Making the Covenant Work: A Web-based Resource for Welcoming Gay Pastors

A Dissertation/Project
presented to

The Committee for Advanced Pastoral Studies
San Francisco Theological Seminary
San Anselmo, California


in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Ministry

Kevin A. Johnson
February 2020

Copyright 2020 Kevin Albert Johnson

This Dissertation/Project is approved by the Advanced Pastoral Studies Committee, upon recommendation by the Advisor, in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree 


Dr. Sharon Rae Graff, Advisor 

Dr. Teresa Chavez Sauceda, Director Advanced Pastoral Studies 






Kevin A. Johnson 

This dissertation project is designed to create, deliver, and support the website, The project’s purpose is to encourage and welcome gay 

pastors hired by congregations that are not demographically dependent upon the LGBTQ 

community. The website provides more than 150 video interview clips with 12 gay 

pastors answering up to 20 questions, video resources from online media and 

denominational archives, and a “7 Monthly Meetups” plan. The meetups are designed for 

congregations and gay pastors to use in support of establishing and building their 

ministry covenant so the covenant works well and with lasting benefit. This paper is an 

adjunct to the website, offering research and materials to use in the early months of the 

mutual covenant—to enhance the relationships between gay pastors, search committees, 

and hiring congregations. 

Chapter One, Introduction: Includes historical and personal accounts to embody 

the problem statement; ecclesiastical and historical-political factors to demonstrate 

hinderances faced by gay pastors in their careers and socio-religious catalysts that 

produce barriers to gay pastors. 

Chapter Two, Social Analysis: Presents discussions of local church experience; 

homophobia and heterosexism; cross-cultural hires; racial and cultural stereotyping using 


controlling images, myths, and metanarratives (e.g. mammies, sapphires, and jezebels); 

family systems theory; adaptive action (including anonymous bias—exemplified with the 

Academy Award nominated film, A Time for Burning; and the CDE model. Also 

included are discussions of psychological change theories; congregation and community 

conditions; and select psychological theories and practices. 

Chapter Three, Theological Reflection: Includes Bible-based opposition and 

support; church leaders abandoning anti-gay positions; varied theologies in local church 

ministry; clergy theological journey; womanist theology; Brueggemann’s canary in a coal 

mine comparison, and this author’s perspective as a gay pastor. The chapter concludes 

with a discussion of the polities of the UCC, Episcopal, ELCA, PCU (USA) 

denominations, and a few ecumenical considerations. 

Chapter Four, The Project: Describes technical and content development; presents 

brief biographies of the 12 interviewees; plus, recommendations and pedagogy for the “7 

Monthly Meetups” plan. Lastly, feedback and evaluation observations are included. 

Chapter Five, Conclusions: Provides closing observations, impact statement, and 

an epilogue. 

Appendices: Contains scripts, forms, and the meetups plan.  



  • To my husband since December 14, 2013, and partner since August 28, 1998, Michael 

Patrick Shear. This educational journey accompanied our marriage thus far. 

  • To Bloom in the Desert Ministries United Church of Christ and Reconciling Ministries 

congregation. Their moral, spiritual, and financial support was essential to this process. 

  • To clergy colleagues Rabbi David Lazar, the Rev. Fr. Andrew Green, the Rev. Dr. 

Stephen Wayles, and the Rev. Ron Lang who, along with many others, encouraged me 

to continue at times when I was faltering. Their boosts lifted and motivated me to go on. 

  • To D/P advisor the Rev. Dr. Sharon Rae Graff. And Julie (Fess) Henkaline, lay 

reviewer of content and grammar, who, 40 years ago, proofed (her mother Lucy Fess 

typed) my MDiv senior thesis. Their work kept me clear and helped me throughout. 

  • To the 12 gay pastors who gave me time and permission to present parts of their stories. 
  • To the Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Johnson, the first out gay man ordained in modern 

historical Christianity, who served 35 years, but was denied parish calls. As my brother 

by another mother, Bill was my inspiration for the idea that this resource was needed. 

  • To the Kenosha First United Methodist Church, which fired me in November 1981, and 

said, “we’re sorry,” in February 2017. The congregation’s weekend series of 

reconciliation events, welcoming my husband and me to the local church and 

surrounding communities, demonstrated that gay pastors can be both cherished and 

effective in leadership. Thank you for giving me the most important ecclesiastical day 

of my life since my 1979 United Methodist Elder’s ordination. 

  • To so many colleagues, friends, and family members: “Thank you for your support.”