The Mark Thompson Gay Spirit Collection
During the kick-off event for CLGS Arts Week in September, 2009, the Center was delighted and privileged to honor Mark Thompson and to announce the establishment of the Mark Thompson Gay Spirit Collection as part of the CLGS Archives.
The reception that night in Easton Hall at PSR’s neighboring seminary, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, shimmered with a living history. In the presence of a cloud of witnesses, both living and dead, Mark Thompson, journalist, author, editor, photographer, and spiritual shaman of gay communities, donated papers, books, and photographs to the CLGS Archives. This gift will be one of the first archival collections on LGBT spirituality movements beyond mainstream Christianity.
The occasion that night was the opening of a remarkable exhibit, called Fellow Travelers: Liberation Portraits, a collection of photographs of gay male spiritual figures that ranged from Harry Hay to Robert Mapplethorpe and Thompson’s longtime partner and collaborator, the Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd, an Episcopal priest and prolific author.
Thompson, who wrote a trio of groundbreaking books on gay spirituality -- Gay Spirit, Gay Soul, and Gay Body -- was also a reporter and editor-in-chief for The Advocate magazine, and had the opportunity to take the photographs as he formed relationships with these men professionally and personally. Thompson, who, with trademark wit, identifies as an “Episco-pagan” was a leading figure in the development of the gay spiritual movement that became known as the Radical Faeries. As the LGBT rights movement grew in the late 1970s, the Faeries brought together previously unexplored dimensions of sexuality and spirituality, creating new forms of communal erotic ritual that continue today in Faerie gatherings across the country.
Thompson said it was fitting that this exhibit, which has been shown in bathhouses and Cathedrals, and the other products of his life’s work, should be donated to the archives at CLGS. “I could have given these materials to other gay and lesbian historical archives,” Thompson said, “but I felt they should be here, because CLGS has an explicitly spiritual mission.”
Thompson’s partner of more than twenty-five years, the Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd, also spoke.
A 1954 graduate of Church Divinity School of the Pacific and an Episcopal priest for more than fifty years, Boyd was active in the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam-War movement. In 1965, he published Are You Running with Me, Jesus?, a collection of “pop prayers” that echoed the beat poets of the era and became a million-copy bestseller.
Jay Johnson, senior director of academic research and resources at CLGS voiced the Center’s hope that the CLGS Archives can attract still more collections that represent the full range of LGBT-inspired spirituality movements in addition to its already impressive collection from figures involved in mainstream religious denominations.
When the cataloguing is complete, The Mark Thompson Gay Spirit Collection, including Thompson’s exhibit, Fellow Travelers: Liberation Portraits, will be accessible to both scholars and activists through the Graduate Theological Union Library.
[Pictured in the photo above: (L-R) PSR President Bill McKinney; his wife Linda McKinney; Malcolm Boyd; Mark Thompson; CLGS executive director Bernard Schlager; CLGS director of Bay Area Coalition of Welcoming Congregations Roland Stringfellow; CLGS senior director of academic research and resources Jay Johnson.]