The Reverend Kenneth Brian Carroll, interim pastor of The Rock MCC church in Chattanooga, passed away suddenly last Monday evening. A representative of the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office said that Rev. Carroll died from long-standing health issues.
His health began to take a turn for the worse over the last two weeks, according to his partner Johnathan Bryan. A visit to a local hospital earlier that day was about to be followed by a second visit that evening when Carroll passed away. He was fifty-three years old.
Rev. Carroll was a graduate of Tennessee Temple University, earning a degree in Religious Education. He became interim pastor of The Rock MCC earlier this past summer where he had been a member of the congregation and a long-standing advocate for the Christian faith in the Chattanooga LGBTQ+ community.
“I am heartbroken to hear that Ken Carroll has passed,” said the Rev. Alaina Cobb with Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Centre of Chattanooga in a Facebook post. “Our community is diminished without him in ways we may never fully grasp. He was a faithful minister of word and sacrament, and a joyful presence in the lives of everyone who knew him. I will miss him dearly both as a colleague and a friend.”
Ken’s partner Johnathan Bryan told Out & About Nashville that they met in the Spring of 2009 after Ken began commenting on some pictures he had posted on social media. A business trip to Chattanooga led to them finding time to meet. One thing led to another and they soon became a long distance couple.
Bryan said that he was in the Army at the time and about to be deployed to Iraq when a routine text message with conversation with Ken changed his life. Ken signed off that night saying that he loved him. He remembered being a little afraid when he heard that and called Ken up on the phone right after, asking what he meant by that.
“What is wrong?” was the reply, according to Bryan. “It’s ok to say it if you mean it.”
Bryan was floored, and he then confessed his love for Ken. It was a sudden release from his anti-LGBTQ+ upbringing, Bryan said. After his final deployment overseas, Bryan and Carroll came together in Chattanooga in 2011 and never looked back.
Bryan said that he was a little concerned when he found out in the beginning that Ken was an ordained minister. Multiple tours of military duty and a nasty experience with his church when he came out had turned him off of religion, but his partner showed him, as he showed many others in the Chattanooga LGBTQ+ community, that G-d loved all of them as they were.
“Ken saved my life,” Bryan continued. “I was in a really dark place before I met Ken. I was likely bound to go to prison or to my death otherwise…he showed me back to the path of Christ.”
Bryan says that his partner worked hard in the LGBTQ+ community especially to help people return to the church after suffering from religious-based abuse. He worked with all whose spirituality was challenged by their LGBTQ+ background, not just those of the Christian faith, according to Bryan. He wanted all to see that they were G-d’s children too.
“He was loved by so many people, Bryan said through tears. “He is one of the greatest men I have ever known. My love for him will always be never-ending.”
A Celebration of Life service for Rev. Carroll will be held Monday evening at 6pm Eastern time at Pilgrim Church, 400 Glenwood Drive in Chattanooga with a fellowship meal to follow in the church fellowship hall. All people are welcome to this service of remembrance.
In lieu of flowers, the organizers are requesting donations to be made directly to Jonathan Bryan or The Rock Metropolitan Community Church, 1601 Foust Street, Chattanooga, TN 37404 to help with funeral expenses.