Changes Coming to POFEV


In Appreciation of Robin Gorsline

by POFEV Board Chair John Humphrey on behalf of the POFEV Board of Directors

I am thrilled for a very dear friend to have this new opportunity to explore his reflective and creative life without the constant press of being on the road weekly for meeting with congregations and clergy across the state, supporting local organizers and leaders in holding public witnesses, wrestling with sometimes cantankerous email and website systems, and coping with the administrative necessities of transforming an organization from an all-volunteer effort into a professional operation.

At the same time, I am deeply saddened to lose the opportunity to work daily with one of the most inspiring and gifted leaders on faith and justice issues whom I know.  I first met Robin nearly ten years ago when each of us were working separately on organizing in the faith community against the Marshall-Newman Amendment, Robin in and around Richmond and I in Northern Virginia.  We decided that our efforts would benefit from joining together, and we began meeting in the basement of the Metropolitan Community Church in Richmond with remarkable and committed members of the faith community to explore how the faith community could join the work of opening the hearts and minds of the Commonwealth and fighting for legal equality for all.

Robin’s vision and leadership have been fundamental to shaping the movement for LGBT justice and equality in Virginia.  Robin’s and beloved Jonathan’s decision in 2005 to seek a marriage license at the Richmond courthouse and to lead a witness of faith there was the genesis of the Witness for LOVE campaign that this year included witnesses at more than 20 courthouses across Virginia from Lexington to Loudoun and Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads.  These witnesses have raised the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks in these communities and the support that they enjoy from the wider faith community.  The events have drawn wide attention in the communities where they occurred.  They also have changed the way that media outlets view the faith community and its relationship to LGBT equality.  Just in the past ten months there have been dozens of stories in media outlets across the state – and photos featured prominently nationally on the front page of The Washington Post and The New York Times – that featured Witness for LOVE activities and made clear that the faith community is coming out in support of love and equality.

Robin’s efforts in the General Assembly to visit, speak, and organize other clergy year in and year out have provided an unwavering presence that signaled the debate over equality was not a battle between LGBT persons and persons of faith as some legislators and faith leaders tried to portray it.  Rather, the efforts Robin led made clear, many in Virginia’s faith community believed that their faith called them to stand firmly and clearly in advocating for LGBT equality.

Robin’s thinking and words also have framed the way that we have moved forward.  Throughout the battle, Robin has kept our actions focused on the power of love to change the world.  We know that over the long run, achieving equality not just in law but in the lived day-to-day reality of LGBT persons requires that love breaks out widely across the Commonwealth to change attitudes.  Robin has kept us focused on that goal of continuously inviting people into the circle and reaching out to those whose hearts have not yet been changed.  He has kept us focused on the stories of people and couples yearning to have their stories told and acknowledged.  Our Daily Witness for Love campaign over the past year has daily lifted up the voices of LGBT folks and allies through their pictures and statements of support for love and equality. 

When Robin decided two years ago to move from being chair of POFEV’s Board to becoming its fulltime president and CEO, it was a significant leap of faith.  At the time, we had little in the way of continuing financial support and a deeply committed but relatively small group of laypersons and clergy.  It was a long way from there to having the network we believed necessary to achieve our two primary goals: to harness the power of the faith community to contribute in a significant way to the efforts to end Virginia’s discriminatory policies, and to radically and fundamentally change hearts, minds and attitudes in congregations and communities to make genuine inclusion, hospitality, and welcome of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons the norm, not the exception, in every corner of the Commonwealth.

In less than two years under Robin’s leadership, we have achieved much.  In 2013, we had five Witness for Love Events.  In 2014, we had over twenty.  In 2013, the people of faith working for equality were not well-linked or organized in many areas of the state.  Today, we have a strong group of core volunteers, strong relationships with supporters across the state, and remarkable local networks of people of faith working to make their congregations and communities more welcoming and inclusive.  In 2013 we as an organization had virtually no media relationships or even a strong media contact list.  We now have built a good reputation among the media and relationships with many individual reporters across the state that have greatly magnified the visibility of our message.  We have developed a website, a regular social media presence, and POFEV Posts to reach out to those where we have not had a physical presence and to keep in touch with those where we have been able to host events and be present more regularly.  We have a continuing grant from the Laughing Gull Foundation to support some of our programs.  We receive regular support through share-the-plate offerings and events from several congregations.  It has been quite a remarkable year – and all accomplished under Robin’s leadership. 

Much, of course, remains to be done before our journey is ended.  Outreach efforts need to continue to extend and strengthen our network to reach more corners of the Commonwealth and strengthen the places where we have a strong base.  We need to reach more clergy through our clergy lunches and individual meetings to support them in helping their congregations move toward genuine welcome of LGBT persons who have spent decades in the wilderness exiled and abandoned by many of their fellow believers.  We need to change the attitudes of communities about welcome, hospitality and inclusion by helping congregations make their own welcome and inclusion known.  We need to demonstrate the welcome of the faith community by continuing to expand our list of clergy who will perform weddings for same-sex couples – now over seventy-five around the state.  Critically, we need to continue to raise additional funds so that the work can continue to blossom.

As POFEV moves forward, the Board of Directors is committed to realizing these goals.  We know that the movement for LGBT equality has much yet to do, and we know that the broad engagement of faith communities in that work is essential.  

10,000 Pieces of Good News!!   

Recently, POFEV received some very good news . . . . the Laughing Gull Foundation , headquartered in Durham, N.C., awarded us a grant of $10,000 for each of three years beginning in 2013.

Here is part of what Meg Coward (right)Meg_Coward.jpg, President of the Foundation, said in her message, “the board of the Laughing Gull Foundation enthusiastically approved a grant to POFEV of $10k/yr for 3 yrs.  We are all very excited by the possibilities ahead of you, and happy to be a part of this relaunch of POFEV.”

This is the first foundation grant received  by POFEV, but President Robin Gorsline says it will not be the last. He is working with a number of individuals with experience in seeking and obtaining grants. There are several foundations and groups with special interest in funding LGBT equality efforts within, and aimed at, faith communities.

LGF_Blue_Logo_Simple-1.jpg“We are most grateful that in its first year of operation, Laughing Gull Foundation chose POFEV for generous support,” said POFEV President Robin Gorsline. “We appreciate the vote of confidence, especially for the three-year commitment.  We are committed to live up to the foundation’s hopes for us and for Virginia. Virginia will change, is changing, and Laughing Gull is helping us move that change forward.”

Gorsline also said he and the Board are grateful that Laughing Gull has chosen to make significant investments in the work of LGBT equality in the South. "All across the South, progress is being made, and it helps all of us. Laughing Gull is a key to this progress."

The grant was approved for general operating expenses, meaning that it is not necessary for the funds to be used for a particular purpose. This is especially helpful to POFEV in our current moment, so that the Board of Directors can direct the funds where most needed.

Clarendon_concert.jpgTwo recent fundraisers—the concert at Clarendon Presbyterian Church and the “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays” at the Richmond Triangle Players—coupled with this grant from the Laughing Gull Foundation, have enabled the Board of Directors to vote, for the first time, for a stipend to cover a portion of the work by President Robin Gorsline. Until now, he has been working without compensation (other than reimbursement for some expenses, and partial support for his health insurance).  He and the Board have identified other needs, and fundraising (as well as preparing grant applications) continues.

Contributions are always welcome, and can be mailed to PO Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220, or you can visit www.pofev.org and click on the Donate button. POFEV is a 510 (c) (3) organization and all contributions are tax deductible as provided by law. 

POFEV (People of Faith for Equality in Virginia), P.O. Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220 • www.facebook.com/pofev

email info@pofev.org