Ed Hansen was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1940 to Robert and Edith Hansen. Ed was the middle son in the family; Bob was four years older and Bill five years younger. Ed’s father worked as a fireman and his mom was a homemaker who also taught preschool and dance. The family was involved in a Presbyterian Church in Tacoma. The pastor, whom Ed knew as “Uncle Bob,” had officiated at his parent’s wedding and was a close family friend. Uncle Bob first planted the seed of being a minister with Ed.
When Ed was 11 years old, his father left the family for another relationship. The following year his mother moved with the boys to Fallbrook in southern California. There was no Presbyterian Church there, so they joined a Methodist church. Ed was active in the youth group, participating in camps and other activities. He greatly respected his high school industrial arts teacher who became somewhat of a father figure for him. After high school graduation, Ed enrolled in Palomar Junior College to study industrial arts, aiming to become an industrial arts teacher. He completed studies there and moved on to San Diego State University, still majoring in industrial arts.
As Ed was in his junior year of college he visited with the pastor at Pacific Beach Methodist Church whom he had known previously in Fallbrook. This clergy friend’s church was hiring a youth director and he encouraged Ed to apply. Ed was hired as youth director there in spring 1961. Ed quickly found this work to be quite satisfying—he felt at home there; this was where he belonged. So he modified his studies to incorporate philosophy and sociology as he was approaching graduation. Ed recalls that when applying in-person to enroll at Claremont School of Theology, the secretary paused when he said his college major was industrial arts. When she checked this with the academic dean, he replied, “Well, Jesus was a carpenter.”
Hansen graduated from San Diego State in June 1962 and began studies at Claremont that fall. As he began looking ahead to a clergy career, he perceived that having a wife was an expectation. Ann had been a friend since Fallbrook youth group days and was a year behind Ed at San Diego State. They had dated occasionally, so they decided to get married after Ann finished college, in August 1963.
During his spring semester that first year at Claremont, Ed found himself strongly attracted to a male student who participated in the same personal growth group. The feelings were so intense that Ed became quite disturbed. Ed shared this experience with the group’s facilitator, Frank Kimper, who was professor of pastoral care. Kimper simply told him to “put that out of your mind.” So Ed determined to set that experience aside and get married. He and Ann moved into student housing on campus that fall. Ed assumed that feelings of same-sex attraction would dissipate as he settled into married life. However, later that year Ed had an interaction with another male student to which he had a strong emotional response. This time he talked with Howard Clinebell, who was professor of pastoral counseling. Clinebell appeared more understanding and voiced concern that this was a drain on Ed’s personal energy. He referred Ed to an Episcopal priest who was a pastoral counselor. This counselor listened to Ed’s concerns and proposed a course of therapy in which Ed and his wife would participate in group sessions that focused on heterosexual feelings, thereby distracting Ed from same-sex feelings.
Ed moved ahead on the parish ministry track and was ordained deacon, the first step toward full-clergy status, in the Southern California-Arizona Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in 1964. In Ed’s third year at Claremont, Lewis Durham, who was the director of the Glide Foundation in San Francisco, visited the school and sought applicants for an urban ministry internship. One professor proposed to Ed that he apply. Ed recalls mentioning rather naively in his application that he had had some homosexual feelings. Ed was accepted for the internship, so he and Ann moved to San Francisco in the summer of 1965, settling into an apartment in the North Beach community. Glide Memorial Methodist Church was being led by the senior pastor, John Moore. Others on the Glide Foundation staff included Cecil Williams, Ted McIlvenna and Phyllis Lyon. And the downtown urban mission staff included Cliff Crummey and Laird Sutton. Glide was embarking on large-scale, innovative urban mission work in the Tenderloin community where it was located. Ed’s responsibilities were to work with young adults in the community. During a tour of local gay bars, Ed witnessed a performance by well-known drag artist and gay rights advocate, José Sarria. To his chagrin, Ed was invited onto the stage where José sat on his lap and sang to him.
One of the persons with whom Ed worked was Mark Forrester who was an impassioned advocate for social justice for the young adults living in the Tenderloin with its problems of prostitution, drugs and poverty. Forrester lived in a small room there and was active in the fledgling gay group, Society for Individual Rights. He exposed Ed to Saul Alinsky-style community organizing and took him to meet with various government officials to advocate for services for young adults in the Tenderloin. Ed, Mark and Fred Bird, pastor at North Beach Methodist Church, wrote the Tenderloin Report which delineated the social problems there and received local media attention. Forrester was able to secure funding to open a program for Tenderloin youth, which he named Hansen House.
Ed developed a night ministry in which he walked the streets late at night to talk with hustlers and other persons working the streets. When some gay youth got together to form an organization they called Vanguard, Ed helped them get space in Glide's basement for their holiday dinners and served as their liaison with the church. Ed was profoundly impacted by hearing the stories and struggles of the youth he encountered during this year at Glide.
Back at Claremont for his final year, Ed had to determine a dissertation topic. He had previously thought he would write something about the human predicament as seen through the lens of the Bible. However, he was so moved by the experience at Glide that he wrote on the church’s ministry with homosexual persons. No one on the faculty had had the breadth of experience that Ed had in San Francisco, so Ed essentially was teaching his advisors. The dissertation included a proposal that the church should offer a “sacred covenant service” based on the covenant between David and Jonathan. Ed had performed such a union service for a couple while in San Francisco. Through all of these experiences, Ed still identified himself as a heterosexual man with some same-sex feelings. He graduated from Claremont with a Doctor in Religion degree in 1967. A first son was born to Ed and Ann that year.
Hansen was appointed pastor of Chollas View Methodist Church, a 100-member church that was half Black and half White. He and some colleagues started a gay bar ministry in San Diego and also a support group for gay persons, called Daughters and Sons of Society. During one of his bar tours a patron asked Ed to go with him to a restaurant to talk—turns out he was an Orthodox Navy chaplain. Ed later accepted his invitation to visit him at home. While the physical attraction was strong, the chaplain did not want to be the one to introduce Ed to man-on-man sex. Ed shared this experience with Ann who grew increasingly anxious about their relationship. Ed agreed to return to psychotherapy.
In 1969, the Metropolitan Community Church was seeking to start a congregation in San Diego. They contacted Ed who got permission from his congregation for this new church to worship there on Sunday evenings. The MCC congregation later honored Ed for his role in their founding.
A second son was born to Ed and Ann in 1972. While Ed grew increasingly conscious of his same-sex attractions, he resolved that he would not leave his family, as his father had done. So he found colleagues with whom he could share his feelings, touch and massage. This allowed him to find release for his feelings while remaining in his marriage.
In 1972, Hansen joined the staff of First United Methodist Church San Diego, first as associate for youth and then as the staff working on adult programs and membership cultivation. In the fall of 1981, he became Director of Development at Claremont School of Theology, where he worked until 1995.
In 1988 Hansen was invited by the Rev. Lambert All to assist with developing a retreat for persons with HIV and AIDS, called Strength for the Journey. Ed served as the spiritual director for this annual retreat. Typically the gay male participants would ask Ed if he were gay and he would try to avoid answering directly. In 1993, Ed participated in a Gay Sexuality and Spirituality event at Stony Point Conference Center in New York that was led by the Rev. John McNeill and others. Ed wrote a paper reflecting upon his experiences of the past several years, called “The Heterosexually Married, Homosexual Male,” which he shared at this event. This writing helped him clarify his personal identity as a gay man. When he shared this with Ann, she indicated that she could not be married to an openly gay man. So they notified family members that they were separating because he was gay.
Hansen started looking for a church position where he could serve as openly gay. When the campus ministry position at Cal State Long Beach opened, Ed applied as openly gay and was hired. He intended this to be a long-term ministry, but one year later, church officials approached him to become the pastor of Hollywood U.M. Church. So, in 1996, he became pastor at Hollywood where he worked with the congregation to deepen its commitment to being a welcoming place for LGBT persons and to persons living with HIV/AIDS. He continued working with the Strength for the Journey retreats and became active in the national Reconciling Movement. He became one of the leading advocates for LGBT justice in the California-Pacific Annual Conference.
Ed was scanning the personal ads in the Los Angeles Times in 1998 and responded to an ad. He met up with Art and they immediately connected. Six weeks later, they took an international excursion together and have been together ever since. Ed retired from full-time ministry in 2006. He still maintains close ties with his extended family and his two sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter.
In 2008 Ed was invited by long time gay activist Don Kilhefner to be a founding member of the Gay Elder Circle of the Los Angeles area and he served as president of the GEC for two years, 2012-2014.
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman from an interview with Ed Hansen and edited by Hansen.)
Biography Date: October, 2015
“Rev. Ed Hansen | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed April 19, 2021, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/ed-hansen.