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Rev. Kevin Johnson

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The Rev. Kevin A. Johnson is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church (UMC), in good standing, but has not been able to be the pastor of a church within the UMC since 1982 because of the general church's official stance on homosexuality. As an out gay man, he has worked within Broadway UMC in Chicago and the Reconciling Ministries Network to live out his call to ministry while working day-to-day as a businessperson. Kevin has heard increasingly his primary call to ordained ministry. The opportunity presented by the formation of the inclusive, progressive "Church within the Church" movement in the UMC, which was founded in February 2002, afforded Kevin and Broadway a way to start a new ministry with Kevin’s leadership. In May/June/July of 2002, Kevin responded to God's prodding by resigning his job, selling his condo and most of its contents, and moving to Southern California’s Coachella Valley to start Bloom in the Desert Ministries.

Johnson has played an active leadership role at Broadway UMC, a congregation that declared itself in "constructive engagement" with the UMC following the 2000 General Conference negative votes pertaining to legislation regarding sexual orientation. Kevin chaired the Broadway’s Future Task Force of 11 persons who developed and facilitated a congregational process by which Broadway made the January 2001 decision to remain United Methodist. In other areas Kevin has been active as co-chair of Broadway’s Reconciling Ministries Committee, a member of the Education Committee and a regular participant in the Church Council and Congregational Meetings.

Johnson also spent 20 years working in the Chicago business community, most recently as vice president of marketing for Quicksilver Associates, a woman-owned business communications company producing meetings, video, multimedia and Web-based business solutions. Through the years Kevin served on the board of directors for Meeting Professionals International Chicago Area Chapter, the communications committee of The Executives’ Club of Chicago and the steering committee of Chicago’s Woman’s Business Development Center.

Prior to the move to Chicago, Kevin spent 10 years in various ministries starting at the age of 19 as a Boy Scout summer camp chaplain while in university. He graduated from United Theological Seminary (Dayton, Ohio) in 1978 after serving as president of the student body in his senior year. While in Seminary, he co-founded an Evangelical Caucus support group on campus and was an active member of the touring choir. For two years, he was the student associate pastor of Grace UMC in Piqua, Ohio.

Upon seminary graduation, Johnson was appointed Associate Pastor of the 1200-member First UMC in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where his ministry involved youth, single adult and general education programs. Mission trips and mountain expeditions were alternating yearly highlights of the program, which grew from three attendees at the first meeting called by Kevin to become the second largest youth group in the conference. He was also a regular worship leader, preacher and choir member. Kevin was ordained Elder and accepted into full membership of the conference clergy in June 1979.

It was in Kenosha, October 1981, that Johnson was "outed" via a breach of confidence while quietly coming to terms personally with being gay. Upon learning the news of Kevin’s orientation, the 9-member Kenosha First UMC Pastor Parish Relations Committee immediately voted to have Kevin leave the parish. Since Kevin was an Elder in good standing and a full member of the Wisconsin Conference, with unquestioned rights to a guaranteed appointment at that time, Bishop Marjorie Matthew’s sought to honor his credentials and make another full-time appointment. Bishop Matthews, the first female bishop elected in the modern mainline church, worked with her district superintendents for five months trying to make an appointment. Five Wisconsin congregations were approached and each acknowledged the credentials and experience that Kevin would bring to the parish. However, they decided not to consider the appointment of an "out" gay pastor.

As predictions of an intentional, negative national publicity campaign were made, Kevin decided to release the stalemate and requested Leave of Absence status, which was granted. He then moved to Chicago on April 1, 1982, to begin a new life as a businessperson. Since then, Kevin has faithfully maintained his relationship with the Wisconsin Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Kevin developed the vision for the Bloom in the Desert ministry over two years. As Kevin states: "Like we used to say when I was a student pastor in Ohio, the Holy Spirit’s ‘conviction’ grew ever stronger in me. A clear picture developed in my mind that I could not shake off. In that picture, I saw myself standing in the desert, in my white robes, hugging people. To me this meant that the Spirit would not rest until I had made the decision to move to the desert to do ministry. Since the decision was made, the ‘peace that passes understanding’ has confirmed my faith that this is what I am supposed to do as a new phase of life."

(This biographical statement provided by Kevin Johnson.)

Additional Resources

Web Site:  www.bloominthedesert.org

Created: 2/7/2003 10:58:10 PM

Modified: 3/1/2004 5:00:02 PM

Biography: February 7, 2003