A living history of ministry for the LGBTQ+ community — Part 14: Becoming an oasis in change and turmoil

At the beginning of 1998, Oasis/CA celebrated its second anniversary with its annual service at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. During that year, the group continued its congregations program using a new curriculum called “All Love is of God.” This resulted in many congregations participating in the process and facilitating meaningful discussion about how to become more welcoming to gay and lesbian people, with Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, officially becoming an Oasis Congregation.

In the spring of 1998, Oasis/CA was represented in the larger HIV commission of the Diocese of California by board member Michael Music at a retreat for the commission. Music reported that there was discussion about how the epidemic was changing — HIV was now primarily affecting young adults, seniors, IV drug users, and people of color. Oasis/CA wondered about how to best provide education for young people and cited the generation gap as one of its difficulties. It was discerned that a pair of willing “young people” from the diocesan task force on Gay/Lesbian youth could, if invited, visit Oasis Congregations (and those in the process) to discuss issues specific to that population, and particularly teen suicide.

To kick off the summer of 1998, St. Aidan’s, San Francisco again agreed to host the Pride liturgy on the morning of the city’s annual Pride Parade. Also around this time, the board of Oasis/CA began to have discussion about the transgender community and how to minister to them. But, with no representation of transgender people, the board did not know what the needs of that community were, so there is no evidence of ministry specifically for the transgender community.

Oasis/CA was represented at the Lambeth Conference that year by Bishop Otis Charles. Charles came back with ideas about working with the Alliance of Lesbian & Gay Anglicans. He expressed pain from the resolutions passed regarding human sexuality — specifically, an advisory statement (which was and is not binding — it only advises) saying that those not called to heterosexual marriage should abstain from sex. The resolution passed at Lambeth 1998 spurred many reactions here, including the celebration of Eucharist during “a liturgy of lament and hope” at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco on August 12, 1998.

At the time of diocesan convention that year, the country was reeling from the murder of Matthew Shephard. Oasis/CA organized the wearing of rainbow ribbons by attendees in support and solidarity with the gay and lesbian community. Many people were looking for ways to help and get involved in the movement for gay and lesbian rights. One way some people were moved was to send in notes and donations to Oasis/CA. People wrote about being alone, without “an oasis,” and in faith communities that were hostile towards the gay and lesbian community, so they lived parts of their lives in secret.

After the third anniversary celebration of Oasis/CA’s ministry on January 16, 1999, Oasis/CA was getting more involved in the Diocese of California’s 150th Anniversary history project. For months, Kathy McAdams, the assistant to the president, had been compiling information and oral histories, recorded on tape recorders. The project was growing so large that someone suggested it become a book of its own, but ultimately it was included in the larger diocesan book published in 2000.

*Note from the author: at the time, the word “transgender” was less often in use, as “transgendered” was a more common term, but that second term is very outdated and considered offensive by many people, especially those who are part of the transgender community.

For more of the living history of ministry for the LGBTQ+ community series, click here.