A Baptist church is making history with its first transgender pastor

A Baptist church in Ohio has a new transgender pastor.

Erica Saunders led her first service at the Peace Community Church in Oberlin, Ohio, on September 8.

In a statement, Saunders said she is “grateful for the gospel witness provided by Peace Community Church”.

“With God’s help, together we can follow the example of Christ and create a beloved community marked by abiding peace, expansive love and radical justice in Oberlin and beyond,” she said.

Saunders is one of the first openly trans individuals to be ordained by a Baptist church in the United States.

The church team who appointed her – choosing her from a field of 16 candidates, which they then narrowed down to two before choosing Saunders – said: “Both candidates were very strong candidates, but Erica stood out as a candidate with unique strengths.”

Saunders is a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

“Bright, compassionate, faith-filled and spirit-led with a loving presence, she showed as much interest in each of us as we did in her. At the end of our time together on Sunday, when we formed a circle and said a departing prayer, I think we felt and she felt a sense of calling to our church.”

Founded as the First Baptist Church of Oberlin in 1866, the church renamed itself the Peace Community Church in 2000.

In 2005, the church decided by consensus to welcome and affirm LGBT+ people.

On its website, the church describes itself as “an inclusive congregation that boldly and earnestly embraces the call of Jesus to seek God’s Realm”.

“We work together to bring peace and justice to our world. We gather to worship and praise God and build an authentic community of harmony, joy, and celebration, and to pray and care for one another,” the website says.

According to the letter from the church announcing her appointment, Saunders’ passions include “preaching, the study of Christian origins [and] LGBTQ education and advocacy”.