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Online workshop designed to help Presbyterians embrace gender and inclusion

April 13 event will address changing terminology and practices to make the church more welcoming

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

the Rev. Shenea D. Leonard

LEXINGTON, Kentucky ­— The 21st century has seen tremendous shifts in how gender and sexuality are understood around the world and in the church. These changes are making the church more welcoming to all, but they also present challenges as people come to understand language and practices that are new to them and their communities.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Gender, Racial and Intercultural Justice is here to help with an upcoming online workshop on gender and inclusion at 6 p.m. EDT on April 13. The program is derived from in-person workshops the Rev. Shanea D. Leonard presented in person prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gender and Inclusion content was sometimes incorporated into antiracism workshops Leonard presented with the Rev. Denise Anderson.

Since this story published, the April 13 session has sold out. Registration is open for two additional offerings of the same session July 13 and Oct. 19. Please click your preferred date to register. 

Since offering the workshop online will introduce it to a wider audience, Presbyterian News Service asked Leonard a few questions to give people an idea what to expect.

How did this workshop come to be? What were issues you felt needed to be addressed in the church?

This workshop is something that my office has been producing for over two years. It is a way to introduce Presbyterians to basic concepts and terms as we work to continually become a more inclusive church. There has been policy that has come out of the General Assembly around being a welcoming and affirming denomination, but many have struggled, either in their parishes or mid councils, to move this from policy to reality. In this workshop I will explore what real inclusion of LGBTQIA siblings can look like.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about gender?

One of the biggest misconceptions about gender is that it is a natural concept and that it is a binary construct. In this workshop we will look at how gender has traditionally been understood and work to expand our understanding to make all feel welcomed and a part of beloved community.

How do these misconceptions impact the work and witness of the church?

It limits our ability to see all our siblings in their full humanity and as the individuals created in the image of God that we all are.

Who do you hope will sign up for the workshop, and what do you hope they will take away from it?

I hope all those who may be curious about growing the inclusivity of their ministry context will attend. I hope those who know that welcoming is important and need help on how to do it will attend. I hope those who wish to utilize the resources of our denomination will attend. And I hope those who may have felt alienated, forgotten, ignored, or relegated to the shadows of the church will attend and be inspired for where the church is going.

The Office of Gender, Racial & Intercultural Justice is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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