Barnett, Velma Jean (Jeanne) Papers

Span Dates: 1947-2006
Bulk Dates:
Volume: 4.49 cubic feet


The Velma Jean (Jeanne) Barnett papers document her life as an active member of the United Methodist Church coming out as a lesbian celebrating an Holy Union with Ellie Charlton in 1991 as well as the subsequent debate about homosexuality within the church. It also records Barnett and Charlton's activism in Affirmation and Reconciling Ministries Network. The collection provides a narrative of Barnett’s life from birth, through schooling, a successful professional career, church work, gay rights advocacy and death. Records include those of Ellie Charlton, an equal partner with Jeanne in advancing full inclusion of gays within the United Methodist Church. It includes a particularly rich source of the California-Nevada Annual Conference's Committee on Investigation detailing church rulings related to the holy union ceremony and discipline of ministers officiating at the service. Individuals such as James Creech, Gregory Dell, Donald Fado, and Jean Audrey Powers have their own folders but also appear prominently in other records.

Hist/Bio Note

Velma Jean (Jeanne) Barnett (1930-2003) was an active member of the United Methodist Church her entire life. She came out as a lesbian at age 51. She and her wife Ellie Charlton participated in the California-Nevada Annual Conferences. Barnett served as a leading member, and the only lesbian, on the 1988 General Conference Committee to Study Homosexuality. She and Charlton agreed to be wed in a Holy Union ceremony on January 16, 1999. More than one hundred and fifty lay and clergy members participated in the ceremony. More traditional United Methodists saw the act by the church's clergy was a direct violation of the Book of Discipline and demanded that participating United Methodist clergy, including the bishops, were to put on church trial and punished accordingly. Disciplinary rulings did not satisfy conservative expectations, polarizing both sides. Various pro-gay groups such as Affirmation and Reconciling Ministries Network within the United Methodist Church provided support for the officiating ministers during and after the ceremony. See Profiles of Barnett and Charlton. Charlton: (https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/ellie-charlton)

Finding Aid

An online finding aid is available.


This, the largest of the Barnett and Chalton collections, is located at the General Commission on Archives & History at Drew University Methodist Library at 36 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ 07940.


Activist (religious institutions) | Affirmation (United Methodist) | Barnett, Jeanne | Charlton, Ellie | California | Marriage Equality | Reconciling Ministries Network (formerly Reconciling Congregation Program) | Methodist (UMC, United Methodist Church) | Sacramento | Creech, Jimmy | Dell, Gregory | Fado, Don | Powers, Jeanne Audrey