In this interview, Anthony Larson, Reconciling Ministries Network’s seminary intern, shares a bit of his story, passions, beliefs, and experiences.
Q: Tell us just a little bit about yourself.
A: My name is Anthony Kyle Larson and I am a queer kid from St. Louis, Missouri. I am currently a certified candidate for ordination in the Missouri Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, and a second year seminarian at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. I often say that I went 0-100 really quickly because I have only been going to church since January 2012, was baptized May 2012, and now I’m a seminarian working toward ordination. I attended Lindenwood University and graduated with a B.A. in Christian Ministry Studies with a minor in Music.
I live in Evanston, Illinois with my beautiful Shepherd mix, Bear. My favorite movie is The Land Before Time, and my favorite recording artist is Whitney Houston. My favorite color is green, but I believe pink is the best color. Easter is my favorite holiday, and I am not a fan of chocolate.
Q: How did you find Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), and why did you want to have an internship here?
A: RMN came into my life in 2015 when the young adult ministry of my church went through the Reconciling process. And, my last year of undergrad, I interned at the first Reconciling Church in Missouri: Centenary UMC in St. Louis.
RMN has always had a place in my heart. When I was curious about church, my first question was: “Does your church allow people like me?” Nobody should have to ask that question, and RMN is working towards a church where people won’t have to ask whether or not there is a place for them. When I found out that I could intern here at RMN, it was something of a fairytale. I’m called to work for queer Christian justice, so it was a no-brainer to be here. It makes me incredibly happy to have this opportunity, and I am so grateful to be a part of the RMN family.
Q: Why are you passionate about LGBTQ justice in the church?
A: Like I mentioned before, no person should have to ask whether or not they would be allowed into a church. For too long our church and its bodies have preached about a God whose love knows no boundaries and whose table has a seat for all, while continuing to push queer people away from the institution and denying them. By denying LGBTQ people a place at our table–not God’s table–we are causing harm most can’t understand. To say that God’s love is without boundaries, just to turn around and say that certain people are “incompatible with Christian teaching” (UMC Book of Discipline), means you are putting boundaries around God, limiting who They can love. Of course, I don’t believe any human or institution has the ability to limit what God can do, but I don’t think that stops people from trying. My calling to work for queer Christian justice is to be sure that all know that God’s love is actually boundless. And that all have a place at the table, even if the church hasn’t caught on yet.
Q: Tell us about your favorite theologian and why they matter to you.
A: In the past few years I have been overwhelmed by information. Before attending Garrett-Evangelical, the only theologians I knew were Karl Barth, John Calvin, and C.S. Lewis. Almost every time I have read from a new theologian, I find a new favorite.
I was introduced to Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre last year. We read his book Liberating Sexuality: Justice Between the Sheets in my Human Sexuality and Pastoral Care class. I think that when you are called to work for queer justice in the church, you have to connect it to the whole of sexual justice in the church. Then, at the intersection of sexual justice and queer justice, we have to realize how it is weaved through many other injustices in the church. Rev. Dr. De La Torre dives into these intersections with a strong emphasis on justice, and it has inspired me to do the same.
Q: Tell us something about you that has nothing to do with the church or LGBTQ matters.
A: This is one of the hardest questions to answer. When I have the opportunity–which is very rare because seminarians aren’t allowed to have too much fun–I like to play tabletop, board, and roleplaying games. I love the emersion of a tabletop game, having to spend 45 minutes to over four hours sitting with friends and diving into a different world. Fantasy has always been important in my life, and it really helps to exercise my brain. I currently have a collection of around 30 board games, and whenever I can sneak a game night with friends into my schedule, it reminds me that there is something more than just homework.
Q: If you could tell an LGBTQ youth in the church one thing right now, what would it be and why?
A: You are always going to have to defend your identity to someone, but don’t base your defense off of what they want to hear. Too often we create a script of what to say when people ask us about our identities. When we create a script and a five-point speech that defends who we are, we box ourselves into an identity instead of living into our truths. I have had to come out many times because I boxed myself into an identity, and whenever I let myself explore my truth, I would find something new. The process of coming out is spiritual and living; allow your truth to come out.