Adrian Ravarour, Ph.D., is a priest, spiritual artist, and social activist who started Vanguard in San Francisco with Joel Williams and Billy Garrison in the fall of 1965. Ravarour was the adult founder of Vanguard and civil rights teacher to the Vanguard members who were mainly Gay white young male adults, teenage runaways and Tenderloin street youth. The majority of his life’s work is in the spiritual arts. His early ministries were with Bishop Mikhail Itkin and the Rev. Ray Broshears in San Francisco. In Los Angeles he was a priest and rector of Beloved Disciple parish, and continues as Associate Bishop in the America Catholic Church under Archbishop Robert M. Clement. In 2015, he brought the Old Catholic Thomasine Order under jurisdiction of the American Catholic Church. Ravarour teaches meditation and Deep Prayer.
Ravarour was born in 1943 in southern California of European parents during World War II. When he was fourteen he met Aldous Huxley who told him to ‘find the highest common denominators of the world’s major philosophies’ that profoundly influenced his life. He spent eight years in religious study as a Mormon in preparation for an expected four year mission. He was ordained as a deacon (March 4, 1956), and as a priest (December 29, 1959). But he declined a call to further priesthood advancement and missionary work, and stopped attending that church due to its anti-gay bias. Ravarour had "come out" in high school in 1958 and was subjected to harassment--food thrown at him and being spit upon--by other students. His father also beat on him regularly. Ravarour persevered through this tumultuous time.
Supported for the next four years by his repurposed Mormon Missionary Fund, Ravarour moved to San Francisco in 1963 where he trained for two and a half years at the San Francisco Ballet School under Harold Christensen and Anatolie Vilzak. In 1965 a teacher tried to humiliate him in front of the class for being gay; but Ravarour asserted and defended that ‘being gay was as natural as being straight’ and was applauded by many of the students. Miscommunication about a promised Ford Foundation Scholarship led to Ravarour ending enrollment. He decided to stop paying tuition so that his repurposed Mormon Missionary Fund would last into 1967 while he investigated other Art forms. Seeking to develop opportunities in the arts, he was directed to Intersection: Center for Religion and the Arts at 150 Ellis Street in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Intersection was an art center and coffeehouse that presented art programs as sacramental. The Rev. Laird Sutton, graduate of Pacific School of Religion and former Associate Methodist Minister at Glide, was its director. Here Ravarour was inspired by Rev. Sutton's concept of a spiritual premise inherent in all art and this provided direction for his life work as an artist. Ravarour was a full-time staff member of Intersection, August 1965 to February 1967, and became its poetry director.
Intersection’s gay doorman, Juan Elorreaga, befriended him and showed him San Francisco gay life and took him to the newly formed Society for Individual Rights where Ravarour asked if they would join him in picketing for Gay Rights. They declined his request. While on staff, he met Joel Williams who became his mate. Williams refused to live at Ocean Beach with Ravarour, so Ravarour moved in with him and paid their rent and expenses while living at El Rosa Hotel on Turk Street. Williams asked Ravarour to help end the discrimination experienced by youth and so Ravarour proposed that the youth demonstrate for equal rights to change their conditions. Every day Williams introduced Ravarour to the youths as, “a priest who had helped him and can do the same for them.” Ravarour began organizing on the street and asked the LGBT youth if they were willing to demonstrate for equal treatment, acceptance and to end discrimination? Most of the LGBT street youth were weary of their lives of poverty and were willing to consider demonstrating since they ‘had nothing to lose’ but were concerned about possible violent responses. Ravarour said they would wait to demonstrate until the conditions were safe.
Ravarour’s organizing caught the attention of Billy Garrison who also lived at El Rosa. Garrison wore makeup, ratted hair, earrings, a unisex top and jeans. Garrison was in his early thirties and had moved to San Francisco from Seattle to escape homosexual oppression. Garrison observed the harassment that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth in the Tenderloin faced from businesses, neighbors, and police, and shared his concern with Ravarour. But Garrison was opposed to demonstrations and wanted to co-exist peacefully with their opponents, whereas Ravarour felt that deep seated hatreds are not easily overcome so he wanted to demonstrate for equality. Consequently they planned two different responses. Garrison proposed a model he had seen in Seattle in which gang members and neighbors were invited to a town-hall meeting mediated by a clergy, and since Ravarour was known by the Tenderloin youth as a gay Mormon priest, Garrison wanted Ravarour to lead such a meeting. Intersection was a logical venue since Ravarour was a staff member of Intersection. Ravarour and Garrison met with Intersection’s director the Reverend Laird Sutton who recalled they “ask(ed) about their using Intersection as meeting place for a proposed new organization of LGBT youth of the Tenderloin area…I knew that the proposal which Adrian and Billy had, while having great merit was not directly in keeping with the purpose of Intersection, but was clearly in keeping with the program of Glide. Therefore I…urged them to take it to Glide.” (Sutton; May 10, 2012) Glide’s Co-Director Janice Mirikitani acknowledged, “Laird Sutton, a minster who worked with Glide spin-offs as a minister to help them get started. Soon Vanguard was meeting at Glide.” (Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani; Beyond The Possible; 2013)
Ravarour and Garrison approached Glide where Phyllis Lyon recognized Ravarour from Intersection and so she agreed to vouch for a one-time use of the community meeting room if Ravarour would be financially responsible for any damages. The next day Garrison returned for the date and time information as Ravarour prepared the agenda. Serendipitously, the Rev. Cecil Williams was at the first August 1965 Vanguard community meeting and Rev. Williams ‘gave Ravarour permission to continue to hold meetings in Glide’s community meeting room as long as needed because this was a population that interested Glide.’
Ravarour and Garrison led the first two town hall meetings that were failures because the community members were disrespectful of the youth--calling them names, demanding they be arrested and removed from the community. One merchant even threw a chair at one of the youth. At the third meeting, only the youth attended. So the focus shifted to organizing the youth to identify the problems they were facing and determining solutions they could work toward. Garrison’s plan was rejected and abandoned; and so the youth accepted Ravarour’s plan to demonstrate for equal treatment, acceptance and to end discrimination – signifying the birth of Vanguard. Ravarour founded and led Vanguard as an independent youth organization that met at Glide from August 1965 until May 1966.
Ravarour proposed and created the philosophical underpinnings, structure and named Vanguard. He felt that in order for something to endure it must have a philosophy behind it. Ravarour entrained the youth utilizing the Socratic Method teaching an organizational model based upon Rousseau’s “Social Contract,” Payne’s “The Rights of Man,” “The preamble to the Constitution,” “The Bill of Rights” and the teachings of Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that called for equality, unity and acceptance. Ravarour taught that sexual variance was natural and so they should not be ashamed of being LGBT, and he taught the principles of a direct democracy of equals, cited historical precedents and examples of their rights to equality and acceptance so the Vanguard youth would gain a philosophy and become a force of its own. In November and December Vanguard contacted Glide’s youth minister Rev. Ed Hansen to see if Vanguard could use Glide’s basement for the 1965 Vanguard Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Rev. Hansen gained the space and attended the dinners. (Hansen; March 8, 2012)
In April and May 1966 Vanguard youth picketed and demonstrated for equality and acceptance several times, but this also upset Glide's older congregants. Ravarour with his mate, Williams, were interviewed on the radio where they humanized the face of homosexuality as a romantic relationship and contextualized it as within normal human emotions motivated by love. This helped their goal to eliminate general discrimination and furthered their acceptance at Glide. Glide was aware the Tenderloin had been declared a poverty area and so Rev. Cecil Williams and Rev. Louis Durham felt since Vanguard had been meeting at Glide for nine months it should apply for an EOC grant.
Rev. Williams asked Ravarour as the person who started Vanguard to meet with him. Williams asked the goals of Vanguard and would Ravarour represent Vanguard in an EOC proposal for funds? Ravarour declined and resigned as Vanguard’s adult leader because knowledge of his leading the gay organization that he founded would cause his parents to stop the monthly checks from his repurposed Missionary Fund that paid his rent and expenses. Vanguard members were in crisis as they did not want Ravarour to retire. But Vanguard advertised elections to find Ravarour’s replacement that attracted JP Marat who joined Vanguard and was elected it’s president and spokesperson. Then on May 31, 1966 Glide sent a message that it was willing to sponsor Vanguard and that sponsorship would include funding, and so the Vanguard youth voted to accept Glide’s sponsorship that began the next day.
Consequently, Glide began to sponsor Vanguard on June 1st, 1966 and it is in this period in which Glide’s youth minister the Rev. Ed Hansen became involved in Vanguard. Glide encouraged and facilitated Vanguard’s applications for non-profit status and EOC funding and hired Mark Forrester to write the EOC application. Rev. Hansen acted as Glide’s envoy bringing sections of the nonprofit and EOC applications for Vanguard members to approve. Marat later praised Rev.Hansen lavishly for his assistance in Vanguard Magazine’s first issue. At the end of July Rev. Hansen returned to Claremont and the Rev. Larry Mamiya became Glide’s first Adviser to Vanguard. Rev. Mamiya obtained an office, furniture, telephone, and mimeograph machine for Vanguard to use. Rev. Mamiya founded the popular Vanguard same-sex dances attended by LGBT youth from nearby counties that were held each Friday and Saturday night in Glide’s basement. Rev. Mamiya’s creation of the Vanguard dances added social dimensions and a sense of community to Vanguard. He also guarded and advised the youth.
After Glide began to sponsor Vanguard Revs Williams, Louis Durham, and Vaughn Smith were the ministers who oversaw Vanguard and the youth ministers Rev. Ed Hansen and Rev. Larry Mamiya. In Vassar Professor the Rev. Larry Mamiya’s Memoir of My Intern Year [1966-1967] as the Minister of Young Adults at the Glide Memorial Methodist Church, Rev. Mamiya recalled that, “Vanguard was the first group of largely gay young people in the nation organized by Adrian Ravarour (later the Rev. Dr. Ravarour). He would always be introduced at Vanguard events as the “founder’.” (Mamiya; paragraph 5, sentences 4-9.)
Vanguard continued to demonstrate for acceptance in June when president Marat organized a small group of picketers at Compton’s Restaurant, and then on July 18 EOC consultant Mark Forrester and new member Joel Roberts organized a protest against Compton’s policies. Tenderloin residents were aware of Vanguard’s April through July demonstrations and the Vanguard members had been entrained in the belief of their right to equality since August 1965. Consequently on an August morning, Vanguard member Dixie Russo, a male in makeup and partial feminine attire, was refused service at the Doggie Diner. Dixie preserved in demanding service. Russo, Ravarour, Williams and a few other Vanguard youth remained seated inside in their resolve that Dixie should be served despite being surrounded by seventeen police in riot gear. The confrontation lasted several hours, until the police finally withdrew (possibly due to intervention by Glide or Elliot Blackstone). Elated and buoyed by their success, word spread on the street throughout the day, and led to that evening’s similar incident at the Compton’s Cafeteria – better known as the ‘Compton’s Riot’ demonstration and uprising. The underlying theme being that the Vanguard youth and street queens were calling for an equal treatment, an end of discrimination and "acceptance as we are.”
The end and metamorphosis of Vanguard: During the last months of 1966, JP Marat was dissatisfied that he did not have a salary from Vanguard or Glide, after an argument the ministers he withdrew Vanguard from Glide without a membership vote. In response, the Vanguard members were banned and escorted out of the building and Marat led them to a prearranged theater. Within weeks Vanguard members disassociated from Marat and there was contention over Vanguard’s name. On December 29, 1966 Glide held an open house to familiarize Tenderloin residents with its intention to re-organize Vanguard with new officers as a service agency for Tenderloin youth.
By January 1967, the Rev. Cecil Williams had prevailed in assisting Vanguard to re-organize with new officers and non-profit status was granted on January 27, 1967. (Vanguard Magazine vol. 1; no. 4) For a few brief months Vanguard attempted to be the proposed service agency that Glide had intended and the Tenderloin community rallied to its cause. Rev. Mamiya who now focused upon the youth of the Haight-Ashbury brought The Diggers food program to Glide on Thursdays that inspired Glide’s later food program, and street minister Ray Broshears donated his services as a job counsellor. Unfortunately, EOC funding was not available until November and so Vanguard did not have the funds to hire a staff, to develop an intake system or provide in depth services. Sadly, due to the infighting among Vanguard’s officers and members Vanguard ceased operation. As Vanguard Magazine indicated, “This magazine does not represent an organization. Six months ago, Vanguard, The Youth Organization, Inc., which this magazine was loosely affiliated ceased to exist.” (Vanguard Magazine, vol. 1, no. 9; 1967)
Rev. Williams was determined to keep his resolve and promise to create a Service Agency for the Tenderloin youth. Undaunted, Reverend Williams helped to organize a Tenderloin committee and direct the EOC funds that were received in November 1967 to create a new non-profit organization, The Hospitality House that exists today. Some of the original Vanguard members who had followed Dixie Russo asked Ravarour as Vanguard’s founder to resolve their problems. Ravarour recommended reorganizing and renaming as the "Gay and Lesbian Center," which they did. The Gay and Lesbian Center relocated to 330 Grove Street and then to Hyde Street when it ceased operation in the 1980s due to multiple deaths. Ravarour ceased political action due to dozens of threats; but vowed to affect social change though his calling in the arts to create spiritual art and creative works.
As mentioned above Ravarour was ordained as a deacon, March 4, 1956, and as a priest, December 29, 1959. Near the end of Vanguard, Mikhail Itkin met Ravarour who shared similar spiritual perspectives and he moved in with Ravarour and his mate. On December 21, 1966, Bishop Mikhail Itkin ordained Ravarour as a priest in the dual ordination to the Holy Catholic Synod of the Syro-Chaldean Rite and to his own Eucharistic Catholic Orders that were an off-shoot from Bishop George A. Hyde’s 1948 gay church, The Eucharistic Catholic Church. In 1967 Bishop Itkin consecrated Ravarour to the episcopate in the winter of 1967 to help with the founding and administration of San Francisco mission ministries. Itkin also consecrated Ray Broshears as a bishop in April 1967 that inspired Broshears to start an experimental gay seminary.
Ravarour’s new mate, Mark Miller, wanted to become a seminarian in Ray Broshears’ Gay Seminary. Broshears’ program was similar to a survey study of the New Testament and interfaith religions and their tenets, rather than rigorous study. The preparation was akin to that of lay ministers or chaplains, rather than a M.Div. theological concentration for pastors or ministers. Only couples in a monogamous relationship were admitted to the program. Miller was refused solo admission. Since Itkin and Broshears were in communion, Itkin permitted Ravarour to attend the seminary program. Broshears recognized and accepted Ravarour’s consecration and previous ordinations. The coursework was minimal, only lasting seven months, that surveyed ecumenical and interfaith studies, The New Testament, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Sufi writings, and an emphasis upon chaplaincy and street ministry to the poor. No proselytizing. Broshears presented all spiritual paths as being inspired by God. Ravarour regularly accompanied Broshears on his nightly chaplaincy walks through the city streets. On October 15, 1967, Bishop Broshears ordained Ravarour as a priest in the Orthodox Episcopal Church of God. However, he was so impressed with Ravarour’s spiritual arts that he subsequently charged Ravarour's ministry should be that of an independent priest with a special dispensation to create spiritual art as his life’s work and spiritual ministry.
Synchronistically, Intersection’s director, the Rev. Laird Sutton, charged Ravarour with a similar commitment to be a minister of sacramental arts. As a result he went into retreat where he practiced his Energy Meditation exercises for a year that culminated in the formulation of his Energy Flow System of the Arts in 1968. He theorized that the intuition was somehow an expression of, or related to the soul. Ravarour hypothesized that one could focus spiritual energy upon itself and magnify it, thereby making one’s spiritual energy more predominant. He posited that an infusion of spiritual energy could begin internal dialogues, and the transformative process of spiritualizing the individual. His original form of Energy Meditation is the expression of this concept, and he utilized his theoretical constructs to create energy thematic templates applicable to different art forms. During the 1970’s he taught Energy Meditation, Energy Flow Dance, and he created Energy Flow Arts in their variety of forms and received mentoring in photography while he continued independent studies of world wisdom faith traditions and spiritual practices.
Ravarour earned two Masters Degrees and a Doctorate. In 1979, Ravarour entered the Union Graduate School under Dr. José Argüelles [a.k.a. Valum Votan] where he studied Buddhism, Taoism, Ch’i and the application of biopsychic energy to his Energy Meditation, spiritual dance and art work. These studies added philosophical dimensions and ideological spiritual underpinnings, deepening and explicating his work. After the conferral of the Ph.D. degree on October 12, 1985, Dr. Ravarour taught his Biopsychic Energy Meditation exercises. [See: Keys to Spiritual Being; ISBN 978-0-595-89821-3]
For the next twenty years he applied these spiritual precepts to make energy flow arts and to ‘spiritualize’ applications of his works in writing, film, and video. Decades of independent readings and practices focused upon interfaith studies of Christianity, Buddhism, Eastern religions, The Aramaic Jesus, the findings of The Jesus Seminars, the commonalities of all faiths, and he was incardinated into the Thomasine Order. He was profoundly moved by the similarities of Matthew Fox’s writings and he received training to celebrate Fox's “Cosmic Mass” on March 20, 2006.
In 2005, Ravarour became affiliated with the American Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Archbishop Robert M. Clement regularized his Orders via sub-conditione ordination as a priest on June 4, 2006, and then his sub-conditione consecration as a bishop on September 17, 2006 assisted by Archbishop Mark S. Shirilau. Ravarour served several years as the rector of Beloved Disciple parish and associate bishop. In 2010, Ravarour as Ordinary of the Old Catholic Thomasine Order initiated Communion between the Thomasines and the American Catholic Church; and on August 15, 2015 the Thomasines came under the jurisdiction of the American Catholic Church. Ravarour has been a member of the Los Angeles Queer Interfaith Clergy Council (formerly LALGBTICA) since 2005.
Ravarour has collaborated with New Age composer Christopher A. Flores over a decade, and they created numerous musical and visual works centered on spiritual themes: The Transfigured Body, an art film (2003); Hadrian and Antinious; Mortal Angels; Muses and Other Inspirations; The Celestial Veil; The Passion of Mark; and Xochipilli. Ravarour has published his 1960’s biopsychic energy exercises, Keys to Spiritual Being in book form; his collected poetry as Epiphanies; and several Energy Flow themed photography books, Lightforms and Portals. In the recent years he has mentored people in Deep Prayer, Energy Meditation, and maintains a focus upon spiritual arts as his ministry.
(This biographical information provided by Adrian Ravarour and Christopher A. Flores. Rev. Cecil Williams and Glide helped re-direct the EOC funds earmarked for the defunct Vanguard that Ravarour founded to create Glide’s long intended Tenderloin Youth Service Agency as a new non-profit, The Hospitality House that exists today.)
Biography Date: January, 2008
“Rev. Adrian Ravarour, Ph.D. | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed February 24, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/adrian-ravarour-ph-d.