Jessica Sesomus grew up in a conservative black evangelical family, attended a Christian school, and was abominable to be gay until she realized she was a queer while studying to become a missionary. I often heard it.
A 23-year-old woman from Florida found a sense of healing and community after joining the Christian non-profit Beloved Arise, which went public last year to celebrate and empower LGBTQ youth. I did.
Maria Magdalena Gschwind, 20, from Germany, credited a US-based group by encouraging college to study Protestant theology when she was wondering if sexuality conflicted with faith. I admit. Brazilian Samuel Cavalero, 21, who lives in Mozambique, calls them “chosen families” because of the strong connections with the members of the group.
They are one of hundreds of young people around the world who have virtually joined Beloved Arise to worship, sing, and bond during a coronavirus pandemic. The group celebrated its second annual Queer Youth of Faith Day on Wednesday with podcasts, concerts, teenage online panels, and LGBTQ history and church seminars.
“We wanted to do something there to uplift and honor young people of all faiths,” said Rev. Ashley Deterbert, the program coordinator of the beloved Arise, in one of the panels. I did.
“Something that tells them that there is no contradiction between being a queer and transgender person and being a person of faith … those things can go together.”
Throughout the United States, the situation for LGBTQ youth seeking religious involvement is very different.
Several major denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, have blamed same-sex unions and have stated that all sexual activity except the marriage of men and women is sinful. However, thousands of places of worship, including many major Protestant churches and synagogues, have policies that include LGBTQ.
“I’m proving that, so I can tell you how important it is to accept. I grew up in a church that LGBT people accepted, accepted, and loved,” said the Presbyterian Pastor. DeTarBirt, who has been ordained as a Sunday School teacher and adolescent minister, said. “I went to college … there was a lot of anxiety and anxiety around me, but the church wasn’t part of it.”
Beloved Arise was founded in Seattle in February 2020 by Jun Love Young, a former director of the Christian development agency World Concern. He grew up in a Catholic family in the Philippines and remained silent about his strange identity until his mid-40s.
“And that was due to religious pressure, which is why I created Beloved Arise, so that other kids don’t have to wait until their forties,” he said.
“I was in my forties and was very surprised to find that what I thought I knew about the Bible was given terribly incorrect information. For all traditions of faith, search for sacred texts. , Created an open space for strange identities, “he added, adding that he felt he could leave safely, partly because he affirmed theology.
Young said his nonprofit aims to empower and provide resources to young LGBTQ people who “often face rejection and shame in their homes, schools and religious communities.” It was. He said the group has grown to more than 400 members and has expanded its social media presence to tens of thousands of followers on Instagram and TikTok during the pandemic.
“TikTok is a platform that has made it possible to reach Gen Z, a digital native,” he said of generations born after 1996.
“Unlike other youth ministry that exists, we started digital. We were born in the cloud,” Young added. “And we were born in the middle of a pandemic. The only way people could connect was by digital means, so the foresight and sensitivity to pay attention to where the kids are hanging out really is. I got it. ”
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Americans are no longer religious in a formal and traditional sense, a tendency that is more pronounced among young adults. Young people are less likely to pray daily, participate in religious service, or believe in God.
Still, research shows that young Americans are as spiritual as older Americans, and many find expressions of other beliefs outside of formal religion.
Beloved Arise hosts a popular weekly youth gathering online where members pray, sing and discuss the scriptures.
“This group is basically my family of choice,” said Cavalheiro, who chats with other members on WhatsApp throughout the week after virtual worship. The son of a Brazilian Baptist in Mozambique, he still struggles to talk to his family about sexuality. However, he feels understood by the other members of Beloved Arise.
Cavaleiro, a freshman in college studying computer science at Maputo, said: “We have experienced the same pain … (it) connects us.”
Gushwind grew up Catholic and her faith was always important to her. But when she attended the Pentecostal Church in New Zealand during the gap year, she said she felt unwelcome.
“I was pretty open about it from the beginning, but I realized that Quianes was what many Christians consider sin,” she said. “So I started asking myself a lot.”
Participating in Beloved Arise influenced her choice of college major.
“If I couldn’t find this youth group, I probably wouldn’t have studied theology … because I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with Christianity or theology,” she said. “I had a discussion of theology and met many people who had different views on things … and I realized that theology was very exciting to me.”
Sesom wanted to be a missionary. But when she attended Liberty University, a Christian institution in Virginia, and felt attracted to a woman who forbids “sexual relationships other than marriage to a naturally born man in the Bible,” she herself. I began to question the way. A naturally born woman. ”
“Gay people were taught to be abominable and not God’s will, so it was difficult to harmonize all of them with my sexuality,” he now studies marketing at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Sessoms, a senior who is doing, said.
“And it’s been really healed. It’s really great to be around people who are as hard as I am, take faith seriously, and celebrate themselves as LGBTQ people.”
Associated Press journalists David Crary, Emily Leshner, and Jessie Wardarski contributed to this report.
The Associated Press’s religious coverage is supported by Lilly Endowment through The Conversation US. AP is solely responsible for this content.
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