Cromey Online

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

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

MALCOLM BOYD

Malcolm Boyd
June 8, 1923-February 22, 2015

Malcolm Boyd was a movie critic for Episcopal Life, a national monthly publication of the Episcopal Church. He showed how Hollywood and Foreign films often reflected Biblical and theological themes. Issues of sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness, love and community were found in films. I was thrilled to learn that connection through Malcolm’s columns. I was then in The General Theological Seminary, 1953-56. 

Malcolm was on the Diocese of New York Department of Christian Education. I was on that committee too. Malcolm was always sharp, insightful, clever and amusing. He made those long boring meetings exciting and memorable. His writing and lectures were well attended. I went to a few.

Then he became a freedom rider on buses going into the Deep South for voter registration drives. He appeared many college campuses. From afar he was a mentor for me. James Albert Pike was Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in those years. He and Malcolm drew me to see that the gospel of Jesus had to connect to the social, political and economic facing the people of the country of the world.

I followed Malcolm’s writing and media appearances over the years. We would meet at meetings and conventions from time to time.

When I was vicar at St. Aidan’s, San Francisco, 1965-70, Malcolm’s book Are You Running with Me Jesus, was a best seller. He came to San Francisco and preached at St. Aidan’s. Many of us went to the Hungry i to hear Malcolm read his prayers from the book in that nightclub.

In 1967 I was a residential fellow of the College of Preachers in Washington, D.C. for three months. I contacted Malcolm, who was living in D.C. at the time. He kindly invited me to dinner at his apartment. We had cocktails and a nicely prepared dinner. We then went out to a club to hear Charlie Byrd play the guitar. I was thrilled to have spent some time with Malcolm.

Several years later Malcolm revealed that he was gay and was relieved to have come out of the closet. It was well after that I wondered if Malcolm was cruising me on our date. He made no move toward me. Of course I was so thick at that time I may not even have noticed.

I had sporadic touch with Malcolm during the 70’s. In 1981, I was rector of Trinity, SF. We had many gay men members of the parish. I invited Malcolm to come and preach at Trinity to a crowd from gay religious organization throughout the Bay Area. A crowd of 500 showed up to a fine service at Trinity to hear Malcolm.

The late John Michael Olexy was Senior Warden of Trinity and a passionate follower of Malcolm’s every word and action. Ann and I invited John Michel to dinner with Malcolm and us. John Michael, a very amusing and delightful man, was so thrilled he could hardly speak. He said it was a high point in his life.

That may have been the last time I saw Malcolm. I certainly followed his career and read his books.

I learned from Malcolm to have a brash public persona, tell the truth and preach boldly. I envied his writing and getting published. He worked very hard and carefully on his manuscripts. I also learned from Bishop Pike and Malcolm to be an unabashed self-promoter. I hope we did it so that the gospel shown through us.


-Robert Warren Cromey

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