Today in History: A Priest and Some Sisters

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2008

On January 10, 1977, Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore of New York ordained the Rev. Ellen Marie Barrett to the priesthood. Her ordination into the diaconate in December 1975 had gone largely unnoticed. But her priestly ordination was marked by a storm of controversy throughout the Church and the secular press. Rev. Barrett had previously served with James Wickliff as the first co-presidents of Integrity, the LGBT Episcopal organization.

Coincidentally, on this same date in 1980, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence founded a “convent” in San Francisco. Originally a form of camp street theater, the controversial nuns soon took on more serious efforts when they became among the earliest bay-area AIDS charities at a time when few other established churches and organizations deigned to pitch in.

Their work didn’t end there. The Sisters helped organize the first AIDS Candlelight Vigil, and one of the Sisters created the rainbow flag, which is now the defining symbol of the gay rights movement. The sisters have raised more than $1 million in San Francisco alone and have benefited such groups as the Breast Cancer Network, Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic and the Gay Games. The Sisters continue to bring meals to those who can no longer care for themselves, and they fund alternative proms for LGBT youth.

And through it all, they continue to be the favorite targets of many religious-right organizations, many of which still show scant evidence of performing the charitable work that the Sisters do. Ironic, isn’t it?

Update: Okay, I’ve had two historical errors coming from the same source. That source also gave me the wrong date for the Kinsey report. Lesson: Don’t believe everything you read without verifying it from other sources. Which, of course, is why I started this web site to begin with. How embarrassing….

Peterson Toscano

January 10th, 2008

Jim, I really appreciate these posts about our history. It reminds me that we are a people with a history and it affirms the amazing work of those who have gone before us.


January 13th, 2008

I think you’re mistaken…the pride flag was created by Gilbert Baker. Correct me if I’m wrong though.

Jim Burroway

January 13th, 2008

Jaft, You’re right. Apparently the source I was using was confused by the fact that Gilbert Baker is a member (going by the name “Sister Chanel 2001”). The Pride flag does pre-date the sisters however, so I’ve struck out the reference.

Sister Iona

January 14th, 2008

The actual first apperance of the Sisters is Easter Sunday 1979.

Jim Burroway

January 14th, 2008

Okay, I’ve got a source that I’m throwing away… Two errors in one month!…

Thanks Sister. I’ll get it right on Easter (When was Easter in 1979?!?)

Sister Iona

January 15th, 2008

4/15/79 was Easter Sunday that year.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts


Another Temporary Hiatus

Today's Agenda Is Brought To You By...

Today In History, 1971: Minnesota Couple Stake Claim To First American Same-Sex Marriage

Today's Agenda Is Brought To You By...

Today In History, 1954: "Perverts Vanish" From Miami

Born On This Day, 1907: Evelyn Hooker

Born On This Day, 1925: Fr. John J. McNeill

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.