Openly Gay Harvard Alum Named Clergy-in-Charge of Ky. Church

“All are welcome. We are not fancy. We especially welcome sinners,” proclaims the Web site of St. Martha’s Episcopal Church in Lexington, Ky., where the Reverend Timothy R. Fleck ’86 was made Clergy-in-Charge this past December.

While homosexuality is not considered a sin in the Episcopal Church, which is known for being more progressive than other denominations, Fleck said that he had his doubts about living with another man in an openly gay relationship when he was first invited to Kentucky.

“I had in my mind prejudiced ideas about eastern Kentucky and Appalachia, and I wasn’t sure my partner and I would be comfortable or even safe,” he said. “But I’ve found that the parish at St. Martha’s has been very friendly and accepting.”

Fleck said that he was looking for spiritual direction throughout his time at the College and joined the Episcopal Church after graduating. He came out during his senior year, though only to a handful of close friends.

“It’s amazing to me now to look back 25 years and know how difficult a thing it was to think about being out and just how terrifying it was,” he said.


Although the Episcopal Church ordained its first openly gay priest in New Jersey in 1989, many other denominations do not embrace gay ministers.

“Homosexuality is not an acceptable practice according to the Bible, especially for someone in ministry,” said William D. Henard, senior pastor at Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington. “It’s no different from adultery, stealing, or any other behavior that is against scripture.”

Henard said he does not think people are born homosexual, but that it is a lifestyle choice.

Bill W. Chandler, the office administrator at Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, disagrees.

“You become aware of your sexuality, but no one can choose the way they are,” he said.

Chandler said he believes developments like Fleck’s ordination are a move in the right direction in the quest to end LGBT discrimination.

“People can postpone the changes but they can’t stop them,” he said. “I think being openly gay in any profession can’t do anything but good.”

Kentucky native Michelle E. Crentsil ’10 also spoke about visibility as an important aspect of moving toward a more accepting community.

“I think religion is an overriding influence in Kentucky and having someone in an ordained position as someone the LGBT community can identify with is a huge step forward,” she said.

Fleck said that he has been pleasantly surprised by the reception he has encountered in Kentucky.

“I’ve been remarkably impressed by how welcoming the whole community has been.”

—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at