The Reformation Project

2018 Leadership Cohort

2018 Cohort Application

Have you heard about The Reformation Project’s rigorous leadership development program for LGBTQ Christians and allies? Our 2018 leadership cohort is coming up—and you’re invited to apply!

We'll host our 2018 leadership development cohort summit from April 4-7, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. We will select 35 Christians who support the full affirmation and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the church to participate. Applications are due by November 22, 2017.

We will respond to applicants on December 15. We will then send our class of reformers their preparatory materials for the cohort. These will include a wide range of study materials and supplementary video content, including leading works of biblical scholarship and popular-level writings on LGBTQ inclusion, racism and racial justice, and community organizing. If selected, applicants must be able and willing to devote a significant amount of time (10-20 hours a week) from January, 1, 2018, through early April 2018 to studying these materials and actively participating every week in online discussions about them with the other reformers. Online discussions will include weekly posts on message boards as well as occasional group video conversations.

At the end of the three-month study period, the reformers will gather in Chicago for a four-day intensive summit, where they will learn from The Reformation Project’s staff, biblical scholars like Dr. Jim Brownson and Dr. Cheryl Anderson, and our guest speakers. They’ll worship, share meals, and participate in evening activities together, helping them to build relationships that we hope will last for years to come. Our goal is that, when they head home at the end of the summit, they’ll do so with renewed confidence, clarity, and commitment, and with greater preparedness to be a leader in their faith community toward LGBTQ inclusion. The in-person gathering is an integral step in forming the network of reformers that graduates come to depend upon long after their cohort has ended. 

Cohort Details

When:
January 2018-April 2018

Cohort Summit:
April 4-7, 2018

Application Deadline:
November 22, 2017

What is the cohort?
The leadership development cohort is the most intensive program The Reformation Project offers. It is designed to equip Christians who are passionate about advancing LGBTQ inclusion in their faith communities with the theological training, knowledge, and resources they need to enhance their effectiveness as leaders. Our training is geared toward Christians in more conservative, non-affirming churches, although it can certainly be helpful for anyone who is seeking to engage more constructively with Christians who are opposed to LGBTQ inclusion, regardless of your theological or denominational background.

Our goal of empowering LGBTQ-affirming Christians in non-affirming spaces shapes our training content, particularly how we discuss the Bible as well as our organization’s position on sexual ethics. Here’s what you should know about our approaches to those topics:

1. Our commitment to the authority of Scripture: We approach the theological debate on LGBTQ inclusion by engaging directly and deeply with the primary biblical texts under discussion in non-affirming churches—texts like Genesis 1-2, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and Romans 1:24-27—not by going around those texts. We don’t believe that the theological discussion should be limited to only those passages, but we want to engage substantively with non-affirming Christians about the biblical texts that most concern them. In the process, we desire to demonstrate our shared commitment to upholding the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible. To be clear, that doesn’t mean we take a two-dimensional, simplistic approach to the text, as we greatly value historical-critical scholarship and seek to advance a nuanced approach to hermeneutics in our teachings. But it does mean that our teachings and resources ultimately seek to uphold the authority of all of Scripture, accurately and faithfully interpreted.

2. Monogamous, covenantal relationships: As an organization, we are specifically asking churches and church leaders to affirm lifelong, monogamous relationships. By doing so, we seek to address the concern of many non-affirming Christians that LGBTQ inclusion will lead to a broad change in the church’s teachings on sexual ethics as a whole. Rather than changing the Christian tradition’s historic belief that sex should be reserved for monogamous marriages (or where marriage is not an option, a lifelong covenantal union), we advocate for including LGBTQ people within the Christian tradition’s historic, challenging standard. At the same time, we are highly sensitive to the fact that many LGBTQ people have experienced profound trauma and shame stemming from church teachings on sexuality, and we believe it is imperative that the church cultivate a culture of grace around sexual ethics—never shame. That’s especially true for those of us who have found it difficult to live up to our personal standards for ourselves when our churches or families give us little to no support, and no matter what life experiences you bring to the table, we would love to have you be a part of the cohort.

Beyond those two values, another core value that significantly shapes our training content is our commitment to honoring and amplifying the voices of marginalized people within the LGBTQ Christian community. Here’s what we mean by that:

Our intersectional approach to LGBTQ inclusion: All LGBTQ Christians have experienced some degree of stigma and marginalization in our lives due to our sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, so we know from personal experience how painful that can be. But sadly, within the LGBTQ Christian community itself, many parallel forms of marginalization exist, based on race, ethnicity, ability, class, gender, and gender identity. It is all too common for LGBTQ advocacy to focus primarily, if not exclusively, on the needs of white, cisgender gay men, while leaving queer people of color, women, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming people behind.

As an organization, we are committed to challenging that status quo of hierarchy and marginalization by taking an intersectional approach to our training and advocacy—focusing on the unique experiences and challenges faced by those who have overlapping, or interlocking, marginalized identities. (See this article by Kimberlé Crenshaw for a basic introduction to the concept of intersectionality.) As a result, we will dedicate significant time and energy in the cohort to learning about issues of racial justice in particular, with the goal of ensuring that our LGBTQ advocacy truly advocates for all LGBTQ people, including queer people of color.

You may be wondering whether the cohort is the right fit for you if you are new to conversations about racial justice and intersectionality, or if you hold views about biblical authority or personal relationships that are somewhat different from The Reformation Project’s—or if you simply aren’t sure quite where you land on any of those topics. The answer is yes, as long as you feel you can appreciate and respect why we hold the values we do on those topics, and as long as you believe you will be comfortable in a space that upholds those values. Beyond that, we encourage you to read our Statement of Faith to make sure you feel comfortable with it as well. In a nutshell, it says that we believe in the Bible and in the Triune God—a pretty big-tent statement.

Cost
All cohort expenses are raised as a collaborative effort between cohort members and The Reformation Project’s staff. Our staff will enlist the support of donors to help offset the costs of the cohort, while cohort members are expected to raise support from their own communities as well. Cohort expenses include travel, lodging, food, and programming materials. All participants of the cohort class are required to participate in fundraising efforts to ensure that the group fundraising goal is met. Funds that are raised are pooled among all participants. The most important factor is each reformer’s effort in fundraising, not the individual amounts raised.

To be clear: While we want everyone to make their best efforts at fundraising, your ability to participate in the cohort will not depend on your fundraising success. However, the more money each member raises, the less of a burden it is for the class to raise enough to cover the costs of their class’s cohort. This process is not only necessary for covering the expense of the program, but more importantly, it is the first time participants will utilize grassroots organizing techniques and, in some cases, engage the very community they are being trained to go home and effect change in. It is a crucial process that fortifies and prepares participants for the work ahead.

If you have any questions about the application process, please e-mail us at apply@reformationproject.org.

Download the application and start the process today!