A local church will on Sunday ring in the new year by ordaining Philadelphia's first openly gay male Presbyterian pastor.
Broad Street Ministry will welcome Princeton Theological Seminary graduate David Norse as its new leader, according to the Avenue of the Arts church's convening minister, the Rev. Bill Golderer, who will remain as the senior church leader.
"There's a lot of progressive rhetoric among Christian churches that are trying to revitalize themselves, but this is a progressive move," Golderer said. "Having David ordained to the ministry is a way of performing the gospel that we espouse. It's acting, not talking."
The broad-minded church has long been demonstrating its preference for acting over talking. BSM has made headlines for its ministry to the needy, including a weekly "Breaking Bread" program during which diners are treated with dignity and connected to social services. And Norse, who is now a pastoral associate, is already embedded in the BSM community, where he helps serve meals and provides counseling to congregants.
"I am blessed and proud to be a part of BSM and its outreach and advocacy for the forgotten among us," Norse said in a statement. "BSM is a congregation that welcomes all and cares deeply about the poor and economically disadvantaged. We believe in a God who expects us to serve others in our daily lives. Our church is one of inclusion that welcomes the LGBTQ community and sees inclusion as central to what Christianity is about."
The U.S. Presbyterian Church in 2011 amended its constitution to allow sexually active unmarried members to become church officers. That included those in same-sex relationships. Though the development led to some tension nationwide, Golderer said the decision to ordain Norse hasn't caused such disagreements within the local community.
"The church is not a political party, meaning unanimity among a gathered people of God is not the goal," Golderer said. "It's okay to have tension. It's okay to have disagreement, but David hasn't created tension because David is so exemplary and everything about his life commands the gospel to speak to other people. ... Even people who might disagree about this issue, I think, are really united around David and his gift."
Norse expressed the desire to expand BSM's outreach even further, serving more populations in need.
"We recently started having small groups meet after worship, and will be launching an LGBTQ fellowship group soon," he said. "We are looking for ways to serve particularly vulnerable members of the queer community we haven't met yet."
Norse will be ordained during a ceremony slated for 4 p.m. at the church, located at 315 S. Broad St.
"By welcoming David into the ordained ministry, we are saying unequivocally that his sexuality delights us and it's a part of who he is that will help him be an effective and faithful minister," Golderer said. "I'd rather have a statement of welcome being made by a person than on paper. It's a huge milestone for Broad Street. We're so excited about him."