QueerFaith challenges faith stereotypes: Series stands as resource for LGBTQIA+

Photo Courtesy of omahype.com
Photo Courtesy of omahype.com

Cassie Wade

On Thursday at 7 p.m., Urban Abbey will host its second in a series of QueerFaith on Campus events, which aim to change the cultural conversation surrounding Christianity and queerness.

The goal of the QueerFaith on Campus series is to help LGBTQIA+ students and their allies think about and integrate their faith identity, sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the QueerFaith press release.

UNO and Creighton Campus Minister and Pastorista Chris Jorgensen said the idea for the QueerFaith on Campus series stems from a listening session she had with Creighton’s Gender and Sexuality Association.

A listening session is part of Urban Abbey’s campus ministry program. It is used to find out about the joys, struggles and challenges of a community and how to meet their needs.

“Their president said to me, ‘a lot of students here in our GSA want to talk about spirituality,’  but she didn’t feel comfortable meeting those conversations,” Jorgensen said. “I said well, I’m a pastor and believe in the full inclusion of LGBTQ people and am happy to be involved in that.”

Jorgensen said a student leadership team was recruited to decide on topics for the QueerFaith series.

“We just talked about what would a series of events look like that would really change the conversation about LGBTQ+ people and faith,” Jorgensen asked. “How can we talk about Christianity and LGBTQ identity in a way that’s really confirming for people?”

The student leadership team wanted to find “affirming scripture reflecting the real experiences LGBTQ people have” as well as sociological and theological ideas, including queer theology.

The topics they’ve come up with have been organized into a four-event series running through fall.

The first QueerFaith event was held on Sept. 8. The topic was Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Faith Identity Basics.

“It didn’t even occur to me that we would have to talk about that because I thought, ‘oh well, young people, people who are in college know about gender identity… the difference between gender and sexuality, and they were like well, I don’t know if my friends know all that stuff,” Jorgensen said.

This Thursday’s topic will be Queer Folks and Faith: It’s Been Complicated. Jorgensen said it will be the “experience part of QueerFaith on Campus.”

“We’re having a panel of speakers who are going to talk about their experience as LQBTQ+ people and how faith has shaped them … maybe been a challenge for them,” Jorgensen said.

The panel will attempt to answer several questions regarding faith at the event, including: “in the face of tradition that has been not affirming, what is it that makes it worthwhile to engage in a faith community?”

One of the panelists will be Curtis Taylor, who is the director of Creighton’s intercultural center.

Taylor said he will be speaking about his personal relationship with faith, past experiences as a student and what it means to be active in the Catholic community as a gay male.

“I will be talking about how there are some contradictions that people assume don’t allow faith and sexuality to blend that I will give my take on and how I accept challenges and I accept rewards and benefits on my duality of the subject,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the opportunity to explore their faith and sexuality “outside of campus walls” through events like QueerFaith is very beneficial to students.

UNO communications graduate program student Caleb Foote also believes it’s important for students to have access to events such as QueerFaith.

“College is a time for a lot of change for students, especially freshmen,’ Foote said. “It’s important for them to have an outlet and an ear that will listen and care what they have to say.”

Foote has not attended an event at Urban Abbey but encourages other students to attend or reach out to Jorgensen.

“Pastor Chris, I know indubitably, will be able to walk someone through the bible and show passages of scripture to help ease feelings,” Foote said.

The final two events in the fall QueerFaith series will be Moving Beyond the Clobber Verses and Discovering Queer-affirming Scripture on Oct. 20 and Queer Theology: Embracing the Gift of Queerness on Nov. 10.