Marsha Stevens-Pino was born Marsha Carter in Pomona, California, in 1952. She grew up in a troubled household that was impacted by alcoholism. At age 16, she found solace and new life at a beachside evangelistic Christian church in southern California that marked the beginnings of the "Jesus Movement" of the 1960s. Energized and joyful at her personal encounter with Jesus, she wrote the song "For Those Tears I Died" for her sister Wendy to "lead her to the Lord." Along with her sister, friends Peter Jacobs and Russ Stevens, Marsha formed the musical group Children of the Day. The group's first recorded album, Come to the Water, was released in 1970. They held release of their album to put two cuts on The Everlastin' Living Jesus Music Concert which was the first big hit of the new Maranatha Music company and "put the Jesus Movement into high gear, spreading its influence from Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa throughout the country and beyond" (Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, 2002). Marsha's song "For Those Tears I Died" was one of the most well-known Christian folk songs of the 1970s and was published in numerous evangelical hymnals and songbooks.
Marsha married Russ Stevens and together with Children of the Day recorded six albums and toured continually over the next few years. Marsha and Russ divorced after seven years of marriage and Marsha took the bold step of coming out as a lesbian. Marsha was immediately ostracized and routinely condemned by the contemporary Christian music subculture. The magazine Christian Century wrote in 1999 that Stevens became "conservative Christianity's worst nightmare--a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, God-fearing lesbian Christian."
After a period of searching for a new church home, Marsha affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Churches and formed Born Again Lesbian Music (BALM Ministries) to begin a new ministry--to use her music to proclaim the love of Jesus to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. In 1987, she recorded her first album since leaving Children of the Day entitled Free to Be. Since that time she has produced several more recordings, including The Best Is Yet To Come, I Still Have A Dream, I Will Not Behave Like Prey, No Matter What Way, The Waiting's Over, Inclusive Hymns for the Church, The Gift Is On the Inside, Is This the Real You? and Songs of Praise from a Strange Land.
Reminiscent of the 1970s when Jesus bands toured the country in vans and buses to perform wherever they could, Marsha began touring the country in the early 1990s in a Winnebago performing 200 or more concerts a year. Her son John Stevens later joined her in some recordings and concerts.
In spite of the success of her new ministry, Marsha has continued to be totally shunned by the Christian contemporary music community. As the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music notes: "No Christian music publication has ever interviewed her or reviewed any of her products (positively or negatively). No song by Stevens has every been played on any Christian radio station, no album carried by any Christian music store, no article about her or even reference to her work has ever been made in any media supposedly devoted to covering the contemporary music scene." In 1999, the other three members of Children of the Day were invited to perform without Marsha at a Calvary Chapel Jesus People Reunion Concert with over 20,000 fans. They refused to do it without her and were cut from the program.
Theologically, Marsha identifies herself as "a conservative evangelical, strongly committed to the authority of Scripture, passionate about having a personal relationship with Jesus." She is certified as a lay evangelist by the Metropolitan Community Churches. Her music and message have largely focused on proclaiming the grace of God and love of Jesus to the LGBT community rather than defending or justifying herself to homophobic Christians. The Gay Music Guide, a non-religious publication, has twice placed her albums on the Twenty Best of the Year list.
For many years Marsha and her spouse, Cindy Stevens-Pino, led a music ministry training school for LGBT Christians at King of Peace MCC in St. Petersburg, Florida. They currently participate in Pas-a-Grille Community Church in St. Petersburg, along with Marsha's teen-aged granddaughter who is living with them.
[This biographical statement taken from the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, 2002, and information provided by Marsha Stevens-Pino]
Biography Date: August, 2004
MCC | Artist/musician/poet
“I have seen Marsha perform her concerts several times. She is a Spirit-filled Christian. You can see the Holy Spirit in her. We need more people like her as she is telling the love of Jesus Christ. Thanks to you my spiritual life has gotten stronger. Your music is like hearing angels sing.”
– as remembered by Paul Abrell on January 4, 2019
“I have had the opportunity to see Marsha in person and hear her in concert several times. The last time that we saw each other she and Cindy had not gotten married yet. She came and sang a concert at our small church, God's House of Prayer Christian Church, in Phoenix, Arizona, and then we shared a fellowship meal afterwards. I find myself humbled in her presence because I truly believe that she is a woman of God with a wonderful ministry. She is very gracious and loving. I will always hold her and Cindy dear in my heart.”
– as remembered by Rev. Zee Jones on July 23, 2012
“I first met Marsha and was introduced to her music at a concert in Belleville, Ontario, Canada about 10 years ago at the local MCC church named 'Free to Be'....in her own words no less. She is an inspirational example of STRENGTH, FAITH and A FIRM TRUST IN GOD'S INTENT FOR EACH OF US. I recently had a need to share a happening in my life with her by email...and WOW she answered in less than an hour...whoda thuunk? This very busy person who probably hears from thousands of people took the time to answer me. Marsha's response was not only immediate but a true balm in that moment of pain. she made me feel HEARD AND VALUED. That ability in itself is a gift! She sympathized and shared from her own experience in a way only a good friend would and so I will always consider Marsha just that a good friend. Her life is truly a ministry.And she's not a bad singer either (lol).”
– as remembered by Nancy Wren on June 10, 2012
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