Ken Cuthbertson

Minister of Word and Sacrament, Ordained 1982.

Ken Cuthbertson is a member-at-large in Santa Fe Presbytery, and a Parish Associate at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. His book The Last Presbyterian? was published in May 2013.

When he first began to realize he was gay, Ken’s response was “uh-oh.” Coming from a conservative farming community in Kansas, and then attending a small church-related college, being gay wasn’t something he had even thought about.  But having this realization in 1978, when the Presbyterian Church’s Homosexuality Task Force was debating these issues, Ken realized he had to discern for himself how he was going to understand sexuality. For years he tried to quash and fight what he felt, but slowly things changed. After attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Ken knew he had to make peace with himself.  Ken started to read and study pastors and theologians who affirmed his sexuality. Eventually the struggling and fighting was over, and Ken came to affirm who he is.

While peace came for Ken, it remained an issue for some of his conservative friends and family.  He came out to his parents not long before both passed away, and so there was not time to work things through.  The parents of Doug—who is now Ken’s husband—had a difficult time accepting their relationship at first, but over the years they have come to a place of loving acceptance. But while friends and family may have struggled, the personal bonds they shared didn’t have to suffer. One friend from college said “I don’t know how to think about this in my head, but I’ll pray in my heart you find peace.” To date, this is the best thing anyone has ever said to Ken.

After seminary Ken became a college chaplain, and later went to get his PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. It was there that he not only got more involved with the LGBTQ community, but also transitioned to a more progressive theological position. He was involved with Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (PLGC) and found support among various folks. While coming out publicly was a gradual process, his support system kept him going.

Ken has never held an installed position in the church, but he has worked as an interim, a stated supply, and is now a parish associate.  He also does part-time teaching in a local Masters in Theological Studies program. Through his work in the both the church and the gay community, Ken has learned what it means to try to live a life of integrity. Just as the church can be resistant to the LGBTQ community, the LGBTQ community often has problems with the church. But by being a member of both groups, Ken has tried to rise to the challenge of bridging the two communities.

In 2012, Ken and Doug decided to make things legal and official by getting married in New York. Their marriage took place one month after their twenty-fifth anniversary.  It was at Niagara Falls in a ceremony presided over by a United Church of Christ pastor. Being married doesn’t change the commitment Ken and Doug feel for one another, but Ken has been surprised by the way marriage has changed things in relation to the larger community. The official ceremony makes their relationship feel more socially grounded and more real in relationship to the world. Though they were not able to get married in their home church, Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in Placitas, New Mexico, the church community later held a blessing for their marriage and celebrated their commitment with a reception and the gift of a quilt hanging signed by over one hundred members of the congregation.

Just as Las Placitas has been so supportive to Ken and Doug, Ken hopes the church can become a safe and supportive space for all of God’s children. While not everyone will agree, people, he believes, have to learn how to live with these differences while still allowing all to express their love of Christ. If the church can’t be a safe space where kids know it is okay to be themselves, then the church might as well close up shop.

–by Caroline Barnett

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