Oct 29, 2013

Spring 1980: Malcolm Boyd, the Fighting Priest Who Can Talk to Kids

Malcolm Boyd and Mark Thompson
When Fred the Ministerial Student and I visited Des Moines in the spring of 1980, we went to Drake University to hear an Episcopalian priest named Malcolm Boyd speak on social justice.  Thomas, the priest with three boyfriends, knew him, so the next day we all had lunch (no, Malcolm wasn't one of the boyfriends).

 All I knew about Malcolm was his book, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? (1965), a series of brief prayers about contemporary concerns, such as political injustice, racial inequality, sexual freedom, and gay people:

This is a gay bar, Jesus....Quite a few of the men here belong to the church as well as this bar. If they knew how, a number of them would ask you to be with them in both places.  Some of them wouldn't, but won't you be with them, too, Jesus?

Still, I was shocked to discover that Malcolm Boyd was gay himself -- and out, the first openly gay cleric in any mainstream religious body in the world.  He came out in a newspaper interview in 1977, and in 1978 he wrote Take Off the Masks, suggesting that Christianity should not only be tolerant, but gay-positive.

Born in 1923, Malcolm began his career as a movie producer, but felt the call to the clergy and graduated from seminary in 1954.  During the 1960s, he was famous his work in the Civil Rights movement, and for his hip religious poetry at the Hungry I nightclub in San Francisco.  He was the inspiration for the Doonesbury character Rev. Scott Sloane, "the fighting priest who can talk to kids."

In 1982 he moved to Los Angeles to become the priest at St.-Augustine-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica.   He has written over 30 books, including Gay Priest: An Inner Journey (1987).

Mark Thompson, his partner of over 30 years, has written many books on gay spirituality, including The Fire in the Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries, about the group that Sparky T. Rabbit helped to found.  They believe that gay people have a unique spiritual role as gatekeepers to the other world.