Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Council on Religion and the Homosexual
Bulk Dates: 1965-1973
Collection number: Coll2008-065
ONE National Gay & Lesbian
Collection Size: 1 archive carton.
0.4 linear foot
ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.
Los Angeles, California 90007
Abstract: The collection consists of miscellaneous
materials relating to the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, founded in
San Francisco in 1965, primarily for the period 1965-1973.
Languages: Languages represented in the collection:
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access
Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in
writing from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives as the physical owner.
Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in
the materials. Note that ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives can grant
copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for
all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).
Council on Religion and the Homosexual Collection, Coll2008-065, ONE
National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.
Collection transferred to Archives from Subject Files, October 2008.
Collection processed by Michael P. Palmer,
November 11, 2008.
Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the
National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
In the early 1960s, as social change accelerated across the U.S.,
progressive clergymen increasingly took to the streets to minister to
marginalized persons. The Rev. Ted McIlvenna, who worked for the Glide Urban
Center, a private Methodist foundation in downtown San Francisco, witnessed the
oppression and violence homosexuals faced, and to improve the situation sought
a dialogue between clergy and homosexuals. With the support of the Methodist
church, McIlvenna convened the Mill Valley Conference from May 31 to June 2,
1964, at which sixteen Methodist, Protestant Episcopal, United Church of
Christ, and Lutheran clergymen met with thirteen leaders of the homosexual
community. Following the initial meeting, the participants began plans for a
new organization that would educate religious communities about gay and lesbian
issues as well as enlist religious leaders to advocate for homosexual concerns.
In July 1964, the participants, along with several other clergymen and
homosexual activists, met and formed the Council on Religion and the Homosexual
(CRH), which was incorporated in December of that year. The CRH was the first
group in the U.S. to use the word "homosexual" in its name. This coalition of
clergy-almost all heterosexual-and homosexual leaders proved to be mutually
beneficial: homosexual leaders received the "cloak of the cloth" to sanction
their activities, while clergy expanded their sphere of social justice
Within a month of its incorporation, the CRH was the focal point of an
event many historians consider an important turning point in San Francisco's
GLBT history. To raise money for the CRH, other homophile groups planned a
costume ball to be held on New Year's Day, 1965. When the 600 ticket holders
arrived for the event, many dressed in drag, they were greeted by scores of
uniformed and undercover police, who took photographs of them and harassed them
on their way into the ball. When the police demanded entrance to the event,
they were blocked by CRH lawyers; the police then arrested three lawyers and a
ticket taker. The following day, the (heterosexual) clergymen on the CRH held a
press conference, severely criticizing the San Francisco Police Department. The
mayor and a city judge sided with the CRH, and the police were humbled into an
apology. This event is considered an important turning point in San Francisco's
GLBT history in that it brought the city's GLBT communities together and
inaugurated a new phase of gay organizing.
In June of 1965, the CRH published
A Brief of Injustices: An Indictment of Our Society
in Its Treatment of the Homosexual
to implement the challenge of
change. It also sponsored several symposia, including a "consultation" in
August 1966, and the "Symposium on the Life and Style of the Homosexual", in
October 1968. The CRH was especially active in the political arena, supporting
gay organizations candidates' nights, where audiences repeatedly demanded that
San Francisco politicians endorse a civilian police review board. The CRH also
supported formation of Citizens Alert, a 24-hour hotline that provided lawyers,
photographers, and other assistance to victims of brutality. Four years before
the Stonewall riots in New York City, usually cited as the birth of the Gay
Liberation Movement, the police had greatly curtailed harassment of gay bars in
San Francisco and had begun meeting with homosexual groups. The CRH added
credibility to the plight of the GLBT community, giving it a voice with the
media and the establishments of societal authority. Throughout the 1967-68
local elections, the CRH held candidates' nights and endorsed gay-friendly
candidates. The CRH was instrumental in the creation of the Southern California
Council on Religion and the Homophile in 1965, and its success led to the
formation of organizations with identical names in other cities, including
Boston, Milwaukee, Washington, DC, and Winnipeg, Canada.
The CRH helped immensely to bring the plight of the GLBT community into
public view in the 1960s and to foster dialogue within mainline Protestant
churches. It was instrumental in ending harassment by police and in bringing
about legal reform. However, it made much greater strides in the
political/legal arena and in society at large than in the churches it
represented. In fact, the failure of the mainstream churches to progress
quickly enough led to the founding of a new church to minister specifically to
the GLBT community, the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), in Los Angeles in
October 1968. Although the CRH continued its activities through the 1970s and
into the 1980s, by the early 1970s it had been overtaken by more activist
religious organizations such as the MCC and Dignity, whose more aggressive
stand appealed more to the Gay Liberation generation of the GLBT community.
Council on Religion and the Homosexual,
CRH: 1964/1968, Essays on Homosexuality, 3
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection consists of miscellaneous materials relating to the
Council on Religion and the Homosexual, primarily for the period 1965-1973. The
materials include copies of the articles of incorporation for the Council,
general information brochures on the Council, papers (largely flyers, meeting
announcements, and newspaper clippings), newsletters, publications, papers
relation to a "consultation" (seminar/workshop) held in San Francisco in 1966,
two unpublished articles on homosexuality and the church, and a photograph of
Dick Gayer, Paul Hardman, and CRH lawyer David Clayton, taken during hearings
in the lawsuit Council on Religion and the Homophile v. PT&T held before
Commissioner Vukasin in 1969.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this
collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Council on Religion
and the Homosexual (San Francisco, Calif.)
Southern California Council on Religion and the Homophile Records,
Coll2008-057, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles,