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LGBTQ+ congregants on finding faith and acceptance

It's been a decades long fight of equal rights for LGBTQ+ community members, which includes finding a church that is accepting.

SAN DIEGO — The LGBTQ+ community has faced a decades-long struggle for equal rights and part of that fight has included finding churches that are welcoming and accepting of who they are. 

Some community members have rejected their faith due to the challenging history with religious organizations. Now, progress is being seen with some churches as they start to open their doors to the LGBTQ+ community.

Martin Nace Hall has been a member at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Hillcrest for years, his Christian faith has always been important to him because that’s what's gotten him through tough times. Martin's Christian religion actually began in a Pentecostal church in Missouri.

“I grew up in that church for 20 years and loved every minute of it,” said Hall. 

However, at the age of 20 things started to change, when Martin told the minister of his church that he was gay. He found that instead of being accepted, the minister turned him away for it.  

“No you’re not welcome,” said Hall, who struggled to say those words out loud to CBS 8. 

LGBTQ+ folks and the Catholic Church

The practice of excluding LGBTQ+ people from religious spaces has a long complex history. 

According to a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center, at least 29% of the LGBTQ+ population have announced that they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship.

“You know it's that way too often saying, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” And that was a challenge, but it didn't make me question God or Jesus, it just made me question why I was in this kind of environment,” said Hall. 

Although, now with the pride movement strengthening–the fight for inclusivity is changing how churches welcome members. Certain churches have gradually accepted LGBTQ+ people. 

In San Diego, a percentage of congregants from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church are LGBTQ+, the church even participates in pride week with Light up the Cathedral. That event will take place on Friday, July 15 at 7 p.m. 

“The Episcopal church is a denomination of the Christian religion, its descendant of the church of England. And it's gone through a journey really over the last 100 years of opening doors and knocking down barriers and becoming more and more inclusive,” said the very Reverend Penny Bridges, of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral.

Cardinal Designate Robert W. McElroy

In the Catholic community, one San Diego bishop has also been vocal about supporting LGBTQ+ churchgoers. 

Cardinal Designate Robert W. McElroy has supported the gay community and has said the community is family. 

“Had a statement about it just recently, about the need to be more welcoming because they are part of our family and the fabric of who we are. So we need to look out for them as we do everyone else in the life of the church,” said McElroy.

While, the Catholic church does not condone same-sex marriage, McElroy also adds that Pope Francis also welcomes the LGBTQ+ community.

“And that’s where the pope is pointing to. We have tried to, in our various parishes, be very welcoming," said McElroy.

With some places of worship becoming progressive LGBTQ+ members like Martin have become hopeful for the younger generation, but still acknowledges that there are religions that don’t accept him. 

Advising the youth that “they follow their heart. And listen to the still small voice of God, because God loves us.”

WATCH RELATED: LGBTQ Caucus wants to take out the same-sex marriage ban from California's constitution.

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