Thursday, June 26, 2008

250+ People Attend Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service in Minneapolis

Let us build a house where all are named,
their songs and visions heard,
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed
as words within the word.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of love’s face;
Let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

These words were sung at the beginning of CPCSM’s inaugural LGBT Pride Prayer Service, held late yesterday afternoon outside of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in South Minneapolis.

For many years the parish of St. Joan of Arc has hosted a Pride Prayer Service during the week leading up to the Twin Cities LGBT Pride Festival. The church’s 2008 Pride Prayer Service was scheduled to take place last night. Yet last week the chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis issued a directive that “people who fully adapt to the GLBT lifestyle are not permitted to . . . be the subject of a prayer service that endorses that lifestyle.” The parish complied, canceled its LGBT Pride Prayer Service and, in its place, hosted last night a “peace service.”

In response to these events, the 30-year-old Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), the organization to which I have the honor of serving as executive coordinator, decided to continue the tradition of a Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service. Furthermore, so as to acknowledge and honor the good work that the community of St. Joan’s has done in relation to initiating and hosting such a prayer service for many years, it was deemed appropriate to hold CPCSM’s inaugural Pride Prayer Service at the entrance of the parish, a half hour before the community’s replacement “peace service.”

Of course, the local chapter of the nation’s largest Catholic LGBT organization, DignityUSA, has been hosting an annual LGBT Pride Liturgy for over twenty years, to which Catholics of the archdiocese are welcomed to attend. (This year’s Dignity Twin Cities Pride Liturgy will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27, at Prospect Park United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.)

Both the president and executive director of DignityUSA, Mark Matson and Marianne Duddy-Burke respectively, sent CPCSM a joint message of support, which was shared at the Pride Prayer Service last night. This message said:

The entire membership of DignityUSA stands with you tonight as you witness to your rights to be full members of the Church, no matter if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or straight. We stand with you to celebrate the expansive, inclusive love of our God, and to pray for the day when this same inclusiveness will be a hallmark of our Church.

We thank the people of St. Joan of Arc for their many years of opening wide the parish doors, for daring to speak our names in worship and fellowship, for demonstrating that true welcome does not demand silence, secrecy, or pretense. We encourage the Archdiocesan leadership to enter into dialogue with the members of this parish – straight and gay – so that they may better understand the important ministry that is provided here.

Finally, know that thousands and thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender Catholics and our families all across the country, will be encouraged by and grateful for your witness here tonight. By participating in this prayer service, you demonstrate courage, one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. May what you do tonight inspire many others to exercise this gift and stand in solidarity with all who are marginalized or persecuted, especially by religious leaders.

After processing from the parking lot of St. Joan of Arc to the entrance of the church (a procession led by Catholic Rainbow Parents’ co-founders Mike and Mary Lynn Murphy), those who gathered for CPCSM’s Pride Prayer Service sang together, prayed together, and heard from a number of speakers.

Our opening prayer was a taken from a collection of liturgies especially developed for the LGBT community, and entitled Courage to Love. Written by Justin Tanis, this “call to worship” reads as follows:

One: For all who have taken the risk of loving another,

Many: We thank you, O God of Courage.

For all who integrate their sexuality and spirituality,

We praise you, O God of Life.

For all who have colored outside the lines
that others have placed around them,

We rejoice with you, O God of Creativity.

For all who have lived true to the inner voice within,

We celebrate with you, O God of Integrity.

For all who proclaim their pride at who you created them to be,

We dance with you, O God of Joy.

For all that you are in our lives, and all the gifts that you
have given us, and most especially, for the unique creation
that is each one of us,

We honor you, O God of All.

Above (from left): Mary Beckfeld, Mary Lynn Murphy, and Georgia Mueller eloquently share their perspective as parents of adult gay children. All three women are co-founders of Catholic Rainbow Parents.

The message on Mary’s sign is in response to Archbishop John Nienstedt’s November 2007
statement that those who “actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin.” Many interpreted this as saying that parents and family members who affirm and support their LGBT children in forming loving and committed relationships, in living relational lives of honesty and integrity, are “cooperating in a grave evil” and “guilty of mortal sin.”

Above: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak shares with the crowd his gratitude and admiration for the many years of social justice ministry undertaken by the community of St. Joan of Arc Church.

Above: Minnesota Senator D. Scott Dibble (DFL) and Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff.

Both men attended CPCSM’s Pride Prayer Service not as elected officials, but as Catholic gay men concerned by the recent actions of the chancery forbidding St. Joan of Arc hosting it’s traditional Pride Prayer Service. Both also expressed hope for change within the wider Catholic Church around the issue of homosexuality.

Above (from left): CPCSM co-founder, David McCaffrey; Minnesota Senator D. Scott Dibble (DFL); and Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff.

Both Scott and Gary’s heartfelt testimonies reminded me of the insights shared by Thomas Stevenson in his book, Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men. Like Scott and Gary, the “witnesses” in Stevenson’s book demonstrate how “loving, compassionate affirmation of their homosexuality frees them from the destructive denial, hiding, or fighting of their homosexuality.”

Writes Stevenson:

This freeing of themselves as homosexual opens up to new life that is marked by honesty, peacefulness, wholeness, and the experience of the naturalness, goodness, and giftedness of their homosexuality.

. . . At the center of Catholicism is the love of God for us, this love of God in Christ and through the Holy Spirit for us that in turn transforms us for loving others and returning love to God.

Our witnesses return again and again to this Center, and in their consciences make distinctions about what is not essential in Church teaching, what, according to their lights, is not loving. They do not give up on this Center; rather they challenge from it. To give up on this Center, this Love which is salvific, would itself be destructive.

[We can be gay and Catholic by] returning again and again to this Love.

I adapted our “sending forth” prayer from an “LGBT Pride Blessing” written by Justin Tanis. It reads as follows:

Holy One, known to us in many ways,
be present with us now.
We ask for your blessings as we go forth
rejoicing as a community of
LGBT Catholics and allies.

Bless our pride.
Let it be a humble reflection of gratitude
for who it is you have created us to be.

Bless our celebration.
Let it be an expression of
our trust and joy in your loving presence
within and among us.

Bless our hopes and dreams.
May they herald the building of a Church
that is more reflective of your inclusive love.

Bless those who oppose us.
May our integrity inspire and change hearts and minds.

Bless our differences as a source of our strength
and a sign of our respect for one another.

Bless those for whom it takes great courage to be here.
May they may feel the abundance of life.

Bless our calls for equality and liberation.
May we may both speak and hear your vision
of justice and peace.

Bless each one of us here today with your presence
and our presence with one another.

All this we ask of you, compassionate God,
for you are ever faithful to us.
Rejoice with us today and every day.


My deepest thanks to all of you reading this who were present at this truly inspiring prayer service. Everyone I spoke to at the conclusion of the service felt renewed and uplifted by the time we spent together in prayer, song, and celebration.

A special thanks to our speakers: David McCaffrey; Catholic Rainbow Parents Mary Beckfeld, Mary Lynn Murphy, and Georgia Mueller; Mayor R.T. Rybak, Senator Scott Dibble, Councilor Gary Schiff, and Dignity Twin Cities president, Brian McNeill.

Also, a BIG thank you to Kathleen Olsen and Ray Makeever for sharing their musical talents.

And finally, on a personal note, CPCSM’s inaugural LGBT Pride Prayer Service took place on my friend Jeremiah McGowan’s birthday. I want to take this opportunity to thank him, his partner Kristy, and the whole McGowan family for their love, acceptance, and support of me as a Catholic gay man, especially during my closeted years in Australia and my often stumbling journey toward a life of greater self-awareness, integrity, and grace.

Images: Michael Bayly.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Gay Catholics Pray Away: Hundreds Gather Outside St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church
- Andy Birkey (, June 26, 2008).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service That Is and Isn’t Happening
More Media Coverage of the Upcoming Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service
What is a “Lifestyle”?
Thoughts on Archbishop Nienstedt
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
Archbishop Nienstedt’s “Learning Curve”: A Suggested Trajectory
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Coming Out: An Act of Holiness


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this situation and it seems to me to be further evidence of the strange ways in which the Holy Spirit works. Archbishop Nienstedt attempted to further marginalize the blessing service and look at how quite the opposite happened!

The blessing was moved "out of the closet" of the church and right out under the sky where more people could witness and appreciate it. I know that wasn't his intent, but something righteous and beautiful emerged from his hate.

Tc said...

Did those who prayed before stay for the "sanctioned" service?

kevin57 said...

As I was reading about the prayer service I became very sad. What an opportunity the archdiocese lost in not working with the (gay) Catholic community to craft a prayer service that could have been affirming and challenging at the same time.

What I fear about these sorts of services was hinted at in many of the words I read. It struck me that the community has turned in on itself...seeing themselves only as good and "others" as blind or selfish. At the same time, what sort of "Catholicism" is it when a vital part of the Church is shamefully turned away?

It would not have been easy, but I think some sort of prayer could have been developed that would have made the pride community's prayer more expansive while inviting the larger Church community into deeper relationship with the gay community.

An opportunity lost. Somehow I just know the Lord is sighing.

CDE said...

something righteous and beautiful emerged from his hate.

His hate? That is really presumptuous.

Nienstedt didn't marginalize the blessing service; I don't think he foresaw that a protest service would be planned in reaction. He simply made the point that a such a service would not be held on property owned by the Catholic Church. He did nothing to violate freedom of assembly/freedom of speech.

Dissenters are free to assemble and voice their opinions; they simply are not being given permission to use Catholic facilities to do so.

Frank Partisan said...

The crowd size shows a growing movement. There was the days, when the gay rights movement in the Catholic church, was scattered individuals.

Michael J. Bayly said...


Quite a few folks went from the outside Pride prayer service to the "peace" service in the church. I didn't, however.

My friend Paul went to both and later shared the following in an e-mail:

As for the "peace service," what an incredible disappointment . . . Talk about rolling over for the Archbishop. . . . It was the typical "be passive, don't rock the boat" B.S. It was liking dealing with this issue back in the late 70's or early 80's. The amazing spiritual violence that is happening and not one word mentioned about it. . .



Anonymous said...

My profound thanks to those of you who put together last night's service. Thank you to David for finding the reading - I did not realize how long it was but... - it hit the nail right on the head!!!

The only interview I could pull up on the Web was Channel 5 and once again Michael, you were so articulate and also hit the nail right on the head.

Anonymous said...

Great event yesterday. The turnout was amazing. You did a great job.

Anonymous said...

What a well done, positive, wonderful, and blessed evening.

Anonymous said...

I have so much respect and appreciation for you and for the leadership you are taking.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, thank you for this beautiful piece and for your work on the service (and for being). I forwarded the link to the Holy Trinity office, it's Peace with Justice Committee, and to the Community of St Martin.

Hope to see you tonight, if you are not exhausted or inundated with email etc. Love, Carol