Rev. Dr. Clarence Edward Egan Jr., Ed, was born on June 20, 1923 near Albion, Nebraska, the oldest son of Clarence and Vera Egan. As a child, he learned to play the piano and violin and began his lifelong interest in photography. Ed graduated Tangent High School in 1940 after having moved to Oregon with his family. During World War II, he served in the Navy and earned the Purple Heart. After returning from the war, Ed married Esther Van Cleve, whom he divorced in 1963. Together they had a daughter, Trudi, and a son, Dana.
Ed earned a Bachelor Degree in Mathematics from Oregon State College in 1948 and a Master of Ministry Degree from Yale University in 1954. At Yale, Ed was a member of a group for particularly literary students and sparked controversy with a paper on the Theological Foundations for Tolerance in the Christian Community. In 1977, Ed earned a Doctor of Ministry from New York Theological Seminary.
Ed had a passion for social justice work and fought for the civil rights of minorities. As a minister, Ed worked with youth groups and the Scouts. During the 1950s, Ed led a Christian discussion group with the New York Mattachine Society, and he also served as a spiritual counselor for the Daughters of Bilitis. He was the Vice President of the George W. Henry Foundation and was on the Board of Directors of the Mattachine Society. Ed was a frequent guest on Radio and TV Talk Shows, and thanks to his contributions he is listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who in Religion and was a member of the Academy of Pastoral Clergy, as well as the Academy of Religion and Mental Health. In 1977, Ed was invited to Washington DC to attend and participate in the Inauguration of President Jimmy Carter.
Ed received his license to preach in 1949, was commissioned a deacon in 1952, and was ordained a full elder in 1954. He served churches in Connecticut, Long Island, and Westchester, and three years as an Associate Conference Program Director, before being appointed to Metropolitan-Duane United Methodist Church in Manhattan, NY, which was last appointment as a minister. Metropolitan-Duane was an already racially mixed congregation and Ed utilized church space for further outreach into the community. Space became available for, among others, a basketball team for local youths, a methadone clinic for out-patients from St. Vincent’s Hospital, Metropolitan Community Church and Alcoholics Anonymous. Ed was one of the key early leaders of Parents of Gay, later PFLAG, whose first meeting was convened on March 26, 1973 by Jeanne Manford at the Metropolitan-Duane Church. The group continued meeting there thereafter..
In 1977, Ed was forced to take a one-year leave of absence by the Board of Ordained Ministry of the United Methodist Church’s New York Annual Conference after disclosing that he was a homosexual, as it was felt that Ed was “unable to fulfill his responsibilities as a pastor.” Later that same year, Ed tried to be reappointed to a church in Queens, but was rejected based on his sexual orientation, forcing him into early retirement.
After retirement, Ed continued his social justice work, including being the editor of the Affirmation newsletter and volunteering with SAGE. He was also an accomplished sailor, photographer, genealogist, and amateur archeologist.
Ed met his long-time companion Russ Morin in the 1960s. In 1966, Ed and Russ bought a small house together on the banks of the Hudson River, where they lived together until Ed passed away on February 10, 1994, in complications following a heart attack.
In 2017, the United Methodist Church’s New York Annual Conference passed a petition to begin to heal historical injustice against gay clergy in the New York area, a petition that included the New York Annual Conference expressing deep remorse for the harm done and the pain experienced by Rev. Dr. Ed Egan and his companion, and that the Conference Secretary will send a copy of the resolution to Rev. Egan’s surviving companion, as well as an encouragement to the Bishop to write a letter on behalf of the NY Annual Conference to Ed’s long-time partner. A plaque honoring Rev. Egan’s ministry is [soon] located in what was then Metropolitan-Duane United Methodist Church, now Church of the Village, next to a plaque honoring Rev. Paul Abels.
Biography Date: June 2017
Methodist (UMC, United Methodist Church) | PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) | Clergy Activist | Ordination/clergy | New York | New York City | Egan, Ed