A baptist church in Washington D.C. will be led by a lesbian couple, Maria Swearingen and Sally Sarratt, beginning in February.
Maria Swearingen and Sally Sarratt were announced as the co-pastors during this week’s service on Sunday, January 8. They will begin their new roles on February 26.
Regarding the decision, Carol Blythe, a spokeswoman for the congregation, said the goal has always been to choose the best people for the job, implying that Sally and Maria met their expectations completely. Ms. Blythe added “We’re very excited.”
Calvary Baptist is a 155-year-old church that cut its ties with the Southern Baptist Convention about four years ago. The church found itself disagreeing with many of the convention’s views, especially its criticism of homosexuality.
However, the Calvary Baptist church still associates with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Alliance of Baptists, the District of Columbia Baptist Convention and American Baptist Churches USA.
Calvary Baptist is not the first church from the Baptist denomination to elect ministers or co-pastors from the LGBT community and challenging the established order is something the church has been doing since the congregation was established in 1862 by abolitionists.
In 2014, the church had ordained Allyson Robinson, a transgender minister who graduated from the George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Robinson was the first transgender minister to be ordained by the church.
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Maria and Sally are credited with possessing complimentary skills which are suited to meet the church’s needs. According to Ms. Blythe, the church had interacted with the couple and discussed their vision for leadership. During the interaction, the church found the couple to be strong in their faith and committed to playing a role in the larger gospel community.
Ms. Blythe also mentioned of the couple’s experience and talents that were a match for the church’s priorities in terms of ministry.
Sally and Maria were previously stationed at Greenville S.C., where, Sally served at the Greenville Health System as an associate chaplain for behavioral health. Maria served at the Furman University as an associate chaplain.
The couple, in their address to the congregation on Sunday, spoke of how they admired Calvary Baptist’s commitment towards serving as a source of compassion and justice for marginalized groups and individuals.