On Thursday, January 9, 2014, EEWC-CFT will partner with the Gay Christian Network (GCN) to present their second weconnect Women’s Retreat. The half day event, held immediately before the start of GCN’s 10th annual conference in Chicago, is open to any female-identified person who is registered for the GCN conference. The program fee for the weconnect retreat is an affordable $25 per person (in addition to the cost of conference registration). Retreat registration opens at 1:30 pm on January 9, and the retreat begins at 2:00 pm.
I’ll be attending and reporting on the weconnect retreat as well as the entire conference. I’ve never attended a GCN event before so I’m eagerly anticipating the experience. Complete information on the 2014 Gay Christian Network conference, “Live it Out, “is available here.
The 2014 Gay Christian Network conference is presenting two headline speakers of particular note to Christian feminists, Rachel Held Evans, author and blogger, and Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley, pastor at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington D.C. Additionally, Kristyn Komarnicki, editor of Prism, the magazine published by Evangelicals for Social Action, will be presenting a workshop with John Backman. Their workshop has a really cool title, “Safety Tips for Crossing the Divide.” I’m really looking forward to learning from them. (I first met Kristyn at The Justice Conference last February during the Christians for Biblical Equality dinner.)
The Gay Christian Network is a 501 (c) (3) organization started by Justin Lee in 2001. They report having over 23,500 members (GCN defines members as people who are registered on their website; there is no other membership requirement or fee). Read about their mission here. The one thing that has always intrigued me about GCN is that they make it a point to serve and support two distinct categories of LGBT people: (1) LGBT people who believe that a same-sex orientation is fully compatible with Christianity, and (2) LGBT people who believe that physically expressing one’s same-sex attraction is inherently sinful, thus LGBT people should remain celibate. Both groups are made to feel welcome in the GCN community.
GCN’s membership has, over the years, been made up primarily of gay men, and consequently their conference attendees have been overwhelmingly male. Recently, GCN has started working to make membership and participation in their organization more attractive to people who identify as female. The Gay Christian Network’s first full time female employee, Samantha Hasty-Zander, has been integral in that process, and she is the coordinator of the weconnect Women’s Retreat.
The weconnect Women’s Retreat will feature speakers, discussions, games, giveaways, and an all-female praise and worship band. Hasty-Zander stresses that her primary goal is building community and creating a safe space for conversation. She hopes the retreat will build lasting connections among GCN’s female-identified attendees.
“Many of us face a sense of isolation. With most other minority groups families share in the minority status. They face issues together. This is very often not the case with LGBT people. Our families are not always there for us, so building connection becomes very important.”
One need not identify as lesbian or trans to feel comfortable at the weconnect retreat. Samantha notes that allies are also welcome, in fact many of those in attendance will be mothers of LGBT children. She has intentionally selected speakers who will address a variety of life experiences.
Only in its second year, the weconnect retreat will be attended by more than 120 female-identified participants. Attendance last year exceeded expectations, and Samantha is delighted that registrations have already topped her projections for this year. Clearly women are hungry for the community and connection being created.
Later this month, I’ll introduce you to weconnect’s featured speaker Rev. Audrey Connor, and GCN board chairperson, Susan Shopland.
Index of Content on Christian Feminism Today
And There Was Singing (Sunday)
Rachel Held Evans’ Presentation Summary (Saturday)
We are Broken (Friday)
There Will be Some Tears (Thursday)
weconnect – Introduction to GCN Board Chairperson Susan Shopland
weconnect – Interview with Susan Shopland, Part 1
weconnect – Interview with Susan Shopland, Part 2
weconnect – Introduction to Featured Speaker Reverend Audrey Connor
weconnect – Interview with Audrey Connor, Part 1
weconnect – Interview with Audrey Connor, Part 2
weconnect – Interview with Audrey Connor, Part 3
An iPhone and Android app is available. Search for GCN Conference.
EEWC-CFT’s social media reporting (starts January 9):