This week on the podcast we’re bringing you a conversation with three guests who have spent more than a decade researching the experience of sexual minorities at faith-based colleges and universities, exploring the intersection of faith and sexuality. Dr. Mark Yarhouse, Professor and Chair of Wheaton’s School of Psychology; Dr. Janet Dean, Associate Professor at Asbury University; and Dr. Steve Stratton, Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care at Asbury Seminary help us learn more about their research that led them to write Listening to Sexual Minorities: A Study of Faith and Identity on Christian College Campuses. In today’s conversation, we’ll learn more about their research, their findings, the experiences of others, and ways that we can engage the culture with intentionality, civility and mature love.
Dr. Steve Stratton, Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care
Stephen P. Stratton, Ph.D., is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care and a licensed psychologist (KY) and counselor educator. Previous to his full-time appointment at Asbury Theological Seminary in 2006, he served as an adjunct professor at Asbury University, where he was the Director of the Center for Counseling for 18 years. He is a Health Service Provider/Supervisor for the Kentucky Board of Psychology.
Dr. Stratton holds membership and leadership positions in both counseling and psychology professional guilds, and he regularly presents at the state, national and international conferences of these organizations. He is currently Vice President for the Kentucky chapter of the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values In Counseling (KY-ASERVIC). He also serves as an At-large member of the Board for the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS). He is a trainer and seminar director for the Prepare-Enrich Inventory (Life Innovations, Inc.) since 2010, and he is a trained facilitator of Immunity to Change workshops (Minds at Work, Inc.) since 2013.
Dr. Stratton has provided psychological services to adolescents and adults in hospitals, community mental health agencies, pastoral settings, and college and university centers since 1983. Dr. Stratton has special interest and training in the areas of human relational attachments, sexual/gender identity, contemplative prayer, and the integration of counseling and orthodox Christianity.
He is part of a research team investigating the experience of sexual minorities at faith-based colleges and universities. The book based on this research, Listening to Sexual Minorities: A Study of Faith and Sexual Identity on Christian College Campuses was published in 2018. He is a research affiliate with the Sexual and Gender Identity Institute, where he currently helps to facilitate a longitudinal study linventigating the experience of students at Christian colleges and universities across the United States who are navigating faith and gender identity. He also serves on the Division 36 (Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) LGBTQ Task Force at the American Psychological Association.
In 2017, he received the “Distinguished Member Award” for his service in teaching, research, and pastoral leadership for CAPS. In 2012, Dr. Stratton was presented the “Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award” by Asbury Theological Seminary for “consistent excellence in the classroom.” In 2010, he was named “Psychologist of the Year” by the Kentucky Psychological Association for “his innovative teaching and outstanding scientist-practitioner model[ing]” in the state.
He is married to Carol (Lehikoinen) Stratton, and they enjoy connections with their adult daughter, son and daughter-in-law. The Strattons are active in relational trainings, experiential worship, and contemplative prayer ministries. They are leaders in worship and laity training at Nicholasville United Methodist Church.
Dr. Mark Yarhouse
Professor and Chair of the Wheaton College School of Psychology
Mark A. Yarhouse, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in conflicts tied to religious identity and sexual and gender identity. He assists people who are navigating the complex relationship between their sexual or gender identity and Christian faith. He is the Dr. Arthur P. and Mrs. Jean May Rech Chair in Psychology at Wheaton College, where he runs the Sexual and Gender Identity (SGI) Institute. He is an award-winning teacher and researcher and is the past recipient of the Gary Collins Award for Excellence in Christian Counseling. He was a past participant with the Ethics and Public Policy Center think tank in Washington, DC, and he was named Senior Fellow with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities to conduct a study of students navigating sexual identity concerns at Christian colleges and universities. He has been a consultant to the National Institute of Corrections to address issues facing sexual minorities in corrections, and he was part of a consensus panel from the American Psychological Association on sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts that convened to provide input to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in Washington, DC. He is currently the Chair of the task force on LGBT issues for Division 36 (Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) of the American Psychological Association. He was also invited to write the featured white paper on sexual identity for the Christ on Campus Initiative edited by Don A. Carson for The Gospel Coalition.
He has published over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and is author or co-author of several books, including Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministers and Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. His most recent books are Sexual Identity & Faith and Costly Obedience: Listening to and Learning from Celibate Gay Christians.
Dr. Janet Dean
Associate Professor at Asbury University
Dr. Janet B. Dean, a licensed psychologist, is an associate professor of psychology here at Asbury University. In addition to teaching a number of undergraduate courses in psychology, she mentors students interested in research, advises our local chapter of the Psi Chi Honor Society in Psychology and our Psychology Club, and co-facilitates Asbury’s annual undergraduate research symposium SEARCH. In 2014, she was recognized by the Kentucky Psychological Association with the “Outstanding Undergraduate Student Mentor Award.” In 2018, she was given a “Faculty-Scholar Award” at Asbury.
As part of her work at Asbury, Dr. Dean is actively involved in research that explores the intersection between faith and psychology. As a Fellow with the Sexual & Gender Identity Institute through Wheaton College, her primary research explores sexuality and gender identity development on faith-based campuses. Other research interests include sexuality and religiosity, thoughts of God and psychological well-being, forgiveness, and counselor self-care, in addition to various student projects that she facilitates.
Prior to joining the Asbury faculty, Dr. Dean served as a counselor in the university’s Center for Counseling for four years. She has more than 20 years of experience in psychological assessment and treatment across a variety of settings, including university counseling, community mental health, correctional and forensic psychology, and her ongoing private practice. As affiliate faculty, she also teaches counseling courses at Asbury Theological Seminary.
Dr. Dean is actively involved with the Kentucky Psychological Association and the Kentucky Psychological Foundation, serving as the Public Education chair on the Board of Directors of KPF. She also serves as a regular member of the Spring Academic Conference Committee for KPF.
On a personal note, Dr. Dean is married to Rev. Kevin Dean ’92, a retired Navy Reserve chaplain and a current member of Asbury’s Student Development team. They have two boys, one in college at Asbury and one in seminary. They are active members of Grace Community Church (Church of the Nazarene) in Nicholasville. Dr. Dean holds a district ministerial license and serves on the Kentucky District Advisory Board for the Church of the Nazarene.
Heidi Wilcox, host of the Thrive Podcast
Writer, podcaster, and social media manager, Heidi Wilcox shares stories of truth, justice, healing and hope. She is best known as the host of Spotlight, (especially her blooper reel) highlighting news, events, culturally relevant topics and stories of the ways alumni, current students and faculty are attempting something big for God. If you can’t find her, she’s probably cheering on her Kentucky Wildcats, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading or spending time with her husband, Wes.
Heidi Wilcox: Hey everyone. Welcome to this week’s episode of the Thrive with Asbury Seminary podcast, where every other week we bring you conversations with authors, thought leaders, and people just like you, to help you connect with where your passion meets the world’s deep need.
Heidi Wilcox: This week on the podcast, we’re bringing you a conversation with three guests, Doctor Mark Yarhouse, professor and chair at Wheaton School of Psychology, Doctor Janet Dean, associate professor and program director of the SEARCH Students Scholarship at Asbury University, and Doctor Steve Stratton, professor of counseling and pastoral care at Asbury Seminary.
Heidi Wilcox: Each of our guests is very accomplished in his or her field and I encourage you to check out the show notes for their complete bios and links to the books that they’ve written. I’m very excited about today’s conversation. For more than a decade, this group has researched the experience of sexual minorities at faith-based colleges and universities, exploring the intersection of faith and sexuality. Their research led them to publish a book Listening to Sexual Minorities.
Heidi Wilcox: In today’s conversation, we’ll learn more about their research, their findings, and ways that we can engage the culture with intentionality, civility, and mature love. Let’s listen.
Heidi Wilcox: Well, I am so happy that you all can join us today. I’m really excited about our conversation and this is my first time to have three podcast guests at once, so I’m really excited. Yeah, so it’s going to be a great conversation. If we could just go around and the three of you could briefly introduce yourself, that would be awesome. We can start with you, Doctor Yarhouse.
Mark Yarhouse: Sure. So I’m Mark Yarhouse, I’m a professor of psychology at Wheaton College, and I direct the Sexual and Gender Identity Institute there.
Heidi Wilcox: Very nice. Doctor Stratton?
Steve Stratton: Doctor Steve Stratton, I’m a professor of counseling and pastoral care at Asbury Theological Seminary and really glad to be a part of this research team.
Janet Dean: And I’m Janet Dean. I’m an associate professor of psychology at Asbury University, and then teach as an adjunct over here at Asbury Seminary. And I’m glad to be part of this team too. We’ve been together 14, 15 years now?
Steve Stratton: Yeah, it’s kind of amazing.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m glad you cross the street on a regular basis. Yeah, so I’m excited to talk about your research today. You’ve been investigating the experience of sexual minorities on faith-based colleges and universities. So how did you become interested in this topic?
Steve Stratton: You know, the interesting about this, I think we’ve all been interested in this topic at different points, I think it’s come up but, but in some ways our research partnership got launched actually across the street at Asbury University.
Heidi Wilcox: Oh really?
Steve Stratton: We had invited Mark to come and speak and-
Janet Dean: I’d only been at the school for a year, so I’m brand new and this all happens.
Steve Stratton: So Janet and I, we were both in the counseling center over there.
Heidi Wilcox: So when did it get started? In what year?
Steve Stratton: Oh, when… I don’t remember.
Mark Yarhouse: I think I came in 2005 I want to say.
Janet Dean: Right, because I started in 2004. That makes sense.
Steve Stratton: So that’s where it got… and it really began as we were thinking, wouldn’t it be good to have some data about the campus? Mark and a grad student of his had worked on a survey, so we thought, let’s see if we can put it to use and preparation for Mark’s Staley lecture series and some other things that were happening.
Steve Stratton: So that was actually our first survey together, was looking at the data for Asbury University at that time, so that it would inform the conversation. And then after everything was done, we just continued to converse and think about some of these things together and launched from there. Actually the survey we did in another iteration, became the survey that became part of our first research study together I think.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah. So this study has been going on for 14 years now?
Mark Yarhouse: I would say our collaboration has been-
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah, your collaboration.
Mark Yarhouse: So there’s like a line of research is the way I would think about that. And a line of research throughout multiple studies. So we have the one that is featured in the book Listening to Sexual Minorities, is the first two years of a larger study. And we’ve been continuing that out to four years.
Mark Yarhouse: But we had done other studies that go back 10 years, but they’re different independent studies in a line of research, because I think we keep realizing we could ask better questions every time we do certain things, “Okay, we can do this better.”
Heidi Wilcox: Well, tell me about your research. What is the structure of your study and what is its purpose?
Janet Dean: Well, I can talk a little bit about that. The research that we gathered for the book actually has two parts, if you will. One was an online survey that asked all sorts of questions, some about students, just their own sense of self, and how they identify, and what they experience, and how they’ve moved through these sexual markers in their life, and about their faith, and their mental health, and how they perceive their campus. It had all sorts of questions like that.
Janet Dean: And then after they complete that, they have a choice. They can say, “You know, I’d be interested in being interviewed or I wouldn’t be.” So for those who were interested in being interviewed, they were then contacted by the research team and participated in what? 45 minute to an hour and a half long interviews, where they shared some of their story with us.
Janet Dean: So then data analysis, you have the more objective survey part, but then we have the more difficult with I think analysis of the interview data.
Heidi Wilcox: Wow. So you’re actually hearing their voices and their perspective too.
Steve Stratton: That’s been a really rich part for me in the process. We’ve done a lot of the qualitative analysis here at the seminary, so many of our students have been involved in that. And it’s been just a rich experience to be in a person’s life, with permission of course, but in a person’s life and to hear their story and their voice from their perspective.
Steve Stratton: And it’s not unusual to hear our students here at the seminary say, “This is quite an honor, a privilege to hear these stories in this way.” And some of them have great funny things that are part of it, other ones are just poignant and very even passionate. So you get that person and their experience, but it’s really beautiful in a lot of ways. And for our students it’s been one of those things that I think they walk away feeling like I’ve really heard the voices of people who’ve been trying to navigate this intersection of things. It’s been great for our students.
Heidi Wilcox: Hey, you mentioned the intersection, and your research talks about the complications of living at the intersection of faith and sexuality. What do you mean by the intersection? I have some follow up questions to that too, but let’s start with what do you mean by that intersection?
Mark Yarhouse: Well, one of the images that Steve’s team came up with really from analyzing the data, was the idea that the students are kind of holding these different aspects of their identity. So their sexuality and their faith. And the image that his team came up with was, you know, when you move in on campus to your residence hall and you’re carrying boxes onto campus to kind of move in, you’re sort of holding these boxes, and if you will, one of those boxes is your sexuality and one of those boxes is your religious faith. So the idea that, how do you hold these two things? And you don’t want to spill the contents of either of them all over and draw a lot of attention to yourself. You’re trying to figure it out.
Mark Yarhouse: So that is carried further in a lot of different ways throughout our writing, to share images of how people put those things together, or make sense of those two things. But that’s been a pretty common way to talk about it.
Heidi Wilcox: How are you finding that students negotiate that intersection through your research?
Mark Yarhouse: Well, they do it differently. One of the things that really stood out to me is that there’s no one student navigating these issues. There’s quite a diversity of experiences, it’s one of the things that really stood out to me.
Mark Yarhouse: If there’s one thing that I would say that they hold in common is that they take their faith seriously, and they take their sexuality seriously-
Steve Stratton: That’s very true.
Mark Yarhouse: … and they take the relationship between the two seriously.
Steve Stratton: Yes-
Janet Dean: And I think that was a surprise for us, wasn’t it? We really expected that students would end up setting one of those boxes down, and we found very few did that.
Steve Stratton: And I think that we expected it because general culture kind of said that’s the best, you know… you’re going to have to drop one of these in order to negotiate it. So we went in anticipating that we’d find it, but within the sample we had, hardly anybody did that. Not in this group-
Heidi Wilcox: Really?
Steve Stratton: And I think it’s because it’s more exciting. They were people who valued both so highly. They were working very hard to figure out how do I hold on to both of these without dropping them.
Heidi Wilcox: Obviously every person would do it differently, but what were some of the bigger ways you found that students are integrating those two?
Steve Stratton: We did find some patterns that we oftentimes talk about in the book. We talk about them as holding patterns or these boxes. And I think, we won’t go into all of the detail about those things, but I think what we found was that the majority of people were trying to integrate them in some way. So they were holding onto both and trying to find ways to negotiate them that would allow them to hang onto both. And there were different ways of trying to do that.
Steve Stratton: Probably the one that we have found across time, and Janet, you may speak to this more, but is the one that seems to have the most unsettledness about it, was what we talked about is this kind of a two box method. It was the sense of trying to hold on to both and they’re interacting, but it’s almost like they’re big and they’re awkward and there’s a lot of friction that’s still going on between them, and I don’t really have a good way of holding onto these very well. So this one seems to be the one that, in comparison with the other one, has the most distress associated with it. It’s like there’s not a structure
Steve Stratton: And then there are two other ones that we have that have unique structures with them. There’s one that that kind of has a… we talk about in the book, is box within a box, and it’s the idea that there’s sort of this superordinate sort of structure that helps me understand how to hold these. So for some people it’s their religious and spiritual view. That’s the framework that gives order to these two boxes.
Steve Stratton: And the other one, there are some people where sexuality and their sexual experiences, what really gives order to these boxes. They’re holding on to both, but one’s a little bit more dominant in the way that works, the way they order those kinds of things.
Steve Stratton: And then there’s another one that it seems to be a little bit more flexible and dynamic, where they don’t have kind of one that orders it, but it seems to be more contextually driven. So all of those three are integrating.
Steve Stratton: We did have a few though that, we had one where it’s like they just didn’t know what to do with the boxes so they weren’t even interacting. It’s kind like they were very compartmentalized. So my sexuality’s over here and my faith is over here, but they don’t interact.
Steve Stratton: And then the other one was more along the line, what we hear from general culture, is they’ve just dropped one of the boxes. You know, it’s like it may be somebody from a religious or spiritual community that just says, “I will not be a sexual person, in that way,” or somebody who’s coming from a community that values the sexuality aspect of it to the exception of the religion and spirituality. And they’re just saying, “I know what my background was, but I’m just not religious spiritually anymore,” you know, in some way.
Steve Stratton: So there’s a lot of ways, and I think that was the piece that was like Mark and Janet were saying, is that there’s just not a monolithic view and the holding patterns are in the people. It’s really interesting that it’s so dynamic and different, even across these that hold faith and their sexuality and say, “I’ve got to find a way to negotiate this.”
Janet Dean: And I would add some of the later analysis that we did looking at this. The folks who sat one down or the people who hold them completely apart, even though they’re holding both of them, in some way, both of those are ways to manage cognitive dissonance, integrating them or ways to manage cognitive dissonance. But that group, where they’re holding both and they’re in conflict, they haven’t managed that dissonance. And I think that’s why we see the increased anxiety and just the struggle in them-
Steve Stratton: Yeah. I think that sort of suspicion-
Janet Dean: …. is they haven’t found some kind of way to resolve that for themselves.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah, yeah. So you mentioned your book, and that’s a good segue into my next question. Did you know you were going to write a book based on your research, and what led you to write Listening to Sexual Minorities?
Janet Dean: I think Steve and I would answer Mark.
Steve Stratton: We in many ways followed Mark’s lead on this.
Mark Yarhouse: I don’t know that we thought we were going to write a book anytime until very recently, because these were just studies that we were doing. But I think after 10 years, it was like you got something we could put together into an actual writing project beyond… because you publish them in peer review journals and that’s sort of the primary way that we communicate with our colleagues.
Mark Yarhouse: But the reality is, all of us consult, we work with churches, we work with Christian colleges and universities, other institutions, and most people don’t read peer reviews.
Heidi Wilcox: True.
Janet Dean: Surprisingly, yeah.
Mark Yarhouse: I don’t know why, but they might read a book. I think we thought that that could be appealing. Yeah, it’s a unique read because it’s mixed with… I wouldn’t want to frighten people away because there’s data, but the data informs, there’s a lot of stories, a lot of accounts of the people’s lives. It’s interspersed with actual the words of the students and what their life is like. And there’s plenty of data if you really wanted to read up on that, but it gives you the lay of the land pretty well.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah, it’s a very enlightening read and I enjoyed what I did read of it to prepare for the interview.
Steve Stratton: I think some of the things that were interesting for me, I think that one of the things we went into this, the distress levels for students I think was one of the things that stood out to me as really a surprising thing, because as you listened to other people talk about these students without necessarily getting their voices in the mix, you would anticipate by some people’s standards that the people that were studying would be in significant distress across the board.
Steve Stratton: And I think in looking at some of the things that we were finding, we were surprised to find that there are indeed some people that are severely distressed in this and those cannot be ignored, and it’s not downplayed at all.
Steve Stratton: But the percentages of that group are not as high as we thought. And actually about half of our sample would look pretty much the same as other college students in that. And that was-
Heidi Wilcox: Interesting.
Steve Stratton: That was kind of interesting to me. That was not what I expected going into this, but it was one of those things that stood out, stuff that was a fascinating new look for me.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah. I’d love to hear from each of you, Doctor Yarhouse and Doctor Dean, what things stood out to you from your research?
Mark Yarhouse: Well, that was one to me as well.
Heidi Wilcox: Sure.
Mark Yarhouse: We’re all in circles where the prevailing view is that Christian colleges, Christian universities must be nearly kind of toxic environments, are almost like a public health risk to students who are gay, or who are navigating same sex sexuality. So to me that’s an empirical question. Is that the case?
Mark Yarhouse: And to see the range of experiences and results in the measures in some ways it was encouraging. I mean, some people come to the colleges because those colleges, the policies and the theology, the ethics undergirds their own commitments, so they want to be in those communities. Other students would disagree with those theological positions around sexual ethics and policies and so on and so forth. But they go for other reasons.
Mark Yarhouse: So there’s not one student that would capture… anybody can comment on a Christian college, but that’s one point of view. And when you do studies, you find that there’s a range of opinions and experiences among the very students people are advocating for. So again stands out, just how nuanced we’re talking about when we’re talking about this population.
Heidi Wilcox: For sure.
Janet Dean: And looking at that, it’s actually, as the involvement with the campus, that’s maybe been the most interesting to me, definitely the level of distress. When we look at policies to see that it’s really just maybe a third, if a third of students who vocally disagree with the policies of their institutions, and when we talk to them, most of them didn’t want the theological stance to change. What they wanted is more clarity on what they were allowed to do and what they weren’t allowed to do. And I don’t know that that’s necessarily the perception that we have of these schools.
Janet Dean: I think about that, and then I think about how do attitudes toward these schools change when students graduate? And I was really surprised to see that most students think more favorably of their school after they leave because I think-
Steve Stratton: That was really interesting.
Janet Dean: Because I think I hear that these sexual minority students suffer through four years at this school, and then they’re so glad that they’re done. And I’m sure that there are students who have that response, but the overall data suggest actually that they leave the school and they feel better about the school when they’re done. So that was a surprise to me.
Janet Dean: I think the other thing that we heard, maybe the interviews, but I guess it counter narrative if you will, that students aren’t really… and we’ve seen this all the time that we’ve been doing this research, they’re not really hearing a lot of negative comments from faculty and staff.
Heidi Wilcox: That’s good.
Janet Dean: That the negative comments and the jokes and the derogatory remarks come peer to peer, but they’re not coming from employees. And I think that’s not what the world wants to tell us about this kind of environment.
Steve Stratton: I think one of the things that comes out in the qualitative research is that to some degree, when it comes to those offensive or microaggressions and those kinds of things that are associated with Christian communities, Christian academic communities, it seems to get better as the students age.
Heidi Wilcox: Interesting.
Steve Stratton: I guess to be more clear about that, one of the funny things that came out in one of the interviews was a student said, “When people come in as freshmen, you just have to understand they don’t know how to negotiate this topic very well, so we just don’t listen to them”. I had this student talking to me, “We just don’t listen to them. They got to grow up a little bit before we kind of get it to the place where…” and I think the word they used in the interviews, “When they’re sociable enough,” or “Socialized enough to be able to kind of enter into this discussion in a way, we just disregard them for the most part until they get to that point.”
Heidi Wilcox: That’s hilarious.
Steve Stratton: So there’s a little bit of a, you kind of grow into learning how to do this. That was one of the things that helped as I was thinking about this, is to say, at least generally speaking, the schools that are in, they are socializing people to have this conversation to some degree. They can do better.
Steve Stratton: I think there still is a dominant message that schools can do better at creating place for conversation and learning around these issues, but on the other hand, there are a lot of things, and I think over the 10 years we would say in the research, that schools are doing better at this. I think they’re working to do better, and we see the evidence of that, although still got some work to do and still ways to go around these things. I think the other thing for me that stands out really strongly is this idea of relationality.
Janet Dean: That’s exactly where I was going to go.
Steve Stratton: Go ahead.
Janet Dean: No, you go ahead.
Steve Stratton: The one piece that stands out is how important is to have one good relationship, and how that affects distress, and how that affects the way they engage their experience, the way they view their experience. The idea of having someone that you can connect with, that is a friend, someone with whom you can unpack some of these things in a way that it’s not judgmental or foreclosed, but there to hear and to think with you about those kinds of things.
Steve Stratton: That kind of relationship means everything. The amount of variants that’s associated with the relationality and some of those kinds of pieces is just amazing. I don’t know about you all, as you were…
Mark Yarhouse: Yeah. Steve mentioned earlier the idea of microaggressions, but these are subtle, maybe even unintended things that get said that just create a climate. So imagine in a residence hall if someone says, “Stop acting so gay” to somebody and it’s a derogatory term that means, “Stop acting so stupid,” what’s the likelihood that a freshman who’s navigating these questions is likely to bring that up to their resident assistant or someone else when everybody’s kind of joking in that way?
Mark Yarhouse: So it creates that climate. It also makes it very difficult. Just to Steve’s point, the making it or breaking it is interpersonally mediated. I mean they’re going to have these relationships that are derogatory, these unkind things that are said, or people can do what we call micro affirmation. They can have subtle things that are said that are points of encouragement that say, “You can talk to me. I do value you. I do see you.” Those things time and time again, were lifelines for students on campus.
Heidi Wilcox: That’s so important, and I think, not always, but sometimes with the microaggressions, they might not even be realized that that is happening by the people who are giving them. What would you say to that and how can we not do those even unintentionally? Because that’s one of my hopes for this podcast, is that we learn how to navigate this conversation better and learn to be lifelines for people who are navigating this intersection.
Janet Dean: I think there’s an element of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. So what would it be like if this were true about me? And I heard these comments. And I’m not sure that the younger students on these campuses are able to do that as well as older students are. And I think that that’s one of the developmental changes that happens as they’re in school. We’re hoping that they begin to broaden their perspectives and think about the world in different ways, and think about people other than themselves. But that is a developmental process too, but it helps.
Janet Dean: I think about, this is several years ago, I was teaching a class, developmental psychology, and I don’t know that I would have noticed this before I start doing this research, but to hear the assumptions made that there’s only one life outcome to be happy and that’s to get married and have children-
Heidi Wilcox: Interesting.
Janet Dean: … and you begin to hear this from a different perspective. And I don’t think anybody in the class was attempting to kind of approach this in this heteronormative sort of way, and yet that’s what they were doing.
Janet Dean: So then how do you open their eyes of see that this is the message that they were sharing at that time? And I think it involves listening to other voices, and somehow, what would that be like if that were me?
Steve Stratton: I think students say that what helps is awareness, growing awareness. I think it fits with what Janet’s saying, that those opportunities, where whether it’s programmatic or other kinds of more process-related things in residence halls. But just a sense of, just there’s that… I was trying to think of a good way to say this. If colleges are raising awareness that there are people that are beyond the diversity issue, these things, and it’s not necessarily even making the statement that how we engage that process, which is a deeper discussion, but just the awareness that there are people that are just different than you are and I am. And we have to be aware of that, and we have to learn about that. That’s part of higher education, is being a part of that sort of process.
Heidi Wilcox: As you’ve done your research, I don’t want to cut this discussion short, so if you have anything to add, feel free before I move on to the next question. As you’ve done your research, what might Christian LGBTQ+ students or those who are navigating life at the intersection of faith and sexuality say to their Christian academic communities?
Steve Stratton: I think first of all, the one I think of is, I think they’d say, Janet mentioned that when it comes to policies, they’re not necessarily looking for a change in policy. They are some that come in-
Janet Dean: Yeah, there are some.
Steve Stratton: … and want to engage that. Many of them will say, and I don’t remember percentages in this, many of them will say that they don’t like certain policies that are present in that. But for me, the thing that I think comes out of the research is this sense of don’t create policies that make it difficult for me to be in a relationship in a way that helps me, as I negotiate this sort of thing.
Steve Stratton: Now, the way I said that may sound like people are saying, “I want the chance to do whatever I want to do.” And that’s not what I mean in this. It’s more sense of I need to be able to have that one good relationship, or I need to have multiple relationships where I can grow in community.
Steve Stratton: So if there are policies and sorts of things that that get in the way of that communal sort of engagement, if there are things that, I mean, I have to be silent because of my fear and because I don’t feel safe, as Mark was talking about, if it’s an environment that keeps me from being able to talk about what’s real and relevant for me, those are the things that they would like the school to understand.
Steve Stratton: Think about those from our perspective, how will those things affect my ability to be in community here? You don’t have to change policy. You don’t have to take different theological stand. But as those are enacted, think about how those might help or hinder the communal aspect that’s so important in making the way for learning in this area.
Mark Yarhouse: I think students would also, related to that, they want… so I mentioned earlier that they want to take their faith seriously, their sexuality seriously, how they relate to each other. Well, you don’t do that in isolation. That’s not just a cognitive exercise you kind of figure out. I mean, to be able to process that, talk about that, a lot of students would want a space on campus, or a space where they could do that while they’re in these four years.
Mark Yarhouse: And this is tricky. I consulted a lot of Christian colleges, and and I am often asked, “Should we sponsor a group? Should we have a group where students can kind of convene?” and there’s not a yes or no answer to that.
Steve Stratton: Correct.
Mark Yarhouse: On the one hand, what students want is a place to do that, students are going to have this conversation. The question is, does an institution want to shape that, and be a part of that, convene that? How do you want to do that? But students are going to talk about it anyway.
Heidi Wilcox: Of course.
Mark Yarhouse: So it seems to me you want to be be a part of that at some level. But the other challenge is that students don’t disagree with each other. So you convene a group of students and they are here to talk about this part of their life, and it can be really hard when a group of students gravitate towards one maybe perspective on this topic, and maybe it’s more conservative for lack of a better word, and students who disagree with that feel like that can be threatening, or maybe students are over here and it’s a larger group of students who wish policies were different and students who are more conservative feel like that’s not safe for them sometimes. So how are they in the same room and talking about these things together?
Mark Yarhouse: If an institution does sponsor something like that, it takes a very wise and kind of nimble facilitator, I think, to kind of create space for everybody to be in the room. But those are things that are pretty challenging to work out.
Heidi Wilcox: But the goal would be to create a culture that’s committed to… depending on the institution, but committed to an Orthodox view of the sexual ethic, while investing intentionally in the formation of the sexual minority students. Is that fair?
Steve Stratton: I think most of the schools who are researching would say that. That’s their hope. That’s the hope, absolutely.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah. And creating a culture can sometimes be the challenge, right?
Steve Stratton: Yeah. I think we wrestle with what we talk about in the book, there’s two different levels. There’s kind of this macro level and this micro level, and at the macro level it involves a lot of conversations and relationships among higher level administrators, and boards, and constituents, and donors. And there is a language and a conversation that goes on there. And then there’s this micro level that’s the conversation amongst students, and maybe students and faculty, students and staff.
Steve Stratton: And sometimes there are conversations and maybe even publications that go out at the macro level that haven’t really thought through the micro level and the impact of those kinds of things. And then there are sometimes, of course, the other way around where there are statements made and advocacy stances and those kinds of things made at the micro level, that that may not really understand the macro impact of some of those kinds of things.
Steve Stratton: That makes it hard. That makes it really difficult as you’re living in the community and you’re having to contend with both. And I think the institutions I see doing this better are the ones where they’re aware of both of those levels, and are beginning to think about how do we keep communication open so that we are able to minister and educate ultimately everybody who comes to us. That’s that liberal arts sort of learning perspective that is a high value for all of these institutions. So how do we make space for this kind of whole person learning is what we’re after.
Heidi Wilcox: Yes. That’s so important. This wasn’t one of the podcast questions that I sent you beforehand, but Doctor Stratton and I were talking a while back about how your research can be misunderstood, and I wondered if you could kind of speak into that a little bit too.
Steve Stratton: If I remember the conversation correctly, I think one of the things that I said is as we got into this research, we kind of laughingly said that sometimes our point of view doesn’t please anybody in some sense. Sometimes the groups that are very conservative look at it and feel like we’re giving away too much, and sometimes the people who are on a more liberal or progressive side might feel like we’re way too conservative still, and not making way for enough. So there are some times where it’s like nobody’s happy with us.
Heidi Wilcox: You can’t please everybody.
Steve Stratton: In that way. But I think one of the things we have to honestly say is that we’re dealing with a sample of students, and they may not be representative across every other college, university, even every other Christian college, Catholic college and university, those kinds of things. This is representative of the people we’ve studied.
Steve Stratton: And I think honestly, we have to acknowledge that we’re doing our best to hear the voices of the people, and to represent those voices as well as we engage with them.
Mark Yarhouse: Even, I was just thinking of the title of the book, right? It’s called Listening to Sexual Minorities. And most people’s experience with this topic is more framed in almost political and sort of culture, or discourse. So you’ll hear maybe people in different communities might say derogatory things about the gay community, about gays are ruining the culture, or gays are ruining marriage or something like that. So it frames it very differently. So the idea that we’re listening is very off putting to some people.
Mark Yarhouse: But then, the title is Listening to Sexual Minorities, so we get pushback sometimes on just that language. Like, what do you mean by sexual minority? Are you equating them to racial minorities? And sexual minorities is just a term that is used within psychology to describe people who experience same sex attraction independent of a label that they use, like gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or straight, or independent of sexual behavior that they engage in. So for our purposes with Christian communities, it’s an ideal phrase because a lot of our students don’t engage in sexual behavior. Some of our students don’t elect to use sexual identity labels, so what do you call them?
Mark Yarhouse: So this is a term, the shorthand to describe them, but other people think you’re making a political statement by calling them sexual minorities, and you’re beating at the church down the wrong path. And of course that’s not our heart. We’re just trying to use the language of our profession, but also language that really fits with the communities that we’re in, because of the diverse values that our sample holds.
Janet Dean: And along with that, this book, again, is about listening to these students. We’re not taking a theological stance in this book. I’ve heard some folks say, “Well, what do you think theologically?” That’s not with this particular book is about. It’s about their experience.
Janet Dean: So I think it would be wrong to look at this and think that we’re trying to make some theological statement and political statement. That’s not what we’re doing.
Heidi Wilcox: It’s about listening, gathering research. And when I think of listening, I think of conversation, which is what you guys have been doing with the students that you’ve been interviewing.
Heidi Wilcox: As we move through the interview, what does your research teaches about… we talked about it a little bit, but I want to specifically ask you. What does your research teach us about engaging culture with a convicted civility that is also flavored with compassion?
Mark Yarhouse: Well, I love this phrase and I just need to give credit where credit’s due. Richard Mouw popularized that phrase, “Convicted civility,” but when I met him he said, “I actually got that from Martin Marty” so I don’t know where he got it from.
Heidi Wilcox: Yes, it’s a beautiful phrase that’s why I borrowed it too.
Mark Yarhouse: … footnote, we’re just going to put it right down. But the idea, and it’s funny to say this on the heels of what Janet just said, because we weren’t making a theological position.
Mark Yarhouse: But the idea of convicted civility is, I think Richard Mouw would say we have a lot of Christians who are strong on convictions, but you wouldn’t want them to represent you or the church to the broader culture because they’re just not the most winsome and gracious people. On the other hand, you have Christians who are so strong on civility, you have no idea what they believe in. And I think that is a difficult space for people right now.
Heidi Wilcox: It is.
Mark Yarhouse: How do you model having convictions, and how do you engage other people you disagree with with civility, and then I added to that the idea that we should flavor that with compassion, because most people don’t experience what these students experience. So to sort of see through their eyes, experience what they experience, I think that should help us understand a little bit better our communities, our environments, what it would be like to be 12 or 13 or 14 growing up in the church and find yourself attracted to people the same sex and trying to figure out who I talk to about that? Do I talk to anybody about that?
Mark Yarhouse: And of course a lot of people don’t talk to anybody about that until they leave for college, and then they leave for college who am I going to talk to there? And how do I make sense of the faith I was raised in? I mean, just to even imagine, to Janet’s point earlier, just to see the world through their eyes. That’s compassion. It takes a kind of cognitive complexity that we really want the reader to come away with.
Steve Stratton: You know, you ask how we got into this research. I think to some degree we heard a lot of people making statements about who these students were, and what they believed, and what their experience was. And I know for me, I come out of a counseling center background, and as I talked with people who were negotiating and navigating this sort of thing, I thought, I don’t think this voice is represented among the the louder voices out there and culture. And I think that for me was a big part of we need to listen. We need to hear what they’re experiencing as opposed to listening to these cultural voices that are saying, “Let me tell you who they are” without having listened first.
Janet Dean: I think one of the insights that I’ve gotten from that and over our work as we’ve worked together over these years, is what damage are those cultural voices doing to people’s experience? Do you know what I mean?
Steve Stratton: Yeah.
Janet Dean: If other folks, if the world is telling me, or the church, whoever is saying, “This is what you must be experiencing, this is how hard it must be for you, or this is how easy it must be for you,” how does that then shape our experience, what power does that have over, and what harm does that cause? So I think there’s something about maybe not dictating for somebody else what it will be like, but allowing them to experience for themselves, that becomes really important.
Steve Stratton: Yeah. Yeah, that’s well-said.
Heidi Wilcox: I don’t know if it’s fair to do this, but if there are three things that we could do to navigate this conversation better. So I’ve gotten listening and kind of dealing with the problem of language and being aware of what our words are actually saying. Would you add anything to that? If there were three things that you wanted me and the people listening to be like, “This is what you can do to do this better.”
Mark Yarhouse: Well, we close the book with some recommendations that might at least set off this discussion a little bit, but we talked about being a relational, that the relationships make or break people’s experiences. So focus on that. If someone were to share this story with you, thank them for trusting you with their story and honor that. That is in some ways a very sacred moment for someone to be vulnerable, given everything we’ve talked about. So the relationship is important.
Mark Yarhouse: Another one is don’t assume a person doesn’t have an active and vibrant faith because they’re navigating this space, because we’ve found they have both and they’re trying to figure it out. So we talk about being formational and really helping Christian communities take seriously these students’ desire to deepen their walk with Christ.
Mark Yarhouse: I think one mistake Christians often make is they sort of force people like, “Get this right, and then we’ll talk about your relationship with Christ.” I would flip that around and say, disciple them. Anybody, any student who wants to know Christ more help deepen that relationship with Christ. In fact, it’s that relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit that will likely inform future decision making. So why not invest in that?
Steve Stratton: Great statement.
Mark Yarhouse: So there’s the relational piece, the formational, and we talk about an issue of… we talked about like safety, but being emotionally safe in the room. Like I teach all the time as a professor, you teach differently when you know one of the students in your room is navigating this topic. I often don’t know, but I go into a class assuming there will at least be one or two students who are navigating. So you teach different, you prepare your lecture differently.
Mark Yarhouse: And you see in our book and you’d see in our presentations, we’re always drawing quotes from the actual students so that their voices are heard. Someone listening to us or reading the book would say, “Okay, that might not be exactly my experience, but at least they’re drawing on people like me whose voices resonate.” I mean, those are things that create safety, emotional safety for people, and I think that goes a long way.
Janet Dean: I’ve been thinking a lot too about who I am when I enter into these conversations, and I’m like, am I comfortable with my own faith and my own beliefs so much so that I don’t have a need to share that with someone else? So much so that I can create space in myself to hold another person’s story? And what then does that look like and how do I get there?
Janet Dean: And I think a lot of times when we enter into conversations, there’s just this need to make sure that people know what I think about things, and how do I set that aside? How do I become comfortable being with anybody no matter what they believe, without having that need to kind of force myself on them? That kind of inner hospitality. I don’t know how else to say it.
Steve Stratton: Yeah. And I like that idea. And I think that is something that I’ve grown in across time. Again, I’m always trying to be better at that. And we hear it from the students as well, they make a distinction oftentimes between those people who want to be in conversation, but it’s like they have an end point, like, “At some point I’ve got to tell you that what you’re doing is wrong and this has to change. I want you to know that,” as opposed to those people who they may say, “I understand what they believed, but it’s like they were really trying to understand me to know me and to know me in this area, and to know me beyond this area.”
Steve Stratton: And it’s that kind of engagement that people are looking for. And I think the students stand out in saying to have faculty and staff and administrators who are engaging them for that reason, other than to just try to correct, I think that’s powerful on these campuses, when there is that opportunity.
Heidi Wilcox: So if we were going to take what you all have learned in your research, and what you’re still learning, because it’s an ongoing research project, what have you learned that may be helpful to the church to navigate this issue as well?
Mark Yarhouse: The church is tricky. Well, one of the differences is the church is multigenerational, so you have three or four generations all converging on a Sunday morning and meeting together for worship. What I mean by that is even the language that we’re using, like sexual minority, gay, same sex attracted, the language is people have preferences across generations for how they even talk about this topic. And we’re just talking about how to talk about it, let alone what we decide about it.
Heidi Wilcox: But talking about is one of the first steps-
Mark Yarhouse: Yeah, exactly.
Heidi Wilcox: Because I think a lot of times people… I know I have been afraid to talk about this topic because I haven’t known how to talk about it, which is why I’m really excited about this conversation because it’s helpful just to me. Sorry, I interrupted you. Go ahead. I’m really bad at that.
Mark Yarhouse: I just saw encouraged in church settings for people to give others latitude in language and how they’re going to talk about their own experiences. I think sometimes in church settings there’s an added pressure to shape how the discussion’s going to take place so it becomes kind of top down. So only refer to yourself this way, only describe yourself this way.
Mark Yarhouse: And we see a range of ways in which students want to talk about their experiences, so rather than dictate the terms to the people within your church, it might be better to kind of create a space where people can gravitate to a certain language. They’re probably going to do that just by the cultural mores of that community, the generational differences, changing vernacular.
Mark Yarhouse: I often give this example that there’s no 14-year-old you’re going to talk to who would ever say of their sexual orientation that they have a homosexual orientation. That word has fallen out of their vernacular. But a grandparent in that same church might use that language, but a 14-year-old would say if you asked them for some reason about their sexuality… I don’t recommend it. They would say that they’re gay, because that’s the vernacular. But to another generation, gay probably would’ve meant promiscuous or it had other connotations to it.
Mark Yarhouse: So the same language will mean different things in the church. So that’s something just to be, I think just really attuned to, and not to crack down on, but be aware of. That would go far in a lot of church settings.
Mark Yarhouse: The emotional safety thing I talked about, just as a professor, as I teach, well, if I’m preaching from the pulpit, that’s going to come across at that macro level of kind of power-based authority, and we need good preaching. But I think you preach differently when you remember that a percentage of people listening to you right now are navigating these questions. So how would you season the word that you’re giving your congregation, given the lived reality that there are people figuring this out right now, and some are in distress? So how would you do that differently in light of that reality? Things like that come to mind.
Steve Stratton: It makes sense. We just got back from a faculty retreat where David Kinnaman was talking about Barna’s research right now, and I was just fascinated because looking at the Millennials and the Gen Z data that they have, that people are delaying marriage and they’re staying single and never married for longer. And I think one of the things that I would suggest, I don’t know that we’ve talked about this very much, but one of the things I would suggest is that I think the church is going to have to wrestle with how they engage singleness in a new way.
Janet Dean: Absolutely.
Steve Stratton: And I say that because it’s extremely important what that will do for students that we’re looking at that are navigating this. And I think it’s needed. I mean, even if that was not happening, I think this is needed, and I really appreciate the riding around that’s begun to grow out of Wesley Hill’s work around spiritual friendship and other people that are bringing that conversation.
Steve Stratton: And helping the church to think about, again, what does singleness mean when we emphasized, and some people might say overemphasized at times, we become so marriage centric within the context of our churches. And I think this is one of those things for me, and I’m not speaking for Mark or Janet here, they might add nuances better than I am probably doing this right now, but I do think, at least as we’ve talked about here at the seminary, beginning to think with them about this a place where we’ve got to do more thinking. It’s been a subcategory as opposed to something that’s been on our radar in a way that it’s going to have to be.
Steve Stratton: But I think it also ushers in a different kind of narrative for people that are navigating sexual identity and some of these issues as well. I don’t know. I don’t know what you all think about that, but-
Janet Dean: This has been something that I’ve seen and I’ve talked to folks about, is that the church seems centered around that family structure. Everything we do is around couples or families, and it just doesn’t fit for many people. Not only the sexual minority folks, but other folks.
Janet Dean: So what would that look like? What would it look like to structure Sunday school differently, or small groups differently, and how do we then build relationships and friendships that matter? Where there’s really truly good intimate connection, that’s outside of the marriage relationship. And I don’t think we know how to do that.
Mark Yarhouse: And I think I’d add to that I completely agree, that when we overemphasize couples and families, we put an added pressure on people navigating this space, that there’s a two tier way to be in the local church. You can be married and serve at that top tier, or you can be single and serve until you get married and you can join the top, that top tier.
Mark Yarhouse: So I think of sexual minorities navigating this space as a subset of single people in the church, and if you think about it in that way, not only will you help a lot of other single people, but you’ll be speaking into their lives in meaningful ways. Otherwise you’re just putting undue pressure on them to marry heterosexually and to go down that path, and that’s a whole other set of questions. Or to act like this isn’t a part of their life, or that this isn’t a real genuine topic that they’re navigating.
Janet Dean: It’s interesting that I have seen sometimes, when churches tried to challenge this, that they almost begin to speak negatively about marriage, “Marriage is so hard, it’s so difficult, I just don’t want to do that.” And I really think this needs to be-
Steve Stratton: You don’t want to downplay.
Janet Dean: … a both and. Marriage is good, but singleness is also good. They’re both good.
Steve Stratton: Both of them are.
Janet Dean: I think that’s hard for us to hold both in mind at the same time.
Steve Stratton: I would think the other piece, at least for me as I work with churches and think with churches about these issues, is beginning to understand that reaching out and creating ways to help persons in their sanctifying journey is something that we do because they need us in Christian community, but also we need them in Christian community.
Steve Stratton: We’ve talked about that, and I know you had a very pointed experience with saying to somebody, “We need your story, you need to be heard in that,” and I think oftentimes we don’t do a good job of that within a church. As a matter of fact, I’ve had conversations with people saying, “These persons have nothing to share with me. There’s nothing valuable of their experience.” I think not only is that a terrible thing to say, that’s terribly isolating and ostracizing, but it’s just wrong. It’s just wrong.
Steve Stratton: And I think to be able to see God’s sanctifying work in the heart and life of people coming at this from very different and diverse perspectives gives us a view of God and his ability to grow us and to love us into the persons he dreams of us being. And I think we lose some picture, some richness, and I think to some degree, because of the secretiveness and the way we’ve managed this in some areas in the church, oftentimes we don’t have another narrative because we’ve not seen it. We haven’t created a space to see how God works in this.
Steve Stratton: So now I think sometimes if you ask people, “What does this look like, the sanctifying journey for people who are sexual minorities?” we kind of go, “I don’t know.” I mean, again, it just seems to me that as we’re thinking about the church, it’s a way of being what the church has always meant to be, not what we desire it to be. I think churches really want to be transformational, but this is a complicated issue. Complicated issue for that.
Heidi Wilcox: Well, I’m very grateful for your time today and the insight that you shared with us. As we went through the questions, is there anything that you wanted to say that you didn’t get a chance to speak to? And if not, that’s okay. I just wanted to open up for that too.
Mark Yarhouse: I don’t think so.
Janet Dean: I think we’re good.
Steve Stratton: No. Good questions, thank you.
Janet Dean: Yes.
Heidi Wilcox: Well, thank you guys so much for-
Janet Dean: Thank you.
Heidi Wilcox: … taking the time to come by. I didn’t give you these and I maybe should have, so you can be mad at me later, but it’s our podcast is called the Thrive with Asbury Seminary podcast, so I want to ask each of you, what’s a practice, spiritual or otherwise, that is helping you thrive in your life or ministry? So it can be serious, or it can just be Netflix and chill.
Steve Stratton: When we talk about means of grace, I don’t think I think of Netflix in that category, but that could be. It could be.
Steve Stratton: I could speak for me. I think one of the things that has been so profound over the last 10 years is an investment in contemplative prayer. And that’s been a real life changing engagement for me. So much so that my wife recognizes when I’m not doing that, when I’m not engaged in that. I think it’s-
Heidi Wilcox: And you appreciate it when she points that out too.
Steve Stratton: Well, I don’t know. It depends on how she points it out. But to be honest, I think it does show up. It’s been one of those profound means of grace, the way that, as Wesley talks about that idea, an avenue that we give to God so he can administer his grace into those areas of life, and for me that’s been really pivotal. So for me, that’s the first thing that pops into my mind, because it’s been so rich for my own formation and development.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah. I love that.
Janet Dean: So I had two pop into mind.
Heidi Wilcox: Okay.
Janet Dean: Can I do two?
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah, you can do two.
Janet Dean: One is just a really simple one. Both of these I feel like I’m confessing. But over the past couple of years I’ve been very intentional about being careful with my sleep. It has made a world of difference.
Heidi Wilcox: Really?
Janet Dean: We could have a whole nother podcast just on that.
Heidi Wilcox: That is fascinating. I would love that. So what do you mean by being careful with your sleep?
Janet Dean: Making sure that I’m getting enough sleep every night, that I’m waking up at the same time every morning, and just really being careful not sacrificing that piece. I don’t know if you’ve noticed a change in me, but it matters. So just very simple, sleep.
Steve Stratton: That’s cool. I’ve been too sleepy to notice.
Janet Dean: The other thing, for me, I actually tend to be a very private person, although people don’t know that about me, but very private person. And I have intentionally started to engage in some discipleship where I allow myself to be known, like really, really known.
Heidi Wilcox: That’s hard.
Janet Dean: And that’s been going on for about three or four years, and it has been incredibly good for me. So anyway, that would be the practice.
Janet Dean: And you go through seasons of life where you do more of that and then you do less of that, and the more, and I’m in that place where I’m engaged in that right now, and it makes a difference.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah. Yeah, it does. Yeah. Thank you. Yes.
Mark Yarhouse: I made a move recently and one of my colleagues, a friend of mine from our previous church just encouraged me to continue to do daily, weekly, monthly, and annual sort of spiritual exercises that are sort of life giving. And it really made me think, what do I do in those rhythms?
Mark Yarhouse: And one thing that I do, at least annually, I usually take my research institute on a spiritual retreat, and we’ll go for a part of a day or longer, and just take some time to kind of structure, some time away for prayer and reflection on the work that we’re doing, and ground our work in that reflection on God’s going to call on us to care for the people that we ended up studying and things like that.
Mark Yarhouse: I would say weekly, I really like adoration. I like to spend time before either the cross or a consecrated host, just the idea that there’s a real spiritual presence, and the elements, and just to be quiet before God and do some readings and prayer and reflection.
Heidi Wilcox: Yeah, it’s beautiful. Thank you all so very much for taking the time to share. It’s very much appreciated. Thank you.
Steve Stratton: Thank you.
Janet Dean: Thank you.
Mark Yarhouse: Thank you.
Heidi Wilcox: Thank you so much for joining me for today’s conversation. Very grateful for Doctor Yarhouse, Doctor Dean and Doctor Stratton, and appreciate their time and being on the podcast. It’s important to listen and learn from people who have different experiences than ourselves.
Heidi Wilcox: I hope you enjoyed the conversation. New podcast episodes are released every other week and you won’t want to miss out. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcast. You can follow us in all the places, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @AsburySeminary. Have a great day y’all, and go do something that helps you thrive!