Gregory Stevens isn’t your run-of-the-mill Baptist minister.
“A quick note,” he said in a recent email to Baptist News Global. “I prefer to use ‘Gxd’ or ‘Gxddess’ when writing God to represent trans, feminist, queer, and gender-bending struggles.”
He also isn’t, for the moment, an employed Baptist minister, either. Stevens’ equally progressive take on social justice issues led to his May 15 resignation as associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Palo Alto, California.
Tweets Stevens had posted months before, including one slamming the ultra-rich community as “an elitist s— den of hate,” were introduced during a city council meeting the night before. The congregation was seeking a permit needed to rent space to other organizations.
News of the Florida native’s tweets have gone viral.
Stevens, who is gay, agreed to answer questions via email about the experience and about his Baptist faith. His comments have been edited for clarity.
Where in Florida are you from, and what kinds of churches did you attend growing up?
I am from Tampa. I first started going to church in middle school at the First Baptist Church of Lutz, a Southern Baptist church. I went with a neighbor, not my family. I then moved on to Grace Family Church, a non-denominational megachurch. I was an intern. I left the internship for theological reasons and took my first youth ministry position at Bay Hope Church (back then it was called Van Dyke United Methodist Church). I again left for theological reasons and moved to the more progressive Missio Dei Community (an emergent church) and worked on the staff as an associate minister. And then I moved to California for seminary at the Claremont School of Theology.
Why remain Baptist when there are other faith groups more friendly to LGBTQ people?
When I moved to California for seminary I came out queer in the first semester at Claremont. I was looking at the UCC (United Church of Christ) and DOC (Disciples of Christ) as my future church homes, having heard they were more open to queer leaders. I chose the DOC because they supported young broke aspiring ministers like myself, and also affirmed my sexuality – or so I thought. When I graduated, and it was time to find a job there were no DOC churches in the area that were willing to hire a young queer graduate.
Growing up a Southern Baptist and then connecting with a few progressive American Baptists at Claremont, I was excited to hear of a Bay Area church seeking a younger leader whose queer identity was honored and not dismissed as sinful. I was able to reconnect to my Baptist roots. I also dove head first into researching more about the Baptist tradition and found myself in a tradition rooted in radical Christianity (Anabaptists) that later emerged in the United States among black and working-class peoples (American Baptists). From Nat Turner to Martin Luther King, I find our tradition to be among, for, and with the oppressed.
Read the rest of the article on Baptist News Global.