Los Angeles Conference Workshops

Session I Workshops - Friday, October 21

1. Q&A with Dr. Cheryl Anderson
Go deeper with Dr. Cheryl Anderson in this workshop, where she will expand on her teaching on the Old Testament from the morning session, and respond to questions from audience members.

Dr. Cheryl B. Anderson is Professor of Old Testament at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and she is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church (Baltimore-Washington Conference). She earned her doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University and, earlier in her career, she practiced law in Washington, D.C., for nearly ten years. Her current research interests involve contextual and liberationist readings of Scripture in the age of HIV and AIDS. Her publications include Women, Ideology, and Violence: Critical Theory and the Construction of Gender in the Book of the Covenant and the Deuteronomic Law (T&T Clark, 2004), and Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies: The Need for Inclusive Biblical Interpretation (Oxford University Press, 2009). More information about her current research can be found at her website: www.cherylbanderson.com.

2. “Navigating Spiritual Abuse in LGBT Families”
Spiritual Abuse comes in all shapes, sizes and intensities. Ranging from the subtle, passive aggressive comments we hear from the pulpit or at the dinner table, to more damaging abuses of authority and influence under the banner of religion or spiritual guidance. Most of us have experienced at least a small amount of it, some of us have experienced it in more severe ways.. Sadly, many of us have been naively guilty of imposing it on others in our teaching, parenting and ministries. Combining our experiences in church ministry and counseling psychology, Dr. Keller and Laura Beth will explore the range of abuse, talk about how to recognize and qualify it, and – most importantly how to begin or continue on the journey healing from it.

Laura Beth Taylor is a blogger, author and advocate for LGBTQ persons in faith communities. She studied Bible and theology at Moody Bible Institute, has a degree in Communications and Christian Ministry from Dallas Baptist University and over 25 years of experience in various ministry platforms. Laura Beth organized Sophia Sojourn as a not-for-profit corporation to serve as a platform for helping other marginalized individuals understand and tell their own stories as well as for advocating on behalf of marginalized people in faith communities. She currently lives in North Texas near her three kids and granddaughter, but enjoys traveling throughout the country.

Kathryn Keller, Ph.D., has provided individual and group counseling services since 2007. She specializes in working with clients who have suffered from traumatic stress, spiritual identity exploration, and spiritual abuse. She lives in Dallas, TX, where she currently works as a postdoctoral fellow in a private counseling practice. 

3. “Untangling The Mess”
In the workshop “Untangling the Mess,” Kathy presents a clear timeline that unravels the cultural and religious discrimination against the LGBT community in America. In her workshop, she presents an overview of past cultures, human sexuality, psychology, government influences, science, and the merger of conservative politics and religion as together, they relate to our shifting understanding of same-sex behavior. You will gain have a clear foundation for examining related passages of Scripture throughout the conference.

Kathy Baldock is an author, LGBT advocate, Executive Director of CanyonWalker Connections, and a leading expert on LGBT faith issues in the United States, especially dealing with historical and current discrimination faced from the socially conservative Christian church and political sector. Kathy also serves on the board of The Reformation Project.

4. “Deconstructing Dialogue: A New Way to have the Conversation”
Tired of angry debates and formless discussion around the topic of LGBTQ inclusion in the life of the church? Do you need some new tools and approaches for having these conversations? In this workshop, come learn Intergroup Dialogue (IGD), a “third-way” approach to communicating across social, cultural, and power dynamics developed by the University of Michigan and is now used nationwide. Learn how to effectively facilitate dialogue, balance social identities, and gain unique, interactive tools and strategies to help make inclusion a reality.

The Rev. Jonathan Vanderbeck, M.Div, MSW (he/him/his) is the first openly gay person of color ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America (RCA), the oldest Protestant denomination in the USA. Also a master’s level social worker and trained in facilitating Intergroup Dialogue, Jonathan works within the church and denomination to facilitate conversations around race, gender, sexuality, and religion. Jonathan serves as Community Minister at the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, NY and also volunteers his time with Room For All, the movement working for LGBTQ justice and affirmation in the RCA. He is passionate about good coffee, authentic Korean food, and trampling the heteronormative patriarchy. Follow him on Twitter @RevJonathan16

5. “Healing Through Storytelling”
For those who live on the margins it’s difficult to find safe spaces to assert the fullness of our humanity, in all its beautiful nuance and complexity. Ornamental diversity is all too familiar, even in the most well-intentioned communities. We don’t need to wait for those spaces to be created for us - we can carve them out ourselves, with the power of storytelling. This workshop will help us rediscover our distinctiveness, shape the narrative of our stories and draw out stories from others, all with the goal of using the power of story to heal ourselves and our communities.

Deborah Jian Lee is an award-winning journalist, radio producer and author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism. She has worked as a staff reporter for the Associated Press, taught journalism at Columbia University, and written for Foreign Policy, Forbes, Slate, Reuters, GOOD, WBEZ, WNYC and others. She lives in Chicago.

Session II Workshops - Saturday, October 22

6. Q&A with Dr. Jim Brownson
Go deeper with Dr. Jim Brownson in this workshop, where he will expand on his biblical teachings from the morning sessions, and respond to questions from audience members.

Dr. James V. Brownson is the James and Jean Cook Professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. He is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, where he has served as moderator of the Commission on Theology, dean of Western Theological Seminary, and General Synod Professor. He has taught the New Testament for more than 25 years and is the author of a number of books. In 2013, Brownson published Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships, which was hailed by The Boston Globe as “perhaps the most extensive, accessible, and direct evangelical reckoning with the Bible’s passages on homosexuality.” Brownson was a guest lecturer at The Reformation Project’s inaugural conference, and his lecture series from that event can be found here.

7. “Openly Me – Affirming the Unique Perspective of Bisexuality”
Living authentically allows us members of the queer community to more successfully integrate our own thoughts and actions. The straight person has inherently broad support in society. Those who choose to come out as gay or lesbian have the ability to more easily find others in public to validate their own personal experience. Unfortunately, at this moment in time, the bisexual person encounters a much smaller identifiable “outed” group with whom to identify. This workshop will allow bisexuals and their allies to find their unique voices, hopefully shedding light on this often overlooked segment of our family. (LGT please join us!)

Dr. Jonathan Drummond has been a part of adult and youth teaching ministries as well as music ministries for the past two decades. Simultaneously, he has been a practicing physician, maintaining his reduced work schedule in order to actively raise his two daughters and to fully participate in the life of the church. Faithful in marriage for 18 years, Jonathan now finds himself navigating life as a single person. His passions include engaging in the often difficult conversations that life presents, re-interpreting gender roles, promoting a healthy work-life balance, and sharing the radical love of Christ.

8. “Straight White Jesus and the Religion of Empire: Decolonizing Our Spirits Through POC Solidarity“ **POC ONLY SPACE**
Centering people of color, this space invites all of our POC attendees who have ever wondered about how white supremacy and heteropatriarchy are inextricably linked with Christian fundamentalism. Our project is to reclaim our Spirits - as artists, healers, organizers, political leaders, activists, people of faith, and more. Black-Brown solidarity is our best strategy to respond to the legacy of Christian supremacy’s intersectional injustice.

Jordyn Sun is a second-generation Chinese American lesbian. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology from Azusa Pacific University. She is the National Campus Organizer for Soulforce and works with student activists in fighting religious fundamentalism and spiritual violence. Jordyn is also co-chair of the Youth Leadership Committee for API Equality.

Justin Campbell is a college English professor and freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He is the winner of the 2013 Hurston/Wright Award for African-American Writers. He is the co-creator of an original podcast on the intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation and class with spirituality/religion entitled “embodied. a podcast”. Justin is also a contributing writer with the Los Angeles Review of Books and his work has been published in The Millions and The African American Review.

9. Creating a Safety Net for LGBTQ Students at Christian Colleges & Universities/Organizing Queer Justice at Christian Colleges
Christian colleges and universities around the country are graduating the next generation of leaders in the Church and have a significant influence on current theology and practice in the Church. What is happening at these schools around issues of LGBTQ inclusion? Come and hear about the network of (often underground) LGBTQ groups that have sprung up at Christian colleges around the country. How can we support these students? How can we create dialogue at these schools? This workshop is for students, parents, alumni or anyone interested in what is happening in higher education around issues of sexuality and gender identity.

A.J. Mendoza is a 2013 graduate of George Fox University in Newberg Oregon, where he completed a double major in Political Science and History. During his time at GFU, he was a founding member and first President of a student organization called Common Ground, a club that is dedicated to supporting and creating a safe space for LGBTQQIA and allied students. A.J. was raised in the Pentecostal tradition but is now a convinced Quaker and a member of West Hills Friends Church in Portland.

Donald Scherschligt is an alumnus of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA, where he majored in English Life. At Westmont, he began their unofficial LGBTQ organization, Spectrum, and continues to work in the larger Santa Barbara community for LGBTQ justice after he expanded on the work of Spectrum to start a non-profit organization, re-dubbed Spectrum Ministries Santa Barbara. Currently, he also works for Campus Pride, the nation's largest LGBTQ organization for college students. Donald brings three years of experience of peaceful protest, social media activism, and discussions with campus administration

Erin Green is a gay Christian and the current Executive Director of Biolans' Equal Ground, formally the Biola Queer Underground. She is a Biblical Studies major at Azusa Pacific University, public speaker, and activist for LGBT inclusion in the church.

 Session III Workshops - Saturday, October 22

10. Q&A with Dr. Megan DeFranza and Lianne Simon
Go deeper with Dr. Megan DeFranza and Lianne Simon in this workshop, where they will expand on their presentations from the morning session, and respond to questions from audience members.

Dr. Megan DeFranza is a Christian theologian and author of Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God. She facilitates education and reconciliation around controversial issues for Christian communities, particularly around sex, gender, and sexuality. With Lianne Simon, she is beginning a documentary on Intersex People of Faith.

Currently serving as a Visiting Researcher at Boston University’s School of Theology and a Research Associate with the Institute for the BioCultural Study of Religion’s Sex Differences Project, she has taught courses at Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. DeFranza holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Marquette University, an M.A. in Theology and an M.A. in Biblical Languages from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Toccoa Falls College. She lives with her beloved husband and daughters in Beverly, MA, blogs at megandefranza.com, and tweets (occasionally) @MKDeFranza.

Lianne Simon is a housewife and a novelist, an intersex woman trying her best to follow Jesus. Her books, Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite and A Proper Young Lady tell deeply emotional tales of growing up outside the male-female binary. Lianne's personal essay Changeling addresses her decision to live her adult life as a man or a woman. Lianne is a board member of Pride School Atlanta, a safe place for bullied kids to learn and grow. She and her husband and their cat live in a cottage in the fair countryside outside Nashville.

11. "The Purposes of God in the Case for Marriage Equality"
Drawing on material from his book, The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage, Dr. Mark Achtemeier will show how an understanding of God’s biblically-revealed purposes for love, marriage and sexuality can become the foundation of a powerful biblical case for God’s blessing of same-sex marriage and loving acceptance of LGBT persons.

Dr. Mark Achtemeier is a Presbyterian theologian, writer and minister. He taught systematic theology and ethics for fifteen years at Dubuque Theological Seminary, and has also served as a parish pastor. After working as an anti-LGBT activist in the 1990s, he more recently has become an influential voice in helping the Presbyterian Church (USA) to become more welcoming and accepting of LGBT persons. He is married to the Rev. Katherine Achtemeier, and is author of The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage (2014).

12. “And Their Home Receives Them Not: Exploring the Double Consciousness of Being Black and Gay in the Black Church Experience”
This session explores how Black Same Gender Loving (SGL) Christians navigate places of public worship. The Black church often employs a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” doctrine for SGL members, alienating those who cannot reconcile hiding who they are from where they worship. This loss of a church “home”, inextricable from the family of origin, leads to SGL members seeking an alternate congregation to find refuge and family in connection with their faith. LGBT churches are primarily Caucasian, professing an inclusive atmosphere, house an amalgam of micro-aggressions, the absence of liberation theology, and lack a cohesive environment for members of Color. Let’s talk inclusion.

Eronica C. King is an ordained minister of word and sacrament with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Eronica currently works as a hospital chaplain in New Orleans, LA. Her research interests include constructing identity and sense of belonging, identity politics, sex and sexuality, gender and gender identity, and theology. Eronica believes identifying and recognizing intersectionality within our own existence helps us resist othering and policing the existence and legitimacy of our neighbors.

13. "To Welcome Every Lost Sheep Home..."
This pastoral centered workshop addresses the following questions in order for the participants to gain greater insights about helping lead their churches and Christian organizations in a similar direction:

  • What kind of critical mass is needed to get a passive and somewhat resistant church to start moving in this direction?
  • What will it probably cost you personally and the church corporately?
  • What are ways to frame this theologically and biblically that go beyond endless debates about the ‘clobber passages’?
  • Practically, what are some concrete ways to start to foster a mutually respectful and loving relationship among church members—straight and queer, traditional and progressive—without expecting everyone to agree on everything?

Dr. Ken Fong: Because he’s long been regarded as one of the highest-profile Asian-American pastors and leaders, when Dr. Ken Fong answered God’s call in 2007 to compel evangelical churches to love and embrace their LGBTQ+ Christian kindred, many Christians began to pay attention. While there clearly still is a long, long way to go, he sees signs of movement. From the trust-bridges he’s built with secular LGBTQIA advocacy groups, to the increasing invitations from pastors and Christian groups to share his approach, to his church's safe support group becoming a redemptive family to over 50 people. Ken often treats his weekly podcast’s national and global audiences to guests who personalize and humanize this topic making it all the more accessible to an even broader audience.

14. “Our Bodies Are the Solution, Not the Problem: Looking at Intersectionality From Some Queer Disability Perspectives"
Disability, like other marginalized identities, creates immense challenges, but there is also immense power in intersectional resistance, and in the pursuit of Disability Justice.

Together we’ll look at some basic Queer Disability Justice history; consider how “all the ways our bodies are made wrong” are “rooted in the same terrible notions about what is of value” (Aurora Levins Morales) and think about the many ways that Scripture and its moral logic can empower us to “Get Proud By Practicing” (Laura Hershey), “Act Up!” and embrace all the parts of our individual and collective “bodies” as solutions, not problems.

Constance J. Barker is on the front lines of Disability Rights, as well as an Environmental Health and Union activist, and caregiver to her disabled spouse and partner of 21 years, Jan. She is a proud member of SEIU-2015, the Longterm Careworkers Union, president of the Environmental Health Network (EHN) and an alum of the 2016 Reformation Project Leadership Development Cohort. Connie currently lives, works, and serves in the Bay Area.

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