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LGBT Options for a Spiritual Christmas

Dec. 20, 2016
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Ah, Christmastide. For many LGBTs, it means church. Speaking of which, there’s a famous anecdote about actress and libertine, Tallulah Bankhead. It seems she attended a Catholic midnight Mass at New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Cathedral one Christmas. During the service as the Bishop passed by in full array and swinging a censer billowing clouds of incense, she is said to have exclaimed, “Darling, I love your gown, but your purse is on fire!”

Anyway, for those who abide, and plan on going to a Christian religious service rather than your favorite Chinese restaurant, Milwaukee offers many accepting and affirming alternatives. Of course, one can wallow in guilt and attend a Catholic Mass somewhere. Earlier this month, just in time for the holiday, the Vatican issued its latest update of Ratio Fundamentalis Institutiones Sacerdotalis or, rather freely, The Gift of the Priestly Vocation. The document defines the formation of priests. It contains all the standard stuff but let’s just jump to section VIII. Entitled “Criteria and Norms,” under c) Persons with Homosexual Tendencies, it says, in a nutshell, “gays need not apply.” This isn’t new. But, Ratio’s earlier editions are somewhat gentler in their ban of hominis homosexualis from the priestly ranks. Now, spelled out in no uncertain terms, those with “homosexual tendencies,” as if in a renewed pathologization, are declared morally unfit to become priests.

In any case, there’ll still be plenty of priests to go around. I understand the Ratio only applies to new recruits—the old gay ones are grandfathered in, so to speak. There’s an irony here, of course. Consider the homophobic Cardinal Raymond Burke, a Wisconsinite, no less, who, while bemoaning the feminization of the Catholic Church, is best known for his extravagant vestment fetish. His Eminence loves parading about crowned with golden mitres and in more moiré silk, lace and bejeweled brocade than Liberace ever dreamt of in his philosophy. And God only knows what he wears underneath it all. Something suitably frilly, I suppose. His ecclesiastical excess should qualify as obscenity, although, to be fair, he’s taken no vow of poverty or, obviously, of Christ-like modesty. 

Anyway, all hypocrisy aside, there’s the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). Formed specifically for the LGBT community back in 1968, its local affiliate is on the near South Side. It has a new pastor, Reverend Tory Topjian and just celebrated its 30th anniversary. 

On the East Side is Plymouth Church, an especially LGBT-welcoming congregation. A member of the United Church of Christ, its pastor Andrew Warner is a well-known community icon. Also recommended are the various Unitarian Universalists and the Lutheran Village Church Downtown, among others. 

For so-called Catholic Lite liturgies (all the ritual without the guilt), the Episcopalians offer high and low services depending on the parish. With the high you’ll get the processions, vestments, incense, candles, organ music and a choir; with the low, not so much.

Social media can help you find an LGBT-friendly service to suit. This season we certainly have good reason to pray for our future, peace and goodwill towards all.

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