This gay, tatted up, body-building priest is living his authentic life on Instagram

This gay, tatted up, body-building priest is living his authentic life on Instagram

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Gay priest Ethan Alexander Jewett
Father Ethan Alexander Jewett (Photo: Supplied)

A tattooed, gym-loving, out-gay pastor has gone viral with his Instagram postings.

Father Ethan Alexander Jewett (@jackedpriest) is an episcopal priest based in Pennsylvania. The episcopal church is well-known for being one of the more progressive and accepting Christian denominations. It was the first major denomination to promote an openly gay priest to the level of bishop: Gene Robinson in 2003.

However, even by the standards of the episcopal church, Father Ethan pushes the envelope. It’s something he’s aware of. Ultimately, he wants to live an “authentic life”, even if it ends up causing waves.

The recent video below has received over 2million views on Instagram.

He says the church takes up around a quarter of his working week (“mainly Sundays and some meetings during the week”). For the rest of the time, he works as the CEO of a non-profit.


Jewett, 52, grew up in Tampa, Florida. He finished High School and attended college in Michigan, before going to grad school in Chicago.

“I grew up Jewish, actually,” he says via a video call. “My stepfather was Jewish. I wanted to be a rabbi growing up but I wandered away from Judaism in my mid-teens. I wandered away from religion for about 15 years and came back in my early 30s.”

Jewett says says he was drawn to the episcopal church because of its progressive stance.

“I ended up finding a small suburban episcopal church [in Chicago] five minutes from where I work. This would have been in 2004. And then I just hit the ground running. It was a very nurturing place and the priest encouraged me to look at ordination.

And what about bodybuilding?

“Growing up, I was really bullied for being gay,” Jewett recalls. “I was small, skinny, effeminate. Bullied at home and at school.”

He discovered bodybuilding at college.

“I walked into the college weight room and was like, here’s a sport where I don’t have to worry about being picked on for being bad at it, or not knowing the rules. I can be self-directed and set my own goals.

“It just became really addictive. I really enjoyed it. It was very affirming. Something that I did for myself. I didn’t have to rely on other people’s judgments or standards. And so, I just started doing that when I was 18 and now I’m 52. It’s been my constant companion.”

Father Ethan Alexander Jewett
Father Ethan Alexander Jewett (Photo: Supplied)

Ministering via Instagram

Jewett went to Chicago Theological Seminary, which is known to be progressive (“It has a lot of queer seminarians” says Jewett). He graduated and was ordained in 2012.

He says that he tried holding back on his social media (he asked Queerty not to publish the name of his particular parish to minimize the chances of inviting a backlash). At the same time, Jewett believes it’s important the wider church promotes its message of love and acceptance.

“Don’t say you want queer people in the church and then be scandalized when queer people come to the church. When you have leather daddies and people in polyamorous relationships. You can’t just have human-rights-campaign gays. They’re lovely people, but the gay community is, by definition, sexualized. There are kink communities and other subcultures.

“If you’re going to invite them you better be prepared to accept all of them on their own terms, and not demand they conform to heteronormative standards.”

Sliding into his DMs

Predictably, Jewett sometimes receives negative comments online. How does he deal with those?

“Mostly I just block people,” Jewett shrugs. He also deletes the comments. “Because I’m not going to give you any of my real estate to spew hate. Not on my account. I’m the boss. Daddy gets to decide. And one of the reasons I delete their comments is I don’t want other queer people to see that negativity. It’s not good for them to see that.”

Father Ethan Alexander Jewett
Father Ethan Alexander Jewett (Photo: Supplied)

Then there’s the other type of attention he receives: guys sliding into his DMs.

“I’m just very clear about my boundaries,” he says when asked about this. “Like, just because I’m shirtless on Instagram, it doesn’t mean I’m looking for a hook-up. This is Instagram, not Grindr.

“But I always tell them I’m not offended. I know gay men: I am a gay man. I know this comes with the territory. And that’s OK. I just tell them what my boundaries are and people are generally respectful about that.”

“The other thing I get a lot is people who want to date me, not because they know me, but because I think they’re really lonely.

“They’re in a country where they just have no opportunity to date, to romance, to have sex. They’re really just reaching out to anyone to have a connection with. I feel a lot of empathy for them. I can’t imagine being in a place where you are so isolated that you are so devoid of any affection or affirmation. That’s got to be awful.”

Many such men only receive condemnation from their religion over their sexuality. Father Jewett is likely the first church figure to offer them an affirming message.


In his own life, Jewett is happily partnered. He’s been with his boyfriend for 3.5 years. The episcopal church does not demand celibacy of its priests and conducts same-sex marriages.

“We met in church, actually,” he says of his partner. “He was the Vestry. So he was a lay leader of his congregation, and the bishop sent me and some other clergy to help that leadership team figure out how they wanted to renovate their ministry in the neighborhood, which was the gayborhood in Chicago, Boystown.

“So I went there. I was not single at the time,” Jewett recalls. “But I remember thinking he was so my type. Then he reached out a couple of years after on my Instagram and said, ‘Hey, don’t know if you remembered me but … would you like to hang out sometime?’

Jewett did not remember him. However, he was on the lookout for new friends and said it would be great to meet.

“And he was so mad at me for not remembering him! He said, ‘We had whole conversations, how do you not remember me?’

“I was like, ‘Look, I compartmentalize … I think to myself “I’m not available, he is not for you, just block him out of your awareness”.’ But he will not forgive me for that to this day,” Jewett recalls, laughing. “And I don’t blame him.”

Follow Father Ethan at @jackedpriest.


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