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North Texas Conference ordains first openly gay Methodist pastor since removal of LGBTQ+ ban

Randall Lucas had his ordination on June 3 at the North Texas Conference Center.
North Texas Conference of UMC
Randall Lucas had his ordination on June 3 at the North Texas Conference Center.

Randall Lucas first felt called to the ministry when he was 15 years old in church camp. He described it as a feeling of yearning and desire to be more in touch with God.

“I just felt like God moving on my heart,” he said.

At the time, he was a member of an evangelical church. When he came out as gay in his 20s, he put aside his dream of one day joining the ministry there.

“They didn't have to say it. I mean, you knew that you if you came out as a gay person, you could not serve there,” he said. “It wasn't a matter of them even having to tell you. It was so entrenched in every part of the church that you knew.

Years later, during a mission trip to Haiti, Lucas, by then a volunteer with a Methodist church, felt God speak to him one night. He had that same feeling he had as a teen.

“Because of my age at that point, I asked, ‘God, is it too late?’” he said.

Last week, Lucas, now 53, became the first openly gay man to be ordained in the North Texas Conference since the greater UMC voted to lift a ban on LGBTQ+ clergy last month. He was previously an associate pastor at Lovers Lane UMC.

“I felt elated,” Lucas said. “If I meet somebody, I don’t have to hide. I can be fully who I am and who God created me to be and live into that.”

He said last week’s ordination service was the culmination of eight years of education and work.

“It's been a long process. So at the time that I started seminary, at that time, I didn't think that I could become ordained, but I was still going to serve in the church.”

Delegates at the church’s General Conference in May overwhelmingly voted to remove the ban that dated back to 1984. Additionally, the final piece of legislation created a process for restoring the credentials for any clergy who was stripped of their credentials because they were queer or identified as an ally, according to Texas Christian University Methodist studies professor Natalya Cherry.

“[There are] possibilities of some clergy who lost their credentials in high-profile, highly publicized church trials choosing to request reinstatement of their UMC clergy credentials,” Cherry said.

Policies pertaining to sexuality have been the topic of discussion in the church for decades. In 2019, the denomination granted churches the option to leave before the end of 2023 so long as they provided a “reason of conscience” concerning sexuality, causing a major split.

About a quarter of UMC churches have disaffiliated from the denomination since then. About 50 congregations left the North Texas Conference, fewer than any conference in the state.

The North Texas Board of Ordained Ministry said that they would not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and Lovers Lane welcomed Lucas with open arms.

Senior pastor Stan Copeland said the church helped heal Lucas when he was in a place of hurt after leaving his church. Copeland said the community is excited to see Lucas in his new position as reverend at the Saint Stephen UMC in Mesquite.

“We couldn't be prouder of Randall's commitment, and we look forward to seeing how God continues to lead him now as a fully ordained clergy of the United Methodist Church,” Copeland said in an email.

Lucas is one of many people in the UMC denomination who has had to wait years before being able to be appointed as a clergy member.

He said the church’s approval of LGBTQ+ clergy will open the door for others to enter the ministry.

“They can still go through the process and be completely who they are, who God created them to be, and all that fullness and all that beauty.”

Corrected: June 11, 2024 at 11:06 AM CDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Lucas is the first openly gay pastor ordained by Lovers Lane Methodist Church. He was ordained in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Penelope Rivera is KERA's summer 2024 Scripps Howard news intern. She graduated from the University of North Texas in May with a B.A. in Digital and Print Journalism.