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Princeton Theological Seminary

Queering Church

Stories of Queer Affirmation in the Church

Thursday, March 23, 2023 • 6:30PM EST • Hybrid Event

Cooper Conference Room, Erdman Center

Center for Theology, Women, and Gender
View Event ReplayIn-Person Registration (Closed)
Center for Theology, Women, and Gender

Queering Church

Stories of Queer Affirmation in the Church

Making church more queer and more inclusive of queer folks is a project that includes everyone and benefits everyone! Because the work of making churches more inclusive is a group project, this is an event for “church people”—whether you sit in the pews, stand at the front, or maybe a little of both. Whether you’re familiar with the latest lingo and research on religion and gender, or whether you feel a little overwhelmed by it, we want you to come!

When the student organizers of the Gender and Sexuality Association for Seminarians sat down together to discuss this event, something exciting happened. Every student had a story (or two or three!) about a church space that was great for them as a queer person. The churches they mentioned were from all different denominations and in all different areas of the country. Sometimes they talked about pastoral leadership, and often they talked about how people in the church community as a whole made it a loving space of spiritual growth for them.

We hope to provide a space to get people thinking and dreaming about what they can do to help make their own churches more queer and more inclusive of queer folks. Hopefully, this event will help people see the ways that making churches more queer affirming is a project that involves a whole church. It’s also an ongoing process, no matter where your church is at. Denominations have policies and traditions on issues like marriage, ordination, and family, and these are undeniably important. Still, the work of making churches more queer and more welcoming doesn’t start or end with national policies. It also happens in individual congregations, in bible studies and Sunday morning coffee hours. It happens when queer folks are given leadership roles, and also when folks who don’t identify as queer choose to use their leadership to learn from and be in community with queer folks.

Why “Queering” Church?

There is no doubt that the word “queer” has been used against the LGBTQIA+ community to cause harm and pain. We recognize and honor that for some, it will always be a harmful word.

We also recognize that “queer” has a long history of reclamation by the LGBTQIA+ community. Many people self-identify as queer as a way to include different gender identities and sexualities. It is also often used as a unifying or umbrella term to encompass the range of identities that make up our community.

Queer has been used in academic discourse to describe practices and approaches that question the structures around which identities of gender and sexuality have been built. In this context, we use it to describe our approach to questioning our assumptions about what church looks like.

GSAS Members on Queerness


Joey Morelli

Jozeppi Angelo Morelli, aka Joey, is a Transgender Queer Man with an indigenous spirit who is a retired Law Enforcement Officer and 911 World Trade Center First Responder. While he was Law Enforcement Officer being transgender was still considered a psychological disorder so he had to wait to physically transition until he was 54 years old. In his retirement he found a second career of being a writer, activist, public speaker and gender educator. It has became his passion to help employers, church leaders and congregations, group facilitators and families to understand the importance of intersectionality and creating safe space for him and his siblings. He currently works with the Gjelina group in California and New York to train all their employers on how to create safe space in the workplace for the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Recently he was interviewed by Peggy Gillispie of the Family Diversity Project to write his transition journey for both a nationwide exhibit and a book called Authentic Selves being published by Skinner House.

MDiv Senior

Wesley Rowell

Princeton Theological Seminary

Wesley Rowell is a M.Div. senior at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he was recently awarded the Edward Howell Roberts Scholarship in Preaching. A Fayetteville, North Carolina native, Wesley moved to Princeton in 2020, after 24 years living in New York City, where he was a member of Middle Collegiate Church. At Middle Church, Wesley founded Queer Black Men in the Middle (QBMM), a group for queer Black men interested in the intersections of gender, race, and spirituality.

Wesley has ministered at Middle Church and has interned at Trinity Episcopal Church in Princeton. He is currently discerning ordination in The Episcopal Church. Wesley also served on the search committee to help select Dr Jonathan Walton as the new president of Princeton Theological Seminary.

Wesley’s writing has been published in the New York Times, and he has been profiled by The Guardian newspaper. He has been a professional musician and opera singer. Wesley's interests in the intersections of race, justice, gender, sexuality, and Christianity led him to Princeton Seminary and Princeton, NJ, where he quite happily and gaily studies and resides.

Rev. Carla Jones Brown

Arch Street Presbyterian Church

Reverend Carla Jones Brown (PTS c/o 2004) is a pastor, preacher, kitchen mystic, and lover of life. She is a truth seeker and comfort giver and is proud to be a narrative-disrupting storyteller. She is a wife, a mother, a source of explosive and contagious laughter, and a deeply loved child of God!


Interim Director

Leslie Virnelson

Center for Theology, Women, and Gender

Leslie Virnelson is a fifth year PhD student at Princeton Theological Seminary. Her work focuses on specialized roles for women in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, specifically midwives, prostitutes, diviners, and weavers. Her areas of interest are gender studies, prophecy, and materiality. She is also the Interim Director of the Center for Theology, Women, & Gender at PTS.
MDiv Student

Ava Randel

Princeton Theological Seminary

Ava Randel is a third year MDiv candidate at Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned her Bachelor’s in Religion with a minor in social work from Pepperdine University in 2020. She works for Princeton Seminary’s Center for Theology, Women, and Gender and provides pastoral care as a psychiatric hospital chaplain.

Gender and Sexuality Association for Seminarians (GSAS) Members

MDiv/MACEF Student

Eli Henry

Eli Henry (they/he) is a third-year student in the MDiv/MACEF Dual Degree program at PTS. He is a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is passionate about carrying on the legacy of LGBTQ+ activism in his denomination. As a self-avowed practicing homosexual, Eli also enjoys iced oat milk lattes and the musical stylings of Lady Gaga.
MDiv Student

Jesse Hershberger

Jesse Hershberger (she/her) is a second-year student in the MDiv program at PTS. She is in the ordination process in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is passionate about Queer and disabled representation in the church.
MDiv/MSW Student

Char Mansfield

Char (they/them) is a third year MDiv/MSW dual degree champ. They call Fiskebäckskil, Sweden "hemma" and Seattle, WA "home." Their name Char means beloved, and this is probably the best description of their gender. When not working on some spooky fermentation project, they are passionately pursuing their calling of radical intentional community.
MDiv Student

Angel Nalubega

Angel (she/they) is a Ugandan-American second-year MDiv student. She is hoping to pursue ordination in the Episcopal Church, and is an aspiring organizer-scholar-priest. At PTS, they most enjoy studying liberation theology and religious history. Her passions include wikipedia, nerdy liturgical questions, romance novels, and reimagining what justice looks like for Black communities.
MDiv Student

Tori Paquette

Tori (they/them) is a third-year MDiv student who came to PTS after finishing their bachelor’s degree in Jewish Studies. They hope to be a solo pastor at a small church, working on community building and economic justice. They love exegeting Hebrew, teaching on challenging texts, preaching narratives, and advocating for trans lives.
MDiv Student

Delaney Piper

Delaney (they/them) is a second-year MDiv student. They are in the ordination process of the PC(USA) and are passionate about cultivating queer flourishing, anti racism, and decolonization in church spaces. Delaney loves more than anything making a perfect book recommendation to a friend.
MDiv/MACEF Student

Byron Walker

Byron Walker (he/him) is a 3rd year MDiv/MACEF Dual student with concentrations in queer studies and eco-theology. Byron is studying to be a youth pastor (maybe in Japan). He is Bi-ecclecial in the PC(USA) and the Eastern Orthodox church.

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Join Us in Person at Princeton Theological Seminary

Location: Cooper Conference Room, Erdman Center, 20 Library Pl, Princeton, NJ 08540

In-Person Registration (Closed)


All times are Eastern Time

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Time (ET)



6:30PM ET

Panel Discussion

Cooper Conference Room, Erdman Center

7:15PM ET


7:30PM ET

Round Table Discussions

Center for Theology, Women, and Gender

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Center for Theology, Women, and Gender is a visible, active agent in promoting the flourishing of all persons. To that end, the CTWG advocates for those who find themselves marginalized, in both church and society, due to their gender identity, particularly women and sexual minorities who struggle for equality and inclusion at all levels of society.

The Center advocates for change so that the church might better reflect the body of Christ, and witness more faithfully to the transforming power of Christ in the world.