Category Archives: Book Reviews

The first review is in!

Under the title, “An incredible story, an incredible resource.”

“Holmen takes on a topic much discussed but seldom told in story with such care and attention.”

“This book is nothing less than magisterial.”

“Holmen does the church an incredible service by offering this book.”

These words come from reviewer, Rev. Clint Schnekloth, on the book’s Amazon page and also on his highly popular Facebook page entitled, “ELCA Clergy” (closed group).

Ann B. Day and the first 20 years of the UCC ONA

Somerset, Massachusetts, is a working class community south of Boston. A 1970s neighborhood women’s softball team with “E R A” emblazoned across their T-shirts would prove to be far more powerful than mere athletic exploits on the field would indicate. They were not sponsored by a laundry detergent as many assumed; instead, they were feminists and supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment. The team included several women who would become major players in the LGBT movement for full inclusion: Carter Heyward, irregularly ordained as an Episcopal priest (one of the Philadelphia Eleven) and later a leading lesbian theologian; Mary Glasspool, the first lesbian to be consecrated as an Episcopal Bishop in 2010; and UCC pastor rosi olmstead (she prefers no capitals) and her partner Marnie Warner, the team manager, would pioneer the UCC Open and Affirming movement (ONA).

After the Presbyterians in 1978, the Methodists in 1982, and the Lutherans in 1983, the UCC would join the welcoming church movement in 1985. In this case, it was not the UCC that took the lead … or was it? The movement in the sister denominations was always an outsider program promoted by the various homophile organizations in critical tension with denominational policies. For the UCC, ONA would not be an extrinsic program of the Coalition–it would be an intrinsic policy of the UCC itself–though once established, it would be administered by the Coalition beginning in 1987. Marnie Warner and Pastor Ann B. Day were the delegates who shepherded a Massachusetts open and affirming resolution through the snares of General Synod in 1985. Later, the UCC LGBT advocacy group, the Coalition, provided the structure and the funding for implementation of the ONA program, and Pastor Day and her partner, Donna Enberg, became the face of the program, as well as its hands and feet.

Raised as a Southern Presbyterian and with Methodist and Lutheran family members from the Shenandoah Valley, Ann B. Day was ordained following graduation from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1978. For the next three years, she served as associate pastor at First Congregational Church UCC of Holden, a small city located in the center of Massachusetts between Boston and the Springfield/Hartford area. In 1980, her partner, Donna Enberg, entered her life, and they would later be married after Massachusetts law changed decades later.

In 1987 when the Coalition assumed responsibility for funding and administering the ONA project, Day and Enberg took over and would serve as staff and inspiration for the next twenty years; they would be much more than merely the “keepers of the list.” Under their leadership, the movement established a structure, a network of ONA churches, and a method of joining. Along the way, Day and Enberg developed resource materials, including sample resolutions, films, study packets, books, and articles.

AnnBDayMostly, Day and Enberg encouraged intentionality and articulated the rationale for joining the movement. To the oft-heard refrain, “our congregation already welcomes everybody,” Pastor Day responded that the actual experience of gays and lesbians had often been rejection, even when a congregation claimed “all are welcome,” and thus an intentional statement of affirmation was necessary to counter low expectations.

The ONA program has continued its vital ministry to the present, and currently numbers over 1,100 UCC congregations containing 275,000 members.

Melvin Wheatley: Maverick Methodist bishop

The Methodist ecclesiastical trial of Rev. Frank Schaefer has dominated the weekly news cycle. Rev. Schaefer has become the latest icon of resistance to oppressive Methodist LGBT policies after he was convicted of the heinous crime of presiding at the marriage of his gay son.  Several weeks earlier, retired Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert was the center of the news for presiding at a gay marriage in Alabama. For that, the Methodist Council of Bishops has decreed that ecclesiastical charges be brought against one of their own. I heard Bishop Talbert predict his own actions during a rousing speech outside the convention hall in Tampa that hosted the 2012 Methodist General Conference. “Biblical obedience demands ecclesiastical disobedience” he said then to a roused-up audience still smarting from legislative defeat the day before. Meanwhile, ecclesiastical charges are pending against esteemed Methodist ethicist and former dean of Yale Divinity School, Rev. Thomas Ogletree, for officiating at the legal marriage of his gay son. These three martyrs are the latest in a long line of straight allies who have incurred official Methodist wrath for daring to suggest that the emperor wears no clothes.

The first of these was Bishop Melvin Wheatley of Colorado. Bishop Wheatley was already a veteran of edgy social justice actions when he refused to assent to an onerous episcopal message (a collective statement of all Methodist bishops) at the 1980 General Conference. When the episcopal address parroted Methodist homophobia, “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” Wheatley responded, “I will not accept [this statement]. It states as an absolute fact what is an insufficiently documented opinion: that gay persons can’t be Christians.”

Earlier, he had moved into the home of Japanese Americans sent to an internment camp during WWII in order to protect the vacant home from vandals, and he also exchanged pulpits for a month with a black minister of a black congregation in Los Angeles in 1964 as racial unrest simmered, ready to boil over.

Bishop Melvin WheatleyAfter publicly voicing objection to the 1980 episcopal address, Bishop Wheatley then acted on his own words. In 1982, he ordained an open lesbian to the ministry of word and sacrament. To the best of my knowledge, Joanne Carlson Brown remains the only out gay or lesbian ordained as Methodist clergy because the 1984 General Conference reacted to her ordination by expressly prohibiting ordination of “self avowed practicing homosexuals,” and this policy remains in effect today. Of course, there are countless gay or lesbian Methodist clergy, but most are closeted and none were out at the time of their ordination.

The LGBT activism of Bishop Wheatley wasn’t finished. That same year of 1982, a gay youth pastor was outed and lost his position with a Denver area church. Bishop Wheatley then appointed Julian Rush to an inner city congregation. Though the pay was miniscule, Bishop Wheatley attempted to preserve the clerical credentials of Rush. A Methodist pastor from the south attempted to bring ecclesiastical charges against Wheatley for this appointment, and Wheatley faced sharp questioning at a hearing. He did not knuckle under, and he pointedly told the panel, “Homosexuality is a mysterious gift of God’s grace.” Charges were dropped.

A significant component of Rush’s youth ministry was as lyricist, composer, and director of religious musical drama, and his youth group often went “on the road” to perform Rush’s creations.

Here’s a sample:

Being down is like down on the ground

With nobody, no place to go;

When the big creatures push you around,

And they make you feel … Oh, I don’t know,

It’s a feeling that’s more like a pain in your heart,

And you feel like … you feel like … a worm.

Now an ant is an ant

And a worm is a worm

But an ant has to crawl

And a worm has to squirm,

So an ant shouldn’t bother

Befriending a worm

Since a worm cannot crawl

And an ant cannot squirm

We’re different and different we’ll stay,

It’s just God’s will.

It’s just God’s way.

From The Resurrection Thing by Julian Rush

 

This is the twelfth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in my soon-to-be-released book, Queer Clergy.

Here’s the list of prior posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1972 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1977 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

1974 David Bailey Sindt (founder of More Light Presbyterians)

1975 Steve Webster (organized the first gathering of gay Methodists)

1975 Dr. Louie Clay (founder of Episcopal Integrity)

1976 Chris Glaser (longtime Presbyterian activist)

1978 Loey Powell (early UCC lesbian pastor and activist)

1980 Mark Bowman (founder and leader of RMN and editor of Open Hands Magazine)

Mark Bowman: Pan-denominational leader

Reared in Ohio with a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State, Mark Bowman entered Boston University School of Theology in 1978 as a married man with two daughters, but he soon realized he was gay. He came out with exuberant self-discovery and immediately became active with Boston area gay seminarians. In 1980, he attended the national gathering of Affirmation, the renamed Methodist Gay Caucus that was then five years old. He continued in seminary and was ordained a deacon in his home conference in Ohio, but word of his involvement with Affirmation filtered back, and an official inquiry resulted in revocation of his probationary status. Though he received his M Div degree in 1982, he would never enter ordained ministry.

Instead, he became one of the iconic, pan-denominational leaders of the welcoming church movement.

More Light Presbyterians, dating to 1978, served as the model for the Methodist Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), originally called the Reconciling Congregations Project (RCP), and other denominational welcoming church organizations. Mark Bowman served on the task force that birthed the Methodist “program in which local churches will declare their support for the concerns of lesbians and gay men.” The Reconciling Congregation Project (RCP) was created in 1983, and Bowman, along with Beth Richardson, served as volunteer coordinators. The second choice for the name of the organization demonstrated a sense of humor: “Self-Avowed, Practicing Churches,” parroting the disciplinary terminology of the church

Their initial focus was simply the 1984 General Conference. Disappointment and rejection had jarred early Affirmation members, and RCP was a fall-back strategy to be implemented in anticipation of further legislative rejection. Indeed, the 1984 General Conference codified Methodist LGBT exclusion from the pulpit. Mark Bowman and his associates in the RCP were prepared; after the plenary defeats, they passed out endless flyers to conference attendees, encouraging local congregations to become reconciling congregations. After the Conference ended, two congregations signed up–Washington Square UMC in New York City and Wesley UMC in Fresno, California–and the movement that would become the Reconciling Ministries Network was off and running.

Bowman continued as volunteer leader. As the organization grew, his status changed to part time paid director and then full time. Along the way, the organizational publication, Open Hands Magazine, won awards and became a pan-denominational publication. Bowman was instrumental in arranging coordination between the various religious LGBT organizations, and he helped arrange two large ecumenical WOW Conferences (Witness our Welcome) that were held after the turn of the century.

By then, Bowman had moved on from RMN to spearhead a new project to preserve LGBT history. Bowman continues as director of the online compendium of LGBT history known as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Religious Archives Network (www.lgbtran.org).

Mark BowmanI first met Mark for lunch near his northside Chicago home in 2011. After I explained my plans for a book, he commented, “That’s a huge universe you’re exploring.” Indeed. Despite that initial skepticism, Mark has been a huge supporter, and we have met face-to-face a couple of times since, and he has fact-checked my manuscript and offered suggestions. Mark is also an accomplished church musician and when he hasn’t been busy with LGBT concerns, he has worked in other social justice ministries including Bread for the World. He is also a doting grandfather to grandkids who live nearby.

He tends to understate his own contributions, but I hope my book will out him.

 

This is the eleventh installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in my soon-to-be-released book, Queer Clergy.

Here’s the list of prior posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1972 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1977 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

1974 David Bailey Sindt (founder of More Light Presbyterians)

1975 Steve Webster (organized the first gathering of gay Methodists)

1975 Dr. Louie Clay (founder of Episcopal Integrity)

1976 Chris Glaser (longtime Presbyterian activist)

1978 Loey Powell (early UCC lesbian pastor and activist)

Lois Powell: UCC lesbian activist

“What a beautiful, heady, exasperating, hopeful mix!” the pastor exclaimed. We are “a people of risky adventure.” These are the words of the pastor of a Boston congregation in a 1975 article in the UCC’s national magazine. The Rev. Oliver G. Powell lifted up images of sauerbraten and potatoes, long draughts of dark beer, romantic poetry and Bach chorales. He talked of New England boiled dinners and baked beans, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and skylight filtering through clear, freshly-washed, church-window panes.

Later, Rev. Powell and wife Eleonore would be “people of risky adventure” who would “exemplify courageous leadership in Open and Affirming Ministry” as supporters of their daughter Lois (Loey) Powell, a lesbian ordained in 1978. Parents and daughter would each serve as highly visible leaders along the UCC journey toward full inclusion.

Loey Powell graduated from Pacific School of Religion in 1977, the same “rash and courageous” institution that had witnessed Bill Johnson’s dining-hall speech seven years earlier. Echoing her father’s “heady, exasperating, and hopeful” sentiment, Powell remembers her seminary days as filled with the exhilaration of movement politics. She had come out early in her seminary life, and fondly remembers the bay area UCC gay caucus that gathered for monthly potlucks and nationally at UCC General Synods: “incredibly spirit-filled worship, doing the justice-making work of advocacy, being there for those who were wondering about their sexuality.” Like the sun piercing the fog over San Francisco Bay, feminism, liberation theology, and gay rights burned through the timbered halls of the seminary. And it wasn’t just the seminary. The Northern California Conference of the UCC was in the vanguard of hope, alive with possibilities.

Powell was ordained with two other lesbian classmates, but they were not officially out to the candidacy committee although they were out to friends and the seminary community. Thus, the status of first open lesbian to be ordained in the UCC falls to Rev. Ann Holmes in 1982. Nevertheless, as the daughter of an esteemed elder, Loey Powell immediately became the “poster lesbian” of the UCC.  By the end of the decade, she served as co-coordinator with Rev. Bill Johnson as the UCC Coalition grew in size and status.

Lois PowellHowever, it took a number of years before a traditional congregation took a chance on calling her to pastoral ministry. Then a breakthrough in 1989. For the first time in any ecumenical denomination, an openly gay clergyperson was called as sole pastor to a traditional ministry through the normal call process. Pastor Powell would remain at United Church of Tallahassee for seven fruitful years of ministry before accepting a position in the UCC home office in Cleveland, where she has continued to serve, most recently on the Justice and Witness Ministry Team as Executive for Administration.

 

This is the tenth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in my soon-to-be-released book, Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1972 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1977 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

1974 David Bailey Sindt (founder of More Light Presbyterians)

1975 Steve Webster (organized the first gathering of gay Methodists)

1975 Dr. Louie Clay (founder of Episcopal Integrity)

1976 Chris Glaser (longtime Presbyterian activist)

Chris Glaser: Presbyterian and pan-denominational leader

At the 1976 Presbyterian General Assembly, More Light Presbyterian founder David Bailey Sindt was joined by others, including seminarians Bill Silver and Chris Glaser. In fact, Silver’s candidacy for ordination through the New York Presbytery was on the agenda because the presbytery was uncertain how to respond to his ordination request, and they kicked it upstairs to the General Assembly for “definitive guidance.” The assembly responded by creating a task force to study, solicit churchwide input, and report back. Openly gay seminarian Chris Glaser was appointed to the task force.

The public hearings across the country were tedious at best and homophobic at worst, and Glaser later wrote.

Yet many of us on the task force found the hearings frustrating: we had already learned so much that we found ourselves astounded and exasperated by the ignorance of the majority of those who testified … Many attacked us for being on the task force, questioning our own morals, character, and judgment … Our faith and our intelligence were offended as person after person used their time (and ours) to read from a dusty Bible its handful of verses presumed to be about homosexuality–as if we hadn’t heard them before, as if we couldn’t recite them verbatim!

After more than a year of study and dialogue, it was time to prepare a report to be submitted to the 1978 General Assembly for consideration and action. Fourteen members supported an inclusive majority report

May a self-affirming, practicing homosexual Christian be ordained? We believe so, if the person manifests such gifts as are required for ordination …

Five dissenters supported a restrictive minority report:

That no possibility for the ordination of a self-affirming, practicing homosexual person should be granted …

When the report became public, conservative opposition mobilized and when General Assembly 1978 rolled around, they were ready. The majority report was quickly rejected, and the commissioners (delegates) went beyond the minority report, adopting a resolution with a 90% majority stating,

“homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity” [and] “unrepentant homosexual practice does not accord with the requirements for ordination.”

This resolution would control Presbyterian policy for a generation.

Chris GlaserGlaser’s path to Presbyterian ordination had encountered an insurmountable roadblock. He diverted into non-ordained ministry. He founded and directed The Lazarus Project, an LGBT ministry in Los Angeles. He remained an active leader of More Light Presbyterians and contributed as editor and writer for More Light Update and later, Open Hands Magazine, an award-winning pan-denominational publication. He also penned numerous books; to date, a dozen have been published. Finally, in 2005 he was ordained, but through the Metropolitan Community Churches rather than the Presbyterian Church.

Rev. Glaser continues to write, speak, and lead workshops and retreats, and his latest offerings can be found here. Chris has also been an invaluable source and fact checker for my own work, and his endorsement will appear on the book’s back cover:

Queer Clergy is a comprehensive, carefully documented, and highly readable account of a movement that transformed mainline Protestant denominations into more welcoming spiritual communities for LGBT Christians. There is still much work to do, but Holmen’s well-written history reminds us of our basis for hope.

This is the ninth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in my soon-to-be-released book, Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1972 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1977 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

1974 David Bailey Sindt (founder of More Light Presbyterians)

1975 Steve Webster (organized the first gathering of gay Methodists)

1975 Dr. Louie Clay (founder of Episcopal Integrity)

Ellen Marie Barrett: Ordained as an Episcopal Priest in 1977

Ellen Marie BarrettIn 1970, the Episcopal General Convention authorized diaconal ordination for women, a non-sacerdotal role. Two years later, Bishop Paul Moore, Jr., of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, interviewed Ellen Marie Barrett, an early female candidate for ordination to the diaconate.

I asked her to sit down on the sofa across from the wing chair where I usually sit when someone comes to see me. Ellen is tall, with dark brown hair conservatively styled. She, like many tall people, stoops a little as she walks. Her most arresting feature is her eyes, which appear honest, deep, and welcoming … In conversation, she seems rather soft, until the discussion finds its way into an area of faith or conviction. Then you strike rock.

Though the progressive bishop was impressed with Barrett, he did not recommend her for ordination to the diaconate because she was an out lesbian. Barrett attended seminary. When she finished in 1975, she again asked Bishop Moore to approve her for ordination to the diaconate. He relented, and she was ordained a deacon in December, 1975 before a few church ladies, a few students, and her proud Southern mother. The ordination barely disturbed the church mice even though Barrett had been elected co-president of Integrity, an Episcopal LGBT advocacy group, at its inaugural national meeting earlier that year.

The following summer, the Episcopal General Convention went further; church canons were revised to allow women to be ordained to the priesthood, and many lined up for ordination when the policy would become effective in January, 1977. Deacon Barrett was among the hopeful women, but she and Bishop Moore weren’t prepared for the firestorm that awaited them. TV networks were there for her January ordination, which was a Time Magazine feature story.

The bishop and the lesbian priest were hounded mercilessly with calls, letters, and rejection. The last years of the decade of the seventies degenerated into the “height of homophobia” within the Episcopal Church. Barrett didn’t have a comfortable career and faced crushing depression. Eventually, she joined the Order of St. Benedict as Sister Bernadette.

Sister BernadetteIn researching her story, I located her in the Diocese of Newark, and I asked her to comment. Months passed, and I heard nothing. Then, a long email arrived. With Sister Bernadette’s permission, the entire email appears as a poignant coda to the Episcopal section of my book.

Here’s a snippet:

 

Would I do it again? Knowing what I know now? That’s not a question that can possibly have an answer. Today is a very different time. I have no idea whether God would have moulded my combination of weakness, pig-headedness, and some talent into what another time would need. I was what I was, and I did what I did, in the context of a particular time and socio-political climate.

Am I still convinced it was the right thing to do? Yes. Done the right way by the right person? Who knows? It is what it is. And priesthood is as much a part of me as green eyes and once black hair turning white.

I am a priest forever. That’s all.

 

This is the fourth installment in the series Cast of characters countdown. I will continue to post biographical notes about the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in Queer Clergy. Here’s the list of prior posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1970 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1972 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

1974 David Bailey Sindt (founder of More Light Presbyterians)

William R. Johnson: 1972 Gay Ordination

The Christopher Street Liberation Day parade from Greenwich Village to Central Park on June 28, 1970 was peaceful. Though police turned their backs on the marchers, they honored their parade permit.

Across the nation in San Francisco, police were less respectful at a much smaller event that same day, consisting of a couple of hundred queers at a ”Gay In” at Golden Gate park; police arrested several of the participants. San Francisco was years away from its later reputation as an LGBT friendly city.

Five years earlier, on New Year’s eve 1965, San Francisco police had broken promises made to the clergy organizers of a ball sponsored by the Council on Religion and Homosexuality. When police attempted to crash the ball, the word went out to the clergy organizers: “Get down here and wear your collar.” Lutheran pastor Chuck Lewis kept flash bulbs popping, and his assistant, Jo Chadwick, stuffed his film negatives in her bra to prevent the police from confiscating the photos. At a later press conference, clergy offered the “cloak of the cloth” moral authority, and the eyes of the nation witnessed the reality of police harassment of the gay community.

Five months after the arrests at the “Gay In” at Golden Gate Park, another historic event would quietly unfold across the Bay. Sitting atop “Holy Hill,” the neo-Gothic structures of the Pacific School of Religion (PSR) stand in stately vigil over San Francisco Bay across from the Golden Gate bridge. The stone and timber halls of PSR had long witnessed Christian activism. Founded by Yankee congregationalists from the east in 1866, the seminary prided itself on a “courage born of rashness.”

Young Bill JohnsonFour hundred students and others attended a homosexuality symposium in the seminary dining hall on November 11, 1970. When someone made an incendiary comment about gays, a young seminarian found himself rising to speak. His spontaneous comment changed his life and the course of church history.

I am not a faggot, I am not a queer, I am not a fairy–but I am a practicing homosexual. And I can say that with joy–it is an affirmation which I make with pride.

Despite his impromptu “coming out” and over the objections of the seminary president, William R. Johnson continued in seminary and the Golden Gate Association of the United Church of Christ (UCC) ordained him to the ministry in June 1972 around the third anniversary of Stonewall. The UCC had accomplished another historic “first”—the first ordination of an out gay man by any traditional Christian denomination.

Thus began a distinguished career as the pastor to countless gay Christians, including many closeted clergy, and as the pan-denominational prophetic leader of the movement toward full inclusion. Rev. Johnson served as inspiration and strategist for the fledgling LGBT advocacy organizations that appeared in Protestant denominations during the 1970s, including as founder and first leader of what came to be known as the UCC Coalition. Later, he served for many years in the UCC home office.

Pastor Johnson has only recently retired. Elmhurst College, his alma mater, has honored him with an annual lecture series in his name. Pastor Johnson has also been a fact-checking source and supporter during my compilation of Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism. William Johnson

He offers this endorsement of the book:

“I have always known that this historical overview of the religious LGBT movement was needed not only to tell our movement stories to the masses but to make same-gender loving people aware of a significant but often overlooked part of their own history. This is a significant work by justice ally Obie Holmen — a singular contribution toward the full inclusion of LGBT people within Christian community and society. Many will be surprised by the breadth and depth of the movement in the Church.”

Where to buy the book

Print copies are available from Amazonthe publisherBarnes and NobleCokesbury, or an autographed copy straight from me. Amazon offers it in digital, eBook format for Kindle, and Barnes and Noble offers it for Nook. For iPad or other Apple users, you may order through the iTunes bookstore. Search on RW Holmen.

This post is part of the series Cast of characters, which are biographical snippets and summaries of the stories of the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in Queer ClergyAs with all these posts, this is merely a summary of the full story, which is woven into an overarching narrative in the book. Here’s the full list of these posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1972 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

1974 David Bailey Sindt (founder of More Light Presbyterians)

1975 Steve Webster (organized the first gathering of gay Methodists)

1975 Dr. Louie Clay (founder of Episcopal Integrity)

1976 Chris Glaser (longtime Presbyterian activist)

1977 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1978 Loey Powell (early UCC lesbian pastor and activist)

1980 Mark Bowman (founder and leader of RMN and editor of Open Hands Magazine)

1982 Melvin Wheatley (Methodist bishop and straight ally)

1987 Ann B. Day (Led the UCC ONA for twenty years)

1990 Jeff Johnson, Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart (Extraordinarily ordained Lutherans)

1990 John Shelby Spong (leading straight ally in the Episcopal House of Bishops)

1992 Janie Spahr (Presbyterian leader of “That All May Freely Serve”)

1994 Ross Merkel (defrocked Lutheran allowed to remain on call with a “wink-and-a-nod” from his bishop)

1996 Walter Righter (Episcopal Bishop whose heresy trial opened the door for queer clergy)

2000 Jimmy Creech, Greg Dell, Joseph Sprague, and Jack Tuell (Methodist trials to punish clergy who performed covenant services for same-gender couples)

2001 Anita Hill (extraordinarily ordained Lutheran)

2003 Gene Robinson (gay bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire)

2004 Karen Dammann and Beth Stroud (Methodist clergy put on trial for being lesbians)

2007 Bradley Schmeling and Darin Easler (defrocked Lutheran clergy who were the first to be reinstated)

2011 Scott Anderson (first gay Presbyterian to be ordained following policy change)

2011 Amy DeLong (out, partnered Methodist minister on trial)

2012 R. Guy Erwin (gay professor elected as ELCA bishop)

Robert Mary Clement: Gay archbishop

On a June summer’s evening in 1969, a gay Catholic priest and his partner heard a disturbance a few blocks away from their Greenwich Village home. It seems a routine police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, had gone awry, and the queers didn’t go quietly. Riots continued for the next couple of days, and the gay liberation movement was born.

First gay pride marchA year later, the priest and his partner prepared to participate in a parade to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. A light beamed from the Oscar Wilde bookstore, and as if drawn by a beacon, a few faceless strangers shuffled out of the shadows to gather in awkward silence. By the time the sun first peeked over Brooklyn across the East River, a crowd of hundreds milled about the bookstore that had become the de facto headquarters for the audacious planners of Christopher Street Liberation Day to celebrate the first anniversary of Stonewall. At the time, they didn’t realize they would make history in the first Gay Pride march.

Father Robert Mary Clement, a priest associated with Old Catholicism, a non-Roman spinoff, donned his priestly garb, like he did every Sunday, while his partner prepared a placard and orange flyers that they would distribute at the parade. Father Clement’s presence in the parade garnered much attention, especially by the press and the picture-takers, second only to the drag queens; after all, he marched as an openly-gay priest, in collar and cassock, carrying the banner, “Gay People This Is Your Church.” Meanwhile, his partner distributed their colored fliers inviting queers to attend The Church of the Beloved Disciple.

A few weeks later, the tiny congregation of the Church of the Beloved Disciple paid more than they could afford to rent the spacious sanctuary of Holy Apostles Episcopal church in lower Manhattan, but as the time drew near for the Sunday afternoon service, it appeared that their invitation to the Christopher Street marchers would go unheeded. Father Clement peeked out from the sacristy fifteen minutes before the start and there was no one there, but then:

Two o’clock, we opened the side sacristy door for our procession. We couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t just that every seat in the church was filled, the aisles were packed. That church, which would hold maybe six hundred plus in a squeeze, had over eight hundred people in it, and we don’t know how many people were turned away that day who couldn’t get in.

Because we had all the Protestants, the Orthodox, the Catholics. And on top of it all, you had, the most incredible thing, we had Jewish people, a lot of them. Because they wanted a home. Even though it was Christian, people were seeking God, they were seeking a relationship to the divine, and they would come to us because everyone else had rejected or turned them away. They had nowhere to go. [emphasis added]

Archbishop Robert Clement

In the early years of the decade of the ‘70s, the Church of the Beloved Disciple would be a safe haven for gays and lesbians of lower Manhattan. Father Clement and his partner would later relocate to California where Father Clement  became an archbishop for an independent Catholic group, and he has remained active in the interfaith LGBT movement on the west coast.

Where to buy the book

Print copies are available from Amazonthe publisherBarnes and NobleCokesbury, or an autographed copy straight from me. Amazon offers it in digital, eBook format for Kindle, and Barnes and Noble offers it for Nook. For iPad or other Apple users, you may order through the iTunes bookstore. Search on RW Holmen.

This post is part of the series Cast of characters, which are biographical snippets and summaries of the stories of the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in Queer ClergyAs with all these posts, this is merely a summary of the full story, which is woven into an overarching narrative in the book. Here’s the full list of these posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1972 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

1974 David Bailey Sindt (founder of More Light Presbyterians)

1975 Steve Webster (organized the first gathering of gay Methodists)

1975 Dr. Louie Clay (founder of Episcopal Integrity)

1976 Chris Glaser (longtime Presbyterian activist)

1977 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1978 Loey Powell (early UCC lesbian pastor and activist)

1980 Mark Bowman (founder and leader of RMN and editor of Open Hands Magazine)

1982 Melvin Wheatley (Methodist bishop and straight ally)

1987 Ann B. Day (Led the UCC ONA for twenty years)

1990 Jeff Johnson, Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart (Extraordinarily ordained Lutherans)

1990 John Shelby Spong (leading straight ally in the Episcopal House of Bishops)

1992 Janie Spahr (Presbyterian leader of “That All May Freely Serve”)

1994 Ross Merkel (defrocked Lutheran allowed to remain on call with a “wink-and-a-nod” from his bishop)

1996 Walter Righter (Episcopal Bishop whose heresy trial opened the door for queer clergy)

2000 Jimmy Creech, Greg Dell, Joseph Sprague, and Jack Tuell (Methodist trials to punish clergy who performed covenant services for same-gender couples)

2001 Anita Hill (extraordinarily ordained Lutheran)

2003 Gene Robinson (gay bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire)

2004 Karen Dammann and Beth Stroud (Methodist clergy put on trial for being lesbians)

2007 Bradley Schmeling and Darin Easler (defrocked Lutheran clergy who were the first to be reinstated)

2011 Scott Anderson (first gay Presbyterian to be ordained following policy change)

2011 Amy DeLong (out, partnered Methodist minister on trial)

2012 R. Guy Erwin (gay professor elected as ELCA bishop)

Troy Perry: Founder of MCC

Months BEFORE Stonewall, outed Pentecostal pastor Troy Perry invited the gay community of Los Angeles to a worship service, and the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) was born. This is a brief account of his story.

Troy Perry was born to a family of bootleggers in the Florida panhandle, and he exhibited a youthful bent toward preaching. Perry became a Baptist preacher at age 15, married a preacher’s daughter at age 19 with whom he fathered two children, and was assigned as pastor to a Pentecostal Church in Santa Ana, California at age 22. Six years later he attempted suicide after he had been defrocked and divorced, and then life got interesting.

Troy Perry activistIn October 1968, 8 months before the Stonewall riots of Greenwich Village marked the birth of the gay liberation movement, Perry held a worship service in his Los Angeles home for members of his gay community. Twelve persons dared to show up. They sang. They read Scripture. They prayed. Perry preached. They shed tears as they shared bread and wine.

That was the first worship service of what became the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) movement with hundreds of predominantly gay congregations popping up around the country and around the world in what would become the first welcoming church for gays and lesbians at a time that the rest of Christendom, including the mainline, Protestant denominations, remained hostile.

Elder Troy PerryIn the early years, the MCC survived several arsonist fires, including a horrendous tragedy in New Orleans that claimed the lives of 32 persons. By the time of Perry’s retirement in 2005, the MCC had grown to over 250 congregations in 26 countries with 43,000 members.

Of course, the book goes into greater detail.

Where to buy the book

Print copies are available from Amazonthe publisherBarnes and NobleCokesbury, or an autographed copy straight from me. Amazon offers it in digital, eBook format for Kindle, and Barnes and Noble offers it for Nook. For iPad or other Apple users, you may order through the iTunes bookstore. Search on RW Holmen.

This post is part of the series Cast of characters, which are biographical snippets and summaries of the stories of the iconic pilgrims and prophets on the road to full inclusion who are featured prominently in Queer ClergyAs with all these posts, this is merely a summary of the full story, which is woven into an overarching narrative in the book. Here’s the full list of these posts:

1968 Troy Perry (founder of the MCC)

1970 Robert Mary Clement (gay priest who marched in the first Gay Pride parade)

1972 William Johnson (first out gay man to be ordained by a traditional denomination)

1974 James Siefkes (Lutheran pastor behind the formation of Lutherans Concerned)

1974 David Bailey Sindt (founder of More Light Presbyterians)

1975 Steve Webster (organized the first gathering of gay Methodists)

1975 Dr. Louie Clay (founder of Episcopal Integrity)

1976 Chris Glaser (longtime Presbyterian activist)

1977 Ellen Marie Barrett (first out lesbian ordained to the Episcopal priesthood)

1978 Loey Powell (early UCC lesbian pastor and activist)

1980 Mark Bowman (founder and leader of RMN and editor of Open Hands Magazine)

1982 Melvin Wheatley (Methodist bishop and straight ally)

1987 Ann B. Day (Led the UCC ONA for twenty years)

1990 Jeff Johnson, Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart (Extraordinarily ordained Lutherans)

1990 John Shelby Spong (leading straight ally in the Episcopal House of Bishops)

1992 Janie Spahr (Presbyterian leader of “That All May Freely Serve”)

1994 Ross Merkel (defrocked Lutheran allowed to remain on call with a “wink-and-a-nod” from his bishop)

1996 Walter Righter (Episcopal Bishop whose heresy trial opened the door for queer clergy)

2000 Jimmy Creech, Greg Dell, Joseph Sprague, and Jack Tuell (Methodist trials to punish clergy who performed covenant services for same-gender couples)

2001 Anita Hill (extraordinarily ordained Lutheran)

2003 Gene Robinson (gay bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire)

2004 Karen Dammann and Beth Stroud (Methodist clergy put on trial for being lesbians)

2007 Bradley Schmeling and Darin Easler (defrocked Lutheran clergy who were the first to be reinstated)

2011 Scott Anderson (first gay Presbyterian to be ordained following policy change)

2011 Amy DeLong (out, partnered Methodist minister on trial)

2012 R. Guy Erwin (gay professor elected as ELCA bishop)