Jordan Conley, the new co-pastor of history Crescent Hill Baptist Churchhas a unique connection to the house of worship where he now serves – it’s where he and husband Patrick Allison were married in 2016.
Conley began preaching when he was an 8-year-old boy in eastern Kentucky. Now 29, the Knott County native was called last month to serve at the church in Louisville where he was ordained earlier this year, marking the first time the Crescent Hill facility has been led by a gay pastor. He will be a familiar sight on stage alongside his co-pastor Andrea Woolley.
“Let them say, ‘We’ve seen you as a member of the church, we’ve seen you as a youth minister, and we trust you to be with us on our next spiritual journey,'” is the honor of my life,” Conley told The Courier Journal. “And that’s a burden I don’t take lightly.”
The church has hosted services at its current location – 2800 Frankfort Ave., in the heart of Louisville’s Crescent Hill neighborhood – since 1926, when its original building was demolished to make way for a location for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. .
The church severed ties with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary more than 20 years ago, however, because the Southern Baptist Convention did not accept the idea of women serving as pastors, Conley said. Instead, Crescent Hill Baptist Church and several others around Louisville aligned with the American Baptist Convention.
The church has evolved since then, Conley said, noting that 97% of people who attend Crescent Hill Baptist Church were in favor of him becoming a co-pastor.
“I’m not worried about anyone leaving our church as a result of the call to me as co-pastor,” Conley said. “I actually think people will come to our church, because they’ve heard of a church where there’s not just a gay man serving as a co-pastor, but my co-pastor Andrea Woolley is a woman. And that says something, I think, about our church.”
Either way, Conley said he didn’t have time to pay attention to those who didn’t approve of his calling. Lately, he said, he has been spending his time driving vans full of supplies gathered by church people to help those affected by the devastating floods. that swept through eastern Kentucky this summer.
He’s not naïve, however — he’s well aware of how the church promoting a member of the LGBTQ community to help run the show might be viewed by some members of the Baptist community.
Conley’s new post has garnered a lot of reactions, and while the church supports it, not all of it has been positive. For example, Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (the graduate school of the Southern Baptist Convention) criticized the move when it was announced, telling Twitter followers “if you ever wondered why the conservative resurgence at the SBC (Southern Baptist Baptist Convention) was needed, that’s it,” in a social media post on August 15.
“People are going to say whatever they’re going to say about me,” Conley told the Courier Journal. “You know, social media has made it very easy to voice an opinion and get a platform for that opinion. The only thing I can do is indulge in the appeal that the Spirit of God has placed upon my life, serving this church.”
Woolley and Conley are on the same page, her co-pastor told the Courier Journal.
Negative comments are inevitable but “don’t really bother her,” Woolley said. She felt her own criticisms. A mother of two, Woolley said she has not received direct vitriol as a female pastor, but there is “a certain kind of nuance” from people who have been brought up to believe that women could not be pastors.
“It’s kind of disheartening to know that there are people who are against openness and inclusion, Woolley said. “But they don’t stop what we’re going to do.”
Woolley, who has co-pastored the church since 2011, said she was “excited” to have Conley serving alongside her. He has experience, she said, having filled in for her at the church when she went on maternity leave in April and took over the role of co-pastor when the former co-pastor of Woolley, Jason Crosby, left on July 10.
Conley has come a long way to get to where he is today.
He began his undergraduate studies to become a pastor at Boyce College — the undergraduate institution of the Southern Baptist Convention — in 2010. At the time, he said, he was told not to go at Crescent Hill Baptist Church because women were preaching and there were homosexuals who served as deacons. He hadn’t come out as gay at school in Louisville yet, and he said what he was taught about the LGBTQ community affected his mental state.
“I was scared to death,” Conley said. “That was my biggest fear while I was there was someone finding out I was gay. I would be expelled from school. I knew I would never have a career in ministry. .”
Conley came out as gay in 2014, after leaving Boyce College without completing his studies. He then completed his undergraduate studies years later at Campbellsville University while working as a funeral director.
In his eyes, he said, the church has a long history of aligning against minority groups like blacks, Native Americans and members of the LGBTQ community. Ancient scriptures, he said, have long been misused and hurtful.
But one positive came out of his teachings at the time, he said – they led him to Crescent Hill Baptist Church.
The negativity he faced on his journey to becoming a pastor and the mistreatment of the LGBTQ community by some followers, he said, will not stop him from creating the impact he was called to have. .
“After being beaten and beaten with their Reformed Calvinist theology for … three and a half years, almost four years, I was finally able to come to a place that loved me, loved my husband, Patrick, and accepted us there where we were on our journey back then and I affirmed myself and my husband Patrick, and where we are on our journey today,” Conley said.
Related opinion piece:Should women be pastors? It’s a test facing Southern Baptists, and Al Mohler fails
Contact Ana Rocío Álvarez Bríñez at [email protected]; follow her on Twitter at @SoyAnaAlvarez