Reverend Besse is a North American ordained minister He is the eldest of fifteen siblings. Reverend Besse grew up of the Jewish faith. His father, Aaron Saperstein, was an engineer and his mother, Rachel Cohen-Saperstein, had worked as an Interior Designer.
When Reverend Besse was around ten years old, the family moved to Jerusalem, Israel first living in the old City of Jerusalem, later they relocating to a small American Jewish community named Har Nof, where The family lived until violence had escalated between the Israelis and Palestinians. Reverend Besse's parents were very highly involved in politics in the United States and in the state of Israel. They were active in strong leftist politics, from which Reverend Besse developed his identity as a rebel in following in their footsteps.
Reverend Besse realized his sexual orientation at an early age and came out to his mother when he was sixteen years old. After graduating from High School, Reverend Besse returned to Israel to obtain his Rabbinical Degree and served as a Military Police Officer in the Israeli Defense Forces. During that time Reverend Besse developed a relationship with a fellow soldier while serving in the IDF by the name of David Bloomberg. David eventually lost his life in an intelligence raid on a small town near Ramallah a part of the Palestinian Authority. After the death of his partner, He was given honorably leave status, where then Reverend Besse continued to attended Hebrew Union College of Jerusalem Israel. After being dissatisfied with the treatment of GLBTQI youth in the Jewish Community, Reverend Besse left his position and started to visit local Christian communities in his community.
Reverend Besse has worshipped in a number of different religious communities including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church of God in Christ, and Anglican traditions. But it was the evangelical sprit of the Church of God in Christ that held his interest. Reverend Besse decided to join the Church of God in Christ community, and was later formally ordained in St. Stephens Cathedral, Church of God in Christ of San Diego, California. It was there that he took on the role as the Regional Youth Coordinator for the Southern California Area and Southern Nevada (covering the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, and all of Southern Nevada). There he devoted himself to youth work, pastoral care and preaching for the usual two years.
In 2003, upon coming out as a gay man, Reverend Besse resigned his ministerial credentials with the Church of God in Christ and began a new ministry in the Lesbian and Gay community with Metropolitan Community Church. Reverend Besse walked into MCC-LA and his life took new meaning as he recognized the various paths that God was creating for him and in doing so, discovered that God’s unconditional and all-inclusive love can exist. Reverend Besse later went on to become the founding member of the Universal Fellowship of Christ Church in 2004, and became a lightning rod for local gay organizing. In June 2009, Reverend Besse led a midnight prayer session on the steps of the federal building in Sacramento, California. Press reports at the time called it a very bold move on the part of any GLBTQ Religious leader in the history of California History, as Reverend Besse was later arrested for this matter.
Also in 2009 Reverend Besse was recognizing his role as an activist for the civil and human rights of gays and lesbians, and Interfaith Relations, and received a golden medal for his work towards the development of peace and justice. Reverend Besse has a wealth of knowledge and insight around the issues of Youth Development, Church Planting, Interfaith Relations, Evangelism, and AIDS /HIV care and concerns. Reverend Besse has been a frequent speaker at many national conferences and continues to do consulting with churches nationwide.
Reverend Besse has been a very courageous and at times a very daring leader for all members of the LGBTQ Community in America. It was in this role as a great LGBTQ leader that he was invited to the White House, to consult with President Barak Obama on his courageous “It Gets Better” video where President Obama addressed bullying and homophobic acts of fellow Americans.
Reverend Besse is currently the Chief Religious Figure of the Universal Fellowship of Christ Church, a movement he founded and to this day still heads. Since he was ordained he has pastored small, medium and large churches in Los Angeles, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Miami, Florida; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Well-known for his social activism he has been instrumental in feeding programs for the homeless, night and day shelters, safer sex initiatives, establishing relations with police and LGBTQ communities, Over the Rainbow, (a drop in center offering counseling, support and information), LGBTQ youth services, as well as challenging laws that continue discrimination and intolerance. He also served as chaplain to the Sanctuary, and Carl Bean House (both HIV/AIDS hospices), five drug and alcohol rehab houses, and Women’s Refuge. In 2009, he answered a call to ministry in Los Angeles where he served as Youth Pastor until 2010; he has also been featured in a number of journals relating to queer theology and ministry to the LGBTQ community.
As the former Associate Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Salt Lake, Reverend Besse has worked hard at building a strong community of faith that is firmly rooted in the call to be ministers in the world. He believes that God is calling us all to make a difference and to reach the world, one life at a time. Reverend Besse also serves as a representative on the board of the International Council of Churches. As a dedicated leader for church life and growth, Reverend Besse has been one of MCC’s most passionate advocates for ministry excellence.
Recently Reverend Besse was the guest speaker at Yad Vasheem, Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial event in 2011 and has been prominent in local activism especially around the International Day against Homophobia, and has made many friends in Congress and the House of Representatives. He is still to this day very involved in politics and humanitarian effort in Israel and the Middle East in general.
Reverend Besse has been vilified and called "the Devil" and "the most dangerous man in the Christian Church". In response, he repeatedly smiles with his usual joyous laugh and says, "All we can do is to love them." Also, he often says, "I think it is fascinating, that so many people would not see the idea of a loving, forgiving God as 'good news'. That is exactly what happened to Jesus. The people who did not see God that way were the ones who crucified Him." Reverend Besse says, “This journey has brought me to a place in life where my work is the perfect reflection of my passion, experience and purpose and for that, I am eternally grateful.” Reverend Raymond A. Besse is passionate about encouraging others in their faith journey and has undergone training in spiritual direction and faith accompaniment.
Reverend Besse is best known for her warm and funny style, passionate preaching and unwavering faith. His colleagues as being someone who lives simply and modestly and gives sacrificially state Reverend Besse. His deep sense of compassion tends to lead him to be a tireless advocate for those who were marginalized or left out in church and society. Reverend Besse now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with his partner Edwin Monge, Jr.
Reverend Besse currently serves as the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services. Reverend Besse was recently involved in initiatives with the Utah Pride Center, Aid for AIDS of Nevada, Las Vegas Community Outreach Medical Center, Action RED, and the Interfaith Relations Committee specializing in ex-Mormon support programs. Reverend Besse also continues to be in involved with immigration reform, Gay marriage initiatives, youth programing, homelessness services, and international AIDS/HIV concerns.