First Openly LGBTQ Clergy Couple Candidates in PC(USA) Approved for Ministry in Heartland Presbytery
At its stated meeting in Gardner, KS, May 3, 2014, Heartland Presbytery voted unanimously to approve the ordination of Karen Wagner to the office of Teaching Elder. At the same meeting, the presbytery received Wagner’s wife, The Rev. Sally Wright, into membership, making them the first clergy couple in the PC(USA) to begin their ministry as openly out LGBTQ persons.
Wagner is a graduate of Austin Theological Presbyterian Seminary and holds Educator Certification through the PC(USA) and is a member of the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators (APCE). A candidate under care of Indian Nations Presbytery, she will serve as Interim Associate Pastor at Southminster Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village, KS, where she also will be ordained June 1, 2014.
The Rev. Jeff Clayton, pastor/head of staff at Southminster Church said of Wagner, “We are excited for Karen to bring her prodigious gifts for ministry to our congregation and presbytery. Her particular expertise and passion for Christian Education matches our congregation’s area of need and we feel blessed someone so highly qualified was available at this time.”
Present at the presbytery meeting were Teaching Elder members of Heartland Presbytery The Rev. Brian Ellison, Executive Director of Covenant Network, and The Rev. Heidi Peterson, co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians. After the vote, Peterson commented, “This is a great day for the church—that we as a body are able to avail ourselves of Karen’s devotion and talent. Throughout the denomination we are beginning to reap the rich harvest of our labor to open wide the doors of welcome and service to LGBTQ Presbyterians.”
Ellison, who became the only openly gay member of the presbytery when he came out in 2012, said “Today in Heartland Presbytery, the story was not about Sally and Karen’s sexual orientation, or about the fact that they are married to each other, but rather about their gifts and character and calling being recognized and celebrated by the church. This is a glimpse of our vision for the future–when every person and every marriage is honored, and LGBTQ participation in the church is unremarkable except for the ways it is proclaiming good news and showing forth the realm of God.”
Rev. Sally S. Wright is ordained in Presbyterian Church (USA) to the validated ministry of chaplaincy. She received her Masters of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 2012 and currently serves as a hospice chaplain in Kansas City, MO.
(Photo: Central Presbyterian members and friends at stated meeting of Heartland Presbytery, May 3, 2014. Rev. Sally S. Wright and Karen Wagner center.)