Friday, August 30, 2013

1974 and 1975

Just over six and a half years ago, I posted Elegy and Epithalamion -- a piece that looked back to early 1973 when my partner Rex Slauson died after suffering a massive heart attack in a gay bathhouse.  The post included this picture of Rex taken at the 1973 Twelfth Night party at St. Mary's.
Beside Rex is Jane Dudley -- they were the King and Queen of the evening.  Also featured is a copy of Women Priests: Yes or No? by Suzanne Hiatt and St. Mary's own Emily Hewitt.  A little over a month later, Rex was dead.  A little over two years later, I married Jane's mother Liz Dudley  and now Jane is my daughter and the mother of my grandchildren.  In between, Emily Hewitt  and Suzanne Hiatt were ordained priests in Philadelphia.  Along with Emily, another of the Philadelphia Eleven at St. Mary's was Carter Heyward. 

The push for women's ordination was only peripherally connected to St. Mary's.  We were hospitable and many of us were supportive, but the drive came from the women themselves.  It appeared to some of the Afro American and Afro Caribbean women in the congregation that this was a white women's movement.  In early 1973 the involvement of Philadelphia's Church of the Advocate, the sermon by Charles Willie, and the participation of Barbara Harris as crucifer were all in the future.

In 1973 I was Clerk of the Vestry at St. Mary's.  Carter and Emily were ordained deacons at the regular spring ordinations.  Come December, St. Mary's implored Bishop Paul Moore to ordain them to the priesthood, along with the male deacons from the spring, but of course he did not.  On April 21, Low Sunday, in 1974, my 38th birthday, at St. Mary's Annual Meeting,  Liz Dudley nominated me as Warden and I was elected.  [In those days, our Annual Meeting was officially on the Tuesday in Easter week, but it was always adjourned to the following Sunday.]

In May, Doug Clark, another deacon who was serving at St. Mary's, was scheduled to be ordained priest in New York and at St. Mary's on behalf of his Florida bishop.  Again we implored Bishop Moore and the Standing Committee to consent to the concurrent priesting of our two women deacons.  Our request was denied.  In the event, Carter Heyward preached at Doug's ordination. As Clerk and then Warden, I was the author of several letters to the Bishop and Standing Committee at that time.  As it happens, I kept carbons of my letters and also my copies of the replies.  I recently gave those papers to the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship at The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (both Emily and Carter were at Union while they were at St, Mary's.)  Included in that gift were the picture above of Rex and Jane and the very copy of Women Priests: Yes or No? that Rex is holding in the picture.

This spring, archival copies of my papers, as well as other material, was included in an exhibit at General Theological Seminary's Keller Libray called “…because they are women and not men”, a quotation from Neale A. Secor, our then rector.

And now I come to the point of this post. In June, Liz and I, Neale, his partner Ricardo, his son and daughter in law Tom and Carla, and a few others met at General to see the exhibit.  We had a picnic lunch in a conference room and over lunch Neale, Liz,  and I were reminiscing about St. Mary's in the mid 1970's.  It was Neale who remarked that the women were in charge of the ordination project -- certainly not St. Mary's and especially not we men at St. Mary's.  (It was only a few years since women were allowed on vestries in New York.)

Neale happened to mention that St. Mary's was involved in accepting donations to the establishment of Integrity -- we provided tax deductibility.  I was intrigued.  In 1974, I was Warden, and gay. and I knew nothing about it.  Neale said Louie Crew twisted his arm and I could find out more from him.  As it happens, I am Facebook friends with Louie Crew, although I do not know him personally.  The other day I saw a post that Louie and his husband Ernest, who were married in a religious ceremony about a year before Liz and I were married, had just had a civil marriage in New York State.  I took the opportunity to congratulate Louie and Ernest and then I asked him about his recollection of the "money washing."   He doen't have a clear recollection either and suggested it was to do with the New York chapter of Integrity.

Well!  It was time for mongoosing ("The motto of the mongoose family, so Mr. Kippling tells us, is 'Go and find out.'" - Murder of Roger Ackroyd)   From A Brief History of Integrity, I learned that Integrity began as a newsletter in November 1974.

November, 1974.  I met Rex in a bar at 415 Amsterdam Avenue in the wee hours of November 5, 1958.  Sixteen years later, in 1974, I think it was November 6, Liz invited me to a concert at St. Thomas Church where her nephew Chuck was a chorister.  At the end of that week, I invited myself to move in with Liz.  We have been together ever since.

I was transitioning from a nearly 15 year gay relationship to marriage with Liz.  We were married on February 8, 1975.   At the time, Liz's daughter Jane was living with her grandparents in Vermont.  At the end of the school year, Jane came back to New York to live with us.  Also we moved from Liz's two bedroom apartment to our new three bedroom apartment.

Remember stress points?  In the period from February 1973 to July 1975 I had (a) lost a male partner  (to death), (b) married a woman, (c) moved twice, (d) acquired a thirteen year old daughter.  Mongoosing hasn't helped me find how many points that is.  But it's a lot.  No wonder I didn't notice that Integrity was being founded under my nose.  Especially since I was convinced that it didn't matter that I had been gay.  (By the way, it took me almost twenty years to admit to myself and to Liz that I am and always have been gay.)

The chronology is not completely clear from sources on the internet, but apparently the first convention of Integrity was held in Chicago in the late summer of 1975, before September 7 when four women were ordained in Washington.   The Brief History says that immediately after the convention "Co-President Jim Wickliff and Editor Louie Crew called the first meetings of chapters in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City, on their way to meet in September with the Presidng Bishop."  So Louie Crew was involved in founding the New York chapter.

Memory is an odd thing.  I was 77 in April of this year.  According to, Louie Crew will be 77 on December 9 and Neale Secor was 79 on July 3.  We are all in the same cohort.  And we all have different memories of that time almost forty years ago.

It was clear to Rex, on Twelfth Night 1973; it was clear to me; it is clear to Bishop Robinson; but it is not clear to every gay man now nor was it in 1973, that the oppression of  gay men and the oppression of women, straight or gay, are inextricably intertwined.

More later

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