Reverend Christine Y. Wiley, Ph.D. is a significant leader for justice in the Washington, D.C. community. She was born to a British-born Black woman in London England in 1950. Wiley’s grandmother was Jewish and estranged from her own family for marrying a Caribbean man. Because of this unique upbringing, her mother always told her to never think that she was better than anyone. Since Rev. Wiley’s grandmother was ostracized from her community, Wiley grew up to learn the importance of loving people where they are and not passing judgement. For a white woman to be married to a Black man in the 1920’s was something almost unheard of. Wiley’s grandmother was ostracized from her family and the community at large. Members of the gay community were there as friends that embraced her grandmother’s family. As Christine’s mother shared these stories with her in those early conversations it informed the way Rev. Wiley moves through the world with love and acceptance.
Rev. Wiley knew early on that she wanted to serve people through her work for God. She became a mental health nurse practitioner, and she worked in a Community Mental Health Center while she was in seminary. Among many others, she counseled trans persons and others in the LGBTQ community. She met them where they were. She and her husband, Rev. Dr. Dennis W. Wiley, who were only dating at the time, had a heart for this community. She had a passion to work for underserved/under-represented communities. She felt called to those who were disenfranchised and those who needed support. As a graduate of Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, she received the Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Psychotherapy and also holds the M.S.W. degree and Ph.D. in social work from Howard University.
In 1985, her husband was called to the same church that she was already serving, Covenant Baptist Church, as an Assistant Pastor. There was a Health and Wellness Center providing for those who were living with AIDS across the street from their church. The roof of the center fell in and Rev. Wiley’s church was able to provide those who used the center with a temporary place to meet. At that moment, Rev. Wiley realized that this was a coming together with the organization, the church, and the establishment of new relationships.
From the late 1980’s through the 1990’s and beyond, Rev. Wiley ministered to, and provided counseling to those who were living with AIDS. The church, Covenant Baptist Church began to provide education and also started to work with organizations, like Inner City AIDS Network to support AIDS education. They provided a food pantry and administered HIV testing every week along with other services to educate and inform. She led a spirituality group at the Health and Wellness Center for about 15 years, long after they got their permanent site, helping people to transform from the inside out.
In 2006, two members from the congregation were in seminary and wanted to be endorsed by the church and obtain their licenses to preach. One person was a gay man, and the other a lesbian. In order for the endorsement and licensure to be validated, Rev. Wiley wanted the two people to consider what their commitment was with their partners. Both of these people along with their partners went into counseling. After a year in counseling, the two couples, without the knowledge of each other decided that they wanted to have a Holy Union Ceremony. The Holy Union Ceremonies were performed with consensus from the congregation, but there was still some discomfort from the congregation. As the union ceremonies became public knowledge the Black church community ostracized the pastors and Covenant Baptist Church. Invitations for preaching ceased, and there was discussion of dis-fellowshipping the Wileys from religious organizations.
Due to the discomfort within the congregation, the church decided to create a task force to determine whether Holy Union ceremonies would continue to be part of the ministry of the church. The task force was a diverse group of people from the congregation. Inclusivity was a part of the legacy of this church. It started out as a white Southern Baptist congregation who in 1969 called a Black Pastor. This was due to a delayed response to the Supreme Court decision of Brown vs The Board of Education to desegregate the schools. White flight occurred, and the few white members that were left called a Black pastor, Rev. H. Wesley Wiley, therefore starting the legacy of inclusion.
Rev. Wiley and her husband continued to model this inclusivity in 2004. This meant that the congregation voted for her and her husband to be acknowledged as co-equal pastors. Many people in the Black Baptist tradition had a problem with a woman as a senior pastor, so this was a major stance for the church to take. At the same time, the congregation also voted to become an open and affirming of those in the LGBT community. Between the time of 2004-2007, their congregation gained many members from the same-gender-loving community.
In 2007, as Rev. Wiley and Rev. Dr. Dennis W. Wiley began teaching about sexuality and sexual orientation. News had gotten out that they had performed two Holy Union ceremonies. There was a major article in the front page of the Metro section of the Washington Post. During this time, same-sex marriages were only taking place in Massachusetts. Since the task force was considering whether union ceremonies would be part of the church’s ministry, they decided to provide the following support to the congregation: education about the topic; fish bowl style conversations to hear honest viewpoints; and conversations across gay and straight congregation members. In 2008, the congregation came together after the task force process and voted to have union ceremonies as part of the ministry of the church. In 2010, The Wileys led, along with Rob Hardies, Senior Minister of All Souls Unitarian Church, a group called D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality. This group helped to spur the City Council forward to vote for marriage equality in the District of Columbia in 2010. Both Drs. Wiley have received many awards and honors regarding their work in LGBT and marriage equality.
In addition to LGBT equality, Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley was also heavily involved with the Washington Interfaith Network, a justice community organizing group. She worked on affordable housing, Homeless services, jobs for DC residents and many other issues.
In this season of her life she is immensely enjoying God, her life, her ministry, her family, and her retirement after 32 years in the pastorate as of October 31st of 2017. Under her and her husband’s leadership, several individuals from her congregation felt safe to come out and start their own churches. She teaches in the M.Div./MSW dual degree program at Howard University in Washington D.C. She is recognized as an astute practitioner and licensed therapist who consults with church, community, and government organizations. She is a practicing psychotherapist and the Director of Pastoral Clinical Services, a counseling center in Washington D.C. and Maryland. She has authored articles regarding counseling, caregiving, therapy, and African American women. Her most recent works are a chapter in Handbook of Psychotherapy and Religious Traditions: Second Edition, “Psychotherapy with members of African American Churches and Spiritual Traditions.” She also recently published “Called by God: Caregiving and Spirituality Among African Americans, in African American Caregivers: Seasons of Care.” Together she and her husband have a chapter entitled “Modeling the Beloved Community,” in Trouble the Water: A Christian Resource for the Work of Racial Justice. The legacy that she hopes to leave others is to have the courage to follow God, pray, seek, and have courage.
(This biographical statement was written by Vanesa Evers from an interview with Rev. Christine Wiley and edited by Wiley.)
Biography Date: December 2021
Baptist | Black | Ally | Clergy Activist | Author/editor | AIDS | Marriage Equality | Washington, D.C.
“Rev. Christine Wiley | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 28, 2022, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/christine-wiley.