Uniting the LGBT Community through Prayer & Giving
Out of the many women we have profiled in SFGN, Pastor Leslie Tipton has one of the most interesting life stories. Born and raised in Southern California, she enjoyed a wonderful childhood, as part of a caring family of five.
In her second year of college at San Diego State University, where she majored in Behavioral Psychology and Naval Science, Pastor Leslie began toying with the possibility of homosexuality. “I dated a woman for a short time and had my doubts.” She subsequently dated a few men, but confessed that she enjoyed spending more time focusing on her education than on her personal life. “I wanted to finish college and begin my career in the military.”
In 1987, she entered the Marine Corps, where she remained for over a decade. In the Corps, Pastor Leslie trained in naval aviation and aircraft maintenance. “There weren’t many women officers,” she recalls. “At that time, women were met with more hostility, but that provided a greater challenge for me.”
It wasn’t until she was stationed in Hawaii in the spring of 1988, that Pastor Leslie realized she was a gay woman. “I told my brother right away. He thought it was wonderful!” Her parents were also supportive. “My parents knew before I told them,” she states. Pastor Leslie recalls her father telling her, ‘Your mom and I love you no matter who you choose to love…we love you for who you are.’ At the time, Pastor Leslie’s younger sister Cori had been kicked out of the military for making it known that she was a lesbian and her father begged her to keep it a secret, which Pastor Leslie did.
In 1997, Pastor Leslie answered the “call of God” and left the Corp. “I decided to go into social work and began helping people suffering from HIV and AIDS.” She also began working with children in Broward County who had been sexually abused and helped them through that rough time in their lives.
A decade later, she was ordained as a Pastor and became Associate Pastor at the Church of the Holy SpiritSong.
The church has been a cornerstone of the Wilton Manors community, providing weekly services, outreach and holding events to benefit the greater good. Most recently, the church has hosted recently out recording artist Ray Boltz, a community dog wash and a bible school in which they partnered with Kids In Distress and Children’s Diagnostic Center. A community art fair is being planned for later this year.
In addition, the church has an outreach program called ‘Feed My Sheep’. “Every third Saturday, a team of volunteers prepares lunch for people in need.” Last month, Pastor Leslie and her team fed 57 people.
On a personal level, Pastor Leslie is married to Sandra Rutland. The couple entered into a holy union on June 13, 2009. “We met in church in January of 2008 and during the part where you meet and greet one another, Sandra turned around and told me she thought I was beautiful.” The pair has been together ever since.
Together, they enjoy bike riding, gardening and going to the beach and are the proud parents of four birds and three dogs. In addition, their philanthropy extends further than the church. They give back to the Poverello Center as well as Classical South Florida.
To learn more about Pastor Leslie of the Church of the Holy SpiritSong, visit Cohss.org.