MOORHEAD – On Oct. 5, Campus Ministry hosted its annual Coming Out Day Chapel. The event is a faith-based celebration of National Coming Out Day, a yearly observance that focuses on the appreciation of queer folks around the world.
“One thing that I hope that (the Coming Out Day Chapel) spurs, including in conversation, is recognizing that there are many faithfully practicing Christians who are LGBTQ folks, and that there are Christian churches that openly and actively embrace their full participation,” said Concordia’s Minister for Vocation, Community and Service, Deacon Jon Leiseth. “It’s also important that we do that as a Campus Ministry because of the number of LGBTQ+ folks who have been hurt by Christian churches or by Christians in the name of their faith.”
The Coming Out Day Chapel has followed a similar format for the approximately six years it has been held at Concordia, but this year a new approach was taken.
“Oftentimes, what we’ve done is we’ve had a keynote speaker, especially preacher, to be a guest at these chapel services,” Leiseth said. “This year, however, we wanted to try something different. So as opposed to having a preacher or a speaker, the heart of this chapel is table conversation. We have nine people who have volunteered to be hosts at tables and facilitate conversation at those tables. They are folks from on campus and off. Yes, it’s still worship, so we’ll still also have singing and a prayer and there will be a blessing at the end.”
Campus Ministry sees the event as an opportunity to advocate for LGBTQ+ people while acknowledging the hardships of the community.
“Something I hope that the Coming Out Day Chapel spurs in terms of conversation is a recognition of the amount of harm that’s been done against LGBTQ folks. Again, you know, by Christian churches are by Christians in the name of their faith or in the name of God,” Leiseth said.
“The LGBTQ+ community has had a complex relationship with religion because of biblical interpretations for hundreds of years. To be clear, I am not saying that some interpretations are correct one way or the other. However, it is imperative to combat the stigma between the LGBTQ+ community and religion because it perpetrates hate, violence, and a clear divide,” sophomore Bryce Paulson said.
Overall, reception from students about the event has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Coming Out Chapel is an essential event at Concordia because it manufactures awareness and fosters a welcoming environment for openly and not-out LGBTQ+ students and faculty/staff. It is another opportunity for the campus to engage in the inclusion of our LGBTQ+ students because, at the end of the day, we are one student body and one campus. Concordia means hearts together, and this event is pivotal to help bridge the predetermined conflict between the church and the LGBTQ+ community,” Paulson said.
“I love campus ministry. It also is so accepting, and so inviting and welcoming to everyone of any faith. Any sexuality, any literally anything. So that’s really awesome and so cool. I wish people knew more about it because I know there are people that like, are religious, but they’re like, ‘I don’t know how to start my journey,’” first-year student, Becca Benson said.
Concordia’s support for the LGBTQ+ is reinforced by its belonging to Reconciling in Christ (RIC), an organization that advocates for the inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ+ folks within the Lutheran church.
“At Concordia, we officially became RIC in 2018. The process of becoming RIC included having my then pastoral colleague pastor and some students head to a training on the importance of inclusion on how to be open, affirming, and equitable with members of the LGBTQ community,” Leiseth said.
Becoming an RIC is seen as an extremely important step for Campus Ministry.
“The Reconciling in Christ network came about when congregations, but also other kinds of faith organizations and faith communities recognize that that what was needed was a clearer statement of welcome of access. of inclusion, and even of equity,” Leiseth said.
Many LGBTQ+ students feel comfortable in their faith, especially regarding their sexuality.
“The main message in the Bible is to love one another however they are. God created everyone. So, obviously, God created queer people and trans people, and gender fluid people and all the people, you know what I mean? Yeah, it wasn’t a mistake,” Benson said.