Queer Heroes NW 2020:
Bernard Turner

When Bernie Turner came to McMinnville to be lead pastor First Baptist Church he brought his passion for social justice with him. Turner had marched during the Civil Rights Movement of the '60's with Martin Luther King Jr.

Bernard TurnerTurner's belief in equality for all lead him to open the church to the LGBTQIA community in the small rural town, initially setting off an explosion that would cause demonstrations for his progressive views.

When a young lesbian mother came to him in 1991 and expressed her need for community and support in an accepting environment, Turner created an LGBTQ+ support group to help her. This group, Together Works, is now nearly 30 years old and is the oldest organization of its kind in Oregon. When the town found out about the group, it and the church were picketed by local community members. Newspaper was put over the windows so locals could not see which church members were attending group meetings.

Turner was not intimidated by the backlash. He began to encourage local LGBTQ community members to attend church at FBC; many would go on to become lay ministers and join the church board. This was not without backlash; some church members left, but more came and stayed as Turner continued to champion the Queer community
At the height of the Oregon Citizens Alliance anti-gay Ballot Measure 9 campaign in 1992, Bernie performed a ceremony of mutual commitment between a 21-year-old man from his McMinnville congregation, and his partner, who was living with AIDS.

There are many "Bernie stories" about lifesaving counsel, pastoral care, and affirmation over the years in Yamhill County's LGBTQ community.

In April 2013, First Baptist's board voted unanimously to allow the current pastor and all future pastors to perform weddings of same gender couples on church grounds.

Little GLAPN return

P.O. Box 3646 • Portland, OR 97208-3646 •
Copyright © 2020, Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest