Conversation With Rev. Shanea Leonard


Rev. Shanea Leonard is a Teaching Elder in Pittsburgh, PA. She holds a Master of Divinity Degree from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently pastoring a new faith community called Judah Fellowship on the Northside of Pittsburgh.

How has your personal journey to fully accepting who God made you to be challenged or strengthened your faith?

It certainly has challenged my faith journey. I’ve had to internally confront everything I’ve ever known. I then had to understand myself all over again in the context of the Holy Spirit working within me rather than the context of doctrine.

What I mean is that, regardless of how others see me, it is the Holy Spirit in me that legitimates my call and my purpose, despite those who deem me unworthy.

I am fully everything that God says I am and has created me to be.

Is there a prayer or meditation that helps you make it through trying times?

My understanding of the first chapter of James has been very motivational. It has taught me that the pressures and trials I go through will ultimately produce who and what God has created me to be. It is through this process that my faith will be perfected and my witness grows even more.

What is one of the defining moments in your life as a Christian?

There have been many. One had to have been in 2008 during a very difficult situation concerning my former call. At that point I was questioning my faith, my call and my heart for ministry. It was devastating to someone so fresh in ordained ministry. However, what I didn’t realize is this was a starting point for me. The journey after that reshaped me and redefined my zeal for the liberating gospel and thirst for my purpose in the church. I came to understand that I did not have to live a closeted life. I could be everything Shanea is supposed to be and be called by God to God’s purpose as well.

Do you have a story of a person who embodies Christ’s teachings?

Gratefully, I know many common people who have lived extraordinary lives for Christ. However, the one who sticks out the most is Bishop Yvette Flunder. She has become such a role model for me. In authentically being a Christian by caring for the least of these in our society, she has created a place where the outcasts have become the accepted. Yvette Flunder is a champion for the multi-cultural LGBTQ community who have been hurt and ostracized by religion and society. Just as Christ came so that we may have life more abundantly, He has called Bishop Flunder to nurture others into that promise and not to be hidden in the shadows anymore.

In your mind, what are the Biblical foundations for LGBT inclusion in the church?

I think the main premise is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever who believes in him may not perish but have everlasting life.” It is the core vision of Judah Fellowship. The “whoever” in that is simply the “whosoever.” There is no stipulation, prerequisite or parameter. The message of the gospel is an inclusive invitation to every human being.

What would you say to those Christians who have a different view on inclusion?

This is one thing I say to my Dad.

It’s entirely hypocritical for any confessed Christian to impose any segregated brand of belief system on any group. I believe that lack of inclusion in any form is entirely contradictory to the message of love Christ came to bring.

If we’re going to provide a questionable and problematic interpretation of scripture so that we force all to adhere to out of context and culturally unfaithful, then I should have my head covered, not teach any men and be a slave.

What can we do to foster dialogue and build bridges with people with different views on inclusion?

We really need to make sure that any conversation we attempt comes out of a place of love, faith and hope. Love for our fellow human beings, brothers and sisters, in Christ draws us together. Faith in a God whose wisdom passes all of our understanding is our shared humility. And our passionate hope in the kingdom of God on earth one day, being a unified body void of any petty differences as I know God wants us to be.

4 Responses
  • John Stuart on March 31, 2012

    Some of the differences are far from petty.

  • Rev. Shanea D Leonard on April 3, 2012

    I am sure we all believe that pur voice should be heard but I beleive there is no difference that should render itself greater than the unifying love of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit that seeks to draws us all closer through the bond of Christ.

  • Janet Edwards on April 5, 2012

    Dear John and Shanea,

    Thanks to you both for starting a conversation here.

    John, I hope you share those things that you consider serious (“far from petty”) and reflect upon how they stand in the light of what Shanea calls, “the unifying love of Christ.”

    And Shanea, I would love to hear you reflect upon the connection between the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing us closer in the bond of Christ, and those serious concerns that preoccupy us.

    I hope to hear from you both again. Peace, Janet

  • Greg on November 24, 2014

    I’m glad I found this conversation and had the opportunity to read the “Reverend’s” own words. Indeed, not only itching ears hearing what they want to hear, but two itching each other’s ears. I saw Ms. Leonard on t.v. during the protests after no indictment in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. I’m always interested in the self-justification and excuses self-proclaimed shepherds of Christian flocks make for assuming authority and roles never intended for them. And more recently, I’ve been interested in the justifications of those in open rebellion against God through sexual perversion for claiming they can come to the cross without repentance. Here, I am treated to both in the same woman!
    As Ms. Leonard alludes, as she dishonors her father, it is indeed hypocritical for a believer to impose upon anyone ANY belief system. And the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ as has been accepted in full orthodoxy (those things for which there has been no “problematic and questionable interpretation” for two-thousand years) – this faith does not impose itself upon Ms. Leonard. Instead, she and her ilk (including yourself) impose yourselves upon the Faith, and call a faithful and judicious dividing of the Word, hypocritical.
    Nevertheless, Scripture is indeed problematic; that is, it is problematic for Ms. Leonard: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5.
    ‘Do not become partners with them’; that’s exclusionary. That’s a boundary. That’s a clear line.
    But what goes on here?
    “32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1
    And as a final thought, as a Christian, I do believe that she ought to have her head covered, (1 Corinthians 11), she is perfectly capable of teaching scripture to others (e.g. Priscilla, Acts 18), but has no authority to be an overseer (1 Timothy 3), but most importantly, yes, she ought to be a slave, a slave to righteousness. Furthermore, (I could not help it) the context of the work of the Holy Spirit and the context of doctrine cannot be separated (Augustine has whole volumes on this.)

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