalized.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

The conference included a multi-faith service and workshop leaders included Olympic luger John Fennell and former evangelical pastor  Doug Shrader.

Organizers hope to make this an annual event.

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