The Washington Post reported Monday that Calvary Baptist Church, a 155-year-old Baptist congregation in Washington, D.C. has hired a married lesbian couple, Maria Swearingen and Sally Sarratt, to co-pastor their church.
The church had been affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, but clashed with the conservative denomination, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, over several issues, including the Southern Baptists' stand against ordaining women and against homosexuality. In 2012, Calvary Baptist severed its ties to the SBC but is still affiliated with the more liberal American Baptist Churches USA, the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.
Sarratt and Swearingen most recently lived in Greenville, South Carolina, where Sarratt was an associate chaplain with Greenville Health System, and Swearingen was an associate chaplain at Furman University.
The women met in the First Baptist Church of Greenville and were both ordained there in 2015, after the church adopted a policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. (The church subsequently withdrew from the South Carolina Baptist Convention at the convention’s request.)
According to the Greenville News, Swearingen and Sarratt were also among the first lesbians in South Carolina to seek a marriage license after same-sex marriage became legal there in 2014.
"We know many of our friends and compatriots chose sexual identity over a life of faith," Sarratt told the Greenville News, "It's been a complex journey for us." But she believes there is no reason to choose, no division between the two.
"We have found it so easy to fall in love with Calvary and its longstanding commitment to be a voice of justice and compassion for those who perpetually find the wholeness of their humanity disregarded and maligned," said Sarratt and Swearingen.