Rev. Paul M. Turner, Senior Pastor
A native midwesterner who was raised in the United Methodist Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) felt, even as a young child, a call to pastoral ministry. He majored in theology and minored in psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. He left prior to graduation when the nature of his sexual orientation became clear to him and church officials informed him that he could not be ordained within the United Methodist Church.
After being out of the church for six years, Rev. Turner discovered the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in June of 1982. He received a certificate in Crisis Intervention from the Council of Christian Communions of Cincinnati in 1983, served on the Crisis Intervention Team and as a Chaplain for the city jail, and was licensed as a clergyperson in the UFMCC in 1986 and ordained in 1989.
His first pastorate was in Toledo, Ohio, where he took a church of 14 and built it into a congregation of 120 during his six-year tenure. He founded the N.O.V.A. Project (No One’s Victory Alone), which provided direct services, referrals and a buddy system for those affected by HIV. He also served as the President of the Board of Trustees of F.O.C.U.S. (Family Outreach Churches United in Service), an interdenominational organization made up of 15 churches, which provided food, clothing, and shelter services to the poor and the homeless. In addition this group he oversaw a transitional housing program that provided shelter to six families at a time.
In late 1993 Rev. Turner was called to Pastor All Saints MCC in Atlanta, Georgia, a position he held for nearly a year. In early 1995 he was called by and became the Senior Pastor of Abundant Grace Community Church of Atlanta, an independent Christian church with a mission “to bring the message of redemption and grace to those people who have been victims of oppression, rejection and misinformation and to assure them they are true heirs in the realm of God.”
In the spring of 1998, he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church.
Since his arrival in Atlanta in 1994, Rev. Turner has been at the forefront of leadership and activism for the LGBTQ+ community. Upon his arrival in Atlanta he immediately became involved with the “Olympics Out of Cobb” movement, speaking at rallies and marches.
To this day, he continues to work with community organizations including but not limited to: Someone Cares, Georgia Equality, Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Hotlanta Softball, “A Home for Everyone” (where he serves on the board of directors), Stonewall Democrats, and the advisory committee for Fulton County HIV prevention. A lifelong hockey fan and former goalie, he coached an openly gay hockey team on a non-gay league. He served as board president of Trans=Action, an education and advocacy group for the transgender community, and served as co-chair on a working steering committee called the “Rainbow Brigade” of the National Mental Health Association of Georgia, which worked to identify and advocate for the mental health needs of the LGBTQ+ community. He continues to work with the local transgender community to secure emergency shelter and safe, secure housing.
He worked as an advisor to an outreach in Rockdale and Newton County called the Zacchaeus Society, founded by a married priest, Rev. Jack McBride, and serves on various community groups dealing with the issues of homelessness and hunger in the Metro Atlanta area. He served for five years as president of Intown Community Assistance, an interfaith ministry serving the homeless and jobless, and he continues to serve on their board of directors.
Currently Rev. Turner serves as board president for the Southern Crescent Umpires Association for Amateur Softball Association of America, for whom he calls both slow- and fast-pitch softball games in several divisions.
He was profiled by Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters in 2014 for their Spiritual Journey series, where he discussed his longtime ministry to LGBTQ+ people and others who have been neglected and turned away from the traditional church, along with his journey to the ministry and the challenges and joys of being a pastor and openly gay.
He was also profiled in 2008 in the first video interview for the “Questing Parson” blog of Rev. Guy Kent, former pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church in Atlanta’s Candler Park.
He and his husband, Bill, celebrated their 39th anniversary in June 2021, the same month that the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, and they legally tied the knot on November 21, 2015. They are proud residents of East Decatur, where their family includes a young 10-year-old Border Collie, Rowdy, a 22-year-old Cockatiel named Rose, and a 32-year-old Catalina Macaw named Jimmy.