Khette Cox currently serves as an intern at Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville. Glendale Baptist has two co-pastors. While most churches have one primary pastor, this particular church has two. One pastor is straight while the other is gay…and yes, this is a Baptist church!

This unconventional set up may seem a bit odd to many, but it is providing the perfect training ground for Khette as she pursues her Masters of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt. 

“I am blessed to work with two pastors who have welcomed me as an equal,” says Khette.

She goes on to say, “The church's message to the GLBT community has often been they are welcome, but just sit on the back row! Don’t be actively involved. I have never wanted to be the token lesbian in a church. I’ve finally started to see that God calls your whole self, not just part of me.”

Khette’s call into the ministry began when she was growing up in Knoxville. She attended Bell Avenue Baptist with her father. Her mother, whose father was a Baptist minister, was somewhat cold toward the Baptist church for many reasons, and rarely attended. But Khette says she felt loved by neighbors, church members and friends. 

“I was raised by the village! And always felt safe and protected,” she notes. “One of the first lessons I ever learned in Sunday School was that God loved me no matter what. It was never 'If I do this or behave like that, God will love me,' It wasn’t that at all. I learned early on that God loves you because of who you are."

At the age of nine, Khette’s father passed away. So she and her mother attended Macedonia Methodist Church across the street from Bell Avenue Baptist.

“Mom simply refused to go to the Baptist church," Khette says. "But I was discovering that I liked the liturgy, the order and structure, found in the Methodist church.”

While Khette was still in high school, she attended a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an interdenominational ministry reaching out to athletes. Speaking at the meeting was a female basketball player from Vanderbilt. When the athlete was asked about how she dealt with her height, the athlete responded by saying, “There is a verse in the Bible out of the book of Psalm, which says I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Khette didn’t necessarily apply that to being a gay woman, but she did apply it to herself as a person. “It seemed to fit…if God made me, God must think I’m OK,” she remarks.

After high school, Khette graduated from Emory and Henry, a Methodist sponsored school in Virginia. Earning a degree in Business Management, she put that degree to work by working in the admissions office at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in Johnson City. It is there that Khette would meet Hidey, her partner of 12 years. 

“Hidey was the Director of Disability Services. She walked into the Admissions Office with a student and to this day I have no idea what that student looked like," Khette exclaims.

The struggle of being a gay woman who had a desire for ministry kept Khette out of seminary for a long time. Was it possible to be gay and work in the ministry? She continued to be active in her church, but had no idea how to effectively balance these two areas of her life. 

Trying to balance them led her to jobs where she could help people. Working in the Admissions Office at ETSU and later working with an insurance company in Chattanooga with disabled people was at least using her gifts and abilities, but still did not provide the type of fulfillment she longed for in a ministry vocation.

According to Khette, “Throughout my life, people have said I have gifts for ministry. I always presented them with excuses, not knowing where to go or how to pay for it.”

Eventually, at the suggestion of her partner, Khette applied for admission to the Divinity School at Vanderbilt. Without hesitation, she was accepted. She even received a scholarship to cover tuition. Now, she knew where to go and how to pay for it.

As part of her program of study, Khette worked as a chaplain at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital this past summer. 

“It is challenging to meet people where they are in their faith journey. Everyone isn’t on the same journey or at the same place in that journey. It is sacred space. So I have to be able to meet them where they are,” she says.

Clearly God has been at work in Khette’s life. He has been preparing her for such a time as this from her childhood days in Knoxville. And God continues to provide for her by giving her a safe but challenging place to prepare for the ministry at Vanderbilt, by providing her with a scholarship to pay for tuition, and providing her a place to gain ministry experience at Glendale Baptist.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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