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Baptist Church Ordains Denomination’s First Openly Transgender Woman

Published Monday, Jun. 21st, 2021

Cover image via, Photo has been cropped from the original

A few weeks ago, Reverend Laura Bethany Buchleiter became the first openly transgender woman to be ordained as a Minister of the Gospel by a Baptist church. 


Reverend Laura was ordained by the University Baptist Church in Bloomington, Indiana, which broke tradition way back in 1999, too, when they ordained Pastor Annette Hill Briggs. That move got them kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention, and established them as a welcoming and inclusive congregation. 


Now, Reverend Laura is taking her ministry and message to other churches in transition across the country. 


All we can say is… YES! 


Ok, actually we have a lot more to say on this… 


This story -- along with news that a Southern Baptist megachurch ordained 3 women last month, and that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) just ordained their first openly transgender nonbinary bishop -- is truly heartening, and reflects a growing desire for faith spaces to become more accepting. 


We support this completely! Everyone should have a clear path to ordination if they want it, along with all the rights that come with it, free of discrimination, and regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, class, or ability. 


(That’s why AMM offers free online ordination and training for our Ministers.)


A recent Gallup poll showed that the majority of Americans don’t belong to a traditional church, mosque, or synagogue, and a large percentage don’t identify with or have no preference for a specific denomination. Many are spiritually eclectic, or spiritual but not religious, and many don’t identify spiritually at all, such as humanists and atheists. 


Younger generations are leading this trend, but they’re not alone. Religious affiliations are declining in all generations, from Millennials to Gen Xers to Boomers to Traditionalists. 


Why? One of the most obvious reasons is a rejection of the discrimination found in many mainstream churches. 


People of all ages are expressing a growing acceptance of all people, regardless of their individual differences -- something most conservative and traditionally-minded churches refuse to do. 


That’s why AMM is inclusive, interfaith, interspiritual, and nondenominational. As a federally-recognized nonprofit organization and church, we ordain people of all faiths and spiritual beliefs, or no spiritual beliefs. And while we center our ministry around marriage, and the right of all people to marry and solemnize marriage in whatever style they choose, we believe in equality all around.  


We celebrate University Baptist Church’s decision to ordain Reverend Laura Bethany Buchleiter! And we hope we’ll continue to see more stories like this one. 


And if you want to become an Ordained Minister today, and perform marriages and other meaningful rites within your community, we’d be happy to have you at AMM. 


More About Reverend Laura


Laura Bethany Buchleiter lived a life that most people can probably relate to -- a life spent in search of her true self and calling, a life she describes as “full of change and transition.”


As a Navy kid, she moved dozens of times, meeting people from all over the country, but always feeling like she didn’t fit in. She was active in her church and went on to study faith and scripture in Chicago. Later, she worked with Christian recording artists in Nashville, finished a degree at a Baptist university in Texas, and started a family there. 


But Buchleiter still felt different. During a decade in therapy, she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, something she was told God would need to “fix.” After attempting suicide, she realized that “the only thing that needed to be fixed was the limits she had put on God’s creativity.” (These quotes and details were taken from Buchleiter’s website, which you can find here.)


With this renewed faith and insight, she found the support of a tremendously loving LBGTQ+ faith community, and attended the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. There, she blended her deep faith with a love of storytelling, musical composition, and art making.  

She became an interim pastor at University Baptist Church during her time at the seminary, and three years later, only one day after graduating as a Master of Divinity, the University Baptist Church ordained her. 


You can find out more about her ordination in Carol Kugler’s article for The Herald-Times








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