On July 1st, an Ohio Baptist church called a transgender pastor to lead their congregation, making it one of a few churches in the Baptist congregation to be led by a person identifying as a gender other than their birth sex.
Peace Community Church in Oberlin, Ohio, welcomed Erica Saunders as their new leader, an LGBT-affirming pastor who started identifying as a female in her first year of seminary at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. Saunders saw hope for a future in Christian ministry after the former executive director of the Board of International Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA informed her he was confident he could find a church “crazy enough” to accept a transgender pastor.
Founded as First Baptist Church of Oberlin in July 1866, Peace Community Church is affiliated with the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, the Alliance of Baptists, and the American Baptist Churches of the Rochester/Genesee Region.
According to Baptist News Global, Saunders was chosen after a long recruitment process that dwindled the 16-candidate pool down to two contending pastors.
“Both candidates were very strong…but Erica stood out as a candidate with unique strengths,” the pastoral search team wrote in a letter. “Bright, compassionate, faith-filled and spirit-led with a loving presence, she showed as much interest in each of us as we did in her. At the end of our time together on Sunday, when we formed a circle and said a departing prayer, I think we felt and she felt a sense of calling to our church.”