Rev. April Baker|
(1964 - living) U.S.A.
Glendale Baptist Church, in Nashville, hired in 2002 as associate pastor the Rev. April Baker, an openly lesbian. This led to the dissolution of Glendale's associations with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
April Baker assumed the position of Associate Pastor of Glendale Baptist Church on July 1, 2002. She is the first to serve in this position in the church.
April is a member of the Alliance of Baptists. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Part of her work with these two organizations has included working with Mahan Siler and Brenda Moulton to coordinate a retreat that was the basis for the feature article of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Resource for Congregations in Dialogue on Sexual Orientation, published jointly by the Alliance of Baptists and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.
April graduated from one of her denomination's top schools, and holds the Master of Divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and a B. A. from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
But she was a woman. About a year later, though, Baker confronted something about herself she'd largely ignored - her sexual orientation. That brought a crisis of faith.
''I grew up in a very conservative Christian environment,'' she said. ''Homosexuality wasn't even discussed, but you knew it was wrong.''
For years, she prayed to change, but that didn't happen. Gradually, she came to believe that God loved her just as she was. But that didn't make it any easier for April to find a job with a church. Before going to Nashville, April worked for Nortel Networks. She has served as a counselor and as a case manager for a residential treatment program, which serves women felons and their children. She also has worked as an educational interpreter/tutor for deaf and hard-of-hearing children in North Carolina.
Her search ended at Glendale Baptist Church, a congregation in Green Hills, where she started working as associate pastor. Glendale was founded as a Southern Baptist church in 1951 but has been viewed more recently as a renegade congregation of sorts for its ordinations of female pastors, its views on God and the Bible and its affirming attitude toward homosexuals. Baker, who was hired specifically to minister to children and families at the 200-member congregation.
Glendale's drift from the Southern Baptist Convention can be traced to the conservative resurgence that started in 1979 and focused on biblical inerrancy. The church also is affiliated with the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists.
A few years back, the church considered dropping the word Baptist from its name because of the convention's conservative shift. The congregation uses hymnals published by a different denomination, partly because they have more gender-neutral references to God than the Baptist songbooks.
The congregation includes several former missionaries and seminary graduates, such as Vanderbilt Divinity School alumnus and Metro Councilman Chris Ferrell. He is one of the main sponsors of a bill that would prohibit discrimination against homosexuals in hiring or housing in Davidson County. The bill has received strong opposition from local religious groups who say it would infringe on their freedom of religion.
In American religious life, ordination of gays and lesbians is an extremely contentious issue and has been the cause of vigorous debates in denominations more liberal than the Southern Baptists, such as the United Methodists, Episcopalians and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
For Baker, she's happy that she finally has a chance to serve God in a church and insists that her sexual orientation is a small part of her identity.
''I am merely one of the ministers of the church,'' she said. ''Not the woman minister. Not the lesbian minister. Just one of the ministers who tries every day to follow as closely as I can to the teachings of Jesus.''