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.
We have to do better.
RESTORE: Cincinnati was an evening of dialogue on faith, sexuality, and gender identity on Thursday, August 8th at 7 PM, in partnership with Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (101 South Lebanon Road, Loveland, OH 45140).
The purpose of this event was to model, encourage, and elevate thoughtful perspectives on faith, sexuality, and gender identity across diverse theological perspectives. Take part with your own questions and join us in our mission to foster empathy, curiosity, and compassion for one another in the midst of deep tension and disagreement, growing us into more faithful disciples of Jesus.
David Andrew is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Northeast Ohio who helps families and children navigate the mental and emotional impact of trauma and adversity. When not working in community mental health, David shares his personal story of transition and experiencing the world and church as a transgender man and his encounters of frustration, isolation and educational disconnect between LGBTQ+ experiences of life and faith and the church. David also worked 10+ years as a pastor, church planter, and pastoral educator. He shares a uniquely divided heart between the convictions of conservative perspectives on LGBTQ+ issues and faith and the reality of the Christian experiences of persons who identify as LGBTQ+. David has served as a director for a former Exodus Member ministry, as well as, advocated for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons of faith in all aspects of church and Christian life. David enjoys drinking coffee and tea with his wife Katie. They live near Akron, OH with their well-behaved Chihuahua, Timmy.
Melinda Garza Moran is an advocate and volunteer with the LGBTQ community. Her advocacy work began in 2013 as a center volunteer with Affirmations, Michigan’s largest LGBTQ community center. As a Christian mother of a gay son, she has seen the heartbreak of many teens and young adults who have been rejected by their biological and church families.
Melinda currently volunteers as a GLSEN youth mentor, a committee member developing resources for Safe and Supported, and she also serves on the Core Team for LOVEboldly. Melinda has a B.S. in Leadership from Central Michigan University and is currently studying for a Master of Divinity degree with Luther Seminary.
Melinda lives in Ohio with her dog Callie. Her daughter, Alyssa, also lives in Ohio with her husband AJ and their two sons, Abbott and Arelio. Her son, Elias, joins her in this dialogue to share their story.
Elias Escobedo is a Social Media Specialist and photographer pursuing a B.S. in Marketing and Communication at Baker College. Elias grew up in an extreme evangelical Christian home and community. Most of his childhood consisted of being at church or involved in some way in his religion. Elias' coming out experience was burdensome and painful. Elias tried coming out twice in his life, once when he was 13, and then again when he was 18. When he did come out, he was ostracized by his own mother and his Christian community. Elias feels uneasy in traditional Christian spaces, as he has experienced shame being himself and for his religious beliefs. He will join his mother, Melinda, to share the story of their journey. Elias lives in Detroit, Michigan with his partner, Andrew, and their animal babies: Sir, Maddie, and Atlas.
Carson Sotelo is member of New City Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, Spanish, and International Studies from Saint Louis University. Carson seeks to pursue what it looks like for a gay Christian to live out a life that honors God, and believes that includes upholding a traditional sex ethic. He currently teaches English as a Second Language and leads a community group through New City. He resides in Cincinnati, OH.
Heather Schmiedicke is the Program Coordinator for LOVEboldly. 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.
Heather lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with her husband Jamie and their 2 baseball-playing sons, Kade and Carson.
Heidi Weaver-Smith is the founder and executive director of
LOVEboldly. 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, Heidi founded LOVEboldly in 2011. Through her leadership, 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 1 year of seminary coursework at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been participating in dialogues with traditionally-minded Christians and the LGBTQ+ community since 2008. She serves in various capacities at Central City Church and lives with her husband, Steven, and their young daughter, Felicity, in Columbus, OH.