The Golden Notebook: A Novel
Bel Canto

Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism

Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American ProtestantismQueer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism by R W Holmen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Queer Clergy, Holmen tells the story of the path to ordination of lesbians and gays in the five mainline Protestant churches--the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Methodist Church. The final story, of course, has not come to conclusion as the UMC continues to resist the trend in the other denominations and even appears at times to be heading in the other direction. Since the UMC is the final section, the book ends on something of a sad note.

But included are many moments of triumph and celebration. The UCC portion made me proud of my own denomination, which first began ordaining lesbians and gays in 1972, though it was the late 1980's before gay and lesbian pastors began to occupy pulpits. Our national denominational structure also moved more quickly to embrace LGBT persons, creating official processes for becoming and open and affirming church and hiring openly LGBT persons to work in the national office. We also endorsed marriage equality first.

The book does begin with a discussion of pro-LGBT movements outside the mainline that began in the late 1960's, including the Metropolitan Community Church and pro-LGBT positions of the Unitarian-Universalist Association.

Holmen doesn't exactly write beautiful prose, but he is a good at covering major events and bringing some narrative arc to them. Otherwise all the study groups, national meetings, church trials, and policy pronouncements could get boring. He also examines the role of what he calls "gatekeeper" organizations, those anti-equality groups that sprang up in each denomination. Some of them coordinated with each other and some even coordinated with partisan political groups as part of a larger political battle during the culture wars. A feature of the Episcopalian and Methodist sections is the role of international groups.

The book informed me of many heroes I was not acquainted with--people who have made my ministry possible.

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