Critical Conversations: Creating space with and for LGBTQIA+ identities
Evolving understanding of gender beyond a binary presents a sea change to the way we understand our identity, community, and theology. The ways youth understand and live into their gender offers rich ground for new ways of being for the Church. Similarly, some of the Bible?s most celebrated characters defied their culture?s gender norms. Yet, for many of us, the conversation about LGBTQIA+ identities feels more like a tidal wave than a sea change. This workshop will equip participants to be sensitive to emerging language around gender identity and nuances of sexual orientation, and opportunities to practice putting new terminology to us. We will discuss how to start the conversation about LGBTQIA+ identities in your setting, hone skills, and create resources for participants to take back to their congregations. Jess Cook is the Program & Communications Manager for More Light Presbyterians and, as of July 29, will have been the first openly non-binary person ordained in the PC(USA). A native of East Texas and lifelong Presbyterian, Jess holds a Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary, a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Baylor. Prior to joining MLP, Jess was the Youth Programs Director at Side by Side, an organization in Richmond, VA serving LGBTQIA+ youth. While at Side by Side, Jess worked with hundreds of young people through support groups, a leadership program, and various programs in the community. They created a parent support group and a meals program, and trained a wide variety of faith community leaders and service providers on best practices for working with LGBTQIA+ youth. Jess?s call is to help facilitate spaces where reconciliation is possible, with the acknowledgement that reconciliation is only possible if we are able to be honest with ourselves and one another about the ways in which we are broken. True reconciliation requires relationships, and relationships require trust and vulnerability. Jess sees their role as helping make spaces where that vulnerability is celebrated and trust can be built. To learn more, check out Jess?s TEDxTalk on what faith communities can learn from LGBTQIA+ youth. Jess loves poetry, liturgy, sharing meals, and pretty much any conversation about the ways we see the Spirit come to life in the world. They live in Richmond, VA with their lively child and dog.