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."

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

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This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."