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Some Tennessee churches celebrate Pride Month, saying all are welcome

The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and Episcopal churches in Knox County welcomed the LGBTQ+ community for Pride Month.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It may not seem like something churches usually embrace but in Knoxville, many houses of worship are celebrating Pride Month. 

Rev. Jon Coffee, who attends the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, said he was born a Christian. 

"It felt, for a large part of my life, that those two things — being Christian and being gay — were incompatible," Coffee said.

Coffee said the Unitarian Universalist Church allows him to maintain his spirituality while being himself. He said that the church is meant to be diverse in faith, ethnicity and history.

"Embracing both who I am and my Christian theology is a way to reclaim some of that power as a gay person," Coffee said.

The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is holding an Interfaith Pride Service on Sunday. It will be streamed to the church's Facebook page at 3 p.m., as well as their YouTube page.

“The PRIDE Interfaith Service is a joint service of over 12 different faith traditions," Coffee said. “We try to be really intentional about the branding so that one faith community doesn't get emphasized over another."

Last Friday, the St. James Episcopal Church of Knoxville held a Pride Mass — a worship service designed to welcome and honor those in the LGBTQ+ community. 

"Jesus is always challenging us to love the person we don't think is lovable," said local Bishop Brian Cole. "For too often, in the life of the church, we've said the person who is gay or lesbian is not lovable."

Bishop Cole said the Episcopal Church welcomes everyone, including members who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

"We understand that our sexuality is a gift," Cole said. "The real question is how we use that, how we live that out. A straight person can misuse and abuse their sexual identity, and a gay person can use their identity in a profound holy way."