Tuesday, November 26, 2013

St. Martin's-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church


Sheila Morris

Of Faith and Hope

Sheila Morris spoke about her spiritual experiences from an essay, Of Faith and Hope, from her most recent book, I'll Call It Like I See It: A Lesbian Speaks Out.

Sheila was born and raised in rural Grimes County, Texas, and is a first-year Baby Boomer. She is a cum laude graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and has a masterís degree with honors from The University of South Carolina in Columbia. She comes from six generations of Southern Baptists and did graduate studies for two years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Later she served as a minister of music in several churches during her early years in South Carolina prior to the inevitable severing of her ties to that part of her heritage as a result of her activism. She has overcome, and moved on. Her career as a CPA, college accounting instructor, stockbroker, and financial advisor spanned four decades and three states including two years in Seattle, Washington. She received numerous awards for outstanding performance in the corporate world and retired with remarkably little fanfare from her position as vice-president of investments with a major financial services firm in 2008. She currently shares a nomadic life with her partner Teresa Williams and their three dogs as they keep the interstates and back roads busy between their homes in Columbia, South Carolina and Montgomery, Texas.

Sheila has spent a lifetime of community involvement in actively promoting social justice issues. In the early 70s she was a member of the National Organization for Women and worked tirelessly as a volunteer in support of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment which was ultimately defeated. She also served as a volunteer treasurer for Planned Parenthood in Columbia and in that same capacity for the Advocates for Women on Boards and Commissions. She was a volunteer for the Sickle Cell Foundation in South Carolina. In the late 80s and early 90s Sheila began her work for the GLBT community by serving on the boards of Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services in Columbia and the AIDS Benefit Foundation of South Carolina. She was a co-founder in 1993 of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Business Guild and served as its first President and has remained involved with that organization in various roles for the past twenty years. She was given the Foundersí Award and various other awards by the Guild during that time. On the national level Sheila served on the board of directors for the Victory Fund and was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign with its prestigious Community Service Award for her pioneering work for the GLBT community in South Carolina.




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Unitarian Universalist Congregation


Dr. Ed Madden
LGBT Activist
 Associate Professor of English and Interim Director, Women's and Gender Studies Program, University of South Carolina

My Father's House

Dr. Ed Madden read his poetry from My Father's House, a chapbook of poems based on the 13 weeks he spent in Arkansas helping with his dying father's home hospice care. A discussion followed regarding his journey from years of estrangement from his family, to healing, reconciliation, and hope.

Born and raised on a rice and soybean farm in rural Arkansas, Ed is now a poet, political activist, and associate professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of South Carolina. He got his B.A. from Harding University and received his Ph.D. in literature from the University of Texas, Austin. Ed is president of the American Conference of Irish Studies, Southern Region. He has been secretary, vice president, and president of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement.

Ed is the author of Signals, winner of the 2007 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize; Prodigal: Variations; and Nest (forthcoming 2014). He is also the co-editor with Candace Chellew-Hodge of Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, a collection of radio essays that was recently selected by USC-Upstate for their 2013 first-year common reading. His work has appeared in Best New Poets 2007, The Book of Irish American Poetry, and Collective Brightness.

This Openings program served as a prelude to a special event on Thursday, November 7. For one night only, Tapp's Art Center in downtown Columbia was transformed into a magical space. A soundscape, an installation and performance of live music composed specifically for the event by Paddy Dover, based on poems by Ed Madden. On the walls, visual art addressing family, ritual, grief, and memory. Around you, the sound of thunder, wind chimes, darkness. Above and all around you, filling the spaces of the building, aleatory and haunting music. A chorus of 16 voices, an orchestra of 40 musicians. Choral hymns, songs about a father and a son.



Friday, September 27, 2013

Reformation Lutheran Church


The Rev. Mark Sandlin
Minister and Progressive Blogger
Greensboro, North Carolina

The God Article - A Spiritual Blog

The Rev. Mark Sandlin has been the minister at Vandalia Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the past eight years. Under his leadership the church has become increasingly focused on helping those in need in the community.

Mark received his M. Div. from Wake Forest University's School of Divinity and has undergraduate degrees in Business Administration and English with a minor in Computer Science. He's an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a self-described progressive, and a certified geek.

Mark is founder or co-founder of The God Article, The Christian Left, the super-PAC Christians for a Change, Until ALL Can Wed and Occupy Voting Booths, all of which can be found on Facebook. He also writes for The Huffington Post and Sojourners online and is winner of the "Award of Excellence" from the Associated Church Press. He has been featured on NPR's The Story with Dick Gordon, PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, and the upcoming documentary film Amendment One.

Mark is married to a Baptist minister, and they have two children.

Read an interview with Mark at progressiveredneckpreacher.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Washington Street United Methodist Church



The Rev. Lisa Heilig
Interim Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer
Augusta, Georgia


Global Justice--GLBT Christians Around the World

The Rev. Lisa Heilig discussed the work of the Metropolitan Community Church's global justice work through the Global Justice Institute ( and will include stories of GLBT Christians around the world.

Rooted in her faith, Rev. Lisa has had a lifelong commitment to showing compassion, working for justice for all people and inspiring groups of people to take positive action. Rev. Lisa received a BA degree in English Education from Florida Southern College and a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, graduating with honors in 1995. She completed her clergy candidacy and was ordained in 2001 in the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). She has served churches in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Rev. Lisaís particular gifts are in assisting churches and organizations through times of transition. In March 2012 she won the Ed Paul Memorial Award for Excellence in Transitional Ministry. MCC of Our Redeemer in Augusta, GA, is her fourth Intentional Interim Pastorate.

Rev. Lisa was also in full-time ministry in non-profit social services and has nearly 20 years experience in social service and non-profit management, working with persons with disabilities and their families. Partnered for 18 years, her partner is an academic librarian at a seminary. Their son is a barista and a professional contemporary dancer/choreographer. While being a tireless advocate for social justice and radical inclusion, Rev. Lisa also is an avid college football fan, following her beloved Florida Gators closely every season.



Tuesday, July 25, 2013

Unitarian Universalist Congregation


Film and Discussion

A story of tolerance, acceptance, and love that's right ... a fairytale.

Millie, a selfless, young female who pines for a true love companion lives a beautiful, simple life in a little house at the top of Honey Bee Hill nestled next to the Little Stone Church that Millie attends with Reverend Filch and a faithful, colorful congregation. Through a magical turn of events, Millie finds her true love,  yet there is one little problem. Follow Millie through the topsy-turvy adventure of her life through this story so full of life, love, and the beauty of acceptance. It is one surely not to be missed. Written and directed by Bob Pondillo, Ph.D., the film features a cast of one adult, 30 children, two babies and one dog; and God makes a guest appearance.



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shandon Presbyterian Church



Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
Pastor, Jubilee! Circle
Columbia, South Carolina

Five Ways to Make Your Congregation More Welcoming for LGBT People

The Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge spoke about: What extravagant welcome looks like; How to extend radical grace; and How service, love and self-care can play a big role in how welcoming a congregation can feel for LGBT people.

Candace is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (, pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, South Carolina (, and editor of "Whosoever: An Online Magazine for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Christian" (



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reformation Lutheran Church



Daniel J. Ennis, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Humanities and Fine Arts
Coastal Carolina University

The Schism within the Episcopal Church Over Ordaining Gays

Daniel J. Ennis is the Senior Warden (lay leader) of St. Anneís Episcopal Church in Conway, which is a church community aligned with the national Episcopal Church in the recent schism over ordaining gays and other issues. He presented a perspective on the split within the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and what led to the formation of a new congregation.

Dr. Ennis serves as Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at Coastal Carolina University. He holds a Ph.D. from Auburn University, an M.A. from Appalachian State University, and a B.A. from The College of Charleston.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lutheran Theologial Southern Seminary



The Rev. Dr. Brian Peterson
Professor of New Testament, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary

Scripture and Sexuality: Faithful Reading and Faithful Living

The Bible often gets used in our society's cultural arguments, and perhaps nowhere more than in issues involving sexuality. Unfortunately, in these settings the Bible is usually used to define the "other" as evil; no real conversation can happen in that context, and little light gets shed on the issues.

The Rev. Dr. Brian Peterson looked at what some of the church's great theologians have said about reading the Bible in the right way and for the right reasons. He also looked at a few passages from Paul's letters and explored why the common use of Paul's statements in arguments against all same-gender relationships is misguided. Perhaps even more importantly, he explored how Paul's claims regarding the good gift of sexuality can include same-gender relationships.

The Rev. Dr. Brian Peterson is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He has served congregations in Minnesota and in Virginia. He has taught New Testament at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary since 1998. He lives in Lexington with his wife, the Rev. Dr. Linda Anderson. They have three children and (so far) three grandchildren.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013



Openings was a sponsor of the Marriage Equality Rally.


In lieu of our regular monthly meeting,
Openings participants attended the rally to show support for marriage equality.




Tuesday, February 26, 2013

St. Andrew's Lutheran Church


Ryan Wilson
Executive Director, South Carolina Equality

GLBT + PK: Gay and a Pastor's Kid - The Journey Then and Now

Ryan Wilson, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, came to South Carolina in 2001 to attend Clemson University where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. At Clemson, he served three semesters as co-president of the Clemson Gay-Straight Alliance.

In 2006 Ryan moved to Columbia, SC, to work as the Safe Zone Ally coordinator at the University of South Carolina, working with LGBTQ youth and their allies. He graduated from the Master of Education, Higher Education & Student Affairs program at USC in 2008.

Ryan then joined the USC full-time staff as sexual health program coordinator, overseeing Student Health Services peer health educators and coordinating sexual health presentations across campus and in University 101 classrooms for first year students. He also supervised the Safe Zone Ally program and services for LGBTQ students.

Prior to becoming executive director of South Carolina Equality in 2012, Ryan was the training coordinator for the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and had volunteered with SC Equality since the marriage equality fight in 2006. He proudly displays the SC Equality license plate on his car.

Ryan served five years on the board of the South Carolina Pride Movement (SC Pride) - two years as president and two years in the past-president advisory role. Most recently, he served as president of the board of the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center. Ryan has served on several Pink Party steering committees and on the HRC Carolina Gala planning committee and is a member of the SC Gay + Lesbian Business Guild.

Ryan shares his work for the cause of LGBT equality with his partner of five years Shehan. Ryan and Shehan were among the first same-sex couples to be married in Baltimore on January 1, 2013. 


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reformation Lutheran Church


Rev. Andria Cantrell
Pastor, Dunean United Methodist Church
Greenville, South Carolina

The Journey of Becoming a Reconciling Congregation

In 2012 Dunean United Methodist Church, Greenville, joined the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), an unofficial caucus of United Methodists who support full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians. This means Dunean revised its mission statement so members and visitors are fully aware that the small mill church accepts gays and lesbians along with anyone else into their congregation, whether man or woman, black or white, rich or poor.

Dunean is the first actual United Methodist church in the state to join the RMN. The first group that joined RMN was the Grace Sunday school class at Washington Street UMC, Columbia. To date, those are the only two RMN communities in S.C. Mobilizing for inclusion since 1982, the RMN works for the full participation of all people in the UMC.

Since 2009 Andria Cantrell has been the pastor of the Dunean-Brandon charge. Rev. Cantrell graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and is currently attending Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, NC. Prior to her call to the ministry, she was a social worker.

Rev. Cantrell was accompanied by Dr. Kim Porter, a retired UMC minister dedicated to social justice from Durham, NC. Dr. Porter has a bachelor's degree in social work and criminology, a master's degree from Emory University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He has taught at Duke Divinity School and has been involved with the hospice movement for nearly 20 years.

2012 Openings Gatherings


2011 Openings Gatherings


2010 Openings Gatherings