Faith is a huge part of Rev. Leslie “RevJax” Jackson’s life, and the openly bisexual pastor is on a mission to help unify Houston’s religious and LGBTQ communities.
“A commitment to conversation is important,” Jackson says. “We have to have a dialogue—compromise and converse with each other. What I preach and teach in my sermons is that we need to have an expansive life. We, the LGBTQ+ community, desire freedom, and we deserve abundance. We also deserve love. All of us.”
What I preach in my sermons is that we need to have an expansive life. We, the LGBTQ+ community, desire freedom, and we deserve abundance. We also deserve love. All of us.” —Rev. Leslie “RevJax” Jackson
In 2019, Jackson made history by becoming the first African American pastor of St. Peter United Church of Christ, Houston’s third-oldest church. He had previously served as the pastor of the Cathedral of Hope Houston from 2017 to 2018. Under his leadership, St. Peter United membership has grown from 10 members in 2018 to more than 200 members.
“That was a moment of synchronicity for me,” he says. “I’ve been a pastor now for eight years. It was a moment that I never could have planned or prepared for myself. My journey to becoming a pastor has been filled with many ups and downs, and life has not always been rosy. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and a lot of different people have hurt me. I’ve wanted to be a pastor of certain churches, but they weren’t ready for me, I wasn’t ready for them. I couldn’t have planned this better myself. Everything that I’ve done in my life professionally prepared me for that particular moment.”
Faith, the way Jackson sees it, can connect and inspire, and it’s the best way to help break down the division that’s running rampant across the country.
“This is a moment in history where I am worried,” he says. “I’m very concerned, because even in the LGBTQ+ community, there are deep divisions. Even within my church, there have been people who have left; they interpreted something that I’ve said as being pro-Democrat, and I don’t consider myself a Democrat. I don’t consider myself a Republican. I am an independent. All of us, regardless of our political beliefs, are responsible for passing on a thriving democracy to the next generation. We have to be the ones to do the work that we need to do in our lifetime so that our children, our descendants, are freer than we are today. We can’t do that if we are divided on the basic principles of freedom and democracy, and insistent on dehumanizing people we disagree with.”
Breaking down barriers is nothing new for the bisexual leader. After he reconciled his sexuality with his faith, he came to believe that anything is possible.
“What I would say to anyone who is LGBTQ+ Christian, or wants to be, is that to reconcile your sexuality and spirituality, you have to understand that you need to find a flavor of Christianity that works for you. To those who disagree with an open and affirming, reconciling stance, I would say that there is such a thing as freedom of religion, and nobody gets to own Jesus Christ.”
Gay rights and religion can coexist, Jackson believes, and that is something he also preaches in his sermons.
“This is our time to define what it means to be LGBTQ+ and Christian, and to stand up for our beliefs,” he says. “If we read the Bible and pay attention to history, God has always been on the side of the oppressed, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. There is no way anybody can dispute that fact. So today, God is on the side of the LGBTQ+ community.”
In the future, Jackson says, he wants to get involved in politics, and he’s currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Chicago Theological Seminary. He also serves on the board of Texas Impact and Houston Faith Votes.
“I think it’s imperative to get more people to vote and be more involved in the political process,” he says. “We’re working on getting religious communities together to get people registered to vote and to encourage them to get out to vote. I believe the universe has prepared me to live a very, very expansive life and to do as much as I can for other people through my call—through my ministry—and to live the best life that I can.”
For more info, visit lesliejackson.com.