Gay clergy appointed for outreach

Presbyterian group establishes ministry

June 05, 1999|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A consortium of five Baltimore-area Presbyterian churches has hired an openly gay minister in an effort to make congregations more welcoming of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals.

The Rev. Donald E. Stroud, minister of outreach and reconciliation for That All May Freely Serve: Baltimore, will celebrate the inauguration of his ministry at a service of recognition at 4 p.m. tomorrow at First and Franklin Street Presbyterian Church, 210 W. Madison St.

Stroud was hired by a consortium comprising Brown Memorial Park Avenue, First and Franklin, Govans and Light Street Presbyterian churches in Baltimore, and St. John United Methodist-Presbyterian Church in Columbia.

Stroud's not having an official installation ceremony reflects the Presbyterian church's prohibition in its Book of Order against installing homosexual clergy in church ministries. The service of recognition is designed to sidestep that prohibition.

Stroud was ordained in 1975, three years before the policy was adopted, so the prohibition against ordination doesn't affect him.

Stroud was born in Lincolnton, N.C., and raised in Charlotte. He received theological degrees from the Princeton Theological Seminary and served in Presbyterian churches in Marshville, N.C., Wallington, N.J., and Rensselaer and Stony Point, N.Y. He has been active in AIDS ministry and has developed several interfaith services in the gay community in the Albany, N.Y., area.

As a minister with That All May Freely Serve, Stroud said, he will work not just with the consortium congregations, but other Presbyterian churches and in interfaith dialogues to persuade churches to be more inclusive of gays and lesbians.

"One of my principal concerns is to embody the whole issue of inclusion of gays and lesbians and let people see how effective an ordained clergy who is openly gay can work in the church," he said.

Personal contact is the key to breaking down prejudices and barriers, said the Rev. Jane Spahr, founder of That All May Freely Serve. Spahr, an openly lesbian minister, started the ministry after a national church body denied her 1991 call to serve in a Rochester, N.Y., congregation.

"Our hope is that people can meet us and see us and learn who we are and help transform the church into an inclusive church," she said.

The Rev. Ted Durr, pastor of First and Franklin Street Presbyterian Church, said Stroud's ministry will challenge the beliefs of many members of the denomination.

"Just as Abraham discovered a new faith, and beyond him Moses and beyond him Isaiah and beyond him Jesus, so today the tradition has not died, and people like Don are needed to help us move beyond the last century and the last generation to greater expressions of love and acceptance," he said.

Pub Date: 6/05/99

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