Arguably one of the most divisive topics of our time, faith and sexuality conversations continue to divide churches and families, hurt our witness with others, inhibit our own spiritual growth, and damage LGBTQ+ people.
The church has a reputation for being anti-gay, oftentimes because of harm we have unintentionally caused to LGBTQ+ people. As a result, LGBTQ+ and straight Christians alike are leaving the church or giving up on their faith because they feel unsafe around other believers, unable to engage sincere questions, and unwelcome from community where they can authentically grow in their faith.
BUT THERE'S A BETTER WAY
Who We Are
LOVEboldly exists to empower willing Christians and LGBTQ+ individuals to step towards loving one another more boldly. Christians, LGBTQ+ and straight alike, are dissatisfied with the church's response to the LGBTQ+ community. We can, and must, repair the damage we are inflicting on one another in these conflicts.
God moved into our neighborhood and befriended us while we were still God’s enemies. In an attempt to model God’s self-sacrificial love, demonstrated in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we dedicate ourselves towards living the following values.
Offensive Sanctuary: We will not exclude anyone from the table or from the conversation, no matter how inglorious their presence may be.
Treasonous Friendship: We will not permit personal or communal loyalties to ideology, labels, or tribes to prevent us from befriending each other.
Conflicted Conviction: We will not trample over or ridicule each other’s beliefs, even though they make us wildly uncomfortable.
Subversive Listening: We will not ignore or invalidate each other’s stories, knowing that to listen is to invite change in the world’s systems and in ourselves.
Narrative Honesty: We will not shy away from honoring truth wherever it is found.
Insolent Kindness: We will not fail to be good to each other, always honoring the dignity and inherent worth of every human being.
Obstinate Loyalty: We will not give up on or dismiss each other, no matter how angry a conversation makes us.
Centered in our understanding of the person of Jesus, who consistently affirmed the worth and dignity of every human being, LOVEboldly is dedicated to confronting and resisting racism. As an organization with an entirely white staff and board, we confess that our blindness and lack of action has caused further harm to our Black neighbors, including our Black LGBTQ+ siblings. Please read our anti-racism statement here to learn more about how we are working to correct this.
We are deeply persuaded that agreement with one another’s political and theological perspectives on sexuality is not essential for moving towards loving one another boldly. Some beliefs, however, are essential to our faith. Check out our FAQ page for our belief statement.
WHERE WE WORK
As a small team with limited resources, our work is currently centered in the Central Ohio & Ohio Valley region. This focus is essential for our momentum and success. Reconciliation doesn’t come easily – it demands careful attentiveness to the communities in which we invest. Our aim is to create thriving communities in this focused area to export to other cities around the country.
However, our trainings & consulting are available anytime & anywhere. If you’re interested in scheduling time to talk or bringing a LOVEboldy seminar to your area, let us know!
MORE QUESTIONS? VISIT OUR FAQ PAGE
Board & Staff
Ben Huelskamp (he/him/his) was born and raised in Ohio, Ben (he/him/his) grew up attending Catholic schools in Cambridge and Zanesville. He earned a BA in Philosophy from Sewanee: The University of the South and MEd in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of Vermont. Ben is currently a candidate for the EdD in Educational Leadership (specializing in Religion and Ministry) at the University of the Cumberlands. He is writing his dissertation on the leadership of LGBTQ+ Christians in church spaces.
Brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, Ben has always been active in the church in various roles, particularly in music. He joined the Episcopal Church in college and has attended a variety of congregations coming to consider the gray area between the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ to be his theological home. He is an active digital member of Middle Collegiate Church and will be looking for an in-person church home in Westerville. Knowing from a young age that he was gay, Ben came out during college and became involved in social justice work. He is committed to addressing oppression in all its forms. He identifies as a Queer cis-gender man. Ben can be reached at email@example.com
Emily Mowery (she/her/hers) began her role as Administrative Assistant in May 2020. She has a background in Occupational Therapy but found her administrative niche through community advocacy and her role as PTA President at her children’s local elementary school. Emily has served as a catalyst for conversation around LGBTQ+ care and inclusion in her own faith community and learned about LOVEboldly by attending a Devoted conference. She is excited to contribute to this meaningful work.
Emily has a M.S. in Occupational Therapy from Ithaca College. She lives in Westerville, Ohio with her husband, Brian, and four school-aged children, Katy, David, Luke, and Anna. She enjoys being actively engaged with the surrounding community, as well as spending time outside with family and friends. Emily can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather Schmiedicke (she/her/hers) joined our team as a part-time telecommuting Programs Coordinator in April of 2020. Heather felt called to bridge the gap between the conservative church and the LGBTQ+ community in 2012 when a beloved gay friend asked if her church was LGBT friendly and she instantly regretted her flippant and insensitive response to his question. Since then, she has been doing incarnational ministry work with LGBTQ+ people in her own life, while helping lead her church to better postures towards LGBTQ+ folks. Heather serves on the Steering Team at Brownsburg Vineyard Church and also served on the board of directors for Walls Down, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping the conservative Christian church love LGBTQ+ people generously. Heather lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with her husband Jamie and their 2 baseball-playing sons, Kade and Carson. Heather can be reached at email@example.com
Diane Gress (she/her/hers) began her role as Communications Coordinator in September 2020. Diane's heart began to break for LGBTQ people after her sister came out to her in college & she began to see the many ways that LGBTQ folks have been mistreated by theologically conservative Christians. God has given her a desire to see the church love LGBTQ+ people, even in the midst of theological disagreements. She has been a part of helping her own church, H2O Church in Columbus, grow in being a place where LGBT people can meet Jesus and find family.
Outside of her work with LOVEboldly, Diane works full time as a campus missionary with H2O Church & desires to see students come to faith in Christ and grow as disciples. She's also a freelance graphic designer & enjoys cooking, hammocking & reading as many books as she can get her hands on. Diane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Dew (she/her/hers) cares deeply for those on the margins and has always valued building bridges of learning, understanding, and friendship between diverse groups of people. She credits her children with giving her the courage and motivation to develop her voice as an everyday advocate for inclusivity, equity, and justice in her community.
Her journey of acceptance with her own child, and the subsequent hurt she experienced in the church, has given her a heart for coming alongside Christian parents of LGBTQI children to provide a safe space of love and support. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Ohio University and a certificate in Leadership and Theology from the Vineyard Institute.
Rachel enjoys listening to music, hosting parties, volunteering in the local school district, soaking up sunshine, and hiking with her family in the captivating beauty of Hocking Hills. She lives in Westerville, Ohio with her husband, Rob, and their four lively children, Caleb, Elijah, Levi, and Jae.
Board Secretary and Community Coordinator
Paula Unrau (she/her/hers) is a lifelong resident of Northern Kentucky and attended Eastern Kentucky University where she earned her BA in Paralegal Science. Her career has been in insurance claims litigation for over 30 years.
Paula's oldest son came out as gay at age 16, thrusting her into a new reality for her and her family. She provided her unconditional love and support for her son. At age 19, her son came out publicly and was told by their church that he could no longer lead worship by singing in the choir or the vocal ensemble. Despite painful experiences like this in the church, her faith and relationship with God has continued to grow and flourish.
Paula participated in the 2016 Leadership Cohort of The Reformation Project, has been active in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Pride, Interfaith Pride events, and serves as Board Secretary and Administrative Coordinator for LOVEBoldly. Paula and her three children live in Alexandria, Kentucky. Her oldest son identifies as gay and her youngest son identifies as pansexual. She continues to study and seek opportunities to learn about the obstacles faced by the LGBTQ+ community and has accepted God's calling on her life to be a bridge between them and the church and a safe and loving place for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Heidi Weaver-Smith (she/her/hers) Heidi Weaver-Smith (she/her) is the founder of LOVEboldly and has been hosting dialogues with traditionally-minded Christians and the LGBTQIA+ community since 2008. Compelled by Christ's interactions with marginalized folks in the Gospels and disturbed by the stories of LGBTQIA+ friends who had been treated poorly by Christians, she founded LOVEboldly in 2011. Through her work with LOVEboldly, Heidi empowers LGBTQIA+ and straight Christians to step towards loving one another boldly and equips Christians to
engage with dignity and civility in the polarizing conversations surrounding faith and sexuality. Heidi has an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and lives with her husband, Steven, and her young daughters, Felicity and Violet, in Columbus, OH.
Founder and Board Member
Stephen Crouch (they/them) Stephen is a bisexual and genderqueer Christian from Southwest Ohio. Stephen wrestled with questions of faith and sexuality at an early age, having grown up in a rural community with fundamentalist perspectives on queer people.
Stephen holds a Master of Arts from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York with a Social Ethics concentration. They are currently in the process of becoming a recorded minister in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Currently, Stephen is attending the London School of Economics while residing in London, England.
Sheri Lytle (she, her, hers) resides in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus with her husband Matt and her Doberman Shiraz (lovingly known as Razzy). Originally from the Phildelphia suburbs, she has a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry and had completed graduate work at The Ohio State Univeristy in Inorganic Chemistry. She is now a Proposal Consultant for a large staffing firm.
Sheri’s passion for the LGBTQ+ community started in college when a friend came out to her but wanted to stay closeted. After that, the flood gates opened and she started to befriend more LGBTQ+ individuals until ultimately her best friend came out to her in 2004. She began to realize that her friends may be “welcome” at her church, but not free to marry or lead. Since then she has worked to bring together the church and the LGBTQ+ community, showing the church that these individuals are worthy of God’s love and acceptance, and showing the LGBTQ+ community that Jesus loves them.
In her spare time, she loves to cook and entertain and is a passionate wine lover. She is a HUGE Harry Potter fan (and a proud Slytherin). She is also an exercise enthusiast who enjoys weight training, yoga, and spin classes.
Christy Messick (she/her/hers) is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary where she completed her Masters of Divinity in 2012. Christy has ministered in various national and international contexts and has a heart for LGBTQ+ youth and young adult discipleship.
She has extensive experience working with those seeking to reconcile their faith and sexual orientations, and has worked as a Fellow in the Religion and Faith Department of the Human Rights Campaign, located in Washington, DC. She participated in the inaugural Reformation Project, which seeks to transform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Christy serves as the editor of Owning Our Stories, a place where LGBTI people, their parents and friends can own their stories by sharing it with others. She also blogs about faith and sexual orientation and serves as a founding board member of LOVEboldly (2011-Present). Christy lives in Georgetown, KY with her wife, Sarah.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
LOVEboldly practices what it preaches—it boldly reaches out in love—to LGBTQ+ children of God and to their families and faith communities—so that everyone might know how precious they are to God and how desperately each one is needed in order for the Body of Christ to be complete. Their trainings, advocacy and community-building gatherings are professional, compassion-based, and effective. We’re proud to partner with LOVEboldly!
Director of Oriented to Love, Evangelicals
for Social Action