The Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco has garnered controversy after rescinding invitations to gay-friendly ministers, who were scheduled to speak at their pre-Christmas events.
According to reports, the order came from Archbishop George Niederauer. A representative for Most Holy Redeemer said that the archbishop thought the speakers were inappropriate for the season of Advent, which should be a time to reflect on the coming of Christ.
One of the speakers who was scheduled to speak at the Christmas program is the Rev. Roland Stringfellow, a minister for the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Church. He called the Catholic Church hypocritical for implementing a “Come Home” ad campaign, while not everyone is welcome, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
The other gay-friendly ministers who were scheduled to speak are retired Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles and the Rev. Jane Spahr, a retired Presbyterian minister.
Charles revealed himself as gay after his retirement in 1993. He divorced his wife of over 40 years and married his male partner in 1994 at a San Francisco church.
Spahr had previous conflicts with her church over same-sex marriage and founded a group for gay Presbyterians.
A November article in the California Catholic Daily could be blamed for the rescinded invitations. According to sources, the article called Most Holy Redeemer “San-Francisco’s notoriously gay-friendly parish.” In a matter of days, the archdiocese assertively had the church retract the speakers’ invitation.
Archbishop Niederauer is known for coming down on hard on activities and events that trod the fine line between support for gay Catholics and advocacy for gay causes.
In 2006, he canceled charity bingo games at the church that would have been held by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a cross-dressing street theater troupe dressed like Catholic nuns. Niederauer stopped the events because of the group’s “contempt and ridicule” for the Catholic faith and its practices.
In 2009, the bishop ordered Most Holy Redeemer to end its participation in the Gay Pride Parade.
Most Holy Redeemer hasn’t always been the aggressor in the internal struggle between gay Catholics and the clergy. In 2009, the church was spray-painted with graffiti and swastikas for its support of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California.
The Catholic Church reportedly shuns gay and lesbian activity, while they accept same-sex orientation. Churches like Most Holy Redeemer have a large gay and lesbian population in their flock and struggle to meet religious requirements and the needs of their members.
Most Holy Redeemer, on its website, calls itself “an inclusive Catholic community … regardless of their background, gender, race, social status, gender identity or sexual orientation.” According to spokesman for the archdiocese George Wesolek, this brings about a very delicate pastoral situation.
“There are a lot of wonderful gays and lesbians who attend Most Holy redeemer, but there are parameters that must be followed,” Wesolek said.