Faculty Stories

Nolasco Awarded a 2020 Project Grant Research from the Louisville Institute

Dr. Rolf Nolasco

Dr. Rodolfo R. Nolasco Jr., professor of pastoral theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, was awarded a 2020 Project Grant Research from the Louisville Institute in the amount of $30,000. Pulling from his expertise and prior publications, Nolasco’s research project will look specifically at United Methodist clergy members who self-identify as LGBTQIA. The research project is titled, “Q-nnections: Exploring the Phenomenological World of Self-Identifying Queer UMC Clergy Subjected to Social and Religious Mechanisms of Exclusion.”

Through this project Nolasco will be looking at the multitude of ways self-identifying gay and lesbian (queer) United Methodist clergy members make sense of and sustain their commitment to their religious vocation amidst long-standing persecutory and exclusionary practices of their denomination because of their sexuality. Specifically, Nolasco will inquire into the affective, behavioral, cognitive, relational, and spiritual processes that underpin their commitment and resolve to remain in pastoral ministry amidst such challenges.

Nolasco shared more about the project saying:

The calculated ascendancy and triumph of the Traditional Plan at the recent United Methodist Church Special General Conference in St. Louis Missouri, has tightened the denomination’s grip on its doctrines and policies with regards to the treatment of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” The unanimity sought by 438 delegates meant displacing and dismembering a significant number of faithful followers of Christ whose sexuality does not fit the privileged and protected traditional heterosexual norm. Undeterred by the outright display of “gender governance or body surveillance,” members of queer-identifying United Methodist clergy maintained their resolve to exercise their sacred call knowing full well the challenges, obstructions, and blatant discriminatory, harmful, and traumatizing practices that have been and will continue to be deployed against them.

The research intends to describe and represent the subjective experience and action of these duly ordained ministers of the gospel who are staying on course amidst what is tantamount to sacred violence. In a way this is like drawing the curtain so we can take a closer and deeper look into their interior life—their personhood, gifts, and graces, which are often seen as threats to the social and spiritual well-being of the denomination.

This research project builds upon Nolasco’s newest book, God’s Beloved Queer: Identity, Spirituality, and Practice, which was published in July 2019. Within the book, he offers a unique look at what it means for queer people to locate and anchor their identity as a beloved child of God. Utilizing a wide range of disciplines—pastoral theology, spirituality, counseling psychology, affective neuroscience, anthropology—Nolasco offers a more nuanced description of what it means for queer folks to be sacred icons of God like everyone else. Combining his prior research with the gains of this project will lead to a new publication titled, “Heart Ablaze: Awakening the Queer Soul.”

Nolasco is an experienced professor, trained in pastoral and counseling psychology, mindfulness and contemplative spirituality, and affective neuroscience. He is also a psychotherapist, published author, and has vast experience in cross cultural communications from living and working across the world within varying social and cultural backgrounds. He was also just awarded as a 2019 Exemplary Teacher by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church.

Through its Project Grants for Research Program, the Louisville Institute supports innovative strategies for investigating adaptive challenges faced by North American Christianity. Grants up to $30,000 support a diverse range of projects that may involve independent study, short-term research, consultation, or collaborative inquiry. The Project Grant for Researchers program is open to both academic and pastor leaders based in the United States or Canada.

Louisville Institute is funded by the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment and based at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky). The Institute’s fundamental mission is to enrich the religious life of North American Christians and to encourage the revitalization of their institutions, by bringing together those who lead religious institutions with those who study them, so that the work of each might inform and strengthen the other.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church, was founded in 1853. Located on the campus of Northwestern University, the seminary serves more than 450 students from various denominations and cultural backgrounds, fostering an atmosphere of ecumenical interaction. Garrett-Evangelical creates bold leaders through master of divinity, master of arts, master of theological studies, doctor of philosophy, and doctor of ministry degrees. Its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.