I want to pay tribute to my friend Peter, who died just last week. We lived in different cities, and I was not as close to him as some others were, but I would like to think that I was his friend.
Here is his story as far as I know it.
Peter was at theological college, preparing for the Anglican priesthood. I am not sure about the exact circumstances, but it happened that there was some questioning going on, and some of the students were asked if they were homosexual. (Being ‘Gay’ was not the common parlance then.) Peter answered the question with a ‘Yes’. For this he was dismissed from the college, and was no longer an ordinand.
He worked at various jobs after that, but continued to exercise his musical talents by playing the organ at an Anglican Church, and got a job as office secretary in another suburban parish.
Then, in the middle 1960s came the Australian Broadcasting Programme “Chequerboard”. “Chequerboard” presented to the public different aspects of Australian life: most of them not commonly known to the majority of people.
It was on this programme that Peter and his partner (also Peter) ‘came out’ to the Australian public at least.
Peter immediately lost his job as church secretary , but there were protests outside that church too! Sadly, they were to no avail.
Peter was at the forefront of the movement aimed at gaining acceptance for gays. He helped to launch the forerunner of the Mardi Gras, the Campaign Against Moral persecution, originally a political protest, sat which many were bashed or subject to other forms of brutality. During the AIDS crisis, Peter spent many long hours being both nurse, companion, and ministering angel to many of the people who went through that terrible death.
The rise of the movement for Gay marriage saw Peter and his partner once more in the public eye, as the image of what a long, loving gay relationship could look like. I remember well the celebration of their 40th anniversary of ‘being together’ and just a few months ago, the great celebrations of their jubilee year.
But Peter was not a prude either. I remember being at dinner with several members of what used to be called ‘The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’.
This was a group of Gay men, poking fun at some of the ‘straight’ puritan responses to sexuality.
Peter lived to see that day, but sadly, did not live to see his dream of being able to marry his partner come true.
Peter donated his body for scientific research.
Before he died, Peter was anointed at Christ Church St. Laurence in Sydney, and accepted the ministry of an Anglican Priest.
I am told that Peter was never bitter about his treatment at the hands of the church.
Peter’s partner, the other Peter is not a believer, but I am sure he would not take offence at what I am about to say. Is there any other story that you could tell that sounds more like the story of Jesus?
John’s prologue comes to mind. “He came to his own people and his own people received him not, but to those who did receive him he gave power….” Now it is Jesus who has ‘light and life’ within himself. It is Jesus who gives us power to become children of God, but this Peter pointed me to what that might look like more than most.
Peter was sent ‘outside the camp’, as the letter to the Hebrews has it, yet there he was literally a ‘ministering angel’ a messenger of God, a true priest.
It is ball-tearingly sad, if all too common, that the Church, which has the task of carrying on the mission of Jesus, fails to recognise in one of its members just the embodiment of that mission.
This is what Peter did. He put his body on the line for others, (here is my body (time, love, touch) given for you). As the paraphrase of the Ghandi quote goes “He was the change he wanted to see.” (As Jesus inaugurated the reign of God, in his body, by how he was with people)
Peter did not let the ‘sleeping dog’ of human sexuality just lie, but he acted in such a way as to make it impossible for us to ignore it, either in being Gay or straight.
Luckily the Spirit of Jesus transcends the Church, especially her manifestations in some places. It is just a pity that someone like Peter was not given the opportunity to earn his daily bread by living such an example.
But in these days, when the image of the church has been nearly destroyed, and not many people want to hear the message of Jesus from us any more, Peter also seemed to know that within this all too earthen a vessel, there is treasure: the treasure of setting our lives within a context of a God crucified, that makes the only sin that cannot be forgiven, the sin of refusing to be embraced.
Rest in Peace Peter, and rise in glory.