I have several writing projects underway. I recently posted about Prowl, a compilation of five short stories based upon my Vietnam experience. I have also been working on a sequel to A Wretched Man. Third, last spring I started work on a non-fiction piece, tentatively titled Gays in the Pulpit, which will be a forty-year retrospective on the gay rights movement within the church. Now that we are settled into our new digs in Arlington Heights, I have again picked up that project in earnest.
I am personally acquainted with many of the more recent heroes of the push for full inclusion including Lutherans Anita Hill, Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart, and Emily Eastwood; United Methodist Amy Delong; and Presbyterian Scott Anderson. If you click on their names, you will link to prior blog posts about these individuals.
My current research is also introducing me to earlier heroes. In 1968, Troy Perry was a gay Baptist/Pentecostal preacher who founded the Metropolitan Community Church, which now numbers over 250 predominantly gay congregations internationally. Father Robert Mary Clement was a gay priest who marched in the first gay pride parade in Greenwich Village and whose Beloved Disciple Church ministered to the gay community of New York City in the early ‘70s. Bill Johnson was the first openly gay man ordained by an established denomination way back in 1972 by the United Church of Christ. Ellen Barrett was the first out lesbian to become an Episcopal priest in 1977.
As I am reviewing the data from these early days, I have received invaluable assistance from Rev. Clyde Steckel, retired dean of the United Seminary of the Twin Cities. Rev. Steckel was witness to and participant in the UCC steps toward gay inclusion in the ‘70s. The record in the UCC is striking because they were so far ahead of the other mainline denominations. The UCC accomplishments in the 1970s foreshadowed the actions of the Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists a full generation later.
More to come.