Rev. Dr. Keith Marsden, husband, father, friend, counselor, teacher, and champion for the causes of justice, passed away shortly after sunrise on Monday, June 6 at Kernersville Medical Center after holding prostate cancer at bay for more than a decade.
A memorial service will be held at College Place United Methodist Church, Greensboro, NC on Sunday July 17 at 1:30 pm in the afternoon and family will greet visitors after the service. In support of our guests who are immunocompromised we kindly ask that all please wear masks and social distance where possible.
Keith was born in Carbondale, PA on a cold December 13th in 1951 made warm by the love of his parents June Elizabeth and George Emerson Marsden and his older brother Allen. After his early years, including attending elementary school across the street from his childhood home, the family moved to Marlton, PA where Keith later attended Lenape High School. He went on to earn a B.A. from North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount and from there went on to graduate school at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., earning a Master’s of Divinity in 1976.
It was at Wesley Seminary that he met fellow student Dianne West of Winston-Salem. They married on June 18, 1977 and moved to Trenton, NJ where Dianne served in her second appointment at St. Mark United Methodist Church and Keith served his first at Broad Street Park United Methodist Church. They then moved to Binghamton, NY under new appointments with Keith serving as the Wyoming Conference Director of Camps, Conferences, and Retreats. It was here that they welcomed their first child, Gretchen Kimberly, in September of 1982. In August 1984, while Keith was serving Maplewood United Methodist Church and Dianne was minister to Lake Ariel United Methodist Church and Hamlin United Methodist Church, they welcomed their second child, Jesse West. Keith was appointed to serve Waymart United Methodist Church in 1985.
Warmer climes eventually called and the family moved to Winston-Salem in 1988, building a house on land previously part of, and now adjacent to, Dianne’s parents’ and her childhood home. Keith began working for The Children’s Home in Winston-Salem (under appointment from the Western North Carolina Conference) and eventually created and led The Aftercare Program focused on supporting older teenagers and their families as the older teenagers left their residency at The Children’s Home.
In 1998, Keith was hired as the Interim Dean of the Chapel at Greensboro College. Keith went on to become an adjunct professor in the Humanities Department at Greensboro College teaching courses including World Religions, Old and New Testament, and Psychology of Religion. In that time Keith also served as minister to Trinity Christian Church in Winston-Salem from 1999 to 2009.
Keith returned to Wesley Seminary in 2007 entering their doctoral studies program, and in 2012 Keith and Dianne moved to Pinnacle, NC. Shortly before moving, Keith was diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer. Never one to let such things interfere, he engaged in the life of Pinnacle and Mt. Zion United Methodist Churches where Dianne was on appointment, continued teaching and was well-regarded by his students and colleagues, and completed his course work and dissertation at Wesley, earning his Doctor of Ministry in 2012. His thesis focused on the spiritual challenges faced by LGBT+ youth and young adults as they come out to their families, churches, and wider communities.
In 2016 Keith published the book, The Cross in the Closet about the traumas and sometimes triumphs of the journey young LGBT+ people must embark on as they become fully themselves. Keith was deeply involved in the Pride of the Pride, the student LGBTQIA+ community on the Greensboro College campus as a Faculty Advisor, mentor, and supporter.
Keith retired from the Western North Carolina Conference in 2017 and from teaching at Greensboro College in 2019, though he remained active and connected to the campus Pride community and the students he so dearly loved and supported.
Keith had a lifelong passion for cars, especially Corvettes - owning 4 at various times during his life. He also had a deep love of music, particularly that of Neil Diamond whom he saw in concert likely more than a dozen times, most often with the whole family.
Keith is survived by his wife of almost 45 years, Dianne, and their two children Gretchen (Chuck) and Jesse (Brittany), two grandchildren Aubrey and Wylie, and by his brother Allen Marsden and his wife Beverly and their daughter Holly and fiance Jim. Keith is also survived by his loyal companion Buddy, one rambunctious and adoring beagle, and Smalls, the rather more dignified and no less loving cat.
Keith was a long time champion of the causes of peace, equity, and anti-discrimination in all forms. In honor of his life we ask that memorials be directed to the College Place United Methodist Church general fund (www.collegeplaceumc.com) or Guilford Green Foundation and LGBTQ Center’s general fund (www.guilfordgreenfoundation.org) in support of their missions for an evermore just and loving world.