Reverend Dr. Jim Merritt was born in Dothan, AL, and raised in Auburndale, FL. He was ordained at the age of 18 and has been in ministry for more than 30 years. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from Stetson University and Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.
He has received numerous awards, including the Alison B. Cheek Prize in Feminist Liberation (2008), the J. Normal Hall Prize for Peace and Justice Work (2011), the Distinguished Service Award from Metropolitan Community Churches (2014) and The. Rev. Dr. Suzanne R. Hiatt Award for outstanding work done within the first ten years after graduating from Episcopal Divinity School (2017).
Dr. Merritt is a key religious figure in the worldwide movement for marriage equality. He is the Marriage Equality Director for the Global Justice Institute of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the denomination to which Holy Cross belongs.
“Holy Cross has a deep and vibrant history of providing a loving and welcoming place of worship for folks in this community, many of whom may have felt like other avenues of spiritual solace were not available to them,” he said. “I look forward to building on this foundation, to expanding our ministries and increasing our impact on Pensacola and the surrounding communities.”
Merritt’s arrival in Pensacola came as courts in Florida and across the nation are affirming the rights of same-sex couples to legally marry.
“I believe the time when we will see lesbian and gay couples getting married in Florida is measured in weeks and months rather than years and decades,” Merritt said. “Like all MCCs, Holy Cross is proud to perform same-sex holy union ceremonies, but I am joyously anticipating the day very soon when I can perform the first legal gay marriage here.”
His vision became reality when on January 6, 2015, Marriage Equality became legal in the State of Florida. More than 20 couples were married at Holy Cross MCC that day, including Dr. Merritt and his partner of more than 20 years, Albert Leach. He has officiated at over 50 legal weddings in 2015 alone.
Dr. Merritt previously served Metropolitan Community Churches in Gainesville, Florida, Sarasota, Florida, Orlando, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts and Jacksonville, Florida.
To schedule an appointment with the Pastor, please contact the church office.