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Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries funds grants to empower women, LGBTQIA communities

Grants address issues often overlooked in churches

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Carmen Harwell is pastor of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Beechwood, Ohio. The congregation was recently awarded a woman’s leadership development grant.

LOUISVILLE — In an ongoing effort to build gender equity, the Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries of the Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries has awarded women’s ministries leadership development grants to two congregations: St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Beechwood, Ohio, where the Rev. Carmen Harwell is pastor, and the Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, now known as The Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Jewel McRae

“While strides have been made to empower African American women and girls in our society, there is still much work to be done,” said Jewel McRae, coordinator for  Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries. “We have made progress toward gender equity, but church programs and projects need to reflect and support this progress. The African American Women’s Ministries Leadership Grant will provide leadership formation opportunities for women and girls. The grant will celebrate and value the gifts of African American women, as we become a gender-just church.”

 Grants were awarded to the two congregations because of their participation with groups in the community and their engagement in ministries in the church, in the areas of:

  • Rites of passage for girls transitioning into adulthood
  • Ministries assisting survivors of domestic abuse, human trafficking, or homelessness
  • Ministries supporting LGBTQIA+ individuals and/or communities
  • Leadership development and training for vocations in the church

St. Mark’s states that its mission is to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.  The congregation will use the grant funds to assist in its outreach to engage, educate, embrace, and celebrate churched and non-churched women and girls who have been victimized or hurt by the church of Jesus the Christ.

Because of the many stories of women who have been sexually assaulted by leaders and/or members of the church, young girls who have been ostracized by the church due to gender-identity issues and those who have been denied leadership roles in the church based solely on their gender, the congregation’s goal is to engage, educate, embrace, and celebrate with the women in order to help them have a healthier view of the Christian church, understand and not take personally its imperfections and seek to serve and educate the church, other women and girls for the church’s overall health and survival.

Additionally, the grant will be used to engage women virtually or in-person; to listen to and advocate for their spiritual needs; and assist them with qualified help for psychological and physical needs as well.

The former Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church, now known as The Avenue, will use its grant to support LGBTQIA+ Individuals and communities.

 The church has served the Charlotte community for 75 years and quickly become a Matthew 25 congregation as it seeks to work with siblings who have been discounted and disregarded, especially those in the LG BTQIA communities.

Funds will provide much needed support to the LGBTQIA communities in the Charlotte area. The Avenue has identified two communities for this ministry; LGBTQ teens and married and partnered couples.

As an affirming congregation, The Avenue has embraced and affirmed people regardless of sexual orientation. As such, expanding its reach to LGBTQ youth was a natural next step.

The goals for their grant funds include:

  • Real time support for LBGTQ youth
  • Relevant support for married / partnered same gender-loving couples
  • Basic support and help for LGBTQ siblings in the Charlotte area.

In the fall of 2019, The Avenue Church created a ministry of outreach to LGBTQ students at Time Out Youth. This ministry was a back-to-school cookout which provided school supplies and backpacks to students who are part of the community.

Time Out Youth Center offers support, advocacy, and opportunities for personal development and social interaction to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth ages 11-20.

The congregation will also use the grant to support their Chat Chew and Brew Ministry with married/partnered couples at The Avenue Church. Couples meet monthly for financial,  educational and  relationship coaching, as well as recreational activities. Speakers were brought in to speak to the couples, and in-kind services were provided.

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