Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Del Martin R.I.P.

Del Marin died 8/27/8 and her partner Phyllis Lyon lives on. They were among the first out lesbians and spent a lifetime seeking justice and freedom not only for lesbians but also for all homosexual persons, women and minorities. Del was 83 and in poor health for a number of years.

I met them in the early 1960’s when I was on Bishop Pike’s staff. He asked me to represent him and attend a meeting of clergy and homosexuals at the Ralston White Retreat Center in Mill Valley, CA. We sat and told our stories and Del told her story as a young woman, who married, had a child and then divorced, realized she was a lesbian and became partners with Phyllis Lyon.

Del – and almost everything I have to say about her includes Phyllis – helped found San Francisco’s Council on Religion and the Homosexual. We tried to influence politicians and church people to face the injustices of society perpetrated on homosexual in our culture in the 1960’s.

Del called me one day in 1965 and invited me to a meeting of the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian rights organization. I went to their home atop Castro Street and found myself in a group of twenty lesbian women. I was a little frightened, as I had no idea what to expect. I noticed some of the women were very attractive, well dressed and very intelligent. I talked about the negative attitudes of the church toward homosexual and how that would have to change. We listened to each other and I heard some of the horror stories these women told - sex, jobs, housing, marriage, divorce, child custody etc. I enjoyed myself very much and felt very much at home with the women and Phyllis and Del.

We saw each there at meeting of CRH, rallies and events in SF. I remember onetime being invited to a luncheon honoring Del and Phyllis in the 70’s. They had founded a clinic. Realizing that lesbians were often discriminated against in medical care; the Lyon-Martin clinic was established to give better medical attention to those women. Rita Mae Brown was the speaker. I told Del that if Rita Mae ever turned straight, I’d like to know about it. I don’t think they were amused, sexist pig that I am sometimes.

I read their books and was particularly proud of Del when she protested when the National Organization of Women (NOW) and Betty Freidan tried to marginalize lesbians from that movement.

I also saw them shopping in the Bell Market on 24th Street where we all shopped for groceries. Phyllis worked around the corner from Trinity at the National Sex Forum so I would see her in the lunch and coffee places in that neighborhood.

There was a gigantic celebration of Phyllis and Del’s fiftieth anniversary of their relationship at the Castro Theater and I was able to give Del a little hello while she sat in her wheel chair.

Del was a mighty woman, strong, compassionate, eloquent, daring and aggressive when that was needed.

I my book In God’s Image: the need for justice for gays and lesbians in the eyes of the church, I acknowledged their importance in my life in changing and developing my attitudes toward homosexuals.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What to Do Until Election Day

I watch or listen to almost nothing except election results. All else is conjecture, fantasy, fiction or scare tactics. I support my candidate, send some money, sit back and wait for the results. Saves, time, energy and anxiety. Go read a good book and turn off the TV and enjoy the obituaries in the daily papers. I will vote for Barack Obama. What else is there to do really?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Palestine Peace Not Aparheid

Palestine Peace Not Apartheid
By Jimmy Carter
Simon and Schuster Paperback
with a new Afterword, 2007

Carter says he received the more negative response to this book than any he had ever written before. His afterword makes it clear he does not retract any of his words written in the 2006 edition.

Carter’s description of the plight of the Palestinians, the poverty, absence of rights, persecution, destruction of homes and orchards, loss of life and the sick and wounded is painful to read. The Palestinians are second or third class citizens in the land they have lived in for thousands of years. Carter is quite correct in calling the situation apartheid. The situation is the same as what the white South Africans did to the native Africans.

American Jews both liberal and conservative are enormously sensitive to criticism of Israel. Many American Jews are critical of the policies of the various Israeli governments’ policies toward the Palestinians over the last twenty years. Many Israeli citizens are equally critical. Their voices are drowned by the complex multi-party system of government which most often ends up with compromises resulting in very conservative hard line elected leadership.

Carter points out that there is no debate in American politics about Israel. Politicians fear retaliation against them by the power and wealthy American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). This group has frightened voices in the pubic arena so that a balanced debate is practically non-existent in the U.S. Congress or among presidential hopefuls. Candidates critical of Israel found money pumped into opponent’s campaign by AIPAC. There is little discussion of these issues in American churches. Where there is it is seldom covered by the media.

While Carter acknowledges Israel’s intransigence and Palestinian stubbornness, he continues to call for negotiations and dialogue between these two groups. I love the quote from a retired Air Force officer, “If they can fight for seven years, why can’t they negotiate for seven years instead?”

Carter’s presentation of the complexities of the inter-Arab world is clear, concise and fair. He has been there, visited with the leadership, and he knows whereof he speaks.

For many secular Jews Israel has become their God. The nation has become an object of worship – what one gives worth to. Since the secular gods of money and power are seen as of little worth, Israel and its survival has become a new deity. This results in an evangelistic fervor for all things Israeli. That nation can do no wrong.

Israel is trumpeted as the only democracy in the Middle East. Yet the government, rich and powerful, with the backing of the U.S. and most of Europe, cannot find peace with their Palestinian neighbors and instead keeps them in bondage. AIPAC uses its wealth and power to stymie the democratic process by threatening the political careers of anyone in the public arena who criticizes Israeli policies.

Carter gives a balanced presentation of what is needed to bring about peace between the Israeli government and the Palestinians. One can only hope all leaders will read and understand and take action on his wisdom.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

An Episcopal Priest has a Prominent Role in this Novel

Good-Bye and Amen
by Beth Gutcheon
Wm. Morrow, N.Y. 2008
$24.95 241 pages

Beth Gutcheon is known to Ann and me as Beth Clements. She and her husband Robin were members of Trinity Church, San Francisco, the last years before they moved to New York. We have remained good friends in spite of their failure to remain in San Francisco. Beth’s humor is best described as the gentle put down. I once said I was going to add some explicit details of my sex life in my memoir. She replied in her very Beth way, “I think not, Robert.”

When she told me she was putting a an Episcopal priest as an important character in her new book, she said, “No Robert, it’s not about you.” She knows my fragile ego needs lots of stroking but she was not going to do it in her new novel.

She did consult with Robert Willing, the retired Archdeacon of the Diocese of New York, and me. She was kind enough to include us in her list of acknowledgements, p. 442 to be exact. We described some of the processes and procedures of how the Episcopal Church moves people toward ordination; how rectors and bishops get elected and removed when necessary. She also knows a lot about parish life.

Goodbye and Amen is about three adult children who meet to split up the old family possessions after the death of their parents. Family values are presented skillfully with humor throughout the book. The Rev. Norman Faithful (pun intended) is the husband of Monica, one of the family members gathered together. The interplay between the family members, their spouses and children make up the drama, revelations and secrets that form so much of family life. It is set mostly in Maine where the parents lived. Boats, sailing, parties, islands, the sea, the joys and pain of the people involved make up the book.

I am going to give you some quotes that reveal Beth’s wit and wisdom. They are well worth searching the book for their contexts.

“Birth is usually instructive. Death always.”

“…he is aging disgustingly well.”

Job description of a rector’s wife: “Wear beige and shut up.”

Her favorite game was, “Let’s you and him fight.”

“Growing up together makes you familiar but that’s different from understanding each other.”

“…she had been brought up from childhood to be suddenly found guilty and bad at the most random moments.”

“The only vinegar in the house you wouldn’t douche with.”

‘He was mad at me because I wouldn’t let him put ginger ale in his corn flakes.”

“I thought the children should have been drowned at birth. I offered to do it but Monica discouraged it.”

Heaven will be a celestial kaleidoscope.

“Sending a bitchy woman to care for a sick woman is…like asking a tiger to nurse a rabbit with its foot in a trap.”

Daughter Sylvia to Fr. Faithful. “Our whole relationship is me standing around coffee hour after church, wanting to blow my brains out, I’m so bored, while you receive your adoring subjects.”

“Charisma is immoral.”

“When people see you as a Godlike person; you have a need to be found out.”

Three things I read in the book happened while Beth was at Trinity. A parish secretary is blamed for heading the bulletin the Sunday before Easter as Plam Sunday.

Three members banded together to raise hell in the parish. They were dubbed “The Unholy Trinity.”

A man was served a warrant in church on Easter Day. (The law firm heard about that sin from me and from gossip columnist the late Herb Caen.)

All of these lines and mots are in Good-bye and Amen. Do yourself a favor and go buy it and read it

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Short Book Review

Good-Bye and Amen
by Beth Gutcheon
Wm. Morrow, N.Y. 2008 $24.95 241 pages

This novel has an Episcopal Priest as an important character in it. The Rev. Norman Faithful is married to Monica, one of the daughters who meet with their brother to split up the old family possessions after the death of their parents. Family values are presented skillfully with humor throughout the book. The story of Fr. Faithful’s talents, ambitions and sins is presented in a manner that rings true to this priest ordained fifty-two years before. Clergy and lay people will get a picture of how family impinges on the ministry of a priest and how his life affects a family. Reflections on theology and spirituality also make Gutcheon’s book a fine read for insight into the real human life of all of us.