The Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt was ordained in the Southern Baptist tradition in 1981 and transferred to the Metropolitan Community Churches in 2003. He received his Bachelor of Church Music degree from Stetson University and studied pastoral counseling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He received his Master of Divinity from Episcopal Divinity School and was awarded the Alison B. Cheek Prize in Feminist Liberation Theology in 2008. He received the Doctor of Ministry degree from Episcopal Divinity School in 2011, where he was also awarded the J. Norman Hall Prize for Peace and Justice Work.
Born to devout Southern Baptist parents in rural Alabama, Merritt grew up in the church, first in Alabama and then in Florida where his family moved when he was five years old. With his family he participated in every church activity and attended church services whenever the doors were open. By the age of seven he began taking private piano lessons. Shortly thereafter, he began accompanying children’s choirs and later played for church services and other events in the community. He accepted a call to ministry at the age of sixteen and was ordained in the Southern Baptist tradition at the age of eighteen. He completed the transfer of his clergy credentials to Metropolitan Community Churches in 2003 when he was ordained again by Metropolitan Community Church founder, The Rev. Troy D. Perry and by The Rev. Dr. Elder Nancy L. Wilson, current Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide.
A lifelong community activist, Merritt has served on the boards of directors of many organizations, including Sarasota AIDS Support, Sarasota Pride, the National Stonewall Democrats and the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. He is the founding President of Sarasota Equality Project. He served the Florida Democratic Party as Executive Committee member, Central Committee member, Affirmative Action Committee member, Judiciary Committee member, and was President of the Florida Triangle Democratic Caucus for six years. He was chosen as Man of the Year for Gainesville, Florida’s 2012 LGBT Pride celebration.
Rev. Merritt is Senior Pastor of Trinity Metropolitan Community Church of Gainesville, Florida. He serves on MCC’s Global Justice Institute and Public Policy Team where he is Director for Marriage Equality and Adoptions. He is a featured speaker for human rights around the world. He is also an active member of the Campus Ministry Cooperative at the University of Florida where his ministry is focused on LGBTQ students. Rev. Jim shares life and ministry with his partner of more than 18 years, Albert Knight Leach, Jr.
(This biographical statement provided by Jim Merritt.)