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Rev. Phebe Ann Coffin Hannaford, Pioneering “Lesbian” Minister

b. May 6, 1829

d. June 2, 1921

Gay and lesbian clergy have been around for a long time – right from the start of ordained ministry (barring some quibbles over terminology: the words “gay” and “lesbian” do not apply directly to the earliest years). Even in modern times, there are numerous reports of openly gay or lesbian clergy going back a lot further than I had recognised. Among many who are described as the “first” in one or other specific field, the earliest clear example I have come across (so far) is Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford, who was raised a Quaker,where she was accustomed to full participation by women,  was briefly a Baptist, and finally ordained in the Universalist church in 1968, claiming to have been the first woman of any denomination ordained in New England.  She was also plainly and openly “lesbian”, many years before the term or concept was widely recognized.

Phebe Ann Coffin was born into a Quaker family in Siasconset, on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, the only child of the merchant and shipowner George W. Coffin and his wife Phebe Ann (Barnard) Coffin. Both were Quakers and direct descendants of the island’s first white settlers, Tristram Coffin and Peter Folger.

Phebe lived amidst women who bore the responsibilities of daily life as the whaling men were at sea. These two influences made Phebe an extraordinarily independent woman. She was educated in public and private schools on the island, tutored in mathematics and Latin and her talents were encouraged at home. She was a formidable scholar and active reformer: she wrote the first biography of Lincoln to be published after his death, and was active in both the abolitionist and women’s movements.

She spoke openly of her desire to be a Quaker preacher. She took the pledge at the early age of 8 and at age 18 was chaplain and treasurer of the Daughters of Temperance and Deputy Grand Worthy Chief Templar in the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

She taught school on Cape Cod and in Nantucket until her marriage in 1849 to Dr. Joseph H. Hanaford, a homeopathic physician and school teacher. She joined her husband’s Baptist church. Their son, Howard, was born in 1841 and their daughter, Florence, in 1854.

Living in Beverly during the Civil War, her commitment as an abolitionist led her to relinquish her Quaker pacifism. As her marriage was failing she supported and educated her children with her writing. Her contact with Universalist women opened up a world of activism for the rights of women. In 1868 she was ordained a minister in the Universalist church. From 1874, she was pastor to a congregation in New Jersey, but after her initial three year term, controversy arose over her reappointment which she did not get.

The controversy was nominally over her involvement in the “women’s issue” (ie, the suffragette movement), but in reality it was her relationship with coworker Ellen Miles, which had begun in 1870. Newspaper clippings preserved in Hanaford’s scrapbook reported that the disgruntlement among congregation members was, in fact, over Hanaford’s liaison with Miles, whom the papers called the ‘minister’s wife.’ Hanaford, it seems, was not simply asked to cease her women’s rights activities, but more specifically, to ‘dismiss’ Miss Miles… their letters testify to a deep and abiding affection. The two remained life-long companions, separated after forty-four years together only by Miles’s death in 1914.

After her failure to be reappointed in New Jersey, she attempted to set up a new congregation of her own. However, when her dissident New Jersey congregation applied for formal recognition and was rejected by the General Universalist Convention in 1878, Hanaford had no settled pulpit, and for years she conducted lecturing and preaching tours across New England and the Middle Atlantic and Western states. Deprived of formal ministry, she created a successful independent ministry of her own – ultimately achieving high honour in the early twentieth century , when she was asked to officiate at the at the funeral services for two leading women’s rights activists of the nineteenth century: the feminist philosopher Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the woman-suffrage organizer Susan B. Anthony. The two friends, who had shared a life of labor, died within four years of each other, and Hanaford had known them both well.

 After Ellen’s death Phebe lived with her granddaughter in Basom, New York where she was isolated from the activities she enjoyed. Both her children predeceased her. She voted in the New York election but not in the federal election of 1920. The family moved to Rochester, New York where she died alone in her bedroom. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Orleans, New York next to her daughter Florence Hanaford Warner.
There is a great deal in the story of this remarkable woman for us to reflect on and learn from. The story of her extraordinary achievement as a woman in defying and transcending gender boundaries as an impressive scholar and pioneer female ordained minister is remarkable in itself. Thereafter, after commencing a new life committed to a woman, she was confronted by a demand from her congregation to give up her partner and conform, or to face the loss of her ministry.  Courageously, she chose commitment and truth over expedience, and paid the price. She persevered independently for decades, forging an independent ministry where she was unable to work within the formal structures – and ultimately achieved honour and recognition for it.

Rev Hanaford deserves to be better remembered and celebrated.

Source:

A Paper Trail: Piecing Together the Life of Phebe Hanaford

Harvey Milk, Secular Gay Saint and Modern Martyr

In California, May 22 is officially recognised as “Harvey Milk Day“. The reasons for this secular honour are well-known, and recorded in several books and notable movies.  In 1977, he became the first openly gay man elected to public office as a gay man, but served for only a short term before he was assassinated on  Nov. 27, 1978. Even in that brief term of office, he made his mark with his contribution to San Francisco’s landmark Gay Rights Ordinance, and to the defeat of the Briggs initiative, which would have required California school districts to fire openly gay and lesbian teachers, but was defeated in the November election shortly before Milk’s assassination. Rather than rehashing the bare facts of Harvey Milk’s life and career, which can be read elsewhere, I want to reflect a little on the symbolism and lessons that these have acquired, three decades later.

Although he is best known for his unique position as a trailblazer for out gay politicians, his work was not limited to queer advocacy, as Kittredge Cherry reminds us at Jesus in Love:

Milk (1930-1978) served only 11 months on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors before he was killed, but in that short time he fought for the rights of the elderly, small business owners, and the many ethnic communities in his district as well as for the growing LGBT community.


Continue reading Harvey Milk, Secular Gay Saint and Modern Martyr

SS Polyeuct and Nearchos, Roman Soldiers, Lovers and Martyrs

The Roman soldiers, lovers and martyrs Sergius and Bacchus are well known examples of early queer saints. Polyeuct and Nearchos are not as familiar- but should be.  John Boswell (“Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe“) names the two as one of the three primary pairs of same sex lovers in the early church, their martyrdom coming about half a century after Felicity and Perpetua, and about another half century before  Sergius & Bacchus .

Like the later pair, Polyeuct and Nearchos were friends in the Roman army in Armenia. Nearchos was a Christian, Polyeuct was not. Polyeuct was married, to a woman whose father was a Roman official. When the father-in-law undertook as part of his duties to enforce a general persecution of the local Christians, he realized that this would endanger Polyeuct, whose close friendship with Nearchos could tempt him to side with the Christians.  The concern was fully justified: although Polyeuct was not himself a Christian, he refused to prove his loyalty to Rome by sacrificing to pagan gods. In terms of the regulations being enforced, this meant that he would sacrifice his chances of promotion, but (as a non-Christian) not his life. Christians who refused to sacrifice faced beheading. When Nearchos learned of this, he was distraught, not at the prospect of death in itself, but because in dying, he would enter Paradise without the company of his beloved Polyeuct. When Polyeuct learned the reasons for his friends anguish, he decided to become a Christian himself, so that he too could be killed, and enter eternity together with Nearchos.

Three Queers of the East: Thought for the Epiphany

Earlier, I wrote that some Bible stories are so familiar, we do not stop to consider their significance. I could also add, that some others are so familiar, we do not stop to ask if they are accurate. A case in point is that of today’s feast of the Epiphany, which we routinely celebrate as the visit of the three kings of the East to the infant Jesus – but the Gospel text does not specify that there were three, nor that they were kings.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
 

It is the term “magi” that has been traditionally adapted to “wise men”, or corrupted in popular imagination to “kings”. Astrologer-magicians, in the Zoroastrian religion, would be a more accurate translation. (Note the obvious linguistic connection between “magus” and “magic”). Kittredge quotes Nancy Wilson and Virginia Mollenkott, to suggest that the Magi were probably either eunuchs, or trans.

Dec 26th: St Stephen, the First Christian Martyr

Today we remember St Stephen, the first martyr. Just as Stephen some of his hearers who disliked his words, but could not counter the truth of what he said, were “infuriated and ground their teeth at him“. Stephen, however persisted in proclaiming the truth – and paid the price.

Martyrdom of Stephen The_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_1603-04

Countless gay men, lesbians and trans people have similarly encountered anger, hatred and violence  for living lives of sexual or gender honesty, and even more for speaking publicly about the morality and integrity of our lives. Continue reading Dec 26th: St Stephen, the First Christian Martyr

Three Young Men in the Burning Fiery Furnace: Dec 17th

Today, the church celebrates the feast of three young men, Shadrack, Mesach and Abednego, the companions of Daniel the prophet: they are important for highlighting a much neglected group in the church – the transgendered.

We are probably all familiar with the stories of Daniel in the lion’s den, and of his three companions in the burning fiery furnace. What they don’t tell us in Sunday School, is that as slaves captured and taken to service in the king’s court in Babylon they were almost certainly eunuchs – castrated males. This was the standard fate of slaves in the royal court, as Kathryn Ringrose has shown, and as anticipated by Isaiah:

And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.

-Isaiah 39:7
If there is any group more likely to have the bible-pumping conservatives frothing at the mouth more than gay and lesbian Christians, perhaps it is the trans community. Yet this is entirely misplaced, as Isaiah makes clear elsewhere:

4For this is what the LORD says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.

-Isaiah 56: 4- 5
The three young men, forcibly castrated as slaves, are clearly not directly comparable to the modern trans community, but there are nevertheless lessons to be learnt, from them and from others in Christian (and non-Christian) history. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read

But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

The Babylonian slaves were clearly among those who have been made so by others. Those who made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven may be a reference to the common religious practice in the societies surrounding the Jews of men who castrated themselves to serve as priests, especially in the cult of Cybele , and also in some other religions. (Some commentators believe that is this practice of castration that is meant by the words mistranslated in some of the clobber texts as “homosexuals”, lines which more accurately refer to castrated gentile priests. In this view, it is the association with pagan idolatry, not the sexual practices themselves, which made them taboo). The idea of making oneself a eunuch for the kingdom of God later led some early Christians to adopt the practice, notably the early theologian Origen, who castrated himself in. Metaphorically, it is the same idea of emasculation which underlies the Catholic church’s insistence on compulsory celibacy for priests in the Roman rite.
Modern trans people are also not directly comparable to this third group – but they are arguably included in the first group:  made so by birth. Less directly, some scholars argue that the biblical term “eunuch” is the closest parallel in biblical language to the modern term “homosexual”, and so the welcome promised by Isaiah may be said to apply to all who are queer in church –

a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters; 

I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever

Even if we reject this connection, there remains a fundamentally important lesson for us all in the story of the three young men, a story that has relevance and resonance for us today that goes way beyond the children’s illustrated Bible pictures of men who could not be burned by the flames. To see this, remember why it is that they are commemorated. They were commanded by the king to eat the forbidden meat – to conform. It was for their refusal to knuckle under and give in to the pressure to abandon their fundamental religious identity that they were sentenced to death by burning.
But in their faith and loyalty, they were protected from the flames. Centuries later, it was the Christian Church that again turned to burning as a punishment for those who refused to conform, either to orthodox religious belief, or to heteronormative sexual standards. We continue to live with the legacy of that prejudice, which masquerades as religious obligation. Like the three men in the Babylonian fire, we too must stand firm in our commitment to the truth. In our steadfastness, the flames of prejudice and religious bigotry will likewise be unable to destroy our queer Christian community.
(The image used is a window by John Piper as a memorial to Benjamin Britten, whose “Burning Fiery Furnace” told the story of the three young men as one of his three “parables for church performance” – one act operas, although Britten himself avoided the term).

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St John of the Cross: 14th December

John of the Cross was born in Fontiveros, in Spain, in about 1542. He spent some time as a Carmelite friar before, in 1568, Saint Teresa of Ávila persuaded him to pioneer the reform of the Carmelite order. This was a difficult task and a dangerous one: he suffered imprisonment and severe punishment at the hands of the Church authorities. He died at the monastery of Ubeda in Andalusia on 14 December 1591: the monks there had initially treated him as the worst of sinners, but by the time he died they had recognised his sanctity and his funeral was the occasion of a great outburst of enthusiasm. His works include two major mystical poems – he is considered one of the great poets of the Spanish language – and detailed commentaries on them and the spiritual truths they convey. He was canonized in 1726 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1926.
He is important for queer Christians, especially gay men, for two reasons. First, because he is a great teacher of spirituality, and the cultivation of spiritual practice, by enabling a more direct experience of the divine, is an excellent way to immunize ourselves from toxic and misguided teaching on human sexuality. Second, and more interestingly, because his language at times uses imagery which is plainly homoerotic, and so easily usable by gay men in their own prayer.

Continue reading St John of the Cross: 14th December

James Stoll, Unitarian Pioneer of LGBT Inclusion in Church

Rev. James Lewis Stoll, who died on December 8th 1994, was a Unitarian Universalist minister who became the first ordained minister of any religion in the United States or Canada to come out as gay. He did so at the annual Continental Conference of Student Religious Liberals on September 5, 1969 in La Foret, Colorado. Later, he led the effort that convinced the Unitarian Universalist Association to pass the first-ever gay rights resolution in 1970.
After training at Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, followed by ordination, he served as pastor at a church in Kennewick, Wash., from 1962 until 1969. For reasons that have not been disclosed, he was asked to resign, and then moved to San Francisco, where he shared an apartment with three others.
In September of 1969, he attended a convention of college-age Unitarians in Colorado Springs. One evening after dinner, he stood up and came out publicly as a gay man. He declared his orientation, stated that it was not a choice, that he was no longer ashamed of it, and that from then on, he would refuse to live a lie.

“On the second or third night of the conference,” according to Mr. Bond-Upson, “after dinner, Jim got up to speak. He told us that he’d been doing a lot of hard thinking that summer. Jim told us he could no longer live a lie. He’d been hiding his nature — his true self — from everyone except his closest friends. ‘If the revolution we’re in means anything,’ he said, ‘it means we have the right to be ourselves, without shame or fear.’

“Then he told us he was gay, and had always been gay, and it wasn’t a choice, and he wasn’t ashamed anymore and that he wasn’t going to hide it anymore, and from now on he was going to be himself in public. After he concluded, there was a dead silence, then a couple of the young women went up and hugged him, followed by general congratulations. The few who did not approve kept their peace.” ’

After the convention, Stoll wrote articles on gay rights, and preached sermons on the subject at several churches. The following year, the full annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution condemning discrimination against homosexual persons, beginning a gradual but irresistible move towards full LGBT inclusion.
No action was ever taken by the church against Stoll, and so he remained a minister in good standing, but he was never again called to serve a congregation. It is not clear whether this had anything to do with lingering prejudice against his orientation. It could also be on the grounds of some suspicions of drug abuse, or of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Later, he founded the first counseling center for gays and lesbians in San Francisco. In the 1970s he established the first hospice on Maui. He was president of the San Francisco chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1990s. He died at the age of 58 from complications of heart and lung disease, exacerbated by obesity and a life-long smoking habit
Stoll’s name is not well known today, but for this brave and honest public witness, he deserves to be better remembered.In declaring himself, he was not the first ordained clergyman to come out, but he was the first to do so voluntarily, and the first in an established denomination. His action undoubtedly made it easier for the others who followed him, and to the formal acceptance by the Unitarians of openly gay men and lesbians in the church, and to the now well-established process to full LGBT inclusion in so many denominations.

 

Source:

Haunted Man of the Cloth, Pioneer of Gay Rights (NY Times)

Nov 1st: Feast of all (Queer) Saints

An important part of Catholic tradition is a strong interest in S & M – and that’s not Sadism and Masochism (although some would say that to be a Catholic, and especially a gay Catholic, it helps to be a masochist), but “Saints and Martyrs”. For today’s feast of All Saints, it is worth remembering that the multitude of saints and martyrs in Church history also includes many queer saints and martyrs. For this great feast, I republish here an address I gave originally for the Quest 40th anniversary conference, in July 2013.

QuestLogo

I know that some people find the term “queer” offensive, but the primary meaning is just “strange”.  Some of our queer saints and martyrs are very queer. or strange,  indeed.

Many of you will know about Sergius and Bacchus, the best known of the gay saints:  Roman soldiers, lovers and Christian martyrs.  But are they saints? They are no longer listed in some major reference books on Catholic saints, and in others are listed, but with a note that their “cult” was suppressed in 1969. I’ve since come across claims that they were not in fact lovers, but just “good friends” – and even that modern scholars don’t believe they ever existed, in the first place.

This  rather sums up any attempt to grapple fully with the story of gay saints in Christian history: I have no doubt at all that there really were and still are many gay, lesbian and trans saints, but it’s not always easy to classify saints by orientation, there are ambiguities in what constitutes sainthood, and some of the historical details are distinctly unreliable. (The best known “facts” about St Patrick are that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, and used the shamrock to illustrate the Trinity. At least one of those is definitely not true, the other is dubious).

In the same spirit, I can assure you that of the saints I’m about to discuss, at least some of the facts are true.

Let’s return to Sergius and Bacchus, and their removal from the saintly canon in 1969. There are some gay activists who see conspiracy in this, but its much simpler. In the early church, there was no formal canonization process – the saints were those who were popularly acclaimed as such. In 1969, the Vatican went through the records, and removed a large number that were doubtful. There’s a converse – “saints” are not only those who have been canonized. There’s still a place for saints by popular acclamation.

At about the same period as Sergius and Bacchus, and also in Rome, there were Galla and Benedicta,  two nuns in a 5th century Roman convent, devoted to God, and to each other. When Galla fell seriously ill, St Peter appeared to her in a vision, and told her to prepare for her imminent death. Galla quite welcomed the idea of proceeding to heaven, but pleaded with Peter that she should not have to leave behind her beloved Benedicta. The saint duly promised that Benedicta too, would die soon after Galla, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m not sure how many of us would pray for the death of our loved ones  – but then, we’re not saints.

In the Eastern Church, there were a number of women who disguised themselves as men to live and pray in male monasteries (the earliest trans saints). The oddest trans saint of all is Wilgefortis, whose feast day was last Saturday. Some statues of her show a crucified, bearded woman. She was a beautiful royal princess, who was commanded by her father to marry a prince he had selected for her. She, on the other hand, did not want to marry, but to devote her life to God as a virgin. So, she prayed to God to be freed from the evil of marriage. Miraculously, she woke up with a thick beard, whereupon the prince refused to marry her, and the wedding fell through. Her father was furious, and had her crucified for her disobedience. That’s the story. The probable truth is less dramatic, possibly based on a conventional crucifix showing Christ in a tunic, rather than the more usual loincloth. Mistaking the tunic for a dress, people invented the myth of the bearded woman, to explain what appeared to be a crucified bearded woman. Even so, some people treasure her as a patron of trans or intersex people. She is also known by a range of other names, including Uncumber, and in Spanish “Liberada” – liberated. Under that name, she is regarded as a patron for liberation from male domination. I like to think of her as a possible patron for liberation from all manner of sexual or gender stereotypes and enforced roles.

On the other side of the Roman Empire, we have a completely orthodox, historically reliable 4th century Spanish bishop and saint, Paulinus of Nola, highly regarded for his missionary work, and also for his excellent liturgical verse. What the standard Catholic histories don’t tell you, is he is also respected by Latin scholars for his erotic verse addressed to a male lover, Ausonius. What is truly extraordinary, is that he is only one of a number of canonized saints, bishops and abbots, mostly medieval, whose poetry is included in the Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse. But here it gets more tricky. Some of the frankly homoerotic language is no more than a literary device, not intended to represent any actual, real life male love interest.

What we do know is that there were numerous examples of pairs of bishops and saints who had close relationships which were intimate emotionally, if not physically:  St Aelred of Rievaulx wrote an important book on the spiritual value of these relationships. Just one example from this diocese, is that of the Saint Richard, bishop of Chichester, who had a close, emotionally intimate relationship with  Archbishop Edmund of Canterbury. While these relationships were expected to be celibate, and many were, this was because as monks, they had taken vows of celibacy. (Before becoming a monk, Aelred himself had  a relationship which probably was physical with the young son of the Scottish king). Those of us who have not chosen celibacy, could learn from Aelred about the spiritual value of our own relationships.

As I’m focusing on saints and martyrs, I won’t say too much about the many notable examples of other abbots,  bishops and even popes who definitely had sex with men, but consider a special class of gay martyrs – those martyred by the church, on account of their sexuality, during many centuries of direct persecution that began with the Inquisition, and continued by civil governments on behalf of the Church.

What I find most fascinating about the Renaissance period, is that at just the time when the inquisition was actively hunting down and burning “sodomites”, there was a succession of popes and cardinals who were themselves having sex with men, or who were patrons of artists producing frankly homoerotic art – Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel being the best and well – known example. Less well known, is that one of these Popes also commissioned Michelangelo to paint a more explicitly erotic work for the papal bedroom.

In modern times, there would seem to be no gay or lesbian saints. That changes when we remember the important distinction between formally canonized saints, and popular saints. One candidate for sainthood by acclamation is Fr Mychal Judge, chaplain to the New York Fire Department, the saint of 9/11, who died in the twin towers and was carried out, formally identified as victim 0001. Immediately, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York and other prominent Catholics began calling for his canonization. Those calls ended abruptly when it became known that he was an active member of Dignity, and identified openly as gay. Another is the American layman Tom Dooley, who started as a Naval doctor, before devoting his life to missionary work in Africa. There is a formal cause open in favour of his canonization, and a website to promote it – but there’s a difficulty. The reason he left the Navy was that he was found to have engaged in a sexual relationship with a man, at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence.

If the Catholic Church has an inbuilt bias against celebrating lay people as saints , that does not apply to other denominations. Lutherans and Anglicans do not have the elaborate procedures for canonization that we do, but they do nevertheless have a comparable form of recognition for holy men and women. It is among these, that we can find some more easily identifiable gay, lesbian and trans saints. The Episcopal Church in the USA has allocated a feast day to Vida Scudder, a social reformer of the late nineteenth / early twentieth century, who is known to have lived in a lesbian relationship. Just last year, the Episcopal Church added to its “Book of holy men and women”, Rev Pauli Murray, the first African American female ordained a priest. Although physically female, Murray saw himself, and lived, as a man attracted to women. The Lutherans include in their own calendar of saints, the United Nations Secretary General, Dag Hammerskold, who is believed to have been gay. But the most interesting of these Anglican / Lutheran saints is –

Michelangelo. The Vatican freely acknowledges the spiritual value of his work, including the male nudes and near nudes in the Sistine Chapel, but ignores the man. Anglicans and Lutherans know that the work cannot exist without its creator – and so they honour the man as well as the work. (The next time you men spend hours poring over Michelangelo’s hunky nude men, you could try claiming piously that you were doing so for their spiritual value, while praying to the saint who created the images).

sistine-chapel-last-judgment

What lesson can we draw from these queer saints and martyrs? First, to use the old cliché, we are not alone. There have always been what we call gay men and lesbians, in the Church, and among the saints, as there are everywhere else.

Second, I suggest we can include ourselves among the saints and martyrs. Accepting that “saints” refers to all holy men and women, not just those formally canonized, it is perfectly orthodox to say that we should all aspire to sainthood. Collectively, we as gay men and lesbians have all suffered martyrdom by the church – if no longer by physical execution, then certainly by emotional and spiritual abuse. But the word “martyrdom” derives from the word for “witness”. The early martyrs for the church were so called, because in the face of persecution, they witnessed to the truth of their faith.

And so I call on all of you, in the same spirit, to witness to the truth of both your faith, and the nature of your personal sexual or gender identity. Live with integrity, even in the face of continuing persecution by the Church. I ask you then  to drink a toast, to yourselves – to the assembled saints and martyrs of Quest.

 

 

St Wilgefortis / Uncumber / Liberada: Saintly Bearded Woman?

A wonderful example of a sainted bearded lady?

Wilgefortis

Unfortunately, she may also be an example of a ‘saint’ whose biography is more popular fiction than recorded history. Still, she is listed in the standard catholic reference works, and has had an official feast day, as well as a bewildering array of aliases, among them Liberata, Kummernis,  Uncumber, and Livrade,  Kittredge Cherry at Jesus in Love blog expands on these names, with some notes on their origins:

The name Wilgefortis may come from the Latin “virgo fortis” (strong virgin). In Spanish she is Librada — meaning “liberated” from hardship and/or husbands. She also goes by a bewildering variety of other names. Her alternate English name Uncumber means escaper. In addition, she is known as Liberata, Livrade, Kummernis, Komina, Comera, Cumerana, Ulfe, Ontcommen, Dignefortis, Europia, and Reginfledis.

Jesus in Love

Continue reading St Wilgefortis / Uncumber / Liberada: Saintly Bearded Woman?

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