Saturday, February 28, 2015

Peter Gomes: Gay black Harvard minister preached "scandalous gospel"

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Peter Gomes: Gay black Harvard minister preached "scandalous gospel"

“The Rev. Peter Gomes, of Plymouth, 1942 – 2011” by Jon Dorn

Peter Gomes was a gay black Baptist minister at Harvard and one of America’s most prominent spiritual voices for tolerance. He used his national celebrity as a “gay minister” to make the religious case for LGBT people, even though he reportedly disliked the label. He died at age 68 on this date (Feb. 28, 2011).

A man of many contradictions, Gomes became a Democrat in 2007 after decades as a conservative Republican. He even gave the benediction at President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985 and preached at the National Cathedral for the inauguration of Reagan’s successor, George Bush.

Gomes (May 22, 1942 - Feb. 28, 2011) was born in Boston to a black African immigrant father and a mother from Boston’s African American upper middle class. He grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  He studied at Bates College (where a chapel was named after him in 2012) , earned a divinity degree at Harvard University, and taught Western civilization at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for two years before returning to work at Harvard in 1970. Four years later he became the first black person to serve as chief minister to Harvard. He held the positions of Pusey minister at Harvard’s Memorial Church and Plummer professor of Christian morals for the rest of his life.

He came out publicly as “a Christian who happens as well to be gay” at a student rally in 1991 after a conservative student magazine at Harvard published a condemnation of homosexuality.  “I now have an unambiguous vocation -- a mission -- to address the religious causes and roots of homophobia,” he later told the Washington Post. “I will devote the rest of my life to addressing the 'religious case' against gays.”

In his 1996 best-seller, “The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart,” he showed how the Bible was misused to defend homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and sexism.

His 2007 book “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?” went on to show that Jesus was a subversive whose radical gospel always overturns the status quo.

Among Gomes’s many admirers is artist Jon Dorn, who drew the portrait at the top of this post. Dorn is a cartoonist, filmmaker, and Master of Fine Arts student at Emerson College in Boston. He also serves on the Plymouth Cultural Council.

A musical tribute to Gomes is “I Beseech You Therefore, Brethren” by composer Craig Phillips, music director at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. It was originally commissioned by members of Harvard’s Class of 1978 to celebrate Gomes' retirement, but he died before its premiere so it was sung at his memorial. The anthem has become a memorial to Gomes' legacy. It is included on the 2014 album “Spring Bursts Today: A Celebration of Eastertide” by Harvard University Choir. Gomes himself selected the text, which was one of his favorite scriptures:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1–2)

Gomes’ blend of scholarship, wisdom and accessibility is expressed in a few selected quotations:

“Hell is being defined by your circumstances, and believing that definition.” -- Peter Gomes

“The question should not be ‘What would Jesus do?’ but rather, more dangerously, 'What would Jesus have me do?'” -- Peter Gomes in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?

“To some, the temporal triumph of the Christian community in the world is a sign of God's favor and the essential righteousness of the Christian position. The irony of the matter, though, is that whenever the Christian community gains worldly power, it nearly always loses its capacity to be the critic of the power and influence it so readily brokers.” --Peter J. Gomes in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?

“The battle for the Bible, of which homosexuality is the last front, is really the battle for the prevailing culture, of which the Bible itself is a mere trophy and icon. Such a cadre of cultural conservatives would rather defend their ideology in the name of the authority of scripture than concede that their self-serving reading of that scripture might just be wrong, and that both the Bible and the God who inspires it may be more gracious, just and inclusive than they can presently afford to be.” -- Peter Gomes in The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart

Books by Peter Gomes include:

The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?

Sermons: Biblical Wisdom For Daily Living

The Good Life: Truths that Last in Times of Need

Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living


Related links:

Peter Gomes at LGBT Religious Archives Network

Rev. Peter Gomes: The Accidental Gay Advocate (Irene Monroe at HuffPost)

Gay, Black, Republican, Baptist Preacher, Rev. Peter Gomes, 1942-2011 (Candace Chellew-Hodge at Religion Dispatches)

Rev. Peter J. Gomes Is Dead at 68; A Leading Voice Against Intolerance (New York Times)

Video: Peter Gomes discusses: Would Jesus Support Gay Marriage? (also posted below)

This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Friday, February 27, 2015

RIP Malcolm Boyd: Pioneering gay Episcopal priest dies at 91

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Malcolm Boyd: Pioneering gay Episcopal priest who ran with Jesus
Pioneering gay Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd died today (Feb. 27) under hospice care in Los Angeles. He was 91.

I knew Malcolm personally as a fellow author, a colleague in LGBT ministry, and a good-natured friend who shared my passion for Taize music. He worked in the film industry with Mary Pickford, was ordained in 1955, was a “Freedom Rider” for civil rights in 1961, and officially came out as gay in 1977.

At my invitation, he contributed to my book “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations” and was the keynote speaker at a Taize Festival that I organized in Los Angeles in the 1990s. In a wonderful keynote speech, he described his stay at the Taize monastic community in France in 1957.

His 35 books include “Gay Priest: An Inner Journey.” I remember the fun and excitement of attending his Los Angeles reading for “Amazing Grace: Stories of Lesbian and Gay Faith,” which he edited with Nancy Wilson. His best-known book is “Are You Running with Me, Jesus?” a collection of conversational prayer-poems with a million copies in print. This 1965 spiritual classic includes “Prayers for Sexual Freedom” with a section that begins “This is a
bar, Jesus.”

He and his longtime partner Mark Thompson married in 2013 after same-sex marriage became legal in Califorina.

A celebration of Boyd’s life is planned for 2 p.m. on Sat., March 21, at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, 840 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles.

Malcolm wrote two prayers for “Equal Rites.” I was pleased when he agreed to contribute to the book, and even more delighted when I read his manuscript. Unlike most writers, he submitted text that required no editing because it was already perfect. Here is an excerpt from his “Coming-Out Liturgy”:

Leader: Have you decided that you want to come out?
Participant: I have.
Leader: What do you want to come out of?
Participant: Repression.

Leader: What kind of repression?
Participant: I am a gay man / a lesbian. I have suffered the repression of not feeling that I could share my true identity with other people.
Community: We welcome you.

Leader: Have you felt isolation and loneliness?
Participant: I have. The cold waters of fear have covered my body and wounded my soul. I have sensed desolation and utter aloneness. I have suffered misunderstanding and even been greeted by others as someone who was a total stranger to me...
Community: We offer you validation for yourself as you have been created and celebration of your gayness as a gift of God.

Leader: What do you seek now to do with your life?
Participant: I seek freedom. I want to be myself and find acceptance and love. I never want to have to wear a mask again. I want other people to appreciate me for who I really am. I want to make an honest contribution to life in an open way, without any lies or ambiguity.
Community: We offer you the assurance of freedom....
Participant: I am ready now to set my feet on the path to freedom.

Boyd’s life story is told in the book “Black Battle, White Knight: The Authorized Biography of Malcolm Boyd” by Michael Battle, an Anglican/Episcopal priest who has served the church in many capacities. The title reflects the dialogue between Battle, a younger black heterosexual priest, and Boyd, an older white gay priest who gave him unparalleled access to his personal recollections, writings, and archival records.

Related links:

Malcolm Boyd dies at 91; Episcopal priest took prayer to the streets (Los Angeles Times)

Malcolm Boyd profile at LGBT Religious Archives Network

Malcolm Boyd, the overlooked gay activist who pushed boundaries by Jay Michaelson (Religion News Service)

If a Tree Falls in the Forest... Remembering Rev. Malcolm Boyd by Nancy Wilson (Huffington Post)

Malcolm Boyd: Reflections from me and Louie Crew by Susan Russell (Inch at a Time)

Mark Thompson, Author, Photographer, Historian, Friend Dies at 63 (
This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Marcella Althaus-Reid: Queer theology pioneer

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Marcella Althaus-Reid: Queer theology pioneer

Marcella Althaus-Reid

Marcella Althaus-Reid was a queer theologian whose controversial books include “Indecent Theology” and “The Queer God.” Born in Argentina, she became the first woman appointed to a chair in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 2006. She held that post when she died at age 56 on this date (Feb. 20) in 2009.

Althaus-Reid (May 11, 1952- Feb. 20, 2009) was baptized as a Roman Catholic and grew up in Buenos Aires. She earned her first theological degree there from ISEDET (Instituto Superior Evangelico de Estudios Teologicos), Latin America’s renowned center for studying liberation theology, which emphasizes God’s “preferential option for the poor.”

Next she gained recognition for working on social and community projects in the slums of Buenos Aires. As she continued her studies, Althaus-Reid applied the principles of liberation theology to women and sexual minorities, including LGBT people.

Her first book, “Indecent Theology,” was published in 2000 and established her international reputation as a self-proclaimed “indecent, Latina, bisexual theologian.” The book challenges the sexual oppression behind traditional Christian concepts of decency and introduces theology rooted in the context of people whose sexual freedom has been limited. In 2003 she wrote “The Queer God,” in which she aims to liberate God from the closet of sex-negative Christian thought and embrace God’s role in the lives of LGBTQ people.

According to her obituary in the Herald Scotland, Althaus-Reid was a member of Moderator Nancy Wilson’s advisory theological team in Metropolitan Community Churches and felt at home in MCC’s Edinburgh congregation although she was formally a member of the Quakers and the Church of Scotland.

Her writing style is dense and her books continue to be controversial, even among LGBT people of faith. But nobody denies that Althaus-Reid took risks to raise important issues based on queer life and spirituality.

Her originality and flashes of insight are expressed in the following quotation from “The Queer God”:

“Our task and our joy is to find or simply recognise God sitting amongst us, at any time, in any gay bar or in the home of a camp friend who decorates her living room as a chapel and doesn’t leave her rosary at home when going to a salsa bar.”

Links to books by or about Marcella Althaus-Reid:

Indecent Theology: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and Politics

The Queer God

From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology

Liberation Theology and Sexuality

Dancing theology in fetish boots: Essays in honour of Marcella Althaus Reid

More books by Marcella Althaus-Reid

La teología indecente: Perversiones teológicas en sexo, género y política

Il Dio queer

Related links:

"Marcella Althaus-Reid: Saint of a sexually embodied spirituality" by Hugo Córdova Quero (Jesus in Love)

Prof Marcella Althaus-Reid obituary and memorial page: Light a candle or add your own tribute

Remembering Marcella Althaus-Reid, “Indecent theologian” (Queer Saints and Martyrs - And Others)

En La Caminata: Remembering Marcella Althaus-Reid” by Alejandro Escalante (Indecent Theology blog)

This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday: Queer martyrs rise from the ashes

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Ash Wednesday: Queer martyrs executed for homosexuality rise from the ashes

Dutch massacre of sodomites,
detail (Wikimedia Commons)
Today on Ash Wednesday queer martyrs rise from the ashes as we recall the thousands who were executed for homosexuality throughout history.

This is not just a historical issue. The death penalty for homosexuality continues today in 10 countries (Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates).

Christians traditionally put ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance on Ash Wednesday. It is an appropriate time to reflect on the sins of the church and state against queer people, including the burning of “sodomites” and thousands of executions for homosexuality over the past 800 years.

Some of the executions for sodomy were recorded by artists, either long ago or in recent times. This post features images, both new and historical, to remember and honor those whose lives were desecrated and cut short.

The whole sad history of church- or state-sanctioned executions of queer people stretches from the 13th century almost to the present. For the first 1,000 years of church history, Christianity was relatively tolerant of homoerotic relationships.

Then came campaigns of terror that started to use the terms “heresy” and “sodomy” interchangeably.  Eventually hostility began to be directed at same-sex erotic behavior in particular. Terence Weldon of Queering the Church discusses the fateful period when the atrocities began in a well researched overview titled “Lest We Forget: The Ashes of Our Martyrs”:

In 1120, the Church Council of Nablus specified burning at the stake for homosexual acts. Although this penalty may not immediately have been applied, other harsh condemnations followed rapidly. In 1212, the death penalty for sodomy was specified in in France. Before long the execution of supposed “sodomites”, often by burning at the stake, but also by other harsh means, had become regular practice in many areas.

The church contributed to the deaths of thousands for homosexuality over the next 700 years. Witch burning occurred in the same period and claimed the lives of countless lesbian women whose non-conformity was condemned as witchcraft. (Current events in Uganda and elsewhere prove that some are STILL using Christianity to justify the death penalty for homosexuality up to the present day.) As Weldon concludes:

Obviously, the Catholic Church cannot be held directly responsible for the judicial sentences handed down by secular authorities in Protestant countries. It can, however, be held responsible for its part in fanning the flames of bigotry and hatred in the early part of the persecution, using the cloak of religion to provide cover for what was in reality based not on Scripture or the teaching of the early Church, but on simple intolerance and greed.

It is important as gay men, lesbians and transgendered that we remember the examples of the many who have in earlier times been honoured by the Church as saints or martyrs for the faith. It is also important that we remember the example of the many thousands who have been martyred by the churches – Catholic and other.

Sodomy is often considered a male issue, but the facts of history make clear that queer women were persecuted under sodomy laws too. The meaning of sodomy has changed a lot over the centuries. The “sin of Sodom” in the Bible was described as arrogance and failure to care for travelers and the poor.

“Catharina Margaretha Linck, executed for sodomy in Halberstadt in 1721” by Elke R. Steiner. Steiner’s work is based on Angela Steidele’s book "In Männerkleidern. Das verwegene Leben der Catharina Margaretha Linck alias Anastasius Lagrantinus Rosenstengel, hingerichtet 1721." Biographie und Dokumentation. Cologne: Böhlau, 2004. ("In Men's Clothes: The Daring Life of Catharina Margaretha Linck alias Anastasius Rosenstengel, Executed 1721.")

German artist Elke R. Steiner illustrates the last known execution for lesbianism in Europe. Born in 1694, Catharina Margaretha Linck lived most of her life as a man under the name Anastasius. She was beheaded for sodomy on Nov. 8, 1721 in Halberstadt in present-day Germany. Linck worked at various times as a soldier, textile worker and a wandering prophet with the Pietists. She married a woman in 1717. Her mother-in-law reported her to authorities, who convicted her of sodomy with a "lifeless instrument," wearing men's clothes and multiple baptisms. The subject is grim, but Steiner adds an empowering statement: “But even were I to be done away with, those who are like me would remain.”

“Catharina aka Anastasius Linck” by Ria Brodell

Genderqueer Boston artist Ria Brodell portrays Linck and several other historical women who were killed for sodomy in her “Butch Heroes” series. They include Katherina Hetzeldorfer of Germany, drowned in 1477 for female sodomy, and Lisbetha Olsdotter aka Mats Ersson of Sweden, who was decapitated in 1679 for cross-dressing and other crimes.

“The Shameful End of Bishop Atherton and his Proctor John Childe,” hanged for sodomy in 1641 in Dublin (Wikimedia Commons)

John Atherton, Anglican bishop of Waterford and Lismore, and his lover John Childe were hanged for “buggery” in 1640 in Dublin, Ireland. The bishop was executed under a law that he helped to institute! The picture comes from an anonymous 1641 booklet titled “The Shameful End of Bishop Atherton and his Proctor John Childe.” The title tries to shame and blame the victims, but the shame belongs to the church and society who killed them for who and how they loved.

Balboa executing two-spirit Native Americans for homosexuality in 1513 in Panama -- engraving by Théodore De Bry, 1594 (Wikimedia Commons).  

The Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa found homosexual activity among the Native American chiefs at Quarqua in Panama. He ordered 40 of these two-spirited people thrown to his war dogs to be torn apart and eaten alive to stop the “stinking abomination.” Executions for homosexuality continued during the “Mexican Inquisition,” an extension of the Spanish Inquisition into the New World. In one of the most notorious examples, 14 men were executed by public burning on Nov. 6, 1658 in Mexico City.

The knight of Hohenberg and his servant, accused of sodomy, were executed by burning in Zürich in 1482. (Wikimedia Commons)

The knight of Hohenberg and his servant, accused sodomites, were executed by burning before the walls of Zurich, Switzerland in 1482. Source: Diebold Schilling, Chronik der Burgunderkriege, Schweizer Bilderchronik, Band 3, um 1483 (Zürich, Zentralbibliothek)

Execution of sodomites in Ghent in 1578 -- drawing by Franz Hogenberg (Wikimedia Commons)

Five Catholic monks were burned to death for homosexuality on June 28, 1578, in Ghent, Belguim.

"Timely Punishment..." shows Dutch massacre of sodomites in Amsterdam in 1730-31 (Wikimedia Commons)

A total of 96 gay men were executed for sodomy in the Netherlands years 1730-31.

More recent examples include the Holocaust or "homocaust" of persecution by the Nazis, who sent an estimated 5,000 to 60,000 to concentration camps for homosexuality. Executions on homosexuality charges in Iran continued to make news multiple times since 2011.

Many more die in attacks fueled by religion-based hate, including those killed in the arson fire at the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans.

Milder forms of anti-LGBT persecution continue in the church. Now it is common to freeze LGBT people out of church leadership positions. Gay pastor and author Chris Glaser writes about the exclusion from clergy roles as a “fast imposed by others” in the following prayer based on the practice of fasting during Lent, the season of individual and collective repentance and reflection between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

One: Jesus,
     our fast has been imposed by others,
     our wilderness sojourn their choice more than ours.
Many: Our fast from the sacraments,
     our fast from ordination:
     our only choice was honesty.
One: With the scapegoats of the ancient Hebrews,
     sexual sins of generations
     have been heaped upon our backs,
     and we have been sent away,
     excommunicated, into the wilderness to die.
Many: Yet we choose life,
     even in our deprivation
One: Jesus, lead us to discern our call
     parallel to your own:
     rebelling against the boundaries,
     questioning the self-righteous authorities,
     breaking the Sabbath law
     to bring healing.

This prayer comes from “Rite for Lent” by Chris Glaser, published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations. Glaser spent 30 years struggling with the Presbyterian Church for the right to ordination as an openly gay man before he was ordained to the ministry in Metropolitan Community Churches in 2005. He writes progressive Christian reflections at

Faggots We May Be,” a 2015 poem by Georgia poet S. Alan Fann, makes connections between gay men burned to death, global warming and the Rainbow Christ.

It is horrifying to remember the "burning times," especially for those LGBT people who consider themselves part of the Christian tradition. Let us rise from the ashes with these verses from the Bible:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
[Psalm 51: 10, 17]

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a you to humble yourself?
Is it to bow down your head like a rush,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under you?
Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to God?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily.
[Isaiah 58:5-8]

Related links:

“Burned for sodomy” (Queering the Church)

Lest We Forget: The Ashes of Our Martyrs (Queering the Church)

The blood-soaked thread (Wild Reed)

List of people executed for homosexuality (Wikipedia)

LGBT Victims (Gay History Wiki)

List of unlawfully killed transgender people (Wikipedia)

Victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes (Wikipedia)

Victims of Hate” gallery on Facebook

Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death (Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2014)

Significant acts of violence against LGBT people (Wikipedia)

BURN BABY BURN: A Knight, a Squire, a Bishop, a Steward, Five RC Monks and Millions of murders initiated by bigots at Church! (Eruptions at the Foot of the Volcano Blog)

The Gay Holocaust (Matt and Andrej Koymasky)

Catharina Margaretha Linck, Executed for Sodomy (Queering the Church)

A History of Homophobia, 3 The Later Roman Empire & The Early Middle Ages (Rictor Norton)

A History of Homophobia, 4 Gay Heretics and Witches" (Rictor Norton)

Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook (Rictor Norton, editor)

“Pilloried” - a poem by Andrew Craig Williams

Queering All Saints and All Souls, Celebrating the Queer Body of Christ by Adam Ackley (Huff Post) (litany also suitable for Ash Wednesday)

Blessing the Dust: A Blessing for Ash Wednesday by Jan Richardson

Iran's New Gay Executions (Daily Beast, 8/12/2014)
"Two men, Abdullah Ghavami Chahzanjiru and Salman Ghanbari Chahzanjiri, were hanged in southern Iran on August 6, possibly for consensual sodomy..."

Four Iranian men due to be hanged for sodomy (Pink News, 5/12/2012)
"Iran court sentenced four men… to death by hanging for sodomy… named ‘Saadat Arefi’, ‘Vahid Akbari’, ‘Javid Akbari’ and ‘Houshmand Akbari.’"

Iran executes three men on homosexuality charges ( 9/7/2011)

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: We all wear the triangle (Jesus in Love)

Ex-gay movement as genocide (Jesus in Love)

Book: Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton
This post is part of the LGBT Holidays series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, holy days, feast days, festivals, anniversaries, liturgical seasons and other occasions of special interest to LGBT and queer people of faith and our allies.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Queer Clergy Trading Cards feature Kittredge Cherry

Kittredge Cherry, founder of the Jesus in Love Blog, is featured on a new Queer Clergy Trading Card. It identifies her "super power" as "resurrectiong queer Christ."

The cards are a fun way to bring more visibility to LGBTQ ministers. Queer clergy look cool on these virtual “trading cards.”

Currently the Queer Clergy Trading Cards are shared on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, but plans are underway to offer printed cards through the new website

Queer Clergy Trading Cards are created by Chris Davies, a United Church of Christ minister who studies queer theology at Andover Newton Theological School.

The process of becoming a Queer Clergy Trading Card includes answering a witty questionnaire from Davies. She described Cherry’s answers as “a thoughtful novel on the questions.” Highlights from their interview are posted here.

For more info on Queer Clergy Trading Cards, see the previous post “Queer Clergy Trading Cards bring visibility with humor.”

Queer Clergy Trading Cards: What are you so amazingly good at... that it might be your SUPER POWER!? Please give me a few different options, I'm going to pick one!

Kittredge Cherry: I am good at writing about LGBTQ spirituality and art. I have been called an “outsider god blogger” and a “living saint” for doing the Jesus in Love Blog  and Newsletter.

Before becoming a clergy in Metropolitan Community Churches, I was a newspaper reporter and author. My first book, “Womansword: What Japanese Language says about Women,” even got a good review in the New York Times! (They praised my “very graceful, erudite” style.) I bring a strong writing background into my queer ministry.

I am especially devoted to Jesus and I am known for promoting the idea of a queer Christ. Though my prayer life and study, I gained the insight that the historical Jesus may have been gay or queer… and that the living Christ is in everyone, including LGBTQI people. I often present this idea on my blog and in my books, and the response has been tremendous – both positive and negative. Hate groups keep warning me that hellfire awaits me! But many agree with me that the queer Christ is important now because conservatives are using Christianity to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people.

My “LGBT Saints” series is popular and well known. In fact, it led some people started calling me “Saint Kitt.” (Ha!) I started writing about queer saints because readers told me they were getting bored with my constant focus on Jesus. Now I have come to love doing historical search and writing about saints – broadly defined as anyone who creates more love in the world.

I love art -- looking at it, making it, and nurturing the rare artists who present the queer Christ and LGBTQ saints. My mother was an art teacher and I majored in art history (and journalism) at the University of Iowa.

I have a special gift for reaching queer people who are “unchurched” or “post-church” – those who never went to church or got fed up and left. The reason is because I myself grew up mostly unchurched and thinking that there was no God. I had a conversion experience in my mid-20s when I felt God reach out personally to me. Suddenly I knew there was a God, and that God loved me just as I am, even though I was a lesbian. I was baptized as an adult at an ecumenical church in Japan (where I was a graduate student at the time). I was living in the closet, afraid of social rejection. But knowing that God loved me gave me the strength to come out as a lesbian. When I took my clergy vows in MCC, I added outreach to the secular world in addition to the standard vows.

Another strength is my international, cross-cultural, interfaith and ecumenical background. I have lived abroad, traveled the world and worked as ecumenical officer at MCC international headquarters, advocating for LGBT rights at the World Council of Churches. At WCC conferences I used to wear a button that said, “Lesbian Christian.” Most people fled in terror, but I quickly identified a few supporters that way. One of my recent cross-cultural efforts is partnering with a queer theologian in Argentina to do Santos Queer, a Spanish-language version of my blog.

I have been called “a mystic on the Christ path” because I am devoted to Jesus and I lead a relatively simple, quiet life now. I feel strong love and connection to Jesus in particular, more than most Christians that I know. It feels like he is always with me, ready to help. I am officially “retired” now so I am a bit like a hermit or medieval monk, who preserves and illuminates the story of God while living apart from the world (and connecting over the Internet!) One of my friends marveled, “You could be happy just living in a cave!”

QCTC: What's your kryptonite?  People have taken this all sorts of different directions. Something you can't say "no" to... something that you have to work on, individually... or something that irks you about the church/system/world as a whole. You pick. and tell me which! And also, give me a few different options to pick from...

Kittredge Cherry: One of my “kryptonites” is – staircases! And any building without access ramps for the disabled! In recent years I have health problems that make it hard or impossible for me to go up and down steps, so they are real barriers for me. It’s especially sad when churches aren’t accessible, and even worse when they don’t care. Meanwhile I am working to build my health and muscle strength.

“Never lose your joy!” That’s what a stranger – a nun – said to me very early in my ministry after a worship service that I led. At the time, I thought, “I won’t lose my joy.” But over the decades I sometimes have lost my joy. When I’m feeling discouraged, I remember her words like a beacon.

In my preaching, I tend to stick to the message that God loves all people. For me, that idea is so powerful and transformative that it automatically leads to a solution for every dilemma. But I work to go beyond that basic messages because congregants have complained, “I already know God loves me, now what?!”

QCTC: What song would you walk out to preach to? Artist and song, please!
Oh! You Pretty Things” by David Bowie. David Bowie’s music and androgynous style got me through junior high and high school in the 1970s.

Anything else that might help me in design elements? (all the goofy stuff all around the cards)
Do you love cats? Are you obsessed with Gothic Style? Do you have a secret desire to be a firefighter? What's your favorite color?

Andy Warhol is my favorite artist. I love his art, his ideas, and his androgynous, counter-cultural style. My favorite style of art is contemporary.

My second homeland is Japan, where I lived for three years as a young adult. I still love Japanese culture.

My favorite color is -- Rainbow!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Brothers by affection: Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus

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Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus: Brothers by affection

Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. © 1995,

Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus were Roman soldiers in 3rd-century Armenia and “brothers by affection.” They are a prime example of same-sex lovers in the early church. Polyeuct’s feast day is Feb. 13.

The earliest account of Polyeuct’s martyrdom, a 4th-century Armenian biography, says that they were “brothers, not by birth, but by affection” and enjoyed “the closest possible relationship, being both comrades and fellow soldiers.”

St. Polyeuctus (Wikimedia Commons)
Nearchus was Christian, but Polyeuct was not. The men had a strong desire to spend eternity together, so Polyeuct converted from paganism to Christianity, the faith of his beloved Nearchus. With a convert’s zeal he attacked a pagan procession.  He was beheaded for his crime in the year 259 in the western Armenian city of Militene. Shortly before he was executed, he spoke his last words to Nearchus: “Remember our secret vow.” Thus Polyeuct is known as a protector of vows and avenger of broken promises, in addition to his role as a probable “gay saint.”

Yale history professor John Boswell names Polyeuct and Nearchus as one of the three primary pairs of same-sex lovers in the early church. (The others are Perpetua and Felicity and Sergius and Bacchus.) The love story of Polyeuct and Nearchus is told with extensive historical detail in two books, “Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe” by Boswell and “Passionate Holiness” by Dennis O’Neill. He is founder of the Living Circle, the interfaith LGBT spirituality center that commissioned the above icon of the loving same-sex pair.

The icon is by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons. It is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major controversy in 2005. Critics accused Lentz of glorifying sin and creating propaganda for a progressive sociopolitical agenda, and he temporarily gave away the copyright for the controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores.

Polyeuctus and Nearchus by Jim Ru
Artist Jim Ru was also inspired to paint Polyeuct and Nearchus. His version was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee Arizona in the 1990s.

O’Neill reports that French writer Robert Dartois recently took the story of Polyeuct and Nearchus from “Passionate Holiness” and turned it into a libretto, which was then set by the Swiss composer Thierry Chatelain as the oratorio “Polyeucte et Nearchus.”

There are many variations in the spellings of their names, such as Polyeuctus, Polyeuctes, Polyeuktos and Nearchos and Nearch. Polyeuct’s feast day is Feb.13 in the Catholic calendar, but falls on Jan. 9 in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and Jan. 7 in ancient Armenian calendars. The feast day for Nearchus is April 22.

Related links:

Saints Polyeuct and Nearchos, 3rd Century Lovers and Martyrs (Queer Saints and Martyrs -- And Others)

Hermanos de afecto: Santos Polieucto y Nearco (Santos Queer)

This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.


Icons of Polyeuct and Nearchus and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gay Jesus painting shown in New Zealand: Christopher Olwage paints LGBT Christian scenes

“Crucifixion” by Christopher Olwage (oil on canvas)

A sacred vision of homosexuality and Christianity appears in monumental nude paintings of Jesus and the men he loved by gay New Zealand artist Christopher Olwage. His crucifixion painting will go exhibit starting tomorrow (Feb. 11) at the Auckland Pride Festival.

Olwage is a gifted artist and LGBTQ activist, but he is best known as a professional dancer. Fans call him “the Black Swan” for his pointe ballet performances. In 2013 he danced on “New Zealand’s Got Talent” and won the Mr. Gay World contest for the second year in a row. Born and raised in South Africa, he has lived in New Zealand since 2002.

He has completed three large-scale paintings of Jesus interacting with his Beloved Disciple and other Biblical men in classic scenes from the life of Christ: “The Last Supper,” “Ecce Homo” and “Crucifixion.”

“They are part of a series that I am devoting to the discourse on sacred sexuality, Christianity and homosexuality,” Olwage told the Jesus in Love Blog. “The themes are not new by any means but this is my take on them... I have been reading many discourses on the Beloved disciple, I myself studied ancient Greek at University, and religion has always been a passion. These artworks have been many years in the making...”

Christopher Olwage paints gay visions of Jesus and the man he loved

In “Crucifixion” Olwage shows a group of men reacting in various ways to Jesus on the cross. All are figures that Bible scholars believe may have had male-male sexual relationships. John, who is most often identified as the Beloved Disciple and lover of Jesus, kneels and throws his head back, overcome by emotion. Lazarus, who is also considered a possible sex partner of Jesus, bows his head in sorrowful prayer beneath a rainbow hood.

The scene is framed by a male couple: the Centurion on the left and the youth “who was dear to him.” Scholars say they may have been in an “erastes-eromenes” sexual relationship, but Jesus gladly healed the youth at the Centurion’s request.

Olwage’s art is informed not only by his queer religious studies, but by his personal experience of suffering and new life. In his moving video “I am the Black Swan,” he dances as he describes his transformation from an “ugly duckling” into the Black Swan. He was an overweight gay youth, bullied into attempting suicide, but he grew into the proud gay artist, activist and dancer that is he is today.

“Crucifixion” is part of the annual “Rainbow Youth Pride Art Exhibition” on display Feb. 11 to 26 at Studio One, 1 Ponsonby Road in Auckland. The exhibit showcases creativity from a range of young, emerging, and established LGBTQ (and allied) artists exploring sexuality and gender diversity in relation to politics, history, communities and identity.

YouTube videos feature his appearance on "New Zealand's Got Talent," "I am the Black Swan" and his Dance Works Showreel.

This post is part of the Queer Christ series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series gathers together visions of the queer Christ as presented by artists, writers, theologians and others.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Top LGBT Christian arts stories of 2014 named at Jesus in Love Blog

“The Resurrection” by Eny Roland (Courtesy of ArtCenter/South Florida) was featured in the year's top story

Art museums exploring queer Latino Christian imagery on both coasts became the most popular LGBT spiritual news story for 2014 at the Jesus in Love Blog.

In a close race for the top three spots, the second-ranked article was “Homosexuality of Jesus explored by 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham.” A round-up of the year’s best LGBTQ Christian books came in third.

The top stories of the year were named today by Kittredge Cherry, founder of the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT Spirituality and the Arts. The ratings are based on page views reported by Google Analytics.

The blog’s most popular classic story, a blockbuster reposted every year in various forms since 2008, continued to be a Holy Week series based on the gay Passion of Christ paintings of Douglas Blanchard with reflections by Cherry. The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city. “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a book based on the blog series, was published in fall 2014 and became the year's bestselling book at the Jesus in Love Blog.

The most popular saints of 2014 were all early Christian martyrs. Sergius and Bacchus took first place, followed by Perpetua and Felicity. The most popular transgender story was Saint Wilgefortis.

The year’s most popular alternative saints were 20th-century author-priest Henri Nouwen and 13th-century Sufi mystic Rumi. They were followed by poet Christina Rossetti, Quaker preacher Jemima Wilkinson (Universal Publick Friend), theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid and author Radclyffe Hall.

Saint Sebastian was a wildly popular saint at Santos Queer, a blog offering Spanish-language translations of Jesus in Love. His profile got more than 10,000 page views in 2014, about three times more than any post in English.

The blog's biggest splash on Facebook came from an article about African American winter holiday Kwanzaa. It introduced a rare icon of a black queer Christ by David Hayward, and it was quickly shared and went viral.

“Jesus in Love has become the go-to place for new and innovative material on the gay Jesus and queer saints,” Cherry said. “Readers love the pioneering LGBT Christian art and groundbreaking historical research presented here. It is hard to find anywhere else except at Jesus in Love.”

Here is a list of the year’s top stories in a variety of categories. Click the headlines to go to the original posts at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Top new stories of 2014

1. Art museums explore queer Christian themes in new exhibits

2. Homosexuality of Jesus explored by 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham

3. Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named

4. Mystical same-sex marriage affirmed in Renaissance art and new book "Saintly Brides and Bridegrooms”

5. Rainbow Christ Prayer goes nationwide at churches, seminaries and events

Most popular classic stories in 2014

Gay Passion paintings on display
(Photo by Dorie Hagler)
1. Gay Passion of Christ series starts Sunday

2. Gay artist paints :Intimacy with Christ" (Richard Stott)

3. Artist paints gay spiritual struggles (Wes Hempel)

Most popular official saints / Bible characters

"Sts. Sergius and Bacchus"
by Plamen Petrov
1. Saints Sergius and Bacchus: Male couple martyred in ancient Rome

2. Perpetua and Felicity: Patron saints of same-sex couples

3. Gay centurion: Jesus heals a soldier’s boyfriend in the Bible

4. John the Evangelist: Beloved Disciple of Jesus

5. David and Jonathan: Love between men in the Bible

6. Ruth and Naomi: Biblical women who loved each other

7. Brigid and Darlughdach: Celtic saint loved her female soulmate

Most popular alternative saints in 2014

"Henry Nouwen" by Robert Lentz
1. Henri Nouwen: Priest and author who struggled with his homosexuality

2. Rumi: Poet and Sufi mystic inspired by same-sex love

3. Christina Rossetti: Queer writer of Christmas carols and lesbian poetry

4. Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”

5. Marcella Althaus-Reid : Saint of a sexually embodied spirituality

6. Radclyffe Hall: Queer Christ themes mark life and work of pioneering lesbian author

7. Bayard Rustin: Gay saint of civil rights and non-violence

Most popular women’s stories

"Felicity and Perpetua" by
Maria Cristina
1. Perpetua and Felicity: Patron saints of same-sex couples

2. Ruth and Naomi: Biblical women who loved each other

Most popular transgender story

1. Saint Wilgefortis: Holy bearded woman fascinates for centuries

Most popular Spanish-language story

San Sebastián: El primer ícono gay de la historia
English version: Saint Sebastian: History’s first gay icon

Bestselling books of 2014 at Jesus in Love

1. “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by Kittredge Cherry and Douglas Blanchard

2. “From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ” by Patrick Cheng

3. “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” by Kittredge Cherry

4. “Forbidden Rumi: The Suppressed Poems of Rumi on Love, Heresy, and Intoxication” translated by Nevit O. Ergin and Will Johnson

5. “The Daring of Paradise” by Brian Day

Related links:

2013’s top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories

2012’s top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories

2011’s top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories

2010’s top 7 LGBT spiritual arts stories

2009’s top 7 GLBT spiritual arts stories

2008’s top 5 queer-spirit arts stories

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Bestselling books of 2014:

Saturday, February 07, 2015

New LGBTQ Christian books - February 2015

New LGBTQ Christian books are coming out as the new year begins. Both books this month are in the "LGBT people in church" category.

LGBT people in the church

Beyond Heterosexism in the Pulpit” by Emily Askew and O. Wesley Allen Jr.
The book aims at ministers looking for better strategies to speak from the pulpit in favor of LGBT rights while respecting congregants who disagree. The authors are both professors at Lexington Theological Seminary. Their approach combines critical theology and contemporary homiletics.

LGBT In The Name of God: The Black Church's Response to the LGBT Community” by Christopher James Priest. 
Pointed, witty essays aim at building honest dialogue in African American churches about LGBT issues. The author is a Baptist pastor with 50 years’ service in the black church – but he is best known as the first African American writer in the comic-book industry. Topics include same-sex marriage, the black church’s unwritten “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and the roots of homophobia in traditional church doctrine. It includes a foreword by Benjamin L. Reynolds, former director of the LGBTQ Religious Studies Center at Chicago Theological Seminary.

Related links:

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named

Top 20 Gay Jesus books

Jesus in Love Bookstore (includes LGBT Christian classics)

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts