Oriented to Love: A Dialogue about Sexual and Gender Diversity in the Church
A Call for Applicants
ESA is now accepting applications for participants in the next Oriented to Love dialogue around the issue of sexual and gender diversity in the church. It will take place Thursday-Saturday, September 26-28, 2019, at the beautiful Canterbury Retreat Center just outside Orlando, FL. (See other dates/venues below. We encourage you to submit an application for any dialogue at this time. There is a place on the application for you to indicate which dialogue you prefer.)
The two main requirements for participation in this dialogue are an open heart and a committed faith in Christ. We need the group to be as diverse as it is small. Since this conversation will focus on how believers consider sexual and gender diversity in the church, our shared faith in and reliance on Christ will bind us together and make our efforts more productive and long-lasting.
The goals of this dialogue are NOT to:
- strike theological stances,
- debate each other about various Scripture passages, or
- agree with each other.
The goals ARE to:
- help LGBTQIA and heterosexual/cisgender Christians of all stripes come to the same table, regardless of our theological understanding of the issues;
- listen to each other’s stories and in doing so get to know and understand each other;
- ask hard questions in a circle where everyone agrees to be brave and the conversation is being carefully and lovingly held;
- to discover what God is doing in and through LGBTQIA Christians and how the church can be the church for LGBTQIA people as well as heterosexual/cisgender people;
- to discover what committed Christians, both LGBTQIA and heterosexual/cisgender, have to offer and teach each other within the larger body of Christ.
We encourage you to apply for participation if you:
- are gay, bisexual, heterosexual, asexual, or questioning; transgender, gender queer, or intersex;
- are single, partnered, or married;
- hold a traditional view of marriage as between a man and a woman only, and promote either celibacy or opposite-sex marriage for Christians with same-sex attraction, or believe that God also honors same-sex marriage and intimacy.
We are especially looking for:
- LGBTQIA Christians of any theological understanding who have been hurt by the church but still love and long for a home in the church;
- Heterosexual/cisgender Christians who hold a traditional view of marriage and gender and feel the church is at risk because of the cultural shifts surrounding issues of sexual and gender diversity;
- Traditionally-leaning heterosexual/cisgender Christians who are wrestling with how to love LGBTQIA people well;
- Christian parents of LGBTQIA people;
- any Christian who wants to understand how to live in unity and love with those who hold different theological understandings from their own (in other words, people who disagree with them), particularly in light of the topic of sexual and gender diversity.
There is no fee to apply. Upon selection, participants will be asked to pay a minimum subsidized fee of $400 : this includes all 6 meals and private room lodging during the dialogue. (The actual cost of the dialogue is approximately $950 per person. If you, your church, or organization is able to pay the actual cost of participation, we encourage you to do so, so that we can continue offering the program to as many people as possible. Thank you!) Participants are responsible for their own transportation to the event. (A limited number of partial scholarships are available; please indicate your need for a scholarship when you submit your application.)
We ask that you be 21 years of age before applying. If you are selected, we ask that you bring your authentic self to the event and come fully committed to the spirit and goals of the dialogue. You will be required to participate in some pre-dialogue reflection work that will help prepare you and others for our time together.
If you are interested in participating in this dialogue, you are a lover of Jesus, and you can embrace the goals stated above, please fill out the application form (download here in either Word document or PDF). (The information in your application will be kept completely confidential.) Once you have completed the application, save it before sending it to Kristyn Komarnicki (via email by clicking on name at left), or by postal service (Att’n: K. Komarnicki, Oriented to Love, ESA/Sider Center, 1300 Eagle Road, St. Davids, PA 19087). Application deadline for the September 2019 dialogue is June 26, 2019.
Twelve participants will be selected from among the applications we receive, and all applicants will be notified of their status no later than July 15, 2019, so that selected applicants can make their travel plans.
July 25-27, 2019: Chicago, IL (group now closed)
September 26-28, 2019: Orlando, FL (deadline July 8, 2019)
February 28-March 1, 2020: Atlanta, GA, People of Color-only dialogue* (application deadline November 15, 2019—$100 early-bird discount for any applications received by October 1, if accepted). Facilitated by OTL dialogue alum Shae Washington, this dialogue is open to POCs across all genders, sexual orientations, and theological convictions, and will be crafted as a sacred space to honor and celebrate identity, engage in meaningful conversation, and deepen understanding.
May 28-30, 2020: San Francisco, CA (deadline February 28, 2020)
*As with any diverse group that seeks to deal honestly and vulnerably with difference, OTL dialogues provide opportunities to examine the cost of marginalization and the responsibility that privilege brings (in the context of LGBTQ+ and straight/cisgender persons). We wondered what would happen if we gave people of color a space away from the white gaze, a space where they could deal with their differences in theology, sexual orientation and gender identity without also having to deal with racial power imbalances. This is why we are piloting a POC-only dialogue. Our hope is to continue to host groups that are diverse in every way (including race), but we recognize that for some people of color, a space where racial privilege is not so prominent will provide them with the best atmosphere in which to deal with other differences.
We all have work to do when it comes to overcoming racial injustice. Some of that work will happen in spaces with people who have been grouped in similar ways as they deconstruct their feelings and experiences. A POC-only OTL experience benefits everyone as it amplifies the voices of a group that is often underrepresented in the conversation and it fosters opportunity for discovery as we focus in on the unique experiences of various people of color that often are overlooked or misunderstood in mixed-gatherings.