Its us or no one Nonprofit defends LGBTQ students from their univers

first_img Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Email,(RNS) — Over her four years at Fuller Theological Seminary’s campus in Houston, Joanna Maxon had come out to most of her teachers and classmates, and many knew that she was married to a woman.But after Maxon turned over a copy of her tax return, filed jointly with her wife, as part of her annual financial aid application earlier this year, a complaint about her marriage was brought to the dean. In October 2018, less than a year before she expected to graduate, she was suddenly dismissed.Months went by before Maxon could stand to make the situation public.“It took me a while to get to the point where I could talk about it,” Maxon said. “It feels like trauma.”But once she was ready to share her story in June, Maxon’s wife and friend got into contact with Brave Commons.Brave Commons is an advocacy organization that helps queer students like Joanna who experience discrimination, often at conservative evangelical schools. Students at these campuses are often processing their sexuality after growing up in conservative homes. Besides dealing with adversarial school bureaucracies, they are frequently dealing with their own questions about their sexuality and how to be a LGBTQ person of faith.Brave Commons offers sanctuary to those students, giving them space to ask questions about sexuality and faith and advocating for them when their colleges discriminate against them.“Institutions have more resources and money, but we have people that care,” said Lauren Ileana Sotolongo, co-executive director of Brave Commons. “We can’t put that in a bank, but that is so much more valuable.”Brave Commons executive directors Michael Vazquez, from left, Lauren Ileana Sotolongo and Erin Green. Courtesy photosSotolongo, Michael Vazquez and Erin Green, who all share the title of executive director, have had their own personal experiences with exclusion at Christian universities.While attending seminary in Michigan in 2017, Vazquez was asked by other queer students at two nearby evangelical colleges to help organize protests against homophobic speakers who had been invited to give lectures on those campuses, as well as homophobic statements made by chaplains at one of the schools. After the events, Vazquez was expelled from his seminary for his involvement.“Brave Commons was not birthed without cost,” Vazquez said of his dismissal.As increasing numbers of queer students at surrounding colleges began to reach out to him, he helped lead inclusive Bible studies and more actions.As it became clear that a number of students needed both advocacy and spiritual care, Vazquez needed more help to make the work sustainable. A friend connected him with Green and Sotolongo, who joined him as co-directors in the summer of 2018. Both were involved with underground groups for LGBTQ students at Christian colleges, and with Green on the West Coast and Sotolongo on the East, they complemented Vazquez, who was living in the Midwest at the time.Taking from mujerista theology, which focuses on the experiences and liberation of Latinx women — Vazquez emphasizes that all of their work, from their decisions as co-directors to their protection of students, is done conjunto — together.The three directors have turned Brave Commons into a national organization that advocates for LGBTQ students, especially students of color, in hopes of changing homophobic policies. They also offer support in the absence of helpful ministry from Christian institutions themselves.The unicorn is the Brave Commons mascot. Courtesy imageBrave Commons makes it clear that they provide help, not the goal. When students ask them to step in to intervene with an institution, they come to the school but will only help the students pursue their own desired outcomes.The organization will have a conversation with students to find out what they need and then pursue it with them, whether it’s a social media call to action or a protest on campus.Students may want to call attention to discrimination while maintaining their own anonymity. In these cases, Brave Commons steps in to protect the students by “diverting the attention from the students onto (themselves),” Green said. Students will often want to remain anonymous because they are financially vulnerable and could lose scholarships or support from their parents if outed.In addition to helping students organize, Brave Commons is concerned about the students’ spiritual and emotional health, which often suffers when Christian colleges push them into the shadows.“At most of the colleges and universities that we’ve worked at, students are not allowed to openly gather as a group of queer students,” Vazquez said.To reach students who are isolated, both socially and geographically, Brave Commons often uses social media. “There really is a growing network,” said Vazquez.“It’s a tradition, you could say, in the queer and trans community,” Sotolongo said of the community bond built on social media. “There’s this network of people that you know you can trust. You have your own kind of congregation that is saying that they have your back.”“So many of us have experienced the betrayal of our Christian communities,” said Matthias Roberts, host of the podcast Queerology, who says he often connects students who reach out to him to Brave Commons. “We know in our bones that no one else has our back. It’s us or no one,” he says, which speaks of a deep sense of trust in the LGBTQ Christian community.Photo by Sharon McCutcheon/Creative CommonsMany students reach out to Brave Commons simply for advice about how to be a LGBTQ person of faith. Students often can’t ask such questions publicly, and very few Christian campuses have resources for LGBTQ students.Brave Commons has developed a number of ways for students to “gather and process their gender identity through the lens of their spirituality,” Vazquez said. One is the online “Oratio” series, sermons by the co-directors that affirm all gender identities.The irony for students such as Maxon, who is now working full-time and has no current plans to finish her master’s degree, is that their search for community is often what made them turn to Christian colleges in the first place. “One of the classes that I was withdrawn from was a class called Practices of Community … It’s really challenging for me for a school to teach that and then not practice community,” Maxon said.“Fuller has a nondiscrimination policy on their website. … They talk about diversity and inclusion, but they are not including LGBTQ persons in that diversity. I think they need to be clearer,” Maxon said.Brave Commons is currently standing with Maxon in bringing attention to what Fuller has done and pressuring Fuller to be clear that they are not an inclusive space.“Will Fuller continue to pander to an idea of social justice or will it actually live for its claimed commitments to a kingdom of God that welcomes all people?” Vazquez asked.Fuller Seminary declined to comment. Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Email Buttigieg walks fine line in courting religious left August 29, 2019 Share This! Tagsbrave commons Fuller Seminary homepage featured LGBTQ,You may also like Share This! Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Email,About the authorView All Posts Share This! Chris Karnadi,Add Comment Click here to post a comment Share This! By: Chris Karnadi News By: Chris Karnadicenter_img By: Chris Karnadi DIY Faith • News Muslim activists continue to push against Quebec secularism law Dinner church movement sets the table for food, faith and friendships August 29, 2019 Share This! News Pete Buttigieg: Religious left is ‘stirring’ August 29, 2019 Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.,Photos of the Week Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Email Chris Karnadi Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Emaillast_img read more

Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires

first_img Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires GLENDALE, Ariz. — Justin Bethel was about to answer some questions when Brandon Williams, who had walked into the locker room with him, sarcastically, chimed in with some of his own.“How do you think you’re doing in the battle between you and Brandon Williams,” he asked. “Do you think you’re leading him or he’s leading you?”Williams added he was ready to go on and conduct the interview, at which point featured a laughing Bethel. “The best thing with him, when he gives up a play right now he just comes back and goes to the next one — it used to bother him, now it doesn’t,” Arians said. “He’s learning to get amnesia.”That Bethel is playing well now may not come as a total shock, especially given how he finished the 2016 season. In Weeks 16 and 17 against the Seahawks and Rams, respectively, he collected four passes defensed as well as one interception, which he returned 66 yards for a touchdown.Yet, there was and is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding Bethel, which is why his contract was changed over the offseason to pay him less money but shorten it by one year, meaning he will be a free agent at the end of this upcoming season.Hence, the competition with Williams.“I don’t look at it as a competition,” Williams said. “I look at it as he does his job, I do my job, and we both go out there and dominate.”“I think we’ve both been working really hard in the offseason and I think it’s just one of those things where we both know our skillset and we’re going to just go out there and play the best that we can,” Bethel added. While their competition is serious — and, arguably, the most important with regards to the team’s chances in 2017 — the exchange underscored not only the players’ friendship, but also their confidence.Both Bethel, now entering his sixth season, and Williams, who is beginning his second, believe they have what it takes to play opposite six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro Patrick Peterson.Williams emerged as the starter out of training camp as a rookie, only to falter some before being supplanted by veteran Marcus Cooper. With Cooper now in Chicago, the job is again available, though at the end of the team’s mini-camp head coach Bruce Arians proclaimed it was Bethel who had the early lead.It helps that Bethel, who has battled foot and ankle problems for the better part of the last two seasons, is finally healthy.“It feels great,” he said. “You don’t realize how much you miss it until you can’t do it, and so being able to train this offseason and be able to prepare for this training camp and be able to look forward to going into the season healthy (and) being able to play, it’s a great feeling.”On Monday, he intercepted a pass while batting away a couple others, and Tuesday Arians said Bethel has had good days every day in camp. “At the end of the day let the coaches do what they want to do, and just know that either way both of us need to be prepared to start at any time.”The best-case scenario for the Cardinals would of course be having both players step up and prove worthy of a starting role. Since Arians took over in 2013, the team has seen Jerraud Powers, Antonio Cromartie, Bethel, Cooper and Williams all get time opposite Peterson, and before that, William Gay, Greg Toler, Richard Marshall and A.J. Jefferson were part of the revolving door.“Both of them look good,” Peterson said of Bethel and Williams. “Justin is playing at a high level right now; the biggest thing for Brandon is just growing that confidence.”Peterson said Williams has been a sponge around him, and spent much of the offseason working out alongside him. Williams, who said the biggest change for him from a year ago is on the mental side of the game, said Peterson is the top cornerback in the league.“His technique is what makes him the best, so when you have a technician like that on your team, being a young guy, you can learn a lot from him,” he said.It is rare for teams to have multiple shut-down corners; but then again, the Cardinals have had their share of swings and misses looking for a second. Peterson praised the work both of this year’s top candidates have put in. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling 2 Comments Share Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact “It’s a general thing,” he said of being healthy now. “I’m not worried about it; certain things, I feel faster, I feel like my same speed again. I don’t worry about it.“When I’m out there playing, I’m not thinking, ‘OK if I do this I know it’s going to hurt’ and I think I just, I don’t know, I’m just happy to be healthy.”Follow Adam Green on Twitter – / 14 “We’re going to need somebody to step up, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that these guys are ready,” he said. “But so far, Brandon and Justin are looking very, very good.“It’s a heated battle, and it’s definitely going to come down to the wire.”It also may be adding a contender.A report came out Monday that the Cardinals were set to work out veteran corner Brandon Flowers, who was a Pro Bowler in 2013 but has battled injury, most recently concussions. Arians said the team will indeed take a look at him Wednesday because he is a good player who happens to be available.“You’re going to see some guys coming in here real fast to build this roster, just in case,” Arians said. “Either young guys haven’t performed well enough and there are so many good veterans on the street, that you want to have guys ready to go.”The Cardinals may ultimately sign the 31-year-old, who has 21 career interceptions over nine seasons with the Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs.Until then — and, perhaps, even if they do — the job is still up for grabs. Bethel said he certainly feels like it is his, though he noted that is how he is supposed to feel. He added he had a similar thought last season before injuries took their toll. Top Stories The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Arizona Cardinals defensive back Justin Bethel (28) breaks up a pass intended for receiver John Brown, left, during an NFL football training camp Monday, July 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)last_img read more