Victor K. Jordan is volunteer archivist at both The Riverside Church and the National History Archive at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center in New York City. Victor was born February 27, 1937, in Oklahoma and at age six, his family moved to a farm in Colorado. He graduated from William Jewell College (BA) and got a job with the National Ministries of the American Baptist Churches in Manhattan. Later after attending the College of Insurance, he worked for a building materials manufacturing company and a communication company in their insurance departments.
Victor started attending and joined The Riverside Church New York City in 1959. From his historical research, Victor composed this brief chronology of LGBT activity at Riverside:
Lesbians and gays have always been active and welcome at The Riverside Church although not necessarily self-identified as such. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick (Senior Minister 1925-1946) first counseled a homosexual at First Presbyterian Church (Manhattan) in about 1920. Dr. Fosdick is considered to be the first American churchman to comment on the poor education of clergy in dealing with the issue of homosexuality in his 1943 book On Being a Real Person. Homosexuals were in the choir, Sunday school teachers, staff, board of ushers, and Deacons, etc. but not “out” except to their friends and cliques at Riverside. In 1946, the Church hired a "partnership" (term used in The Church Monthly) of Organist Virgil Fox and Choir Director Richard Weagly who were a gay couple openly living together.
Dr. Ernest Campbell (Senior Minister 1968-1976) preached a pro-commitment ceremony (same-sex union) sermon in 1974. The United Church of Christ Gay Caucus approached Dr. Campbell in 1973 about forming a gay group at Riverside. Dr. Campbell was willing but wanted it started by Riverside members. (The ministerial staff was ready to support a lesbian/gay group at Riverside, but the lesbian/gay persons in the congregation were not ready to be out.) Horizons, part of the Education/Parish Life departments, sponsored a series of human sexuality seminars in 1975 and 1976. Dr. Ralph Blair conducted one in January 1975 on homosexuality. In late 1977, the Rev. William Johnson, the first openly gay ordained (UCC) clergy was a speaker at a seminar on sexuality. At the seminar, Mr. Sam Barrett, a church member, asked how many people at the seminar would be willing to start a lesbian/gay group at Riverside. This group, with the help of Bill Johnson, started meeting in March 1978, with the name “Maranatha: Riversiders for Lesbian/Gay Concerns”.
In 1985, through the Social Justice Commission, the “Statement of Openness, Inclusion and Affirmation of Gay/Lesbian Persons" was discussed at public hearings, approved by the Deacons and at the annual congregational meeting. Since 1985 there has always been a Lesbian/Gay Pride breakfast, sermon at the morning worship and congregation members and clergy marching in the LGBT Pride Parade. In 1997, the Church Council passed the same-gender marriage resolution after being discussed at public hearings. Ministers have performed same sex unions since the late 1970s.
Victor, of course, was active in Maranatha from its start, and was co-convener the second year, held other offices over the years and now is in charge of the Maranatha archives at Riverside. Victor was Maranatha’s representative to the Lesbian/Gay Inter-Religious Coalition (Manhattan) that provided an inter-religious worship service the Sunday prior the LGBT Pride Sunday. This group also worked with the Metropolitan Community Church to resettle Lesbian/Gay Cuban Refugees (from the 1980 Mariel Boatlift) in Manhattan and on a national level. Victor was treasurer of the Manhattan group, approximately 1,000 Lesbian/Gay Cuban refugees were resettled (30 in Manhattan).
One of the dreams that Bill Johnson brought to Riverside was sponsoring a Regional Lesbian/Gay Inter-Religious Convocation that happened in September, 1981. Bill was the facilitator and Victor helped as the treasurer. This two-and-a-half day event included speakers: Rev. Ellen Marie Barrett, Rev. Karen Ziegler, Rabbi Gerry Kamp, Lucia Valeska, Rev. Renee McCoy, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, Fr. Michael Koonsman, Ralph Blair, and John Boswell.
When the company Victor worked for was bought out, he was transferred to their San Francisco office. While in San Francisco, Victor was the Trinity Episcopal Church representative to the Polk Street Town Hall, a group of church, community related persons working to improve to conditions for the street youth on Polk Street. In 1984, the Larkin Street Youth Center (one block from Polk Street) was started to provide housing, counseling and support services to the street youth. Victor returned to New York in 1985.
In 1989, Victor joined the Archives Committee at Riverside Church. Prior to his retirement, Victor went to Graduate School at Long Island University, Palmer School of Library Science to get an archives degree in 1999 and has been working in the Archives since then. In October 2000, Victor mounted the exhibit “Religion and Rights: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Religious Groups in the US”, at the LGBT Community Center and moved the exhibit in January, 2001, to The Riverside Church. He has mounted many other archive exhibits at Riverside and the LGBT Community Center. Victor has also served on the Advisory Committee of the LGBT Religious Archives Network since its inception in 2002.
Victor underwent heart surgery in May 2011 and did not fully recover, spending a long time in rehab until his death on March 18, 2012.
(This bio statement provided by Victor Jordan.)
Biography Date: June, 2005
United Church of Christ/Congregational Church | Johnson, William Reagan | LGBT Religious Archives Network | Riverside Church (NYC) | New York | New York City
“Victor K. Jordan | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed January 29, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/victor-k-jordan.