LGBTQ Collections at Graduate Theological Union Archives Off the Shelves and Into the Saddle

This presentation is adapted from a talk given by Lucinda Glenn at the Western Round-up Archives Associations Meeting, Seattle, April 29-May 1, 2010. She was one of four participants in the session, LGBTQ Collections: Off the Shelves & Into the Saddle.

The Graduate Theological Union is an incorporated consortium of eight separate theological seminaries in Berkeley, California. These are 6 various Protestant and 2 Roman Catholic. The Protestant include American Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, United Methodist and Unitarian. The two Roman Catholic are Dominican and Jesuit and include in their student bodies lay people and folks from male and female religious orders. In addition there are program units and affiliated institutes and centers from other religious traditions and subject areas including Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Greek Orthodox, Buddhist, Theology and Science and Theology and Art.

Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA (1998 aerial)

LGBTQ men and women have taught as faculty or attended the GTU member schools as students both as lay people and ordained. Some closeted for decades, many openly since the early 1970's. In 1968, a year before the Stonewall Riots, the Metropolitan Community Church was founded when a gathering of 12 people met in the Rev. Troy Perry's living room near Los Angeles, California. The MCC was the first church founded with a primary, positive ministry to gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons.

GTU Gay Caucus flyer, 1974, 93-10-03, SCB 1:8

Those interested in ordination to the MCC soon began to attend Pacific School of Religion for their studies. By early 1974, the GTU Gay Caucus had been organized by students.

Portion of flyer promoting the GTU Archives, 2009
Portion of flyer promoting the GTU Archives, 2009

The GTU Archives program formally began in 1989. To reflect the diverse cultural and religious nature and mission of the GTU, the archives collection policy was set to collect in the areas of ecumenical and inter-religious activities, with interests in ethnicity, women in religion and new religious movements.

In 1990, a library colleague, whose spouse was a Metropolitan Community Church minister, told me about an acquaintance who had a collection and was interested in having it at the GTU. When I got in touch with Roy Birchard in San Francisco where he lived, he said, "So many of my friends and colleagues have died of AIDS. I don't know how long I will be alive and all this history needs to be kept and open for people to look at, to remember all the people and all this work."

Roy Birchard MCC, 91-12-01. Photo: MCC Elders, 1974. Box 17:11.

Born 1943 in Vermont, Roy attended Berea College in Kentucky and then Union theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained a United Church of Christ minister in 1969. Going on to the University of Wisconsin for a PhD in English, he came out as a gay person and began his life of activism. Returning to New York, he joined the Gay Activit's Alliance, then help found the MCC New York Church. He switched his ministerial credentials to the MCC and over the next two decades served the Church in many capacities, including pastorates across the country.

The Gay Christian, Nov-Dec, 1972. Roy Birchard MCC, 91-12-01.

Birchard was editor of The Gay Christian, the MCC denominational journal, and on the Board of Elders and various commissions and committees. In the mid-1990's, he let his ministerial credentials lapse and has been working on broader issues concerning but not limited to LGBTQ Asian and Asian-Americans of faith.

The GTU Archives collecting policy was expanded to include "gays and lesbians in religion."

Witches Beltane Ball and Raindance, no date. William "Will" Noffke Papers, 2001-8-01, Poster 67.

The 1970's - what a creative decade theologically! The first Center for Women and Religion was founded at GTU in 1970. The first Pacific Islander and Asian American Center for Theology in 1974. The first Center for the Academic Study of New Religious Movements in 1977.

The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (2000) and Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (2019)

The first Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry was founded in 2000 at Pacific School of Religion, a member school of the GTU. It's founding principle is: "The Center is dedicated to the encouragement of new, creative scholarship on the interrelations of religion, gender identity and sexuality / sexual orientation; to the production and dissemination of innovative resources for the academy, faith communities, activists, and the general public; to the development of enlightened leadership around issues of religion, gender identity, and sexuality through education; and to presenting a new public voice in the discourse over sexual and gender identity through media outreach and coalition building."

John McNeil on tour, 1976. John J. McNeill and Charles Chiarelli Gay and Lesbian Liberation Collection, 2001-11-01.

The Center's Program Director Bernie Schlager came to me that opening year. He said he was in touch with John McNeil, former Jesuit and pioneer advocate for openly gay people of faith. Would the GTU Archives be interested in the collection? From that initial contact began a collaboration that has become a strong and unique archival record of lesbians and gays who have pioneered the work of open LGBQT people of faith working in ministries and advocacy issues throughout the United States.

John McNeil on the Phil Donahue Show in 1986.

John McNeil was born in 1925. He died in 2015. He was a POW in a German camp during World War II. After returning home, he joined the Society of Jesus, Jesuits, in 1948. His extensive studies, including the Catholic University of Louvain, prepared him as a scholar of the philosophy of Maurice Blondel. He taught at Fordham University and Union Theological Seminary, publishing The Blondelian Synthesis: A Study of the Influence of German Philosophical Sources on Blondel's Method and Thought (1966). McNeil published his seminal book, The Church and the Homosexual, in 1976. After its publication, the Pope silenced him, saying he shall not speak on any issue of homosexuality. In 1986, McNeil broke his silence quite loudly. This included an appearance on the Phil Donahue Show.

Breaking silence meant that he was removed from the Order of the Society of Jesus. He continued to teach, write and lecture. His later books include Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians and Their Lovers, Families, and Friends, 1988; Freedom, Glorious Freedom, 1995; and Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey, 1998. He was an indefatigable advocate for LGBTQ people of faith. The collection is very strong in Blondel resources. It is an extensive collection of materials on McNeil's journey through his career, his activism and Catholic bureaucratic machinations.

LGBTQ Religious Archives Network (lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/), 2019

In 2001, the LGBT Religious Archives Network began as a project of the Chicago Theological Seminary. In 2008, it became a program of the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion. A virtual archive, "The LGBTQ Religious Archives Network (LGBT-RAN) is an innovative venture in preserving history and encouraging scholarly study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) religious movements around the world. LGBTQ-RAN has a two-fold basic purpose. First it assists LGBT religious leaders and groups in determining how best to preserve their records and papers in appropriate repositories. Secondly, LGBTQ-RAN provides an electronic information clearinghouse for these archival collections and other historical data about LGBT religious history for the use of historians, researchers and other interested persons."

Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, no date. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott Papers, 2007-7-01

Again through Schlager and the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion, in 2007 the Virginia Ramey Mollenkott Papers came into the GTU holdings. [The arrangement is as follows: the collection belongs to the larger archival collection of The Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) at Pacific School of Religion, a member school of The Graduate Theological Union. The GTU Archives is the designated repository.] Born in 1932, Mollenkott was raised a Christian fundamentalist at conservative boarding schools, and received her BA in English from Bob Jones University in 1953. She married and was a mother. Going on for a PhD in English, she became a well-respected Milton scholar and taught at William Patterson University in New Jersey for over 40 years. She worked on the New International Version of the Bible and was active in the National Council of Churches.

In the 1970's she came out as a lesbian. Always active in progressive evangelical organizations such as the Evangelical Women's and Ecumenical Women's Caucus. she also joined Christian Lesbians OUT (CLOUT). She co-authored with Letha D. Scanzoni, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? (1978). Other books include Women, Men and the Bible (1977); Speech, Silence, Action: The Cycle of Faith (1980); Sensuous Spirituality: Out From Fundamentalism (1992); Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach (2001); and Gender Diversity and Christian Community (2005). She has been an early and continuously dedicated advocate for lesbians and gays in the life of faith, speaking and teaching throughout the country, writing numerous articles. The collection is extensive and exhaustive, including her professional work, personal journals and correspondence.

Opening the Gates, flyer, Pacific and Asian American Center for Theology and Strategies, 2001-9-01, 4:14. Similar announcements and documents are scattered throughout the GTU archives.

Religion is passion, it is all about reaching out, it is all about spirituality and letting the spirit guide and inform.

Two GTU students in the library, 1992. GTU Photograph Collection, 6a:4.

Lucinda Glenn served as the GTU archivist for over 23 years, retiring in August 2012. Single-handedly she managed the operation of the manuscript and institutional archives, establishing the collection as one of the best in the country in the areas of religion and social justice, new religious movements, and religious activities in 20th century California. Outside of the GTU, she held leadership positions in the Society of American Archivists and the Society of California Archivists, of which she was president in 2008-9. She is recognized as an authority on processing religious collections and managing the privacy and confidentiality issues related to pastoral work.

Adapted and updated by David Stiver, Special Collections Librarian, Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709, gtuarchives.org. June 25, 2019.

Collections managed by Graduate Theological Union for The Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion

John J. McNeill and Charles Ghirardelli Gay and Lesbian Liberation Collection, GTU 2001-11-01. This collection includes personal papers, correspondence, speeches, articles both about and by J. McNeill, typed manuscripts of three books, Maurice Blondel research and thesis, video and audio cassettes, engagement calendars, books and computer discs.

Chris Glaser Collection, GTU 2007-1-01. Chris Glaser (1950 - ) is an activist for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender rights, especially within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). As writer and speaker, his topics include the church, the Bible and homosexuality: the spiritual gifts of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community; same-gender marriage: men’s spirituality; Henri Nouwen; death; and the wisdom of dogs. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, along with periods as pastor of various congregations, he served as Director of the Lazarus Project, a ministry of reconciliation between the church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Los Angeles, funded by the Presbyterian Church.

Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, GTU 2007-7-01. The collection contains the working, task, project, and correspondence files and materials concerning the career and ministry of Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (1932 - ), an English professor and advocate of women's and gay and lesbian rights. Raised a fundamentalist Christian, she became active in progressive evangelical organizations.

Jane Adams Spahr Collection, GTU 2008-2-02. Jane Adams Spahr (1942- ) is a Presbyterian minister who has fought for justice for the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community. She suffered several rebukes from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)for being an open lesbian minister and for officiating same sex marriages. She served as a countrywide evangelist for the rights of oppressed people and helped found the organization That All May Freely Serve.

Mark Thompson Collection, GTU 2011-11-01. Mark Thompson (1952-August 9, 2016) wrote and edited several influential queer books, including the trilogy Gay Spirit, Gay Soul, and Gay Body. His other books include The Fire in the Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries; Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice; and Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement. The collection consists of photographs and working files for Mark Thompson’s book Gay Soul, publicity and drafts of Gay Spirit and an oral history.

Mel White and Daryl Lach Collection, 2015-08-02. James Melville "Mel" White is an influential author, film maker, spokesman and clergyman raised as an Evangelical Christian. In his fifties, he became an effective and outspoken advocate for gay rights, openly confronting Evangelical leaders for their anti-homosexual rhetoric. Daryl Lach has extensively collected in the area of "Voices of the Christian Right in American Politics and Culture at the Turn of the 21st Century."

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Collection, GTU 2017-11-02. The Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) represent the efforts of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Lutherans to support the theology of their denomination and support like oriented ministers. The ELM represents a 2007 merger of two organizations, Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries, originally founded in 1990, and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, originally founded in 1993.

Collections owned by Graduate Theological Union

Roy Birchard: Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches Collection, GTU 91-12-01. This collection contains materials from the life of Roy Birchard, who was a leader in the early years of the Metropolitan Community Church. He served in a number of leadership roles in various locations, including New York and San Francisco. The materials include working files, personal papers, correspondence, news clippings, periodicals, audiotapes, videotapes, photographs, and computer disks.

Aubrey Richard Weatherly Collection, GTU 91-12-02. Aubrey Richard (Rick) Weatherly (1952-1991) was a pastor in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and served in Oakland, California. The collection contains personal and professional files, photographs, slides, negatives, and buttons relating to his personal and professional life.

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Graduate Theological Union Archives

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