By Darla Shelden
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – After 16 years of service, Rev. Kathy McCallie recently gave her final sermon as Senior Pastor at Church of the Open Arms in Oklahoma City.
Members of the congregation, friends and family gathered to express their appreciation for McCallie’s dedication and service and to wish her good luck on her new venture.
McCallie is joining the faculty at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa. She will be Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program and an Assistant Professor of Ministerial Leadership and Ethics.
As the founding pastor of COA, located at 3131 N. Pennsylvania, McCallie has mixed emotions about her departure.
“I’m very sad in many ways,” she said “I love the people of the Church of the Open Arms. I think it’s the coolest church I’ve ever been a part of, but I’m also convinced that this new position is a calling and it feels right.”
“I think it will be good for the maturation and development of the Church of the Open Arms to have a new pastor. It’s a normal part of a congregation’s development,” McCallie said.
The church also held a farewell reception to wish McCallie well with her future endeavors.
Scott Hamilton, COA Associate Pastor and Executive Director of Cimarron Alliance said, “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work with Kathy over the past two and a half years. It has been an integral part of my own faith journey to work at her side.”
“Kathy personifies what it means to be a pastor,” Hamilton added. “It is for this reason that her leaving Oklahoma City is going to be felt by people who may have never even heard her preach.”
McCallie said, “My most treasured accomplishment is the connection with VOICE, which is involved in civic engagement and faith based community organizing. I think that it is important for churches to stay connected with each other working on improving local communities and government accountability.”
Kristen King, lead organizer of VOICE (Voices Organized In Civic Engagement) said, “I remember the first time I did a training session with some of the UCC congregations in town. Kathy made a presentation that talked about the importance of building an organization like VOICE, not just for now but for future generations.
“She understood the potential of this type of organizing to enliven people to put their faith into action and to give people power to act on behalf of their families, their neighborhoods, and their community,” said King.
McCallie has long cared deeply about healthcare. She is the daughter of Dr. Boyd Shook founder of the Manos Juntas Free Clinic in Oklahoma City.
“Kathy was particularly involved in our health care action team putting on seminars about the Affordable Care Act and to fight for Medicaid expansion,” King added. “She was deeply moved by the death of Pat Proctor, who lost her job after being diagnosed with breast cancer and faced a nightmare of piecing together treatment without insurance.”
McCallie believes her role at Phillips holds many valuable new opportunities.
“Being able to spend sustained time thinking about what kind of education and training pastors need in our changing times will be a priority for me.” said McCallie.
“My job as the Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, a continuing education for clergy who want to further their education working in ministry settings, is important for developing depth and integrity in ministry.”
Oklahoma City native McCallie holds a B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy from Oklahoma State University; a M.Div. from Perkins School of Theology at SMU; and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma.
Hamilton said, “Kathy has paved the way for future generations of LGBT Christians in our city to have a loving, embracing place in which to grow their faith.”
In 1995, Kathy and her father Dr. Boyd Shook formed the Fundacion Manos Juntas (Joined Hands Foundation) giving birth to the Manos Juntas Free Clinic, which gives the poor and underprivileged access to proper medical care.
Founded in 1997, COA is opened to all persons regardless of color, ancestry, age, gender, sexual or affection orientation, ethnicity, national origin, disability, familial status, or political perspective.
“I have known Kathie McCallie since she was on staff at Church of the Servant and I was in seminary at Phillips Graduate Seminary in the late 1980s,” said Rev. Donna Compton. “She was then, and has continued to be, a dynamic, thoughtful, gifted teacher and preacher.”
“Through the years, she has become an outspoken, fearless, and prophetic voice in our city, speaking up for the rights of GLTB people, but also speaking up for peace, for the rights of women, for social justice, for interfaith goodwill and cooperation – even in the face of some formidable opposition.”
McCallie says one of the moments that stands out in her mind is when the Ku Klux Klan threatened the church in 2002.
She recalled that the KKK sent email messages stating they were planning a parade in front of the church building when COA was co-sponsoring a conference on Homosexuality and Scripture.
“The event was highly visible on the news,” McCallie said, “There were bomb threats. All four lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue were completely blocked. That was a very difficult time, but the way that everyone pulled together with support from the wider community is what makes it a memorable event.”
Nathaniel Batchelder, Director of Peace House OKC said, “McCallie paid a high price for her commitment to universal human and civil rights. She had to resign as a United Methodist minister because charges were filed against her for performing commitment ceremonies for same-gender couples at the church she served.”
“So she founded Church of the Open Arms, which was welcomed into the United Church of Christ denomination with the designation ‘open and affirming’,” Batchelder said. “McCallie’s values are not a scandal in the UCC, which ordained its first openly gay minister in 1970. Open Arms continues as a social justice Christian church.”
Mark Van Dorn, COA Past President said, “Kathy’s gifts have been numerous as well as the blessings she has brought our church family. We are all thrilled for her and this next stage of her journey and wish her nothing but success.”
An interim pastor will serve COA until a new pastor is chosen.
McCallie, a mother of three children, said, “All of my family members have said for sometime that they see me in this type of teaching vocation. They’re happy that I’m not moving clear across the country and I’m very happy that I’m staying in Oklahoma.’
“I have great confidence in the leaders of the Church of the Open Arms and in our denomination. People should come visit. We have a strong future.”
Hamilton said, “Kathy has married us, baptized us, buried us, and joined us in Holy Union. This city is better because of her and her presence will be felt for a long time.”