“Following LGBTQIA2S+ individuals through their discernment to chaplaincy. ”
Despite a significant and growing body of literature on queer calls to ministry and religious leadership, virtually nothing is known about how LGBTQIA2S+ people discern a vocation in chaplaincy. This represents a significant gap for two reasons. First, chaplains play a key role in the contemporary religious ecology with 21% of people having met with a chaplain in the past two years according to a recent survey (Cadge, Winfield, and Skaggs 2022). Increasing religious disaffiliation in the United States means that chaplains working in secular settings are now, for many people, their primary spiritual caregivers. Second, queer spiritual experiences are often marginalized in a wide variety of religious contexts. Chaplaincy’s status as a pluralistic profession requires that we continuously center marginalized identities in our discourse.
This project will recruit a cohort of 15 participants who are in discernment and considering careers in chaplaincy or discerned a call to chaplaincy in the last five years. Each participant will be interviewed three times over the course of a year. The goals of this project are: to better understand how LGBTQIA2S+ people discern a vocation to chaplaincy; to name and understand specific academic, professional, and spiritual challenges faced by queer students of chaplaincy and chaplains-in-training and how these challenges relate to one’s ability to live out a call; and to identify the existent and emerging queer spaces in chaplaincy in order to better support those spaces. This project builds on related recent work done at the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab that, for the first time, names the history of people in color in chaplaincy, Buddhists, and other racial and religious minorities and begins to center the voices and those who have been historically marginalized in the field.