Reverend Salvatore Sapienza became a Christian pastor because he believes in the way of love, peace and justice that Jesus demonstrated. He serves as pastor for the United Church of Christ in Douglas, Michigan.
His passionate speech at a community vigil this summer for the victims of the tragic shooting at Pulse Nightclub’s “Latin Night” in Orlando, Florida moved those in attendance, elevating the night of mourning to resolve them to speak against violence — and in support of LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections.
“I am angry, I’ve had enough,” Sal told the crowd. “It was because Jesus was a man of peace and justice that Jesus himself got angry from time to time. Anger has a place, but it is not a place to stay or dwell or make our home. We need to use our anger as fuel for actions — as a stimulus for change. We must be the voice for those 49 people who no longer have a voice.”
For example, in Michigan LGBT people are not covered by non-discrimination laws — and so advocates from across the state have been working for several years on building momentum toward statewide passage of LGBT-inclusive protections. Far too often in Michigan, LGBT people are fired from their jobs, denied housing, or refused service simply because of who they are or who they love — and it’s time for that to stop.
It’s time for Michigan to follow Sal’s lead and push forward on the key protections that non-discrimination laws offer.
Formerly a Catholic monk ministering to gay men with AIDS at the height of the AIDS crisis in New York City, Sal left his religious order and the Catholic Church. He had become conflicted about the dissonance between his spirituality and his sexuality.
“The beauty of it was that I began to explore other religions,” he said. “I lived in New York City, where there were all kinds and types of worship.” During that time he discovered the interfaith seminary, later becoming an ordained interfaith minister. He found his perfect fit within the United Church of Christ and its gay-affirming, progressive Christian congregation.
Sal believes that too many Christian churches continue to disregard LGBT people, openly discriminate against them, and ignore the important contributions they make to society. He believes that any theology that lessens the worth of people is a harmful theology. His response is a relentless pursuit of education and commitment to raising awareness among people of faith to change their misinterpretations of some biblical teachings. He uses facts and kindness to confront these challenges. Regarding LGBT legislative and policy protections, Sal believes “The change will happen when the faith community comes together and welcomes and affirms gay lives.”
“The freedoms we realize as gay people, such as marriage equality, happened because of all the people who came before us. The fact that I can stand in front of a congregation as a gay man is because of all those people who fought and struggled along the way before us. We’re living in an exciting time – to see how far we’ve come – but there’s a lot more to be accomplished.”