Charles Graves IV aims to create a safe space for queer UH students
Charles Graves IV has spent his recent years around the Houston area, spreading queer-affirming religious and spiritual messages to all who are interested, including UH students.
Students are welcome to stop by his office in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center and socialize, work on homework or receive advice. As a campus minister, Graves is on campus Wednesdays and travels to other universities, including University of Houston-Downtown, Houston Community College and Texas Southern University.
“Some of the best conversations I get to have with students are with queer students who are wrestling with their faith and with their queerness, or sometimes with straight students who are wrestling with their sexuality,” Graves said.
For students who have had scriptures used against them in the past, Graves sits down with them and helps work through them, sometimes with one of Graves’ favorite books, “The Handbook.” Written by Will Horn, this book focuses on religion and sexuality and to empower young people.
“A lot of people who are struggling with their faith and sexuality and so on, find themselves in a process of deconstruction, which means you’re taking apart those things that were taught to you when you were younger,” Graves said.
Students also seek help with managing their workload and mental health and Graves will help students determine the right direction for them, putting their best interests first.
While originally planning on going into politics, Graves realized that he didn’t feel connected to God and his faith when writing negative ads for opposing candidates and being surrounded in that toxic environment. Reconsidering where his calling was, Graves decided to return to the church.
“I knew I wanted to study religion but I also knew I still had a passion for law, policy, advocacy, and maybe if I didn’t run for office, I still might become a lawyer, activist, advocate (or) something like that,” Graves said. “So I applied to programs where I could do a dual divinity and law degree (and) I ended up getting accepted into the program at Yale.”
After Graves’ first year in the program, he realized his full passion was becoming a priest and being a lawyer wasn’t the career for him. After receiving his divinity degree in 2015, Graves was ordained as a deacon in 2017 and as a priest in 2018.
The seminary Graves attended was liberal and progressive, where many other people there were openly LGBTQ, with the professors being LGBTQ-affirming. Graves recalls a focus of his ministry at Houston Canterbury is that they are contextual instead of literal when looking at scripture.
“What those of us who are contextualists and those of us who are more progressive say is the bible is more than just one line to be picked out at a time,” Graves said. “It wouldn’t make sense with any book to read just one line without knowing anything else that’s going on in the book and to just take one line and hang everything on that.”
Graves urges students to not be afraid to reach out for help, assuring them that they will be in good hands and find solutions. He and the other campus minister Morgan Gates aim to help students in any way possible.
“Once you center everything on loving your God, loving your neighbor, and loving yourself, then everything else falls into place,” Graves said.