The Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd was born in Manhattan in 1923. He worked in the motion picture industry and became a partner of film pioneer Mary Pickford in PRD, Inc., a production firm. He also served as president of the Televison Producers Association of Hollywood. His experience is recounted in Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood by Eileen Whitfield. In 1951, Boyd left to enter seminary and was ordained a priest in 1955. He received his B.D. from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (and an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1957) and his S.T.M. from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He has served parishes and college chaplaincies in Indianapolis, Colorado, Detroit, Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica.
He "came out" unofficially as a gay man in 1965 with his prayer "This is a homosexual bar, Jesus" in his best-selling spiritual classic Are You Running with Me, Jesus? Officially he came out in 1977. A year later he wrote Take Off the Masks. It was hailed by major reviewers. Library Journal wrote: "A man reborn who learns to love himself, other people, and God, step by bloody step. He reveals the flesh and soul of a media-myth we thought we knew." The Christian Century wrote: "Boyd has gifted the world with a testament to truth and courage. To read it is to encounter nothing but a man alive, the stark beauty of one man's transparent humanness. It is a moving invitation to freedom." Author Paul Monette wrote: "Indispensable for all of us struggling to fuse the spirit and flesh, the self and the soul. Malcolm Boyd shares the hard-won illuminations of his past and his coming out with great tenderness and charm. We are lucky indeed that one of the fathers of the tribe has been so willing to share his wisdom."
Boyd's deep involvement in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement is chronicled in Episcopalians and Race: Civil War to Civil Rights by Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. (University Press of Kentucky) and Lift Up Your Voice Like a Trumpet by Michael Friedland (University of North Carolina Press). Boyd described this involvement in detail in As I Live and Breathe (Random House, 1970). Interviews with both Boyd and Thompson appear in Leading the Parade: Conversations with America's Most Influential Lesbians and Gay Men by Paul D. Cain (Scarecrow Press). Boyd's interview by Edward Curtin appeared in the 10th anniversary issue of Gay Sunshine (1980, No, 44/45). His autobiographical sketch is in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series volume 11, edited by Mark Zadrozny (Gale Research, Inc.)
In intensely private essays, Boyd recalls a number of men he has known in Look Back with Joy: A Celebration of Gay Lovers (first published by Gay Sunshine Press with a subsequent publication by Alyson). The Los Angeles Times wrote: "By sharing the unextraordinariness of love's long suffusion into his life, Malcolm Boyd has shared with us his neatest trick of all." San Francisco supervisor Harry Britt wrote: "Malcolm Boyd, the poet of religion, turns his talent to the exegesis of what he calls the 'central mystery at the core of my existence'--his gayness. Boyd describes his life as a folk hero in the 60s..a 'slow suicide' from which he emerged with courage and humor. In this book, using memorable images, he captures the moments of transient beauty."
Two books from St. Martin's Press followed, Half Laughing, Half Crying and Gay Priest: An Inner Journey. Reviewing the latter, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote: "There is real integrity here. Seen as a kind of epistle, it is especially illuminating." The Bay Area Reporter wrote: "Boyd weaves a brilliant fabric for the gay Christian soul." The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Boyd's voice should be heard clearly in the nation's bishoprics." Boyd edited (with Nancy L. Wilson) Amazing Grace: Stories of Lesbian and Gay Faith.
Probably Boyd is best known as author of his prayers in Are You Running With Me, Jesus? which has a million copies in print. The New York Times wrote: "A very moving book...their eloquence comes from the personal struggle they contain...a struggle to believe, to keep going, a spiritual contest that is agonized, courageous and not always won." National Public Radio's Frank Deford wrote: "Malcolm Boyd really can write a prayer--he is to prayer what Shakespeare is to the sonnet."
He and author/editor/therapist Mark Thompson have been domestic partners for 20 years. Boyd wrote an essay "Telling a Lie for Christ" in Thompson's signature book Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning and is the subject of an interview in Thompson's Gay Soul.
Boyd's 80th birthday was celebrated on June 8, 2003. In 2005, he will celebrate his 50th anniversary of his ordination as an Episcopal priest. The Malcolm Boyd Archives is in the Boston University Special Collections (771 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02215).
Malcolm Boyd died on February 27, 2015 at the age of 91.
(This biographical statement was written by an associate of Malcolm Boyd.)
Biography Date: November, 2003
Boyd's obituary in the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-malcolm-boyd-20150228-story.html
Boyd's obituary in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/03/us/rev-malcolm-boyd-episcopal-activist-and-writer-dies-at-91.html?_r=0
Episcopal Church | Activist (church change) | Author/editor | Civil Rights Movement | Clergy Activist | Boyd, Malcolm
“My mother worked for a number of years at Pickfair where Malcolm Boyd was frequently a guest. She recounted to me stories of the charming Malcolm and his visits to the most gracious lady, Mary Pickford. Mama spoke of the beauty and warmth that was so very much the relationship between Malcolm and Mary. Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Malcolm Boyd at the Gay Pride Parade in Long Beach, California. He rode in the parade with St. Luke's Episcopal Church. You can imagine the thrill as I introduced myself and we spoke of my mother whom he remembered fondly as 'a beautiful woman' at Pickfair. Mama has been gone for some time now but I know she was so pleased as she looked down on our meeting that day on Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach. Small world isn't it, with God's hand in every nook and cranny! Thank you Malcolm for taking the time to share with me. A meeting I will always cherish.”
– as remembered by Margo Martinez on August 2, 2012
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