Faith and the Community in the Late 1970s
A major challenge of the LGBTQ community has always been reconciling who they are with their faith. One of the first organizations to address faith and the LGBTQ community in Richmond was Dignity/Integrity of Richmond. Five people met to discuss issues surrounding being lesbian and gay people of faith in December of 1975. In January 1976, a Dignity chapter was established and the group was renamed Dignity/Integrity when the membership was pretty evenly divided between Catholics and Episcopals. The spiritual advisors for the group included the Episcopal vicar Edward Meeks “Pope” Gregory (1922 – 1995) and Catholic Brother Cosmos Rubencamp. The group continued to meet until late 1996 but disbanded shortly after the Integrity Chapter was decertified.
In addition to Dignity which formed to support gay and lesbian Catholics, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, under the guidance of Bishop Walter Sullivan, formed the Sexual Minorities Commission. The Sexual Minorities Commission was an official outreach group that ministered to the spiritual and pastoral needs of gay and lesbian Catholics and their families. Formed in 1977, this group also functioned in an advisory capacity for Bishop Sullivan. When Bishop Sullivan retired in 2004 the group disbanded.
Several people important in the history of the LGBTQ community in Richmond were on the Sexual Minorities Commission including Carl Archaki and Stephen Lenten. Carl Archaki was on the boards of several of the gay rights associations through the years and wrote for The Richmond Pride. Stephen Lenten helped found both Gay Awareness in Perspectives and Gay Alliance of Students, helping with the lawsuit against VCU even though he actually worked for the university, became a counselor in private practice specializing in LGBTQ issues and remained an activist all his life, receiving accolades from the "straight" community as well as the LGBTQ community.
Another Richmond landmark faith organization began in 1978. MCC Richmond was founded on July 8. MCC Richmond had the mission to provide a church home for LGBTQ Christians. MCC began meeting at the Friends Meeting house at 4500 Kensington Avenue and moved to their current location in 1993. A detailed history of the church is located on their website. You can link the the website here [http://mccrichmond.org/aboutus/history.htm].
Although the negative impact of religion on the LBGTQ community is often evident today as well as in the 1970s, with Anita Bryant’s campaign being a case in point, the religious community in Richmond also had a very strong positive impact on the community. Pace Memorial Methodist Church and the Friends Meeting House were two of the most frequently used locations for meetings for the community, and the Friends Meeting House was also used for dances. The support that these churches offered was vital in the development of LGBT organizations in Richmond; if there was no place to meet, the groups would never have had a chance of surviving much less thriving.
- Beth Marschak and Alex Lorch, Lesbian and Gay Richmond, Charleston SC: Arcadia Publishers, 2008. p. 75
- Marschak and Lorch. p. 74
- Marschak and Lorch, p. 85