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In celebration of June, Pride Month, join Pacific School of Religion (PSR) for a panel discussion featuring PSR President Rev. David Vásquez-Levy in conversation with PSR alum Rev. Loey Powell (MDiv 77) and current PSR MDiv student Ryan Cassata 

While the fight for LGBTQ+ rights has made progress through policy, legislation, and public opinion over the past 50 years, the strongest and most impactful arguments against inclusion in the United States have been made on religious terms.  

Ensuring that we strengthen and even maintain the rights we have achieved requires that we make a compelling case for radical inclusion on religious terms. 

Counting many LGBTQ+ “firsts” in religious leadership, PSR, as a progressive Christian seminary with a 155-year history of radical inclusion, is in a unique position to help connect the history of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church to new challenges already on the horizon. 

Topics For Discussion

  • Changes in attitudes towards LGBTQ+ clergy and laity over the past 50 years. 
  • How to reclaim the Bible as a primary source of progressive moral values. 
  • What a faith-based argument for the expansion of LGBTQ+ (and other marginalized communities) rights looks like. 
  • How to create a theologically-based definition of ‘religious liberty’ that is positive and inclusive with no license to discriminate.  
  • How PSR has prepared (and is preparing) panelists for ministry/service to the community during turbulent times. 

The Panelists

The Rev. Loey (Lois) Powell graduated from PSR with a Master of Divinity degree in 1977 at a time when increasing numbers of women were entering seminaries and the ministry, feminist, and liberation theologies were breaking new ground in the theological world, and a small but growing number of out LGBTQ + clergy were pushing the boundaries of convention. Rev. Powell was ordained by the Golden Gate Association of the UCC in 1978 in a first-ever collective ordination with PSR alums Jody Parsons and Stacy Cusulos. Over the years, she has served in non-profit ecumenical organizations; in regional, interim, and new church start ministries; and as pastor of the United Church in Tallahassee (FL). Her call to UCT in 1989 was the first time an out clergy person had been called to a sole pastorate in the UCC going through the regular channels of search and call. Loey is now retired from ministry in the United Church of Christ but currently serves as President of the PSR Alumnx Council.

Ryan Cassata is an award-winning singer-songwriter, actor, performer, published writer, LGBTQ+ activist, and motivational speaker. Beginning his work as an activist at age 13 after joining “The Safe Schools Team,” Ryan is most proud of being a trans advocate and public speaker in and around his hometown on Long Island, New York. Ryan is deeply passionate about sharing his story and teaching students about the dangers of bullying. His mission is to provide valuable informative information to communities to inspire greater inclusivity. Ryan is the first-ever recipient of the Harvey Milk Memorial Award, has been recognized by United States Congress, and has enjoyed many televised appearances on notable news channels such as CNN, The Larry King Live Show, and The Tyra Banks Show. Ryan is currently a student in the Master of Divinity degree program at PSR.