Historic NYC churches welcome LGBTQ+ faithful

The First Presbyterian Church opened on 5th Avenue and West 12th street in the 1800's.  

While the building is historic, its members are guided by modern and progressive principals. Senior Pastor Greg Stovell says a turning point in making the LGBTQ plus community feel welcome here happened in 2015 when the Federal government legalized gay marriage. 

He said, "This church has always been, has been for a very long time, fully welcoming, fully inclusive." Same sex marriage remains a thorny issue that still divides conservative and liberal Christians causing fractures in some denominations.  

The Roman Catholic Church is still against it however earlier this year Pope Francis went further than any of his predecessors allowing Catholic priests to bless same-sex unions. 

Saint Philip's Episcopal church in Harlem also encourages open-mindedness and respect for diversity. 

Reverend Chloe Breyer - the daughter of retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer - is an associate priest at the historic black church. 

She said "our tradition underscores that it doesn't matter who you love, what matters is how you live in the world and how the calling to be Christian and to love one another is really the golden rule."       

 She acknowledges many gay and lesbian people of faith have struggled to find a welcoming place to worship. 

Tod Roulette is the event coordinator for Integrity Harlem the LGBTQ ministry here at the parish. 

He says after years of distance from God  he found his faith at Saint Philip's. 

He said "I can hear encouragement. I can feel the love from a being that's outside of me who hopefully tells me the right things to do."  

Feeling included in organized religion is still a challenge for many in the LGBTQ  plus community but faith leaders say they do have hope for the future. 

Pastor Stovell said "I've seen denominations change and churches change and people change. and so, yeah, I have a great hope."  

Reverend Breyer said "we are taught that, God created human beings in God's own image. and so that whatever whoever you love, however you identify, you are a creature created in God's image."