An Interview With Dr. Ralph Blair
By Jim Bailey, Editor of Second Stone
By the end of the sexual revolution of the '60s and Stonewall, gay and lesbian Catholics had begun meeting in a group they called l) Dignity and Troy Perry (founder of MCC) had held his first worship service in Los Angeles. Prior to that time, the courageous voices advocating for gay and lesbian people were few and even fewer voices were challenging Christianity's ostracism of gay and lesbian people of faith.
It was during the 1964-1965 school year the University of Pennsylvania that Ralph Blair spoke out as an advocate for gay and lesbian people. He was serving on the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff when he offered a belief shocking to many at the time: homosexuality isn't incompatible with Christian faith. Because of this and his support of gay and lesbian Christians, Blair was not reappointed to the staff.
Undaunted and even challenged by the snub, Blair emerged as an early pioneer in the Christian movement affirming gay and lesbian people. He is the EC Founder of Evangelicals Concerned, a national evangelical Christian ministry with a specific outreach to gay and lesbian people.
Blair is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and the University of Southern California. He earned his doctorate at Penn State in 1971, where he wrote his Dissertation on homosexuality. Before that he attended Dallas Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
After serving as the Director of Counseling at New York City Community College, Blair founded the Homosexual Community Counseling Center in New York in 1972 and has done individual and group counseling with gay men ever since.
As founding editor of "The Homosexual Counseling journal" in the early 90s, he sponsored day-long seminars around the nation to increase understanding among mental health professionals of the needs of gay/lesbian people. It was at one of these workshops that Blair and an evangelical leader began talking about the special needs of evangelical gay and lesbian Christians. In 1975, he founded Evangelicals Concerned to address those needs and to better educate the wider evangelical community in understanding homosexuality and Christian faith.
Evangelicals Concerned is one of the few national Christian organizations serving gay and lesbian people that isn't mired in church politics and denominational issues such as ordination of gays and lesbians, which frees the organization to concentrate its energy on the spiritual needs of its members.
"I think a lot of gay and lesbian Christian groups have the tail wagging the dog. What I see for EC is to address the needs of being Christian, Blair said. "It's not homosexuality that we live our lives around--no more than heterosexuals live their lives around that."
Although recent high publicity cases such as one involving a pastor who was put on trial for performing a same-sex commitment ceremony and another pastor who may lose his pulpit for being in a relationship with another man are making it more widely known that gays and lesbians are becoming more and more involved in the church at all levels, the message also seems to say that gay and lesbian people are not welcome.
"That message can be changed", Blair said, "as we work not only in the church but in the community at large to change how gay and lesbian people are understood."
"I think that the more the general population can see that gay and lesbian people are like everybody else, except that gay people fall in love with people of the same gender, the more people understand that they're not dealing with aliens, the more they are accepted." Blair said, "The more people know us as who we are otherwise, there's a much easier entree for communication and acceptance."
One area in which Evangelicals Concerned and its chapters have done extensive work and offer some of the very best material available is on ex-gay ministries - organizations that falsely claim be able to change the sexual orientation Of the gay or lesbian person. "Most people who experience an exgay ministry just delay reckoning with their sexual identity," according to Blair.
"As one ex-gay ministry falls apart, a new one rises up, said Blair. "All of the leaders of the early days are gone now. Some of the material from early on is still out there but the people who developed it have long since left the movement."
"The people who want the ex-gay ministries to be successful are people who dismiss new thought in psychology, although their latest material is full of information from early psychology." So where does the ex-gay myth end! "The more the general public and the church experience gay and lesbian people as simply their own family members, their own church members and their own neighbors--see that there is no difference--is what will put the ex-gay myth to rest. Ex-gay ministries can survive as long as people see gays and lesbians 'them' and not 'us' -- and alot of self appointed gay leadership tends to see gay and lesbian people that way too."
When speaking ahout relationships, Blair said, "Any relationship, gay or straight, is about commitment, not just going to the chapel. The couple needs to understand the nature of sexual intimacy. Both gay and straight people put the emphasis on a wedding when it's all really about the marriage." Blair recalled C. S. Lewis' comparing love to a pool: "When you fall in love, you take a dive. Once in the water the job is to swim. What often happens is that when the dive is over, we look for another pool."
After over three decades of activism, does Blair have any concern that the Christian movement in the gay and lesbian community can be strangled by the rhetoric and politics of the religious right? "I don't think so, Blair said. "Unlike times in history when gay movements have been silenced, we have a free press and ready access to information on the Internet."
You may reed this article in its entirety by obtaining a copy of Second Stone Newspaper, ISSN#I 047-3971, published by Bailey Communications, P O Box 8340, New Orleans, LA 70182,
Second Stone is an national Christian ecumenical newspaper Published six times yearly, giving wide news and reports of what is happening with GLBT issues in churches and denominations.
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