Life continues to evolve for Allyson Robinson, 44, who attended Truett Seminary at Baylor University as a man with a military background.
Robinson now preaches the ministry of Christ as a woman and recently was named interim pastor of a 400-member congregation in Washington, D.C.
Maybe that explains Phillippians 4:13 as her choice of a favorite Scripture: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Her path at times has been rocky, she said in a phone interview, but she finds herself in a place of happiness.
“I’m tempted to say, ‘How did I get so lucky?’ But it wasn’t luck. It was the grace and blessings of God, not just for me but for my family and friends,” said Robinson, who this year is celebrating her 20th anniversary with her spouse, Danyelle, with whom she is raising four youngsters ages 9 to 15.
On June 23, Robinson became the “transitions” pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in the nation’s capital, “which means I’m the interim until they find an interim,” she said.
She will help with preaching, mentoring and pastoral care duties until the church names a longer-term pastor, probably in mid-September.
Calvary Baptist, a progressive church that welcomes members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, reaffirmed Robinson’s ordination before she started at the church. Robinson previously had been ordained as a man.
In her ordination litany posted on her blog, former Calvary Pastor Amy Butler said of Robinson: “Over the course of her journey, God has invited her to step into the faithful witness of a new identity, a true identity, and a new name. While we have always known her as Allyson, she was ordained with a different name.”
Butler left Calvary to become senior minister of Riverside Church in New York City.
The Associated Baptist Press, in reporting on the Robinson situation, said it probably represents a first in church history.
The Rev. Charley Garrison, pastor of Central Texas Metropolitan Community Church in Waco, said he celebrates news of Robinson’s new challenge. He said Robinson preached on at least one occasion at the church, and helped it organize the first local observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2011.
“I’ve followed her on Facebook, and I’m excited about her taking on this leadership position,” said Garrison, who described Robinson as a “good, solid person who pursues justice.”
He said about 30 people attend his church on any given Sunday, including one person going through the gender-changing process.
“We plan to have a name-changing ceremony when appropriate,” Garrison said in a phone interview.
Robinson came to Central Texas in 2004, as Daniel Robinson, to attend Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Before that, she graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, spent five years in the Army as a combat arms officer, and then made the transition to ministry by working as a pastor in the Portuguese Azores.
Her time locally became one of soul-searching, as she sought the will of God for her life and wondered if her desire to live as a woman was ungodly.
Things got the point where Robinson considered suicide, she said. That got her into therapy, and she eventually — about halfway through the three-year program at Truett — told her loved ones about her desire to live as a woman. Robinson’s wife stuck by her, and they continued to live together with their four children.
She postponed publicly announcing information about her transition until after graduation, because of Baylor’s policies regarding homosexuality and gender identity.
In spring 2007, a gay rights group called Soulforce visited campus and five activists, along with one Baylor student, were arrested for criminal trespassing for writing chalk messages on sidewalks. Robinson witnessed the events and resolved to become an activist for gay, bisexual and transgender causes.
Robinson said she has stayed in contact with some of her Baylor professors and classmates over the years, and she appears to harbor no ill will.
“My family and I were so very blessed to be part of the Truett community and Temple community,” said Robinson, who served as pastor of Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple while studying in Waco. “One always expects the worst, but I was fortunate to have very supportive relationships with my classmates and the faculty and staff.”
Robinson laughed when asked to comment on her preaching style, saying, “I seek first to be practical. I’m not interested in lengthy academic discussions of text. My son Truman said to me, ‘You know what I like most about your preaching? You ask big questions but don’t expect to have all the answers to them.’ I liked that.”
She said she once reached a point in her life when she doubted if she would ever get to serve and worship God as part of a congregation who accepted her for who she was.
“Happily, I was proven wrong by Calvary,” she said. “I don’t know if I would call myself a follower of Jesus today if not for this church.”
She will serve in an interim capacity for about six weeks, she said, “and then I’ll return to my place in the pew and be used as God sees fit.”