By Seminarian Amber Harbolt and Chris Markert, Bishop’s Associate for Mission

Houston Pride, which took place on Saturday June 25, is the largest annual Pride celebration in Texas and the third largest in the U.S. Houston Pride takes place on the fourth Saturday of June each year in remembrance of the Stonewall uprising that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Riots are often considered the beginning of the modern LGBTQIA liberation movement. Though sweltering June seems an unlikely month to schedule a massive outdoor event in southeast Texas, the buzz of the crowds, the music, beads, and cheers gave an air of homecoming to the 2022 Houston Pride parade after its 2-year pandemic hiatus.

Folks from Houston area Reconciling in Christ congregations came out in full force for the festivities. Wearing tie-dye shirts proclaiming “Together, We Shine,” volunteers for the festival booth offered blessings and apologies for harm done by the church, spritzed festival-goers down with some much needed ice water in “mist ministry,” and shared information about LGBTQIA+ affirming ELCA churches in their area. At the parade, volunteers showed off signs for each RIC congregation/organization, tossed beads, blessing cards, and glow sticks to eager parade attendees, and carried two banners. One banner read “You Are Created in God’s Image!” and the other “Let Your Light Shine!”

The blessing cards read: “May God bless you. May you feel great PRIDE in knowing that you are a precious child of God, fantastically and wonderfully made. We confess the church’s history of oppressing our LGBTQIA+ community. We commit to working until all of God’s beloved experience equality. Now that you have received this blessing, may you share it with others and carry God’s love as you go. Amen.”

For many who had never known a faith community or who were pushed out of their home congregations for their sexuality or gender identity, these words of confession and accountability were a healing balm far beyond typical parade giveaways. This is good news of God in Christ, expressed through word and deed among God’s LGBTQIA+ children.

The Gulf Coast Synod recently formed the Gulf Coast Synod LGBTQIA Coalition. This Coalition is a merger of the previous RIC Congregations and Pride Planning Team, as well as the Bishop’s LGBTQ Advisory Council. The purpose of the Coalition is to prove resources and guidance for congregations and synod leadership in developing intentional practices that welcome, include, and celebrate LGBTQIA individuals and their families.

At this year’s Synod Assembly, the assembly voted to enter a yearlong discernment process for becoming an RIC synod. There will be three regional forums through the next several months to provide an opportunity for learning and prayerful conversation. More information about these forums, including dates and location, will be announced soon.

Find more information about the LGBTQIA Coalition on the Coalition’s Facebook Page or learn more here.

To learn more about becoming an RIC congregation here or email here.

Click here to financially support the work of the synod’s LGBTQIA Coalition or future Pride events. In the memo be sure to write “LTBTQIA COALITION.”