home about media center archive history letters subscribe

Profiles in Patriotism


Rev. Lea Brown

By Denny Meyer

Lea Brown was a good Southern Baptist girl from the American Southwest.  Her father served in the US Air Force in World War II. Reared in a loving home to be civically involved, she attended Oklahoma Baptist University as a straight A student.  During her time at OBU she felt a calling to ministry - specifically, the ministry of the military chaplaincy.  From college she went right into seminary and joined the Army Reserve where she was commissioned as a Chaplain Candidate (2nd Lt.)This is the kind of person our armed services seek, a pure soul of the American soil.

While at basic training at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, alas, she became clearly aware of another part of who she felt called to be, at the age of 23.  Entering the military, it seems in case after case, is the coming of age experience that causes young people to realize their sexual orientation.  And in nearly all such cases it takes a considerable period of introspection to clear the confusion on what to do next.  In Lea's case, coming out to her church and denomination would mean the end of her dreams to serve as an Army chaplain, and so she continued on with her studies, reserve duty, and interning at a Baptist church as she moved closer to the scheduled date of her ordination.

She was at the start of realizing her young life's hopes and dreams of becoming an ordained military chaplain.  And she knew that being out as a lesbian would end all of that.  She loved the military and her faith.  But her integrity would not allow her to live a lie. And so, shortly before her scheduled ordination, she told her church about her realization that she was a lesbian. Her ordination was promptly cancelled and she lost her Army-required endorsement from the Southern Baptist Convention, and thus she was forced to resign her commission as a chaplain candidate.
All of her plans and dreams were gone simply for having discovered the truth about who she was and for her refusal to hide that truth. The heartbreaking loss was not only hers; the troops she might have ministered to lost a potential spiritual guide who would have understood the needs and concerns of the thousands of gay and lesbian service members in combat today.

Even though her ordination had been cancelled, she was able to finish her Master of Divinity degree at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. However, it took her many years to eventually find fulfillment as an openly lesbian minister in the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC).  Yet, her calling to be a military chaplain abided, never ceasing to be on her mind.  For several years, she worked with MCC to become the Army's first MCC-endorsed chaplain.  All communications that she and MCC had with the Armed Forces Chaplains Board toward this endeavor were cordial with the shared understanding that providing for diversity was desired.  However, delays evolved over three years while the Armed Forces Chaplains Board revised its procedures for denominational endorsement of chaplains.  Eventually, a technicality and age disqualified Rev. Brown from from fulfilling her life-long calling to serve military personnel of all sexual orientations as an Army chaplain.

Rev. Brown understood very well how difficult it would be to serve in silence on active duty, in accordance with the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy requirements.  And yet she still feels strongly that lesbian and gay service members, women, and others of minority faiths, are being left underserved in their spiritual needs.  While all Army chaplains are charged with being able to minister to those of all faiths and circumstances; she feels that there is currently a preponderance of more conservative clergy whose guidance often fails those seeking help in confidential matters of sexual orientation.

  2007  Gay Military Signal