I am Pastor Marvel Souza of The Methodist Church Included By Grace – A Reconciling Church in Brazil (Methodist Church IPEG). My ministerial life began 23 years ago, when I was inspired by the Holy Spirit to start my teachings in a Brazilian Methodist church where I developed my first works based on my then recently acquired theology background.After I served as a layperson for five years, I was consecrated to deacon, having served for six years with dedication, dynamism, and responsibility. At that time, I introduced a course to prepare seminarians. This was more successful than I expected. The course was offered in a number of churches. Furthermore, I was the leader of a small congregation in a rural farming area around the Brazilian capital for a year and a half. I became an elder in this church and was later promoted to pastor.
Meanwhile, I was teaching theology at a theological seminary and leading a congregation when I fell in love with a friend I had met when he was a musician/soloist in a large Pentecostal Conference. (To fall in love with someone is not a problem as long as that person is of the opposite gender. But it wasn’t the case – I fell deeply in love with another man). We married and celebrated our 11th anniversary last January.
When we met, we had a number of challenges to face – he sang in his Pentecostal Church and I was Pastor and Theology Teacher. However, we understood that full inclusion requires courage, presence, and spirituality, especially in a country where an LGBTQ person is killed every 16 hours.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU NEED TO DECIDE BETWEEN YOUR CALLING AND YOUR LOVE?
We decided for love!
We were rejected, persecuted and threatened, but we came together to resist and overcame all that challenges. In 2013, something happened that completely changed our lives. I signed a contract with the Brazilian Biblical Society to be the first openly gay pastor to write commentaries for a Portuguese Bible Version. This work brings comments related with the Ecclesiastic Full Inclusion of all LGBTQ people through the perspective of the Message of Grace. The reaction to this work in social media and the press resulted from the fact that the Brazilian Biblical Society supported the publication by allowing me to use one of their copyrighted versions of Biblical texts (VARC). This Bible was called by the sensationalist press as the “Gay Bible,” but the true name is Commented Bible Grace upon Grace.
Amid so much controversy and persecution due the Bible Project while I was still leading a church, a friend told me about the Reconciling Ministries Network in 2015. In 2016, I got in contact with Rev. Dr. Israel (Izzy) Alvaran to be listed as the first Reconciling Methodist Church in Brazil. As we were listed as Reconciling Church, the number of LGBTQ members increased. Recently, we opened three more congregations in Brazil and one in Córdoba, Argentina.
The Methodist Church IPEG has been making efforts to reach the needs of everyone, offering public worship services to all in the Christian community regardless of gender, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, social status, or language. We also provide pastoral care and follow-up, assistance to the homeless, and offer language courses (English, Japanese, Portuguese) and online Theology courses. We perform same-sex wedding ceremonies (since 2018 we have performed 11 wedding ceremonies), provide psychological support, and promote events related to the struggle for full inclusion of LGBTQ worshipers. In one such event, we hosted Izzy from the Reconciling Ministries Network as a presenter at the Methodist Church IPEG’s November 2018 Conference. Izzy remained with us for 10 days, preaching the gospel of love, grace, and reconciliation.
Recently, we held our second Reconciling Conference based on the theme “IF INCLUSION IS NOT UNCONDITIONAL, THERE IS NO INCLUSION.” It was three days of communion, worship, group discussion, preaching, and fun.
As a Reconciling Church, we are determined not to accept crumbs nor to be marginalized. We affirm that we are no longer slaves of fear. We are all children of God.
We count on donations to continue our work in Brazil and Argentina.
Since the onset of the pandemic, financial resources have dwindled. As such, we are in critical need of financial support to continue our work both in Brazil and Argentina. We would welcome any donation! Please click here for the easiest and quickest way to donate:
- Full Inclusion, Not Crumbs: Pastor Marvel Souza’s Story - July 23, 2020