Marsh ministry seeks to give LGBT students a church community

The Marsh Chapel Christian community at Boston University has found a new, unlikely ally that cannot be easily defined by one word — or gender identity.

A new lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning ministry, headed by School of Theology student Liz Douglass and backed by Marsh Chapel, held its inaugural meeting last night in the chapel’s basement.

A small group of students attended, introducing themselves and discussing what they hoped the group would provide for them and in what direction they wanted to take the new ministry.

Marsh Chapel Dean Robert Hill said the LGBTQ ministry is one of five new ministries, or groups that meet to share religious insight, in what he called a “season of resurgence at Marsh Chapel.”

The ministries are all led by seminarians from STH who are responsible for “gathering and providing a community for learning and growth of faith in Christ,” Hill said.

Hill said there is currently a wide range of Christian opinions on homosexuality, and while many see Christianity as condemning homosexuality, “the norm is love.” Marsh Chapel has “felt a need in the student body for Christian life for gay people,” he said.

“We preach a combination of personal integrity and social justice, in singleness, integrity, and in partnership, fidelity,” he said.

Douglass said she began working at Marsh Chapel last semester, but the ministry did not take shape until recently.

“We want to offer a welcoming, safe, comfortable space in which to explore spirituality, and to offer support in any way we can,” she said.

Douglass joined forces with Tyler Sit, a College of Communication freshman, who was working with her, and together they helped begin the LGBTQ ministry.

“All of this began in service of the LGBTQ community at BU,” Sit said. “We’re trying to be really adaptive to what their needs are.”

Emeri Burks, president of Spectrum — BU’s LGBT community student organization — said she believes the new ministry could play an important role in the community.

“Just like there’s this stigma against queer youth, there’s this stigma against organized religion at large,” Burks, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said.

Spectrum encourages its members to take advantage of the resources Marsh Chapel offers, Burks said. While many Spectrum members were excited about the prospect of the new ministry, some felt because they were not religious it would not be for them. Others were turned off by the religious aspect entirely because they experienced discrimination from religious organizations in the past, Burks said.

“You don’t have to look far to see real religious intolerance,” said Burks, who noted that some Spectrum members have even been thrown out of churches in the past.

Spectrum, which has no official connection with the LGBTQ ministry, had a relationship with an openly gay minister at Marsh Chapel in the past, Burks said.

“I hope [the new ministry] will take advantage of what they have, which is a great wealth of support yet to be drawn on,” Burks said.

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