Rediscovering Family: Understanding and Celebrating LBGTQI+ Perspectives was a 6-hour forum featuring Amber Cantorna, National Speaker, Leader, and Author of “Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God”, as well as the upcoming book, "Unashamed: A Coming Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians.” and Dr. Stephen Marshall-Ward, creator of “The Architecture of Family, and the art of self-discovery: Families. Celebrating. Freedom.” and Director of the Institute for Social Change through the Arts. Coming out is something to be celebrated. Much progress has been made for the LGBTQI+ community yet so much remains to be done. Many such people still suffer from the pressures of living within a conservative environment and many LGBTQI+ people are in unsafe living situations. This event was designed to bring people together, encourage discussion, create safe space for continued conversation around LGBTQI+ persons and their families, and to provide resources useful to the LGBTQI+ community and the people who love them.
During the event people had the opportunity in discussion groups to interact with other LGBTQI+ people and their allies navigating different stages of coming out, and understanding one’s self. They met people interested in helping them on their journey to honest, open, celebrated living. For allies, this event helped to reach greater understanding on how to love and support LGBTQI+ persons. People also had the opportunity to hear Amber and Stephen’s stories, as well as dialogue with them in a panel discussion and through separate Q&A’s.
The event was held on Saturday November 17th from 2:30pm-9:00pm at All Pilgrim’s Christian Church 500 Broadway East, Seattle, WA 98102.
2:30-3:00pm: Check-In and Mingle
3:00-3:15pm: Welcome and Introductions
3:15-3:45pm: Amber Cantorna shares her story/talks about her work
3:45-4:15pm: Stephen Marshall-Ward shares his story/talks about his work
4:15-5:00pm: Panel Discussion with Amber, Stephen, around the topic of coming out and navigating family relationships
5:00-6:30pm: Dinner (participants enjoy dinner on their own at one of the many nearby restaurants)
6:30-6:50pm: Worship and Prayer/Meditation
6:50-7:20pm: Stephen presents tools/tips for navigating family relationships
7:20-7:50pm: Amber presents tools/tips for coming out
7:50-8:15pm: Q&A with Amber and Stephen
8:15-8:45pm: Small group discussion focused on how to move forward
8:45-9:00pm: Final song, prayer, and close of evening
9:00pm: Small reception following the close of the evening
About our speakers
Amber Cantorna, is an author, speaker, blogger, musician, and leader in the movement of acceptance and inclusion for LGBTQ+ Christians. With a passion for helping LGBTQ+ people through their coming out process, she focuses especially those that come from conservative faith communities. Amber is the home-schooled daughter of a 30-year executive at Focus on the Family and grew up entrenched in the values that the organization embodies while her conservative Christian parents worked hard to protect her from the outside world. But when Amber came out as gay at the age of 27, she shattered the perfect persona that her family strove to uphold. As a result, she lost everything, and her world forever changed. Now, six years later, Amber is married the love of her life and dedicates her time to writing, speaking, and sharing her story in order to bring hope to other LGBTQ+ people of faith. Her memoir, “Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God” is now available everywhere books are sold. Her second book “Unashamed: Coming Out as an LGBTQ Christian” will release in March 2019.
Matthew Vines, Executive Director of The Reformation Project and author of “God and the Gay Christian,” said of Amber’s book, “…This is an important book for all Christians to read and share, and I am very grateful to Amber for writing it.”
Brian McLaren, author of many books including “The Great Spiritual Migration,” said of Amber’s book, “…I hope that today’s young parents who are part of the evangelical community will allow Amber’s story to guide them into a better way of parenting, so they can discover a more authentic way to being Christians, -- and human beings, too.”
Dr. Stephen Marshall-Ward, is a creative musician, designer, educator, and activist. One of his most recent project was "The Architecture of Family and the art of self-discovery”. Stephen was born into a fundamentalist home, the son of a Baptist preacher. Though he gave the appearance of being the perfect preacher’s son, he knew early on that he was gay. He stayed closeted out of fear and shame, eventually attending and graduating from militantly fundamentalist Bob Jones University with his high school sweetheart Brenda. The two married shortly after graduation and started a family. Eventually, Stephen confessed his orientation, and after years of incredibly destructive ‘conversion therapy’ trying to ‘fix’ Stephen and save their marriage, they divorced. For some families, this is where the story ends: everyone walks away bitterly, feeling hurt and betrayed. In the Marshall family, though, this is where the story truly begins. Soon after the divorce, Stephen met his now-husband James, and they have been happily partnered and then married for over 15 years. Through those years, Stephen, James, and Brenda created a strong, new relationship based on honesty, love, and support while raising Stephen and Brenda’s two sons. Culture in the United States has been growing increasingly divisive, but Stephen’s family proves that reconciliation and mutually supportive relationships can be created and nurtured overcoming rifts if people are willing to listen, love, and forgive.
“We want this story to be an example to broken families – even deeply shattered ones – that it is possible to heal and love each other.” - Stephen Marshall-Ward