Heroes among the clergy
The community of faith has historically been divided on the subject of homosexuality and gender issues. While rhetoric has been strident and frequently cruel, from the very beginning of LGBTQ civil rights efforts, there have been clergy and congregations who welcome queer people into their faith, and their churches. That effort goes on, energetically, today. Queer-friendly churches have have taken root, and mainline denominations have modified their stances to affirm that their message is for everyone. Queer Heroes NW salutes three Portland-area clergy who continue to work in various ways for inclusion of queer people in the community of faith.
Rev. Tara Wilkins serves as the executive director of Community of Welcoming Congregations (CWC). She has expanded the organization to be interfaith and inclusive of congregations throughout Oregon and southwest Washington.
Through her work with CWC and in the community Rev. Wilkins has tirelessly fought for LGBTQ rights on state, local and religious fronts. She has been instrumental in engaging communities across the theological spectrum on LGBTQ issues, working for inclusion and equality for LGBTQ people.
Rev. Wilkins has been an active member of Ainsworth United Church of Christ assisting in Christian education, pastoral presence, preaching and leadership and with the United Church of Christ Camp Ministries program and the youth it serves.
Rev. David Weekley
On Sunday, August 30, 2009, David Weekley, came out to his congregation at Epworth United Methodist Church as a transgender man. It was a secret he had kept for 27 years.
David is twice-married, and he and his wife, Deborah, have a blended family numbering five grown children. But David began life as a girl, and spent his first 20 years confused and hurting. He began preparing for transition the age of 21, and completed the process in 1975. Thereafter, he went to graduate school, eventually felt called to the ministry, and in 1984, he was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church.
While at Epworth, a predominately Japanese-American church in S.E. Portland, David saw members of his congregation dealing with the experience of internment during World War II. Seeing the healing that happened when people were finally able to talk about the past, he began wondering if it was time to share his own story.
David was supported at Epworth. However, his standing within his denomination may be in question: although the United Methodist Church does not currently bar transsexual people from the ministry, conservatives at the national level would like to change that.
Since coming out, David has published a book, In from the Wilderness, Sherman: She-r-man, and is discovering a broader ministry among sexual minorities who feel left out of the community of faith. David and Deborah continue to work for justice and full inclusion within the United Methodist Church, and they wait to see what the future holds.
In May, 2012, David was accepted into a Doctoral program at Boston University School of Theology, so he and Deborah will be leaving the Northwest for the time being.
Rev. Cecil Prescod
The Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and brother in the Order of Corpus Christi, an evangelical Catholic religious order, serves as Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministries at Ainsworth United Church of Christ in Portland.
Cecil has been active in social justice issues since his youth. He first became involved in the lgbt equality movement in 1992 when he helped organize People of Faith Against Bigotry, an interfaith organization that opposed the anti-queer ballot initiative, and began working with Love Makes A Family, Inc. Among the organizations that he has worked with are the Fellowship for Reconciliation, the American Friends Service Committee, Brother to Brother, the Urban League of Portland, and PFLAG-Portland Black Chapter.
In 2002, Cecil was a local co-chair for the NGLTF Creating Change Conference that was held in Portland and received the Russell Peyton Human Rights Award from the Metropolitan Human Rights Center. In 2005, Rev. Prescod was a delegate to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ that voted to become the first mainline Protestant denomination in the United States to support marriage equality. In 2011, Cecil joined hundreds of clergy and faith community leaders from across the country in Washington, DC to advocate and lobby for LGBT justice as part of the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call for Justice and Equality.
Copyright ©2012 • Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest