The Reverend Marvel Souza, theologian and founder of a Reconciling Methodist community in Brasilia, was born in 1981 in São Mateus do Sul, in the south of Brazil. His father served in the military and was transferred to Brasilia when Marvel was 8 years old. The family lived in a Japanese community in a suburb of Brasilia. Marvel went to school there and learned Japanese. His parents divorced and Marvel, along with his seven sisters and one brother, continued to live with his mother. Although his parents were Catholic, a friend invited young Marvel to worship at a Methodist church. Marvel was enamored with the worship there and continued attending the Methodist church. Over the years he become more involved in the life and leadership of the church.
Souza earned his undergraduate degree in English Literature. He received a theology degree from the Faculty of Theology of Boa Vista and from the Theological Center Studies (CETEO). He earned a post graduate degree in Comparative Theology from Escola Superior Aberta (ESAB) and a masters degree in Theology from the Ministerial Excellence Center (CEM). He served for three years as Professor of Theology at the Theological Faculty of the Assemblies of God of Brasília and at the Center for Theological Studies (CETEO).
While Marvel was aware of his attraction to men, he remained closeted through his early years. In 2008, he met Raphael Lira through social media. The two corresponded regularly, then met up and began a relationship together. They were legally married in 2009. Raphael was born in Brasilia in 1988 and raised in a restrictive, religious family. During his teenage years he tried to talk to his family about his attraction to men, but received a negative response. Through meeting Marvel, Raphael learned about the Methodist church which was more open than his tradition. Raphael studied literature, English and Portuguese in college and has worked as a teacher.
Souza was consecrated to the diaconate in the Methodist Church as a young adult and developed a theological formation study which was used in several congregations. He was ordained as a clergy in 2009.
Marvel Souza & Raphael LiraIn 2008, Souza started working at the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Subsequently, he went to Japan to study in 2010. When he came back home he served as a Japanese language teacher for ten years at the Model School of Japanese Language in Brasília. A few years later, he heard about a Japanese gay pastor, Yoshiko Nakamura, who told him through a Zoom meeting about the Reconciling Ministries Network, an LGBTQ-affirming movement, in the U.S. Then Marvel And Raphael decided to start a Bible study group with LGBTQ persons who were looking for an affirming place in the church.
Also in 2014, Souza received a contract with the Brazilian Biblical Society to write commentaries upon the Bible. Souza wrote Grace Upon Grace, a commentary which uses grace as the framework to welcome all persons into the church, regardless of sex, race, abilities, sexual orientation and gender identity. Grace Upon Grace was distributed widely and was the subject of backlash because of its perspective on LGBTQ people. It also brought to Marvel and Raphael threats of death that made them move to different places several times. The Bible Grace upon Grace is still commonly used today. Souza has published a number of additional monographs, the most recent is Queer Theology: The Apologetic and The Affirmative Faith.
Because the Methodist Church in Brazil is not hospitable to LGBTQ persons, Souza invited Israel Alvaran, a Reconciling Ministries staff, to visit Brazil and share observations and reflections. In 2018, Marvel and Raphael founded a Reconciling Methodist community, just outside Brasilia, Reconciling Methodist Church IPEG, which means “included by grace.” This is an “open communion” church which is open to anyone, regardless of gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, social status, language or physical condition.
(This biographical statement written by Mark from an interview with Marvel Souza and Raphael Lira and edited by Souza and Lira.)
Biography Date: May 2022
Methodist (UMC, United Methodist Church) | Clergy Activist | Author/editor | Reconciling Ministries Network (formerly Reconciling Congregation Program) | Theology | Brazil | Brasilia
“Rev. Marvel Souza | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed January 29, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/marvel-souza.