Faith and diversity
How do sexual and gender diversity influence roles in religion?
Positive Space is a committee at Mount Royal that advocates for sexual and gender diversity and Multi Faith Chaplaincy is a committee that holds religious events and services. Aside from both belonging to the Diversity and Human Rights department, what exactly do these two committees have in common?
Jessica Lefebvre, who works as a Christian chaplain at the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy, located in room F122, shared what it’s like to be a woman in religion, from her perspective as a female Protestant chaplain. She believes that we should see each other as humans first, not by our gender or religion.
“In Protestant traditions, there’s been a tendency to not have women ordained. I’m in a position now where I have leadership of my parish, which is Mount Royal University. I’m moving towards ordination, once I finish my masters,” Lefebvre says. “I have an aversion to traditional roles because I don’t want to feel boxed in.”
She says she has received criticism from people for being a female chaplain, she responds “Yes, a lot of people. I’ll say ‘I’m a chaplain, I’m actually training to become a pastor,’ and their comments will be ‘Isn’t that a guy’s job? How do you get to do that? Isn’t there Biblical laws against it?’ Gender roles never really became an issue for me until I began pursuing a career in the church. My mom gets a lot of it, because she is ordained. I’ve had people tell me that they won’t come to my church. My mom gets hate mail. It can be hard.”
Lefebvre feels lucky that there has been a generation before her that has started to pave the way for women in religion.
“I have had a ton of support from my church and community who give me a ton of opportunity to grow my strengths and allow me to fail with grace. My community keeps me motivated because they believe I am doing exactly what I am meant to.”
Victoria Stamper, a volunteer at the Pride Center in Wyckham House shared her story of acceptance within religion.
“I have always wanted to belong to a religion that supported equality in all forms even before I identified as a bisexual. When I was looking for a religion to identify with, I looked for a religion that allowed me to express my secular beliefs as well.”
Stamper appreciates her household for allowing her to explore religion, which she believes is a factor in why she has not experienced hatred for her sexual orientation.
“About three years ago, I felt a strong connection to Buddhism. It wasn’t until after I identified with the LGBTQ + community that I found out that some Buddhist doors were closed to me. There are only certain branches of the Buddhist tradition that consider anything outside of strictly vaginal intercourse as sexual misconduct, which is part of the precepts,” Stamper says, and says that she is feeling concerned for how her sexual orientation and spiritual beliefs would work together.
Luckily, this story has a positive outcome for Stamper: “The zen priest of my temple said that in the zen sect of Buddhism, sexual misconduct can be understood in a way that you do not harm others. He said as long as you maintain a healthy consenting sexual relationship, you can avoid sexual misconduct. This was a huge relief for me. I had spent about two years as a practicing Buddhist and felt closely tied to its philosophy and texts. I don’t know what I would have done if part of who I was denied me access from following a tradition that is also part of my identity.”
For those who may be interested in learning more, Positive Space is offering a free Safe Space training seminar on March 27 at 9:00 a.m. You can preregister online through MyMRU.
Also, The Coming Out Monologues YYC are holding a special Coming Out in Faith evening on March 27 at Hillhurst United Church.