Oriented to Love helps the church dialogue about sexual and gender diversity in the church.
ESA is now accepting applications for participants in the next Oriented to Love People of Color-only dialogue around the issue of sexual and gender diversity in the church. It will take place Thursday-Saturday, April 22-24, 2021, at the lovely Centacle Retreat Center in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL.
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 recognize that for people of color, especially in groups where white people are present, the day-to-day impacts of racism can be ever present. We want to provide a sacred space where people of color can bring their full selves to the experience apart from the white gaze. Our hope is that this space will be an opportunity to focus on differences in theology, sexual orientation and gender identity without also having to deal as much with racial power imbalances.
A POC-only OTL experience benefits everyone. It amplifies voices that are often underrepresented in the conversation, and it fosters opportunity for discovery as we focus in on the unique experiences of various people of color who often are overlooked or misunderstood in mixed gatherings. [We will continue to host groups that are diverse in every way (including race). If you are interested in applying for one of our other dialogues, please do so here.]
Who should apply?
Facilitated by Shae Washington, with Brad Wong as spiritual director, 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.
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—in terms of theology, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity—as it is small. Since this conversation will focus on how believers approach and understand 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.
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. (If you prefer, the application is also available in Word document or PDF format; complete and save it before sending to Shae Washington, via email by clicking on name at left, or print and mail to Oriented to Love, ESA/Sider Center, 1300 Eagle Road, St. Davids, PA 19087.) Regardless of how you submit it, the information in your application will be kept completely confidential. Application deadline is January 1, 2021.
Twelve participants will be selected from among the applications we receive, and all applicants will be notified of their status no later than February 15, 2021, so that selected applicants can make their travel plans.
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 also 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.
Past participants have shared the following:
It is so much more vulnerable—but therefore so much more transformative—to work through these topics incarnationally.
I loved that just because we were all POC that didn't mean we all felt or thought the same in the dialogue. I learned a lot from that.
I had moments when I felt like God knitted my heart with another's. I'm grateful for those moments and experiences. Thank you for creating such a beautiful and messy space to meet God and one another.
I think having this community, outside of my own, to process sexuality and spiritually will be very helpful, because I feel like I get a lot of one-sided perspectives where I am.
POC need to have their own space to discuss these topics. The conversation was so incredibly rich and robust and much of it was specifically informed by the POC experience.
I was surprised by how vulnerable we became and how close we grew relationally, and delighted that we were able to have civil and yet productive discussion with such varying views.
[The dialogue has prompted me to] commit to "walk alongside" queer Christians, no matter where their walk leads them.
I am braver, bolder, more compassionate and less afraid.
I gained deeper empathy that will continue to refine my understanding of LGBTQ people and how to communicate with them.
I feel like I now have a group of friends to walk the journey with, and that is priceless. I also have stories that I can never forget that will inform the way I move forward.