Tag Archives: gay clergy

Bishop Otis Charles, Out Gay Bishop

b. April 24, 1926

Bishop Charles was the first openly gay bishop in any Christian denomination.

From LGBT Religious Archives:

Since 1979 he has been among a growing number of bishops who have spoken out for full and complete inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church without restriction, recognizing their calling to ministry and rejecting the notion that a baptized homosexual must live a celibate life. In 1980, he was the recipient of the national Integrity Award. He is represented in Out in the Workplace: Gay and Lesbian Professionals Tell Their Stories.
Upon his retirement in 1993, Charles publicly announced his homosexuality, becoming the first openly gay bishop of any Christian denomination. That September he sent an epistle to his colleagues in the House of Bishops that said, in part: “I have promised myself that I will not remain silent, invisible, unknown. After all is said and done, the choice for me is not whether or not I am a gay, but whether or not I am honest about who I am with myself and others. It is a choice to take down the wall of silence I have built around an important and vital part of my life, to end the separation and isolation I have imposed on myself all these years.”
John McNeil, former Jesuit and author of Freedom, Glorious Freedom speaks of Bishop Charles’ coming out as “an extraordinary example (of the) public exposure… required… to… provide an image… of what it is to be mature as Christian and as gay” (pp.82-83). In Last Watch of the Night, Paul Monette wrote of Bishop Charles’ coming out as “an important moment in gay and lesbian history, and a ringing challenge to the status quo of invisibility” (p. 304).
The Sunday edition of the New York Times (October 10, 1993) as well as both gay and straight press around the country reported the bishop’s action. Boston’s Bay Windows editorialized: “the news of a 67 year old bishop coming out of the closet is something at which to marvel. Charles puts it less grandly, however, saying simply that it was a matter of integrity.”
After making his public witness Bishop Charles, who appreciates being addressed by his baptismal name, Otis, has welcomed the opportunity to share his story. Whether in an informal gathering or the pulpit, he characteristically begins, “I am a gay man, an Episcopal (Anglican) bishop, a queer who only just mustered the courage to publicly acknowledge the truth of my life.”
Charles has continued as an active and voting member of the Episcopal House of Bishops taking many stands on behalf of his community. In 1995, Charles co-founded Oasis/California, the Bay Area Episcopal Lesbian and Gay ministry. In 1998, Charles was appointed Interim Dean of the School for Deacons serving northern California. During this time he also served as  Bishop-in-residence at the Church of St. John-the-Evangelist in San Francisco and a founding editor of Millennium3, an on-line and print publication distributed to all 13,600 Episcopal clergy. He was an Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of California until 2004.
Charles is currently working on his memoirs and editing a collection of personal reflections on the contribution of entheogens as an opening to mystical experience. Since 1993 he has been a resident of San Francisco where he lives with his partner, Felipe Sanchez Paris.
(This biographical statement provided by Otis Charles.)

Ellen Marie Barrett, Episcopal priest.

b.  February 10, 1946

If the Church is to be a house of prayer for all people, then gay people belong in it, too. And if love is what the church is all about – and it says it is – then indisputably I belong in there, too, because my way of living is a way of loving,

The Rev. Ellen M. Barrett, an Episcopal priest and monastic, was the first openly gay person and one of the    earliest women to be ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. She was born on February 10, 1946 in Lawrence, Kansas where she was baptized at Trinity Episcopal Church in September of that year.   Barrett was confirmed in the R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia. She began school at the Colegio Americano de Quito at age 5, while her father was attaché to the U.S. embassy in Ecuador from 1951 to 1953. Her secondary schooling began in Stuart Hall, an Episcopal school for girls in Staunton, Virginia. 

She later graduated from Lexington High School in Virginia. Her undergraduate career had two stages: she first attended Southern Seminary Jr. College in Buena Vista, Virginia, graduating in 1967; from there she went to Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut, graduating in 1970 with a BA in English literature.
In 1965, Barrett converted to Roman Catholicism. Four years later, in the fall of 1969, she worked with a community of Roman Catholic missionary sisters in New Mexico, hoping to discern whether she had any vocation for the life of a mission sister. She graduated from New York University with an MA in 1972, and reverted back to Episcopalianism, rediscovering its catholicity and the overall flexibility of its church polity. She was formally received back into the Episcopal Church in April of 1972.

From 1974-1975, Barrett served with Jim Wickliff as one of the first co-presidents of Integrity, a non-profit organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Episcopalians. She was an associate with the Ecclesiastical History Society of Great Britain and served as Chaplain to the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science and the Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America.
Barrett is an associate of St. John the Evangelist. Her interests include singing, drawing, reading and traveling. Her trips to Israel in 2000 and Russia in 2001 reveal her ongoing interest in various spiritual traditions, including Russian Orthodoxy and the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.
In the spring of 2002, Barrett entered the Community of the Holy Spirit, an Episcopal religious order for women in New York, as a postulant. She left the order in the summer of 2003 and resumed her career as an Episcopal priest. Two years later, in July 2005, she entered the Community of St. Mary the Virgin, an Anglican religious order for women in Wantage, England, as an aspirant.

Barrett was ordained in the Episcopal Church in the diocese of New York by the Right. Rev. Paul. Moore, Jr., first as deacon in 1975 and then as priest in 1977. From approximately 1975 to 2005 she served as Episcopal cleric in a variety of city and suburban parishes, beginning her career in Berkeley, California and eventually settling in dioceses in the New York and New Jersey areas.

 At the altar of her ordination, Episcopal priest James Wattley spoke out during the service and called it, “… a travesty and a scandal.” Rev. Ellen Marie Barrett: “The changes in the Church have always been to broaden and include — not cut off and turn away …. I care less about the Church as a structure than as a community of Christians. I think that community is founded on love, and I think that love belongs in everyone – including women and lesbians.”

Presbyterian Assembly: Lesbian/Gay Ordination.

Last week, the PCUSA General Assembly meeting in Minnesota approved a decision to accept openly gay or lesbian pastors without any requirement of celibacy. This move, widely reported, follows a similar decision by the ELCA in the same venue a year ago. This should be a clear cause for celebration – but hold the applause for now. The same decision has been taken in previous years, without coming into effect. First, the GA decision must be ratified by local presbyteries, which is where it has come unstuck in the past. Does the present assembly decision represent real progress, or will there be yet another failure at grass roots?

At “More Light Ministries“, who will carry  a major share of the work promoting the idea to local congregations, the mood is optimistic, but conscious of the hard work involved:

We rejoiced with the extraordinary pro-LGBT vote approving by 53 to 46% a “Revise-B” Ordination Overture. This vote advances the moral equality of LGBT persons in both Church and society within the USA and around the world. There are Presbyterians in over 100 countries. So, creating one standard for ordination for all persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or any other human condition in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is remarkable statement for justice and equality.
Historic levels of support for Ordination Equality during the 2008-2009 Ordination Amendment 08-B Campaign offer hope and encouragement. We look forward to the life-giving and liberating conversations and work of a national ratification campaign to ensure passage of this overture. Everyone participating in this national grassroots ratification campaign will ensure its passage.

This is the fourth year that this decision has been approved at GA – but the margin this year is almost unchanged from last year (in fact, support has slipped slightly – from 54 /46 last year, to 53/46 this year. At least one report from the grassroots, in a region where the decision was rejected last year, the expectation is that there will still be no ratification.  This is from “The State” (South Carolina):

The debate over the ordination of practicing homosexuals to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church USA once again moves to the local level, leaving some clergy energized and others worn out by the continuing debate.
“I’m frankly weary of it,” said the Rev. Scott Bowerman, pastor of New Kirk Presbyterian Church in Northeast Richland and an opponent of a more liberal ordination policy. “I’ve been talking about it for 20 years, and I’ve been involved in study groups and debates and conversations. I’ve not changed my position over time.”
“I hesitate to count the number of ways that we have dealt with this,” said the Rev. Alan Arnold, leader of Trinity Presbytery, which oversees 67 PCUSA congregations in the Midlands. “It has been four or five times that it has gone back to the presbyteries.”
He predicted Trinity Presbytery would again reject the new overture, despite updated language that makes no mention of gays and lesbians. The new language states that “standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”
-Read more at  “The State
Does that mean that the motion is doomed, yet again, to an endless stalemate? Not necessarily. There are strong grounds for hope, even so – and even if the ratification drive does fail.
First, the new moderator is strongly in favour of LGBT equality and inclusion. It is likely that her backing will help to strengthen the continuing work on the ground, at local level. It is entirely possible that some of the presbyteries that narrowly defeated the proposal last year may now switch sides.
Even if ratification is  not achieved, gains will have been made.  In a less widely reported move, the Assembly also voted to extend spousal benefits applicable to staff to LGBT couples on exactly the same basis as married staff. This is in itself an important symbolic move (and a hugely practical one for the people directly affected), and will help to set the mood for future votes, if they are required again.
Win or lose, the process is important. Once again, I am impressed by the discussion, debate and prayer that goes into decisions at these assemblies, which is such a contrast to the Vatican method of simply dictating from on high. We know from experience that where people of good will sincerely discuss pray over matters of homosexuality and faith, minds are changed. Sometimes firm opposition becomes tolerance, sometimes indifference is moved to active support – and sometimes a full Damascene conversion takes place, whereby former hostility is replaced by repentance and advocacy. The Rev. Peter Hobbie, a religion professor at Presbyterian College, said Monday he believes the continued examination of the issue is reflective of the Presbyterian system where “you keep dealing with it until there is a resolution.”
“I know that some people are getting tired of talking about it,” Hobbie said. “But you have to admire the people who deeply believe that it is a cause for justice and what it means to be a Christian.
“I think this is a very crucial issue in the life of the church and I think that it is one we should pursue,” Hobbie said, likening it to the battles over women’s ordination and integration 40 and 50 years ago. “I hope that more and more people are getting to know gays and lesbians and know what these Christians have done for the church.”

But the most important source of hope is fundamental.  Ultimately, it is not human actions that will decide these things, but God, who will not allow injustice to prevail. (For the arguments in favour of full ordination for gay and lesbian clergy, see the “Overture Advocates’ Speeches

In Memoriam: Fr Robert Carter, Priest and Gay Activist

“Since Jesus had table fellowship with social outcasts and sinners, those rejected by the religious establishment of his time, I consider myself to have been most fully a Jesuit, a ‘companion of Jesus,’ when I came out publicly as a gay man, one of the social rejects of my time. It was only by our coming out that society’s negative stereotypes would be overcome and we would gain social acceptance.”
-Fr Robert Carter
There is no contradiction between being Catholic and gay or lesbian. Indeed, just as Robert Carter says he was most fully a Jesuit when he cane out publicly, so for many of us, we are most fully Catholic when we too come out in Church.  (I say deliberately “for many of us”, as coming out is always a deeply personal decision, which may not always be feasible for all.)

Robert Carter, Priest and Gay Activist, Dies at 82

The Rev. Robert Carter, who in the early 1970s was one of the first Roman Catholic priests in the country to declare publicly that he was gay and who helped found the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, died on Feb. 22 in the Bronx. He was 82.
  Robert Carter, right, with Dan McCarthy, left, Bernard Lynch and John McNeill at a gay pride march in the early 1980s


His death, at a Jesuit health care facility, was confirmed by the Rev. Thomas R. Slon, executive assistant to the provincial of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus.

Father Carter’s coming out was a very public one. In October 1973, Dr. Howard J. Brown, a former New York City health services administrator, announced that he was gay and that he was forming a civil rights organization for homosexual men and women. Then called the National Gay Task Force, it later became the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
An article about the group in The New York Times said: “A number of homosexual and lesbian organizations were represented on the board. One member was the Rev. Robert Carter, a Jesuit priest and professor of historical theology.”
Soon afterward he was visited by a subprovincial of the Jesuit order. “It seems that they were afraid I had had a psychotic break or something,” Father Carter wrote in an unpublished memoir.
Although there were calls for his expulsion by irate “Jesuits, parents and alumni of our schools,” Father Carter continued, he was not disciplined. In those days, the church and the Jesuit order were somewhat more accepting of gay people.
The church continues to hold that while homosexual attraction is “disordered,” gay people who are celibate are not inherently sinful. In 2005, however, the Vatican issued a document saying the church would not admit to a seminary or ordain “those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’ ”
Father Carter helped found the New York chapter of DignityUSA, a support group for gay Catholics. In 1972, with the Rev. John McNeill, he hosted the first meeting of the chapter at the Jesuit chapel on West 98th Street in Manhattan.
“I refer to him as the heart of Dignity,” Father McNeill, the author of “The Church and the Homosexual” (Beacon, 1976), said in an interview. “I was doing all the writing, but he was on the front line, meeting with people, counseling people.”
When the Catholic authorities said Dignity could not meet on church property, Father Carter celebrated Mass in apartments all around Manhattan. He led blessing ceremonies for gay couples. He testified in support of the gay rights law proposed by Mayor Edward I. Koch before it was passed by the City Council in 1986. He urged Dignity to march in gay pride parades and marched himself, in his clerical collar.
Although he was a classics scholar, he was also a trained social worker who counseled gay priests and hundreds of lay Catholics. “As I sought to reconcile being gay and Catholic,” Brendan Fay, a longtime gay rights activist, said in an interview, “Bob Carter helped me move from self-hate to self-acceptance and then to a place of gay activism. He was like a Catholic Harvey Milk.”
Robert Earl Carter was born in Chicago on July 27, 1927, the son of Earl and Ila Grace Smith Carter. His father managed several music stores. He is survived by his sister, Nancy Glader of Prospect Heights, Ill.
Father Carter’s parents were Protestants who worshiped in a series of denominations as he grew up. Then, at the University of Chicago, he read James Joyce’s semiautobiographical “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” It introduced him, he wrote, to “the centrality of Catholicism in the history of Western civilization.”
He graduated in June 1946 and the next day was received into the Catholic Church. Three years later, he completed a master’s degree in Greek studies at his alma mater, and in 1953 he received his doctorate there. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1954 and was ordained in 1963.
Father Carter went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from Columbia in 1981. By 1985 he was counseling AIDS patients at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx; he later became a supervisor of the outpatient AIDS program at the Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.
For him, there was no contradiction between homosexuality and Christianity.
In his memoir, Father Carter wrote: “Since Jesus had table fellowship wi
th social outcasts and sinners, those rejected by the religious establishment of his time, I consider myself to have been most fully a Jesuit, a ‘companion of Jesus,’ when I came out publicly as a gay man, one of the social rejects of my time. It was only by our coming out that society’s negative stereotypes would be overcome and we would gain social acceptance.”