Disciples Church Extension Fund

Members of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States have experienced a growing wave of dangerous rhetoric and violence. But a small Disciples congregation in Texas has had an out-sized impact on turning that tide.

Rev. Dr. Katie Hays

When Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed legislation in June 2023 to bar trans minors from accessing transition-related care, Galileo Church in Fort Worth, TX, wasn’t having it. By August, they had founded a coalition of 40 individuals and organizations as the North Texas TRANSportation Network (NTTN). NTTN provides families seeking healthcare for their trans and gender-diverse children with grants to travel out-of-state for care.

Galileo has been working toward justice for queer folks since it was founded in 2013 by a 20-year veteran Disciples pastor, the Rev. Dr. Katie Hays. Dr. Hays wondered why traditional churches were unlikely to support these children’s faith journey and spiritual challenges.

“I asked myself, ‘What would it look like to accompany my beloveds?’” she says.

Marilyn and Kate, Galileo co-conspirators

Galileo’s “co-conspirators,” as the church calls its members, are younger, on average, than most Disciples congregations. Yet, participants include a smattering of Boomers. Joining the “kingdom conspiracy” requires one agreement: to prioritize the church’s mission to seek and shelter spiritual refugees.

Worshipers gather in person at Galileo’s Big Red Barn off Interstate 20 and online. A Disciples Church Extension Fund technology grant in 2021 helped the congregation upgrade video and processing technology to stream worship services directly from their website.

In 2019, Galileo championed action by the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to encourage faith communities to prepare to welcome trans and gender-diverse guests and members. In May 2023, Disciples general church leaders issued Pastoral Letter Addressing the Unjust Rise of Anti-LGBTQIA Legislation in the United States.

Austen and L at Finn’s Place

“Our church has really picked up on the necessity to be proactive about protecting our vulnerable neighbors,” says Dr. Hays.

In 2022, Galileo founded Finn’s Place, a Fort Worth community center for trans and gender-diverse adolescents and young adults to gather, grow, and flourish in a non-religious environment. The space is free for any trans service provider to use for their programming.

“While we hold the 501(c)3, Finn’s isn’t ours,” says Rev. Dr. Katie. “It belongs to the trans community.”

By the end of 2023, NTTN — launched with support from the National Benevolent Association’s social entrepreneurship program — funded 15 families’ healthcare travel and has received applications for more for anticipated travel in 2024.

Galileo’s Lead Evangelist understands the significance of her flock’s relationship to the denomination in expanding the impact of the Texas church.

“We have something exportable and valuable to offer the wider church,” says Dr. Hays. “The resolution on trans folks is based on their own experiences.”

A worship service at Galileo

Galileo contributes to a new generation of Disciples leaders who will continue to lead the charge. They currently sponsor four co-conspirators as ordination candidates.

“Spiritual refugees have not been able to imagine themselves as serving in ministry,” says Dr. Hays. “But when they join Galileo, they can hear God calling them into ministry or to their gender identity.”

Through their ministry, Galileo shows Disciples the value of welcoming queer folks, equipping members as leaders, and standing with them in seeking justice, she says.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community, from youth to teens to families, can lead full lives free of fear, Dr. Hays says. Access to healthcare, community centers, and safe places of worship can be a given. Galileo, she says, will continue to swim against the current until that vision is fulfilled.


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