James Sandmire was raised in northeastern Oklahoma. His family, descended from Mormon pioneers, and most of his relatives are still devout, active Mormons. His family was a close and loving one, and during his early years he was active in church affairs, school government, music, drama, and swimming in both high school and college. He won a scholarship to Howard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and received a Bachelor’s degree with honors there in 1952.
Following the accepted practice of thousands of young Mormons, Sandmire gave two years of his life to fulltime ministry. When he completed his two-year term, Sandmire returned to school, first briefly at Harvard Business School, and then the University of California at Berkeley where he received a graduate degree in behavioral sciences.
Sandmire continued to give most of his free time to the church, holding many positions in his local parish. Throughout this period he found it difficult to come to terms with his homosexuality within the context of the church. Finally he married a young woman, thinking he had overcome homosexuality. The marriage lasted nine years before ending in divorce. Sandmire remained close to his daughter and son. During this time, Sandmire helped found two successful businesses in the educational and management consulting fields.
During the last years of his marriage, Sandmire met and fell in love with Jack Hubbs, with whom he had a Holy Union in the East Bay Metropolitan Community Church. After meeting Jack, Sandmire knew he had to come to terms with his homosexuality. He gradually learned to accept himself, but felt he could never participate in church life again. This, together with growing theological differences with the Mormon Church resulted in his dropping into inactivity. He prayed God would show him His will and continued to casually attend various churches. In 1970, Sandmire and Jack, attended a special service in San Francisco out of curiosity. The Rev. Troy Perry was preaching and both Sandmire and Jack were amazed at seeing hundreds of their gay sisters and brothers at worship. The universality of God’s love, preached by Rev. Perry touched both of them. Sandmire joined immediately, while Jack first became a friend and then a member. He eventually became an Ordained Deacon and served on several church committees.
Because of his past experience, Sandmire was named to San Francisco’s first deaconate. He and another deacon were assigned to develop a rap session for an East Bay congregation. The church grew rapidly and Sandmire was called as its first pastor. Upon the resignation of San Francisco MCC Pastor Rev. Howard Wells in 1971, Sandmire was called there to pastor.
Sandmire chaired the committee which chose the MCC emblem, became the first Northwest District Coordinator and President of the Samaritan Bible Seminary, and chairperson for both the Commissions to study Holy Orders and Faith, Fellowship and Order.
At the General Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in 1973, Sandmire was elected to the Board of Elders of the denomination and was named Fellowship treasurer by the Board. He was reelected to the Board of Elders in 1976 in Washington, DC.
In 1975, Sandmire was called to be the pastor of the Mother Church of the MCC movement in Los Angeles, California. After resigning that pulpit in 1977, he along with Rev. Larry Bernier, started All Saints MCC in West Hollywood, California. After serving as that congregation’s pastor for a year, Sandmire moved back up the Bay area where he founded and pastored Golden Gate MCC in San Francisco until his death in 1989.
(This biographical statement provided by Frank Zerilli and Jack Hubbs.)
Biography Date: April, 2010
Sandmire sent this August 1, 1973 letter to the MCC San Francisco congregation in the aftermath of the July 27th fire that destroyed Stewart Memorial Presbyterian Church where they had been meeting for worship.
Sandmire sent this September 9, 1973 letter to the MCC San Francisco members and friends announcing a $100,000 capital campaign to help secure a building for the congregation's use.
This tribute to Sandmire was published in the June 1989 newsletter of The Rest Stop, an HIV/AIDS drop-in center (1987-1992) at 134 Church Street which began as an outreach ministry of the Golden Gate MCC. .
MCC | Bernier, Larry | Clergy Activist | California | Los Angeles | San Francisco