Sept. 28-30 brought color to the Holland Community as Hope Church hosted the 2017 National Room for All Conference. The conference is devoted to recognizing ways to create a more open and affirming environment in the Christian community for individuals that identify within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA) community. The transition from the acronym LGBT to LGBTQIA has been established to intentionally include subgroups that are not always accounted for in discussions of LGBT rights and issues.
The overarching theme of this year’s conference was “A Kaleidoscope of Intersections.” The goals of the events were to “explore ways that our multiple, embodied identities intersect with our sexual identity and gender expression, recognize the privilege that some of these identities confer and affirm and build upon those identities as people of faith who seek equality for LGBTQIA people in the life and ministry in the Reform Church of America.”
However, the individuals that found their way to Hope Church this past weekend represented many different locations and denominations within the Christian faith. Speakers, ministers, involved community members, students and individuals of various other professions gathered together to worship, celebrate and learn more about creating a church that is both open and affirming to all.
This year’s conference began with keynote speaker Dr. Keisha McKenzie. She is the director of Believe Out Loud, an online community that encourages Christians to seek justice for the LGBTQIA community. The source of their aim is best explained in the group’s mission statement: “We strive to love God with all our hearts, all our minds and all our souls and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus teaches us to welcome all. We believe our churches and society should do the same.”
Other distinguished ministers, youth organizers and storytellers filled Friday’s workshops with questions, talks and documentaries about intersectionality and community.
One of the most popular workshops was the screening of the documentary “Out of Order” and a facilitated discussion by the star Alex Patchin McNeil. McNeil is a transgender man who has sought ordination in the Presbyterian Church USA for 11 years.
The film outlined the struggles he has faced in pursuit of his calling as a minister within his home church. Despite the adversity, McNeil bravely spoke with patience, kindness and hope for the future. In this light, he explained that he truly believes his ordination day is not far away.
Several Hope College students attended the workshops and participated in discussions about ways to make campus a more supportive place for all. Cameron Van Kooten Laughhead, the community director of “Room for All”, explained that one of his goals would be to get the neighboring campuses, Hope and Western Theological Seminary, more involved with the event.
He noted that if any students are interested in furthering Room for All’s presence on their campuses they should reach out to him. His information along with upcoming events can be found on the Room for All website.
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