The Rev. Nancy Brink had been a minister at a church in Omaha, Nebraska, for seven years when she and her former partner decided to adopt internationally. As they finalized the papers for a Vietnamese girl, there was only one thing left to do: tell the congregation that Brink was gay.
Brink, who is the director of church relations at Chapman, grew up Christian and came out to the church in her 30s, before the adoption of her child. While she knew it would be difficult to merge her spirituality with her sexual identity, it was something that had to be done, she said.
“I called the elders together for an afternoon of prayer and discernment and told them (about my sexuality). It was one of the richest conversations and times of prayer I had ever experienced,” Brink said.
Brink, and some students at Chapman who identify as LGBTQIA+, find that there are ways to join their gender and sexuality with their faith by finding supportive communities on campus, despite how some people may interpret religious texts.
Alice Premeau, who identifies as a lesbian, is a member of Queer Student Alliance and Chapman Newman, a Catholic fellowship.
“I didn’t realize I was gay until two years ago,” said Premeau, a freshman graphic design major. “I never had much of a problem (with being gay and Catholic). I know some people think that (being gay is) against my religion, but I don’t really think it is.”
When Premeau came out two years ago, many people were accepting, she said.
“Even my Catholic friends know that I’m gay, and they don’t really care. I told my youth minister and he was completely fine with it. I was so lucky,” Premeau said.
Although Premeau knows of people who sacrificed their faith for their sexual identity, she reaffirmed both aspects of her identity by meeting people who are also religious and gay, she said.
“I noticed that a lot of people that I meet in the queer community identify as agnostic, and a lot of people I know were raised Catholic, but when they found out that they were gay, they just stopped being Catholic. I’m one of the few people who actually held onto (my religion),” Premeau said.
Through Catholic groups, Premeau found support for her sexual identity. Because of her spirituality, she is more compassionate and accepting, which helped with her coming out, she said.
However, Zephone Lew, a sophomore business finance and economics major, couldn’t preserve her faith in Catholicism after coming out as a lesbian, she said. But rather than lose her spirituality completely, Lew said she changed her perspective on religion.
Lew attended a Catholic high school and grew up in a family that is part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
She secretly dated her first girlfriend during her senior year of high school, she said.
“I felt like I couldn’t come out to anyone because I thought they wouldn’t accept me, and I was afraid I would be kicked out of my high school,” Lew said. “I was afraid that people I loved would not talk to me or respect me after I came out, because the environment we were in was very anti-gay.”
Lew came out as lesbian a year ago and considers herself a Christian, but she’s no longer involved with the church, she said.
“When I went to college, I kept fighting with myself because I didn’t know how I could associate myself as being gay when I was still a Christian,” Lew said. “During my first year of college, I realized that people confuse religion with church. Religion and church are two separate entities, religion being one that you practice between you and God, and church being one that you practice in a community with others who practice your same religion.”
Brink and Lew agree that some church members use the Bible to criticize queer people or other marginalized groups, which can result in homophobic interpretations.
“In the culture discussion about LGBT issues, the general objection comes from religious people, and they base their arguments on the Bible,” Brink said.