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Interview With Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson

Recently I had the pleasure of having a virtual chat with Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson of the Old Catholic Church, a known champion for the reconciliation of the GLBTI community with an inclusive faith. This interview coincides with the release of his first book, an autobiography of sorts, The Gay Face of God

The book itself is not your typical book about Christianity and the issues of homosexuals (though you will find a very simple, scriptural, and no-fluff approach of that issue addressed in Chapter 14 if you're interested.) Rather, the book is a memoir of the life and times of a gay man who, like most GLBTI people, has done a little bit of everything along the path of his life. 

Archbishop Bruce J. SimpsonThough there are definitely religious references, I think this book has a bit of something for anyone that finds fascination in real life stories, even if religion is not their favorite topic. Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson is affiliated with the Old Catholic Church and is on a quest to reconcile the GLBTI community with their religious roots, while battling the scars and damage that most of Christianity has inflicted on our people. But most of the book is a mirror for anyone who has ever just not quite found their place in life, even though they seem to do well at what they do. 

CL: Why don't we start with the title of your book? Tell me what was running through your head when you titled the book, "The Gay Face of God?" 

BS: The title of my book comes from the book of Genesis which states that man and woman are made in the image of God. If this be truth, and I believe it to be so, than the image of men and women must include all the variations on this creation: male and female, black, white, brown, and all colors in-between, and gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered. Since God does not make mistakes, and is incapable of doing an evil thing, than we can assume rightly so that the gay community is a reflection of who and what God is - within the bounds of the human mind. The human mind is incapable of understanding even the most miniscule part of God's being and therefore we must conclude logically that we are also unable to understand why he created the gay community. One logical explanation might be that he programmed into the systems of life, a natural method of birth control. This would on its own control to a certain extent the rate of growth of the world's population. 

CL: In your book you refer to your vocation quite a bit - meaning in the service of the church or as some people call it the calling. Can you look back, prior to knowing this is what you were supposed to do, and see indicators in your childhood that were pointing you in that direction? 

BS: I have often thought about the question of whether or not God was calling me to his service as a child. What I remember is always feeling an intense peace in churches, a feeling of being home, of safety and comfort and above all else, love. At times, I remember having a feeling that God was present with me in various situations, but I find when thinking about this, that I was closer to God in good times, and further away in bad times. This is the opposite of many people who cling to God in the bad times, and forget him when the good times roll. 

CL: Several times your legal education and political background has seemed to provide you with a good foundation to do church related work. How do you think your military and police work has assisted you in your current vocation? 

BS: My employment experience with the police, the courts, and the law in general gave me a very special understanding of how the system works; how people think, feel and move in certain situations. It has enabled me to be able to see through the injustice of certain situations like the Michael Batey case in Michigan, and identify it as a miscarriage of justice. Social Justice Ministry which is the primary ministry of this Order requires us to deal with the system in a mode of understanding and the willingness to take on those who seek to do harm to the gay community. The experience has also allowed me to work within the system as well, and to achieve desired results. At the present time, I am responding to a death threat from an individual in Texas as well as extreme libel on the internet that has to be responded too. My background has enabled me to know how to deal effectively with this menace through the courts, and in the area of personal security. The religious-right wants me to disappear and become silent. This will not happen. 

CL: You and your partner Jack, you have very traditional and contrasting not-so-traditional aspects of your relationship which would disprove (or prove) any one of the thousands of theories on long lasting queer relationships. Tell me what you think has really helped you and Jack through all these years together? 

BS: Jack and I will be together 30 years next March. You ask how have we stayed together so long? In the beginning, the attraction was purely physical and hormone driven, but the "player" got snagged by love. The foundation of our life is based upon friendship and love. This has enabled us to deal with the many issues that do come up in a long term relationship which are the same as in any heterosexual relationship. Money and sex were always the things that caused strife in our relationship. Communication with each other helped get us through the early "passionate" years, and love got us the rest of the way. Usually, I was the cause of any disruption in the home life and not Jack. I am indeed fortunate that I fell in love with a man who puts our love above all else and who came to understand me for who I am, and for who I am not. These past 10 years have been almost "conflict free" and it gets better and better as the months go by. We have always seen our relationship as life-long, and not just for the short haul. I am so glad that we have succeeded thanks to Jack, as we are in the last quarter of our lives and I know we shall go all the way. 

CL: You have had many, many jobs through the years and experienced quite a bit. This is not uncommon for a GLBTI person and for someone who enters the clergy later in life. Why do you think either (or both) groups seem to try so many different things before settling down? 

BS: I have always been centered on one area of occupation: Law. Whether it has been as a police officer, federal agent, court magistrate, bodyguard, or finally U.S. Treasury senior management, a common theme has run through my occupations. I picked up a broad spectrum of experience and knowledge working in the law field, starting with my B.A. from the University of Central Florida. While all this was going on, I always felt the call to ministry in the Catholic Church. It was not until later in life, when I said yes. I had always tried to say no, but the harder I tried to avoid answering the call from God, the more persistent it became. I have no doubt in my mind that I am where I am as a result of where God wants me to be: ministering to the gay community. As far as any tendency towards job or career changes by the GLBTI community; if that is the case, I would surmise that it is a natural thirst for knowledge, new experience, and new challenges and may be part of the creative nuisances of gay people in general. I have also seen a large drive to succeed in life by many gay people, and if one feels that they are in a dead-end job, changing jobs is a way to circumvent a glass ceiling. 

CL: You mention the brief relationship you and your half-brother had. I am sorry that has, for now at least, ended the way it did. You don't really mention any adult relationships with any other biological family members. So often for gay people, family-of-choice is a buzz word because we are forced, for whatever reason, into creating a surrogate family. Who has, in your life, filled these voids and helped you along life's path? 

BS: My lack of adult familial relationships is directly tied to the fact that I come from an extremely small family. Death took a couple of the males in my early teens, and now with the exception of my half-brother, only my mother and step-father survive. All others have passed on. Our family members were never close for much of my life and so I really got along without that aspect that most people enjoy. There was never any rejection of me because I am gay. It was accepted without question - at least to my face. Jack has been my family in this life. I have and do deeply love him and he has met most if not all of my emotional needs over the years. 

CL: Where do you see yourself ten years from now professionally? 

BS: Many things effect where I will be in 10 years including my health. If I am still walking this earth, I may very well be retired totally after Jack retires in 7 years. I intend for us to live our lives as much as possible with each other before death separates us temporarily. I would love to have him home now all the time and not have to work in order to have health insurance. But finally, God is the final arbiter of where I shall be and what I shall be doing. 

CL: Where do you think the GLBTI civil rights movement will be ten years from now in the United States? 

BS: The GLBTI community is in the home stretch as far as equal rights are concerned. I have seen our community go from something hidden in the dark recesses of life, to legalized gay marriage in at least one state. The biggest factor affecting our progress now is whether or not George W. Bush is in the Whitehouse over the next four years. His appointments to the federal bench will have a disproportionate affect on our lives, outlasting any impact that Bush and his band of merry homophobes can do in four or eight years by themselves. This brings me to what is a total lack of understanding about how anyone can support Bush for President. It is not just about one issue; it is about war and peace, the Constitution, the economy, health care, quality of life and yes, civil rights for all Americans. More has happened to this country in the last four years that is negative than in the combined years of the last century. 

CL: What is the one message you would like to tell the GLBTI people who have been burned by other denominations before they walk into a GLBTI Inclusive church? 

BS: If I could get any one message to everyone in the GLBTI community, it would be this: God does not hate you. God does not condemn you. God is love. Religion distorted by man is the problem that must be overcome, fought on all levels, and true Christianity must be reclaimed by those who have been thrown out of it by the imperfect hands, minds, and wills of man. By extension, the Benedictine Order of St. John the Beloved is recruiting for vocations in the GLBTI community and anyone interested should contact me. 

CL: Any final thoughts? 

BS: When I think about the vastness of the GLBTI community, I am saddened by our lack of ability to come together as one voice; one front, one block, when it comes to social justice and civil rights. We have a half-dozen or so national GLBTI organizations all trying to do the same thing. Why? Why don't these organizations merge and become one entity to carry forth the fight for freedom and the promise of the words, "All men (and women) are created equal" Why do we waste precious monetary resources by funding all of these separate organizations when it would be far more effective to centralize our power and activist center to maximize our influence? Why can't we set aside egos for the greater good? We of all people should be able to care enough for each other to sacrifice small things in order to accomplish greater goals. Equality is within our grasp; all we have to do is reach for it. 

Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson, OSJB 
The Benedictine Order of St. John the Beloved 
White Haven, PA 

 

by Cam Lindquist 
August 10, 2004

Update:  Archbishop Simpson has authored another book "If He's Queer He Musta Done It"