John Doner founded the first church for gays and lesbians in Latin America, Iglesia de la Comunidad Metropolitana Reconciliación (MCC), in Mexico City in 1981. In 1992 he and the Rev. Dr. Tom Hanks, along with Episcopal attorney Gordon Herzog of St. Louis, founded Other Sheep – Multicultural Ministries with Sexual Minorities. John has served since that time as volunteer coordinator for Latin America, while teaching English for income. In 1982 John met his life partner Pepe Hernández in Mexico City. John and Pepe made a seven-month mission trip by public bus and river boat in 1994 from Mexico City to Santiago, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina and return, visiting lgbt leaders in seventeen countries. The purpose was to identify potential leaders for future lgbt ministries in the cities visited and to establish some 40 documentation centers in universities, seminaries and lgbt groups which make available to the public gay-positive Christian literature supplied by Other Sheep.
Born in Chicago on July 6, 1938, John was raised in Ft. Collins, Colorado, where he made a commitment to Christ at a very early age and his parents were leaders in the Church of the Nazarene and later in the Free Methodist Church. When he was 16 his family moved to Sacramento, California, where John became a youth leader in the local Free Methodist Church. His first year of college was at Vennard College in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and he later graduated from Greenville College (Free Methodist) in Greenville, Illinois in 1962. He interrupted his graduate work at the University of California-Berkeley School of Social Welfare to join the Peace Corps in 1963. John served in Lima, Peru, for two years, where he established that country’s first foster care program for abandoned children. He worked with Esther Iriarte, a Peruvian attorney, whom he married in 1966 (thinking this would “cure” his homosexuality!) after receiving his Master of Social Welfare degree from Berkeley. From 1966 to 1980 he worked in a variety of social welfare agencies in Denver. In 1974 he finally accepted his homosexual orientation, was divorced, and in 1977 became active in Metropolitan Community Church of the Rockies, pastored by the Rev. Elder Charlie Arehart.
Returning from a vacation trip to Mexico City in January 1978, while sitting in his plane waiting for take-off, John strongly sensed what appeared to be God speaking to him: “John, Mexico City needs a Christian ministry to gays and lesbians.” His mother and only brother had died years before, and due to his father’s age, John was unable to respond to this call until his father’s death in January 1980. In response to God’s call, John resigned from his position in the Colorado Department of Health, and in December he moved to Mexico City. He soon met Horacio Flores (who two years later became the MCC pastor) and, in October 1981, the first MCC service in Latin America, and to his knowledge the first lgbt worship service, was held. In 1984-85 John made many weekend 8-hour bus trips to Guadalajara to assist Tom García in founding ICM Guadalajara. At MCC’s 1985 General Conference, Rev. Troy Perry awarded John the Founder’s Award for his pioneering work in the establishment of the first two MCC’s in Latin America.
Since Other Sheep’s founding in 1992, John has done much translation and editorial work to make Christian gay-positive materials available in Spanish. Since 1997 he has managed Other Sheep's Spanish website, has counseled many gays and lesbians in Latin America via email to help them reconcile their faith and their sexuality, and, with his partner Pepe, has made numerous mission trips to Central and South America in search of potential leaders to initiate Christian lgbt ministries where they currently do not exist. While John never sensed a call to the professional ministry, he considers his search for indigenous leadership to begin Christian lgbt ministries throughout Latin America to be his most important work.
John Doner died in his home in Mexico City on September 30, 2014.
(This biographical statement provided by John Doner with death notice added by Mark Bowman.)