CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When the Rev. Kay Albright moved to West Virginia about a year ago, something troubled her -- a problem she had never dealt with much before."My heart just hurts from how much abuse I hear about. Families disowning their own, a father telling his son he's going to hell -- those kinds of things. I get phones calls and emails almost every day," she said. "People are using the Bible as a weapon. They're hurting people with God's word."Albright, pastor at Bridges of Grace United Church of Christ in Charleston, has heard endless accounts of members of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community being attacked by those who defend their actions with Christianity."Even Christians don't really know what the Bible exactly says -- they're just told homosexuality is a sin and they accept it," she said. "I want to empower people and give them the ability to study the Scripture for themselves. Stop accepting what other people say and understand what is really there."
That's why on Saturday, she wants everyone, regardless of religion or sexual orientation, to attend "Face to Faith: God & Gays" -- a workshop designed to answer questions about the Bible and its meaning."People are always searching for answers because answers are comfortable. Black or white, yes or no, right or wrong -- you don't have to think for yourself," Albright said. "That gray area is very uncomfortable for some. People often come to church for answers, but it's not that simple."One of the biggest misconceptions of her faith that she hopes to debunk is that homosexuality is a sin, Albright said."The Bible doesn't say it's a sin -- it says it's an abomination, which literally translates as 'against tradition.' If you've ever worn a wool sweater and cotton pants or eaten shellfish -- those are abominations too, according to the Bible," she said. "I don't think it's fair to say one is more important than the other."The Bible was written at a time when procreation was vital and the meaning of life was to reproduce, Albright said."They just didn't understand it. When you're in a culture that's trying to survive, and you need as many male children as possible, homosexuality was a threat to society because it didn't produce children," she said.Albright said thousands of years later, some people still don't understand, and she's going to help them try."We've come so far in understanding sexuality. It's impossible to equate our society with the audience the Bible was written for at that time. We're in a very different place in 2012," she said.Rodney Harvey, West Virginia Rainbow Pride president, helped assemble this weekend's event and said he's all too familiar with the issue."I believe in Christianity. I come from a family that was very stoutly religious, but my grandmother refused to think God hated me, and she embraced me. When she died, I realized how far ahead of her time she really was," he said.Harvey said Charleston's members of the statewide organization are lucky to have several churches in the area that welcome the LGBT community, but hatred is still prevalent.
"Very often here we hear words of anger or see acts of violence toward the gay community that's rationalized by, 'the Bible says so,'" he said. "This is an opportunity to really talk about it and learn."The workshop begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bridges of Grace United Church of Christ. A meal is included with a $5 fee."You don't have to be a Christian to come. You don't have to be gay. This is a chance to help people who are hurting," Albright said. "At the very least, we can agree to disagree."Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5100.