Nov 03 2008

Rev. Geoffrey Farrow: Bulletproof Faith

Published by at 6:52 am under Being Bulletproof

From time to time, I’ll honor people who are displaying a bulletproof faith in this world. Today’s honoree is Rev. Geoffrey Farrow. He used his pulpit in Fresno, California to come out against Proposition 8 which would ban same-gender marriage in the state.

With California Proposition 8 on the state’s November ballot, and his own bishop urging priests to support the church definition of traditional marriage, Farrow told congregants he felt obligated to break “a numbing silence” about church prejudice against homosexuals.

“How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives?” he asked parishioners of the St. Paul Newman Center. “I am morally compelled to vote no on Proposition 8.”

Then Farrow – who had revealed that he was gay during a television interview immediately before church services – added a coda to his sermon.

“I know these words of truth will cost me dearly,” he said. “But to withhold them . . . I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well.”

And it did cost him dearly: he has been removed as the priest at St. Paul Newman Center and could be defrocked.

What makes his faith completely bulletproof, however, is what he did before the sermon – he came out, telling a reporter that he was gay.

Farrow became a priest 23 years ago and has worked in several California parishes. A graduate of St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, he served as an Air Force chaplain, stationed during the early 1990s at Edwards Air Force Base.

Farrow, who said he realized he was gay in boyhood, never revealed his sexual orientation to anyone. He told his parents only four years ago.

“This was the secret I was going to take to my grave,” he said.

That changed when he received a June 30 “pastoral letter” from Steinbock’s office in which the bishop condemned the California Supreme Court’s ruling in May legalizing same-sex marriage, and supported the passage of Proposition 8. The bishop compared the court’s action to efforts by Nazi Germany and the Communist regimes in Russia and China to alter family arrangements.

Farrow said he knew his comments would cause an uproar. He started to pack up his office the night before he was scheduled to give his address.

Steinbock said in his disciplinary letter that he had no choice but to suspend Farrow, and he hinted that other penalties could follow, including defrocking him.

Farrow has stood strong in the face of institutional church bigotry. He is an example of what it means to have a bulletproof faith. Please pray for Rev. Farrow – that God uses him powerfully from this point forward so his sacrifice is not in vain.

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