The Reformation Project

Chicago Conference Workshops

Chicago Conference Workshops

Session I Workshops

I. “God Created אָדָם (aw-dawm') In Their Image”
Come hear a personal testimony of growing up transgender in a heavily Catholic background. In this workshop, you'll hear the ups and downs of coming to terms with one's identity and growing in faith. It will end with an interactive, mind-opening activity to further one's understanding of gender identity in the variety of masculine and feminine stereotypes within the Christian community.


Shen Heckel is a Los Angeles-based theatre artist. He has served as an RCIA Catechist for the past six years at the University Catholic Center (UCC) at UCLA. He loves being that unexpected face welcoming people to the Catholic Church. It's not too often you see a transman teaching the traditions and history of the Catholic faith. Throughout his life, Heckel has made theatre and church his safe haven. He hopes to someday bring back that safe feeling to all LGBT+ people of faith through his work in theatre.

II. Intersecting Narratives of Growth and Acceptance
This workshop will consist of three narratives concerning early understandings of LGBTQ issues for Christians that later changed. The changes relate both to biblical teachings and personal perspectives on same-sex orientation and relationships. These narratives came together as dialogue between Marsha and Jim that led to friendship, motivated by Trish’s coming out to her parents. Jim reached out to Marsha for advice and support, contributing to healing relationships in the Brix family; Marsha and Cindy participated in the Commitment Ceremony for Trish and Jonna in New Orleans in 2010; Marsha collaborated with Jim in writing her autobiography; and Jim reconsidered his understanding of the biblical material, concluding that Scripture does not prohibit committed relationships between same-sex couples. The disrupted family dynamics in the Brix family that followed Trish’s coming out began to heal over time and the family system reorganized around new and more tolerant connections.

Marsha Stevens-Pino, original CCM artist with Children of the Day; composer of "For Those Tears I Died" worship song, and many other Christian songs; first CCM personality to come out as gay; founder of BALM Ministries; concert performer; author of For Those Tears I Died autobiography; married to Cindy Stevens-Pino.


Trish Brix-Baskin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Pine Grove Behavioral Health in Hattiesburg, MS; specializes in therapy with troubled teens; MSW, University of Southern Illinois; pastor’s daughter and graduate of Columbia International University, SC; youth leader at Joshua Generation MCC; married to Jonna Brix-Baskin.



Dr. Jim Brix, retired pastor, counselor, + educator; professor and department chair of psychology and counseling at Pillar College, NJ until retirement in 2011; DMin in Marriage and Family, Palmer Theological Seminary, Philadelphia; Licensed Professional Counselor, NJ (inactive); married to Carol Brix.

III. Subversive Disruption, Redemption, and Imagination:
Why We Should Be Paying Attention to Queer Asian American Millennials

This workshop centers the inspiring and often untold stories of queer Asian American millennials in Protestant evangelicalism. By highlighting themes of reclamation, healing, and resistance that arise from their narratives, I argue that queer Asian American millennials are subversively disrupting, redeeming, and reimagining mainstream evangelicalism in ways that undermine and refuse its strongholds of white heteropatriarchy. Although the content highlights queer Asian American Christianity, its implications are relevant to other communities as well! All are welcome, so come prepared to engage, dialogue, and learn from each other!


Bianca Louie is an educator, writer, and community activist. She teaches Asian American Studies at City College of San Francisco and her research is on Queer Asian American Christian young adults. Bianca also volunteers with Network on Religion and Justice (NRJ), where she organizes Asian Pacific Islander communities to advocate for queer inclusion in Asian churches. She is 2nd-generation Cantonese-American, 1st generation college graduate, and queer. Formerly an evangelical campus minister, Bianca has since shifted her energies toward decolonizing white hetero-patriarchal histories and theologies and centering the narratives of queer people of color in her work and activism.

IV. Q&A with Dr. Jim Brownson
Learn from Dr. Jim Brownson, a leading New Testament professor whose 2013 book Bible, Gender, Sexuality continues to exert a significant influence in conversations in the church about same-sex relationships and LGBTQ inclusion.


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.

V. Queer People of Color Centered in the Sacraments
As we struggle to bring an intersectional lens to our worship spaces and fight for ways to present anti-racist perspectives into our churches, it can be discouraging. But what if the answer is something as simple as using the sacraments to present a gospel that centers queer people of color? In this workshop we'll explore the history of sacraments, ways they can be introduced into congregations of multiple backgrounds, and how they can be used as tools of anti-racist organizers in predominately White worshipping communities.


Jarell Wilson is a graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, a Twitter addict, a blogger, and a self-proclaimed Methodork. He attended Baylor University and graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Sociology. He’s a proud resident of Chicago; an activist in Chacos; a Slytherin; a Matt Smith Whovian; a scented candle aficionado; enneagram 4 with a 5 wing; and an obsessed parent of the most wonderful dog in all of God’s creation, Mia. While he isn’t working or studying, he can be found slacking off, prowling whatever city he is in for the best places to eat, reading, watching Netflix, and singing rather loudly. Jarell serves on the board of Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization dedicated to making the United Methodist Church LGBTIQ-affirming. He is currently a certified candidate for ordained ministry in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church on the elder track and a Ph.D. student at Chicago Theological Seminary focusing on Theology and Cultural Criticism.

Session II Workshops

I. “Access Denied: The Erasure of LGBTQ, Disabled People in Christian Communities”
Both members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people with disabilities—as well as other marginalized communities—have faced challenges in many spaces, including those that are faith-based. Using an intersectional disability justice framework, we will examine what true inclusivity looks like for those at the intersections of these identities. We will look at examples of experiences that queer, Disabled Christians have had, explore ways to prevent ableism and ensure accessibility, and lay a foundation for future conversations about queerness and disability in faith spaces.


Zoie Sheets was raised in small-town Illinois and moved to Chicago to attend college and take part in big-city life. Through her exploration on her campus & within her faith-based communities, she found a love for teaching, a fierce desire to fight for true accessibility, and a deeper connection with Jesus Christ. As a bisexual, invisibly disabled Christian, Zoie is dedicated to creating faith-based spaces that are truly accessible and inclusive. Through serving on committees, giving presentations, and working at a policy level, she has fought for the recognition of the intersectionality of the queer & disabled communities in universities, churches, organizations, and the government sectors.

II.  “Take The Shackles Off My Feet So I Can Dance:
What The Civil Rights Movement Can Teach The LGBTQ Movement”

Come learn how to deploy some of the scriptural and theological tools used to support the liberation of African-Americans in the fight for LGBTQ equality and inclusion. Together, we’ll use the music of Nina Simone, lessons from the Underground Railroad, theology of Thurman and Cone, and passages from The Book of Exodus to see God as Liberator, understand our inherent value and dignity as individuals, appreciate the importance of community, and establish the necessity of defining our opposition/oppressor.


Rev. Jamie Frazier, affectionately known as Pastor J, loves working at the intersection of race, sexuality, and religion. Jamie attended Vanderbilt University for undergrad on a full-tuition scholarship. He’s a celebrated orator and has keynoted and/or presented workshops in spaces ranging from the Historic March on Springfield for Marriage Equality to The University of Chicago to DePaul to Loyola University. He leads The Lighthouse Church of Chicago, a church start supported by the United Church of Christ. It is a multi-ethnic and LGBT-inclusive church located in the Chicago neighborhood of Uptown, which you can learn more about it at

III. Neither Straight Nor Narrow: Cultivating the Skills to Welcome and Affirm Gender Diverse Christians
This session is designed to be a highly interactive and energetic workshop and discussion, geared toward addressing questions and common misconceptions about gender identity (and its role in all of our lives) while helping participants to develop the skills necessary to identify and address cissexism and make transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming Christians feel affirmed in their church communities.


Grace Berg is an advocate for transgender rights, currently based in San Francisco. Grace, a native of the Midwest and a survivor of conversion therapy, is active in research efforts surrounding the "Ex-Gay" movement, authoring the piece "Girls Like Us" (2016) in defense of banning the practice. These days, they devote their time to developing trainings for universities, churches, and workplaces on the value of creating safe environments for gender-diverse people in their work and ministry.

IV. “Untangling The Mess:
The History of Cultural and Religious Discrimination Against LGBTQ People in America”

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.


V. Reconstructing Your Faith
This workshop is primarily for those struggling with their faith and wondering how to hold onto a Christian identity after leaving evangelicalism/conservatism. Led by an affirming pastor, this discussion will address formative questions like – what is Christianity? What is the Bible? What is faith? The goal of this workshop 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.


Aaron Van Voorhis holds a BA in biblical studies and a Master of Divinity. He and his wife, Emily, are both originally from Chicago and have lived in Los Angeles since 2006. In 2009, after graduating from Fuller Seminary, Aaron took the position of lead pastor at First Southern Baptist Church of Glendale (CA). After transitioning it out of the SBC in 2010, they became Central Avenue Church, a diverse, affirming, and independent Christian community. Aaron has spoken at conferences, authored numerous articles, and recently published his first book, A Survival Guide for Heretics (Wipf & Stock, 2016).

Session III Workshops

I. “Ramping Our Voices: Effective Disability Resistance and Allyship in a Time of Crisis"
Disability, like all marginalized identities, comes with immense challenges even in the best of times. But recent political events have created an atmosphere of near constant crisis-level challenge for many, many Disabled Americans, especially those whose identities are multiply marginalized around any combination of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and race. Together, we’ll look at the power and challenges of truly intersectional resistance and allyship in this time of ongoing crisis, and consider some basic Disability Justice history and how it might inform such efforts, especially in the light of Scripture. We’ll also “Get Proud By Practicing” (Laura Hershey).


CJ Barker has been a Disability, Union and LGBT rights activist for many years. She studied Women’s (Gender) Studies at UC Berkeley in the 1980s, and taught one of the first lesbian studies courses on that campus. She has lived with serious chronic conditions since 1978, has been a Homecare provider since 2005, and has spent most of the last year helping organize opposition and resistance to the looming health care cuts that threaten to devastate the Disability community. She also holds Certificates in Gender, Sexuality and the Bible, and Theological Education, from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

II. “Three Strikes, I'm Out: The Marginalization of Queer Black Women in Church Communities”
Malcolm X stated “the most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Sadly, the same could be said about black women in Christian churches. This workshop explores the challenges of being black, queer, and woman in Christian communities. This workshop will take a closer look at the marginalization of queer black women in Christian communities and provide steps churches can take to create an inclusive space that affirms queer women of color.


Erica Bauer received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Dayton, and a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work has focused on creating access to support for people with stigmatized identities. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in health research services, Erica went back to school to be a high school administrator. Currently, she is the Director of Student Engagement at one of the top, most diverse schools in the city of Chicago where she develops systems of intervention to support all students academically, culturally, physically, socially, and emotionally. She also develops workshops to support parents of adolescents.

III. "Change the Conversation: Queerspawn Voices in the Church”
Are you a voice on the fringes of the LGBTQIA movement? Has your story been erased from the dominant LGBTQIA narrative? Maybe you just want to learn how to share your story, because you know that sharing your story will give courage to other voiceless LGBTQIA individuals in your midst. Through personal narrative and practical examples, this session seeks to create an engaging environment for you to wrestle with and value your own unique LGBTQIA narrative as well as recognize the importance of fringe or previously marginalized voices.


Jenny Rain has 25 years of corporate training & marketing experience. She recently completed her first book and her hope is that this book will change the partisan and theologically-charged conversation around LGBT families to be less combative and more redemptive. Her passion for serving the LGBT community began in the 70's when her biological father met his now husband. Watching her dads fight for a voice in the 70s, 80s, & 90s, as well as experiencing extreme marginalization because her family looked different sparked Jenny's passion for LGBT advocacy. Jenny works to build bridges between the church and LGBT families in a manner that promotes reconciliation & healing.

IV. Q&A with Austen Hartke
Go deeper with Austen Hartke in this workshop, where he will expand on his presentation from the morning session and respond to questions from audience members.


Austen Hartke is the creator of the YouTube series “Transgender and Christian,” which seeks to understand, interpret, and share parts of the Bible that relate to gender identity and the lives of transgender individuals. Austen is a graduate of Luther Seminary’s Master of Arts program in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Studies, and is the winner of the 2014 John Milton Prize in Old Testament Writing from the same institution. Currently Austen lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he is working on a collection of biblical and modern narratives from gender-non-conforming people of faith, to be published with Westminster John Knox Press in Spring of 2018. As a transgender person of faith his greatest passion is helping other trans and gender-non-conforming people see themselves in scripture.

V. "Sacred Wounds: Spiritual and Religious Trauma in the LGBTQIA Community”
In this workshop we will explore the nature of spiritual and religious trauma (when a person is hurt, traumatized, negated by their faith/spiritual community), the impact of this trauma specifically on LGBTQIA persons and LGBTQIA persons of color, and the ways in which we learn to heal from this pain and find our way in faith and community again. We have space for communal storytelling, rituals for healing, and contemplative practices which offer beginning guideposts for the process of healing & hope-making out of the experience of religious and spiritual trauma.


Teresa Pasquale Mateus, LCSW is a trauma therapist, contemplative activism advocate, and contemplative practice teacher. She is the co-founder and executive director of "The Mystic Soul Project," which is a nonprofit centering people of color at the intersections of action, contemplation and healing. She is author of the books Mending Broken: A Personal Journey through the Stages of Trauma & Recovery and Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing From Spiritual Trauma. You can learn more about Teresa at and

Session IV Workshops

I. “Why Does Self-Acceptance Matter?"
Disability, like all marginalized identities, comes with immense challenges even in the best of times. But recent political events have created an atmosphere of near constant crisis-level challenge for many, many Disabled Americans, especially those whose identities are multiply marginalized around any combination of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and race. Together, we’ll look at the power and challenges of truly intersectional resistance and allyship in this time of ongoing crisis, and consider some basic Disability Justice history and how it might inform such efforts, especially in the light of Scripture. We’ll also “Get Proud By Practicing” (Laura Hershey).


Candice Czubernat is a writer, speaker and licensed therapist. She’s also a married lesbian, Christian woman and mother of twins. She’s the founder of The Christian Closet, a web-based counseling practice where she specializes in seeing those needing a safe place to reconcile their faith with their sexual and gender identities. She has been in the mental health field for over a decade and has used her expertise in her book The First 90 Days; a devotional resource for parents that walks them through the first 3 months of their child coming out. The Advocate Online Magazine named her one of the “10 Pro-LGBT Religious Women You Should Know”. If you want to read more of her story she writes about it on her blog at You can also find out more about her therapy practice at

II. “How Long Until We Are Healed: Pursuing Emotional Justice for Holistic LGBTQ Activism”
Activism can be empowering, but activism can also bring out competitive, self-interested, and hyper-critical sides of us that can crush those we desire to serve. As Christians, Jesus calls each of us to the work of healing ourselves and healing others. This workshop will explore the ways in which our LGBTQ advocacy movements can become more holistic by taking on the healing work of emotional justice. We will explore through an intersectional lens what it means to be emotionally just, as well as the implications of prioritizing emotional justice and healing within LGBTQ activism. Participants will also have an opportunity to explore how the wisdom of the Christian tradition and self-awareness practices play a role in creating emotionally just movements towards shalom justice.


Rachel Virginia Hester (@rachel_virginia) is a tender-hearted queer Afro-Latinx writer, faith- rooted activist, and amateur musician studying Conflict Studies and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Rachel is passionate about feminism, emotional justice, childrens’ books and reading Scripture in new ways. When Rachel isn’t studying, she can be found writing for her blog, The Generous Pine, or contributing to other publications. Some of her works have been featured on Believe Out Loud and The Salt Collective.

III. “Written On His Heart: Naming Our Intersecting Identities in Christ”
Who are you and how do you know who you are? What is an “existential crisis?” Why do people keep telling you that you’re putting your identity in your sexuality or your race (and not in Christ)? This workshop examines the intersection of our identities today by looking at history, theology, and sociology; to how we have come to construct gender, sexual orientation, and race. Then, by examining our interactions with our identities, we will address the implications in negotiating these intersecting identities within our various communities.


SueAnn Shiah is a Taiwanese American multidisciplinary artist working predominantly through word, music, and film. Themes in her work exploration of faith, identity, race, gender, and sexuality. Her first feature length documentary HuanDao premiered in Fall 2016 in Nashville, TN. In addition to her own creative works, she collaborates with other artist and musicians in a variety of capacities as an artist manager, producer, audio engineer, and songwriter. She has a B.B.A. in Music Business with a Production emphasis and a Chinese minor from Belmont University.

IV. “Defeating Efforts to Redefine Religious Liberty and Marginalize LGBTQ Christians”
Come learn a brief history of religious liberty in the United States, how cases from Hobby Lobby v. Burwell to Masterpiece Cakes are changing the use of religious exemptions, and how we can use faith to defeat attempts to use religious language to unjust ends. Hear from religious liberty and LGBTQ equality experts and consider theological arguments for an understanding of religious liberty that rejects discrimination, particularly against LGBTQ people. Then, sharpen your personal messages to combat harmful and discriminatory arguments and brainstorm ways to lift up those messages in effective advocacy at the state and federal level.


Claire Markham leads the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.

V. “Respecting Your Get Down: How To Honor Different Relational and Sexual Ethics Within Our Communities”

One of the oft-unnamed challenges that communities face as they consider full affirmation and inclusion of LGBTQ persons is how to honor different relational and sexual ethics individuals hold. Join us for an interactive dialogue in which we’ll explore a variety of ethical frames, the needs underlying an individual's relational and sexual ethics, the challenges that arise when different ethics are held within community, and what it could look and feel like to cultivate space where all are truly welcome.


Alicia Crosby has always colored outside the lines - a trait that comes in handy as the Executive Director of Center for Inclusivity (CFI). Her passions for justice and spiritual activism led her to pursue a M.A. in Social Justice at Loyola University Chicago. Through experiences within religious, social service, and community empowerment contexts and her navigation of the world as a queer, black woman, Alicia saw a need to address the spiritual, systemic, and interpersonal harm people experience through her work. She is proud that CFI is a place where people can bring the fullness of who they are forward and find community that gives them life.