GLAAD Black History Month profile: the Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey

Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey is the first out black lesbian ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. She currently serves as board member of Reconciling Ministries Network and as a clinical assistant professor at Boston University School of Theology. In her work, she proudly represents both the black and LGBT communities as a minister, educator, and activist.

Within the United Methodist Church, Lightsey creates progress for the LGBT community and its faith. She has drafted petitions challenging UMC Laws that Discriminate against LGBT people. She has also written about the important work of black theologians and scholars who support LGBT equality. The UMC and other Christian communities still hesitate when it comes to the acceptance of LGBT brothers and sisters, however. In an article with BU Today, Lightsey acknowledges the "catching up" that Christian churches have to do with the inclusion of LGBT people:

“On a given day, sex is a small part of anybody’s life—really!—whether you be heterosexual or whether you be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender….But the church treats it as a large part of our life—too large, such that [the] church, as it relates to this issue, is really oppressive.…I actually hope that the church will be prophetic on this, that it will be, [as] Martin Luther King said, the headlight, not the taillight. But right now, unfortunately, the church is lagging behind public policy."

This is why Lightsey serves as a board member with Reconciling Ministries Network, a Methodist LGBT advocacy organization that supports LGBT Christians and challenges the discrimination they face. Within this organization, her hard work for LGBT members has reached a national audience. Her involvement at the UMC's 2012 General Conference specifically exemplifies her work as both minister and activist. During the conference, Lightsey acknowledged in a sermon the damaging words that many LGBT delegates faced during the conference's "holy conversations." She, along with other Christian LGBT ministers and voices, discussed the importance of LGBT inclusion within the United Methodist Church. You can watch her entire sermon at the conference below:

Lightsey currently serves as Associate Dean and Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Theology and teaches course such as Practices of Faith, War and the Human, and Queer Theology.. She strives to create discussion with her students about the role of LGBT people in faith and ways that they can impact LGBT minds with Christianity. Queer Theology in particular is a graduate level course which exemplifies Lightsey's dedication to educate young theologians about the inclusion of LGBT people within the Church.  “I want them to be able to articulate theologically what impact queers of faith may have upon the church and society,” stated Lightsey in an article with BU Today about the course and her mission to her theology students. Her teaching curriculum revolves around the acronym REST (for Reason, Experience, Scripture, Tradition) attempting to find ways for both Roman Catholic and Evangelical Christian churches to understand and not out dismiss LGBT involvement.

Lightsey's influence doesn’t end with LGBT advocacy in faith however. She documented the powerful demonstrations occurring in Ferguson, MO this past summer as well. In August 2014, Lightsey joined other activists recording on a video camera the racial unrest surrounding the shooting of black teenager, Michael Brown. Through Reconciling Ministries Network she blogged about the experience with other ministers, thinkers, and leaders in the heat of the protests. Lightsey openly called for "Biblical Obedience" throughout the entire experience, stating:

"This call to Biblical Obedience is not and cannot be solely for the purpose of LGBTQ rights. It must address oppression wherever its tenacious tentacles grip the lives of God's people and Earth itself. This is why we must all work together and use our voices against oppression."

Lightsey provided her viewers and readers a first-person account of the sometimes violent protests. The videos below show Lightsey videotaping these racial protests and discussing how the Church and LGBT community interacted with them:

Throughout February, GLAAD is celebrating Black History Month with newsroom posts and more honoring the accomplishments, journeys, and mission of African American men and women. GLAAD will also highlight the contributions of black LGBT people included in this celebration.

To learn more about GLAAD and its celebration of Black History Month, click here.