Silver, William Papers

Span Dates: 1972-2007
Bulk Dates:
Volume: 1 linear foot and 986 MB


The papers document William Silver's seminary thesis, his application for ordination into the United Presbyterian Church, and his later life in the Cherry Grove community on Fire Island, New York. Particularly well documented is Silver's coming out process and the Presbyterian Church's debate on the ordination of homosexuals in the 1970s. The papers consist of a journal, correspondence, photographs, newsletters, news clippings, and printed material.

Hist/Bio Note

William Silver, who was also known as Violet, was born September 8, 1947, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received a Bachelor of Arts (1969) from Ohio Wesleyan University, majoring in Fine Arts and Pre-theology. He received a Masters of Divinity from the Union Theological Seminary in 1973. In his final year at Seminary, Silver came out as a gay man and based his thesis project on his coming out process, or "experience of liberation." The project consisted of a series of paintings and a journal where he documented his coming out process. In 1975 Silver requested ordination in the Presbytery of New York. His request sparked a two year, church-wide debate on the ordination of gay men in the Presbyterian Church. The General Assembly of United Presbyterian Church in the United States adopted a policy that barred self-affirming, practicing gay men from ordination in 1978. The policy, while blocking ordination, allowed for accepting homosexuals into the church and even ordaining repentant homosexuals who led a celibate or heterosexual life-style. Additionally, the policy protected gay men who were ordained prior to 1978 from being removed from the ministry. Silver continued his involvement with the church as a layman until the 1980s. He worked as a graphic artist and events organizer. He was a long-time resident and active member of the Cherry Grove, Fire Island (New York) community. He was known for his "High Purple Tea" events and as the publisher of the monthly "Violet's Wild Cherry" events guide. Silver died of complications due to AIDS in 2007.

Finding Aid

A finding aid is available online.


The collection is located at the Yale University Library, Manuscripts and Archives.


Presbyterian Church (USA) | Silver, William (Bill) | More Light Presbyterians (formerly Presbyterians for LGBT Concerns) | Union Theological Seminary | Activist (religious institutions) | Ordination/clergy | New York