Flashback Friday - Episode 79, Honoring John McNeill

For over thirty years John J. McNeill was at the forefront of ministry for gay and lesbian Christians.

Photo of John McNeill

In 1976, McNeill published The Church and the Homosexual which challenged the Church's prohibition of same-sex relationships.

Book Cpver The Church and the Homosexual

It was the first extended non-judgmental work about gay Catholics, a subject that had long been taboo in official church discourse. Prior to publication it was reviewed by a panel of theologians and was published with the permission of McNeill's Jesuit superiors. That permission was retracted the following year at the order of the Vatican, and in 1987 the Vatican directed him to give up all ministry to gay persons and remain silent on gay issues or face expulsion - an order, he said, he could not follow in good conscience. He was expelled from the Jesuit order but his visionary, prophetic voice continued to inspire and challenge all who long for a more just society and a more authentic spirituality.

In October of 2006 Easton Mountain honored John McNeill as a man of faith and courage, and a spiritual elder. We celebrated his life and work, listened to his wisdom and engaged in conversation with one of the true spiritual heroes of our time. During the celebration weekend, he was joined by other gay spiritual leaders in discussing authentic spiritual communities, spiritual activism, prophetic witness, and the gay spiritual journey. On Sunday he celebrated the Eucharist with us.

John died in 2015 in Fort Lauderdale at the age of ninety with his partner of forty-six years, Charlie Chiarelli, at his bedside. The two men had been married in Toronto in 2008.

Gay Christians have long found a spiritual home at Easton Mountain. In most years we have held retreats that celebrate both the Christmas and Easter seasons. Our next retreat focusing on the Christian tradition will be Hearts of Fire, April 27-30. Easton Mountain has also focused on other spiritual traditions, including Buddhist, Shamanic and Jewish. Our next Jewish retreat will be Camp Nehirim, August 23-27, and we will have An Introduction to Shamanism, May 5-7.

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