Rev. Dr. Israel Alvaran is a United Methodist elder and a clergy member of the Philippines Annual Conference. Currently, he is the only out United Methodist gay clergy from the Philippines Central Conference. He was one of the founding members or organizers of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus. Alvaran comes from a conservative and traditional Filipino household, with a Methodist father and a Roman Catholic mother. Sheltered in his early years, his time was spent in school, church, and home. His home church in Manila, Knox Memorial UMC, is the oldest Protestant church in the Philippines.
The eldest of three brothers, Alvaran knew at the age of 10 that he was attracted to males, but this was not culturally accepted in the Philippines. This realization of his gay identity coincided with his decision to become a United Methodist minister. Having spent a lot of time in church, attending church activities and camp, he felt called to the ministry in the 5th grade. These early years of knowing his sexual orientation and his desire to serve as a pastor did not make his childhood any easier. He did not feel comfortable with coming out of the closet for many years.
He came out to himself in 1992, right after his ordination as a gracious response to his uncommon baptismal story. In his culture his parents should have married in his mother’s religious Roman Catholic tradition, but his father insisted on a Methodist church wedding. Because of this his mother’s family insisted that their first-born would be baptized in a Roman Catholic church. His father, however, brought him to a United Methodist church to be baptized again. This was pivotal later in his life because the first parish he served as an ordained United Methodist pastor was Tangos UMC, the church his father took him to be baptized. To him, it was a message that God walked with him from baptism to ordination and that his gay identity is reconciled with his faith and call to ministry. Baptism, for him, is the visible sign of God’s grace confirming his vocation as a gay clergyperson.
He is a former political refugee in the United States and is very passionate about human rights and social justice. In 2004/2005 there was civil unrest in the Philippines and social justice leaders were being abducted and/or killed. He was able to return to the Philippines in 2006 to renew his student visa for one month but decided to return to California and seek political asylum in 2007. Unfortunately, being an asylee, he was unable to return home anytime soon. He had been living in and out of dorms from 2003-2009 and decided to move to San Francisco in 2010.
It would be many years later that he would feel comfortable discussing his sexual orientation in a public manner. Shortly before moving to the United States in 2003, he began to reconcile his gay identity and vocation as a Methodist clergy. In 2013, he joined the staff of Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), a non-profit advocating for LGBTQ inclusion in The United Methodist Church. Currently he is serving as RMN’s Organizer covering work in the West Coast and Midwest, spanning 21 states. In 2015, he came out to his bishops and the following year he came out to his family who lived in Texas. In 2016, he helped organize over 100 queer United Methodist clergy to come out together and challenge the church to recognize their call to ministry.
Alvaran attended a conservative non-denominational Bible college for his bachelor’s degree. He earned his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees at Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. His dissertation was driven by his passion to work in the community and centered faith-rooted organizing.
He was closeted during his time in Bible college and clergy training. Even during this time his own faith and spirituality saved and sustained him. The seminary he attended in the Philippines was progressive and he felt like he did not have to choose between church and his sexuality. He graduated from this seminary with highest honors. He has also served as pastor, conference youth director, faculty in United Methodist educational institutions, labor union organizer, and economic justice organizer with the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society.
He wants to leave behind a global impact that changes the colonial nature of church structures and reaches beyond the U.S. The next steps in his work is to make shifts in legislation/laws within the church. He strongly believes in intersectional justice and their effect on queer movements. He believes that queer justice needs to be intersectional in its approach and advocacy. This means connecting the multiple intersections of justice work: queerness, racial justice, economic justice, universal human rights, climate justice, and so on. In his ministry he wants those in his LGBTQ+ community to have an affirming spiritual home that celebrates their whole person. He prays that people who are still on the journey of self-affirmation would be embraced by grace, and he seeks to walk with them with hope and patience.
(This biographical statement was written by Vanesa Evers from an interview with Rev. Israel I. Alvaran and edited by Alvaran. The following source was also consulted: https://resistharm.com/conversations/i-am-rev-israel-alvaran/)
Biography Date: February 2022
Methodist (UMC, United Methodist Church) | Clergy Activist | Reconciling Ministries Network (formerly Reconciling Congregation Program) | Philippines | California | San Francisco | Activist (religious institutions) | International Human Rights
“Rev. Dr. Israel Alvaran | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed September 22, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/israel-alvaran.