After nine year journey the Reformed Church in America ordains the “first” openly gay man

The Revd Chad Tanaka Pack shares his own story of the long road to ordination as a minister of word & sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. He was previously associated with Middle Collegiate Church and is now on the staff of Marble Collegiate Church, both NYC congregations of the Reformed Church in America. He was ordained yesterday, Sunday, 15 JAN 2017, starting at 4 pm at Middle Collegiate Church. He is married to the Revd Michael Foley.

UPDATE – Some commenters believe that Chad was not the first, that others have been ordained in the RCA before him. In trying to determine why folks at Middle Church believe he is a first, it was said that he is the first who has been honest about being gay from the start, which is why it has taken 9 years to reach ordination. It’s a milestone for Chad, regardless of what sort of first it was. – ed

This is the video of his ordination service yesterday at Middle Collegiate Church.

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  1. David Allen

    I’m reminded of the statement by the Revd John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ last year when he visted Seattle, “I am often asked, ‘Why do you ordain gays & lesbians?’ And I say, ‘We don’t. We ordain men and women in whom is found evidence of the Holy Spirit, some of whom happen to be gay & lesbian.'”

  2. Michael V

    Please follow the posted comment policy and make comments using your first & last names. – ed

    For what it’s worth, Chad is not the first openly gay person ordained in the RCA. He’s the first ordained by the Regional Synod of NY. There have been other openly gay people ordained in the RCA, namely a young gay man ordained in Holland, MI last spring, and still others before him. Granted, this is no small thing in the RCA, but your headline is inaccurate.

  3. Geoff McLarney

    A gay acquaintance who interned in one of its congregations tells me that the “Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of New York” (i.e. Marble, Middle, West End, Fort Washington) is more or less de facto autonomous within the RCA, so I wonder how much of a precedent if any this sets for the denomination as a whole.

    • Rev. Jonathan Vanderbeck

      Other churches and Classes have ordained open LGBTQ people previously, those that lack the autonomy of the Collegiate Church system. Regardless, in the RCA, the Classis (local body) ordains, not the church itself.

      • David Allen

        There seems to be some qualifier here. Contacts close to Middle Church have said that Chad is the first openly gay man from start to finish. That he intered the ordination track process as an openly gay man and was put off for over seven years without receiving authorization to be ordained.

        I shall put the first in scare quotes.

    • It will be regarded as a huge precedent, and many hostile voices will be raised against it in the denomination, I am sad to say. But I’m so, so joyful that it was done. The Collegiate Church was the site and host of Chad’s ordination, but he was not ordained by the Collegiate Church; had that been so, he would not have had to wait nine years. He was ordained by the Classis of New York, which had to wait for Chad’s denominational certification, and God be praised, that was finally granted.

    • It is precedent setting because it is the classis, the local regional body that ordains not the congregation or collegiate body that ordains. I believe two other ministers who happen to be gay and open about their sexuality have been ordained in other RCA Classes. I think the other significance may be that Chad is the first married gay person ordained in the RCA. The RCA is in the process of affirming at its upcoming General Synod 2017 that only marriages between men and women can be performed in a RCA church. The RCA is also moving to constitutionalize this definition of marriage in the liturgy, so RCA ministers would be bound to it according to our book of church order. I am not sure how this impacts a collegiate congregation, as they pre-date the RCA. But as an RCA minister, I grieve these synod actions that continue to hang our Christian identity and redemption on heterosexuality. How deeply sinful are these actions. Chad and all of us in NY Classis have a long road ahead of us.

  4. Rev. Jonathan Vanderbeck

    Hi David – yes, I do believe Chad is the first to *enter* the process as an openly gay candidate *and* complete the process. Huge milestone regardless, considering that Middle Collegiate is the oldest continuing worshipping body in the United States. It is incredibly significant that in a historic place such as this, that an openly gay minister was ordained, when the vast majority of the rest of the denomination cannot seem to get its act together.

  5. Joan Gundersen

    Just an aside. Chad’s spouse, the Rev. Michael Foley is the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. He may be on the staff in NYC, but he lives in the rectory in Pittsburgh with his spouse. There are no Reformed Church congregations anywhere in the area. He sometimes attends Redeemer.

  6. Middle Collegiate is one of the most joyous and progressive congregations in NYC and frequently works with the Episcopal Church of St. Mark’s in the Bowery in lower east side ministry. Congratulations to them and to Chad on this ordination.

  7. Dustin D.

    In future, please follow the posted comment policy by making comments using your first & last names.- ed

    This article’s title is incorrect because the RCA didn’t ordain Chad, but the Classis of NY did. One of the RCA’s agencies that issues the Certification for Fitness for Ministry rescinded Chad’s cert after issuing it, so it will be interesting to see our the RCA moves forward with his ordination. It’s sad that a minority of the RCA can’t get their act together and live within church’s order and discipline.

    • David Allen

      You could play that headline game with just about every denomination because most ordination processes take place through a local or regional body and not at the denominational level.

    • Rev. Jonathan Vanderbeck

      Hi Dustin DeVriend and others,

      To be clear, the Classis (in this case, of New York) ordains, but he IS a minister within the RCA as a whole; this is in the Declaration for Ministers of Word and Sacrament.
      Chad’s ordination was completed within the order and discipline of the RCA, insofar as he received his Certificate of Fitness, was granted his licensing and ordination exams as a result, and was then ordained by the Classis for having completed those exams. Our order does not mandate that one must have the Certificate of Fitness to be ordained, but simply to be examined, which Chad did at the time of his examinations. Additionally, there is nothing in our order permitting a rescinding of the Certificate of Fitness.

      Hope that clears things up for folks!

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