By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 22, 2016
Yet another gay church worker has been fired for exercising the right to civil marriage, this time in Rhode Island.
On Monday, Michael Templeton was fired as Music Director for the Church of St. Mary in Providence. Templeton described the meeting during which he was fired as “bizarre, unprofessional, and inappropriate,” reported Go Local. He said further of the meeting, which included the parish’s pastor and a diocesan official:
” ‘What I can tell you about the conversation, is that from what I’ve read, it’s consistent with the other situations I’m aware of around the country — that they say because of the public nature of your ministry, and the inconsistency of your life choices, that we are requiring your resignation. . .
” ‘What I can say is that I am aware of Catholic educators and administrators around the country facing this — I’ve seen this happen to some colleagues in the music ministry, and they’re all heartbreaking stories. . .These are people giving their best, they’re faith-filled Catholics. It chips away a little each time.’ “
Templeton, who had worked at the Church of St. Mary for more than five years, said he was transparent about his relationship and then his 2015 marriage. He said he has “worked hard to live a life of integrity, which means never hiding,” and until now has been able to “do things that I love with the talents and gifts I have,” including music ministry in the Catholic communities for the past twenty-four years.
From 2006 through 2012, the Church of St. Mary had been administered by Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province. Templeton has been involved with Franciscan ministries since attending St. Bonaventure University, Olean, New York, and had worked at another Providence church for a time before coming to the Church of St. Mary. St. Mary’s parish had developed a reputation as a welcoming community, Templeton explained:
” ‘I came to St. Mary’s for what it is and who they welcome, whether they come from reformed lives of addiction, or come from divorce and are remarried, whatever the reason. I want to be clear — I did not resign, I was relieved of my duties.’ . . .
” ‘My heart breaks because this brings to light what “safe” means to people. I feel this action represented more than me in my role. It represents people who have been marginalized and thought of as “less than” for a whole host of reasons.'”
The Diocese of Providence took over the administration of the parish from the Franciscan Friars two years ago. The administrative shift means the parish is now overseen more directly by Bishop Thomas Tobin, who has a very LGBT-negative record.
Parishioners and the local community have rallied around Templeton, who said he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.” He added:
” ‘Friends from high school, college, have all left amazing messages. I’m not a media person, I’m not seeking attention. I just want to open the conversation again. I hope people keep their faith, hold their heart, and keep the conversation going on this.’ “
Templeton posted on Facebook that the incident is “one moment in time and life surely goes on. God is good.” His message now is clear, reported Go Local:
” ‘People need to follow their heart. I feel strongly I give the best I can and what that means is bringing people closer to God through music. . .I pray for those people to follow their heart and conscience. The God I believe in is a merciful God. The Pope has called us to a year of mercy and I invite people to heed that call.’ “
Michael Templeton has exhibited a grace and concern for the faith community that was seemingly absent in church officials’ decision to fire him. He joins the more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes in recent years. During this year of mercy, may the God of mercy be with those like Templeton who have been treated unjustly and wrongly.
For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.