Indiana-Based Baptist Church Ordains First Transgender Pastor in Its Denomination

Amanda Casanova

A Baptist church has ordained one of its first transgender women, according to

At a May 23 ceremony, Laura Bethany Buchleiter was officially ordained at University Baptist Church in Bloomington, Indiana. The church has not been a part of the Southern Baptist Convention since 1999 when the congregation selected a female pastor.

The church is part of the Georgia-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“I’m not the first transgender person to be ordained in a Baptist church, I may be just the second—and the first in a CBF church,” Buchleiter said on Facebook. “I’m very grateful for those who have gone before me and am also very aware that we are all still pioneers in this space.”

University Baptist Pastor Annette Briggs said Buchleiter was ordained because Buchleiter represents people that the church wants to include.

“It’s a whole lot easier to tell the truth when you’re not hiding a truth,” Buchleiter said.

Buchleiter is a graduate of the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. The newly ordained pastor previously served as interim pastor of University Baptist and has an interim pastorate at a United Church of Christ church in Wyoming.

“My desire is to continue to work with churches, mostly in the Midwest, as an interim pastor to help navigate change and transition,” Buchleiter said.

Buchleiter attended Moody Bible Institute for three years and worked at a Christian business in Nashville. Later, the pastor worked at Dallas Baptist University.

Then, Buchleiter was diagnosed with gender identity disorder and came out as transgender.

“When I came out, I really believed I had to be done with church,” says the pastor. “I didn’t know any church spaces that would be okay with someone like me.”

As an ordained pastor, Buchleiter plans to create a media ministry and advocate for transgender youth and draw awareness for suicide among transgender people.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Elizabeth Lara

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.