"Over eighty-five percent of LGBT students have experienced some form of harassment at school," Gibson told those at an elections meeting at Newark's Diocesan Convention in January of 2011, when he was just 16. "Many of these teens feel that they have nowhere to turn and some, unfortunately, kill themselves. I believe that our own churches should be places where gay teens may turn in times of trouble."
Oakley also thinks the church should proceed with blessing same-sex relationships as marriages. “As a gay man,” he added, “I would like to walk down the aisle in a church and hear the celebrant utter the words 'I now pronounce you husbands'.”
Oakley's comments were met with a resounding cheer. And then, after several rounds of voting, he won. “When they put the results on the screen, I looked up but it didn't register. Then my friend said, 'You got it'. But it really struck me when Kai (Alston, diocesan Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries) came over and gave me a big hug. I realized that what I had worked for was really coming true.”
Hardly a one-issue candidate, Oakley also cites domestic violence, volunteerism, and the environment as areas of personal focus. He and fellow deputy Caroline Christie worked with Integrity founder Dr. Louie Crew in advance of the election. As a long-time member of the Executive Committee and fixture at General Convention, Dr. Crew helped prepare the young candidates for the election and what will follow. Read more about Gibson & Caroline's election at the Diocese of Newark's special convention coverage site:
- Youth Comes Knocking - Two Teens Elected General Convention Deputies
Virginia Citrano for the Diocese of Newark