‘Out in Ohio’ profiles LGBTQ+ Ohioans making a difference in their community.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A central Ohio nonprofit is dismantling animosity between some members of two clashing groups: the LGBTQ+ community and the Christian faith. 

LoveBoldly is creating and seeking out Christian spaces championing members of the LGBTQ+ community. For the organization, there is a clear problem: Christianity’s anti-LGBTQ+ reputation ostracizes the 5.3 million LGBTQ+ adults in the United States who identify as religious. As a result, LGBTQ+ individuals may be leaving the church because they feel unsafe, unable to engage, and unwelcome from faith communities. 

“We envision a world where LGBTQI+ people can feel safe, belong, and flourish both in the church and outside the church,” said executive director Ben Huelskamp. 

To nourish safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people, the organization has developed a three-pronged strategy for communicating with different variations of Christians: 

  • Empower progressive Christians, pastors, and their communities to practice radical hospitality for all people and affirm LGBTQ+ people. 
  • Discern with middle Christians, pastors, and their communities as they navigate the inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ+ people. 
  • Invite conservative and traditional Christians, pastors, and their communities to look at how they can love and support LGBTQ+ people. 

The organization’s strategy is brought to fruition through education, training, and issue-based advocacy. LoveBoldly most recently sent an open letter urging the Ohio Board of Education to strike down a resolution rejecting proposed federal protections for LGBTQ+ students. 

“There are approximately 1.3 million transgender youth in the United States, including approximately 52,000 in Ohio,” the letter reads. “These students are not a burden to their parents, schools, and districts. The only part of this debate which is harmful is accepting rhetoric like that used in this resolution.”

In August, LoveBoldly stood with Paulist priests when they left the St. Thomas More Newman Center at Ohio State University as part of a reorganization by Columbus’ new diocese bishop. In an open letter, Huelskamp and the organization applauded the ministry’s inclusion of LGBTQ+ Catholics. 

To further education and awareness for LGBTQ+ Christians, LoveBoldly hosts monthly webinars and training discussing complex faith experiences, including transgender people in the church and religious trauma. Still, a bulk of the organization’s work is consulting and coaching. 

LoveBoldly’s consulting practice for churches, leadership teams, and organizations assesses their culture for LGBTQ+ inclusion and offers practical steps for engaging their congregation. They also offer coaching for pastors, staff, or leadership teams who want to transform their congregation or space into an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Huelskamp is a lifelong Christian, an out gay man, and holds a master’s degree in higher education administration and a doctorate in educational leadership with a focus on ministry. Wherever people are in their faith journey, Huelskamp said LoveBoldly can offer LGBTQ+ people support. 

“We put a very high emphasis on working with people, working with congregations where they are, and really trying to understand those people and what they’re looking for,” Huelskamp said. “This is an organization that all of us have had some sort of hurt ourselves in the church.”

View LoveBoldly’s additional resources, programs, and events here.