A new group hopes to make area congregations more welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians.
"This isn't a St. Mark's thing," the Rev. Andrew Cooley of St. Mark's Episcopal Church said about the newly forming Four Corners chapter of Integrity, "but an outreach to people whose needs are not being met, who are being shunned. We're happy to have the group meet here."
While Integrity USA is a national organization of GLBT Episcopalians, organizers hope that all GLBT Christians and their supporters, regardless of denomination, will attend.
The Episcopal Church made international news when it confirmed the first gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003. Cooley's vote was one of the deciding votes. St. Mark's lost about 25 members afterward, and Cooley said it took a lot of work to heal his congregation.
"I voted what I felt was the faithful thing to do, to do what Jesus would have done as one of his followers," he said. "There were a lot of tears, individual meetings with people, and even the bishop came down to meet with them."
Fast forward six years, and the church has gained 20 members.
"We have members of the staff, vestry and people teaching in Sunday school who are members of that community," Cooley said. "We have a lot of people in the church whose children, relatives or friends are gay."
Dan White, who is helping to organize Integrity, said the group's goals include allowing the GLBT community access to all sacraments after baptism, including the blessing of unions and ordination as priests.
Scott Hagler, St. Mark's minister of music and arts, talked about what had happened to a gay friend of his in Farmington at a church there.
"They said we're happy to take your money and have you come to worship, but you can't take part in any other way," he said.