Baptist Church Calls Transgender Pastor to Lead Ohio Congregation

A Baptist church in Ohio has welcomed a transgender pastor to come and lead its flock. Erica Saunders, who is one of just a few transgender pastors currently serving in the denomination, was officially ordained into the ministry in July of this year before starting her tenure as pastor of Peace Community Church in Oberlin, Ohio, on July 1.

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Saunders began identifying as a woman during her first year of seminary. The LGBT-affirming pastor saw a potential future in ministry after the former executive director of the Board of International Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA told her he thought he could find a church “crazy enough to take” a trans pastor.

Eventually, after a long recruitment process, Saunders was offered the ministry position.

“Both candidates were very strong…but Erica stood out as a candidate with unique strengths,” the pastoral search committee said of Saunders, according to Baptist News Global.

“Bright, compassionate, faith-filled and spirit-led with a loving presence, she showed as much interest in each of us as we did in her. At the end of our time together on Sunday, when we formed a circle and said a departing prayer, I think we felt and she felt a sense of calling to our church,” the committee continued.

In a statement, Saunders said that she was “grateful for the gospel witness provided by Peace Community Church.”

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“With God’s help, together we can follow the example of Christ and create a beloved community marked by abiding peace, expansive love and radical justice in Oberlin and beyond,” she added.

In 2005, Peace Community Church took the decision to fully affirm those in the LGBT community, calling itself “an inclusive congregation that boldly and earnestly embraces the call of Jesus to seek God’s Realm.”

Saunders’ academic work includes titles such as “Transgender Justice,” “Subverting Gender, Queering Power: Eunuchs in Early Christianity” and “Reimagining Sexual Ethics in 1 Corinthians.”

On her website, the pastor says “God has called” her “to congregational ministry as well as LGBTQ education and advocacy. “