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Welcome!

The NW regional conference held in Portland, Oregon, is for all who identify as LGBTQ/SSA and Mormon, or allies to the community. Registration is now open and is $50 per person for the weekend, which will cover conference materials and events including a Friday night dessert bar, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and lunch on Sunday.

Affirmation's international board of directors is committed to hosting regional conferences like this throughout the year in addition to September's international conference.

Programming and content for this regional conference are being put together by a team led by Ron and Sue Raynes.

Venue

Friday evening and Saturday's programming will be held at First Christian Church on the beautiful SW Park Blocks in SW Portland at 1314 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97201.

Sunday's programming will be held at the Community of Christ Portland Congregation at 4837 NE Couch St, Portland, OR 97213.

Schedule

FRIDAY January 13th 2017 (First Christian Church)

4:00 pm Registration Table Open, First Christian Church
5:00 pm Open time for "Get to know you" Conversations
7:00 pm Friday Evening Program with Comedian/Musician Eric D. Snider
  • This is not a dinner program.
8:30 pm Dessert Social

SATURDAY January 14th 2017 (First Christian Church)

8:30 am Registration Table Open, First Christian Church
9:00 am Opening Session - Introduce Workshop Speakers and Topics
9:30 am Workshop session 1 - 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Room 1: Claiming Our Faith Post-Policy - Jenn Lee Smith & John Gustav-Wrathall
  • Room 2: Paths to Understanding (Mormon LGBTQ History) - Duane Jennings
  • Room 3: Cafeteria Mormonism - Robert Rookhuyzen, Mark Wilkinson
11:00 am Workshop session 2 - 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Room 1: The Path of Affirming Parenting - Neca Allgood, Jen Blair, Jon Arnell
  • Room 2: Authors of Authenticity: Learning to Share Our Stories - Phillip Brown, Andres Larios
  • Room 3: Paths to Loving Relationships - Sarah Ellenwood
12:30 pm Lunch (provided)
1:30 pm Workshop session 3 - 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Room 1: Personal Revelation and the LGBT Mormon Faith Journey - Camron Barth & Sara Jade Woodhouse
  • Room 2: Many Paths, One Family - Mette Harrison
  • Room 3: New Spiritual Paths - Nick Literski, Mary Lydia Ryan
3:00 pm Free Time
5:30 pm Dinner (provided)
7:00 pm Saturday Evening Program
  • Northwest Voices - Panel of 6 LGBTQ community members
  • Colonial Heights Players
  • John Gustav-Wrathall, President of Affirmation

SUNDAY January 15th 2017 (Community of Christ)

9:30-10:30 am Testimony and story sharing
10:50 am Worship service with Community of Christ
  • Theme: “Spiritual Equality”
  • Speakers: Neca Allgood, Buckley Jeppson

Alternative Workshop on New Spiritual Paths by Nick Literski
12:00 pm Lunch Provided by the Community of Christ Congregation
2:00 pm Free Time
4:00 pm Movie, The Falls: Covenant of Grace, 5th Avenue Cinema, 510 SW Hall St, Portland
  • Q&A with Writer/Director Jon Garcia

Workshops & Speakers

Featured Speaker

Eric D. Snider

We're pleased to announce that Eric D. Snider will headline the Friday evening session. A talented writer, comedian and musician based in Portland, Eric will talk about his journey as a gay Mormon. Eric has previously performed to sell-out crowds at Portland's Hollywood Theater. He is a prolific writer and publishes his movie reviews at EricDSnider.com

Workshop Overview

Claiming Our Faith Post-Policy

Presenters: Jenn Lee Smith & John Gustav-Wrathall

Bios: Jenn Lee Smith was born and raised in the LDS church beginning in Taiwan. She enjoys listening to people’s stories and sharing them. She was in academia for 13 years as researcher, administrator, teacher, and student. Jenn holds a BA in International Studies from BYU and pursued a PhD at UCLA for a time studying the migration of women in China and Silicon Valley. Most days she is found resisting the urge to micromanage her children, grant-writing for nonprofits and freelance writing. She is currently producing a short documentary film tentatively titled, You and I, Friend, about a lesbian Mormon couple in a small town of eastern Utah. The film will premier summer 2017.

John Gustav-Wrathall, President of Affirmation, is a historian of the LGBTQ community in America and of American religious history. He is the author of Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Dynamics and the YMCA (University of Chicago Press, 1998), the Young Stranger blog, and of numerous articles on LGBT Mormon experience in Sunstone, Dialog, and The Journal of Mormon History. He is an adjunct professor at United Theological Seminary and is currently also working as a consultant for HRC. He and his husband of 25 years live in Minneapolis, MN, and John is active in the Lake Nokomis Ward of the Minneapolis Stake.

Workshop Description: Since the promulgation of the November 2015 policy, significant numbers of LGBTQ Mormons, and their family, friends and allies have distanced themselves from the LDS Church. But what does church activity, life and faith look like for those of us who remain believing, committed and active? Why do we stay? What kinds of relationships do we have with other Church members and leaders? What do we hope for and what do we think the future looks like for the Church and for its LGBTQ brothers and sisters, sons and daughters? What does effective allyship look like for LGBTQ Mormons who remain active?

Paths to Understanding:
Framing Our Current Environments Through the Lens of Our Mormon LGBTQ History

Presenter: Duane Jennings

Bios: Duane Jennings was born a sixth generation Mormon in Mt. Pleasant Utah and raised in Salt Lake City in a devout LDS family. He served an LDS Mission in South Africa, and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA degree in English and History. Duane has been aware of his sexual orientation since about age 14, and after confronting what seemed to be contradictions between being a devoted Latter Day Saint and his sexuality, has focused his energies on harmonizing those contradictions. Duane has served in leadership roles in the Salt Lake Chapter of Affirmation and received the organization’s Mortenson award in 1996. He is the author of two recently published volumes on LDS LGBTQ history, “Stumbling Blocks and Stepping-Stones.”

Workshop Description: We will share and discuss personal stories, revelations and inspiration from Mormon LGBTQ lives over the past 50 years, illustrating our coming out and finding courage to make our unique history. When current events such as the November 2015 LDS Church policy change is put into this context, we can employ various ways to move the discussion forward within our families and Affirmation community. This workshop will show how learning from our community’s journey can empower our faith (soul force), and help us step forward to make a difference in the future.

Cafeteria Mormonism

Presenters: Robert Rookhuyzen, Mark Wilkinson

Bios: Robert L. Rookhuyzen is a violent crimes detective with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Robert served in the Netherlands Amsterdam Mission in 1995-1996. He later taught Dutch at the Missionary Training Center. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Brigham Young University. Robert stopped attending church in 1999 when he entered into his first long-term gay relationship but is intent on remaining on the membership rolls as long as possible. Robert and his partner Tony live in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Mark Wilkinson moved to Portland after finishing his Master's Degree in Marketing at Northwestern University. Although Mark grew up in the Church, served in the New York Rochester Mission and graduated from BYU, it was after his job brought him here that, eventually, all "hell" (lowercase intentional) broke loose. He's a senior marketing manager in high tech. He took his first drink of alcohol after breaking his nose in a match of the gay rugby team he helped start in Portland. Now, he just runs marathons and debates the highs and lows of the Portland restaurant scene with his partner of 16 years, who also happens to be named "Mark." He's the oldest of seven kids, all of whom are reasonably accepting of his "gay lifestyle," and five of which are still active in the Church. The Church determined Mark's services were no longer required in November 2002, but Mark is still fascinated by the culture, the policies, and the politics.

Workshop Description: Even after leaving the Church, many LGBT inactive/former Mormons find themselves to be “Cultural Mormons.” For various reasons, they continue certain practices and beliefs, while setting others aside.

This workshop will focus on how inactive/former Mormons use principles of the gospel and nuggets from their Church upbringing in their daily lives, professions and relationships.

Topics to be discussed include: Missions, prayer, family, home/visiting teaching, Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, Proclamation on the Family, LDS music, work ethic, death and afterlife, defense of Mormonism in public, finances, emergency preparedness, etc.

The Path of Affirming Parenting

Presenters: Neca Allgood, Jen Blair, Jon Arnell

Bios: Neca Allgood (she, her, hers) is a wife and mother of three. Her middle child, Grayson Moore, is FtM transgender. Since he transitioned at age 16, Grayson and Neca have been active working with Equality Utah to extend non-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. They testified before Utah State Legislature committees in 2015 as part of the efforts to pass SB296. Neca serves on the board of Affirmation. She is the 2017 President of Mama Dragons. Neca has a PhD in Molecular Biology. She and her husband own a small engineering consulting firm. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, currently serving as a Relief Society teacher.

Jen Blair (she/her) had spent her life focused on her family and her faith. When her oldest child told her that he was gay (a little over 4 years ago), it shook her to the core. This was something she was completely unprepared for and she struggled to find resources for how to do it well. The family circled around each other and forged a new normal in uncharted territory. She now fills all her available free time trying to help youth who are learning to navigate this journey and feels a special affinity for other parents who have suddenly lost their moorings and tries to provide short-cuts for their learning curve. She currently serves on the board of Affirmation and on the board of Mama Dragons. Jen has a BA in Elementary Education from BYU.

Jon Arnell (he/him/his) grew up in the South and Midwest and now lives in the SF Bay Area. He is the fourth of nine children. Since he came out as gay to his parents and siblings, they have continued to support him in his life path while they maintain their faith and activity in the LDS Church. His parents (currently serving as early-morning seminary teachers) attended the 2016 Affirmation Leadership Retreat in Independence, MO, and enjoyed the experience. Jon served an LDS mission in Rosario, Argentina. He has a BA in International Relations from BYU and an MS in Statistics from Stanford University.

Workshop Description: Data from the Family Acceptance Project shows that having accepting parents leads to better physical and mental health outcomes for LGBTQ youth and young adults. But what does being an accepting parent look like in actual practice? Join us as we discuss behaviors that strengthen family bonds and benefit our kids.

Authors of Authenticity:
Learning to Share Our Stories

Presenters: Phillip Brown, Andres Larios

Bios: Andres Larios has spent his life exploring the complexities of love and human connection on the individual, familial, and societal level. While he was born in Utah, his formative years were spent in the orchards of central California. After serving a mission in Monterrey, Mexico, Andres returned to Utah to study at the University of Utah, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in both Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies. His personal journey of self-acceptance and navigation of family dynamics led him to Oregon, where he is currently a second-year Master’s student at the University of Oregon’s Couples and Family Therapy program.

Phillip Brown was born and raised in Utah and has always valued creativity. He served a mission in Madrid, Spain and graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design. After a few years working as a designer, he decided to pursue writing more seriously and moved to Oregon to study at Oregon State University where he earned a Master’s degree in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. Phillip has taught college-level writing courses and now works for OSU as an editor. On the side, he organizes writing workshops and poetry readings, and tries to find time for his many creative projects, including a first collection of poems. He and Andres are engaged and will be married in August.

Workshop Description: We all have a story to tell, though we may struggle to share it. Fear and shame keep many of us quiet, but we yearn to be heard and known. Others misrepresent or misunderstand us, and we want to express how we really think and feel. In this session, we will explore what it means to share our stories, both as a form of connection with ourselves and with others. We will look at the emotional, physiological, and spiritual benefits of finding our voice and speaking our truth. We will also look at some examples and discuss the many ways we can share our stories creatively and authentically.

Paths to Loving Relationships

Presenter: Sarah Ellenwood

Bios: Sarah Ellenwood graduated from Lewis and with a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2009 and currently counsels individuals, couples, and families. In addition to her private practice, Sarah is currently a professor at Lewis and Clark. She is a member of the GLBTQ community and identifies as queer/bisexual/pansexual/gay. Sarah facilitated the Coming Out Group in Portland and started a support group for GLBTQ-identifying counselors with a focus on liberation. Sarah grew up in a Christian faith and has counseled many folks about how homophobia becomes internalized. Sarah has loved-ones and clients that are members of the LDS faith and/or grew up Mormon.

Workshop Description: Acknowledging your orientation as LGBTQ in LDS settings is tough and problematic enough, but sexuality can become even more personally challenging when you desire to act on it! Straight family and friends from church have predetermined cultural rituals when it comes to dating, romance and marriage, but that paradigm doesn't usually work for LDS/post-LDS LGBTQ persons. This workshop will seek to unravel the guilt and shame associated with exploring sexuality, and will talk candidly about how to promote healthy relationships that can blossom into meaningful connections on the path to love and family.

Personal Revelation and the
LGBT Mormon Faith Journey

Presenters: Camron Barth & Sara Jade Woodhouse

Bios: Camron Barth served his mission in Utah and has been home three years. He came out to his family and the world in November 2016, and lives near Seattle. He loves hiking, movies, and politics. He is 30 and single! He is semi active in the LDS Church. His faith in, and relationship with God is very important to him. He’s grateful for Affirmation and grateful to be both gay and a Latter-day Saint!

Sara Jade Woodhouse is a transgender woman active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and she currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Affirmation. She is a Drama teacher at Highland Junior High in Ogden and has been a professor of film at Salt Lake Community College for the past 13 years. Sara Jade acts professionally in theatre, film, and television, and is an accomplished writer currently working on an autobiography. She has volunteered with Mormons Building Bridges and seeks to promote better understanding of transgender people everywhere.

Workshop Description: Personal revelation is a big deal for Mormons in our walk with God! How do we differ in our revelatory experiences as LGBTQ Mormons? How can we cultivate our spirituality among uncertainty? How do we claim our own faith experience? Join us for a unique small and large group discussion session.

Many Paths, One Family

Presenter: Mette Harrison

Bios: Mette Ivie Harrison is the author of The Bishop's Wife adult mystery series, set in Mormon, Utah. Book 2 in the series, His Right Hand, starred multiple LGBT Mormon characters. Book 3, For Time and All Eternities, deals with the main character, Linda Wallheim's, fallout as the parent of an openly gay, active Mormon son after the new policy. Mette is a frequent religion blogger for Huffington Post and Religious News Service and has LGBT children. She holds a PhD from Princeton University in Germanic Languages and Literatures and is an All-American triathlete.

Workshop Description: Faith transition “happens in the best of families,” especially those who are blessed with LGBTQ family members! This is a workshop on being a united family when your faith is no longer what unites you. We will discuss how to negotiate tricky family relationships, when to give up, when to re-engage, and how to set reasonable terms to come to “one heart.”

New Spiritual Paths

Presenters: Nick Literski, Mary Lydia Ryan

Bios: Nick Literski holds a master's degree in Spiritual Guidance from Sofia University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Depth Psychology with emphasis in Jungian and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. In addition to working with spiritual guidance clients from all traditions, Nick is a trained shamanic practitioner, drawing from cultures around the world to provide transformative ritual work. Identifying as non-binary transgender and gay, Nick shares life with their husband in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.

Mary Lydia Ryan is a vocalist, pianist, composer, “Intuitive Holistic and Mindfulness Living” coach from Seattle, WA. She was born and reared in Provo, UT, graduated from high school in Salt Lake City, spent her life in the LDS faith including serving a full time mission. Mary removed her name from church records in 2001, was rebaptized into the LDS faith in 2010 following her seventeen year reprieve then resigned once again following “the November policy change.” Mary’s life work in music and community has held a direct focus and inclusion of loving all of humanity, especially our LGBTQIA family that continue to encounter challenges within religion and daily life. Her desire is to nurture individual self love for all, despite outside influence and voices.

Workshop Description: Religion and spirituality are supposed to provide us with important psychological and physical benefits, but for many of us, they've become an enormous challenge instead. What if that could change? What if we could go beyond the outdated heteronormative and cisnormative ideas we were taught, to find our own reflections in the Divine? In this workshop, we will travel together to explore how each of us can draw elements from traditions around the world to build a personal spirituality that fully embraces and supports our individual identities. Come and learn how we can begin to combine something old, something new, and something...whatever color we want it to be!

Where do I stay?

Special conference hotel rates ($89/night + 15.3% tax) have been arranged at the University Place Hotel (310 SW Lincoln Street - Portland OR). WiFi and hot breakfast included.

When calling the hotel for reservations (503-221-0140 or 1-866-845-4647), ask for the "Affirmation LGBTQ Mormons" room rate. There is a $10 per person plus tax for the 3rd and 4th adult in the room. Please note that the block date is: check in 1/13 & check out 1/15 2017. If guests need to stay before or after the block date, please let the hotel agent know the block starts on 1/13, if not, the hotel agent will not see the block. The special rate is subject to availability, so call soon!

Please note that hotel parking is $15/night.

In addition to hotel lodging, there is lodging offered by local members of Affirmation who are willing to share a guest bedroom. Contact Buckley Jeppson for details.

Transportation

Public transportation from/to the airport (PDX) is available by MAX light rail, takes 38 minutes each way & costs $2.50 for Adults 18–64, and $1.25 for Honored Citizens or Youth.

For Blue Star Shuttle ($14/way/person), please contact them at: 1-800-247-2272

Contact

Programming for the conference is graciously being organized by Ron and Sue Raynes. If you have any questions, please contact Sue by e-mail or by phone, 541-513-9585