The Rev. Matthew J. Smucker was the first openly gay person ordained in the Church of the Brethren. In April 2002, the Michigan District Board recognized his call to ministry at Chicago Theological Seminary, where he served as the Director of Development Operations (2001-2005), and ordained him into Christian ministry.
While working in admissions and financial aid at Kalamazoo College (1994-98), Matthew joined the Skyridge Church of the Brethren, a publicly affirming congregation. Matthew grew up in the Church of the Brethren. This small, but bold congregation in Kalamazoo, Michigan called him to ministry. During this time, Matthew was also an active member of the Phoenix Community Church, United Church of Christ. The members of both congregations affirmed Matthew's gifts for ministry and supported him throughout his seminary education at Bethany Theological Seminary (Richmond, Indiana). He graduated from seminary in May 2001 with distinction in ministry studies.
In May 1999, the Ministry Commission of the Michigan District (Church of the Brethren) licensed Matthew to ministry. This event was also a first for the historic peace church. Matthew is an active member of the Brethren Mennonite Council (BMC) for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests. He served as a board member of BMC from 1997 to 2001.
In Louisville, KY, the delegates of the 2002 Annual Conference voted to prohibit the licensing or ordination of gays and lesbians by districts. After a year of controversy and repeated protests from across the district and the denomination, the Michigan District Board in November 2003 affirmed a petition from Michigan District delegates to not recognize Matthew’s ordination. As a result, Matthew moved his ordination to the Chicago Metropolitan Association, United Church of Christ.
Matthew previously served on the coordinating council for Voices for an Open Spirit (VOS), a grassroots movement within the Church of the Brethren. The mission of VOS is fostering openness and inclusion, building bridges and seeking common ground.
Matthew is a 1990 graduate of Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, where he majored in chemistry education. He also earned a Master of Arts in College Student Personnel (1994) from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Born in Wabash, Indiana, he grew up in Wooster, Ohio He has worked at St. Pauls House, a Lutheran Life Community, since 2006 as Chaplain and Director of Pastoral Studies. Matthew and his partner David live in Chicago where they are active members of Epiphany United Church of Christ.
(This biographical statement was provided by Matthew Smucker.)
Biography Date: May, 2003
Church of the Brethren | Brethren-Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests | Activist (church change) | Clergy Activist | Ordination/clergy | Chicago | Illinois