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Defining Fairness Local News

Bringing Faith to the LGBTQ Community: Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, Defining Fairness

Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard was born in Promised Land, South Carolina, the son of a Southern Baptist Minister, and says, “I grew up in church as much as I was in home.” He was given his nickname at the age of three, when his grandfather noticed his ability to replicate any dance move he saw.

When he came out as a gay man, he experienced rejection from the church. “I was angry at God,” he says. After struggling to reconcile his faith with his sexual orientation, he says he came to the conclusion that, “I was created like this, so I can’t believe in a God who would create me bound to hell, as they’re telling me I am.” Blanchard is now a co-chair of the Faith Leaders for Fairness—part of the Fairness Campaign—and leads the True Colors Ministry at Highland Baptist Church. He’s earning his Masters of Divinity at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and will be ordained at the end of May, making him the first openly gay person to be ordained at Highland Baptist.

Maurice Blanchard spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis, beginning with a story he says illustrates how far Louisville still has to go in making public spaces feel safe for LGBTQ citizens.

Audio MP3


On the Work of Faith Leaders for Fairness
“We’re rebuilding bridges for the LGBT community, back to faith. To be honest with you, the biggest conflict I get is from LGBTQ folk when I tell them I’m a gay minister. There is some animosity there, understandably. That’s probably the biggest struggle I see right now, is re-introducing faith to a people who have been wounded so much.”

On Being Called to Ministry
“I began reading deeper into scriptures, speaking with theologians, doing study, getting into the ministry, and realized that there is a place for everyone in the Kingdom of God. That has been a realization that has taken time to soak in. And I have felt the calling to ministry, and no in seminary, and active in my church, and leading a True Colors Ministry, which is the first LGBT-affirming ministry in a Baptist Church that I’m aware of.”

On Ministering to the LGBTQ Community
“The first thing I do, when confronted with a person who’s obviously been wounded, is not to say anything, but to be a listener. I think too many times religious leaders talk too much and listen too little. Sometimes we meet two or three, four times, and I haven’t really said anything about my own faith. Because I need to hear what they’ve been through, and I need to understand that, to be able to respond in a way that would be appropriate. Some folk respond to scripture well, some folk don’t want to hear anything about it. So mainly, with folk, I try to listen to them, hear where they’re coming from, and then start wading in the water and introducing them to the fact that there is a faith community, there are congregations that love you—not in spite of your sexuality, but simply for who you are as a child of God.”

On the Issues Facing LGBTQ People of Faith
“They’re facing outright rejection that they’ve felt their entire lives, from churches or church members. These people are covered in wounds and scars that emotionally run so deep, and we don’t see it on the outside, but they know very well they’re not welcome in many churches. They’re confronted with going back in and opening themselves up to be slighted again, to be condemned, and they don’t want to do that. And I don’t blame them. So, for example, my ministry, the True Colors Ministry, offers them a place almost like a wading pool. You’re not jumping into the pool—the pool being the full church—but you have something you can dip your feet in and get comfortable again, and start learning to trust again. And then when you’re ready, you can move into the larger pool.”

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States of Marriage

Saturday, June 26, 2010 9pm

Producer: Vermont Public Radio
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Same-sex marriage is one of the more controversial issues of our time. States Of Marriage: The Debate Over Gay Rights provides meaning and context not only to Vermont’s history with this issue, but tells the national story as well.

Ten years ago in December, the Vermont Supreme Court changed the landscape of legal rights for same-sex couples when it handed down its ruling in the case Baker v. State of Vermont. The three same-sex couples who were the Baker plaintiffs had argued that they deserve the rights of marriage, just as heterosexual couples do.

In the decade since, the country has debated the deeply personal and very public questions of what marriage means and how to legally recognize gay and lesbian couples, and how ideas of family and civil rights are challenged by these questions.

States of Marriage examines how several states have approached legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples. We examine the divisive civil unions precedent in Vermont and how it set the stage for a marriage law in Massachusetts. Advocates on both sides of the issue explain their political and legal strategies to convince voters and courts of their cause, and we see the results of that debate in California, Iowa and Maine.

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Polk Street Stories

Saturday, June 19, 2010 9pm

Producer: Atlantic Public Media
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Public Historian Joey Plaster spent over a year gathering more than 70 interviews from people experiencing the transition of Polk Street in San Francisco from a working class queer neighborhood to an upscale entertainment district. This documentary contains stories from the alleys and bars, churches, shelters and clubs. It is an oral history of a place invented by those who had no other home.

As Joey says in his introduction:

“If the famous gay Castro neighborhood was scrubbed clean and glossy, I was always more attracted to its black sheep sister, the queer world of Polk Street. It was a whole world to itself, just about ten blocks of low rent hotels, bars and liquor stores, all sandwiched in between the gritty Tenderloin, City Hall, and the upscale Nob Hill. But by the time I got there, that scene was receding, and luxury condos and posh clubs were taking its place. I found that its marginal history wasn’t written down and hadn’t been recorded. I feared it too would disappear with the neighborhood. In a way, I started to think about Polk Street as this parent I never knew, now elderly and dying. And it became an obsession to save its history – its collective wisdom and secrets — before they were gone completely.”

This Transom Radio Special is produced by Joey Plaster with Jay Allison and Transom.org at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

photo credit: Allan Ferguson