Dick Blount is an 82-year-old retired reverend. He is also an advocate for the gay community.
Who knew those two went hand-in-hand? But they do, and so Dick Blount was honored at the Columbia Values Diversity Awards celebration in Missouri as an advocate for social justice for the LGBTQ community.
This wasn’t something he’d planned, though it was something forged from his childhood, when he would see buses pass his house, designated only for black people, and wonder, “Why don’t they stop here?” See, Dick Blount was raised to love God, and to know that God is love, and to love thy neighbor, something he has made the cornerstone of his life since childhood.
In fact, he grew up to become a pastor in the local church, and did so until he retired in 1973. He decided retirement would give him “the freedom to be who I wanted to be.” And he began working on his God is love ideology, and loving thy neighbor point-of-view, until attending a United Methodist Church conference back in 2000, and hearing the church declare homosexuality an unacceptable ‘practive’ in the Methodist faith. It was then that Dick Blount decided to act.
He began building the Missouri United Methodist Church’s relationship with the LGBTQ community, creating the Open Door Ministry–which operates out of the church and promotes LGBTQ acceptance. The ministry first met in restaurants around town, but the church eventually noticed its impact, and the two soon merged.
Dick Blount said that since he began his work, the Missouri United Methodist Church has taken a 180-degree turn on its stance, but there is still work to be done. One of the major changes he watched was when Mary Ann Shaw, wife of former Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Bob Shaw, told him that her son was gay, and she asked Dick Blount to share her family’s story with the church.
He said no.
“This is your story,” Blount said. “You need to share it.”
And so Mary Ann Shaw shared her story, inspiring other parents of gay children to share their stories, and suddenly, in that church, gay people had a face; they were no longer unknown, or different, or unacceptable. they were the children of your friends, they were your friends and neighbors and coworkers.
The next step for Dick Blount is to go beyond the church itself and build a relationship with LGBTQ groups in Columbia and the Methodist Church and create the opportunity for secular and faith communities to come together. And he says the fact that he received this award shows him that the time is right.
Dick Blount likes the idea of the church as a lighthouse–a beacon of light letting people who might be lost in the darkness know that there is a safe place. He says, “We’ve got a long ways to go. All we have to do is make the light shine a little brighter.”
And he will.