Originally known as the Gay Olympics and dating to 1982, the Gay Games are held every four years (just like the Olympiad), and the 9th quadrennial event will run from August 9th through the 16th in the Cleveland/Akron area. The Gay Games will become international when the 2018 games move to Paris.

The events are participatory rather than competitive, and this year’s event is expected to draw 35,000 visitors, including 10,000 participants. The Games are open to all adults – regardless of sexual orientation or athletic ability. With more than 35 sports (from darts to triathlon, bowling to softball) and 2 cultural events (band and chorus), there’s something for everybody.

The United Church of Christ, with headquarters in Cleveland, is one of the sponsors, the first time a religious denomination has taken such a supportive stance. Rev. J. Bennett Guess, an executive in the UCC home office, wrote a guest column in Cleveland.com, and he stated,

[W]hen Cleveland, our hometown, was selected to host this summer’s international Gay Games, leaders within the United Church of Christ knew instantly that we had a responsibility, not only as a good corporate citizen, but also as a prominent national religious organization, to do all we could in support, because the lives of LGBT people and their families are at stake. That’s the Christian message of faith, equality and justice that we want to emanate from our visible and vocal endorsement. That’s why we are especially proud that, this August, Cleveland’s own United Church of Christ, headquartered on Prospect Avenue, will become the first religious denomination to be a major corporate sponsor of the Gay Games. The UCC’s Amistad Chapel, built as a shrine to faith-inspired justice advocacy, will host events and extravagantly welcome visitors from across the country and around the globe.

Amistad ChapelI am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. Five local and national leadersĀ of denominations that have made significant progress in becoming LGBT friendly will comprise the blue-ribbon symposium panel. The panelists include:

Rev. Don King is the pastor of Hope Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Cleveland Heights. Hope Lutheran is a Reconciling in Christ Congregation, and Pr. King has been active in the Lutheran LGBT advocacy organization called ReconcilingWorks.

Andy Lang is the executive director of the UCC Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Concerns. The Coalition administers the UCC Open and Affirming Program.

Rev. Tricia Dykers Koenig is the National Organizer for the Covenant Network of Presbyterians.

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind is the dean of Trinity Cathedral, the home of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio.

Dr. Kenneth W. Chalker is the pastor of University Circle United Methodist Church, a Reconciling Ministries congregation.

The symposium will be at the Amistad Chapel (700 Prospect Avenue) in downtown Cleveland on Tuesday afternoon, August 12th, commencing at 2:30 pm.