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Rev. Loey Powell

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The Rev. Loey Powell has been out and in active ordained ministry for almost 40 years. She earned her M.Div. degree at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, in 1977 and was called to serve an ecumenical environmental justice ministry.  Her ordination in 1978 through the Golden Gate Association of the Northern California-Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) was unusual in that Loey and two other women sought ordination together. 

Loey was called to an interim position with the Northern California Conference staff in 1980, then served as interim associate minister at First Congregational Church in San Francisco until 1982. During the next seven years of seeking a full-time position in ministry as an out lesbian, Loey worked at various jobs including a women’s moving business, receptionist, office manager of Redwood Records, and a technical assistant at the Oakland Museum. She remained active in the UCC with the local church, conference and at the national setting. Loey was chairperson of the Committee of Ministry for the Northern California Conference, served on the board of directors for the UCC Coordinating Center for Women, was elected to the UCC’s Executive Council in 1987, and was a member of the General Synod Committee on Structure which proposed the new design for the national offices. She was also the founding pastor of Peace UCC in Oakland, CA, an Open and Affirming congregation.

Loey was national co-coordinator of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns from 1978-1984, first with the Rev. Bill Johnson and then with Sam Loliger. In this capacity, she represented the Coalition to the wider church, organized meetings of the Coalition, edited the newsletter, and helped build the membership base.

In 1989, Loey was called as pastor of the United Church in Tallahassee (Florida), becoming the first openly lesbian or gay pastor in the UCC called through the regular search process to serve as sole pastor. In Tallahassee, Loey helped found an interfaith HIV/AIDS support organization, volunteered as a phone counselor for the Florida AIDS Hotline and as a spiritual counselor for the Feminist Women’s Health Center, participated in efforts to address church burnings in the South, and organized a local chapter of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights.

Loey left the local church ministry to become the executive director of the Coordinating Center for Women in Church and Society of the UCC in 1997, becoming the first out lesbian or gay person on the UCC’s Council of Instrumentality Executives. When the UCC’s national offices restructured in 2000, Loey continued in the national setting as the team leader for the Human Rights, Justice for Women and Transformation Ministry Team in Justice and Witness Ministries. During these years, Loey was Chair of the Board of Directors of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, active with the National Council of Churches’ Justice for Women Working Group, and other ecumenical and interfaith working groups.

Loey’s parents, Eleonore and Oliver Powell, started the UCC’s Parents of Lesbians and Gays in the early 1980’s in response to the need they became aware of to support parents whose children were coming out to them. The Southern California-Nevada Conference Coalition chapter named an award after them which is given annually to a congregation which exemplifies courageous leadership in Open and Affirming ministry. Eleonore and Oliver lived for more than 30 years at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, CA, where they actively advocated for lgbtq issues both at their church and in the community.  Oliver died in 2003 and Eleonore in 2015, ages 91 and 98.

As a life-long member of the UCC, Loey has persistently offered her gifts for ministry to the church, even in times when the church didn’t want them. Retired in 2016 from the national setting of the UCC, after doing a short term stint at the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, her ministry now is one of commitment to overcoming all forms of oppression and helping others understand the connections between the “isms.”

Loey lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio (the first municipality in the country to grant domestic partner recognition by vote of its residents) with her spouse, Brenda A. Joyner, who is also retired from a profession of teaching and social advocacy around racism, apartheid, and women’s reproductive health and rights among other structural change issues. You will find Brenda and Loey on the golf course whenever possible, having fun in the kitchen expanding their culinary skills, gardening, home projects, enjoying friends, family, and lovely red wines.

(This biographical statement provided by Loey Powell.)

Biography: May, 2004