A Letter Regarding Conference and Hotel Pricing: Q Executive Director, Bukola Landis-Aina

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Dear Q Christian family,

I want to affirm the concerns that have been raised regarding 2020 conference pricing. Frankly speaking, I agree that anything that prohibits access to conference is a mistake.

As I step into this new role as Executive Director, having served as a board member for 4 years and then as a member of the executive leadership team since last fall, I am still yet fully adjusting to the responsibility that has been carefully entrusted with me.  I care so much for this community and everything that this organization has meant to me along my own journey of finding self acceptance and belonging. I know that so many of you have also been turned away from spaces that were considered home in the past. My heart breaks to learn that many receive this conference selection as being turned away once again.  

Honestly, my first instinct is to defend the decision that we made to select a conference location on the beach in Ft Lauderdale.  But I now realize that we did not fully appreciate how difficult it would be to mitigate the challenges to event access and participation that the hotel/conference pricing poses.  The many flights to Florida through the multiple international airports and the driveability from much of the South and East coast of the United States were the focus of our assessment regarding geographical access to conference, given that the conference has not been held in the Southeast since 2012.  

At the time of selection, the executive team expected that about half of conference attendees would obtain off-site lodging and intended to address the issue for those rooming on-site by budgeting for a deeply subsidized rate for all. Unfortunately, due to financial shortages in fundraising and summer retreat attendance, the organization is not currently in a position to offer deep subsidies to all attendees as originally planned.

So what can we do for this year?  In addition to providing scholarships for 2020 and providing a free livestream, we are able to offer to book at the $249 Q-subsidized hotel rate, and we are able to book these without taxes or fees so that the total price for Jan 2-5 is $747.  Q Christian encourages anyone who needs this subsidy to book here. Also, an unsubsidized option that avoids taxes and fees is available here.

Ultimately, we are already committed to event locations and pricing through 2022 but for future conference location selection, I am committed to ensuring that this does not happen again. I will work with our advisory boards to introduce transparency reforms around organization event location selections in 2023 and beyond.  We will aim to add the voice and vote of financially-disadvantaged community members at the table. I will work with our advisory board members and affinity/age group leaders to develop reformed event selection procedures in January 2020.

Please know that my commitment to this organization is not a mere job for me.  There is nothing corporate-minded about my dedication to this work. My wife and I have donated back my entire salary and more since I have come on staff. That’s how much this labor of love for my chosen family matters to me; this labor of love which lately has been a fierce fight for the life of this organization and to keep this family together.   

The work of Q Christian goes beyond the conference. Every day, we leverage our global platform of around 35,000 community members to explode harmful myths like the “dangers of a gay lifestyle,” and spread messages of hope and love for the LGBTQ community worldwide.

Proclaiming God’s love and affirmation of LGBTQ+ identity, we recently launched the UNCHANGED Movement, a affirmative and needed counter to the damage wrought in the name of God by the recent resurgence of ex-gay theologies behind the #Changed #Oncegay Movement.  Through countless shares of our content, our message spreads well beyond our enclave of affirming community. In less than a week, #UNCHANGEDLGBTQ received over 128,000 social media impressions, over 5,400 website visitors from 68 countries and at least 18 additional story submissions, reminding us just how important this work is to the LGBTQ+ community and faith communities across the globe.

There’s still so much work to do, and we need our friends and chosen family -- like you — to continue supporting us.

A lot has changed since my first conference, but one important thing hasn’t: QCF Conference is still a place where we show up for our chosen family.  Even if you show up disappointed and upset, your authentic self is wholly, unequivocally welcome at this family reunion we call the Q Christian Conference.

I hope to see you in Ft Lauderdale.

Sincerely,

Bukola


An Update As Q Christian Fellowship Looks to the Future

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“A year ago, Q Christian Fellowship made a bold step of faith to hire a three-person Executive Leadership Team (ELT). As the ELT came up for assessment, the Board of Directors acknowledged that continuing with three part-time, bi-vocational executives living in different geographical regions and different time zones is no longer tenable for the robust leadership the ministry needs moving forward.

Therefore, we are excited to announce that Bukola Landis-Aina will continue to provide strong leadership in the role of Executive Director of Q Christian Fellowship. Bukola knows the QCF community well, embodies deep commitment to QCF’s core values, has demonstrated her priority of collaboratively engaging diverse perspectives, and has the vision to take the ministry into a bright future.

We are so grateful for the commitment of Isaac Archuleta, who served as interim director for one year and then a second year on the ELT. We wish him all the best as he refocuses his energies on his wonderful therapeutic practice, I AM Clinic. We are also grateful for the work of Sam Locke, who served on the ELT the past year. We congratulate Sam on his graduation with his Master of Divinity degree and wish him well as he seeks a ministry position that will enable him to live fully into his vocation.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support of Q Christian Fellowship. We look forward to seeing you at Conference or one of our other gatherings.”

Ben Mann

Chair, Q Christian Fellowship


From the ELT

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Isaac Archuleta

“During the last 20 months I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my time with Q Christian Fellowship. I was honored to serve as the Interim Executive Director and one of three Co-Executive Directors. Sam and Bukola taught me many things and I love both of them dearly, just as much as I love the beautiful members of the Q Christian community. My decision to pass the baton will allow me to properly manage my growing clinic and continue my life’s work in the greater LGBTQ+ community, where the messages of self-acceptance and unconditional love need yet to be heard.

My time in leadership at this incredible and needed organization has been a gift I will never take for granted. I look forward to being with you on the beach at Conference 2020! Until then, a big hug to you all.”


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Bukola Landis-Aina

“It has been a joy and a privilege to serve alongside Isaac Archuleta and Sam Locke during one of the most pivotal times in our organization's history. In such a short time, we quickly bonded and came to value one another's gifts and viewpoints. I truly believe in the power of a collaborative model of leadership. We are a testament to the fact that diversity and collaboration among leaders can carry an organization into a new era of growth and sustainability.

I am excited to continue this journey and will always be grateful for what I have learned from my dear friends- Sam and Isaac. As we look forward, I am excited to carry forth the vision that has been cast by the Board and ELT. Expect to hear more about the fruit of our collective labor next week.”


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“It’s been my joy and honor to work alongside Isaac and Bukola leading the Q Christian community. As my ministry unfolds following my recent seminary graduation, I look forward to staying connected to this important work and the amazing people I’ve met and collaborated with. Tedious as it seems at times, we really are renewing the church. Q Christian is in great hands with Bukola and I’ll do whatever I can to support her during this time of transition.”

Sam Locke

Q Chats | Sexual Ethics | Week 2 (Part 2)

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Q Christian is a community comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, differing theological beliefs, and a variety of ethics. Q Chats are designed to be a deep dive into self-discovery by learning from one another, and spiritually growing side-by-side. Q Chats cannot be effective without you! We invite you to participate. Share your thoughts, stories, and perspectives. Your influential voice can make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to learn more about the people behind the perspectives? Read more.


Has shame affected your sexuality and/or sexual ethic? If so, how and what did you do to overcome the effects of shame? If you’re still working through it, what are you doing?


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David Khalaf

Shame has been very much part of my narrative, and it has been a fuel that has prompted me to express my sexuality in a lot of unhealthy ways. By its nature, shame wants us to turn inward and hide, and the more we cover that part of us that feels broken or perverse, the more power shame has over us. Overcoming shame, then, requires us to do exactly that opposite of what shame tells us: We must force ourselves to be vulnerable and seen by others. Expressing our shame to people we trust and receiving their support and unconditional love shines a light on shame and causes it to wither. Not everyone in our lives will have the capacity to affirm us, which is why it's so important to find a circle of people with whom we can be vulnerable and truly seen.


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Constantino Khalaf

My experience might be different from that of most LGBTQ Christians. I can honestly say shame has never informed my views of sex. My ethics have evolved with age and experience, but what has remained constant is the belief that sex—as long as it is consensual—is a good and healthy part of the human experience.


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Shane Bauman

Shame has deeply affected my experience of my sexuality.  It wasn’t until I was 32 that I accepted my sexuality and believed that God would bless my relationship with a man.  Until that time any sermon, song or discussion about repentance always led me to praying to God to heal me from my perceived sexual brokenness.  During my dating relationship with my now husband I went through stages of fear and doubt. I was very grateful for his loving support. I am glad to say that by the time we reached marriage I felt confident that God was in our relationship and celebrating with us.  I have been married 9 years now and I can wholeheartedly say that God is with us. In my husband’s embrace I feel the embrace of God.

I will add that pornography has been a destructive force in my life and has added a lot of shame, even up until today.  I believe that sex should be about love and caring for your partner. It should be more about giving rather than taking.  Pornography for me is the exact opposite. It is about consuming others and using them for my own pleasure. It grows selfishness in me.


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Sam Locke

Luckily, shame has not been a major influencer on my sexuality or acceptance thereof. I recognize the privileged position this comes from - I didn’t fully wrestle with my sexuality until I was a well-established adult. As such, shame to meet the expectations of others was never a real factor for me. I also grew up in an environment where sexuality wasn’t shamed; it just wasn’t talked about at all which is perhaps a familiar experience for other mainline Protestants. The end result was ignorance (related to both the “nuts and bolts” and nuances of sexuality) more than shame, which comes with a host of problems of its own to resolve.


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Isaac Archuleta

Of course! I had a purity ring that I gave to my first girlfriend and high school sweetheart after our first sexual rendezvous. I remember looking at myself in the mirror while shame settled into my body after it had dawned on me that I was no longer a virgin. I was a 17-year-old who had planned to wait until marriage, I thought I was damaged goods. And when I started to focus on same-gender attractions happening in my body, I felt even more damaged. In college, I soothed the pain of feeling damaged by trying to sleep with those who could prove to me that I wasn’t. I made a lot of poor decisions out of shame. I spent many hours with my therapist and examining my emotional cravings to overcome my shame. Realizing that my desires were pure was a major revelation that helped me peel the layers of shame away.


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Nathanial Green

Shame has certainly played a role in diminishing my personal flourishing, and in a strange sense, it wasn’t the baggage of religious strictures. Even before I was comfortable enough to come out, the conservative ethic I held had fallen away. It didn’t take long. It was after coming out that shame around my body began to take a deeper hold on my psyche. Honestly? I’m still working through it. I’m a big believer in body positivity and the eradication of fat-phobic and ableist ways of denigrating our beautiful bodies. Shame around one’s body has profound impact on one’s ability to engage in liberated sexuality, and I’ve experienced this in my own life. My ethic changed quickly and without much effort–it had always seemed inadequate–but now, the hard work of dismantling the harmful way I see myself is only just beginning.

Q Chats | Sexual Ethics | Week 2 (Part 1)

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Q Christian is a community comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, differing theological beliefs, and a variety of ethics. Q Chats are designed to be a deep dive into self-discovery by learning from one another, and spiritually growing side-by-side. Q Chats cannot be effective without you! We invite you to participate. Share your thoughts, stories, and perspectives. Your influential voice can make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to learn more about the people behind the perspectives? Read more.


Has shame affected your sexuality and/or sexual ethic? If so, how? And what did you do to overcome the effects of shame? If you’re still working through it, what are you doing?


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Matthias Roberts

Shame and sexuality are inextricably tied. Shame is not something to overcome so much as it is something to embrace: what does our shame tell us about ourselves? Pay attention, because those messages show us parts of ourselves which need tending and care. Learning to tend and care for those parts, the parts that feel isolated and unworthy and unwelcome, is a lifelong process and is something that cannot be done in isolation.


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Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers

I had the good fortune to grow up in a Swedish-American home that was very open about sexual education and conversations around sexuality. There has been a long history of this openness in my family going back at least three generations. I say this to illustrate that I didn’t experience much shame around my sexuality and I didn’t experience my parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles having shame around their sexuality either. I listened to my relatives discuss sexuality as well as explain things to me often. It felt as common as a conversation about how to be healthy, how to cook good food, or how to tease each other. It was lighthearted and very much woven into the other conversations that were happening around me and with me. I was well into my 30s before it dawned on me what an odd experience I had growing up in a family like this.

Now, this is not to say that I did not absorb all kinds of messages about gender (what it means to be a “girl” or “woman”) or about bodies (what type of female body was “the best” or “preferred”). There were plenty of those messages coming from my family and from culture that I absorbed. So, where I felt shame or unworthiness was around not having the body type that was preferable. My mother was a runway model when she was young, while I spent my childhood and a chunk of adolescence training for the Olympics as a figure skater. I was built like my father with quarterback quads and gluts which were great for skating, but definitely not the commercialized twiggy body. My mother did not understand my body and began putting me on diets as young as age seven. This unfortunately would later go on to cause a serious metabolic disorder and many more years to practice facing down shame.

I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a family that was comfortable and fairly knowledgeable around the topic of sexuality. This was a gift beyond measure. This gift made the extreme sexual shame suffered by many who had experienced abstinence education and/or the purity movement all the more stark and deeply sad to me. I believed in every part of my being that God had given us our sexuality as a powerful place to know our belovedness and to share that love w another. I believed sex was to be a healing force in our lives.

Working with people who have suffered sexual shame or religious sexual trauma, I invite them to begin the healing process through a model I call Healing the M.E.S.S. – Model for Erasing Sexual Shame. In this model, you first begin to get yourself the sex education you were never granted. This helps a person begin to see God’s incredible attention to detail in how we are designed to experience connection and pleasure. I call this FRAME – giving yourself a frame of sexual education by which to build a healthy sexual ethic and experience sexuality in a way that honors you. Next, I encourage people to NAME – begin to tell their story of what it was like to grow up in their household, specifically around sexuality and pleasure. When we share our story in the company of compassionate others, it helps shame begin to dissipate. I will often recommend that people read my book (Sex, God & the Conservative Church – Erasing Sexual Shame) in a book group as a place to facilitate these conversations. Third (though you don’t work these steps in a linear fashion – but rather in a circular fashion, over and over one leading to the next, leading you back to the first, etc.) you begin to work on claiming your body as a good thing – just as it is. This process I call CLAIM. It is so important that we work to stand up against all the lies of our consumer culture about bodies, and instead advocate for the beauty and diversity that is us and our fellow humans. As you might imagine, this is the area where I have had to work the hardest. Traveling in other countries, going to clothing optional spas and beaches, being in other cultures, allowing in my partner’s love for my body have all helped me to appreciate the diversity and beauty of bodies and the wonder of God’s creation. It has helped me separate myself from the hurtful messages of our consumer culture and see myself and my body as a gift.

The fourth area I invite people into when healing sexual shame is AIM. As we FRAME, NAME, and CLAIM, we will find that we are beginning to aim toward a new and revised sexual ethic and sexual legacy. As shame dissipates, in its place will be a solid sense of who we are sexually and how we want that to show up in our lives. As your relationship to your own sexuality changes, this will also influence how you relate to others. You will find that a new sexual legacy is emerging – one not filled with shame, but instead filled with what feels solid, pleasing, and honoring to you.


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Tonetta Landis-Aina

Shame definitely has, and to an extent still does, affect the expression of my sexuality. I was raised in a family and church culture in which the body was a contested site. You were to take care of it because it was God’s temple, but it was also the source of bodily functions which were to be hidden as well as the root of sexual feelings that were tempting at best and defiling at worst. I’m still very much learning to love my body for all that it is and does and I’m still learning to embrace my sexuality as a part of my morning, noon, and night experience. I certainly cannot say that I’ve overcome the effects of shame. Every day I work on incorporating into conversation what my body does and what my body needs with those close to me.

Essentially, I am trying to practice what still some days feels like a stretch for me: that my body is me and that the way I, as an inspirited body, show up every day is not good or bad but simply human. Even getting to this point has taken two seminary classes on sexuality and sexual ethics and lots of reading. I also find it extremely helpful to make a regular practice of meeting with a counselor who can help me navigate my own shame and recover from it.

(*Farley, Margaret A. Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group, 2008. Print.)


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Brian Murphy

Absolutely. For the first few years after I came out, shame around sexuality — sexuality in general and my queerness in particular — made it difficult for me to articulate my desires and so I often stumbled into them unprepared — at parties, while drinking, late at night after months of abstinence. In hindsight, most (but certainly not all) of my romantic and sexual experiences in those early years were positive. But at the time, my shame told me to judge them. You should feel bad about that blowjob, you shouldn’t have slept with that guy you’re dating so soon, God doesn’t want you to be gay so you should break up with this really sweet guy.

Taking a break from “trying to figure it out” when it came to my faith and sexuality was an important step, being around secular queer folks and queer folks of faith who were already comfortable in their sexuality, being gentle with myself, reading not just academic books about “Homosexuality and the Bible” or whatever but also reading poetry and novels. Allowing myself to dream about a future where I was happy and fulfilled and fully my queer Christian self even if I didn’t quite know the exact steps to take yet.


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Bukola Landis-Aina

Like many, I had been taught that both sex before marriage and homosexuality were sinful.  After years of staunchly shutting down the possibility of sexual encounters with men, I tumbled headlong into relationship with a woman with little resistance.  It was not what I had been tempted by and guarding against for all those years. So this led to overwhelming shame attacks and in response I would cut things off with my girlfriend.  I finally had to have a major come to Jesus moment and with prayer and reminding myself of God’s promises that nothing could ever separate me from the love of God, ever, ever, ever... eventually, I felt at peace about my decision to pursue the relationship despite continued turmoil over my unsettled and unsettling changes in theology, sexual ethics and not to mention my closeted relationship.

My Story | Jessica Wang

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For every Christian, there is a moment in their life when God becomes more than just a figure in the Bible. He becomes real and tangible – or at least, as tangible as a spiritual being can be. For me, this happened in middle school. Although my family raised me as an evangelical Christian, I didn’t truly believe in God until I had reached a point of true desperation. For various reasons, I wasn’t very happy in middle school. God was the only person I could talk to, and I became completely reliant on prayer and God’s presence to get me through.

In 8th grade, my parents decided to move churches. They no longer agreed with the theology of the church I grew up in, a decision I now fully support; however, at the time, this move was devastating to me. My community at church had become my home. We attended an all Chinese-American church that meant the church was full of kids my age who understood the struggles of growing up as an “other” and living in a bilingual household. Church was more than a space to worship God. It was one of the only spaces in Madison, Wisconsin – a predominantly white town -- that felt completely and utterly safe. The move to a much larger, completely white church felt as if that safe space were being taken away from me. I cried on that first Sunday morning drive to the new church.

After the move, however, without the distractions of my friends at church, I learned how to thoughtfully listen to sermons. Although I had long ago decided that Jesus was my savior, I learned then how to take an initiative with theology and to actively listen to the words of a pastor. However, I wasn’t public about my strengthening faith – rather, I kept it a secret from my family members and friends and continued a façade of indifference.

When I left for boarding school at the beginning of my freshman year of high school, in typical insecure freshman fashion, I refused to join my school's Christian Fellowship club for fear of condemnation in this hyper liberal and secular environment. However, throughout the year, as I learned about patterns of religious justification for slavery and colonialism or about the gradual evolution and creation of monotheistic religions or shared my views with friends on reproductive rights and homosexuality, I started to ask questions about the validity of the theological and social stances I had been raised with. How can Christianity condemn homosexuality if God means love? How can we deny scientific evidence for evolution in favor of creationism? I didn’t understand how these undeniable facts and new progressive stances that I had learned at school could co-exist with the more conservative ideologies I had ingrained in me since childhood.

With the encouragement of the faculty advisor of Christian Fellowship – to this day, he remains one of the most spiritual and faithful persons I have ever known – I overcame my fear of condemnation from peers and joined Christian Fellowship. There I found so many likeminded folks who were struggling with their faith and theology alongside me. This community became my saving grace in times of doubt and weakened faith. This community normalized asking questions, and I learned it was even okay to lose faith in God.

After church shopping throughout my sophomore and junior year, I eventually found a home church that I felt comfortable with. They discussed immigration and intersectional feminism in a way that I felt aligned with my progressive ideologies. Over the past few years, I had slowly become more and more progressive. I tried my best to engage in social justice efforts and used my writing to express my views on the 2016 election. I had become LGBTQIA+ affirming and pro-choice; however, this move felt more like a preemptive move as opposed to a well-informed move. I chose to believe in these views more due to my personal experiences as opposed to having any theological evidence to back up my stance. As I result, though I identified as socially progressive, I often felt uneasy with this stance. Because I was taught that the bible was theologically conservative, becoming socially progressive without a theological backing felt heretical and directly contradictory to my belief that God’s values should define my values.

For a while, though, I felt okay with taking my time in terms of figuring out my beliefs. The cognitive dissonance was bearable as long as no one delved into questioning my stance.

The cognitive dissonance was bearable until it wasn’t. When I started questioning my sexuality my sophomore and junior year, because all I had ever known was that the bible condemned homosexuality, it didn’t matter to me what my political views were. All that mattered to me was that I had been taught God believed homosexuality was a sin, and that thought process was what led to a lot of self-hatred and shame during my high school years.  

When I eventually came out the beginning of my senior year, I decided I could no longer remain passive with my theological stances. I elected to write my history research paper on John McNeill, a Jesuit priest who wrote one of the first books on affirming theology. This research paper introduced to me the possibility of an affirming theological stance on homosexuality, an idea that I had previously never considered or thought was possible.

Often though, the journey towards accepting my sexuality was exactly that – a journey. For every two steps forward, I took one step back. Although I had convinced myself after the research paper that I could live life as a queer women without condemnation from God, the belief that homosexuality was “bad” was still ingrained in me. When I shadowed a pastor for a school project, his rhetoric of “love the sinner, hate the sin” felt so familiar and convincing that it was easy to fall back to previous thought patterns of self-hate. Every time my non-affirming home-church pastor had a sermon on homosexuality, I wavered slightly in my affirming beliefs. Simply put, the deconstruction of deeply ingrained Evangelical theological beliefs is hard.

Despite these struggles, I actively sought out affirming spaces. I discovered Progressive Asian American Christians on Facebook, one of the first affirming communities I had encountered and one of the only places where I felt the intersections of all my identities were recognized and validated. I also discovered organizations like Q Christian Fellowship and the Reformation Project – resources that affirmed my experience as an LGBTQIA+ Christian.

I’m so excited to begin a new a part of my journey interning at QCF. At first I believed that choosing to be in an affirming community meant ignoring a conservative perspective that disagreed with a theology that I wanted desperately to be true. However, that’s not at all what being in an affirming community means. Being in an affirming community means choosing self-love for oneself. Although it took a while for me to get here, I’m glad that I’m at a point in my life where I am choosing to love myself and to accept God’s vast and incomprehensible love for me as well.

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