Members of Renovus at a backyard BBQ event / Photo by @rylphoto

Renovus: Restoring Faith for LGBTQ Christians in Atlanta

The South is known for its conservative and religious culture, and “de-identification,” or leaving the Christian faith, can be especially isolating when community acceptance depends on a heteronormative identity. It’s also no secret that people justify their disapproval or rejection of queer existence by referencing their faith and its teachings.

Christianity encompasses a large network of sects and beliefs, some of which uphold harmful ideologies while others advocate for not just acceptance but celebration of the LGBTQ community. National organizations like The Reformation Project promote affirmation for LGBTQ people in Christianity and inspired two Atlantans to do the same.

A casual, unofficial Bible study social in Atlanta grew into something unexpected for Gregory Cook and Brian Nietzel. Cook and Nietzel believe being queer and Christian should be accessible and supportive, which Nietzel discusses in his paper “Making Things Right: An Invitation to Restoring LGBTQ Faith” as he encourages current, curious, and former LGBTQ Christians to “join [him] in brave, new dialogue and relationships, bridging divides between Christian and LGBTQ communities.”

In 2019, the duo founded Renovus in Atlanta that offers an alternative or supplement to church for LGBTQ people. Together, they created an intergenerational, interfaith nonprofit organization for the greater Atlanta LGBTQ community. Renovus members host weekly small groups, opening their homes to all identities and ages.

In Latin, renovus means “to renovate or restore,” inspiring the name for an organization aiming to restore Christian acceptance and teachings about LGBTQ in a churchless setting. Small groups are held in members’ homes, which Executive Director Daniel Youmans says makes people feel at ease and creates a safe space for newcomers. Youmans said he and his peers were “hungry” for a sense of community, authenticity and belonging when they found Renovus.

“Renovus exists to be a place where people can show up as their authentic selves and come together in mutual faith to grow together to reclaim their faith and to develop their faith walks,” he said in an interview with Georgia Voice.

The Williams Institute found that almost two-thirds of Christian-raised LGBTQ people do not identify as Christian as adults. Co-author Ilan Meyer wrote, “The heightened experience of minority stressors within Christian environments may contribute more to stigma than support, leading them to distance themselves from their religious faith and communities, sometimes seeking LGBTQ-affirming religious or spiritual environments.”

“I finally had this connection that I never had before, that I never knew existed,” Daniel Bennett, a Renovus member, shared in a testimonial. “I was able to, for the first time, have both parts of my life come together.”

At minimum, LGBTQ Christians are looking for spaces that accept their identity. Pew Research Center sampled over 25,000 Christians and found that the majority believe homosexuality should be accepted, but at just 58 percent in favor of acceptance, there is a long road of reformation ahead.

Renovus allows LGBTQ people looking to explore their faith and engage with small groups of 10-15 intergenerational and interfaith members weekly in Atlanta neighborhoods and surrounding metro areas. Beyond acceptance, LGBTQ people are celebrated for showing up authentically to discuss the Bible, its teachings, and the complex relationship many queer people have with religion.

“I wasn’t even looking for Renovus. I was just looking for acceptance from other people, because at this point [in my life] … I wasn’t looking for a relationship with God.” Kellie, a Renovus member, recalled in a testimonial. “When I walked in that room it was not about me being trans. I was accepted by so many people in Renovus.”

In addition to weekly small groups in and around Atlanta, Renovus will host Katherine Johnson from The Reformation Project as she explores LGBTQ affirmation in the Bible at the Renovus Real Talk 2024 on Sunday, March 24. To reserve a spot for Renovus Real Talk 2024, visit