Next in our LGBT(+) series is 26 year old, Rev. Autumn Dennis, a queer minister serving in the suburbs of St. Louis as Director of Missions at Manchester United Methodist Church. They have a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School and are working towards their Master of Divinity at Eden Theological Seminary. In their spare time, they play roller derby as “Sinister Minister #667” with Arch Rival Roller Derby of St. Louis. Their preferred pronouns are they/them.
I was born in the lower middle class suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee. I somehow managed to grow up nonreligious in the buckle of the Bible Belt with hippie parents learning how to memorize the Rocky Horror Show. However, I realized that I was both queer and a person of some kind of faith around the age of eleven- and I had no idea people thought the two were incompatible until I told a friend and he said, “My church says you’ll burn in hell.” I asked my parents (who identified as agnostic and Wiccan at the time) if we could go to church, and the only church they knew to take us to was my grandmother’s conservative Southern Baptist megachurch. So, that was great. Hearing that God was against people like me from the pews was all I needed to hear to figure out that if these people are supposed to be like Jesus, then I wanted nothing to do with Jesus. I pushed it out of my mind.
Fast forward to high school where a cute red-headed girl is asking me would I like to come to her youth group because she’s about to get baptized…um, yes please. Long story short, that’s how I became a Methodist for eight years. What started out as me trying to get close with the girl I had a crush on turned into a wonderful, welcoming community of faith where I was asked, “Did you know that Jesus taught us things about caring for our neighbor? That Jesus cares about justice and did more than just bleed on a cross?” This spoke to me and my passion for social justice. They didn’t ask anything about my sexual orientation…they never talked about it at least, which was a welcome change for me at the time. Through my involvement with this Methodist church, I was able to get a full ride scholarship to a great Methodist college.