Today, December 8, would have been David Sindt’s 72nd birthday. Many people have worked tirelessly for nearly 40 years for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the PC (USA), but David is the person whose courageous action started the conversation, and led to the establishment of one of MLP’s predecessor organizations, Presbyterians for Gay Concerns. At the 1974 General Assembly, David hung up a sign saying “Is anyone else out there gay?” It was our Stonewall, and we remember and honor him today, celebrating his vision, courage, and prophetic witness. We give thanks for his parents, Char and Gus, and his many friends and colleagues who worked along side him, bringing us thus far on the way.
As you read more fully about David’s life below, we invite you to give thanks for the heroes in your life, on whose shoulders you stand.
The Life of David Sindt
David Bailey Sindt (1940-1986), founder of the major Presbyterian LGBT organization, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on December 8, 1940, and grew up in the Twin Cities area.
As a youth, David was heavily involved in 4-H and was twice a 4-H state champion in gardening. When he was 13 years old, he made his first cross between iris plants, beginning one of his most valued avocations. Through his life, he made thousands and thousands of crosses, some of which were commercially introduced as new varieties of irises. His interest in working with plants led him to Iowa State University where he received a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture in 1962. As an adult, David was recognized as an international authority on irises and became known as one of the top commercial hybridizers and growers in the world.
David also had a lifetime commitment to the Presbyterian Church. As a boy, David attended Westminster and Knox Presbyterian Churches in the Twin Cities area, and in seventh grade began attending North Presbyterian Church in North St. Paul. During his junior year in college, he studied at Silliman University in The Philippines in a program sponsored by the Presbyterian Church.
Following college, he enrolled at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and obtained a Masters of Divinity in 1966. He also studied during the summer of 1965 at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. David’s uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather were all Presbyterian ministers and his aunt was a long-time Presbyterian missionary in Lebanon.
David received his first call from Erie Chapel Presbyterian Church of Chicago for the position of assistant pastor and was subsequently ordained by the Presbytery of St. Paul on November 28, 1965, at North Presbyterian Church. David also served as assistant pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul from 1968 to 1969.
In 1969, David entered graduate school at the University of Michigan and obtained a Masters of Social Work in 1971. In May, 1970, he started working in Chicago for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and continued to work with this agency for the rest of his life, eventually holding the position of Supervisor of Foster Homes Licensing.
It was during the early 1970s that David began to identify himself as an openly gay man and became active in the Chicago Gay Alliance, one of the early gay rights organizations. He also began worshiping at the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church in Chicago where he became concerned with the Presbyterian Church’s ministry with the gay/lesbian community. In 1972, the Session (i.e., the governing body) of the Lincoln Park Church issued a call to David to serve as part-time assistant pastor to establish a ministry with the gay community. However, the Presbytery of Chicago’s Ministerial Relations Committee blocked this call in 1973.
In 1974, David founded the Presbyterian Gay Caucus which was later to become Presbyterians for Lesbian/Gay Concerns (PLGC)–and even later, More Light Presbyterians. He served as PLGC’s national coordinator for over five years and in many other leadership capacities. In 1984, when PLGC celebrated its 10th anniversary, David was recognized for the risks he took in establishing PLGC and for his continued leadership in PLGC’s work of striving to make the church inclusive of all God’s children.
In 1975, David attempted to transfer his ministerial membership in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area to the Presbytery of Chicago. This transfer was denied by the Presbytery of Chicago, an action that subsequent judicial efforts within the church courts did not remedy. In 1977, David requested that the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area release him from his ordination as a minister and transfer him to the Lincoln Park Presbyterian church as a lay member.
In 1979, David was nominated to the Session of the Lincoln Park Church, and although he was not elected, his nomination led the congregation to adopt a position paper on ordination in 1980 and to initiate an overture to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church seeking to reverse the denomination’s policy on ordination of homosexuals. The Presbytery of Chicago blocked this overture in 1981. In October, 1981, the Session voted to identify the Lincoln Park Church as a More Light Church, an action that indicated the church’s willingness to welcome gay and lesbian Christians to full membership within the congregation and to seek more of God’s light on issues involving sexuality and lifestyle.
David remained active in PLGC, the Lincoln Park Church and various iris societies, and these communities were important sources of love and support for him when he was diagnosed with AIDS-Related Complex in September, 1985, and with AIDS that December. David died at home on December 3, 1986, surrounded by his loving parents and many friends.
Despite David’s controversial involvement in the church, he faithfully held the vision that God’s light and justice would break into the church and the world. David’s life and his unending pursuit of inclusiveness and equality within the Body of Christ have touched thousands of lives and will continue to influence many people in the years ahead.
The above statement was excerpted from a reprint in More Light Update, February 1987, of David’s biography as it appeared in the bulletin for his memorial service at Lincoln Park Church on December 13, 1986.
Today the LGBT Religious Archives Network is honoring David Sindt.