Faith group aims to create safe space for LGBTQ+ students


Joelle Gates

A-SLAY-ing Grace intends to create a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ students. The group will meet again at 9 p.m. Nov. 12 in the LGBTQ+ Office located in the basement of the Memorial Student Center.

A-SLAY-ing Grace invited LGBTQ+ students to join in a conversation surrounding faith and identity Oct. 8 in the LGBTQ+ Office.

The program, which began this semester, is sponsored by University Church, and it intends to create a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ students.

“The result of Christianity is to help people; this group is one way to help people,” John Ross, a junior philosophy major, said. “[Our group] is basically an evangelism that doesn’t seek to convert or condemn, but to outpour love.”

Even though the group has just started, Rev. Chris Bailey, the campus minister for UKIRK, said he has been planning the program since his arrival at Marshall University last fall.

“One of my goals when I started at Marshall was to create a relationship with the LGBTQ+ Office,” Bailey said. “I want to make sure that UKIRK was an open and affirming ministry for all students.”

Upon his arrival, Bailey organized Queering Lent, an event aimed at LGBTQ students, and was introduced to Shaunte Polk, the sponsored program administrator of the LGBTQ+ Office. From there the two began to discuss ways they could link their offices.

“Based on conversations with the [LGBTQ+ Office], we found that issues of faith had come up during discussions at the office,” Bailey said. “A-SLAY-ing Grace emerged as a more intentional way to engage those kinds of conversations.”

Bailey said coming to college is often a time when young adults begin to live authentically, so the group is aimed to provide guidance during this transitional period in their life.

“Many of the LGBTQ+ students I’ve met at Marshall have had bad experiences with the church, some with campus ministries at Marshall,” Bailey said. “It’s important to push back against those who are responsible for those experiences and engage them in ways that spurs dialogue and soul searching.”

As UKIRK plans to bridge a connection with queer students, Ross said the group is establishing a faith based safe space for students by utilizing the LGBTQ+ Office for their meeting space.

“This isn’t in the Campus Christian Center for a reason,” Ross said. “The placement in a [safe space] was intentional.”

While the group is aimed at LGBTQ+ students, Bailey said the group is open to all and is welcoming of LGBTQ+ allies.

“It’s important for allies to be present at Pride events as a representative of a community of faith,” Bailey said. “Even if I’m not able to build a personal relationship with someone, hopefully my presence will show that resources that allow someone to affirm an identity of faith and their sexuality do exist.”

A-SLAY-ing Grace will meet again at 9 p.m. Nov. 12 in the LGBTQ+ Office.

Joelle Gates can be contacted at [email protected]