Growing the Flock: Lesbian Pastor Yvonne Harrison Starts a Family

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Tuesday July 29, 2014

When Yvonne Harrison started her Pentecostal Restoration Temple Ministries four years ago in New York's Union Square area, she wanted to create a church that was progressive and affirming. Now, this lesbian pastor looks forward to adding one more to her congregation of 155: she is seven months pregnant with her first child.

"I am same-gender loving and have been married to my wife for four years now," said Harrison. "We are very committed to our community, and being able to start our family shows that we have made tremendous segues."

Harrison said that her congregants were "excited and elated" about her pregnancy, as their daughter would be the first baby in the new church.

"There is a tradition in the African-American church for the pastor and the first lady to be the church's first family, and they are very supportive of us in that they want us to experience the blessings of God, and set examples for couples coming in to do the same," said Harrison.

Harrison and her partner, Tiffany, initially had no success with insemination via the Manhattan Cryobank, so they pursued IVF at a fertility clinic, which worked for them on the first try.

"You go through an arduous process, and you and your spouse need to be on the same page because it's astronomically expensive," said Harrison.

The couple was lucky, but not at the beginning. Two years ago, Tiffany had gotten pregnant, but had a miscarriage at five months.

"We went through that experience, and the church went through it with us," said Harrison. "It gives them hope that we tried again."

Tiffany said that the members were very excited two years ago, noting that, "the miscarriage didn't affect just us; it was a loss to them. And so everyone is even more excited this time around. It's two years later but they've been patient and faithful, and are so very excited for her arrival in October."

Since that time, the two moved from their home of seven years on Staten Island and bought a house in New Jersey, saying it was, "more conducive to building a family."

They will take advantage of the many programs available for LGBT families at places like the New York Gay and Lesbian Community Center, saying, "we want her to be exposed to LGBT families, but also heterosexual friends and family. It takes a village, and we want it to be diverse."

The church is big on friends and family: they recently held their Annual Friends and Family Day, and will hold two baptisms in the summer, calling it, "a pretty important time in the life of a church, where we dedicate and baptize people."

Harrison and her wife, both self-described "late bloomers" at 38 and 40, are delighted that they were able to have a child, and even more so that it's a girl, with Yvonne saying, "it is delightful for me because I wanted a girl, so I'm just even more excited."

Most importantly, the pastor and first lady are happy that they have the support of their congregation through the whole process, saying, "it gives us a sense of security; it's important. Our child won't know how important it is now, but as she grows up it's important for her to know that they are her family also."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.