LGBTQ Clergy Commissioned

By Jim Patterson and Erik Alsgaard –

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling ordains the Rev. Joey Heath-Mason as a full elder at the May 31 ordination and commissioning service at the Baltimore-Washington Conference in Baltimore, Md. Heath-Mason is married to a person of the same gender. Photo by Alison Burdett, Baltimore-Washington Conference.

Three LGBTQ clergy were ordained or commissioned as United Methodist deacons by the Northern Illinois Conference (June 2-4), and the Baltimore-Washington Conference (May 29-June 1) ordained an LGBTQ elder and commissioned a gay provisional deacon. The New York Conference (June 9) also ordained an LGBTQ candidate.

The conferences went forward with candidates approved by their clergy sessions, despite the results of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis in February. General Conference delegates voted 438-384 for the Traditional Plan, which affirmed the church’s current bans on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and strengthened penalties to enforce the prohibition.

The clergy session, acting on behalf of the conference, approves or “elects” candidates to be ordained and commissioned ministry.

“We celebrate the ordination and commissioning of each and every one of the candidates for deacon and elder who are distinctly called to the ministry in the Northern Illinois Conference,” said Bishop Sally Dyck, resident bishop of the Chicago Area, which includes the Northern Illinois Conference.

The Rev. M Barclay is the first openly “non-binary trans person” to be ordained a United Methodist deacon, according to Reconciling Ministries Network. Non-binary means Barclay identifies as neither male nor female. Barclay – who uses singular they pronouns – is the co-founder and executive director of enfleshed (, which creates and facilitates progressive spiritual resources.

The Revs. Elizabeth Evans and Grant Swanson were commissioned as provisional deacons, the first step toward being ordained as deacons. Both identify as queer.

Swanson said becoming part of the church “amidst its dissension and turmoil regarding the belovedness and ministerial calling of queer people, was itself a calling for me.”

Evans said that she is celebrating her commissioning because she worked hard to get there and believes it is where God is calling her. She added that she doesn’t believe the church can transform the world while upholding the same structures that led to the passing of the Traditional plan.

At the Baltimore-Washington Conference, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling commissioned Tara Cressler “TC” Morrow as a provisional deacon and ordained the Rev. Joey Heath-Mason as a full elder. Both Morrow and Heath-Mason are married to people of the same gender.

The Rev. Lea Matthews called her ordination day “joyful,” but still fraught with “complexity and complications,” since she is the latest LGBTQ person to be awarded credentials in violation of rules in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. Matthews was ordained June 9 during the New York Annual Conference at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

“I had to hold the complexity of the moment, which was the larger context of the denomination being in absolute crisis,” Matthews said in an interview with United Methodist News. “To know that as I stepped onto that stage and knelt down, so many of my queer siblings across the connection are not able to do that and have been greatly harmed or explicitly excluded.”

This report was adapted from United Methodist News Service stories filed by Jim Patterson and Erik Alsgaard.

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