Rev. Ken Martin was appointed Elder of Metropolitan Community Church’s Region One in 2006. At that time he shared his journey that led to that moment.
“I came into this world knowing why I am here. My parents and grandparents loved telling everyone that at age three I announced I was a preacher, at four I was preaching to the chickens as I fed them and at five I was taking the ones I thought were saved to the rain barrel at the corner of the house and baptizing them.
Growing up in a conservative, evangelical Southern Baptist culture in rural Mississippi in the 1950's, the realization at puberty that I was attracted to other males was devastating. The two most profound experiential realities of my life--that I was meant to be a minister and that I was homosexual--felt irreconcilable. By the time I went to college to prepare for professional ministry, I was a house divided. At times I loved my spirituality and despised my sexuality. At other times I embraced my sexuality and resented my spirituality. I never felt that being gay was sick or sinful, but that it would prevent me from being able to fulfill my calling to ministry. I was licensed to preach by the Southern Baptist Convention at age 18 and pastored a small mission church during my freshman year of college. After my sophomore year I married a beautiful, wonderful woman, hoping my orientation would change or that I would successfully be able to hide it.
After college and two years in the military, my wife, young son and I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where I entered Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 1970. I was a full-time registered student until the spring of 1974 when, during my last semester, I was asked to leave the seminary. As a result, I have an Master of Divinity education without the degree. While in seminary, I was Assistant to the Pastor of St. Mark's United Church of Christ (UCC) across the Ohio River in New Albany, Indiana.
In 1972, the UCC ordained Bill Johnson as the first openly gay person ordained by a mainline church in modern history. The publicity and discussion surrounding that event just deepened my own personal crisis, which had been slowly escalating for years. I reached the conclusion that I could not preach the truth and live a lie. I became deeply depressed and very suicidal. It was then, through the only single event in my life that I cannot explain except as a literal miracle, I found a copy of The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay. The next weekend I drove to Chicago and found Good Shepherd Parish MCC (Metropolitan Community Church). I was 30 years old and for the first time, during that worship service, the warring realities that were my life were at peace. My sexuality and spirituality were reconciled for the first time and I knew where and how I would spend the rest of my life.
Transformed by that experience, I went home and came out to my wife, resulting in our separation. What I did not know was that the seminary had a policy that if married ministerial students separated, they were required to withdraw from the seminary and enter marital counseling designed to affect reconciliation before re-entering. I protested that several times insisting the marriage was over. Under pressure, I confided during what I thought was a confidential conversation with the Dean of Student Affairs that I was gay. She revealed it publicly and I was asked to leave the seminary and received a letter stating I would never be allowed to re-enter.
With a divorce in process and a total lack of support from family and friends, I arrived in Chicago in the spring of 1974 broken, lost and feeling totally alone in the world. Good Shepherd Parish MCC gathered me in, loved me and helped me heal. In November of that same year I was elected the church’s pastor. After my installation service, I was shaking hands with a long line of people and looked up into deep blue eyes I had been distracted by for several weeks. I remember going home that night and praying, 'God, if this is not your will you better stop me now because I am making plans!' I have been looking into those same eyes now for 32 years. Tom Cole has been my lover, partner, friend and greatest supporter.
After five years in Chicago, our journey led us to Los Angeles where I served as pastor of MCC in the Valley, North Hollywood 1982-1989. During the years 1978-1981 I completed two years of doctoral studies at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.
During the year 1990-1991 I created a weekend experience for gay men entitled "Healing Your Divine Gay Child" that I have now conducted throughout the United States as well as in Australia, Canada and Mexico. I also did a four-week teaching mission for Samaritan Theological Institute which involved conducting proficiency classes and other educational classes in Guadalajara, Cuernavaca and Mexico City. From 1991-1993 I worked as an HIV educator and counselor for the HIV Early Intervention Center in West Hollywood. In July 1993 we moved to Austin and as I write today, August 1, 2006, I am celebrating my 13th anniversary at MCC Austin.
I am 62 years old. Over half of my life has now been spent in MCC. I can imagine many different directions it might have taken, but none more challenging or rewarding.”
(This biographical statement provided by Ken Martin.)