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FERNDALE – The pastoral search committee of Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit has introduced their candidate for senior pastor of the church. Rev. Roland Stringfellow, will be presented to the church on Sunday, Jan. 26 when he will preach the first of two sermons he is scheduled to deliver, before the general membership of the church votes on his candidacy.
Stringfellow moved to Detroit in July from Oakland, California when his partner, Jerry Peterson, accepted the position of executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center. Their adjustment to their new hometown has been swift.
“I’m originally from Fort Wayne, Ind. so I’m not a California boy,” he said. “So we’ve had a very smooth transition and have really embraced the community. We’re happy to be here.”
Stringfellow earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in counseling from Indiana University. It was in college that he first felt a call toward ministry. In 1990, Stringfellow became a licensed minister in the Baptist church. He was a minister with the denomination for 10 years.
“I first went to theological school at Grace Seminary in Indiana and it was during that time, while I was still a Baptist minister, that I accepted my sexuality,” Stringfellow said. “I had been denying it prior to that. So when I came out to myself, and to the church, I left the Baptist church. I heard about Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. so I moved there and it was during that time that I became affiliated with MCC.”
In 2005, Stringfellow was ordained with MCC, and in 2006 he earned his master’s degree in divinity. In California, Stringfellow was very active in the LGBT community. Creating dialogue on the topic of LGBT equality with church congregations and in religious institutions was an important part of his role as coordinator of the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations in the Bay Area with the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Sexuality on the campus of the Pacific School of Religion. While working with California Faith for Equality, he wrote an adult Bible study to address theological and scriptural rationales for LGBT inclusion in faith communities. His work for LGBT human rights included overseeing the California statewide effort for faith community organizing post Prop. 8.
It was in Chicago this past summer at the MCC General Conference, that Stringfellow learned of the opening at MCC-D.
“Several people there informed me that the pulpit was available, that they were going to be interviewing soon,” he said.
Among those he spoke to was MCC-D Board Vice-Moderator Jackie Walker.
“I had a conversation with her and I definitely considered it,” he said. “She and I talked a second time and then I applied.”
Many are anxious to hear Stringfellow preach on Sunday. So what should they expect from a Rev. Roland sermon?
“I am a preacher teacher, so if people are expecting this kind of … there’s a stereotypical way that people think African-American ministers, like they sort of sing while they teach,” he said. “I’m a very down to earth Biblical teacher who feels that there is good news in the Bible for all people, particularly LGBT people. Recognizing that many of us have been hurt and damaged by people’s interpretations of the Bible, I believe the type of liberation theology that I’ve been taught and preach and teach is really the good news for the community.”
If voted in as senior pastor, Stringfellow will succeed Rev. Mark Bidwell, who departed the church in Sept. 2011. Rev. Jim Lynch stepped in as interim pastor in 2012 and served in that capacity until the end of 2013.