Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall


Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall, M.Div, Ph.D was born and raised in a small rural farming community in south central Wisconsin. Her hometown had just one church, a United Methodist congregation, which served as a vital gathering place for the local community. Her family was very active within the church, and Joretta was raised within its community. She names her hometown church as a “touchstone” throughout her vocational journey. She was deeply involved in the church throughout her youth and knew early in her life that she wanted to pursue ministry. She was supported and nurtured in this call by her family and a particularly influential youth pastor in her teen years. After graduating high school in 1972, she attended UMC-affiliated Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa.

By the time Joretta graduated with her Bachelor of Arts (Magna Cum Laude) in 1976, the United Methodist Church had begun peeling away at questions about sexual orientation and LGBTQ identity in congregational and ministerial life. It was clear to Joretta by then that she identified as a lesbian, but it was just as clear to her that she was called to ordained ministry within the denomination she had always known. So despite these emerging concerns, she pressed on with her track toward ordination. She attended Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado in pursuit of her Master of Divinity, and served as a Youth Pastor at Trinity UMC in Colorado Springs, Colorado from 1976-1979, where she was ordained as a Deacon in 1978. Just before her graduation from Iliff in 1980, Joretta was hired as Chaplain of her alma mater, Westmar College.  From here, she was called to be Associate Pastor of Platteville UMC in Platteville, Wisconsin, where she was ordained as an Elder of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church in June 1981. She is proud to have been a part of the first Elder ordination class of the first woman Bishop in the United Methodist Church. Joretta was never asked about her orientation during her ordination process, or in any administrative capacity since, and to this day she has never been brought up on charges. She believes this is largely due to the fact that the United Methodist clergy and leaders who know her most closely have also been supportive and committed to changing homophobic structures within the church.

After serving Platteville UMC from 1981-1983, Joretta decided more education would be fruitful to her continued work. She attended Vanderbilt University School of Divinity in Nashville, Tennessee, where she earned her Master of Arts and then her Doctorate of Philosophy in Religion and Personality. While in graduate school, she realized she could make a significant contribution to change within the church if she were poised to educate the people headed toward serving the church. Joretta spent 13 years living and working in Nashville, where she began leaning into the two emerging tracks of her career—pastoral care and seminary education. She served as a caseworker, pastoral counselor, and spiritual director, while often simultaneously serving as a college administrator and/or professor. She held several administrative and adjunct faculty positions at both Scarritt Graduate School and Vanderbilt University between 1985-1993.

Dr. Marshall published her first peer-reviewed article, “Neofreudian Personality Theories and Pastoral Care” in the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling journal in 1990. Joretta became a Diplomate of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors in 1989, serving as both Rocky Mountain Plains Chair and Member of the National Board of Governors. She completed her Ph.D. in 1992 and was Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Counseling at Vanderbilt from 1992-1993.

In 1993, she returned to her first seminary stomping grounds at Iliff School of Theology, where she took on the role of Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling from 1993-1998, Associate Professor from 1998-2001, and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs from 1998-2000. It was during these years at Iliff that Joretta really began diving into her writing and research, further magnifying her pastoral care focus on LGBTQ populations. Some of her many ground-breaking publications throughout the mid to late 1990s include “Pastoral Theology and Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Experiences” in the Journal of Pastoral Theology (1990), “Sexual Identity and Pastoral Concerns: Caring with Women who are Developing Lesbian Identities” in the book Through the Eyes of Women: Insights for Pastoral Care (1996), edited by Jeanne Stevenson Moessner, and “Ecclesial Disobedience as a Spiritual Discipline” in the book The Loyal Opposition: Struggling with the Church on Homosexuality (2000), edited by Tex Sample and Amy E. DeLong.

Joretta began serving on the Editorial Board for the Journal for Pastoral Theology in 1994 and eventually became co-editor of the publication in 2000. She also published her first book, Counseling Lesbian Partners (Westminster/Knox Press, 1997), while working at Iliff. This text was one of the very first ever published that addressed pastoral care with lesbian couples. Shortly after, Joretta began working as a consultant and facilitator for the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology in 2000, which is work she continues to this day. She was also appointed to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for the Association of Theological Schools, where she served from 2000-2006.

Joretta made another big transition in 2001 when she accepted a new role as Academic Dean and Professor of Pastoral Theology and Care at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. She served as Dean until 2005, and Professor until 2007. During her tenure at Eden, Joretta joined the Editorial Board of the Journal of Religion and Abuse in 2004, and in 2005 she joined the Board of Directors for the Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization committed to intersectional justice across and beyond the United Methodist Church and working for the full participation of all LGBTQ+ people throughout the life and leadership of the Church. She served as Chair of the Board of the Reconciling Ministries Network in 2006 and 2007, and she names Reconciling Ministries as a place of very important service for her.

Joretta’s publication work skyrocketed throughout the 2000s. She published over 20 articles throughout the decade, many of which centered pastoral care and LGBTQ identity. These publications included “Differences, Dialogues, and Discourses: From Sexuality to Queer Theory in Learning and Teaching Care” in the Journal of Pastoral Theology (2001), “Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Pastoral Formation” in The Formation of Pastoral Counselors: Challenges and Opportunities (Haworth Press, 2006), which she co-edited by Duane Bidwell, and “Pro-active Intercultural Pastoral Care and Counseling with Lesbian Women and Gay Men” in Pastoral Psychology (2010). She also co-edited Forgiveness and Abuse: Jewish and Christian Reflections (Routledge, 2004) with Marie Fortune, and wrote her second book, How Can I Forgive? A Study of Forgiveness (Abington Press, 2005).

Joretta accepted a position as Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas in fall 2007. She served as Vice President of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors froom 2006-2008, then as President from 2008-2010. In fall 2011, Joretta became Director of the Carpenter Initiative in Gender, Sexuality and Justice at Brite, a program devoted to promoting conversations about healthy sexuality, enhancing ministries with diverse communities including LGBTQ peoiple, and providing sanctuary and encouragement for ongoing dialogue and justice-oriented practice. During that time, she also received the Outstanding Contribution Award from the American Association of Pastoral Counselors in 2012, and co-wrote the book Practicing Care in Rural Congregations and Communities (Fortress Press, 2013) with Jeanne Hoft and Shannon Jung. She served as Executive Vice Present and Dean at Brite from 2012-2019.

Joretta retired from Brite in 2021, co-writing her fourth book, Lay Pastoral Care: A Narrative Approach (Fortress Press, 2022) with Dr. Christie C. Neuger shortly after. As of 2023, she holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Brite, and remains the Director of the Carpenter Initiative. In addition to continued consultation work, Joretta remains an Elder of the Mountain Sky Conference of the United Methodist Church and teaches part-time as an Adjunct Professor of Pastoral and Spiritual Care at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Over 50 years and counting, there is no doubt that Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall has contributed invaluable labor, wisdom, and care to the students, congregants, organizations, and institutions she has served, especially within the fields of pastoral care, LGBTQ-affirming ministries, the United Methodist Church, and theological education at large. For decades she has defied the potential threats of her own denomination’s complex sexual ethical politics, committed herself to skillful pastoral practices, integrative leadership, and academic excellence while living openly and proudly as a partnered lesbian woman, and advocated with great courage and persistence for the care and inclusion of LGBTQ people of faith all over the country.

(This biographical statement written by Seth Anderson-Martz for a Queer and Trans Theologies class at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities from…)

Biography Date: August 2023


Methodist (UMC, United Methodist Church) | Clergy Activist | Theology | Author/editor | Reconciling Ministries Network (formerly Reconciling Congregation Program)


“Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 19, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/joretta-marshall.


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