First, an introduction: I am a trans, gay Christian. I work for a project called Church Clarity, which scores church websites on how clearly they communicate their policies regarding LGBTQ+ participation at all levels in the church and women in leadership.
When I saw the Feb. 21 Collegian article “Theology ‘N’ Chill holds Bible studies and open discussions,” I found it strange that a quote about how this Bible study group provided a space to work against homophobia, sexism and transphobia in religion was paired with the fact that it is run by a Southern Baptist pastor.
As a trans, gay Christian, I would not find Theology ‘N’ Chill to be a safe place for me to have open discussions. As part of the Southern Baptist Church, this pastor associates himself with a denomination that subscribes to the Southern Baptist Faith and Message, which includes the following: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” and “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime,” and “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”
In the Collegian article, students are quoted so as to make it seem that Theology ‘N’ Chill is unlike other “Christian” spaces. Students in the article described how Christianity can be seen “as something oppressive, racist, sexist, homophobic, [or] transphobic.” This is characterized as a “misconception of the Christian faith,” implying that Theology ‘N’ Chill provides a space that runs counter to this very sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia.
There are certainly Christian spaces and churches that are working against sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia. But a space led by a Southern Baptist pastor cannot be one of them. Southern Baptist beliefs directly contradict the notion that this space is a safe space for all. A space where women are not allowed to hold all levels of leadership cannot be one of them. A space where two men cannot get married cannot be one of them. A space where a trans person cannot preach from the pulpit cannot be one of them.
With my work with Church Clarity, we strive to not push churches to become affirming and egalitarian, but rather to inform people on what each church believes. I grew up in a church that was non-affirming and non-egalitarian, and I am still working through the pain that it caused me. I ask those who attend Theology ‘N’ Chill to be aware of who is in the room and what beliefs they hold.
On behalf of my LGBTQ+ siblings and all of my sisters in Christ, I ask for clarity from Theology ‘N’ Chill. Is this truly a space that is open and affirming to all? If Theology ‘N’ Chill were a church, would they ordain women and LGBTQ+ people? Would the church baptize each person as they are, without attempting to change their sexuality or gender identity? Would the church allow them to preach? Would the church hold same-gender marriages? Clarity is reasonable, and all deserve to know if they will not only be welcomed in a space, but also celebrated and affirmed.
Jess Kotnour ’19 is a biology major from Sanford, Fla. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.