The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell Speaks on Full Inclusion in Faith Communities

January 20, 2012

Swope lecture is 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2 in Kilworth Memorial Chapel

TACOMA, Wash. – The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell encourages people of faith to leave behind what he calls the “religion of the rush hour.”

The Presbyterian pastor, who will give a free lecture on Thursday, Feb. 2 at University of Puget Sound, is referring to any religious conviction that feels like the drive between Seattle and Tacoma on a bad day—people are in a hurry to get back to where they started from that morning; they are intolerant of anyone who deviates from their “norm” in driving; and they plough straight ahead with little awareness of those around them.

Webb-Mitchell advocates a different kind of spiritual growth, one that he says would benefit both the individual and the church. It includes contemplation, growth, and celebrating the unique characteristics of each individual.

The reverend will speak about this path in his lecture “Beyond Accessibility: Moving Toward Full Inclusion in Our Faith Communities.” The talk will be held at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2 in Kilworth Memorial Chapel. The event is free, but tickets are required. See below for more information and for details of a community conversation with Webb-Mitchell on Friday, Feb. 3.

Webb-Mitchell is the author of numerous books, including Beyond Accessibility: Toward Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Faith Communities (Church Publishing, 2010) and On Being a Gay Parent: Making a Future Together (Seabury Books, 2007). He has pursued broader public acceptance of men’s and women’s diverse ways of being for more than two decades. His memoir Divinity will be published soon.

“I am always attracted to the narrative or impression of outsiders, creative artists, imaginative dreamers, intellectuals, pioneers, those who are religious travelers and pilgrims, and . . . those who are able to ask questions of “why?” and “why not?”, he writes on his website.

The Brooklyn-born minister, who now lives in North Carolina, teaches English and mass communication at North Carolina Central University and is director of School of the Pilgrim, a religious, nonprofit organization that introduces people to the ancient practice of pilgrimage.

In a story published in The Chapel Hill News of North Carolina, the father of two writes about the “closet” he built for himself in his youth—a closet that was fortified by the church, his workplace, and the American South. Webb-Mitchell says he was heartened to find a handful of openly gay public officials in Chapel Hill, and he realized that such community models gave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) people the means to gauge “whether we can live honest and open lives, or if we need to be on guard for our very survival.”

This “model” role is one that Webb-Mitchell has taken on for himself. He openly challenges the church and the American community to move toward full inclusion, and he provides a path to follow.

The lecture is sponsored by the Swope Endowed Lectureship on Ethics, Religion, Faith, and Values. The Swope was established at Puget Sound through a gift from Major Ianthe Swope in honor of her mother, Jane Hammer Swope. It is intended to promote discussion, critical thinking, and ethical inquiry about matters of religion and its role in public life and contemporary ethics.

Tickets for the free, public lecture will be available from Tuesday, Jan. 17. They can be ordered at the information desk in Wheelock Information Center, online at, or by calling 253.879.3419. Advance ordering is highly recommended. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door. The doors open at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. lecture. A reception will be held after the lecture in Rasmussen Rotunda in Wheelock Student Center.

A Community Conversation on “Being a Gay Parent” will be hosted by The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 3 at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. Participation is free and tickets are not required. The church is located at 901 North J St., Tacoma; Tel: 253.627.8371.

For directions and a map of the campus: 

Photos of The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell are available at Press Photos - University of Puget Sound

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