Vennly Leader Spotlight: Q&A with Ross Murray

Ross Murray is the Senior Director of Education & Training at The GLAAD Media Institute, which provides activist, spokesperson, and media engagement training and education for LGBTQ and allied community members and organizations desiring to deepen their media impact. Ross is also a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. Ross is a consecrated Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a specific calling to advocate for LGBTQ people and to bridge the LGBTQ and faith communities.

Vennly: From your experience, how do people typically use media platforms to engage with their spirituality?

Ross: I find a couple ways people use media platforms. One is to share evidence of their practices: selfies with Ash Wednesday crosses, offering of שנה טובה during Rosh Hashanah or عيد مبارك during Eid.

The other is to post questions and comments that help them to either wrestle with questions about their faith, or to make declarative statements about what the believe and value.

And I think both CAN be helpful in spiritual practice. Just remember, these are tools. They are not the fulfillment of your spiritual practice. If they don’t work for you, change it up.


Vennly: How has your work at GLAAD intersected with your spiritual life?

Ross: My work is a calling, and I don’t just mean that in a metaphorical way. As a Lutheran Deacon, my ministry is considered “Word and Service.” I have a call that comes through my denomination to do LGBTQ advocacy through my daily work at GLAAD. It also means that my faith life has been held up as one possible example of a life that intersects faith and LGBTQ identity. GLAAD has amplified me proclaiming the Word, as well as my faith practices.

Vennly: What was the inspiration for The Naming Project?

Ross: It started with a gay boy in the suburbs of Minneapolis, who I never met. He came out to his family, and they were accepting, but wanted to find a church-based LGBTQ youth group, since they didn’t know best how to support him. They couldn’t find anything, and asked around for help, which eventually reached me and a friend. We researched, and after finding no faith-based LGBTQ youth ministries, decided that we needed to create one.

Vennly: What are your future aspirations for The Naming Project and how can people get involved in this endeavor?

Ross: A long-time dream has been to expand the offerings of The Naming Project. Some ideas that are in the works is an adult version of The Naming Project summer camp. We get so many adults saying they wish they had this experience, that it would be good to provide that summer church camp experience. I’d also like to launch a family camp, with LGBTQ parents, parents of LGBTQ kids, and any mix thereof!
If people want to support us, we constantly need help reaching young people. Please share information about The Naming Project summer camp with LGBTQ and allied youth. You can connect them to our web site or our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Vennly: What is the best way for allies to best support the LGBTQ community?

Ross: First, I think “ally” is something we strive for, rather than a title we give ourselves. I also think that allyship is for more than just the LGBTQ community. If someone wants to be an ally (to any community), try these best practices:

  1. Believe what people tell you about themselves and their experience.
  2. Ask what you can do to be helpful in a given situation, and take the directive seriously (even if it is “do nothing”)
  3. Recognize that an attack on one community is often an attack on several communities, and that the impact is disproportionately felt by those further marginalized.
  4. Don’t tell us you are an ally, but rather, demonstrate it in your actions.
  5. Do tell other non-LGBTQ people why you are an ally.

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The Naming Project camp