Mark Bowman, co-founder and long-time leader of the Reconciling Congregation Program in the United Methodist Church, was born on December
12, 1951, in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. He earned a B.A. degree in social service from
Cleveland State University in 1974 and worked in Cleveland, Ohio, in social work
and urban ministry. He entered Boston University School of Theology in
September, 1978, and earned an M.Div. degree in 1982. Bowman "came out" while in
seminary and participated in the second Gay and Lesbian Seminarians' Conference
at Harvard Divinity School in November, 1979, and worked with Affirmation:
United Methodists for Gay and Lesbian Concerns at the United Methodist General
Conference in Indianapolis in May 1980. Bowman served on Affirmation's
Coordinating Committee from 1981-82.
Bowman was ordained a deacon by the East Ohio Conference in June, 1980. His
public involvement with Affirmation and gay/lesbian concerns led to an official
church inquiry that resulted in the Conference voting to "discontinue" his
probationary membership in June, 1981.
Bowman moved to Washington, D.C., in September 1981 where he continued his
involvement and leadership with Affirmation and its Mid-Atlantic chapter. He was
one of Affirmation's delegates to the May 1982 interdenominational lesbian/gay
conference that resulted in the formation of the short-lived Lesbian/Gay
Interfaith Alliance. He also coordinated Affirmation's witness to the U.M.
General Conference in Baltimore in 1984.
Bowman served on an Affirmation task force to plan the launching of a
congregational-based organizing project modeled after the Presbyterian More
Light Program. The plan for the Reconciling Congregation Program (RCP) was
adopted by Affirmation in 1983 and officially launched at the U.M. General
Conference in Baltimore in May 1984. Bowman served as volunteer co-coordinator
of the RCP from its inception and was instrumental in the founding and
publishing of the quarterly magazine Manna for the Journey in 1985
(renamed Open Hands in 1986 due to a trademark dispute).
The continued growth of the RCP led Bowman to leave his employment with Bread
for the World in 1987 and become part-time coordinator of the RCP. During this
time he was also employed part-time with the National Task Force on AIDS
Prevention and the Gay & Lesbian Pride Committee of Washington, D.C. Trained
in keyboard performance and choral directing and having worked as a church
musician in Cleveland and D.C., Bowman became musical director of the fledgling
Lesbian & Gay Chorus of Washington, D.C. in 1985. The LGCW grew from 12 to
60 singers during his seven years there.
Bowman moved to Chicago in 1992 where the RCP opened its national office and
Mark became full-time executive director. In September 1992 Bowman convened the
first gathering of the leaders of the "welcoming church" programs in mainline
Protestant denominations. Bowman facilitated annual meetings of this body in
succeeding years and cooperative ventures that included ecumenical sponsorship
of Open Hands magazine and a ground-breaking Bible study curriculum,
Claiming the Promise.
For the 10th anniversary of the RCP in 1994, Bowman oversaw the commissioning
of an original musical drama, HOME: The Parable of Beatrice and Neal,
that toured 15 Midwestern cities. In 1996 Bowman coordinated the momentous "Open
the Doors" campaign at the U.M. General Conference in Denver.
Upon his retirement from the RCP in the summer of 1999, Mark became the
coordinator of the first ecumenical Witness Our Welcome (WOW) Conference that
brought together 1,000 LGBT Christians and allies in August, 2000. He continues
as staff coordinator for the second WOW Conference in August 2003 in
Bowman's interest in the history of LGBT religious movements led to the
founding of the LGBT Religious Archives Network at Chicago Theological Seminary
in the spring of 2002, which he serves as project coordinator. Bowman also is
part-time minister of music for the United Church of Rogers Park in Chicago.
Mark was honored by the Methodist Federation for Social Action with its Lee
and Mae Ball Award for "outstanding Christian social witness" in May, 2000.
(This biographical statement provided by Mark Bowman.)