Chapter 5 of A Thorn in the Flesh introduces readers to two women who would become quiet leaders for a changing church (see p. 75):
… In Placerville, California, a small town of 6,000 people, Gil Grady and Dottie Fuller, like many other gay and lesbian couples in the early 1980s, lived a quietly closeted life. Active members of their local Episcopal church, they were glad when an interim priest opened church ministries to women, and they both became chalice bearers. This meant that some Sundays of the month, either Grady or Fuller would carry the chalice at communion for people kneeling on one side of the altar rail. As suspicion grew that they might be gay, some people would cross the aisle to avoid receiving the wine from them. Perhaps it was this that alerted the incoming priest. Whatever gave them away, he suddenly asked point-blank whether they were lesbian. A couple of weeks later he called them to his study. He told them that he had discussed the situation with the bishop and not only would he not allow them to continue as chalice bearers, they were no longer welcome to receive communion.
These two women, who had long been Episcopalians, had received a punishment reserved, according to the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, for those ‘living a notoriously evil life’ – for no other reason than that they were lesbian. Other parishioners organized a petition to have them reinstated, and several families stopped receiving communion in solidarity. Despite their appeals, the priest refused to change his decision. Grady and Fuller continued to play an active role in the life of the parish and to attend the Sunday services but not participate in communion. Once a month they went back to their former church in San Francisco for communion and support. They took their case to the Bishop of Northern California, but he upheld the priest’s right to exclude them. As they left his office, Grady said, “What are we going to do now?” and Fuller found herself replying, “We’re going to go to a lot of General Conventions.”
That was 1983. Between l985 and 2009, Fuller and Grady campaigned at every General Convention – a total of nine conventions in 24 years….
An interview with Dottie Fuller and Gil Grady is part of one of the daily videos posted by Integrity during the 2009 General Convention. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sy30JFz6gM to hear the interview. (The whole 9-minute interview is very good, but if you just want to see Dottie and Gil, fast forward to 6:30-7:53.)
Thoughts for discussion:
What does it mean to be ‘Anglican,’ and who gets to decide?
Are Christians called to be political activists, or live lives of quiet piety?
Dottie Fuller and Gil Grady will be with us at St. Benedict’s on January 23. What would you like to ask them?