A THEOLOGY student who was allegedly bullied by a Salvation Army college over LGBTI issues has become an ordained minister and plans to conduct same-sex weddings.
Shelly Kershaw, who was studying at Salvation Army’s Booth College, reported being intimidated, threatened with failure and asked to withdraw from study after presenting a sermon on marriage equality.
Kershaw is now completing a Bachelor of Theology degree through United Theological College at Charles Sturt University.
“I had to go through the cycle of trying to find a church that wouldn’t reject me,” said Kershaw.
“It’s been an ongoing fight and an ongoing struggle for many of us in the LGBTI community.”
Kershaw has now also been ordained as a minister with the US-based Universal Life Church Monastery, which is “LGBTI-affirming”.
“I’ve been fighting for this for so long,” said Kershaw.
“The church has a long history of supporting the LGBTI community, and their philosophy is that if America is willing to support marriage equality, then why can’t Australia.”
The Universal Life Church Monastery is a non-denominational ministry known for its online ordination program, which allows its ministers to perform services including baptisms, weddings and funerals.
The church has ordained millions of ministers, including high-profile people such as Richard Branson, Hugh Hefner, Debbie Reynolds and Conan O’Brien.
“They have a long history of fighting for equality for the LGBTI community,” said Kershaw.
Kershaw plans to establish a church in Sydney and to perform ceremonies including same-sex weddings, which will be recognised by the church though not by Australian law.
“There’s about 23 LGBTI ordained ministers in Australia of the Universal Life Church,” said Kershaw. “There’s been ongoing discussions about launching a church in Australia.”
Kershaw is currently running an LGBTI-inclusive home church on Sunday mornings.
“My church door is open to perform the sacrament of marriage equality,” said Kershaw.
“Any LGBTI person who comes and knocks on my church door and wants to get married, I certainly won’t be knocking them back.”
Anyone wishing to attend the home church services in Sydney can contact Kershaw on 0459 771 520 for details.