The Rev. Frederick Davie is currently Executive Vice President of Union Theological Seminary in New York City (Union NYC). In this role he is the seminary’s chief administrative officer and an advisor to the President with respect to the structure and administration of the executive office as well as strategic planning, institutional advancement, and vision implementation.
Mr. Davie’s earliest years were spent in Belmont, North Carolina, now a “bedroom community” near Charlotte. When Davie was growing up there, it was a textile town, but had a significant white and black (teachers) professional population. At age 10, Davie’s all black school was closed and the students were sent to white schools through out the county. He went to predominately white schools in Belmont, where the black and white families were already known to each other. Many people from Davie’s black community worked for the white families of children with whom he attended school. Thus, he says, he was spared much of the trauma experienced by many black youth when schools were integrated. Davie remembers knowing a number of out gay men during his youth, all of them black men known in the community who came to church dressed in women’s pant suits and wearing women’s wigs. Several of these gay men were his mother’s friends and often came to his home to visit his mother. He remembers joking about some of the couples as “he and she,” and that there was a lot of sexual fluidity in his little section of Belmont. He was sometimes teased at school with the accusation of being gay, but remembers his family – especially mother – as completely supportive and non-judgmental.
Thriving at Greensboro College (where there was only a handful of black students) under the tutelage of the late United Methodist professor of Old Testament James Hull, Davie was the first black student to win the prestigious Harold H. Hutson award (given annually to the top graduating senior) and to be elected vice-president, then president of the student body. He began to understand more about his same-sex attraction in those years, but declined any advances he received. Although he started out as a biology major, thinking he might become a physician’s assistant, he reconsidered after a religious experience prompted by a course in the Prophets that “opened up a whole new world.”
While thinking about various post-college options, Davie followed Hull’s encouragement to attend seminary. He first enrolled at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, where he met some black gay men attending a peer school of theology in Richmond. Subsequently he transferred to the Divinity School at Yale University, where there were a number of out gay students. While at Yale he was president of the Black Seminarians and the Benjamin Mays Fellow of the Fund for Theological Education.
After graduating from Yale in 1982, Frederick worked with the New York City Mission Society of thereafter with New York Presbytery, where he staffed the gay and lesbian caucus after “officially” coming out in 1986. Later, as chief of staff for the New York City Board of Education, he helped to shepherd the approval of a multicultural curriculum that included the use of Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy Has a Roommate and chaired an HIV task force that obtained condom availability for New York City high school students. Active at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, in 1992 he was considered as a potential pastor for the congregation, but was not selected because of his sexual orientation. He recalls that a New York Times report on this event was the first time he ever saw himself referred to as “gay” in print.
Davie was chief of staff to a deputy mayor in 1993, during the last year of Mayor Dinkins’ term, and attended the 1993 March on Washington with Mayor Dinkins. He was deputy to Brooklyn Borough President Ruth Messinger (1994-1997).
From 1994 until 2011, Davie volunteered as a parish associate at the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights, where he preached a sermon about surmounting the obstacles of being born black, poor and gay.
Prior to his current position at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Mr. Davie has served in a variety of very meaningful ways in both the public and private arenas. For example: He was a member of President Obama’s transition team and a member of the White House Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. While a program officer at the Ford Foundation, Davie developed a program to help faith-based institutions engage high risk youth and another as Senior Vice President and then CEO of Public/Private Ventures, he created a project to assist formerly incarcerated offenders in re-entry to the larger society.
Just prior to joining Union NYC, Davie was Interim Executive Director and Senior Director of the Social Justice and LGBT programs. In this role he managed a $20 million grant portfolio that implemented the Foundation’s funding strategy for those programs.
Currently, Mr. Davie serves on the Boards of Directors of the Interfaith Youth Core and Community Connections for Youth. He is a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Clergy Advisory Council and is active with the faith table of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative. In addition, Mr. Davie is a member of the Chair’s Cabinet of the Human Services Council of New York City.
He also continues previous work funded by Arcus to convene prominent young religious academics who are people of color and looks forward to a larger convening of evangelicals. In addition, he wants to work more on engaging the public around the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality and the resulting discrimination, which he believes has a larger impact than is generally accepted. He also would like to do more with the Oprah Winfrey “Belief “ series, for which he and his team developed a study guide under contract with OWN.
Frederick’s husband Michael Adams is Chief Executive Officer of SAGE USA, a services and advocacy organization for LGBTQ senior citizens. They have been together 17 years and live in Long Island City, New York, a New York City neighborhood on the East River opposite the United Nations.
(This biographical statement was prepared by Morris Floyd based on an interview with Mr. Davie and publicly available information. Mr. Davie reviewed and edited the copy for accuracy and completeness.)
Biography Date: January 2016