Oral History

Darlene Garner

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  Read Darlene Garner's profile.

Biographical Notes

Darlene at age 7.
Elder Darlene Garner has been a long-time leader in the Metropolitan Community Churches, the first Christian denomination to serve the spiritual needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she was the oldest of five children. Darlene attended public schools, was an active Girl Scout and participated in the All-State Orchestra. As a teenager, one of her early role models was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom she met at a dinner at her friend’s house. She was baptized at the age of 7 at the Union Grove Baptist Church although she joined the Episcopal Church as a young adult.

In a period of self-discovery, although still identifying as a lesbian, Darlene moved back to Ohio, remarried and had another child. After a sabbatical for necessary emotional healing, she relocated to Philadelphia and began working as a Girl Scout Executive. Yet, she was drawn again to the Metropolitan Community Church. Her initial pull to the church was its commitment to human rights, diversity, and integrity. She was later led from lay leadership to official ministry.

She entered Lancaster Theological Seminary in 1986 and was ordained in the Metropolitan Community Church in 1988. Darlene’s first full-time ministry area was political activism; as such she worked as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Sexual Minorities and served as a member of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations hearing complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender, and national origin.

She was an Associate Pastor of MCC in Philadelphia and served as Pastor of MCC in Baltimore, MD before her tenure as Senior Pastor of MCC of Northern Virginia. While serving at this pastorate during the zenith of the AIDS epidemic, Elder Garner also served as the chaplain for an AIDS hospice and as President of the Board of Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry.

She was elected a member of the Board of Elders of Metropolitan Community Church in 1993. She moved to Los Angeles and served as Clerk of the Board of Elders from 1999 until 2003. During this time, she was also the Liaison Elder for MCC in Western Canada, Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Europe, and various parts of the United States. Elder Garner then moved to Cape Town, South Africa for two years to serve as the resource person for Africa. Then she moved to Mexico, where she lived for five years in support of MCC’s ministry in Latin America.

Elder Garner is particularly proud that in 1997 she founded the MCC Conference for People of African Descent (PAD), Our Friends, and Allies. Its mission is to improve the spiritual life of people of African descent, providing them with leadership training and encouragement. Currently, Elder Garner oversees MCC congregations and leaders in Southern California, Nevada, Central and South America, Western Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Aotearo/New Zealand, and the Caribbean. In addition, she is responsible for the development of new MCC ministries around the world and for diversity and inclusivity concerns within MCC.

Darlene Garner and Candy Holmes
Darlene rejoices in her recent marriage to her life partner, Rev. Candy Holmes, an MCC clergyperson and chair of the PAD Conference. Breaking ground as one of the first same-gender couples to marry in DC in March 2010, they then celebrated their love in a religious ceremony in June 2010. In addition to being a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she loves traveling, home organizing, and Cirque du Soleil. She is most content that she can finally be all of who she is, knowing that this alone gives hope to someone else.