Gays, lesbians protest church exclusion

June 17, 1998

By Arun Pradhan

On May 31, 60 people wearing rainbow sashes attended mass in St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. A letter to the church explained that the participants identified as gays and lesbians and called on the church to enter into dialogue with them.

The letter, signed by Michael Kelly, convener for the Rainbow Sash Movement, proposed that the church to allow clergy and religious laity to "come out" and that an Ecumenical Council of the Church be established to seek "a new understanding of the diversity and beauty of human sexuality".

While the protesters received a blessing, Archbishop Pell refused to give them communion and reaffirmed in his sermon the church's refusal to accept homosexuality.

Fiona Vance, a member of Queer Young Christians, saw the action as a step forward and a way of breaking the silence around the issue. "We made our point in a dignified way and began to get the needs of gays and lesbians on the agenda", she told Green Left Weekly. The action received widespread media coverage.

The action was a point of discussion at the third "Daring" conference held in Sydney on June 6-8, organised by the Uniting Network. Under the slogan "Re-imagining love and embracing our strength", the conference bought together 140 people from different denominations who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender. Speakers included Dr Dorothy McRae-McMahon from the Uniting Church. Guests came from the United States and New Zealand.

"It looked at strategies for fighting homophobia in the church and was a reminder for all the participants that God loves us, and of the diversity of creation", said Vance, who also attended the conference.

"There is no doubt that we live in conservative times", Vance acknowledged. "There is a broader push back to the nuclear family, but the growing attendance at Daring, and the Rainbow Sash action, which would have been unheard of two years ago, show that things are getting better."

The Rainbow Sash Movement can be contacted on 0412 073 081. Queer Young Christians can be e-mailed at <>.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.