The Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes C.M. LLD is a native of Bath, in rural New Brunswick. He grew up in a strict fundamentalist Baptist family. He recalls knowing at a very early age that he was “different” but didn't have words to describe it. Certainly in the 1950s there was no information available or any portrayal of gays or lesbians on television. He quickly learned to keep these feelings to himself and believed he was the only one like this.
In high school he felt a calling to Christian ministry but decided not to pursue this because of his homosexual feelings. Instead of going seminary Brent went to Mount Allison University for a degree program that would lead to becoming a high school teacher.
During this time he discovered the gay community in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Upon visiting an adult bookstore for the first time, he purchased a copy of Advocate magazine. In that issue he found an ad for Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and immediately knew this was where he belonged. He decided to move to Toronto in 1976 to join MCC and beginning the difficult process of coming out to his family. He started his long career as pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto in 1977. He later received a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity College, University of Toronto, and a Doctorate of Ministry degree from Trinity College.
Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes has been the Senior Pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for 35 years. As the Pastor of this congregation, Hawkes has been at the forefront of ministry to the Gay & Lesbian Community in Toronto. He serves as spiritual leader to a faith community of more than 800 congregants at regular Sunday worship. As well, he has served the community at large with distinction, championing several Human Rights initiatives, especially benefiting the Gay & Lesbian Community.
In 1994, Hawkes received the City of Toronto Award of Merit, the highest civilian award given by the City of Toronto. In 1995, he received a Global Citizen Award from the United Nations Toronto Association, for his work in advancing human rights in Canada. Hawkes has also received the Distinguished Service Award from the Metropolitan Community Churches. In 2007 he was appointed the Order of Canada by the Governor General of Canada for his stand on Social Justice and Human Rights within the L.G.B.T. communities, the highest award a country has bestowed on a gay activist.
In 2009 Rev. Dr. Hawkes was presented with an award from the American Psychological Association for exemplifying the values of freedom, fairness and equality under the law and clarity of leadership in advocacy for LGBT people and their families. The New Brunswick Human Rights commission bestowed the honour of “Pioneer of Human Rights Award” for his historic contribution to the advancement of human rights. In 2009 York University presented Rev. Hawkes with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws for his continuing work in activism and human rights in Canada for all. In 2010 he was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Mount Allison University, and in 2011 received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College.
On August 27, 2011 Rev. Hawkes officiated over the state funeral for the Honourable Jack Layton,Leader of Canada's Official Opposition and head of the NDP, at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. He spoke highly of Layton who had touched the lives of millions of Canadians and had been a vocal supporter of AIDS initiatives and LGBT rights.
Rev. Dr. Hawkes is in tireless service of justice for gays and lesbians. He has done this through helping society to better understand and increase awareness and acceptance of the issues affecting this community. He has helped thousands of gays and lesbians and their families come back into spiritual relationship with God.
He has constantly challenged the church to examine important issues such as prejudice against gays and lesbians, inclusive language as well as ordination of women. He has played a significant role in promoting the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. He was a past co-chair for the Campaign for Equal Families.
Rev. Dr. Hawkes leads numerous workshops on Church Growth and Conflict Management in the church. He is also regularly called upon for comment from the media with regards to various human-rights related issues.
He lives with his husband of 31 years, John Sproule, in Toronto, Canada.
(This biographical statement provided by Brent Hawkes.)
Biography Date: January, 2009
MCC | Clergy Activist | Canada | Toronto