The Rev. Mike Kinman stepped into some of the biggest shoes in the country when he was announced in June as the successor to the Rev. Ed Bacon, longtime rector of Pasadena’s All Saints Church — one of the nation’s leading progressive churches.
Kinman had already been making a strong impact on the country’s religious and political scenes as dean of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis since 2009, working extensively with groups like Black Lives Matter to achieve progress in social justice, particularly at the scene of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police-shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014.
Kinman earned a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s of divinity degree from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Prior to his ministry at Christ Church Cathedral, he was the founding executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (EGR), a nonprofit that gathered individuals, congregations and dioceses across the church to work across divisions to help eradicate global poverty. He was also the founding campus missioner of Rockwell House, the Episcopal Campus Ministry at Washington University in St. Louis. Kinman is also president of the board of Magdalene St. Louis, a two-year residential community for women recovering from lives of prostitution, violence and drug abuse that opened its first house in June 2015.
Kinman’s family includes his wife, Robin, and their two sons, Schroedter and Hayden. Unanimously elected as the 10th rector of All Saints Church on June 7, he began his tenure on Nov. 1 — All Saints Day.
We caught up with Kinman last week and talked about some of the challenges of his new assignment.
— Carl Kozlowski
PW: You were announced as the new pastor in June but didn’t officially start until Nov. 1.
KINMAN: I had a job and I had to finish up my old job as dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Louis, then took sabbatical and vacation time. One of the hard things right now is I’m here but my family, my wife and two kids, are still back in St. Louis. My oldest son is a senior in high school; the other is in eighth grade. We were never going to pull them out and move them halfway across the country in those years of school. We agreed we could do November through June apart and find ways to see each other, plus I’m trying to get the house ready to sell. I will be here for a week around Christmas, and Schroedter turns 18 then.
Were you familiar with All Saints and its headline-making abilities?
I absolutely heard of All Saints. If you’re Episcopal, you’ve heard of All Saints. I first heard about them during college in Columbia, Missouri, in the 1980s when friends had moved there after attending Fuller Seminary, and they always raved about it. I always heard about All Saints and the amazing way this congregation lives its faith out in the world. I was honored when they approached me to be the rector.
What drew them to you?
Part of what I think it was is a lot of the work that the community at Christ Church in St. Louis is and has been for years, not about the priest. Particularly after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, our community was involved in the protest movement in Ferguson. The way we lived our faith out and worked with Black Lives Matter resonated with All Saints, because the cathedral was diverse economically as well as racially, and that’s important to All Saints as well. What I heard was that All Saints is a place where we’re not people who just show up for one hour on a Sunday. We come expecting to be challenged and changed and take that out into the world to make a difference. That’s how I am, and I guess they sensed that.
Did you get much guidance from former Rector Ed Bacon in making the transition?
I could have made my own way but Ed was phenomenally gracious. I’ve known Ed a while and met Ed at a conference in Missouri. When Ed became rector over 20 years ago, [All Saints Rector Emeritus] George Regas flew to Jackson, Mississippi, where Ed came from, and spent a couple days with him and kind of did a handoff. Ed made the same offer to me and it was just the most gracious thing, and it would have been bananas to turn that down. He flew out to St, Louis and we talked and prayed together for a couple days, and he gave me two giant binders on all things All Saints, and it was a phenomenal parting gift to All Saints for him to do that. George is still around and could not be more gracious.
Do you already have an idea about which particular missions you’re driven by? Will there be any shift in focus?
I see it differently. I’m not cause-driven. I’m driven to follow Jesus. Everything in the church is about how closely, lovingly, joyfully and boldly can we follow Jesus. Then you have to ask where Jesus is and where he stands. When you read the Gospels, He’s very consistent. He stands with the most marginalized and oppressed. From the very beginning that’s where God chose to be incarnate in human form: the child of a displaced family in a backwater of the Roman Empire. He could have chosen to be born in a palace, but instead He was a person of color, on the run, and from the moment of birth, under the threat of death.
What you have to do is look at the world and ask, where are people under attack, on the margins? I love how Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries says: “If we could all get everyone on the margins to stand together, there would be no margins.” I was very much involved with Black Lives Matter after Ferguson, and issues of poverty and homelessness in St, Louis. Our Muslim siblings are under attack right now, so we have a sign out saying All Saints stands with the Muslim community. There’s no shortage of that. We’re going to continue the tradition of All Saints and many, many other churches to continue to help those people and meet Jesus where He’s at in the world now.
Do you have any thoughts about how All Saints and progressive churches can have their say and be active in the age of Trump?
The church/state rules are very specific: We can’t endorse or give direct financial aid to a specific candidate. Otherwise, we have as much freedom of speech as Pasadena Weekly. As far as criticizing a sitting president or president-elect like Obama and Trump, the same protections as you and me.
We’ve had plenty of presidents who campaigned on marginalizing and oppressing a population. This is unique in my lifetime, though, that it’s so brazenly open we had a candidate who has attacked segments of a population, and campaigned at best indifferent to and at worst celebrating that he assaulted women. This is different than “I don’t agree with the president’s policies, or my candidate lost, I’m so upset.”
And it’s much different than the NRA stirring up fears that Obama’s going to take guns, which had no bearing in reality. Trump’s words put people at risk. So what is the call to the church? I’d like to think it’s the same call to every church: Where’s Jesus? He’s with the marginalized and the oppressed, and the motto of the church has to be “We stand with you, and if it happens to you, we want it to happen to us.” We want to say absolutely sign up for the battle. This isn’t new. It’s us continuing a tradition that’s been around 2,000 years. n