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Orlando’s Intersections: May Our Differences Stretch Us to Revolutionary Love, by Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

By | Faculty, Main News, Queering Faith, Robyn Henderson-Espinoza | No Comments

Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethics Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza reflected on the Orlando massacre for Sojourners.

It was the last day of the Philly Trans Health Conference, the day of the Philly Pride Parade. It was my first time at the conference, and as a non-binary trans Latin@, I felt safe, finally, and had a growing awareness that my body was safely contained with other trans and trans-positive folks.

That safety was fractured when I woke to the news of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. As I lay there in shock — many of my LGBTQ siblings, the majority of them Latin@, were murdered, taken from our community — mí gente, I cried!

And as a non-binary trans Latin@, I knew that my own response would be an important one. I have always been vocal about the constellation of differences that are found in relationship relative to race, religion, and sexuality. This shooting has been named one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history, and we cannot ignore the overlapping intersections of race, religion, politics, gender, and sexuality. Read the full post on Sojourners.

Keep on Dancing, by Rev. Dr. Jay Johnson

By | Faculty, Jay Johnson, Main News, Queering Faith | No Comments

Rev. Dr. Jay Johnson wrote the following post for his blog, Peculiar Faith

I know some churches where lots of dancing happens on Sunday mornings.

I know some gay dance clubs where lots of praying happens on Saturday nights.

For many years, I failed to notice the deep intertwining of these spaces, the blurring of the categorical lines and boxes that supposedly mark the difference between “sacred” and “secular.”

I grew up in a religious tradition that treated dancing with a great deal of suspicion and attended a college where social dancing of any kind was forbidden. Even after setting aside that religious perspective, I mostly overlooked the glittering sparks of divinity flying off the sweaty bodies of gay dancers and the spiritual glow of otherwise dingy warehouse clubs where we all felt safe, safe enough to be ourselves.

No, more than that: I learned how to be myself in those clubs. I learned friendship and devotion, comradery and betrayal, ecstasy and grief. I kept my sanity on those dance floors in times of anguish and with friends and lovers who likely saved my life more than once. I understood far better what Christian liturgy meant on Sunday morning – and why I should bother going – by dancing with all those other queers on Saturday night.

For years I enjoyed dancing in gay clubs for more reasons than I appreciated at the time. The light of that appreciation dawned brighter one night some years ago on a dance floor in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I wrote about that night in my book, Peculiar Faith, and how odd and transformative it was on that particular night and in that particular place to feel completely at home in my body with all those other bodies. With few exceptions, we weren’t dancing as couples that night but all together, each of us dancing with all the others. It was one of the few times in my whole life when I felt, without any doubt, that I truly belonged somewhere.

I felt the Gospel, in other words. I felt the Gospel residing securely and cozily in my very own body.

I don’t mean that gay dance clubs are perfect slices of Eden. They aren’t, and neither are churches. But I did at least touch and taste that night what I have come to believe is the very hope of Christian faith: to be completely at home in our own bodies without any shame, completely at home among other bodies without any guilt, and completely at home with God without any fear – all at the same time.

Experiencing “home” with that kind of depth is sadly quite rare and perhaps becoming rarer still in a world of so much fragmentation and isolation and violence. Oddly enough, I am convinced that the peculiar faith of Christians can rise to meet these yearnings for home; more oddly still, most churches could use some help in that work from gay dance clubs.

From eighteenth-century English “molly houses” to twentieth-century nightclubs, LGBTQ people have persistently carved out spaces of safe haven, gathering with others often at the risk of physical harm. Far more than venues for drinking alcohol and finding sexual liaisons—though that happened too—these spaces of homeward longing catalyzed shared reflection, strategizing, and deep bonds of affection. All of this redrew the cultural and political map of Europe and the United States.

Someone else just recently noted these things about queer spaces as well – the President of the United States. Responding to the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Barack Obama noted that gay bars stand for more than dancing; they provide places of “solidarity and empowerment.”

That sounds like Church, or what church could and ought to be. Consider what a friend of mine reported hearing from a speaker at the vigil held in Oakland, California, the night of the shooting. “When they kill black people, they kill them in church; when they kill gay people, they kill them in the clubs.” A voice in the crowd then responded, “sanctuary is sanctuary.”

The purpose of terrorism, whether foreign or domestic, is to terrify us and divide us. Queer people have known this for a long time – and still we gather. The earliest Christians knew this too; and still they gathered to celebrate the mysteries of faith, often under threat of imperial persecution.

This is scary stuff – the very stuff of terrorism. Yet as a wise colleague of mine once said years ago, “You cannot do Christian theology from a place of fear,” he said. “The only way to do Christian theology is by being open to the possibility of joy.”

A second-century Christian said mostly the same thing by declaring that “those who do not dance do not know what is coming to pass.”

In the wake of the Orlando tragedy, there are many steps we must take to heal and to guard against still more violence. Whatever else we do, though, let us make sure to dance – and hold hands, and share hugs, and kiss each other.

Dancing is not a luxury and it is not frivolous. Dancing is the bodily necessity of joy and the rhythm of courage. And still more: While LGBT people dance for a host of reasons, a thread of commonality weaves all of it together. In a world of oppressive social structures, unwelcoming religious institutions, and constant threats of violence, we dance for hope.

This – in addition to having lots of fun – is why I find dancing with other LGBT people so compelling. We do live in a world of rampant bigotry, physical insecurity, and risks to personal safety; and still we dance, and at times with joy shaking loose from our bodies and gratitude lighting up our faces.

I dance and I see the luminous presence of God.

No shame.
No guilt.
No fear.

Keep on dancing.

Rev. Dr. Jay Johnson is Pacific School of Religion’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture, Academic Director of the Ignite Institute, and Director of the Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change (CSSC) and Master of Arts in Social Transformation (MAST).

Response to the Orlando shooting

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“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15

The news of the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando is simply devastating. We grieve the tragic loss of life and the devastation it brings to families and friends of the victims. Jeremiah’s painful words name the way this tragedy is felt in our very bodies and souls—a refusal to believe, to comprehend, even to seek comfort that cannot but feel shallow.

The community at Pacific School of Religion and the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion express their deep grief to those most directly impacted, and grieve the fear that this act of violence will engender in our communities—particularly those marginalized and stereotyped by their gender identity and their faith tradition.

Our shared calling will be to resist—even in the midst of our grief—to allow the violence of this act to tear at the tensions within us. We commit ourselves to our continued work of justice that belies the dichotomy between our convictions of faith and our identity around gender, gender identity, race, and religious expression. We call on our community—students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and many partners within faith communities and communities of justice—to draw on our shared legacy and commitments to share in the leadership of this critical moment.

Capturing our communities’ sentiment, the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion’s Latinx Roundtable stated: “Each person who was shot is a beloved child of God, deserving safety and dignity that was denied to them. This incident underlines the urgency of our task to bring understanding and peace to all people, to respect the lives of the LGBTQ community and all lives. We rededicate ourselves to that task today. And to those who in the name of religion will dare to blame the victims for their deaths, we say clearly, that is a heresy. Faith demands respect and care for all of God’s people, including those whose lives differ from your own. Please join us in praying for the victims of this horrific crime and for their families and loved ones. May God’s healing power and comforting presence be with those who are wounded in body, mind, and spirit today.”

Faculty reflections on the Pulse nightclub shooting:

Keep on Dancing, by Rev. Dr. Jay Johnson

Orlando’s Intersections: May our Differences Stretch Us to Revolutionary Love, by Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

Pacific School of Religion hosts 10th Annual Pacific Islander & Asian American Ministries (PAAM) Music Festival

By | Arts, Main News | No Comments

Pacific School of Religion is proud to host the 10th annual Pacific Islander & Asian American Ministries of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ PAAM Music Festival fundraiser. The celebration will be held at the Chapel of the Great Commission as PAAM helps us kick off our 150th anniversary.

Join us for an afternoon of uplifting, fun and spiritual music presented by churches of the PAAM community. Proceeds will benefit the PAAM Educational Scholarship Fund.

When: Saturday, June 25th, 1pm-3pm

Where: Chapel of the Great Commission, Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Ave., Berkeley, CA

RSVP on Facebook

Latinx Roundtable Condemns North Carolina’s HB2

By | Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, Main News, Queering Faith | No Comments

Members of the Latinx Roundtable: Rev. Mari Castellanos, Charlie Cortes, Rev. Carla E. Roland Guzmán, Rev. Rosa Frias

Statement from the Faith, Family, and Equality: The Latinx Roundtable a project of Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion of Pacific School of Religion:

The members of the Faith, Family, and Equality: The Latinx Roundtable, meeting in Berkeley, CA (May 23-25, 2016), want to express our unrelenting support of all LGBTQIA+ persons in North Carolina.

As a faith-based queer Latinx organization we condemn the intent of HB2 or any other legislation that aims to or results in the disenfranchisement and dehumanizing of any person or group.  Furthermore, we support all of the Latinx and faith communities that have spoken against and continue to speak against discrimination in any form, including the legalized discrimination embodied in HB2 in the state of North Carolina.

About the Faith, Family, Equality: The Latinx Roundtable

Founded in 2010 as an initiative of CLGS to address the Latinx faith leaders’ concerns that there needed to be a central project that would help Latinx families understand and accept their LGBTQAI+ family member(s) and embrace them with love.  The roundtable has as a mission statement: To promote understanding, acceptance and affirmation of Latinx LGBTQIA+ persons and their families by transforming Latinx faith communities and the wider Latinx community.


At the meeting of the Latinx Roundtable (L-R): Rev. Mari Castellanos, Rev. Rosa Frias, Elba Goostree (s peaking)



Exhibit: “Our Work: Modern Jobs – Ancient Origins” Now through December

By | Badè Museum, Main News | No Comments

A Writer from Our Work: Modern Jobs - Ancient Origins. Learn more at oi.uchicago.edu

The Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago present “Our Work: Modern Jobs – Ancient Origins” now through December 2016.

About the exhibit: Our Work: Modern Jobs – Ancient Origins, an exhibition of photographic portraits, explores how cultural achievements of the ancient Middle East have created or contributed to much of modern life. To show the connections between the past and today, artifacts that document the origins or development of professions such as baker, farmer, manicurist, brewer, writer, astronomer, or judge in the ancient world are paired with a person who is the modern “face” of that profession. The resulting  photographic portraits represent the diversity of Chicago residents, ranging from ordinary workers to local luminaries. The portraits are accompanied by commentary on the specific contribution of the past and remarks from the modern representative, resulting in fascinating new insights into how members of the public view their relationship to the past. Learn more here

This exhibit will be on display at the Badè Museum now until December 2016!

The gallery is open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 10am-3pm (except throughout June and July). Contact the museum at 510/849-8907 or bade@psr.edu for group tours, reservations, and more information.


Watch the New Story of Work and Earl Lecture here!

By | A World on the Move, Ignite Institute, Main News | No Comments

The 2016 Earl Lecture, The New Story of Work, is now available to watch here:

The New Story of Work on Friday, April 15, 2016, brought together organizers, business and faith leaders, activists, and scholars to explore and strategize around the meaning of work and the significance of labor today.

The keynote speaker, Annie Leonard is a lifelong environmentalist currently serving as the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. She has over 25 years experience investigating, organizing and communicating about the environmental and social impacts of all our stuff: where it comes from, what it is made out of, and where it goes after we get rid of it. Her 2007 online film, The Story of Stuff, has been viewed over 40 million times making it the most watched online environmental film to date. In 2010, she authored a book of the same title which takes a deeper dive into the issues in the film.

The New Story of Work: Politics, Spirituality, and Labor
April 15-16, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley CA
The New Story of Work conference brought together organizers, business and faith leaders, activists, and scholars to explore and strategize around the meaning of work and the significance of labor today.

The New Story of work featured the 2016 Earl Lecture with Annie Leonard.

Learn more about the New Story of Work here

Learn more about the speakers and scholars here