UMC Links

University of Utah and Salt Lake City Public Library partner with religious communities to host symposium on sexuality and religion

Feb. 27, 2015 —Over the past two years, Utah has become the surprising epicenter of discussions around non-discrimination, marriage equality and religious freedom. The ongoing conversation in the state is a driving force behind a symposium on March 7 designed to build bridges between disparate groups and to create inclusive and welcoming faith communities. The symposium, titled “Reimagining Inclusive Religious Spaces: Gender and Sexualities,” will feature several presentations and discussions throughout the afternoon and evening. The event is free and open to the public.


1:30 p.m. – Keynote address

Subversive Stories: Queering Scripture and the Power of Personal Narrative

Father Shay Kearns

Father Shay Kearns is a writer, speaker and theologian. He is the founding pastor of House of the Transfiguration in Minneapolis, as well as the co-founder of Queer Theology and founder of Uprising Theatre Company. He is an ordained priest in the Apostolic Catholic Church of America and is a well-known speaker on queer theology, transgender issues and the intersections of identity and faith.

2:15 p.m. – Q&A session

2:45 p.m. – Break

3 p.m. – Panel introduction presentation

Opportunities and Challenges of Creating Welcoming Congregations

Reverend Tara Wilkins

Reverend Tara Wilkins is the pastor of Bridgeport United Church of Christ and executive director of the Community of Welcoming Congregations in Oregon and southwest Washington. An activist for more than 25 years, her ministry includes working with LGBTQ people healing from religious wounds, leading high school summer camps and working with interfaith movements for social justice.

3:20 p.m. – Panel

Developing Inclusive Spaces in Sacred Places


— Margaret Toscano, University of Utah Department of Languages and Literature


— Sasha Luks-Morgan, Chavurah B’Yachad

— Rev. Tara Wilkins, Bridgeport United Church of Christ and Community of Welcoming Congregations

— Troy Williams, Equality Utah

— Rev. Patty Willis, South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society

— Sara Woodhouse, Chavurah B’Yachad

4:50 p.m. – Break

5:15 p.m. – Reader’s Theater Performance

You Have Always Been Welcome Here

Read by: Jayceen Craven, Jim Dale, Brenda Koenig, Betsy West

“You Have Always Been Welcome Here” is based on the true stories of four transgender people and their relationships with family, gender, religion and spirituality. The performance was created through a series of interviews conducted by author Jeannie LaFrance, and was commissioned by the Community of Welcoming Congregations, an Oregon and southwest Washington interfaith ministry and advocacy organization working toward full inclusion and equality for LGBTQ people.


Major funding for the symposium is provided by the Salt Lake City Public Library, the University of Utah College of Social Work and the University of Utah College of Humanities. Additional support is provided by the University of Utah’s Department of Languages and Literature, International Studies Program, Religious Studies Program, and Gender Studies program. The event is also supported by contributions from the Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Bishop of Utah; as well as the University of Utah’s Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy, the Tanner Humanities Center, the Office for Equity and Diversity, the LGBT Resource Center, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, and University of Utah Press.