Malcolm Boyd is a pioneering gay Episcopal priest, activist and author who died at age 91 on Feb. 27, 2015.
His best-known book is “Are You Running with Me, Jesus?” a collection of conversational prayer-poems with a million copies in print. The 1965 classic includes “Prayers for Sexual Freedom” with a section that begins “This is a
He wrote 35 books, including “Gay Priest: An Inner Journey.”
Malcolm was born June 8, 1923 in Buffalo, New York. His eclectic life journey included working in the film industry with silent screen star Mary Pickford before he left his successful Hollywood career to become a priest. He was ordained in 1955. Boyd became a “Freedom Rider” for civil rights in 1961, and officially came out as gay in 1977.
I knew Malcolm personally as a fellow author, a colleague in LGBTQ ministry, and a good-natured friend who shared my passion for Taize music. One of the last times I saw him was at the 2008 Lambda Literary Awards ceremony, when he received a Pioneer Award and I was a Lammy finalist.
At my invitation, Boyd contributed to my book “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations” and was the keynote speaker at a Taize Festival that I organized in Los Angeles in the 1990s. In a wonderful keynote speech, he described his stay at the Taize monastic community in France in 1957.
I remember the fun and excitement of attending his Los Angeles reading for “Amazing Grace: Stories of Lesbian and Gay Faith,” which he edited with Nancy Wilson.
Malcolm wrote two prayers for “Equal Rites.” I was pleased when he agreed to contribute to the book, and even more delighted when I received his manuscript well before the deadline and started to read it. Unlike most writers, Malcolm submitted text that required no editing because it was already perfect. Here is an excerpt from his “Coming-Out Liturgy”:
Leader: Have you decided that you want to come out?
Participant: I have.
Leader: What do you want to come out of?
Leader: What kind of repression?
Participant: I am a gay man / a lesbian. I have suffered the repression of not feeling that I could share my true identity with other people.
Community: We welcome you.
Leader: Have you felt isolation and loneliness?
Participant: I have. The cold waters of fear have covered my body and wounded my soul. I have sensed desolation and utter aloneness. I have suffered misunderstanding and even been greeted by others as someone who was a total stranger to me…
Community: We offer you validation for yourself as you have been created and celebration of your gayness as a gift of God.
Leader: What do you seek now to do with your life?
Participant: I seek freedom. I want to be myself and find acceptance and love. I never want to have to wear a mask again. I want other people to appreciate me for who I really am. I want to make an honest contribution to life in an open way, without any lies or ambiguity.
Community: We offer you the assurance of freedom….
Participant: I am ready now to set my feet on the path to freedom.
Malcolm discusses his journey toward self-acceptance as a gay Christian in a video. “Only as my self-esteem increased and I was able to understand myself as really loved by God and capable of being loved by other people, only then did I have the good news to share, to come out of the closet and to say ‘Hey! Hi, here I am. It’s OK,’” he said.
In a video of his final interview, Malcolm reflects on why he left his Hollywood career for the priesthood and offers wisdom for younger generations. The video was produced by MSNBC, One Archives Foundation, It Gets Better Project in association with KLCS.
Boyd’s life story is told in the book “Black Battle, White Knight: The Authorized Biography of Malcolm Boyd” by Michael Battle, an Anglican/Episcopal priest who has served the church in many capacities. The title reflects the dialogue between Battle, a younger black heterosexual priest, and Boyd, an older white gay priest who gave him unparalleled access to his personal recollections, writings, and archival records.
Malcolm and his longtime partner, Mark Thompson, married in 2013 after same-sex marriage became legal in California. Thompson spent 20 years as editor of the LGBTQ magazine “The Advocate.” He wrote a trilogy of books on gay spirituality: “Gay Spirit,” “Gay Soul,” and “Gay Body.” Although he was 30 years younger than Malcolm, he lived less than two years after Malcolm’s death. Thompson was found dead of unknown causes at age 63 in his Palm Springs home in August 2016.
In Thompson’s obituary, LGBT journalist Karen Ocamb wrote, “However Mark died, I cannot imagine he died alone. I see Malcolm swooping down to lift him up…”
Malcolm Boyd dies at 91; Episcopal priest took prayer to the streets (Los Angeles Times)
Malcolm Boyd profile at LGBT Religious Archives Network
Malcolm Boyd, the overlooked gay activist who pushed boundaries by Jay Michaelson (Religion News Service)
If a Tree Falls in the Forest… Remembering Rev. Malcolm Boyd by Nancy Wilson (Huffington Post)
Malcolm Boyd: Reflections from me and Louie Crew by Susan Russell (Inch at a Time)
Mark Thompson, Author, Photographer, Historian, Friend Dies at 63 (thepridela.com)
Top image credit:
Still from video “Malcolm Boyd – Love”
This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.
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