One Gay Pastor, A Few Churches, A World of Difference


On Wednesday, Oct. 25, the People’s United Church of Christ, St. Marks and the First Congressional UCC in Moorhead spoke about their churches along with other LGBTQ+ affirming congregations in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Prism, an affirming LGBTQ+ student group under Gender and Sexual Diversity hosted the event. Prism leader Mary Hedrick, the organizer of the event, said that she wants to give students another option, as opposed to the stereotypical churches that might not be as accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We want to present to students, the community and faculty that we have affirming churches in the Fargo-Moorhead area and what those look like,” Hedrick said. “We will talk about how one becomes accepting in the church.”

Pastor Joe A. Larson of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church started off the conversation by saying that he had to keep closeted about his sexual orientation during the seminary. He said that if he shared this information he would have been kicked out of the program.

“There was a woman in my class who someone went to the president and accused her of being lesbian and the president called her into his office and asked her to leave,” Larson said. “What changed is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) finally voted in 2009 to allow the ordination of LGBTQ people within the Lutheran Church.”

Pastor Joe said that he has the pleasure of being the only openly gay pastor in the state of North Dakota, though he wishes that will change.

The pastor of the First Congressional UCC, the oldest open and affirming church in Moorhead, Michelle Webber says that — in her perspective — accepting all people in the LGBTQ+ community is the way of Jesus.

“We take as our special mantle to stand up in a social action sort of way for those folk in the LGBT community in the hope of reconciling them to the love of God,” Webber said. “I follow the stories of Jesus where he welcomes those others leave out. Where he gathers the outcasts back into the full.”

Grace Murray — pastor of the People’s United Church of Christ — distributed glitter in her ashes on Ash Wednesday last year in support of the LGBTQ+ community. She had one main message for the LGBTQ+ people:

“Just know this. You are loved. We see you. We hear you. We care about you. We are thinking of you. We welcome you,” Murray said.

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