Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine: Honoring and Supporting LGBTQ Youth

September 24, 2013

Matthew ShepardFifteen years ago this October, 21-year old Matthew Shepard was abducted, tied to a fence, and left to die in what is now one of the most notorious hate crimes in our nation’s recent history.

Several Episcopal Youth Event participants in Laramie, Wyoming, the summer of 2002 traveled to the site of his death. This sparked a conversation amongst youth and the adults who work with them around inclusion, hatred, defending those who cannot defend themselves, and what it means to forgive and be reconciled with God.

Sadly, as we all know, hate crime did not end as a result of this horrific event. On the contrary, LGBTQ individuals continue to suffer violence and bullying in communities ranging from schools to churches.

As we approach the anniversary of Matthew’s brutal murder, and as we reflect on how this conversation continues to take shape in our own church, I encourage you to engage these issues with your young people in the manner most appropriate to your community. Here are some resources that you may find useful:

Additionally, the Washington National Cathedral is hosting a weekend of events in October to honor and remember LGBTQ youth who have suffered hate-inspired bullying, discrimination, and violence. The event will kick-off with the East Coast premiere of the new documentary film, Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, including a post-screening conversation with Matthew’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard.

For more about this powerful weekend, read the moving recent article by Richard Weinberg, Director of Communications at Washington National Cathedral, on the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s blog.

Undoubtedly, many of us are in ministry with and for LGBTQ youth who are feeling isolated, unwelcomed, or worse. 

Please share resources you know of that are geared specifically for teenagers in the comments for this post and we will create a page of these resources on this blog.

St. Aelred, the Patron Saint of Integrity USA, a monk whose teachings on “spiritual friendship” have been revered for centuries, is widely considered to have been gay, although the modern concept of homosexuality did not exist at the time. The Prayer for St. Aelred:

Sweet Lord, sweet Lord release wisdom from the seat of your greatness that it might be with us, toil with us, work with us, speak in us; may it according to your good pleasure direct our thoughts, words, and all our works and counsels, to the honor of your Name, the profit of the community and our salvation; through our friend Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.