I’m Eli from south Texas. I’ve been in education for fifteen years and have begun to serve as a faith leader for the last few years. I was raised in the Catholic church. As a queer kid I came to find this was a less than ideal environment for my faith and spiritual growth. I went to Brown University on the East Coast, and barely held onto my faith during that time. I stopped attending church/services at 19 because I couldn’t reconcile my faith and my queerness. Without faith leaders or faith communities that were open to having affirming conversations with me, I all but walked away from my faith.
It was during this time in my life that I remember having a sidewalk conversation with a Rev. out of the University Chaplains office about me not attending church. She just wanted to check in, but she offered me so much more. I told her I felt like I had to choose myself because the bible and the church didn’t make room for queer people like myself and proceeded to list all of the biblical reasons, I’d heard my entire life that confirmed by decision. At 19, that was the first time I had a critical conversation about scripture, and she took time to start unpacking what are referred to as clobber passes with me. It was exactly what I needed as a queer Christian. It’s exactly what I needed to save me from the toxic messages that made me feel like I couldn’t be both.
Fast forward, I spent years church hopping, trying to find another faith community. I found an affirming small non-denominational church in South Texas that led me to The Reformation Project’s Leadership Development 2019 Cohort, and I have spent the last four years preaching and providing pastoral care. Over the years I have come to find the healing in community both near and far. I’m in my first year now at Chicago Theological Seminary working on a Master’s in Divinity. While the last 15 years of my career have been focused on equity in education and educator effectiveness. I now use all of the coaching tools at my disposal to support others in navigating their faith journeys.