2017 GCN Parents’ Retreat

May 26th–28th, 2017  •  Columbus, OH

As a Christian parent, when your child comes out as LGBTQ, you face unique challenges. Where do you find support if your church won’t talk about it, your faith community rejects your child, and your own beliefs are now in question? The exponential growth of the parent presence at the annual GCN Conference speaks to the need that parents feel for support, resources, education, and a chance to share their stories with other parents in similar situations.

The purpose of this first-ever GCN Parents’ Retreat is to focus intentionally on meeting those needs. Parents will have an opportunity to connect with other parents, to listen and be heard, to choose from workshops providing education and resources, and to join in worship with other parents of LGBTQ children. No matter what questions you have or where you are on this journey, you will be welcome here!

Jump to: Speakers · Schedule · Breakout Sessions

Keynote Speaker: Pastor Danny Cortez

Danny Cortez

Danny Cortez founded New Heart Community Church in 1997 and currently serves as their teaching pastor. Throughout his pastoral career, Danny encountered many LGBTQ people. As time went by he realized that God was using these people’s stories to change his views on gender and sexuality. Another revelation came when his own son came out to him as gay. This sent the Cortez family and their traditional Southern Baptist congregation on a journey that resulted in their church being expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention.

New Heart remains a thriving and welcoming community. Their unique, grace-filled approach has attracted national attention and is now serving as a model for other churches wrestling with similar questions. Danny received his M.Div. at Talbot Theological Seminary, Biola University. In addition to serving as a pastor, he is a member of GCN’s Board of Directors. He lives in La Mirada, CA, with his wife, Abby, and their four children.

Also Speaking: Constantino and David Khalaf

David & Constantino Khalaf

The Khalafs were the first same-sex couple married at their church. During their engagement, they found that there were no resources on marriage for LGBTQ Christians. They started a blog, Modern Kinship, to share their journey as a Christ-centered couple and encourage others who feel called to marriage. Their faith is what brought them together, and it remains the cornerstone of their relationship. Constantino is GCN’s Director of Operations; David is a fiction writer specializing in adventure and fantasy stories. They live in Portland, Ore.

Worship Leader: Bridget Handkins


Bridget is a Cincinnati native who has a heart for worship. Starting in her teens, she played full time with different worship teams in the area and went on to complete a music degree at Miami University. Bridget joined the GCN worship team at the 2017 annual conference in Pittsburgh. She is excited to get more involved and can’t wait to see what God has in store.


7:00 PM – 9:00 PMOpening Remarks and Reception

9:00 AM – 11:00 AMGeneral Session
Keynote Speaker: Danny Cortez
11:30 AM – 12:45 PMLunch
1:00 PM – 2:30 PMBreakout Session A
2:45 PM – 4:15 PMBreakout Session B
4:15 PM – 5:30 PMFree Time
5:30 PM – 7:30 PMDinner
7:30 PM – 9:00 PMLiving out a Christ-Centered Marriage
Speakers: David and Constantino Khalaf

9:00 AM – 11:00 AMWorship Service and Closing Remarks

Breakout Sessions

Breakout Session A

Panel: LGBTQ Christian Voices
During this session you’ll meet a group of LGBTQ Christians who will share their stories of coming to terms with their gender or sexual identities. This will be an opportunity to better understand your child’s process, by hearing what it’s been like for others in their shoes. The format will be conversational, with ample time for questions and answers.

A Talk About Scripture - Pastor Joel Miller
Pastor Joel Miller of Columbus Mennonite Church will lead a conversation about the Bible, exploring the ways in which the narrative of scripture points toward inclusion. Before moving to Columbus Joel Miller pastored for seven years in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a graduate of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

Reclaiming Your Faith - Susan Cottrell
This workshop examines the life and teachings of Jesus—message of the Gospel—through the lens of unconditional love and radical inclusion. Rightly understood, the Bible is a message of hope to the oppressed. As a people of faith must reclaim our faith and the meaning of the gospel. This workshop is a way to reclaim the stories that have been used to hurt instead of love.

Breakout Session B

Processing Questions of the Heart - Kim Dent
When their children come out, Christian parents often experience a crisis of faith. There are so many voices clamoring for their attention that sometimes all they really need is a little quiet time with the one who knows our hearts and the hearts of our children the best, Jesus. In this workshop, the mother of an LGBTQ child will teach other parents several ways to use a journal in order to connect with God and silence the confusion and opinions that surround them.

For Parents of Trans Children - Karen McLaren and Ruth Roberts
Everyone has a “Coming Out” story, even parents. Join two mothers as they share their tumultuous, but hope-filled journey through multiple “Comings Out”-- 3 gay and 2 transgender. They will share specific resources that have helped them re-think their assumptions and open their hearts to their kids. Whether you are Side A or Side B, this breakout will help you renew the hope of restoring your family relationships through compassion and patience.

Learning To Be an Ally - Susan Shopland
What does it mean to be an “ally” to your child and to the LGBTQ community? What words and actions are helpful and unhelpful? How do we educate ourselves and find the resources we need to support our LGBTQ children and advocate for their full acceptance in our faith communities and our wider communities? Taught by a mother and her gay son who have been a part of the GCN community for several years, this workshop will provide you with some tools and give you a chance to practice handling a variety of scenarios we face as parents when we start trying to figure out how best to support our LGBT kids. Susan Shopland lives with her husband, Mark, in Indiana, PA. Susan is a psychologist who has been in practice for over 25 years. Their son, Ben, came out to them in 2005. Susan, Mark, and Ben have led breakout sessions for families at GCN Conferences since 2012. Susan currently serves as the chair of the Board of Directors of GCN. Ben is a flight medic who lives with his husband, Eric, in Pittsburgh, PA.