Reverend Vicki Flippin is one of the many active United Methodist clergy members to defy the denomination’s four-decade-old ban on officiating same-sex marriages. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, she recalls her torment early in her career after she was invited to officiate her first gay wedding, “agonizing with it because it was against the rules.”
Flippin eventually decided that the United Methodists’ marginalization of the LGBT community was antithetical to what the faith is about: protecting the vulnerable. Since then, she says, “I’ve thrown myself into the movement to change the rules in the United Methodist Church.” Soon after, she connected with several activist groups such as PFLAG, and in particular its Asian and Pacific Islander group — Flippin’s late father was Chinese — so she could learn to use her platform to better protect and support marginalized groups. “I’ve done many, many, many [same sex] weddings after that,” she says.
Flippin is part of a changing tide within the Methodist clergy, despite criticism from church leadership. This past May, she was dropped from the series of greeters for the opening worship service at a UMC conference because she planned on including a welcome to LGBTQ worshippers. She chose instead to spend the morning helping serve communion at queer-safe stations in the area.
Racial justice is also central to her ministry. In 2014, Flippin was a pastor at the Church of the Village at the time Eric Garner was put in a chokehold; she organized a panel to discuss police brutality, inviting members of the NYPD to participate in a dialogue with the church community. During an emotional time, Flippin says, her panel aimed to shift the focus from pointing fingers to recognizing a broken system and opening up a conversation about how to move forward. “We tried to be really thoughtful instead of reactive,” she says.
Now Associate Pastor of Youth and New Communities at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the Upper West Side (263 West 86th Street, stpaulandstandrew.org), Flippin facilitates weekly group discussions with youth members, connecting Bible study to their lived experiences. “New York City can be so segregated and we can live in this world where we don’t see each other,” she says. “And so I’d want to make sure they’re thinking beyond just their world, and connect that to spirituality.”