Bishop Jacquelyn Holland was born on December 7, 1957. She is a respected theologian, activist, teacher, mother, and proud lesbian.
Jacquelyn Donice Lawrence Holland was born in Hickory, North Carolina, the second eldest of seven children of Gladys and Alton Lawrence. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York in 1992, and her Master of Divinity degree from Drew Theological Seminary of Madison, New Jersey in 2012.
Bishop Jacquelyn Holland learned early on that the strict rules of her Pentecostal faith did not mix well with her yearning for a more freeing experience with God, which would allow for an authentic connection of both her sexuality and her spirituality. In an effort to satisfy her spiritual needs as well as her love for music, she joined Lavender Light: The Black and People of all Colors Lesbian and Gay Gospel Choir. Through this affiliation, Bishop Holland was led to join the newly formed Unity Fellowship Church of New York City, where she served the growing congregation as an assistant pastor.
Bishop Holland encountered many challenges in her ministry, and most have been around sexism and homophobia in the church. But her message has always remained simple, clear, and loving, and her embrace of the spiritual needs of SGL/LGBTQ individuals has touched the lives of many throughout the community, winning her respect from other faith communities.
Identifying as an African American lesbian preacher and teacher, Bishop Holland was the founder of Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church, and the HIV/AIDS education and prevention program Loving in Truth. She also founded The Open Door Drop-In Center in Newark, New Jersey, which served the homeless population by providing showers, encouragement, and case management services. Having set the groundwork for a safe and affirming place for LGBTQ persons of color to worship, the then-Reverend Holland was consecrated as an Elder in 1995, and continued to serve there for the next decade. She was ordained as one of the first women bishops in the Unity Fellowship Church Movement in April of 2008.
Beloved by the community, Bishop Jacquelyn Holland is passionate about advocating for the rights of LGBTQ people, and inspiring same gender loving and trans people to reconnect to the God of their understanding. She preaches about a God that is loving and accepting, and teaches others to love themselves, and to demonstrate a commitment to loving others. Bishop Holland exemplifies her commitment to love and caring by passionately living her life in an authentic way, and fully embracing all of who she is. She has served as a mentor to many, and trained numerous clergy over the past twenty years in the Unity Fellowship Church Movement.
Bishop Holland currently serves as bishop of the Third Jurisdiction (Mid-Atlantic) in the Unity Fellowship Church Movement. She is responsible for the Office of Training and Development, which addresses the theological and ecumenical development of the clergy, the Office of Health and Wellness, and coordinates national meetings.
Bishop Jacquelyn Holland was invited to address the TEDx Broadstreet forum, and is a frequent guest at various houses of worship and Pride venues, and is often called upon to facilitate workshops. She is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for her service in the Newark community, and is recognized as an advocate against discrimination and violence toward LGBTQ persons of all colors. Her awards include the Community Service Award presented by the Celtic Pride organization of New Jersey, The Sacrificial Living Award from Unity Fellowship’s Archbishop Carl Bean, The Mable Hampton Award, The Audre Lorde Womyn of Faith Award, and many others.
In her role as a member of the Unity Fellowship Church Movement House of Bishops, Bishop Holland plans to expand her work to further the message of liberation for all people, by increasing the number of Unity Fellowship churches. She also looks forward to creating a conference for lesbian women in ministry, and to start a special blog about her journey as a lesbian bishop, and to offer inspirational affirmations and messages.
Bishop Jacquelyn Holland is the proud and loving mother of three, and spends her free time listening to music, dancing, watching movies and football, and spending time with dear friends. She is also fond of crocheting, and hopes to launch a line of her handmade crocheted items.
Bishop Holland currently makes her home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
We thank Bishop Jacquelyn Holland for her faith-based advocacy, and for her loving support of our community.