On Jan. 5, Broad Street Ministry ordained David Norse, the first openly gay male pastor in a Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.
Norse, 27, hails from Sherwood, Ore., and moved to Philadelphia in September.
But, his journey into faith started in his adolescence.
Norse, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, grew up in the Presbyterian Church and was actively involved in his church community’s youth group during middle and high school.
Norse aid traumatic incidents during his teenage years helped encourage his pull towards the ministry.
“My mother had a heart attack when I was in the eighth grade and my church was supportive and stayed with me in the emergency room and brought us food,” he said. “It was the same when I was bullied in middle school. My church taught me how to pray for my enemies and so that really inspired me that there was something to this. I felt a strong connection to the people, to God and to the church.”
Norse said he grew up in a community that was largely Mormon and non-denominational churches, and few out LGBT leaders.
Yet, he said, he did not feel a disconnect between his sexuality and faith, and started to come out when he went away to seminary.
“I talked with people, I prayed and read scripture and never had the experience of feeling that a part of me was wrong.”
When he arrived at Princeton Theological Seminary, he immediately got involved with the LGBT student organization, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian And Straight Supporters.
He said the campus climate was supportive of his coming-out process.
Norse began worshipping at Broad Street Ministry during his time at seminary and joined the staff as a pastoral associate in September.
He said he’s encouraged to see changing attitudes among all types of faith communities toward LGBT people.
“There was a movement at one point in time to not allow teachers to teach anything positive about LGBT people in schools,” he said. “The culture is changing a lot and that is encouraging. I have a lot of friends from all different church backgrounds who are completely welcoming and loving of me, and they know that I am gay and don’t see that as a problem. When people know other Christians who are out, views start changing.”
Norse said the Presbyterian Church is a place where all are welcomed, but he is also passionate about its overall mission of helping those less fortunate.
“There are a lot of welcoming churches and, for us, it has become a thing of, ‘OK, you are gay and a pastor and that is great, but here are the struggles of the world and how are you partnering with God to address these needs?’” he said.
Norse has worked with homeless LGBT youth and said it has been a passion of his to connect them with foster and adoptive parents. He also hopes to create an LGBT-specific fellowship.
The pastor said he’s eager for his leadership at Broad Street Ministry and in the wider Presbyterian Church to build on the already-affirming environment.
“I want to welcome people and let them know that this is a place to worship and bring doubts and faith and questions. This place is safe. I want them to see that the staff love and accept me and that I am a leader here,” he said. “It is an honor to be able to be a pastor and it is an honor to be able to serve God’s people and welcome them. And the fact that I am able to be who I am and welcome people with all that I am is really a gift.”