Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist. Born in 1965 as the grand finale of five children to a Southern Baptist minister and his wife, she comes by her need for recovery honestly.
Chellew-Hodge literally grew up in the church, playing with her G.I. Joe dolls and Tonka trucks in the sanctuary aisles. Her family was still shocked when she came out as a lesbian years later, despite the obvious clues.
She gave up her faith at age 17, about the same time she entered a career in journalism that would span some 25 years (including a six-year stint at CNN in Atlanta), but despite the allegations of some conservative pundits, the media was not to blame for making her Godless for a brief few years. Instead, Chellew-Hodge did what so many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people do – she believed the lie that she couldn’t be both a lesbian and a Christian.
She returned to the church in her early 20s, kicking and screaming, at the insistence of her first girlfriend. She describes her first service at a Metropolitan Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia as “coming home.”
Chellew-Hodge entered seminary in 1998, a couple of years after she founded Whosoever: An Online Magazine for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Christians. The magazine — which was the first of its kind on the Web and closed in 2015 — had drawn the attention of many in opposition to LGBT equality in church and society and Chellew-Hodge sought the tools to answer her critics. What she discovered in seminary was a whole new way to approach the question of homosexuality, gender identity and spirituality and a new way to answer critics that was a lot less stressful.
Chellew-Hodge graduated from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 2002 with a Master of Theological Studies degree. She was ordained in 2003 by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. In July 2004, she became assistant pastor at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina (what was then MCC Columbia). In 2007, she was licensed as a United Church of Christ minister and became associate pastor at Garden of Grace. Chellew-Hodge is also a spiritual director, trained through the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.
She is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, released in 2008 by Jossey-Bass. She also co-edited Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio with Ed Madden and has several essays featured in the book. Learn more about her books here.
She is now leading Jubilee! Circle – an intentional, progressive, inclusive, community of faith in Columbia, SC.