Billy Bradford –

Billy Bradford is an LGBTQI activist in the Bay Area who works with groups such as Marriage Equality USA. He also reaches out to Christian congregations, asking them to reconsider their views on homosexuality and to become welcoming. The Coalition of Welcoming Congregations applauds Billy for his activism, and is honored to share his story. Billy maintains a vigil almost every Sunday at 10:30 am on the Lake Merritt side of Christ the Light in with Father Tim Stier. Please feel free to contact him[[email protected]] if you are interested in joining him.

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My story began in the Fall of 2008 during the lead up to the vote on Prop 8, and since then I have become a very outspoken LGBT activist. The very first time I stood on a street corner and held up a ‘No on 8’ sign, there was a Christian woman there calling me names. And at almost every rally and event I’ve attended since then there have been unhappy Christians, still calling me names. I simply didn’t understand it. They say I’m an evil sinner, but profess their Christian love for me by using the term “love the sinner, hate the sin” as though that means anything other than “we hate what you are.” I’ve had total strangers send me emails telling me how horrible I am, what a bad parent I am, and how I will burn in an eternal lake of fire – simply because I am gay. What I’ve learned is that if we want real and long lasting change for gay people, we need to convince Christians to stop treating us as demons. We need to stop their name calling, we need them to understand we are their neighbors, their family, their coworkers. We must change the church. It sounds difficult, but doing nothing only ensures that nothing will be done.

        I began to study religion intensely through books and videos, starting with the beginnings of the Judeo-Christian faith and how Yahweh came to be God. I read about the early church, about Eusebius and Irenaeus and Polycarp and Athanasius, and the various councils which defined the Gospels. I read about Martin Luther and how one man changed the mighty Catholic church and lived to tell about it. I now have a fairly extensive library of books, and I can talk faith with anyone and not get beat down by scripture. I also understand what most Christians don’t – that the bible was written by men, for men, during a tribal age of little knowledge. It is not, in my opinion, the inerrant word of God. There are mistakes and bad ideas contained in the Canon.

         I started writing letters to the faith leaders in my community because I had Christian friends who supported my struggle for equality, but who still gave money to churches which I believed actively worked against me. They would say “my church is wonderful and welcoming” but I had my doubts. So I decided to write to these churches to ask about their stance on LGBT rights and to see if they were truly ‘welcoming’. The giant Christian church leader shot right back with “sorry but homosexuality is a sin and that’s all there is to it” wording, and he quoted Genesis to back up his words. I wrote back with my own scripture and challenged his views, but that was apparently the end of our communication. The large Catholic church wouldn’t respond at all other than “we take our guidance from the Oakland Diocese, talk to them.” I have tried to reach out to them (and the Oakland Diocese) repeatedly and ask them to meet with me, they don’t respond.   

        The smaller Catholic church however, did respond and I first met with their Pastor and then I was allowed to present to their Parish Council. They were polite and nice folks, who said they felt bad about how the Catholic church is treating gay people, but their allegiance lies with the church itself, rather than with the teachings of Jesus Christ. And that to me is simply stunning, that loving caring Christians will put the structure of the church over the kinds of things Jesus himself preached. That is exactly what Martin Luther railed against!

“So now I have contacted 11 churches in Castro Valley, I’ve been allowed in to speak with 4 of the head pastors and I’ve exchanged emails with many of the others. Actually some don’t respond at all, I believe they are afraid of the conversation. One responded that there had been communication between some of the churches about me, so they are apparently aware as a group of what I’m doing. This was empowering for me, to know that these churches realize there is one dedicated individual in their community who will challenge them, who will work to change their hearts and minds. I am going to post my thesis on their doors, I’m going to create conversations within and without their churches. “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.”

I will soon begin ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ at the churches that celebrate their own relationships and families while denying mine. I will stand before each one and ask visitors “Why Aren’t Gay Families Welcome Here?” I understand that some will not be happy I am there, but if I can convince even one good and loving Christian to understand that being gay is NOT a sin, then I will have done my job. As always I will be diplomatic, non threatening and articulate. I want to challenge their views, not anger them. Will you join me?”

I am grateful for the opportunity to tell my story and for the good and necessary work that Roland Stringfellow and the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations is doing.

Thank you for your time. There is a wall of intolerance that exists in our world, and I am pushing on it. I need your help to knock it down.

In the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins.

Billy Bradford

Castro Valley

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