The Right Rev. John L. Selders, Jr., is an ordained minister serving the United Church of Christ (UCC) as the organizing pastor of Amistad UCC in Hartford, Connecticut. John was born and raised in an extended family of pastors and church leaders in St. Louis. Gifted in music, John became a widely recognized songwriter, musician and performer. John's academic and theological training was at Life Christian Bible College, Webster University and Eden Theological Seminary.
In 1984, John confronted HIV/AIDS for the first time when a deacon in his father's congregation in St. Louis came out as gay and living with AIDS. John engaged in extensive education and discussion about this new disease with the leadership of the congregation who agreed to continue this deacon in his church position and struggle with appropriate ministry responses.
Selders connected with the Rev. Yvette Flunder who was beginning a new congregation in San Francisco engaged in emerging ministries around sexual/gender orientation and HIV/AIDS. Selders became a founding elder of the City of Refuge and was the congregation's first minister of music in the early 1990s.
In 1992, Selders returned to St. Louis as the program director of the North Side AIDS Outreach Project, part of a city-wide effort by the African-American community to respond to HIV/AIDS. Around this time he also became involved in helping to coordinate the first two St. Louis observances of Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS campaign sponsored by the Balm in Gilead.
During this time John met Ibrahim Farajaje, publicly-identified bisexual scholar and activist at Howard University in Washington, D.C. John found Ibrahim to be a kindred spirit who challenged him to see the political dimensions of his personal story and increase his activism in the Queer community.
John owes a great debt to The Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk (his spiritual mother) and The Rev. Art Waidmann (his spiritual father) among others who have mentored him in the ministry over the years and have influenced his spiritual life and vocation tremendously. John began pastoring a UCC congregation in St. Louis in the same neighborhood where his grandfather had pastored decades earlier. He moved to Chicago in 1997 to become a staff person at the Community Renewal Society (CRS) and also part-time staff at University Church, a UCC and Disciples of Christ congregation. He later left CRS to direct the Urban Leadership Project, doing outreach into communities of color, for the Night Ministry.
John was invited to be a presenter at the National Gathering of the United Church Coalition for LGBT Concerns in 1998. He followed up this initial contact by becoming deeply involved in this organization, serving as two-term Vice Moderator of the Coalition Council, one of the founding members of the Coalition's People of Color Institute and other leadership positions. He has been a speaker or presenter on issues of race and sexual orientation at many religious events and conferences. John tells his personal story in the video, "Bi-sex'u-al" that was produced by the United Church of Christ in 2003. He also serves as vice-president of the Institute of Welcoming Resources, an interdenominational organization providing resources for LGBT-affirming communities of faith.
In the fall of 2004, Selders was consecrated to the office of Bishop in the Church of God and designated Presider of a new religious body, the Inter-Denominational Conference of Liberation Congregations and Ministries. He currently lives in Hartford with his spouse Pamela and their two children.
(This biographical statement provided by John Selders.)
Biography Date: February, 2005
United Church of Christ/Congregational Church | Farajaje, Ibrahim | Flunder, Yvette | African American | AIDS | Clergy Activist