Religion and Homosexuality in the U.S.: Timeline

From OutHistory
Jump to navigationJump to search

1962, October

[Episcopal] Homosexuality, along with alcoholism, is studied by the House of Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church. It is referred to as a “standard weakness.”[1]

1964, November

[Episcopal/Catholic] A proposed revision to a New York State law that would decriminalize “sexual deviation” (i.e., homosexuality and adultery) is praised by Episcopalians and denounced by Roman Catholics. The revision is later dropped by the NY state Legislature.[2]

1966, June-July

[Lutheran] The American Lutheran Church (ALC) releases its first statement on sexuality at its biennial convention.[3]

1967, November

[Episcopal] During a symposium on homosexuality sponsored by the Episcopal Dioceses of New York, Connecticut, Long Island, and Newark, ninety Episcopalian priests agree that the church should classify homosexuality as “morally neutral” and “in some cases…a good thing.” The priests claim that whether or not the individuals are “expressing genuine love” for one another is more important than their gender.[4]

1969, Early

[Catholic] Father Patrick X. Nidorf, O.S.A., an Augustinian priest and psychologist, starts a ministry for gay and lesbian Catholics as an extension of his professional work in San Diego, California. This is the beginning of Dignity, an organization of gay and lesbian Catholics that still exists today.[5]

1970, May [Catholic] Dignity drafts the first copy of its Statement of Position and Purpose. [1]

June-July [Lutheran] At the convention, the LCA produces a statement on “Sex, Marriage, and Family” is released that supersedes the previous statement on these subjects. This statement contains the Church’s first mention of homosexuality, which is referred to as a sin, but also claims that homosexuals are “often the special and undeserving victims of prejudice and discrimination in law, law enforcement, cultural mores, and congregational life.” The statement concludes with a defense of “understanding and justice in church and community” of homosexual persons. [; also reported in NYT 07/03/1970 p16 and CT 07/03/1970 pA3]

Undated [Presbyterian] The General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church releases a statement entitled “Sexuality and the Human Community” which contains a brief section on homosexuality. While the status of homosexuality as a “sin” is maintained, the Assembly also approves a recommendation that calls for the “elimination of laws governing the private sexual behavior of consenting adults.” []

1971 March [Catholic] The first national Dignity newsletter is published, with Bob Fournier as Editor. [2]

1972 Undated [American Baptist Churches USA] American Baptists Concerned, a pro-gay Baptist group, forms at the national American Baptist convention in Denver, Colorado out of efforts of gay and lesbian Baptists to be recognized. []

1973 [United Church of Christ] Rev. William Johnson of San Francisco becomes the first open homosexual fully ordained into a “major American Christian body.” [NYT 01/11/1977 p34]

1974 October [Catholic] A Catholic church in Chicago holds a special mass to celebrate the relationship between “the church and the homophile community.” While Chicago’s Archbishop, John Cardinal Cody keeps “a safe distance” from the service, it is described as the only “worship service conducted specifically for gay Catholics in a diocesan church with the full knowledge, if not tacit support, of the area’s top prelate.” [CT 10/19/1974 pA15]

November [Episcopal] Integrity, an LGBT ECUSA group, is started as a newsletter by Dr. Louie Crew. The first chapter is founded in Chicago by Jim Wickliff. []

Undated [Presbyterian] Rev. David Bailey Sindt begins the Presbyterian Gay Caucus, which later becomes Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns (PLGC), by holding a sign at the General Assembly that asks “Is anyone else out there gay?” [;]

Undated [Lutheran] Lutherans Concerned for Gay People [or Lutherans Concerned], a group comprised of laypeople, pastors and congregations, forms in order to promote tolerance and acceptance among members of the Lutheran churches. Individual congregations are urged to welcome gay and lesbian members. [; complete records of this group through 1994 are archived at the Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago]

1975 March [Multidenominational] The governing board of the National Council of Churches, comprised of 30 Protestant and Orthodox church bodies, passes resolutions advocating equal rights for homosexuals and women. The board—which has been conducting discussions with an ad hoc group, the Task Force on Gay People, since 1973—expresses concern for protecting the “legal rights of all persons,” while not advocating the ordination of homosexuals [NTY 03/07/75]

May [Presbyterian] The Presbyterian Gay Caucus is denied “unofficial organization” status by the General Assembly who “appreciates the representatives as Christian persons,” but “does not condone their sexual orientation and life-style.” [NYT 05/19/1975 p30]

September [Catholic] Dignity holds a conference in Boston to promote a more positive view of homosexuals in the Roman Catholic Church. The conference is attended by over 400 people. [NYT 09/03/1975 p50]

October [Lutheran] Lutherans Concerned is given $2,000 by the ALC’s Division for Service and Mission in America, marking the first time a gay group has been given direct financial support from its parent denomination. [CT 10/05/1975 p8]

1976 January [Catholic] The Vatican publishes a statement on sex that reiterates the Roman Catholic Church’s positions on the immorality of sex outside of marriage, birth control, and homosexuality, which it calls ‘intrinsically disordered.’” The Archbishop of Canterbury later calls the Vatican report as “‘somewhat lacking in pastoral guidance and tenderness toward those who find these problems quite agonizing.” [NYT 01/16/1976 p61; CT 02/14/1976 pB10; CT 08/31/1976 pB9]

January [Episcopal] At the denomination’s General Convention, two resolutions supporting same-sex relationships as well as gay legal rights are passed. A resolution on the ordination of homosexuals is deferred, pending a report from a Commission on the Church in Human Affairs. [Resolutions A-69 and A-71; NYT 01/11/1977 p34]

February [Catholic] Bishop Francis Mugavero of the Diocese of Brooklyn issues a “pastoral letter defending the ‘legitimate’ rights of all people including homosexuals,” and urging “‘priests, counselors, and others to express concern and compassion for those…who experience pain and confusion due to a sexual orientation.” The letter furthermore “urge[s] homosexual men and women to avoid identifying their personhood with their sexual orientations,” and states that homosexuality should not be one’s claim to “acceptance or human rights.” Mugavero’s congregation later comes out in support of his statements. [NYT 02/22/1976 p1; CT 02/22/1976 p5; NYT 02/23/1976 p18; NYT 02/27/1976 p23]

Spring [Methodist] At its convention, the United Methodist Church refuses to “‘condone the practice of homosexualty.’” [NYT 01/11/1977]

June [Southern Baptist Convention]The first official resolution on homosexuality is released, upholding that homosexuality is a sin and urging local churches not to “afford the practice of homosexuality any degree of approval.” Stricken from the resolution is a final paragraph that would have urged “Christian compassion for all persons whatever their lifestyle.” [; NYT 06/18/1976 p11]

November [Catholic] After its meeting, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops releases a pastoral letter reaffirming the Church’s “traditional teachings” on homosexuality, birth control, and divorce. The letter, however, states that “homosexual activity,” not homosexual orientation, is “wrong.” [CT 11/12/1976 p20]

1977 January [Episcopal] Ellen Barrett, becomes the second open homosexual to be ordained as a priest after the priesthood is opened to the ordination of women on January 1. Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr. of New York performs the ordination and says that “homosexuality is a condition which one does not choose; it is not a question of morality.” [NYT 01/11/1977, p34; see also: NYT 01/16/1977 p148; WP 04/01/1979 pE1; NYT 08/16/1979 pC16; NYT 06/02/1984 pA14]

May [Catholic] The National Conference of Catholic Bishops faces one of its most controversial agendas as it takes up proposals concerning the elimination of discrimination against homosexuals, as well birth control, ordaining women, and divorce. [05/01/1977 p36]

June [Southern Baptist Convention] A second resolution on homosexuality is released to reinforce the one from 1976. In this second resolution, the SBC praises Anita Bryant’s “courageous” antigay efforts. [; NYT 06/17/1977 pA12]

June [Presbyterian] The UPCUSA General Assembly rejects a proposals to prevent the future ordination of gay ministers, to end the task force established to study homosexuality, and to refer to homosexuality as a “not ‘condoned as a life-style,’” and also states “the need of the Church to stand for the just treatment of homosexual persons…in regard to their civil liberties, equal rights, and protection under the law from social and economic discrimination.” [NYT 06/26/1977 p22; WP 07/01/1977 pC8]

October [Episcopal] United States Bishops meet to discuss homosexuality, among other things. They overwhelmingly adopt a theological statement “that condemns homosexuality as un-Biblical, bars ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood, and forbids priests of the church from blessing homosexual marriages.” However, they stop short of a proposal to censure NYC Bishop Paul Moore, who warns that the Church’s new resolution might lead to a “McCarthy-like purge,” for his ordination of lesbian Ellen Barrett. [WP 10/04/1977 pA3; NYT 10/04/1977 p18; see also NYT 10/19/1977 pB3]

1978 January [Presbyterian] The UPCUSA task force studying homosexuality releases a report in which the majority of the group recommends that open homosexuals should not be prevented from ordination or other leadership roles in the church. The study, which also states that homosexual relationships are capable of being “ethically sound,” must go before the General Assembly for approval, and instantly opens the church’s ‘most serious controversy since the Civil War.’ [NYT 01/23/1978 pA12, CT 01/23/1978 pD3; WP 01/23/1978 pA3; CT 01/24/1978 p14; NYT 01/29/1978 p51; WP 03/17/1978 pA37; NYT 05/15/1978 pA16; WP 05/17/1978 p A16]

May [Presbyterian] The UPCUSA General Assembly “overwhelmingly adopts a report” prohibiting the ordination of open homosexuals, but “strongly endorsing” gay civil rights. The report leaves up to individual clergy the decision to ordain a gays or lesbians who take a vow of celibacy and also officially welcomes gays and lesbians as church members. [NYT 05/23/1978 pA17; NYT 05/28/1978 pE16]

1979 September [Episcopal] At its General Convention, the church legislature debates about 15 resolutions relating to homosexuality. The Convention ultimately passes a resolution stating that no “practicing homosexual” nor heterosexual person engaging in extramarital sex should be ordained, though homosexuals have “equal claim with others upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern of the church”. Twenty-one bishops sign a “statement of conscience” in opposition to the official ruling. Additionally, LGBT group Integrity holds a counter-convention simultaneous to the General Convention. [NYT 09/09/1979 pE6; NYT 09/14/1979 pA13; NYT 09/18/1979 p20; NYT 09/19/1979 pA16; CT 09/19/1979 p11; WP 09/18/1979 pA5; WP 09/19/1979 pA1]

June [Lutheran] The ALC’s Standing Committee for the Office of Research and Analysis approves a paper “Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior,” which states that it is acceptable to be homosexual providing there is no “erotic behavior.” The paper will be submitted for approval at the 1980 convention. [NYT 06/14/1979 pA16]

October [Catholic] Pope John Paul II “firmly defends” the Roman Catholic Church’s traditional stance on sexual issues including “homosexual practice,” contraception, divorce, and premarital and extramarital sexual relations, at an appearance in Chicago. [NYT 10/06/1979 p1]

November [Methodist] The “highest court” of the United Methodist Church rules that Rev. Paul Abels, a homosexual, may remain pastor of the Washington Square Church in New York City, marking the first time the national leadership of a major denomination has allowed an “avowed homosexual to remain in office.” This decision does not address the issue of whether or not the Methodist Church should permit homosexuals to be ordained ministers in general. [NTY 11/3/79]

1980 June [Southern Baptist Convention] A “Resolution on Homosexuality” is passed that “deplore[s] the proliferation of homosexual practices, unnatural relations of any character, and sexual perversion” as well as the “concerted effort by ‘Gay Activists’ and liberal humanistic politicians to pass ordinances…under the deceptive guise of human rights” which make homosexuality “equally acceptable to the biblical heterosexual family life style.” []

1982 Undated (Likely June/July) [Episcopal] The General Convention passes a resolution reaffirming the actions taken by the 1976 and 1979 Conventions, holding that “homosexual persons are children of God and are entitled to full civil rights.” [Resolution B-6 1A]

Undated [Catholic] A task force studying gay and lesbian issues in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco publishes “Homosexuality and Social Justice” which is supportive of homosexuals. [CT 05/15/1983 pM4]

1983 December [Catholic] The Vatican releases a set of guidelines on sexual education, entitled “Educational Guidance in Human Love,” that, among other subjects, refers to homosexuality as a “social maladaptation” and “a disorder” that priests must treat with “understanding” but without offering “moral justification.” [NYT 12/02/1983 A1 and A6]

1984 July [Episcopal] Episcopal Bishop of New York, a long-time supporter of gay rights, writes an editorial for the New York Times in which he condemns the Salvation Army and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, while praising the NYC mayor in a controversy over the employment of homosexuals in publicly funded NYC church agencies. He writes that “The Episcopal Church, most mainline Protestant denominations, and many Jewish groups stand strongly behind the gay community on the issue of gay rights.” [NYT 07/02/1984 pA14]

1985 February [Catholic] Representatives from the Catholic church join with Protestant and Jewish leaders for an “interfaith forum on religion and AIDS.” A joint statement is released calling on religious individuals to treat those with AIDS with compassion, not judgment. [NYT 02/24/1985 p33]

June [Southern Baptist Convention] Another resolution is passed that “deplores the proliferation of all homosexual practices” and opposes the “identification of homosexuality as a minority with attendant benefits or advantages.” []

June [Presbyterian] The General Assembly votes down an amendment to the church constitution that would have protected homosexuals from employment discrimination. Additionally, all homosexual acts are declared to be inherently sinful regardless of nature of relationship or degree of commitment. [WP 06/11/1985 pA7]

July [Catholic] The District of Columbia Court of Appeals rules that Georgetown University, which has Roman Catholic affiliations, cannot refuse recognition of a homosexual student group. The university had argued that requiring it to recognize the group would be “an unconstitutional infringement of its Roman Catholic beliefs.” [NYT 07/31/1985 pB4]

September [Episcopal] The General Convention passes a resolution urging each diocese to “find an effective way to foster understanding of homosexual persons, to dispel myths and prejudices about homosexuality, [and] to provide pastoral support.” Despite this, the House of Deputies (one of two houses making up the Convention) rejects a church law that was approved by the House of Bishops (the other legislative body) that would forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the process of ordination. [NYT 09/14/1985 p7; CT 09/15/1985 p10]

1986 March [Catholic] After 15 years of attempts, the New York City Council approves a “gay rights” bill by a margin of 22-14. The Archbishop of New York, who preached a sermon devoted to homosexuality the previous Sunday, immediately issues a statement claiming that the bill is “‘detrimental to society’” and that the Archdiocese is “seeking legal counsel” as to how to go about getting the bill overturned. [NYT 03/17/1986 pB3; NYT 03/21/1986 pA1]

October [Catholic] Chicago Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Bernardin releases a statement that mandates “pastoral initiatives” in response to the AIDS crisis, which include the establishment of an office on “pastoral care” for AIDS and the compiling of “accurate information.” The statement also states that it is “unfortunate” that many gays and lesbians have heard within the church’s “efforts to teach the wrongness of homosexual acts…the sound of condemnation and rejection.” Bernardin also rejects the claims by other religious figures who claim that AIDS is a form of divine retribution, stating instead that “AIDS is a ‘human disease.’” [CT 10/24/1986 p1; CT 10/27/1986 pA3]

October [Catholic] The Vatican releases new guidelines on homosexuality that instruct priests to encourage homosexuals to receive sacraments but also to understand the immorality of homosexual acts and remain celibate for “as long as they feel a homosexual tendency.” The statement also instructs that “psychological and medical factors” should be taken into consideration in “dealing” with homosexuals, and urges “greater vigilance in opposing the ‘deceitful propaganda’ of pro-homosexual groups.” [NYT 10/29/1986 pA12; CT 10/29/1986 p5; CT 10/31/1986 p1]

December [Catholic] The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles refuses to allow an AIDS education group to host seminars in its churches because the group “condone[s] the use of condoms,” which the Archbishop claims “implies either heterosexual promiscuity or homosexual activity,” neither of which the Church “condones.” [NYT 12/08/1986 pB14]

Undated [Lutheran] The LCA releases a study stating that the church can “neither absolutely condemn nor praise and affirm homosexuality,” and also suggests that more of the Church’s congregations should welcome gay and lesbian persons. []

1987 January-December (yearlong controversy) [Episcopal] In January, John Shelby Spong, the Episcopal Bishop of the Newark, New Jersey diocese, backed by a report prepared by local clergy and lay people, seeks approval to recognize and bless “nonmarital relationships, including those between homosexuals.” In September, 22 New Jersey Episcopalians file ecclesiastical charges against Bishop Spong that are subsequently dismissed after being investigated by a panel of bishops. Bishop Spong later claims that his support of homosexuals stems from his work in the Civil Rights Movement, argues that the Christian Church’s treatment of homosexuals throughout history is “immoral,” and says that the church must “deal with reality.” “I want the traditional family upheld,” he states, “but I don’t want it upheld to the detriment of other people.” [NYT 01/30/1987 pB3; WP 01/31/1987 pG12; NYT 02/01/1987 p35; WP 09/26/1987 pG1; NYT 10/03/1987 p31; WP 10/10/1987 pC10; NYT 12/28/1987 pB1]

March [Catholic] Archbishop O’Connor of New York demands that the Jesuit church in Manhattan that has offered a special mass for Dignity members since 1979 stop doing so. The 1,000 member group holds its last service two days later, but several members protest the decision by wearing lavender armbands and standing silently during Archbishop O’Connor’s sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. [NYT 03/06/1987 pB3; NYT 03/09/1987 pB3; NYT 03/16/1987 pB5]

March [Catholic] The United States Supreme Court upholds the rights of Dignity members to protest in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. [NYT 03/10/1987 pB3]

September [Catholic] Over 2,000 individuals protest the Pope’s visit to San Francisco. In response, he stresses God’s forgiveness, with special reference to those with AIDS. [NYT 09/18/1987 pA16]

December [Catholic] In their first statement on AIDS, the administrative board of the United States Catholic Conference offers some degree of support for discussion of condoms as a preventive measure in sex education, although it also insists that it is not “promoting the use of prophylactics” and that “the only ‘morally correct and medically sure ways’” to avoid acquiring AIDS are abstinence and/or marital fidelity. Several bishops from major cities release statements of their own in response to the board’s paper, including NYC Archbishop O’Connor who claims that “such instruction” will not be allowed in his churches, and Chicago Archbishop Bernardin who praises the paper for being both “‘faithful’” and “sensitive.’” [NYT 12/11/1987 pA1; NYT 12/17/1987 pB25]

Undated [Presbyterian] The General Assembly eliminates church laws governing the private sexual behavior of consenting adults. []

1988 January [Catholic] Vatican officials explain the Pope’s virtual silence on the AIDS crisis by attributing the epidemic to “widespread moral permissiveness which the Roman Catholic Church has condemned repeatedly in clear-cut terms.” [NYT 01/29/1988 pA1]

February [Episcopal] The Episcopal Diocese of Newark, New Jersey, headed by Bishop Spong, approves a policy that would offer the church’s blessing on homosexual couples, making it the first diocese in the country to do so. The blessing of relationships is not the same thing as gay marriage, which is not dealt with by the policy. [NYT 02/01/1988 pB3; WP 02/06/1988 p G12]

February-April [Lutheran] Three “openly gay” seminary students are certified by the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley CA, provoking a controversy. The students are later declared ineligible for official ordination because all three refuse to state whether or not they intend to remain celibate. Later, the bishops of the newly formed ELCA block the publication of two articles written about the situation by the former bishops of the ALC and LCA in the Church’s magazine, The Lutheran. [WP 02/27/1988 pD1; WP 04/30/1988 pB8;]

June [Southern Baptist Convention] A resolution is passed questioning the “moral sanity” of “modern society,” as well as claiming that “the deviant behavior [of homosexuals] has wrought havoc in the lives of millions…[and] is the primary cause of the introduction and spread of AIDS in the United States which has not only affected those of the homosexual community, but also many innocent victims.” [; NYT 06/17/1988 pB6; Chicago Trib 06/17/1988 p10]

July [Episcopal] The General Convention passes a resolution “decr[ying] the increase in violence against homosexual persons” urging law enforcement officials “across the land to be sensitive to this peril and to prosecute the perpetrators of these acts to the fullest extent of the law.” The resolution also calls upon Bishops to “repudiate the misconception that the Church encourages such violence and to counter the public declarations of those who claim that AIDS is the punishment of God upon homosexual persons.” The Convention also resolves to spend the next three years—until the next convention—in “open dialogue” about sexuality. [WP 07/09/1988 pD11; NYT 07/11/1988 pA13]

1989 June [Lutheran] The Church officially establishes guidelines that “practicing homosexuals” are to be excluded from ordained ministry. Two San Francisco congregations, however, announce plans to defy the official policy and ordain a gay pastor and lesbian couple respectively. [CT 06/24/1989 p2; 10/30/1989 p6;]

June [Presbyterian] The General Assembly votes to uphold the ban on ordaining homosexuals, while also turning the issue over to the Special Task Force on Human Sexuality for further study. [WP 06/17/1989 pC18;]

December [Episcopal] Bishop Spong of Newark, New Jersey ordains the first gay male minister, Rev. J. Robert Williams, in Hoboken, New Jersey. The ordination was attended by three protesters from other denominations, one who was ejected from the service. Bishop Spong draws controversy for his action, which some claim to be in violation of the General Convention of 1979, which Spong claims is only “advisory.” [NYT 12/17/1989 p54; CT 12/17/1989 p20; WP 12/23/1989 pC11; WP 01/06/1990 pD13]

December [Catholic] Over 4,500 people, many of which are members of ACT-UP, demonstrate outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City against Cardinal O’Connor’s anti-homosexual and anti-abortion statements. Around 45 protestors enter the church, shouting “We will not be silent,” lying down in the aisles, and chaining themselves to the pews while more lie down in Fifth Avenue. One hundred and eleven of the demonstrators are arrested, many of which have to be carried out on stretchers because of their refusal to stand up. [NYT 12/11/1989 pB1]

1990 January [Lutheran] Two San Francisco churches proceed with their ordination of gay and lesbian pastors, making them the first openly homosexual individuals to be ordained in the Lutheran church. The action provokes an immediate controversy and the ELCA brings official charges against the churches. Bishops later submit a statement expressing fear that the ordinations pose a “challenge to the unity” of the church. [CT 01/19/1990 p8; NYT 01/22/1990 pA10; WP 01/27/1990 pC16; CT 03/02/1990 p8; WP 03/24/1990 pD19]

February [Catholic] Roman Catholic officials and New York State clash over the treatment of AIDS patients in church-owned and operated hospitals and other facilities. The state accuses the church of jeopardizing the care of patients while Catholic representatives, such as Cardinal O’Connor continue to insist that safe-sex alternatives to abstinence are “morally sinful and medically dangerous.” The State Public Health Council also approves publicly financed, Catholic-run AIDS homes. [NYT 02/23/1990 pB2; NYT 02/24/1990 p29]

June [Presbyterian] At the General Assembly, several of the denomination’s “more several liberal and conservative” groups, including Presbyterians for Lesbian-Gay Concerns and Presbyterians Pro-Life are declared to no longer have official representation. [NYT 06/06/1990 pA23]

July [Lutheran] The two San Francisco churches are officially suspended by a disciplinary committee of the ELCA for ordaining openly homosexual ministers who did not take a vow of celibacy. The suspensions will last five years with the possibility of permanent expulsion if the churches do not come into line with church policy. The committee also suggests an “extensive study” of homosexuality and ordination. [NYT 07/19/1990 p B6; WP 07/21/1990 p C15]

Undated [Lutheran] The ELCA’s Church Council drafts a document called “Visions and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA” that, among other things, states that homosexual ordained ministers are “expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relations.” []

1991 June [Southern Baptist Convention] A resolution is passed in order to “register outrage” at the Centers for Disease Control’s grant to the 13th National Lesbian and Gay Health Conference, which it believes to be “an example of the improper and inexcusable misuse of the public treasury and the public trust.” The resolution “call[s] upon the President…to ensure that such grants are prohibited in the future by means of an Executive Order requiring all federal policies to affirm the family and refuse…programs which encourage sexual immorality in any form.” []

July [Episcopal] The General Convention passes a resolution “noticing ‘discontinuity’ between the traditional teachings of the Church and the experience of some of its members.” The body approves a compromise leaving the church’s official stance on homosexual relationships ambiguous until the next convention, three years later. In the meantime, gay ordinations are expected to increase. [NYT 07/16/1991 pA16; NYT 07/20/1991 p8; WP 09/28/1991 pB8]

December [Lutheran] The ELCA releases a study entitled “Human Sexuality and the Christian Faith,” analyzes sexuality-related issues without prescribing solutions to any of the problems. Among other things, the document examines homosexuality and affirms that “sexuality is God’s good gift…to all people,” and states that “Many gay men and lesbian women are well-adjusted and live out faithful, committed sexual relationships, but without the social approval and support that heterosexual couples take for granted.” The report challenges “some moral rules and practices we have inherited,” stating instead that “morality…is continually changing.” It does, however, condemn “casual” sex, both hetero- and homosexual. [WP 12/07/1991 p E16]

Undated [Lutheran] The Churchwide Assembly acts to welcome gays and lesbians as members of ELCA congregations, but does not “bless their committed relationships, nor does it allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained or to remain as clergy.” []

1992 July [Catholic] The Vactican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith urges American bishops to “scrutinize laws intended to protect homosexuals and oppose them if they “promote public acceptance of homosexual conduct.” The statement also says that “‘There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account,” of which adoption, military service, and teaching are examples. Later, over 1500 members of the Church including 2 bishops comes out publicly against the Vatican’s statement. [NYT 07/18/1992 p7; NYT 11/02/1992 pB11]

1993 June [Southern Baptist Convention] A resolution is passed that “oppose[s] all effort to provide government endorsement, sanction, recognition, acceptance, or civil rights advantage on the basis of homosexuality.” The resolution also supports legislation prohibiting homosexuals from participation in the military, and “deplore[s] acts of hatred or violence committed by homosexuals against those who take a stand for traditional morality as well as acts of hatred or violence committed against homosexuals.” []

October [Lutheran] The Conference of Bishops of the ELCA releases a statement that the ELCA does not approve of rituals recognizing same-sex relationships because of lack of biblical basis. [NYT 10/21/1993 pA16;]

November [Lutheran] After a four-year effort, the first draft of a statement on human sexuality by a committee of the ELCA, which claims that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and that both homosexuality and masturbation are described as a “healthy part of human life,” is leaked by the media and provokes a firestorm of controversy among Church members. Over 21,000 responses, mostly negative and including some death threats, are received by the ELCA who appoints a new committee to prepare a new statement.” [NYT 11/26/1993 pA21;]

Undated [Lutheran] The ELCA Church Council passes a resolution that “reaffirm[s] that the historical position of the ELCA is…support for legislation, referendums, and policies to protect the civil rights of all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, and to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public services and accommodations.” []

1994 February [Lutheran] A regional panel of the ELCA votes to “defrock” an Oakland pastor after he announces that he is homosexual. This marks the first trial of an openly gay pastor in the denomination. [WP 02/26/1994 pB7]

February [Catholic] Pope John Paul II releases a letter in which he states that same-sex unions are “‘a serious threat to the future of the family and society’” and that they should not “‘be recognized…as a marriage.’” [NYT 02/23/1994 pA2]

August [Episcopal] At the General Convention, the Standing Commission on Human Affairs concludes that “ironically in this Decade of Evangelism, we seem intent on keeping out one of the few identifiable groups of people who want to be welcomed in [gays and lesbians].” Their “wish list” for 1994 includes “dialogue on human sexuality to continue within the Church, more lesbian and gay members [to] come out of the closet and be recognized as human beings rather than as an issue, members [to] speak out against ‘gay bashing,’ and church members [to] fight local initiatives designed to deprive gays and lesbians of equal civil rights.” A group of 45 bishops sign a statement of protest in regard to the conclusions of the Commission. [NYT 08/25/1994 pA13; CT 08/25/1994 p4; NYT 08/27/1994 p9]

1996 March [Lutheran] The bishops of the ELCA release an open letter to Church members in response to the call for made at the 1995 Assembly, in which they reiterate the Church’s previous statements welcoming gays and lesbians into ELCA congregations and supporting civil rights for homosexuals. The letter acknowledges the “bitter” debates around homosexuality within the Church but tries to create a greater sense of unity. []

June [Southern Baptist Convention] An extensive resolution is passed following the Hawaiian Supreme Court’s ruling regarding same-sex marriages, in which the church “steadfastly oppose[s] the legislation of homosexual marriage by the state of Hawaii, or by any other state, or by the United States of America” and claims that the passage of any such legislation “is an abominable sin calling for God’s swift judgment upon any such society.” []

1997 June [Southern Baptist Convention] A resolution is passed opposing domestic partner benefits by any company, stating that “the category called ‘domestic partner’ is a strategy to promote acceptance of the idea that homosexual relationships are morally equivalent to heterosexual relationships involving a man and a woman bound together by the institution of marriage.” The resolution also asserts that the offering of domestic partner benefits “trivializes the meaning and sanctity of marriage” and “prayerfully affirm[s]” those that “work to reverse policies that erase fundamental and moral critical distinctions between homosexual relationships and heterosexual marriages.” []

October [Catholic] The National Conference of Catholic Bishops issues a pastoral letter which says that sexual orientation is not “freely chosen” and that parents of gay children “must not reject” their children “in a society full of rejection and discrimination.” The statement, entitled, “Always Our Children,” also states that “‘Sexual identity helps to define the unique person we are. God does not love someone any less simply because he or she is homosexual.’” [NYT 10/01/1997 pA14]

1998 June [Southern Baptist Convention] The Convention passes a resolution calling upon Congress to “nullify…through legislation” President Clinton’s Executive Order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal workforce. []

August [Episcopal] At the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of about 700 Anglican leaders, the world’s bishops vote to endorse a resolution declaring homosexual activity to be “incompatible with Scripture,” and advise against the ordination of homosexuals. Several American bishops, including Bishop Spong who calls the resolution a sign of “waning Christianity,” rush to reassure gay and lesbian members of their congregations. [CT 08/06/1998 p6; NYT 08/06/1998 pA1; pA18; NYT 08/09/1998 pWK5; NYT 08/13/1998; pA1; CT 08/14/1998 p10; NYT 08/18/1998 pA18; NYT 09/12/1998 pD12; CT 03/19/1999 p8; CT 03/26/1999 p10; see also: www.lambeth and]

1999 June [Southern Baptist Convention] A resolution is passed in response to President Clinton’s declaration of June 1999 as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. The resolution claims that “the President’s proclamation calls upon citizens of every corner of our nation to violate historic religious beliefs and their own consciences, in order to embrace and extol that which the Bible condemns.” The Convention states that the proclamation “compels us to rebuke” President Clinton and “deplore his most public endorsement of that which is contrary to the Word of God.” Additionally, the resolution calls for the President to “rescind his appointment of an openly professed homosexual as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg.” []

August [Lutheran] The Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, the major legislative body, officially votes for the first time on the issue of gay clergy. In a vote of 820 to 159, “sexually-active” gays and lesbians are prohibited from ordination. []


  1. NYT 10/31/1962 p10.
  2. NYT 11/26/1964 p1 and NYT 05/28/1965, p36.
  4. NYT 11/29/1967 p1; CT 11/29/1967 pD7.

<comments />