Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published in 2008. She is also the leader of Jubilee! Circle — an intentional, progressive, inclusive, community of faith in Columbia, S.C. — and blogs at Motley Mystic.
A graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology with a master of theological studies, she was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in 2003 and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.
A regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and The Guardian, Rev. Chellew is a recovering Southern Baptist born in 1965 as the grand finale of five children to a Southern Baptist minister and his wife (so she comes by her need for recovery honestly).
A native of Greensboro, N.C., she felt God’s call on her life from as early as she can remember. She 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.
But being raised in the Southern Baptist church, her options were limited. Those options were further limited when she came out as a lesbian at age 16.
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, she did what so many LGBTQ+ 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 as “coming home.”
In 1996 she combined her journalism skills and that persistent call from God to serve and founded Whosoever, the first website dedicated exclusively to LGBTQ+ Christians, providing inspiration, guidance and information and exploring faith topics from the LGBTQ+ perspective including grace, spiritual self-defense, loving one’s enemies and living a life of integrity.
Whosoever brought up new questions for Rev. Chellew about her spiritual walk as a lesbian and a Christian — and visitors to the website challenged her to explain how one could be both gay and Christian. Whosoever had drawn the attention of many in opposition to LGBTQ+ equality in church and society, and she sought the tools to answer her critics.
This led her to enter seminary in 1998 to deepen her own understanding of the Christian faith and how it intersected with her sexuality, and she earned her divinity degree in 2002. 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.
Despite the website and the degree, God continued to call Rev. Chellew deeper into ministry. She answered that call and was ordained as a minister of the gospel on December 7, 2003, then moved to South Carolina, where she began serving in pastoral roles and was licensed as a United Church of Christ minister in 2007. Along the way she was an original co-host of Rainbow Radio, the first radio show for LGBTQ+ people in South Carolina, when it began in 2005.