Rev. Howard Warren


The Rev. Howard B. Warren, Jr., affectionately known as "God's Glorious Gadfly," was born September 7, 1934, in St. Louis, Missouri. He was a graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary; and he held degrees from Missouri Valley College and Union Theological Seminary (New York). He also held a masters degree from the School of Social Work at Hunter College. Ordained by the Presbytery of Kansas City in 1965, Warren served Presbyterian churches for 25 years. His pastorates were in Milford, Penn.; Vernon, Fayetteville and Huntington, New York; Pontiac, Michigan; and Orchard Park, Indiana. 

In 1987, Howard came out to the Presbytery of Detroit as a person with AIDS and a gay man. Active in Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (now More Light Presbyterians), he was a founder of Presbyterians Act Up, was active with the Presbyterian AIDS Network and was a founding supporter of That All May Freely Serve.

From the time of his diagnosis with HIV/AIDS in 1987, until he  required hospital and nursing home care in 2001, he was an advocate and caregiver for persons with HIV/AIDS and their families, friends and partners. He served as the director of pastoral care at the Damien Center in Indianapolis from 1989 to 1999, a care site for HIV/AIDS patients that was established by the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

His position at the Damien Center--a validated ministry in the  Presbytery of Whitewater Valley--was funded by the Orchard Park Presbyterian Church (where he had served as an associate pastor), the presbytery, the Synod of Lincoln Trails and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA. 

Warren was the author of many articles in such journals as: Open  Hands, National Catholic Reporter, Monday Morning, More Light Update, Pandemic: Presbyterian AIDS Network Newsletter.

He was the recipient of numerous awards. He received the Justice, Inc. Human Dignity Award in 1991; an American Civil Liberties Union Lifetime Membership in 1992; the AIDS National Interfaith Ministry Award in 1994; the Unity Award for Excellence of the Marian County Board of Health, 1994; the Lifetime Member of Diversity, Inc., Award in 1994; the Presbyterian More Light Churches Award in 1996; the Lazarus Award from the West Hollywood Presbyterian Church in 1997; the AIDServe Indiana Superstar Award in 1998; and a production at the Theatre on the Square in Indianapolis was dedicated to him in 2001, as another was at the Phoenix Theatre. He received the Indiana Lambda Legal Leadership Award in 2002.

Howard Warren died on March 14, 2003, at a healthcare center in Indianapolis.

Describing a man who "exploded out of the closet," the Rev. Jane Spahr, director of That All May Freely Serve, described Warren's activism in the Presbyterian Church as done "with a passion for justice and for truth-telling, but always with a compassionate heart." Remembering his purple-sequined hats, his placards as he stood for years before the General Assembly and his rainbow-colored banners and clothes, Spahr credits Warren with making the gay and lesbian movement in the PCUSA move. "He was a real person with HIV, and gay, and he came to realize how much he was loved by God. And he had to shout that out," said Spahr. "He was living Gospel. And the Gospel is outrageous. He took us out to a new place. Now, it is up to us to continue."

(Information for this biography was taken from stories by Lisa Larges and the Presbyterian News Service as published in the More Light Update, Spring and Summer 2003.)

Biography Date: September, 2003

Additional Resources

Archival Collections:


Presbyterian Church (USA) | Spahr, Jane Adams | More Light Presbyterians (formerly Presbyterians for LGBT Concerns) | That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS) | AIDS | Clergy Activist | Warren, Howard


“Rev. Howard Warren | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed May 29, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/howard-warren.


“I had the joyful experience of working with Rev. Howard in the early 1990s when he volunteered for the Parkview Manor Hospice Center in Indianapolis where I worked. Howard was always such a joy to be around. I loved his company and he always left you with a smile! He also was involved with me and Justice Inc., as our spiritual leader, for the first public Gay Pride Event held on Monument Circle. He helped me on that historic day--June 30, 1990--to fend off the less than approving religious radicals that did not wish to see us happy. Howard was always an ominous, joyous presence (and always ready with a good dirty joke). I was so honored when he asked me if he could be buried in my GAY family plot at Crown Hill Cemetery. Here’s the link:  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27991556
As you can tell Rev. Howard meant so much to me and he is one reason I am still an HIV/AIDS advocate today.
 – as remembered by Eric Evans on October 28, 2014

“I was advocating LGBT rights at the National Council of Churches ecumenical staff for Metropolitan Community Churches in the 1990s. Rev. Howard Warren stood with our delegation through a blistering debate about homosexuality at the NCC annual meeting in November 1992 in Cleveland, Ohio.  After emotional testimony on both sides, the NCC voted to deny us observer status.  We immediately took over the microphone and staged a big protest.  When it was all over, Howard came up to me and said words that still comfort me, "Thank you for singing the Lord's song in a strange land."

 – as remembered by Kittredge Cherry on May 28, 2013

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