H. Adam Ackley
H. Adam Ackley

Last week, when I laid out my hopes for the Progressive Youth Ministry conference I’m organizing with the JoPa Group, I mentioned that one of my goals is to directly address issues and topics that simply don’t get discussed at most (or any) other youth ministry conferences. High on this list is sexuality.

The traditional narratives and doctrines about sexuality that are still heard at more conservative or evangelical conferences are well known. What I have yet to find is a public conversation about sexuality and youth ministry among those who maintain more progressive views. My hunch is that even those leaders and speakers who do align with a progressive approach to sexuality treat it like the elephant in the room that no one wants to touch.

This won’t happen at Progressive Youth Ministry. We fully intend PYM to be a safe place to think out loud about how to address sexuality in an unashamedly progressive way.

This will perhaps be most clear as we talk about transgender issues and youth ministry. My sense is that many progressive youth workers (really, many progressives in general) are still a bit mystified when it comes to the T in LGBT. We haven’t wrapped our minds around the theological implications of gender identity and don’t have much experience working with transgender youth (or adults).

To help us think through this important issue, we have just added H. Adam Ackley to our already exciting lineup of speakers. Adam—formerly known as Heather Ann Clements—was in the news recently because he was fired from Azusa Pacific University after coming out as transgender, having served there as a theology professor for fifteen years. I am thrilled that Adam will be joining us at PYM and look forward to the experience and theological insights he will bring as we consider transgender issues and youth ministry.

Ackley will address the experience of being transgender and what youth pastors can learn from his experience. As someone who has taught undergrads for many years, Ackley has a special insight into the issues facing late adolescents as they come to terms with sexuality and faith.

See a short interview with Ackley here, and a sermon he recently preached here.

You won’t want to miss Progressive Youth Ministry, so register now before prices increase or the event fills up.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit johnvest.com.

Reader Interactions


  1. Outstanding initiative, John, and I expect it is professionally courageous, as well. I have never heard of any program as clear and open about sexuality as you are trying for.

  2. You sold me! I’m attending if only to hear H. Adam Ackley. VERY happy you are “putting the T in Progressive Youth Ministry.”

  3. As a gay guy in the church who wishes folks had talked about this within the walls of the church when he was a kid, this is awesome. I wish I could be at the conference.

    I would also want to encourage you to discuss sexuality as it applies to those who don’t identify as a “sexual minority,” as well. I think the church fails them almost as spectacularly as it fails LGBT folks.

    Our notions of what it means to be sexually ethical and healthy are very different from earlier generations and from our more conservative brothers and sisters for lots of reasons (among those reasons are rising ages of marriage, rising costs of child-rearing, decreasing costs and increasing availability of contraceptives and STD prevention, etc, etc.) The church doesn’t seem to be doing all that much to prepare our young adults for the world that awaits them. We tend to treat everything with very polarized, black and white lenses, rather than engaging young adults in open, active conversations.

    I sincerely believe that a healthy view of LGBT folks would flow from a larger, more healthy view of sexuality in general.

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