How can our congregations be places of welcome for LGBTQIA+ folks? The starting point for that journey is learning how to discuss the nuances of gender identity and sexual orientation in order to provide a strong foundation of welcome.
This two-part teach-in is a revamp of our signature Teach-In of the same name, and gives participants a vocabulary for welcome. Offering fresh ways to discuss gender identity and sexual orientation that look for commonalities rather than categories, Connecting the Dots will give viewers a way to use their own lived experiences to better understand nuances in gender identity and sexual orientation. Each 50-minute part addresses practical answers to questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, with the goal of expanding our welcome of LGBTQIA+ people in our congregations.
Co-trainer: Jess Cook
Jess is the Program & Communications Manager for More Light and is in the final stages of the ordination process in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Prior to joining MLP, Jess was the Youth Programs Director at Side by Side, an organization in Richmond, VA serving LGBTQIA+ youth. While at Side by Side, Jess worked with hundreds of young people through support groups, a leadership program, and various programs in the community. They created a parent support group and a meals program, and trained a wide variety of faith community leaders and service providers on best practices for working with LGBTQIA+ youth.
A native of East Texas and lifelong Presbyterian, Jess holds a Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary, a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Baylor.
Check out Jess’s TEDx Talk on what faith communities can learn from spaces dedicated to LGBTQ-youth for more.
Co-Trainer: Alex Patchin McNeill
Alex Patchin McNeill has served as the Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians since 2013. During his tenure at More Light, he has equipped congregations to live into policy change for inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people and has successfully enacted policies for marriage equality in the Presbyterian Church, USA. Under his leadership, More Light now serves as a capacity-building organization, equipping congregations to work intersectionally on justice issues. As a trained professional coach through the International Coaching Federation, Alex brings a coaching approach to his work with church leaders and congregations seeking to follow God’s call to widen their welcome, increase church vitality, or develop and implement new programs. In addition, he coaches leaders taking a leap of faith to launch a new project, stepping into a leadership role, or discerning a new calling.
As an openly transgender man with a wealth of experience both professionally and personally, he is a sought-after trainer and facilitator of workshops on gender identity and sexual orientation. He has over a decade of experience training hundreds of community leaders, and has played key roles organizing faith communities for marriage equality in Maryland and legislation to promote LGBTQIA+ rights. Alex is a Candidate for Ordination in the Presbyterian Church, USA, and holds a Master’s of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. He currently lives in Durham, NC.
Part 1 covers basics of language and terminology and covers and gives context for how we understand sexuality and gender. Part 2 covers a more in-depth discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation and pronouns – including a practice on how to use non-binary pronouns.