Main | Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Episcopal Church Aids NYC's LGBT Homeless Youth Shelter

Carl Siciliano, executive director of NYC's Ali Forney Center, writes to direct us to a story in today's New York Times about the aid recently given his organization by the Long Island Episcopal Church.
Since 2002, when he opened the Ali Forney Center, which helps homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, Carl Siciliano says, he has often witnessed the baleful effects of some religious institutions on some young people. He said he had regularly heard stories about priests verbally or physically abusing youngsters who had come out to their parents, urging them to suppress their sexuality and telling parents to disown their children. So when the Episcopal Community Services of Long Island contacted Mr. Siciliano about creating a shelter for homeless gay youths, he paused.

But a $200,000 donation later, the charity, and the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, of which it is a part, helped create a new 16-bed shelter at the Church of St. Andrew’s in Astoria. The Ali Forney Center, which is named for a gay homeless teenager who was killed in 1997 and which has seen its budget cut in the past year by nearly $450,000 because of the economic downturn, is partnering with the church in operating the shelter. “For a lot of us, when we hear about Christianity, our stomachs kind of churn,” Mr. Siciliano said in an interview. “Another part of me is very grateful the church is making this kind of gesture.”

He added that the gift comes at a time when religious organizations and gay rights activists have clashed over issues ranging from marriage equality to the recent appointment of an openly gay bishop. But the partnership is less about politics than about simple charity, said Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano, who represents 146 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island (which includes Brooklyn and Queens). “I think it’s an obligation to care for God’s people,” Bishop Provenzano said. “This is basic nuts-and-bolts Christianity.”
One of AFC's first clients tells the NYT: "It’s really gratifying to see a church behave like a church."

RELATED: Nationwide the Episcopal Church is again the subject of harsh criticism by other denominations for their decision last week to elevate openly lesbian Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool to bishop. Glasspool is the second openly gay Episcopal bishop since Rev. Gene Robinson took office in 2004. Her promotion has renewed calls to expel the U.S. Episcopal Church from the worldwide Anglican Communion.

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