by Bambi Weavil
BW: It’s a pleasure to meet you Mark! We are excited about what you are doing with Liberation 2010 (Facebook, Twitter), this is the very first LGBTQ spiritual conference…..can you tell us how this vision of yours came about?
Mark Anthony Lord: Great to meet you also. I will try to make the story short. When I was graduating from ministerial school back in 2003 I was holding two ideas for my ministry in my heart. The first idea was to found a spiritual center in the heart of Chicago that fulfilled my vision of a community where all people (gay, straight, black, white, asian, indian, transgender, young, old, bisexual, bi-racial, bi-whatever) were not only accepted but appreciated, loved and honored for the beautiful expression of God that they bring to humanity. The other idea was to work in the LGBTQ world helping heal the separation between our sexuality and our spirituality. I suffered a lot growing up gay in a homophobic world, but I also experienced a huge revelation of Spirit, infinite love within me as I healed those wounds through my spiritual practice and dedication to release the old, homophobic God of the religion I grew up in and create a God of a higher understanding that ADORED me, cherished me as the gay man that I am.
Through my prayers and meditations it became clear to me that I was to create the community in Chicago, which I did. Bodhi Spiritual Center is an amazing community, 6 years old — vibrant and growing. It is beautiful and diverse, hip, real and deep. Then about a year and half ago, I began to feel a stirring within. I was feeling a bit discontent, unclear and unsettled. I did what I do, which is pray and listen for Spirit’s guidance. And, sure enough it came. The vision I had to work within the LGBTQ world plopped off the shelf I put it on right in my heart. I thought, “you’re kidding me! I have so much work to do here. Do I really have to do this too?” The answer from Spirit said, “No, you don’t have to do anything. But you’re going to.” I hemmed and hawed, resisted and procrastinated as we often do when a larger than life idea comes knocking.
The inspiration for an LGBTQ, family & friends spiritual conference, Liberation 2010, came to me as the way to begin. I imagined a really hip, sexy and powerful spiritual conference where we could bring our sexuality and our spirituality together … our gayness and our God-ness, which to me are not separate at all.
BW: What kind of “buzz” are you receiving?
MAL: Everyone I talk to about the conference is very excited. There’s only been a few nay sayers, but that’s to be expected, right? For the most part, when I explain the conference, its intention and the vision people really get it. I think many, many people are wanting a spiritual life. The LGBTQ world is creative, fabulous, powerful and passionate. And, so is God, as far as I’m concerned. This conference is for people who are religious, non-religious, seeking healing, wanting to awaken to a greater sense of love and freedom within …. it’s for everyone … have I said that already?
BW: What do you feel is the greatest purpose of this conference?
MAL: I feel the greatest purpose of this conference is to create a bigger space of love, acceptance and forgiveness within ourselves. I believe everything begins from within. I want to help create change in the world for LGBTQ people. I am very clear about that as are many of us. I feel my best work is in helping people heal within so that when homophobic people in the world fight against us we are solid in ourselves … and hopefully we don’t fight back but instead stand in LOVE. It’s time to stop attacking. Hate on hate equals hate. Unconditional love dissolves hate. I want to help the LGBTQ world be that space of unconditional love for ourselves, for our community and for the world. I do not want to be a person who says, “Hey, you close your heart to me so I’m going to close my heart to you!” I want to be the kind of leader that says, “I know you hate me, but I don’t believe in hate. I believe in love. That’s who I am and that’s who you are. I will not let you push me or my LGBTQ brothers and sisters around, but I also will not close my heart to you.”
BW: What does this conference mean to you personally?
MAL: It means a lot! It has really caused me to see how homophobia still lives in me … how I hide, protect and still feel fear when I am not in my safe, gay-friendly neighborhoods or communities. It is my way of making a difference. I really respect the people who are marching, protesting and doing the work that will change the laws for gay people. I knew that wasn’t me, so I had to find out what IS me, because I don’t want to sit on the sidelines. This conference is my voice of support, inspiration and hopefully something that will be so successful that we can have one or two a year, which will really create positive change and healing.
I have to confess that I am amazed at how this conference has stretched me. Creating this conference has been the biggest act of faith I have taken thus far.
BW: What kind of workshops are being offered during the conference?
MAL: There are going to be so many amazing workshops and keynote presentations … the conference is jam packed with some of the most brilliant spiritual leaders of our time. There will be workshops on aging, relationships, 12-steps, parenting as well as many workshops designed to help the participants get in touch with their greatness, their power and help them channel it for good. The website, www.liberation2010.com has all the information and is constantly updated.
BW: Why was Los Angeles chosen to host this conference? I’d love to see something like this happening in New York City.
MAL: I get asked this question a lot. Los Angeles really felt like the right place, and it still does. LA is an amazing spiritual place and I think it’s a sexy place for the rest of us who don’t live there to visit. I loved living there for seven years and I’m thrilled to birth this conference in one of the cities in America I call home. And, I too would like to see one in NYC … I’m sure we’ll have one there in a couple years. I expect you to help us make it successful. (smiles)
BW (smiles): Is there a place for activism at this conference? What non-profit causes do you support?
MAL: I believe in sacred activism, which is where all people are honored and respected as whole, perfect and complete in Spirit. As you would probably guess, my heroes are Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. They are powerful examples of sacred activism. I heard that before Martin Luther King, Jr. would march he would pray with his people for the people they were marching against because he knew they were trapped in racism and needed prayers for freedom. I love that.
This conference is to help people do their inner work so that when they go back into their communities and do whatever they do to create greater freedom that it is done from a higher consciousness.
I am super excited to tell you that the Liberation gala, which happens Saturday evening, April 10 is a benefit for TEACH ministries, www.teach-ministries.org, which was created by Mary Lou and Bob Wallner. These lovely people are featured in the film, For the Bible Tells Me So. Their daughter, who was a lesbian, took her own life after they, Mary Lou and Bob, followed the instructions of their fundamental Christian church and cast her out of the family. Mary Lou and Bob now dedicate their lives to helping others, specifically parents move from fear to love, rejection to acceptance. The gala is open to everyone. Even if you cannot make it to the conference, please do come to the gala. It’s going to be really fun and inspiring. We’ll have celebrity guests there that will be honored, music, dancing … it will be like a spiritual “white party.”
BW: Fun questions: what are you grateful for?
today I…. am grateful for so much … being gay, my dogs, my partner, my spiritual community, chocolate … I could write forever!
tomorrow I…. plan to be happy and generous … to be pleasantly surprised and to eat more vegetables (that’s a really hard one for me!)
this year will…. be a year that is filled with new opportunities to laugh, play and help others feel amazing about themselves. It will be good …. very, very good.
love is…. everything, everyone, possible, real, always available, the answer … easier to choose than people think.
BW: Thank you Mark, we are really excited about Liberation 2010! We encourage our readers in Los Angeles or visiting the area, to check out Mark’s incredible efforts on April 8-10th, 2010 at JW Marriott in Los Angeles.