Elmhurst College: Elmhurst to Inaugurate William R. Johnson Guestship on LGBT Issues

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Elmhurst to Inaugurate William R. Johnson Guestship on LGBT Issues

The William R. Johnson Guestship will be presented on October 11 and 12 with an inaugural conversation on Christian theology and the LGBT person and a lecture on the gay rights activist Vito Russo.

Elmhurst College has named its annual LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) lecture in honor of esteemed alumnus, the Reverend Dr. William R. Johnson ’68. Rev. Dr. Johnson is vice president for member relations at the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries of the United Church of Christ.

In 1972, he became the first openly gay person in modern history to gain ordination to the mainstream Christian ministry. A resident of Cleveland, he returns to Elmhurst College frequently to work with faculty, staff and students on issues related to health, education and human rights. He is also the founder of GALA, the Elmhurst College Gay and Lesbian Alumni organization.

“For four decades, [Johnson] has worked tirelessly and effectively on behalf of the rights and dignity of all people and, in particular, of LGBT people of faith and their loved ones,” said President S. Alan Ray in announcing the guestship. “He has provided counsel and support to hundreds of LGBT seminarians and clergy in the UCC and beyond.”

This guestship, which explores the lives and issues of the LGBT community, will take place as a two-day event, featuring an inaugural conversation and keynote lecture. Both events, held in the Frick Center, Founders Lounge are free and open to the public.

“Christian Theology and the LGBT Person,” the William R. Johnson Guestship inaugural conversation, will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 11. Participants include: Rev. Dr. Johnson; the Reverend Dr. Alice Hunt, president of Chicago Theological Seminary; Dr. Riess Potterveld, president of Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California; and President Ray.

The following day, Wednesday, October 12, author Michael Schiavi will present the keynote lecture, “Vito Russo: Celluloid Activist and Gay Hero” at 4:00 p.m.

Schiavi is the author of Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo, a biography of the prominent AIDS activist who was one of the LGBT community’s significant cultural figures in the 1970s and ’80s. A professor of English at the New York Institute of Technology, Dr. Schiavi will speak about Russo’s life and impact on the LGBT community.

William R. Johnson '68, left, will lead an inaugural conversation on Christian theology and the LGBT person; Michael Schiavi will present the guestship lecture on the gay rights activist Vito Russo.

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