After a lawsuit, LGBTQ Christians can now internet-date equally.

In the book of Isaiah in the Bible, the prophet wrote that his heavenly mission was to "bring good news to the afflicted" and "bind up the broken hearted."

Today, some of that good news goes out to the Christians who identify as LGBTQ, too: Online dating service Christian Mingle is now open to singles in search of same-sex soulmates.

This exciting change was the result of a California lawsuit filed by two gay men against the website's parent company, Spark Networks, back in 2013 that alleged the company was discriminating against them.


While Spark’s websites still aren’t facilitating same-sex relationships, they are now allowing gay and lesbian users to search for users of the same sex who may or may not be single and looking to mingle. Instead of specifying an orientation, users will just be able to search for matches in the gender of their choice.

Photo by Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images.

This inclusive change will apply across all 30+ niche dating websites owned and operated by Spark Networks.

With the exception of JDate, which has been helping nice Jewish boys find other nice Jewish boys since 2005, the change will roll out across Spark services such as Black Singles, Silver Singles, BBW Personals Plus, Military Singles Connection, and Deaf Singles Connection — which are all communities with LGBTQ members, too.

I'm still not sure why LDS Singles and LDS Mingle are separate sites or what makes them different. But I do know that everyone deserves the right to subject themselves to the rigors of online dating. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images.

As you can probably imagine, Christian leaders across the country had a few things to say about this news.

Rev. Marc van Bulck is a Presbyterian minister who currently serves as the lead pastor for a small congregation in Seville, Ohio. He's a heterosexual male who grew up in a church-going family in South Carolina, but he's also been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights for as long as he can remember.

"My church family growing up really was made up of all sorts of people with many different points of view," van Bulck said. "I think I sort of learned by example that being part of a community of faith often means being part of a larger conversation."

Photo provided by Rev. Marc van Bulck, used with permission.

While he couldn’t say for certain if any of his worshippers use Christian Mingle — I guess they don't ask their priest for dating advice? — van Bulck said this news is a big deal for the community.

"Our church is made up of folks from all over the political spectrum, and many of them are very diverse in their beliefs — including topics like this one," he said.

"But the one thing I’ve never seen them do is turn someone away. Because if the Gospel shows us anything, it’s that Jesus was willing to sit at table and break bread with anybody. Queer parishioners have always been here."

Photo by Greg Ness/Flickr.

Rev. Jeff Mello of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, agreed with van Bulck.

"Those negative views of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church just aren’t the mainstream," he said. "They're loud, fringe voices, and we harm ourselves when we think of that negativity as a default."


Photo provided by Rev. Jeff Mello (center), used with permission.

Mello is openly gay and married. But he has never felt a conflict between his faith life, his emotional life, or his sexuality.

Still, he knows that that’s not the case for all LGBTQ Christians. "So many GLBT folks have been taught that they need to choose between being a Christian and being GLB or T, but it’s not either/or," he said. "It's about living an integrated life, which is what God calls us to do. Both parts of our identity are central to who we are."

And that’s one of the main reasons that he thinks this new shift for Christian Mingle is so important:

"It might seem like a trivial thing that this Christian website is opening up," Mello explained, "but that message is freeing people from that notion of having to choose between who God made you to be and following God. Because those should go hand-in-hand."

Rev. Susan Russell leads a Eucharist and prayer against homophobia and gun violence in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

Christian Mingle’s new inclusive policy isn’t just a blessing for the LGBTQ community. It’s also a victory for straight Christians and the church as a whole.

Mello believes that this small change could actually drive more single Christians to mingle on one of Spark Network’s websites — especially if they’re straight.

"My straight colleagues and worshippers have felt that their relationships are strengthened and made more whole because marriage is made accessible to everyone," he said. "It feels less like a secret club and more of the cultural institution and support net that it's designed to be.”

In his seven years as rector at an inclusive church, Mello has also watched his church community double in size — a gain which he attributes directly to the larger social push for inclusion and equality.

"A lot of folks who aren't LGBTQI are now more drawn to a place where all are welcome," he said.


Austin Ellis of Metropolitan Community Church carries a cross in solidarity with the victims of the Pulse Night Club shooting at the Philadelphia Pride Parade. Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images.

So while Christian Mingle is probably not going to replace Grindr anytime soon, this little piece of progress is still a powerful testament to the winning power of love — in romance and in the eyes of God.

Sure, there will be always be a few detractors. But it's worth celebrating this tremendous changing in the tides, where Christianity and homosexuality are no longer seen as irreconcilable odds in our society.

"Gay and lesbian people should know that no matter how people might treat them, there's a God who loves them, who made them in God's image," Mello said. "The church is a place to remind people of that powerful message."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Those of us raising teenagers now didn't grow up with social media. Heck, the vast majority of us didn't even grow up with the internet. But we know how ubiquitous social media, with all of its psychological pitfalls, has become in our own lives, so it's not a big stretch to imagine the incredible impact it can have on our kids during their most self-conscious phase.

Sharing our lives on social media often means sharing the highlights. That's not bad in and of itself, but when all people are seeing is everyone else's highlight reels, it's easy to fall into unhealthy comparisons. As parents, we need to remind our teens not to do that—but we also need to remind them that other people will do that, which is why kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness are so important.

Writer and mother of three teen daughters, Whitney Fleming, shared a beautiful post on Facebook explaining what we need to teach our teenagers about empathy in the age of social media, and how we ourselves can serve as an example.

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