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National Religious Leadership Roundtable

National Religious Leadership Roundtable
Convened by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force

Celebrating 10 Years of Interfaith Work Seeking Justice and Respect for LGBT People

For the past 10 years, The National Religious Leadership Roundtable has served as an interfaith network for leaders from faith, spiritual and religious organizations who support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Over 50 organizations make up this dynamic Roundtable of religious leaders.

We share resources, support one another, and work in partnership with other justice seeking groups to:

  • Amplify the voice of pro-LGBT faith organizations in public discourse
  • Promote understanding of and respect for LGBT people within society at large and in communities of faith
  • Promote understanding and respect within LGBT communities for a variety of faith paths and for religious liberty
  • Achieve commonly held goals which promote equality, spirituality, and justice

We believe that:

  • Marriage equality is about more than securing legal rights and recognition for same-sex couples; the religious call for marriage equality is an appeal for justice, rooted in both our innate desire for right relationship and our scriptural mandate.
  • The right to work is basic to the American way of life, yet employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continues. A fully inclusive Employment Non-discrimination Act is a needed, primary step toward justice for all.
  • Some mainstream denominations have made enormous strides towards welcoming LGBT people. This has had a profound impact on the way in which Americans view LGBT people. Equally important, millions of LGBT people have been able to find community and exercise their faith in houses of worship.

We take action: by training activists at our Pre Conference Institute at Creating Change on faith and LGBT issues.

We proclaim our beliefs: by writing Articles of Faith on topics of religious injustice to the LGBT community and on the joys and gifts we have to share.

We put our feet on the ground: to bear witness against anti LGBTQ legislation, institutional bias and inequality across the country.

Come, join us in our work!

Learn more about the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, or apply to join by e-mailing Russell Roybal at rroybal@theTaskForce.org.

Articles of Faith

Articles of Faith are a series of commentary pieces on the intersection of faith and the struggle for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in religion. Written by members of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, these insightful commentaries shed light on the welcoming efforts of many faiths towards LGBT people.

Articles of Faith are a series of commentary pieces on the intersection of faith and the struggle for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in religion. Written by members of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, these insightful commentaries shed light on the welcoming efforts of many faiths towards LGBT people.

Organizations participating in the National Religious Leadership Roundtable

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National Religious Leadership Roundtable condemns anti-gay bill in Uganda

WASHINGTON, April 28 — The National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, reiterates its condemnation of Uganda’s proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill.” It has been revived by Uganda’s Parliament with a possible vote this week. The bill targets homosexuality and includes severe penalties, including life in prison and even death.

“This bill is an example of what happens when fear and hatred hold sway,” said the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, faith work director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are threatened with death, religious people who profess a God of justice and extravagant welcome are threatened with imprisonment, all people are left vulnerable to the spread of HIV, and justice and love become victims of state violence. Those of us who are people of faith must stand and say no — on behalf of all who will suffer.”

“Every person has been endowed by our creator with worth and dignity that human judgment cannot set aside,” said the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy in Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ. “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill before the Ugandan Parliament violates the rights of God’s children in Uganda. It punishes the free association and expression that is necessary for a flourishing civil society, and creates a climate of fear and hostility which undermines the citizenship and solidarity of all Ugandans. I join the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights & Constitutional Law in calling for the complete withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its original or amended form.”

“This proposed bill is an outrage,” said the Rev. Debra Haffner, executive director of the Religious Institute. “The right to live one’s sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of discrimination or violence is a basic human right. All humans have dignity and worth, period, and sexual diversity is part of God’s blessing. It is absolutely immoral to violate those basic human rights because of a person’s sexual orientation. We implore them to reconsider.”

“The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill attacks the human dignity and legal rights of all Ugandans,” said Imam Daayiee Abdullah of the Light of Reformation Mosque. “This bill, if implemented, will not only destroy the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, but it will also silence straight Ugandans who stand for human rights for all people. This bill in application will not differentiate between Christian, Muslim or any other traditional faith within Uganda. Furthermore, the bill allows the imprisonment of anyone who may know or have knowledge of any lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer persons — the circle of entrapment grows larger by the fears of revenge and accusations through lies. Ugandan governmental leaders, guilty of accepting funding by Western religious organizations promoting homo-hatred, are fully aware they are setting aflame a tinderbox that will embroil their country in economic sanctions that harms all Ugandans.”

The National Religious Leadership Roundtable urges all people to offer their public protest to this bill and to take action by signing this AllOut petition.

Press Release December 22, 2008

National Religious Leadership Roundtable condemns pope’s remarks denouncing gender theory

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 — The National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, condemns today’s remarks by Pope Benedict XVI that denounced gender theory, saying it could lead to humanity’s “self-destruction.” Gender theory explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender and how people perceive their identity. The Catholic Church has repeatedly attacked gender theory. “If tropical forests deserve our protection, humankind ... deserves it no less,” said the pope.

Statement by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
National Religious Leadership Roundtable

“For the pope to purport that he and the Roman Catholic Church have it all figured out, that no mystery remains, is tantamount to blasphemy. Particularly in this time of war and famine and economic chaos, we as Christians of every gender and sexual orientation ought to be working with our brothers and sisters around the globe to deepen respect for all of creation.”

Press Release October 20, 2008

Multi-faith leaders urge support for the freedom to marry

2008 NRLR press conference in California supporting the freedom to marry

On Monday, Oct. 20, dozens of multi-faith leaders of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, where they sent a strong and unified call of support for the freedom to marry. They were joined by local faith leaders to amplify the message of treating all California citizens equally under the law.

During the press conference, it was also announced that 2,200 ordained clergy from more than 50 faith traditions and every state in the U.S. have endorsed the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality, sponsored by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, as a call for recognition of civil and religious marriages for same-sex couples. Several media outlets covered the press conference; view some of the highlights below.

Coverage of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable press conference on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on Monday, October 20, 2008:

Multi-faith leaders urge support for the freedom to marry

More than 2,200 faith leaders from across the country express their support in an open letter

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 20 — Multi-faith leaders of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, gathered today on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, where they sent a strong and unified call of support for the freedom to marry. They were joined by local faith leaders to amplify the message of treating all California citizens equally under the law. Californians will vote Nov. 4 on Proposition 8, an initiative aimed at eliminating the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry.

“Faith leaders are called to stand up when anyone is marginalized and to look to those core values of love and justice when determining how to act responsibly. It is wrong for same-sex couples to be singled out and treated differently by taking away their fundamental right to marry. The Task Force is proud of its work, through the NRLR, in support of those loving same-sex couples who wish to affirm their relationships through marriage,” says the Rev. Darlene R. Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

During the press conference today, it was also announced that 2,200 ordained clergy from more than 50 faith traditions and every state in the U.S. have endorsed the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality, a call for recognition of civil and religious marriages for same-sex couples. The letter, sponsored by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, states that the “biblical call to justice and compassion (love neighbor as self) provides the mandate for marriage equality. We find support for marriage equality in scripture and tradition in their overriding messages about love, justice, and inclusion of the marginalized. ... As religious leaders, we believe that all persons have the right to lead lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent and pleasure, including but not limited to civil and religious marriage.” The open letter ends with a powerful statement: “The faiths we affirm challenge us to speak and act for justice for all who seek to express their love in the commitment of marriage.”

The Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, made a call to preserve marriage equality in California, saying, “Unitarian Universalists know from experience the many blessings that same-sex couples and their families bring to our congregations and communities. … If we’re serious about promoting ‘family values,’ we must do all we can to support families who seek the rights and responsibilities that can only come with legal marriage.”

The Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, said in a statement, “The General Synod of the United Church of Christ, through sound biblical and theological reflection over many years, has affirmed the full dignity, humanity, and worth of all persons regardless of sexual orientation, an affirmation grounded in our creation in the image of God. ... Many, if not most of our congregations, include same-sex couples who are models to us of family life. We have opposed discrimination in civil society and we believe that public policy should be informed by faith, but not controlled by the religious teachings of any one denomination or tradition in our pluralistic society.”

“Spiritual leaders have long advocated that spirits and human beings are equal. Spiritual leaders have long advocated against injustice in any form,” says Patricia Kevena Fili, National Religious Leadership Roundtable member and vice president of the Pagan Alliance. “In this light, many multi-faith leaders and leaders of justice joyfully proclaim that everyone has the right to marry the person of their choice. The denial of such a basic right is clearly unjust. Community and national leaders have come together to praise spirit and justice in the issue of marriage equality.”

The National Religious Leadership Roundtable, an interfaith network of leaders from pro-LGBT faith, spiritual and religious organizations convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was meeting in San Francisco, Calif., for its biannual gathering.

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Press Release March 20, 2008

National Religious Leadership Roundtable members respond to increase in gifts to the United Church of Christ after controversial support of same-sex marriage

WASHINGTON, March 20 — National Religious Leadership Roundtable members responded today to the announcement by the United Church of Christ (UCC) that gifts to its denomination have increased by more than $1.2 million in 2007 since its controversial resolution in support of same-sex marriage.

Statement by the Rev. Ruth Garwood
National Religious Leadership Roundtable

“Prophets abound. Every church that extends a welcome to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities speaks prophetically to the community inside and outside the church, sending a clear message that God’s inclusive love is for everyone.

“Prophecy brings development. The discernment process about becoming welcoming involves Bible study, education about sexual orientation and gender identity, storytelling and theological examination. They translate their beliefs about God’s love into the actions of welcoming God’s people into their churches.

“Prophecy brings blessings. Prospective church members look for welcoming churches and connect that welcome to progressive positions on other issues. Welcoming LGBT people is often a signal to prospective members that the church is progressive in other ways as well. These churches attract not only LGBT people, but also allies who are looking for an inclusive environment in which to raise their children. Once on a path of inclusion, churches also begin to examine their actions on other issues, expanding their understanding of the implications of the diversity of race, gender, economic class and physical ability.

“Prophecy brings confidence. Some congregations decide to offer their welcome, even with concerns about potential losses of membership or financial support. ‘What will people think? Who will be alienated? Won’t we lose members?’ Most churches find that they gain much more than they lose. In the United Church of Christ, welcoming congregations are among the most vital in our denomination.

“Having found that welcoming LGBT people brings new life to their community life, many of the churches respond to events outside of the church, taking their theological convictions to schools where bullying is a problem, to workplaces that would fire LGBT people, to local and state elections where ballot issues of LGBT equality are on the ballot.

“When churches accept risk and still step out into courage, they discover new joys in their life together.

“The United Church of Christ has taken public prophetic stands that are controversial and the denomination thrives. In 2005, when the General Synod passed a resolution supporting marriage equality, some people predicted the precipitous decline of the church. In 2007, however, church members affirmed their commitment to the shared ministries of the UCC tangibly: by increasing their financial support of the UCC.”

The Rev. Ruth Garwood is the executive director of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns.

Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members

“Clarity on inclusion as base line for common hope draws a circle wide enough to extend love to all of God’s children. The UCC’s clarity of extravagant hospitality including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people inspires others to pray, to participate, to reach out and to give generously. Clearly loving — amazing! Where do I send my check?”

— Rev. Troy Plummer
Executive Director
Reconciling Ministries Network, United Methodist Church

“People join and support churches that stand for something. Good for my beloved United Church of Christ that our longtime members and new friends are supporting prophetic justice in the name of Jesus Christ!”

— Harry Knox
Director
Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program

“As president of the World Congress of GLBT Jews, it does my heart good to see results like this. All religious denominations are well-served when they open their doors to all congregants wishing to participate and support issues of importance to them. I applaud the stance of the United Church of Christ as well as their members in both doing the right thing and supporting their church financially for doing so. Most branches of Judaism are welcoming and the rewards are many. I am pleased to count the United Church of Christ among supportive religious denominations. As a legally married man living in Massachusetts, the lone U.S. state with legal same-sex marriage, I can say that the support of denominations like the United Church of Christ can only help spread legally recognized same-sex marriage across the United States of America.”

— Howard Solomon
President
World Congress of GLBT Jews: Keshet Ga’ava Two

“All people of faith can celebrate this good news which comes during Holy Week for Christians. The positive side of what happens when a church takes a courageous stand is seldom told but fortunately, is more and more common. What gets told most often is the threat of diminished membership and contributions. My friend, the Rev. Timothy Downs, conference minister of the UCC’s Southeast Conference here in Atlanta, has pointed out that the fear of moving forward on justice issues for GLBT people in the church should not dictate the way denominations respond to the needs of people. There is renewed life on the other side, just as the story of Easter tells us. Congratulations to our sisters and brothers of the United Church of Christ, for giving us Lutherans, and indeed all denominations, an example of how courage and faith do lead to blessings in every respect when the message of full inclusion for people of all sexual orientations is made clear.”

— Bob Gibeling
Lutheran Services of Georgia
Member of the Roundtable Steering Committee

“This news supports other studies that have shown that local congregations that become publicly welcoming and affirming of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks experience an increase in giving and in membership. It affirms what we know — when communities have the courage and faith to engage in God’s extravagant welcome, new life is released. People are inspired and drawn to the ministry. When congregations live out their belief that love is stronger than death, openness than ignorance and faith than fear — power and energy and the Spirit are palpably present. And folks want to be part of it!”

— Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
IWR and Faith Work Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force


The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is an interfaith network of leaders from pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) faith, spiritual and religious organizations. We work in partnership with other groups to promote understanding of and respect for LGBT people within society at large and in communities of faith. We promote understanding and respect within LGBT communities for a variety of faith paths and for religious liberty, and to achieve commonly held goals that promote equality, spirituality and justice.

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge. The Task Force is a 501(c)(3) corporation incorporated in Washington, D.C. Contributions to the Task Force are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. (C) 2007 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force . 1325 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. Phone 202.393.5177. Fax 202.393.2241. TTY 202.393.2284. theTaskForce@theTaskForce.org.

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Organizational Partners

Affirm United/S'affirmer Ensemble The Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists Brethren-Mennonite Council for LGBT Concerns Open and Affirming Ministries of the Gay, Lesbian & Affirming Disciples (GLAD) Integrity Reconciling Works
More Light Presbyterians Open and Affirming Program of the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns (ONA) Reconciling Ministries Network Room for All - Reformed Church in America Welcoming Community Network - Community of Christ