By Glen Bradley, New Ways Ministry, September 20, 2016
The Catholic director of a popular ecumenical LGBT website has stepped down from his position after years of service that grew the site into one of the leading LGBT Christian resources on the web.
In a September 9, 2016, blog post on the site, Believe Out Loud, James Rowe announced, after nearly 5 years as director, he would step down on September 15th. He also shared parts of his faith journey influenced by his time at the organization.
Rowe said that in the 1990s, he began to explore LGBT religious thought, and he learned, “to not only embrace my love for God—I also felt inspired to do more.” Yet, while grew up gay and Catholic he, “didn’t know what to do, or even where to turn… turning to the Catholic Church didn’t feel like an option….” He was distraught being unable to reconcile these two aspects of his identity.
A turning point came when he saw Believe Out Loud’s rainbow cross logo (see below). Rowe described his feelings the first time he saw it:
It triggered something inside that I still can’t put into words, but I knew I found something special. I finally felt for the first time not just the permission to believe—but the permission to believe, OUT LOUD!
He returned to the Catholic Church, which he described as “the church that I not only felt most a part of, but the church that I thought could use some serious help.”
Deeper contemplation on his faith journey led to his first Believe Out Loud blog post on being gay and Catholic titled, “Why Can’t This Mister Be A Sister?” In this post, Rowe wrote about his desire as a young boy to become a nun. Writing about the desire helped him reinterpret the experience:
For the first time, an experience from my childhood that I had always associated with embarrassment and shame became one of the proudest moments of my young life.
Rowe explained that the blog post became his catalyst for integrating his identity as a gay man with his Catholic faith and community. Rowe also credits New Ways Ministry’s co-founder with having an influence on his spiritual development:
From there, everything changed. I met an amazing nun named Sister Jeannine Gramick who continues to inspire me each and every day with such a heart full of grace and a commitment to LGBTQ justice. I am certain that when our church finally gets it right, LGBTQ Catholics decades from now will be celebrating her elevation to sainthood. She’s THAT special!
Rowe listed other exciting and powerful moments, such as when he participated in , a Mass with LGBTQ Catholics in front of the Stonewall Inn in New York City. He has also been a regular at annual Masses during Pride month. Other times were when he found “several Catholic Churches that welcome and affirm me and my LGBTQ siblings as the beloved children of God that we are.”
He thanked the bloggers, partner organizations, supportive clergy and communities, and the Believe Out Loud staff saying:
You all have empowered me more than you’ll ever know.
And from the bottom of my very gay and very Catholic heart—thank YOU for helping me Believe Out Loud!
Rowe will come out of “retirement” for a while on Sunday, October 2, 2016, when he will speak at a prayer rally which is part of the Pilgrimage of Mercy, sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College. The event will begin in New York City’s Central Park at 11 a.m. For more information, click here.
New Ways Ministry prays in thanksgiving for James Rowe’s contributions, and we pray that his future endeavors will bring him many blessings!