As we all wait for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to be repealed either now or in the future, I’ve been thinking about a meeting my grandfather went to back in May of 1977 and the statement released afterwards.
In 1977 the Episcopal Church allowed the ordination of women and one of the early and most contentious ordinations was that of Ellen Marie Barrett who was a lesbian. Discussions and arguments spread across the country and my grandfather, Rev. Mac R. Stanley attended a meeting of California clergy. I know a little bit about the meeting from his journal entries and what a gay clergyman said to me at his funeral, but the conversation reached a turning point when my grandfather spoke late in the day.
Afterwards they released a statement in full support of Rev. Barrett and other gay clergy. I can only find it excerpts of it online but what is there is I think still noteworthy:
Gay men and women have made enormous contributions to the Church … daring all, risking all — to serve unfalteringly people who if they knew they were homosexual would turn on them in confusion, or horror, or unease …. It is only from the outcast that we can ever be redeemed, only from that which we want to cast out of ourselves that in finally facing honestly we can ever become whole men and women again. Jesus’ whole life is a statement about that …. If homosexual men and women are not good enough to serve at the altars of the Lord who went to a cross for us all, then perhaps they are not fit in any capacity to serve or minister …. The Church, like all institutions, has always accepted homosexuals when it was to its profit, convenience, and benefit. What it has not done is to be honest about that, to be forthright, to give back the love it has received. I have seen a fine and distinguished bishop of this Church, Kilmer Myers, walk unfalteringly to a cross on this issue, as he asks us to look again at a Christ who holds out hope, confrontation, forgiveness, new possibilities, and redemption for all of us equally. If Ellen Barrett…if homosexual men and women want out of their sadness and joy, to reach out lovingly — what about that is so threatening to us? … Can we look at what the Church’s legalisms have done to people? I call the Church to not only look at that. I call the Church to repent …. The real business of the Church … is to reach out and help bring in the Kingdom of God to our world …. In the name of God, I urge you to help this saintly bishop to start the process now.
-Statement to the Clergy Conference (topic: “sexuality”) – Diocese of California – the Rev. William H. Barcus III, May 5, 1977
This of course took place five years before I was born and I didn’t hear about it until at my grandfather’s funeral when a gay clergyman (whose name I don’t recall) came up to my grandmother with me, my mother and then Bishop of California and thanked her for all my grandfather had done that day for gay rights.
You can find what I quoted and a lot more information at http://www.oasisca.org/OAsisa%20Transfer%202009/0_Historical/chron.html#1977