CANDACE CHELLEW-HODGE grew up playing with Tonka trucks in the aisles of the Southern Baptist church where her father was the pastor. When her parents divorced and, later, when she came to understand that she was a lesbian, she found less and less reason to pay much attention to the church.
Then, in her twenties, a girlfriend talked her into attending a service at a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the first denomination founded with the intention of having an affirming ministry for the gay and lesbian community. “The first day at this MCC in Atlanta was transforming,” she says. “I sat there and cried because it felt like I’d come home.”
In 1996, her involvement in the Christian community—and a desire for Christian reading material that didn’t disparage glbt people—led her to found Whosoever (whosoever.org), “an online magazine for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians.” Through the webzine, Chellew-Hodge gained enough recognition to be invited to gay Christian conferences, where she began conducting “spiritual self-defense” workshops. These workshops led to her first book, Bulletproof Faith. Along the way, she has also overseen a Yahoo Groups listserve for readers of Whosoever, attended seminary, and currently serves as pastor for Jubilee! Circle, a start-up congregation of the United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina. She regularly blogs at Religion Dispatches.
Since that first visit to the MCC over twenty years ago, Chellew-Hodge has become a consistent and vocal advocate for glbt rights within the Christian community, speaking against religious bigotry in its own language.