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.
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.
Heidi Weaver-Smith (she/her/hers) is the founder/president of LOVEboldly and has been hosting dialogues with traditionally-minded Christians and the LGBTQ+ community since 2008.
Compelled by Christ's interactions with marginalized folks in the Gospels and disturbed by the stories of LGBTQ+ friends who had been treated poorly by Christians, she founded LOVEboldly in 2011. Through her leadership of LOVEboldly, Heidi empowers LGBTQ+ 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 completed seminary coursework at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been participating in dialogues with traditionally-minded Christians and the LGBTQ+ community since 2008. She lives with her husband, Steven, and her young daughter, Felicity, in Columbus, OH.
Heather Schmiedicke (she/her/hers) is joining our team as a part-time telecommuting Programs Coordinator mid-April. Heather felt called to bridge the gap between the conservative church and the LGBT community in 2012 when a beloved gay friend asked if her church was LGBT friendly and she instantly regretted her flippant response to his question. Since then, she has been doing incarnational ministry work with LGBT people in her own life, while helping lead her church to better postures towards LGBT folks. Heather serves on the Steering Team at Vineyard Life Church Brownsburg and sits on the board of directors for Walls Down, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping the conservative Christian church love LGBT people generously. This gardener, wakeboarder, school-library-book-doctor, tree-hugging chicken lady lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with her husband Jamie and their 2 baseball-playing sons, Kade and Carson. Heather can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennie Benitez (she/her/hers) began her new role as Communications Coordinator at the beginning of March 2020. She has been working for LOVEboldly since April of 2019. Watching her gay step-brother’s experience of rejection from extended family and church was heartbreaking for Jennie, and she maintains a deep desire to end the stigma of LGBTQ members and their relationships with church. Wanting everyone to feel loved and to know their value in the world and with God, Jennie offers her organizational skills to support LOVEboldly’s work.
She has a BA in Sociology from the University of Washington. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening and hunting for big worms for her budding compost pile, as well as cooking, baking, and eating her creations. Jennie lives with her husband, Ben, and two young boys, Leo and Charlie, in Columbus, Ohio. Jennie can be reached at email@example.com.
Board Chairperson and Community Chaplain
Kevin Schad (he/him/his) serves as board member and Volunteer & Relationship Manager for LOVEboldly in Cincinnati, OH.
By day, Kevin is a Federal Public Defender. By night, Kevin attempts to make his wife of 26 years (Jill) happy despite all his faults! Kevin volunteers at LOVEboldly because he is interested in loving people like Jesus would. In his free time, Kevin likes to bike. He also has a deep love for donuts and beer.
Kevin’s greatest accomplishment is his daughter Claire, a music therapist in Washington D.C. He has a JD from University of Cincinnati, and completed one year of seminary education at Cincinnati Christian University. He lives with his wife, Jill, in Cincinnati, OH.
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.
Marketing and Creative Coordinator
Stephen Crouch (he/him/his) serves as Marketing and Creative Coordinator for LOVEboldly. After coming out as bisexual in 2016, Stephen stopped calling himself a Christian because he could not reconcile the harm that LGBTQ+ people have suffered because of the actions of the church. After much soul-searching and becoming connected with LOVEboldly, Stephen has re-engaged with Christianity as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
In his spare time Stephen enjoys being a theology geek, practicing yoga, volunteering in his community, and traveling.
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.
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.
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.