General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ
The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer grew up Roman Catholic in the city of St. Louis. One of seven children, his early loves were baseball, soccer, and reading. From an early age, John felt a strong call to the priesthood. He would spend eight years in the Catholic Seminary in pursuit of this dream. After his sixth year, he was invited to finish his studies in Rome. He declined, as he was struggling at the time with deep questions about the teachings of the church. Those struggles led him to abandon his call to the priesthood after eight years, and to pursue other interests.
Shortly after leaving the Catholic seminary, John met the woman he would choose to make a new life with. He and Mimi have recently celebrated 32 years of marriage, are the proud parents of three amazing children, one beloved daughter-in-law, and one grandchild. After teaching Old and New Testament for one year in a Catholic High School (and retiring undefeated as its Soccer Coach), and after spending another two years working for a painting contractor, something happened that changed John’s life.
While cooking for his wife’s family, his brother-in-law approached him in the kitchen where he was cooking dinner, looked him in the eyes, and said: “Just because you are no longer Catholic (he had joined Mimi’s Lutheran church) doesn’t mean you are no longer called.” That was it. Alone with Mimi later that night, he asked how she would feel about him going back to seminary. Reminding him that their marriage verse was “we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15) she told him she would be proud of him if he did.
Their search for seminaries in the area led them to Eden Theological Seminary, where they both fell in love with the United Church of Christ. He would graduate from there three years later, after the birth of their first two children, and upon ordination would be called for 8 years to serve as the pastor and teacher at Zion UCC in Mayview, MO. Two city people found joy and profound satisfaction serving in this farm village of 260 people. Six months after ordination, their third child was born and the family complete.
John’s second church, which he also served for almost 8 years, was First Congregational UCC in Lebanon MO. This church was a stronghold of progressive Christianity in the heart of the Bible Belt. The town of 10,000 had twenty-six Baptist Churches. John and Mimi would become known for the proclamation of a gospel of extravagant welcome in a very narrow-minded culture. In the almost eight years he served, he was carried by armed guards out of the largest gathering of the Christian Identity anywhere in the US (they are the religious arm of the Neo-Nazi, paramilitary movement - and there were over 17 known cells in the area around which John served in south-central MO), had the front doors of their church spray-painted to read “Satan’s Army Rules,” had their church van windows and car windows busted out numerous times, organized an underground LGBT Bible study at a farm house outside town, and was called the AntiChrist by the Pastor of the largest church in town, First Baptist.
After a horrible car accident that left their daughter in a coma for a month, they were forced to relocate in order to find the care she needed to fully recover from the accident. That brought them to St. Louis, where John was called to serve on the Conference Staff by former Conference Minister A. Gayle Engel. He served their for five years, where his reputation as a leader committed to social justice was enhanced. He completed his Doctoral studies in White Privilege and Its Affect on the Church, did extensive travels speaking across the country following the release of his second book, Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right Is Hijacking Mainstream Religion, and was presented with the Shalom Award by the student body at Eden Theological Seminary for his lifelong commitment to justice and peace. His third book, Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World, was released in June of 2015.
In 2008, John was called to the United Church of Christ in the Southwest to serve as their Conference Minister. He serves here with a profound sense of joy and gratification. He loves their comfort with innovation and failure - their uncanny ability to take the kind of risks that promise great hope and to recover quickly and with grace from the attempts that don’t succeed.
On June 29, 2015 John was elected to serve as the 9th General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Shortly after that, his next book was published: Beyond Resistance: the Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World.
John was recently named by the Center for American Progress as one of 12 faith leaders to watch in 2017.