Catholic church in SF disinvites gay clergy

December 23, 2011 - 3:50 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Roman Catholic church in San Francisco that canceled a series of pre-Christmas services featuring gay ministers from other denominations is being criticized for sending a negative message to its predominantly gay and lesbian congregation.

Pastor Steve Meriwether of Most Holy Redeemer Church late last month rescinded the invitations he had extended to the three ministers at the direction of San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/sHsd0F ) reported Friday.

The story first was reported by the Bay Area Reporter, a gay newspaper.

Archdiocese spokesman George Wesolek told the Chronicle the archbishop felt the speakers were "inappropriate for the season of Advent, which should be a time to reflect on the coming of Christ."

Wesolek said he was unsure how the archdiocese learned Most Holy Redeemer had asked Otis Charles, a former Episcopal bishop, Presbyterian Rev. Jane Spahr and Metropolitan Community Church Rev. Roland Stringfellow. An article in California Catholic Daily mentioned the Nov. 30 scheduled appearance by Otis, who came out as gay after he retired.

"It's a very delicate pastoral situation," Wesolek said. "There are a lot of wonderful gays and lesbians who attend Most Holy Redeemer, but there are parameters that must be followed."

Stringfellow, a minister for the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Church, had been scheduled to speak Wednesday. The cancellations were an insult to the clergy involved and sends a message to gay and lesbian Catholics that they are unwelcome within the Catholic Church, Stringfellow said.

"Most congregations invite speakers who can speak well to their community's concerns," he said. "We are all clergy within our own rites and denominations, and we were very disrespected by the idea that we can only give a talk that's about gay rights."

The archdiocese has stepped in before to draw a line when it felt Most Holy Redeemer's support for gay Catholics has trespassed into advocacy for gay rights.

Niederauer ordered the parish in 2009 to cancel a performance of a play that explores the subject of adolescent sexuality in a Christian context, according to the Chronicle. The parish also was told to end its official participation in San Francisco's annual Gay Pride parade.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com