a. j. mendoza

A.J. Mendoza is a 2013 graduate of George Fox University in Newberg Oregon, where he completed a double major in Political Science and History. During his time at GFU, he was a founding member and first President of a student organization called Common Ground, a club that is dedicated to supporting and creating a safe space for LGBTQQIA and allied students. A.J. was raised in the Pentecostal tradition but is now a convinced Quaker and a member of West Hills Friends Church in Portland. His understanding of his Christian faith was deeply affected by the bravery that he observed in the queer students at GFU, in allies who were willing to stand in the gap, and in witnessing the transforming power of nonviolence. A.J. moved to Atlanta after graduating to work at Habitat for Humanity as a Fellow in Quaker Voluntary Service. He is deeply involved his denomination (Northwest Yearly Meeting), and in travels broadly as a minister among Quakers. He is currently back in Portland, where he works as the Racial Justice Organizer at Basic Rights Oregon.


AFFILIATION OneGeorgeFox, Common Ground

darren mcdonald

Rev. Darren is an ordained minister with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) an international movement of Christian churches reaching in and beyond the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, and inter-sex communities.

As an activist and scholar, Rev. Darren has written and presented on LGBTQ people with disabilities, suicide in the LGBTQ communities, and sexuality and spirituality. He presented “Made For Love: Reclaiming God’s Word for All God’s People” at Pomona College for Soulforce’s inaugural conference for LGBT Christian College students and alumni. Rev. Darren is currently finishing work on his second master’s degree in Professional Mental Health Counseling at Lewis & Clark College where he is focusing on trauma, grief, and LGBTQ identity development.

AFFILIATION OneWestmont, OneFuller

ROLE Co-Chair of the Safety Net Board

ellie ash-bala

Ellie Ash-Balá works in Student Affairs at Pomona College in Claremont, California. She is passionate about working with college students and seeing them grown into the adults they were meant to be. Ellie is also passionate about LGBTQ issues as they relate to young adults, particularly those that affect people in conservative, Christian communities like the one she came from.

Holding a Master’s degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, Ellie is a former evangelical pastor and worship leader. After graduating from Fuller, Ellie served on staff at Azusa Pacific University for four years. For the past three years, Ellie has been involved with Soulforce, a national non-profit that works to end the religious and political oppression of LGBTQ individuals, working to equip and encourage local student groups at Southern California Christian Colleges and Universities. .

Ellie longs for the day when every community of faith that claims the label “Christian” will embrace ALL of God’s children as full members of their communities, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Ellie lives in Claremont, California with her wife, Missy, and their dog, Dexter. On the weekends they can be found hiking and enjoying the Southern California weather…or cheering on the Dodgers!


jeffrey hoffman

Born on the campus of Bob Jones University, where he spent his formative years — as a student of BJU’s elementary, junior high and high schools — and started college, Jeffrey Hoffman is the founding executive director of BJUnity, the affirming alternative for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, questioning, intersex and affirming/allied alumni and students of Bob Jones University.

After spending more than twenty years of his life apart from BJU, he reconnected with the community of Bob Jones University Survivors on Facebook a few years ago. Around the same time, many of the LGBT+ alumni of BJU began to connect and share their stories in that community. As so many recounted the isolation and fear that characterize the young LGBT+ person’s experience in fundamentalism, the need for a support organization became apparent and BJUnity  was born, formally launching at New York City’s Pride weekend in June of 2012

In addition to numerous former BJU students, faculty and staff, BJUnity also supports LGBT+ folks from the former Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Pensacola Christian College, Hyles-Anderson College, West Coast Baptist Bible College, Prairie Bible Institute, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Northland International University and numerous Independent Fundamental churches and Christian schools within the Bob Jones University/Independent Fundamentalist orbit.

Jeffrey Hoffman lives in New York City, where he works as an Episcopal Church musician and is active as a freelance composer and conductor.


ruth wardschenk

Ruth Welles Warschenk graduated from Wheaton with a B.S. in Communication in 1989. She has been a small business owner for the past twenty-five years, and she currently owns and operates Maaco Collision Repair. She brings decades of experience in marketing and management to the Safety Net board of directors.

She was a founder, and the first president, of OneWheaton, helping start OneWheaton in 2011. As the founding chair of the OneWheaton board of directors, she: organized OneWheaton’s open letter to the school and inaugural homecoming event. She also helped guide OneWheaton’s board of directors through the process of filing for and achieving 501(c)3 status as an organization.


kathryn brighbill

Kathryn Brightbill graduated from Covenant College in 2003 with her B.A. in Information and Computer Science. She also has a graduate certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College, and her J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. During law school she was asked to contribute to the Family Equality Council, et al., amicus brief in the Perry and Windsor cases. As part of that work she co-authored the “LGBTQ Youth and Young Adult Survey:  A Joint Project on Marriage Equality of the University of Florida Center on Children and Families and the Emory Child Rights Project,” a study of how unequal treatment effects LGBTQ young people.

Prior to law school, Kathryn dabbled in several different fields, including spending time on the English faculty at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in Hanoi, VN, where she taught reading and writing for international relations to foreign affairs and international law students.

Established in 2013, Safety Net equips and empowers Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Allied (LGBTQQI&A) student and alumni organizations from institutions of higher education where religion plays a significant role in the challenges faced by LGBTQQI&A students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni. Safety Net is a coalition of leaders from these groups primarily consisting of alumni and former staff from these institutions. As LGBTQQI&A people who have studied and worked at these institutions, we know the challenges and isolation that LGBTQQI&A students face at schools that question their identity. Our mission is to insure that students at these institutions know that they are not alone.


The goals of Safety Net are:

  1. To help the leaders of currently active LGBTQQI&A groups at religious colleges, universities, and seminaries improve upon the work they are already doing through communication and collaboration with one another
  2. To help new LGBTQQI&A groups accomplish their initial goals and establish their online and/or on-campus presence
  3. To inspire potential leaders to advocate for the LGBTQQI&A population at their alma-maters and places of employment by being a safe person to talk to for support
  4. To aid potential leaders in creating Facebook groups, open letters, unofficial GSAs, school-sponsored GSAs, zines, blogs, etc.
  5. To provide assistance to LGBTQQI&A individuals who face discrimination at religious colleges, universities, and seminaries by providing them with resources and if possible by connecting them with reliable organizations in their own area.

Coming So Close…But Missing By A Mile?

A therapist’s professional critique of Mark Yarhouse’s “Understanding The Transgender Phenomenon”  By Lisa Maurel, LMFT Published on Sep. 28, 2015 @ 18:00 ET Most of us enjoy the privilege of feeling fairly “comfortable” with our assigned sex and the associated gender roles expected of us.  Even if we feel that our personal experience of gender,… Read more »

Overcoming With Good

by Darren McDonald Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good  (Romans 12:21) How do we respond when we encounter discrimination and violence?  How can we confront dehumanizing systems of oppression with our humanity and dignity intact?  Where can we find the endurance to continue the struggle for justice?   LGBTQQI and Allied… Read more »

Trans* Housing At GFU

As first reported by PQ Monthly, George Fox University has refused to allow Jayce, a transgender, African-American student, to live on campus in housing appropriate for his gender. They are also developing a policy that restricts housing to being based exclusively on the biological sex that was assigned to their students at birth (not inclusive… Read more »

As LGBTQQI&A people who have studied and worked at these institutions, we know the challenges and isolation that LGBTQQI&A students face at schools that question their identity. Our mission is to insure that students at these institutions know that they are not alone.