November 10, 1996 in Nation/World

Lesbian Ordained In Toledo Leads Parish In Church Founded By Gays In 1968 In Los Angeles

New York Times

About 55 people gathered last Sunday to watch the Rev. Elder Wilhelmina Hein lay her hands on Elaine Thomas’s head and ordain her to ministry “in the name of the Parent, the Christ and the Holy Spirit.”

As average as the players and roles might have seemed, the event was a first for Toledo. Thomas, pastor at the Good Samaritan Parish, is a lesbian, “the most ‘out’ lesbian in town,” she said.

Hein is a transsexual, brought in from Los Angeles to perform the ordination.

As far as they know, no other lesbian has been ordained in the city. The parish, a church of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, is the lone congregation of its denomination in the city and one of four in Ohio.

The director of administration at the headquarters of the church in Los Angeles, Ravi Verna, said 12 gay Christians founded the church there in 1968. The church says it has 32,000 adherents in 16 countries. With an annual income of more than $10 million, it qualifies as the largest nonprofit organization in the country that serves primarily homosexuals.

In describing variations about how widely homosexuality is acknowledged, a board member of the church, Art St. John, said photography was not allowed in the church because “lots of us are ‘out’ to our families, but not to employers.”

“If we were ‘outed,’ we might not lose their jobs,” St. John said.

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