WASHINGTON — For Reverend T.C. Morrow, her sexual orientation does not define her identity in God.
As someone who wrestled with her faith and sexuality, her service to the United Methodist Church (UMC) for 20 years transformed from finding an affirming organization to establishing a higher role within the church.
Morrow, an openly married lesbian, was recently ordained to become a pastor by the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC, at a time when the church as a whole grapples with LGBTQ+ acceptance.
"The Board of Ordained Ministry has decided to treat all candidates the same regardless of their sexual orientation," Morrow said. "It's a long process for anybody in the United Methodist Church but as a lesbian, it has been a very long process and a long time coming."
Morrow is not the first member of the LGBTQ+ community to be ordained in the region, but the new title holds weight as someone who wants to spread the message that faith and being gay can co-exist.
"They would know God loves them no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity or anything," Morrow said. "Being a part of sharing that message here or in other spaces is what I think is really crucial."
The same message can be applied in different denominations and in different forms. Reverend Lee Catoe of the Presbyterian Church said it can be traumatizing to step foot into a church.
However, his role allows him to spread the message of acceptance and inclusion through the faith-based publishing platform and digital media production called Unbound. He also produces the podcast, A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast, and is currently helping with a 16-part study on the gospel of Mark written by LGBTQ leaders called "Queering the Bible."
"Queering means going against the status quo and what society kind of places upon us," Catoe said in an interview about the series. "We really are wanting to have voice of queer folks and trans folks who read scripture, look at scripture and interpret that scripture through that lens. Historically, theology is often kind of from a very straight perspective when it comes to theological perception."
Similar to Morrow, Catoe struggled to find peace with the church and being queer. He hopes to spread awareness that anyone seeking a spiritual journey has safe and alternative spaces.
"For me God is the ultimate creator and we were created by God, so, my sexual identity and what I identify with is divinely made and that's taken me years," Catoe added.