Melissa Harris, lead pastor/FOUNDER
HOW ONE EVOLVED // For over a decade, Melissa Harris was at the helm of a successful “mainstream” national and international evangelical ministry based out of Branson, MO. From her 20’s-30’s she found herself as a “golden child” preaching to crowds of thousands with the leaders and televangelists of the charismatic faith community all over the world, launching programs, food banks and social programs for the poorly resourced, homeless and addicted populations…until she came out of the closet. For many years, she touched countless lives, launching feeding programs, holiday outreaches that gave gifts and food to well over 14,000 people, and leading humanitarian trips into Mexico.
As she “came out” and the news of her sexuality spread, she was removed from leadership and relationship in mainstream Christianity. Melissa was instantly banned from conferences, stages and boardrooms—and even prevented from physically entering her own church. Leaders thought that being gay was akin to an “evil spirit” that could be transmitted to others, even through contact with her, and so friendship…and love…were wrongly justified by Scripture, and completely cut off. Now on the other side of the pew, she found herself the subject of hateful phone calls, blogs and sermons. One day, as a result of rejection and religious discrimination, she parked in a grocery store parking lot and ingested a whole bottle of strong painkillers, waiting to die. Fortunately, someone found her unconscious in the car, and she was rushed to the Emergency Department. After a recovery in the Cardiac ICU, and a bit of help from psychologists who helped her rediscover her worth, she began to regain her footing.
Despite the marginalization and rejection, Melissa moved to NW Arkansas to make a fresh start, eventually marrying her sweetheart Deanna. During the past couple of years, the vision for the fully inclusive ONE Fayetteville Movement was born. Melissa now explores the intersection between spirituality and sexuality as she addresses audiences all over the nation about the inherent and divine value, worth and dignity of the LGBTQ+ individual.
The launch of the ONE ministry is groundbreaking for the Ozarks and the Mid-South. It is transcending denominational barriers based on ethnicity, nationality, sexuality or gender identity. Barriers that have traditionally excluded queer community members from feeling comfortable in worship spaces. Prior to the start of ONE Fayetteville, the majority of reconciling/affirming ministry took place within the framework of “outreach efforts” by local evangelical churches filled with heterosexual members. From the inception of this work, Melissa has been organizing and incubating a totally inclusive movement BY the LGBTQ+ community…FOR the Christian LGBTQ+/ally community. She is a champion of the controversial message that the queer individual is a spiritual being, destined to make a broader world impact, and these individuals are still loved by God.
Her mission is revolutionary in that it aims to provide Christ-centered safe worship spaces all over the USA, in order to dignify and empower a traditionally disenfranchised population. ONE endeavors to mobilize the queer community to advance social justice initiatives and further spiritual equality through community partnerships. Melissa envisions a nation where healthy conversational bridges are built between LGBTQ+ people and mainstream religious communities. She is now sought after to teach in local denominational churches, schools and social organizations on inclusion of the LGBTQ+ person.
Prior to banishment by the patriarchal church, Melissa was one of the rising voices of her generation, being nominated for Missouri First Lady's Award and CNN Heroes, and also receiving an honor for Cambridge's 30 under 30 publication. Many thought her impact would be stifled after they barred her from the steepled country clubs. But Melissa’s message of radical inclusion, affirmation, love and acceptance is penetrating even to conservative audiences, garnering corporate support, and resonating with progressives and Millennials everywhere as she advocates for spiritual equality in a historically conservative nation.
THE BIO // Pastor Melissa was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at a young age, began to sense the calling of God on her life to reach out to others with the power of His redeeming love. After returning from Rhema Bible College, she served in San Francisco shelters and soup kitchens, taught in a successful residential women's recovery bible study program, and served as a leader in youth and singles ministry.
She has seen many men and women who were chemically addicted, involved in prostitution, domestic violence, and other sources of trauma, set free by the working of the Holy Spirit. Under her ministry, many have went on to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, become leaders in their churches and restored into their families.
Melissa has grown in her calling under many well- known and anointed generals of our faith. Before she began traveling to minister internationally, she served as Founding Pastor of Supernatural Life Church in Branson and the HopeCenter Community Outreach. She has traveled across the country and around the globe, teaching a relevant gospel, leading worship, speaking as a keynote at churches and conferences, revivals and youth meetings. Melissa also was chosen to serve on the Board of Directors for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). The NHCLC is currently the largest and most politically influential Latino Christian organization in America. Additionally, God has blessed her with the national honor of being listed in the 2009 Cambridge Edition of "Who's Who among Influential Young Americans." She has also been recognized during the Missouri First Lady Awards Ceremony for "Women Making an Impact on Missouri."
During her travels, she noticed that there were some glaring inequities within mainstream evangelical religion. As she accepted and affirmed her own sexuality, her passion was fueled to advocate for spiritual equality + social justice, and so she began to add LGBTQ affirming churches and ministries to her itinerary. One very sunny (and hot) day in Palm Springs, she saw Deanna (or Deanna saw her), and her whole world changed for the better. They got married, and the beginnings of the ONE movement were born. Her hope and prayer is to see the love of Jesus permeate the earth, starting with every person and every space in Northwest Arkansas. Her dream is to help facilitate the dialogue around unity + inclusive Christianity, and one day witness the Razorbacks win a SEC football championship.
MOST importantly, Melissa is all about sharing the radical love of God with people everywhere. When she is not doing life and ministry alongside the people she loves, you can probably find her eating Chinese food or daydreaming about Cancun.