Faith Comes Full Circle

By |2012-07-26T09:00:00-04:00July 26th, 2012|News|

If 50 is the age that traditionally signals the onslaught of a midlife crisis in most men, in Kevin Kinsel it’s signaling the rebirth of his faith. On July 28th, three days after he reaches that milestone age, Kinsel will realize a lifelong dream of sorts, as the well-known MCC minister is ordained as a Catholic priest. Worry not LGBT worshippers, he will actually be ordained a priest with the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ, not a Roman Catholic one.

Traditional beginnings

Growing up, to say that the Catholic Church was an important part of Kinsel’s family would be an understatement. It was actually the foundation upon which the family was built.
“Many of my aunts went to church almost every day,” Kinsel recalled. “My grandparents helped build St. Jude’s church. It was very much the center of the social scene for my family for many years. I was baptized, made communion and confession all within the same church. It was within walking distance of my house, and I actually went to Catholic school for most of my elementary and some of my high school as well.”
In the movies, altar boys are usually restless and bored young men who fuss about in their vestments as they wait impatiently for mass to end. But that’s the not the case with Kinsel, who was an especially enthusiastic altar boy.
“I had to wait till I was in fourth grade until I could be an altar boy,” he said. “I wanted to be an altar boy even earlier than that.”
Kinsel’s mother was very pleased and proud that her son was so devout.
“He was a very young altar boy,” Gail Kinsel remembered. “Both my sons were altar boys. Kevin, of course, seemed to be more motivated to seek out a further career in the church, a vocation.”
Seek it out he did, before he even turned 18.
“I went through the whole vocational program and sat down with the social worker who told me that he thought I needed to be more socially adept,” said Kinsel. “I was 16 or 17. I was heartbroken. I left the church for a long time.”
In his 30s, Kinsel began to reconnect with his faith when he became involved in his mother’s church, Nativity of Our Lord. He became as active as a lay person could, directing the choir, teaching vacation Bible school and becoming a Eucharistic minister with the church. Still, he knew in his heart he was called to do more.
“There was always an understanding that I was an openly gay man, and there was no way that I was ever going to be able to fulfill the ministry that I felt God called me to do within Roman Catholicism,” Kinsel explained. “One day I said to myself, ‘I’m called to do more than just be a minister of service.’ So I left and I didn’t have to search long. I had been to MCC once when they were in Birmingham. So I said let me go back and that’s when my whole MCC journey started.”

Accepting the calling

Kinsel started attending MCC-Detroit in 2000 and became a member the following year. Shortly after that, he spoke with the church’s pastor, Mark Bidwell, about joining the church’s diaconate program.
“I went and saw him and he told me that he was disbanding the diaconate program,” said Kinsel. “But after talking with me he said, ‘you and I both know you’re not supposed to be a deacon anyway. You and I both know that you need to go back to school so we can ordain you.'”
Kinsel had already earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan. So he opted to attend the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, which offered a graduate certificate in theology. After completing the program in 2005, Kinsel was ordained an MCC minister and installed as the associate pastor of MCC-D. Kinsel stayed with the church until 2010, when he left to develop the first MCC Christian counseling center, New Spirit Centers. He also served for a time as network team leader to the Michigan and Canada MCC Network Team.
When Kinsel’s father died last year, Kinsel co-officiated the funeral mass at his parent’s church.
“I knew I had missed the sacraments, I had missed the high liturgy, and I knew I needed to do something different,” Kinsel said. “So I had heard about this independent Catholic church in Detroit and I started searching around and found it.”
That church was the Cathedral of Saint Anthony on Detroit’s east side. Before long, Kinsel was in talks with the bishop, Dr. Karl Rodig, about joining the ministerial staff of the church and becoming ordained.
“He’s a very honest man and he shows it,” said Rodig. “And in our church, it’s not about whether you’re gay or straight, it’s about that you love Christ and the people you serve.”
Serving people is what it’s all about for Kinsel, and what it’s always been his desire to do. With dual credentials now, Kinsel believes he will be uniquely placed to be of service to the LGBT community.
“The wonderful thing about the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ is that they allow LGBT’s to be ordained, yet I feel that the LGBT community is still disenfranchised, ” Kinsel said. “So hopefully I’ll be able to use both my credentials to move forward in both denominations for the glory of God and to bring my gifts as needed.”
For now, Kinsel said his ordination is like a homecoming.
“It just kind of brings me home,” he said. “This will allow me to use the beautiful and enriching sacraments that the Catholic tradition allows their priests to use and it opens a new chapter as to what my ministry can enfold and roll out to be.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.