The Reverend Carolyn J. Mobley-Bowie is a confirmed Elder in Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) as of January 1st, 2021, becoming a member of the Council of Elders. Mobley-Bowie was born in December 17, 1948 in Sanford, Florida. She is the middle child of five children. Grandfather on her mother’s side was a part of the National Baptist Convention. She was raised in the National Baptist Church and joined the church on her own at the age of 10. It was at the age of 10 that she realized that God was already in her and she decided to become a Christian. She became very active and began teaching Sunday by the time she was a teenager.
Growing up in 1950s and 1960s, her family was not accepting of LGBTQ people so whenever she heard about gay people, it was mentioned in a derogatory context. When she was in high school, she realized that she was attracted to girls, but she didn’t date until after high school and college. She refused to attend any dances during junior high and high school because she did not want a boy to ask her to dance. Her mother made her go to one dance in high school. She never wanted to have that experience again.
Mobley-Bowie’s time in college helped to lead her toward her goal of becoming a lay church professional. She wanted to learn how to work and serve in a church. After a visit to a vacation bible school with her aunt, she saw a brochure advertising Southern Baptist Colleges and Universities. The distinction between Southern Baptist Churches and National Baptist Churches is that the former is White Baptist and the latter is Black Baptist. She realized that in making the decision to choose a Southern Baptist school, she would be attending a predominantly white school. She knew that attending a Baptist school was right for her so she could gain a degree in Religious Education and work as the Director of Christian Education in a local church.
After being accepted to three Southern Baptist schools, she selected Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas and took a Greyhound bus from Florida to Texas to begin her studies. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Religious Education. A secondary intention for her attending a Baptist college was that she wanted to get away from her gay thoughts. But during her college years, she fell in love with a few young women, but never acted on it. She was the first African American woman at Hardin-Simmons to be invited to join the Greek social club, Phi Phi Phi (TriPhi). She pledged and was a member until she graduated. After college, she came out to her mom as a lesbian. Her mom paid for her to see a counselor who attempted to “fix” her. She only went to two sessions and refused to return.
During Mobley-Bowie’s first summer home from college in Orlando, Florida, she met Rev. Jethro W. Toomer of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, who offered her a volunteer position at a summer youth camp. After she graduated from college, Rev. Toomer told her that he would have a job waiting for her. When graduation time came, she made a visit to Rev. Toomer and he did, indeed, have a job for her. He hired her as the church’s first ever Youth Group Leader and Director of Christian Education. She was also the church secretary. She worked at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church for two years before leaving to further her education. During her two years working at Shiloh, she fell in love and had three relationships with women.
After her time at Shiloh had come to an end, she knew that she wanted to go to seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, where she earned a Masters of Religious Education Degree. Upon graduation from the Interdenominational Theological Center, she worked for five years as a Career Home Missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention. She was asked to leave that job in 1981 and spent the next ten years as a gay activist in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. She also spent the decade of the 1980’s growing in her lesbian identity. Mobley-Bowie met Jim Snow of MCC, who was an out gay white minister and fellow student at the ITC. Over the years, a friendship grew between them and she felt so moved by her friendship with Jim Snow and his living boldly that she came out as a lesbian in chapel. She attended her first Gay Pride activities in Atlanta.
In early 1990s, Mobley-Bowie moved to Houston to accept a job at MCC of the Resurrection and was ordained while serving as an Assistant Pastor at this large, open and affirming church, a position she held for 15 years. The church name was changed to Resurrection MCC (Metropolitan Community Church). During her time there, she helped increase attendance from the Black LGBT community. She was crowned the Grand Marshal of the Pride parade after living in Houston for two years. Even though Mobley-Bowie and the love of her life were joined in holy union at her church on August, 8, 1998, they were considered legally married in 2015 shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was legal. At the peak of her career at MCC, and shortly after her mother passed away, she decided it was time to leave Houston. The MCC in Houston celebrated her with a big going away party and a large love offering to help with her future endeavors. Over the next several years, Mobley-Bowie served as interim pastor and as director of pastoral care and community partnerships. All roles were performed at the MCC church. Presently, she is the Minister of Music for the Breath of Life Spiritual Center MCC in Saginaw, Michigan, where her partner, Rev. Adrain Mobley Bowie, is the Founding Pastor.
Rev. Mobley-Bowie hopes to retire in the next few years, having served her denomination as the North Central USA Network Team Leader, and now sitting on the Council of Elders. The legacy that she would like to leave for others is to take courage and be strong; walk tall and together; to always keep evolving; and find ways to love, be loved, and nurture love in the world.
(This biographical statement written by Vanesa Evers from an interview with Mobley-Bowie and edited by Mobley-Bowie.)
Biography Date: February 2022
MCC | Clergy Activist | Black | Houston | Texas | Atlanta | Georgia | Baptist
“Rev. Carolyn Mobley-Bowie | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed September 26, 2022, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/carolyn-mobley-bowie.