Student Equipping the Local Church to Navigate Conversations Surrounding Sexuality

Leah King

Leah King enrolled at Western Seminary in 2020 because she wanted to help the local church address the topic of sexuality and gender. Several of her close friends in high school and college had experienced same sex attraction, and more and more of her ministry consisted of helping connect young people to organizations offering a biblical approach to discipleship and sexuality.

Fast forward four years, and King has completed her MA in Ministry and Leadership at Western and is now working on her Doctor of Education in Intercultural Education (EdD). She recently launched her own ministry called Garden to Garden and has begun speaking at conferences and workshops to pastors and ministry leaders looking for resources on sexuality.

“We are in a cultural moment that has highlighted confusion over gender and sexuality,” King says. “I want to encourage the church that this is nothing new. We see it in many places in the Old Testament and in Romans. God's design in Genesis and through Christ remains the same. We can disciple people through this and equip them.”

Over time, King has discovered there are, in fact, many ministries that currently exist to help Christians struggling with sexuality. The challenge is connecting these ministries to local churches so that individuals and families can get the help they need.

“Churches want help and non-profits have amazing resources, even denomination-specific resources,” she says. “But I have discovered there is a need to bridge the gap between parachurch ministries and the local church.”

One organization that King is involved with is Portland Fellowship, a group that helps those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions and transgender confusion. King is one of several Western graduates and students involved with this ministry and has been able to help several families and pastors in the Northwest connect with this ministry.

We are in a cultural moment that has highlighted confusion over gender and sexuality. I want to encourage the church that this is nothing new. God's design in Genesis and through Christ remains the same.

“Whether you are a church or a parachurch ministry, we have to stop being siloed and ask for help on these issues,” she says.

King has been invited to speak at several conferences hosted by the Northwest Baptist Convention, which has resulted in follow-up phone calls from pastors asking her for help with resources. This is one of the reasons she created her own website, so that she could direct people to a place where they could get in touch with her.

The name “Garden to Garden” reflects King's belief that God’s original design in the garden in Genesis shows us that being sexual beings is part of what it means to be image bearers. Now, through Christ, believers can be equipped for life and godliness as we wait for God to restore the garden fully when Christ returns.

She is grateful for the opportunity Western has given her to grapple with these issues from a biblical perspective. Many professors encouraged her to focus her papers on the topic of biblical human sexuality, giving her advice and support along the way as she looked for opportunities to be a resource to the church, especially as a woman in ministry.

“Western cared well for my soul, and my experience as a woman at Western has been wonderful,” she says.

She credits mentorship from professors Ron Marrs, PhD, and Bill Clem, MA, specifically, as having a transformative impact on her ministry perspective.

When she graduated with her master’s degree, King knew that if she ever decided to get another degree, it would be at Western. Eventually, a conversation with Enoch Wan, PhD, director of the EdD program, helped clarify that she could focus her dissertation on sexuality and gender.

“Western has really given me the space to wrestle with theology. They major on the majors and minor on the minors. It has been so helpful getting insights from students from different denomination backgrounds.”

As she continues to speak at conferences and churches, King wants to build bridges so that the church can be better equipped to disciple people through these issues while being faithful to Scripture. Ultimately, she wants to see believers running to Jesus for help, not away from Him.

“We want to hold to a traditional sexual ethic, but churches need to be humble in asking for help and non-profits need to be more upfront so that we can have a unified front on this issue.”