The active persecution of sodomites by the Inquisition gradually gave way to secular prosecutions under civil law, with declining ferocity as the Renaissance gave way to the Enlightenment and more modern times (although executions continued until the nineteenth century.) From this time on, theoretical condemnation of “sodomites” co-existed with increasing public recognition of some men who had sex with men, and records relating to queers in the church are less prominent than either earlier or later periods.
Victorians and after
In the nineteenth century, Cardinal Newman’s request to be buried alongside Ambrose St John does not appear to have aroused any opposition. Other notable examples from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries of same – sex couples prominent in the Christian church were women – perhaps because two women living together did not awaken suspicion of a sexual relationship. Conversely, an important and prominent male couple, Edward Carpenter and John Symonds, were notable for pursuing their brand of spirituality outside of the established churches.
- Edward Carpenter
- Celibacy, Homosexuality, Jeffrey John and Cardinal Newman/“Out of the Shadows, Into the Light”:Blessed John Henry Newman, Soho “Gay” Masses
- Rev. Phebe Ann Coffin Hannaford, Pioneering “Lesbian” Minister
- Vida Dutton Scudder: Lesbian Saint for Our Times
- Pauli Murray
In the twentieth century, the increasing visibility of homosexual men produced the horrifying backlash in Germany in the gay holocaust, with its echos of the medieval bonfires of heretics and sodomites – the modern gay martyrs.
Only after WWII did the Vatican begin to seriously address the question of homosexuality, with increasingly harsh judgements and attempts to silence theologians and pastors who questioned their doctrines and practice. (John McNeill, Sr Jeannine Grammick). Other denominations drove out existing gay or lesbian pastors, and refused ordination, or even church membership, to other openly gay or lesbian church members (Paul Abel Chris Glaser, Troy Perry). However, these victims of church exclusion, who can be seen metaphorically as modern martyrs, martyred by the church for being true to their sexual identity, refused to be silenced. Like St Sebastian before Emperor Maximilian, they found new ways to minister to the truth of homosexuality and Christianity.
Today, these early pioneers for queer inclusion in church have been joined by countless others, who work constantly at tasks large and small, to witness to the truth of our sexuality and gender identity, and to its compatibility with authentic Christianity. In effect, that includes all of who identify as both Christian, and simultaneously as lesbian, gay trans, or other – and the women who refuse to accept the narrow confines of the gender roles church authorities attempt to place on us.
Five transformative trends:
The Reassessment of Biblical Evidence on Homoerotic Relationships
Clergy coming out
Self- ministry and support groups
Emergence of Visible Queer Families