BNG — A Baptist church that meets on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, plans to ordain a transgender woman to the gospel ministry this Sunday.
Erica Saunders, a 2019 master-of-divinity candidate at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, will become a reverend in a worship service scheduled at 4 p.m. on March 24 in Wait Chapel on the university campus.
Saunders, 24, will be one of the first openly trans individuals to be ordained by a Baptist church in the United States. Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., a congregation now led by married lesbian co-pastors, ordained Allyson Robinson, a transgender woman, to the gospel ministry in 2014.
Saunders, a ministry intern at Wake Forest Baptist Church who began her transition during her first year of seminary, introduces herself on social media as “probably the only bi, trans, Baptist preacher lady you know.”
“Trans folks exist,” Saunders posted this week on Twitter. “God created us just the way we are, and God calls us good. Unfortunately, being trans means I’m not welcome in most churches as a visitor, let alone a leader. But we are Christians. We are called.”
Saunders said she had to discern a long time whether she wanted to come out publicly in her career. “I hope that by sharing my story, I can show my trans siblings that God loves us because of who we are, not in spite of it,” she tweeted.
Wake Forest Baptist Church is an independent congregation not affiliated with Wake Forest University, but it joined the historically Baptist school in a relocation to Winston-Salem in 1956. The original campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina, became home to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of six seminaries owned by the Southern Baptist Convention.