Rev. Sylvia Pennington


I wish I'd known Sylvia when she was alive. She died a year before I came out.  I've read her book,...Read More

I first met Sylvia in 1982 at the first conference held by the National Gay Pentecostal Alliance. She traveled to Omaha to be with us...Read More

I met Sylvia over the phone when I found her phone number in the back of her book and  phoned her; it was 1988 or 1989. I was so...Read More

Sylvia saved my life. I was married with a young family living in rural Montana. I didn't know a good person could be genetically...Read More

In 1986 I was in the eighth year of a hiatus I had taken during which I did not affiliate with any organized church body. I met a...Read More

Know Sylvia Pennington?

 – Tell us your experience

The Rev. Sylvia Pennington was an early pioneer in the Christian GLBT community as an ordained heterosexual woman sharing God’s all-inclusive love with "whosoevers" all over the world.

Sylvia began life in a Scottish Orthodox Jewish family with two older sisters who were very much a part of her life and ministry. She married and had a son. When her husband took his own life, she was left alone with her son. Her sisters and mom had moved to California.

She began her journey with Jesus through an encounter with the Holy Spirit at a church in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas on her way to California. This relationship with Jesus began in the early 1960s and led her to an Assemblies of God church in Los Angeles. There she heard about a ministry to homosexuals in San Francisco. Sylvia and her friend Ruth felt they were called to go “change” the gays to be straight. However, she was torn because she really loved Jesus but was also falling in love with Harry Pennington. Deciding she had to put some distance between herself and Harry, Sylvia went with Ruth to San Francisco to Glad Tidings Church. There they brought a lot of gay/lesbian people to church.

Harry followed them to San Francisco and Sylvia and Harry were married. After three months there, they went back home to the Los Angeles area. Later, while on another trip to San Francisco, Sylvia noticed that none of the "former gays" were still in the church. She was concerned and decided to go to their homes and look them up. She listened to peoples' stories and heard that they had tried to be what the church wanted them to be, but that they hadn’t “changed.” Sylvia began to see that being gay wasn’t any different than being heterosexual, one just loved someone of the same gender. She went back home to Los Angeles to think this over.

Syvia’s friend Ruth wrote the foreward to But Lord, They’re Gay and said this about Sylvia: “There are a great many that can say they have come to know God in a deeper way through His love manifest in her.”

A gay man, Bob, that Sylvia had met in San Francisco called and wanted to stay with her on his trip to Los Angeles. He invited her to the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). Covering herself with much prayer, she went to the church and was surprised to find God’s gay/lesbian/transgender people there loving God and moved by the Holy Spirit. She asked and questioned: "God, how could this be?"

Syvia knew what she had witnessed that night and from there began what she described as her "changing years" that eventually led her to pastor in MCCs and to minister all over the U.S. and Canada: preaching, counseling, leading workshops, writing three books, and always sharing God’s all-inclusive love with everyone.

The Rev. Sylvia Pennington became an ordained heterosexual minister in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. After her license was not renewed, the church she was pastoring withdrew from the Fellowship and she continued pastoring for a time with Lambda Christian Fellowship in Hawthorne, California. She continued ministry under the name of Lambda Christian Fellowship until her untimely death.

Sylvia’s first book, But Lord, They’re Gay is both her story and the story of five Christian gay/lesbian people telling their stories about growing up Christian and gay/lesbian. The second book was a response to the growing biblical attacks against gay people in 1985 and was one of the first books written about the scriptural passages used to condemn GLBT peoples, Good News For Modern Gays: A Pro-Gay Biblical Approach. Then in 1989, she published her last book, Ex-Gays: There Are None!, from interviews she had done with more than a dozen people over the years, learning that many had tried not to be GLBT by going through change ministries, marriage, careers, ministry and other ways only to find that they are still God’s GLBT daughters and sons.

Sylvia received hundreds of letters from people all over the world and replied to everyone of them. She often called people after receiving a letter and the other person would begin crying in unbelief that she would reach out this way and care about them. Sylvia gave herself fully in ministry, counseling people into the wee hours of the morning and then getting up and starting over the next day. She was the most gifted, incredible saint I have known.

I was blessed to meet Sylvia in January, 1984, and traveled across the country ministering with her in 1989, right after we finished her last book. Sylvia died young at 60 on April 13, 1991, due to complications from congestive heart failure and diabetes. Unfortunately, I’ve been informed that her books are no longer in print.

(This biographical statement written by the Rev. Richard L. Dalton, pastor of MCC of the Sierras in Reno, Nevada, USA.)

Biography: June, 2005