Gay Award History
Pilgrim-St. Luke's Church Receives Buffalo's Highest Gay Award
for a Ministry of Inclusion
May 2008 at the Buffalo Convention Center
In May of 2008, at the 12th Annual Buffalo Brunch hosted by the gay community and their supporters at the Buffalo Convention Center, Pilgrim-St. Luke's Church was awarded "Organization of the Year" for it's work in welcoming and offering spiritual healing to gay people who have been abused in other settings.
The following text was read from the podium by Carol Speser, long-time leader in the gay community, prior to the award presentation:
"Pilgrim-St. Luke’s United Church of Christ has changed what it means to be a modest-sized neighborhood church in Buffalo. By establishing a powerful pro-active Christian ministry, it has begun to rise above the homophobia and resistance to social change found in so many Christian religious settings, healing and empowering the lives of gay and lesbian Christians. The fruits of this ministry include:
(1) the recovery and nurture of Christian faith after abuse in
other church settings
(2) the opportunity to openly express a deeply personal witnhess
of the gay Christian journey in worship
(3) the encouragement and development of leadership skills in
community action to “further God’s reign in the world.”
Efforts of Pilgrim-St. Luke's Church and United Church of Christ
to Build a Community of Diversity and Inclusion
Between 1998 and 2000, over 70 one-on-one conversations were held as Pilgrim-St. Luke's Church moved toward its current Open and Affirming Status. Gay Christians have been nurtured in lectures by a psychologist and a Colgate-Rochester Divinity School professor. The church has held Bible Studies addressing issues of sexuality and sexual orientation and explored the lives of Gay Saints. To augment this work, the church has successfully engaged resources of the National UCC "God Is Still Speaking" Campaign, including its controversial, national award-winning “Bouncer” TV commercial.
With the formation of Outside In, a Gay-Straight Alliance, Pilgrim-St. Luke's Church has become the only church in the city to sponsor its own fundraiser nights for the Cause For Celebration. The gay and non-gay members of the church have raised $4,000 for AIDS Community Services. One gay couple in the church was called to donate $14,000 to the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus in honor of Pilgrim-St. Luke’s to address Buffalo’s racial divide and homophobia.
The church is well-networked. Mary Hewitt (whose son Ross received the Brunch Award in 2002) is a long-time leader in Parents, Familes, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Marsha Jackson has chaired the Board of Directors of AIDS Community Services. Doug Charles serves openly as our Church Moderator, the highest lay leader in the congregation, and is active with ESPA which conducted Marriage Ambassador Training at the church. Jason Ward and Larry Van Heusen sing in the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus, and others are leaders in Gay Bingo (a charitable organization), Gay Bowling, and Gay Baseball. For many years, the church has paraded a float down Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo's Gay Pride Festival.
Indeed, it is well known that the United Church of Christ stands apart as the only mainline Christ-centered church to endorse marriage equality in both church and state (National Synod 7-4-05), to establish a $500,000 scholarship endowment for gay UCC seminarians (1999), and the first to ordain an openly gay Christian, William R. Johnson (1972).
Pilgrim-St. Luke’s Pastor, Rev. Dr. M. Bruce McKay, has helped other Pastors by sharing the journey to Open and Affirming Status, and is recipient of the "Citizen of the Year Award" from the National Association of Social Workers local chapter for his extensive work in community organizing and the development of VOICE-Buffalo. He also works for the Gamaliel Foundation to develop community action at the national level.
Because of Pilgrim-St. Lukes Church, Gay Christians, who found no other place as fertile, as Christ-centered, or as safe to practice their Christian faith, now have a home.