The Q Christian Conference features some of the leading names and voices in LGBTQ+ faith from across the country and the world. We will be revealing the rest of the breakout sessions over the next few weeks so stay tuned!
Love One Another and Keep Doing the Dishes: Living with Differences in Intentional Community
Session Description: Community is necessary for our well-being, and also can be difficult to maintain. This is especially true for LGBTQ+ people, and can be complicated by differences of conviction on issues like same-sex sexual relationships. A panel of intentional community members will discuss how our communities have been managing these issues, and will answer questions about life in intentional community and LGBTQ+ well-being.
Biography: Melinda Melone is a member of Church of the Sojourners, an intentional community in San Francisco. She is also a mom, a Montessori elementary teacher, and a children’s ministry leader. She will be joined by members of Sojourners and other communities.
Books: “Oriented to Faith” (Wipf and Stock), “Being Church” (Cascade/New Monastic Press) “How to Become a Saint: A Beginner's Guide” (Brazos Press)
Let's Talk About SEX(ual Ethics)
Session Description: Let's get this out of the way: many of us are having sex and no one is talking about it, and any talk of sex and desire remains mostly taboo. While the traditional belief that sex should be reserved for covenantal marriage between two people can be life-giving for many, that isn't the only way to have a healthy sexual expression that is also honoring to God. In this breakout session, we'll tackle some questions surrounding sex, shame, marriage, relationships, and how this all shakes out theologically with the Bible, Christian tradition, and the contexts we live in today. Come ready for open discussion, bold ideas, and a whole lot of (conversations about) sex.
Biography: Kevin Garcia (they/them/theirs) is a speaker, content creator, and worship artist based in Atlanta, GA. They graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2013 with a BM in Music Education and has been everything from a barista to a corporate office worker to a non-profit professional since then. After coming out in the fall of 2015 as a queer Christian, Kevin has reached thousands of individuals across the globe with their blog, their podcast, “A Tiny Revolution,” on their YouTube channel. Kevin's work seeks to give voice queer Christian experience, covering theology, mental health, spirituality, sexuality, gender, and justice in an effort to help people live an abundant life. They is presently a candidate for a Masters of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. They believes that by telling our stories, we set others free to tell theirs.
You can learn more about Kevin and their work at www.theKevinGarcia.com.
Books: “Bible, Gender, Sexuality”, by Jim Brownson, “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon”, by Kathy V. Baldock, “Good Christian Sex” by Bromleigh McCleneghan.
Unashamed: Coming Out as an LGBTQ Christian
Session Description: Are you in the process of coming out? Do you come from a conservative family and fear the unknown? Join us for this workshop as we discuss coming out and what it means to be an LGBTQ person of faith. Pulling from her upcoming book, “Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians,” Amber will address questions like “How do I know if I’m ready to come out?” and “Who do I come out to when?” This workshop will provide tools and tips for coming out, discuss the importance of healthy boundaries, and provide practical tools for how to tend to your soul through the process. Bring your questions, fears, and hopes and join us as we navigate this journey together.
Biography: Amber Cantorna is an author, keynote speaker, and leader dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ people through their coming out process. As the daughter of a 30+ year executive at Focus on the Family, Amber knows what it is like to risk everything for the sake of authenticity. Her memoir “Refocusing My Family” tells of her own coming out journey and has encouraged people around the globe. Her upcoming book, “Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians” will release in March 2019 and will be the first book of its kind to provide practical coming-out tools to people of faith. Join her QCF workshop to gain pre-released advice from her new book's contents.
Books: "Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God", Fortress Press, October 2017
"Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians," Westminster John Knox Press, March 2019 (Available for pre-order)
Dave & Constantino Khalaf
Sex And The Effects of Shame in a Relationship
Session Description: As a married gay couple and authors of a book on Christian marriage, the Khalafs get many questions about sex: “Do you feel guilty having sex?” “Does physical intimacy deepen your love for each other and God?” “Has marriage cured the shame you feel around sex?” This breakout session explores these questions and the reasons why healthy relationships help counter the effects of internalized shame caused by queerphobia and miseducation in the church.
Biography: David and Constantino Khalaf are the authors of Modern Kinship: A Queer Guide to Christian Marriage (Westminster John Knox Press, January 2019). They have been writing together since their engagement to provide a model and guide for other LGBTQ Christians pursuing lifelong partnerships. They also write for the Gottman Institute, a leader in relationship counseling and advice. Their faith brought the Khalafs together, and it remains the cornerstone of their marriage.
Books: “Modern Kinship: A Queer Guide to Christian Marriage” (Westminster John Knox Press, January 2019)
HIV Care and The Church
Session Description: How can my church help stop HIV? What's PrEP? Do people even die of AIDS anymore? Though we often think of HIV as a thing of the past, the disease is still affecting countless lives today. In this guided discussion, we will discuss the impact of HIV today, the latest advancements in treatment, and how HIV intersects with racism, poverty and homophobia. Attendees will leave this workshop with the tools and resources needed to engage the church in stopping the spread of the disease and better assisting those living with HIV.
Biography: Donald Scherschligt is an HIV+ writer, designer and activist based in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the creator of Queerly Beloved, a clothing line for LGBTQ Christians, and SKEW, a zine that features stories told from the intersections of social justice, spirituality and pop culture.
Greg & Lynn McDonald
Embracing Your Journey
Session Description: Are you a Christian parent of an LGBTQ child? Do you feel overwhelmed with this chapter in your life that you didn’t sign up for? When your child came out of the closet did you find yourself “going in the closet”? Are you a LGBTQ child and want to better understand your parents? In this interactive session Greg and Lynn will facilitate discussion designed to help parents embrace their journey of having an LGBTQ child and examine 1). The value in getting out of the closet 2). The Importance of how to identify safe people in your life 3). God’s formula for healing. You will be challenged, encouraged and inspired as they provide biblical tools to help set yourself free and to better love your LGBTQ child.
Biography: Greg and Lynn McDonald are parents, best friends, and co-founders of Embracing the Journey Inc. as an outgrowth of their family’s personal journey associated with having a gay child. They are bridge builders passionate about bringing parents, their LGBTQ children and the church together even when they seem at odds with each other. Armed with 17 years of practical experience, Greg and Lynn have personally walked with, coached and counseled hundreds of Christian parents from around the country who have LGBTQ children. Greg has enjoyed a career that spans 30+ years as an industry leader in the private sector. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Orphan Helpers and has served on numerous fortune 500 and nonprofit advisory boards and committees. When their now-adult children were young, Lynn was a full-time homemaker. Additionally, she has served as a volunteer crisis pregnancy counselor, mentor and on Young Life committees in Michigan and Central America. Today Greg and Lynn pursue their passion of helping LGBTQ families become reconciled with each other and move one step closer to Jesus. They are the proud parents of Greg Jr. and Connie, dad and mom-in-law to Matt, and happy grandparents of three grandchildren.
Books: “Embracing the Journey: A Christian Parents’ Blueprint to Loving Your LGBTQ Child”, Simon and Schuster, March 5, 2019 (Available for pre-order)
Reading the Rainbow: Queering Hermenuetics
Session Description: For LGBT+ people, reading the Bible can be a painful experience as it has so often been used as a weapon to harm us. This workshop will give participants the tools they need to incorporate their LGBT+ identities into their interpretation of Scripture and to reclaim the joy and fulfillment our sacred canon can bring to our lives. Using queer literary theory and queer hermeneutics, participants will have the opportunity to develop their own queer interpretations of Scripture.
Biography: Samantha Field is a queer woman who grew up in an authoritarian church that forbade women from seeking college educations or employment, but eventually escaped. Now a seminarian at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, Samantha is a writer, activist, and speaker exploring feminist and liberation theologies.
Waiting Until Marriage? Our Stories and Experiences
Session Description: Come hear LGBTQ+ people share stories and experiences on the topic of waiting until marriage. Our views vary. Some of us are quite committed to it. Others are not convinced. Some of us are in relationships. Others are single. Regardless of where you are or your current relationship status, we hope that this will be a challenging discussion about sex and marriage, free from the shame-laden purity culture you may have experienced at youth group. We will have lots of time to reflect and discuss together.
Biography: Shane has been an active member of the GCN/QCF Waiting Until Marriage group since 2008 and its leader since 2013. This group is now a very active Facebook group with more than 400 members. Over the years this group has deeply impacted his life (he actually met his husband through it!). It is his privilege to now offer support and encouragement to many LGBTQ+ people as they navigate questions of sexuality, faith and sexual ethics. He is also a leader in Generous Space, a Canadian organization similar to QCF.
Oriented to Love: Loving Dialogue Across Deep Difference
Session Description: We want to connect with those on the other side of the [theological, sexual/gender, political, etc] aisle, but we have no idea how or where to start. How can we truly communicate with those we disagree with—without defensiveness, name-calling, and real harm? Is unity in the Body of Christ even possible? What are some spiritual practices that can help prepare us for difficult conversations across deep theological lines? What postures and kinds of questions are most helpful? What are the rewards of risking vulnerability? This dialogue fishbowl will demonstrate how diverse siblings in Christ truly can love each other across deep difference.
Biography: Kristyn Komarnicki is director of dialogue and convening at Evangelicals for Social Action/Sider Center. The creator of ESA’s Oriented to Love dialogues about sexual/gender diversity in the church, Kristyn facilitates these 2.5-day, intimate retreats that help Christians of different sexual/gender orientations and theological convictions come together to get to know, understand, and love each other, unified by the love of Christ. A xenophile who loves to travel and swap stories with people from around the world, Kristyn has studied, lived and worked in four countries on three continents (Europe, Asia, and North America). Today she lives in Philadelphia with her husband of 29 years and the youngest of their three sons.
Books: Why Can't We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart, by John Backman (https://www.amazon.com/Why-Cant-We-Talk-Christian/dp/1594734437)
The Power of Oneness
Session Description: "I pray they may all be one," as Jesus prayed in John 17:21, “The Power of Oneness” is about building bridges instead of barriers. In this workshop we will explore the scriptural builder tools of love, community, generosity, worship, and grace that keep our bridges intact. Through song, lecture, and corporate discussion and participation this session aims to take the attendee on a journey of “love your neighbor as yourself” starting with “who is my neighbor” and arriving at the realization that “I am my neighbor and my neighbor is me”.
Biography: Pastor Dontea’u Jae’El was born in Beckley, West Virginia and embraced faith at age four. Their early ministry work included: junior armor bearer, usher, and choir member, At age ten, Dontea’u transitioned from Youth Psalmist to Youth Evangelist Missionary and spent the next seven years preaching and teaching throughout the east coast. Dontea’u’s pulpit ministry was halted in November 2008 when they were giving an ultimatum from church leaders. Not willing to live a lie, Dontea’u quietly stepped away from church ministry.They remained silent in the church until their return to the pulpit six years later in November 2014.
Today, Dontea’u spends their time between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina. They released their first book, “True Colors: Retrieving My Rainbow”, in July 2017 and established Affirmed Life Temple in May 2018. Dontea’u’s voice has been heard worldwide, and they are still a sought after preacher, teacher, and poet.
Queerness Ain’t White:
Non-White Histories of Precolonial Gender and Sexual Pluralism
Session Description: Is queerness a “recent invention” of white Westerners? Nah. This workshop will provide evidence demonstrating a rich history of gender and sexual pluralism in the Americas, Africa, and Asia — with a specific focus on Southeast Asia. The workshop will also explore how the rise of modernity and European colonialism has enforced or promoted gender and sexual binaries in the name of
“Christian civilization.” What are the implications, especially for people who identify as queer, non-white and Christian, for how we relate to our faith, our “race,” our heritage, our gender and sexual identities?
Biography: Sarah Ngu (pronouns flexible) is a co-founder of Church Clarity, a database that holds churches accountable for disclosing their LGBTQ+ and Women in Leadership policies. Born in Malaysia, Sarah is a graduate of Columbia University, lives in New York City, and hosts the podcast, Religious Socialism.
Standing Firm: Developing Sustainable Resilience Practices
Session Description: The work we do as LGBTQ+ Christians and allies is emotionally exhausting and costly, leading to activism fatigue and burnout. Come to this workshop to pause, reflect, reset, and learn concrete practices you can turn to when things get tough. (Please come prepared with pencil/pen and a notebook for this workshop.)
Biography: Matthias Roberts is a writer, therapist, and host of Queerology: A Podcast on Belief and Being. His work has been featured in HuffPost Religion, Believe Out Loud, OnFaith, and The Oregonian. He holds an MA in Theology and Culture and an MA in Counseling Psychology. Matthias lives in Seattle and spends his time helping LGBTQ people of faith and allies live confidently.
Heidi Weaver-Smith, Melissa Meyer, & Andy Buechel
Session 1: A Jesus Freak and an Atheist Walk Into A Gay Bar
Session 2: Creating Sanctuary: Safety for LGBTQ+ Youth at Church and Home
Session Description: A Jesus Freak and an Atheist Walk Into A Gay Bar
Ohio partners in crime, LOVEboldly (a reconciliation initiative between the Church and the LGBTQ+ community) and Safe and Supported (an LGBTQ youth homelessness prevention initiative) will share the story of their treasonous friendship. Together they work to disrupt the status quo by healing divides and creating acceptance for LGBTQ youth in their families and faith communities. These two organizations are traversing tricky territory and experiencing joy, success, disappointment and sometimes awkward personal growth. Learn from their journey and discover how to build your own treasonous friendships.
Session Description: Creating Sanctuary: Safety for LGBTQ+ Youth at Church and Home
LOVEboldly, an organization that equips Christians to practice reconciliation with the LGBTQ+ community, and Safe and Supported, a project of Lighthouse Youth and Family Services dedicated to preventing LGBTQ youth homelessness, work together to support parents and pastors of LGBTQ youth. This workshop will explore the needs and experiences of youth, families, pastors, and congregations and equip them with the ability to engage in the big questions and pastoral concerns while providing guidance that can help youth and families in crisis.
Biographies: Heidi Weaver-Smith is the founder/president of LOVEboldly and has been hosting dialogues with traditionally-minded Christians and the LGBTQ+ community since 2008. Through her leadership of LOVEboldly, Heidi empowers LGBTQ+ and straight Christians to step towards loving one another boldly and equips Christians to engage with dignity and civility in the polarizing conversations surrounding faith and sexuality. Heidi has completed some seminary coursework at Asbury Theological Seminary.
Melissa Meyer: As a nurse, trainer and organizational leader, Melissa has helped communities tackle complex issues like LGBTQ inclusion, comprehensive sexuality education and intimate partner violence prevention through collaboration and partnerships. She’s worked with youth and youth-serving professionals in juvenile justice, drug treatment, mental health care, schools, disability services and health care for over 25 years. Now she shares her talents with Safe and Supported, a project of Lighthouse Youth and Family Services, focused on developing and implementing innovative strategies to prevent and end LGBTQ youth homelessness in Hamilton County by 2020.
Andy Buechel: After completing his doctorate in Theological Studies from Emory University, Andy was an adjunct professor at the University of Dayton and Xavier University. His area of research was the LGBTQ experience and what insights it could bring to Christian theology. Since then, Andy has joined Safe and Supported, a program of Lighthouse Youth and Family services in Cincinnati, to work to end LGBTQ youth homelessness and family rejection.
Aaron Van Voorhis
Reconstructing Your Faith
Session Description: This session is primarily for those struggling with their faith and wondering how to hold onto a Christian identity. Its purpose is to help participants redefine/reconstruct their faith as a way of living in the world rather than a set of emotive beliefs and to see doubt and unknowing as an integral part of their faith. Participants will leave understanding that Christianity is about embracing suffering and doubt, and finding God in the simple act of love itself.
Biography: I hold a BA in biblical studies and a Master of Divinity. In 2009, I took the position of lead pastor at Central Avenue Church of Glendale (CA). We are a diverse, affirming, and independent Christian community. I am the author of numerous articles, a regular conference presenter, and recently published my first book, “A Survival Guide for Heretics,” (Wipf & Stock 2016).
Books: "A Survival Guide for Heretics," Wipf & Stock, 2016
Theologizing Your Personal Experience
Session Description: In this session we will discuss the power of the personal story. We will first outline the hurt and damages done to LGBTQ+ people when we are forced to rely on Christian and spiritual content that is non-inclusive, anti-women, pro-purity culture and exclusive of interfaiths. We will discuss personal story and how it can break the chains of the Christian colonizer and heal personal hurt. Finally we will focus on reclaiming the bible, spirituality and meditation through a devotional writing exercise in small groups. Authors will be encouraged to share their work and co-publish it on the Our Bible App as a group devotional written at Creating Change. This workshop is interfaith.
Biography: Crystal Cheatham is a masters level creative writer, 3 time recording artist and the creator of Our Bible App. As a queer Christian activist she has toured with Soulforce and written for many publications on the intersections between faith and sexuality and currently hosts a podcasts called Lord Have Mercy on God, sex and the bible. It is a culmination of these past experiences that brings her to see the importance of media, the written work and theologizing our personal experiences.
Carla Sophia Vargas Sandoval
Realities, challenges & advancements of LGBTI affirming Christian’s initiatives in Central America
Session Description: Learn how LGBTIQ Christian inclusive efforts in the United States affect Central American realities; the importance and shared Christian responsibility of witnessing the radically inclusive Gospel of Jesus in the developing countries, and the importance of networking and companion relationships for the development of a fully welcoming and affirming global Church.
Biography: Carla Sofía Vargas, born and raised in Nicaragua but currently applying for political asylum in Argentina, has created an initiative that seeks to start conversations and spaces towards LGBTIQ inclusion in Central America's Christian churches. According to the IACHR, Central America has one of the highest rates of hate crimes against LGBTIQ people in the world, so under her alias La Mechuda, Carla Sofía creates content & LGBTIQ resources in Spanish and has started the group J4 - an online community (for now, due to Nicaragua's socio-political situation) of LGBTIQ Christians in her country.
Finding Our Way: Centered Set Sexual Ethics
Session Description: Dissatisfied with both the heteronormative boundaries you grew up with in church and the "try anything" mindset? Wish you could find a way to both escape debilitating messages of shame and still steward your sexuality consistently with your faith? Centered set sexual ethics will help you clarify your values and develop life-giving practices to make discerning decisions that help you flourish.
Biography: Dr. Wendy VanderWal Gritter has served as Executive Director of Generous Space since 2002. She attended her first QCF conference in 2007 and now serves as a QCF board member. Wendy is deeply committed to the vision of shalom and flourishing at the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality.
Books: Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church, Wendy VanderWal Gritter, Brazos 2014
Joshua Stokes and Yvonne Zimmerman
Queer Sexual Ethics and Deep Theology
Session Description: Conversations around sexual ethics in Christian contexts have historically been difficult. Oftentimes, these conversations can be exclusive, impractical, and even harmful. In this breakout session Dr. Yvonne Zimmerman, Professor of Ethics at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, will lead a lecture and subsequent discussion about how Queer Sexual Ethics provides a framework for discussing sexual ethics in a healthy way that incorporates the diversity of humankind. Joshua Stokes, graduate student and licensed Counselor Trainee who has worked with LGBTQ+ Christian clients that have experienced spiritual harm, will facilitate a lecture and discussion about how to wrestle with sexual ethics in a healthy way that engages the deeper theological concepts that are often overlooked.
Joshua Stokes is a graduate student at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio in the final year of a mental health counseling program. At MTSO, Stokes is the student leader of “Love is for Everyone,” the seminary’s LGBTQ+ student organization, and serves on MTSO’s board of trustees. Stokes is a licensed Counselor Trainee in the state of Ohio and is currently providing mental health care primarily to persons who are LGBTQ+. Through his additional theological training, Stokes has been able to work with numerous clients who are working to overcome mental health issues stemming from spiritual harm and rejection from Christian communities. Stokes has received his BA is Psychology from Ohio State University. At OSU, he served as president of a large LGBTQ+ affirming campus ministry and as one of three Spiritual Representatives on the LGBTQ+ Leadership Consortium at the OSU Multicultural Center.
Yvonne Zimmerman is Associate Academic Dean and Professor of Christian Ethics at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO) where she teaches courses on Christian social ethics. Zimmerman has taught workshops and seminars about LGBTQI sexual ethics for local churches, colleges and universities, and church-based non-profit organizations. Zimmerman’s primary area of research is the movement to end human trafficking and she focuses on developing ethical resources for progressive Christian responses to human trafficking. She is the author of Other Dreams of Freedom: Religion, Sex, and Human Trafficking (Oxford University Press, 2012). Zimmerman holds a BA in Bible and Religion from Goshen College, a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and a Ph.D. in Religious and Theological Studies from Iliff School of Theology and the University of Denver.