Iain McDonald


Iain McDonald was born in 1953 in Dundee, Scotland, where his father Norman was one of the youngest elders of the Church of Scotland. Iain moved with his parents to England in 1958 and, after a conventional church upbringing, eventually became actively involved in the life of the United Reformed Church--as organist, leader of youth services and member of various committees. He met his partner Ken, a mathematician, in 1975 and they later became foster-carers, caring for troubled teenagers (ten in total), an experience which changed their lives in many ways!

In 1983, Iain was ordained an elder at St Andrew’s Frognal in Hampstead in north London. Having joined the Gay (later Lesbian and Gay) Christian Movement in 1976, he was the founder-convener of the United Reformed Church Caucus of LGCM and participated in the agonised debates about sexuality in which the denomination indulged during the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1993, Iain felt that a more active participation in formal ministry beckoned and applied to train for ordination in the URC. So began a process which resulted in rejection in the summer of 1994, purely on the grounds of sexuality. The letter containing the news included the immortal words that the relevant committee was "fully convinced of your call to the ministry of word and sacrament and is very happy to accept you as a suitable candidate for training" but were unable to recommend this course "as General Assembly has not debated the matter"! In other words, the committee considered that God was calling Iain to ministry but the church didn't agree... This came as a great surprise to many who thought of the URC as a liberal denomination. Iain was encouraged to appeal against the decision and the appeal was heard (in closed session) before 200 members of Synod at the City Temple, London in October, 1994. The appeal was successful and Iain began (the next day) a four-year course at Mansfield College, Oxford, becoming the first openly gay ordinand in the United Reformed Church and, after three years and much encouragement (not to say inspiration) from individuals and congregations, gaining a Bachelor of Theology degree. At the end of this period, though, sadly no church could be found to accept Iain as its minister and, after three years of frustration and disappointment during which six churches turned him down, he withdrew from the process.

But that was not to be the end of the story! Six years later, a church in Exeter in Devon indicated that it might be willing to consider him as its minister. He responded positively and the result was that he was ordained and inducted at Southernhay United Reformed Church on 10th June 2006. Southernhay describes itself as 'progressive, intentionally inclusive and open and affirming'. Iain retired in 2014 after an enjoyable and fulfilling eight years as minister in Exeter city centre. In retirement in Dawlish on the south Devon coast, he continues to live with Ken, his partner of 47 years and enjoys an itinerant preaching ministry as well as chairing an almshouse charity in East Devon and involvement in interfaith work in Devon.  

(This biographical statement provided by Iain McDonald.)

Biography Date: May, 2004; rev. Nov. 2022


Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (United Kingdom) | Clergy Activist | Ordination/clergy | United Kingdom


“Iain McDonald | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 19, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/iain-mcdonald.


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