Michael Collins was born in October, 1947. He graduated from David Douglas High School in Portland, Oregon, in 1965 and enrolled at Portland State University. He graduated with a B.S. in sociology in 1969. During his college years he was active in campus ministry and served on the national coordinating committee of the University Christian Movement.
Collins began studies at St. Paul School of Theology in 1969 where he further developed his interest and commitment to social justice in urban settings. He received an M.Div. degree with emphasis in Ethics and Social Change in 1972. He was ordained in the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church and served urban churches in Portland--first Patton Central UMC (Scandanavian and German) and then Hughes Memorial UMC (African American). He also served as Urban Consultant to the Portland Metropolitan District of the UMC.
During this period he also engaged with the emerging gay caucus in the United Methodist Church and was one of the co-founders of Affirmation: United Methodists for Gay/Lesbian Concerns in 1975. Collins moved to New York City in 1977 to take a position as an administrative assistant for Urban/Rural Development and University/Youth Ministries at the Board of Global Ministries. He became one of the co-convenors of Affirmation and took a sabbatical leave in 1979 in order to study and organize on gay/lesbian concerns. During the following year he traveled throughout the U.S. speaking on campuses and in congregations; writing articles for religious publications; providing counseling; and attending educational events. Also during this time he organized an expanded presence of gay and lesbian persons at the 1980 General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Affirmation achieved more visibility in the press, a daily newsletter was distributed throughout the conference, and important and impactful resolutions and public statements were made--a break-through for gay and lesbian people of faith.
Collins maintained his clergy status in the church by being appointed to a non-stipended position with Clergy and Laity Concerned. He juggled a number of part-time jobs: teaching college courses, working in campus ministry, writing and lecturing, and housecleaning. He died from complications from AIDS in October, 1984.
Collins was one of the early "out" gay clergy and served a model and confidant for many others. He had a lasting impact on all those with whom he interacted--from his early days as a camp counselor at Loon Lake United Methodist Camp in Oregon, through to his continued national efforts with interfaith gay and lesbian communities.
Among the many important folks whose lives Michael shared, were his lovers of many years--first Richard Cash and later Douglas Colesworthy--and his wife and life-time friend Huntly Collins. The real jewel of Michael’s continuing presence among us, however, is how well he is remembered and how much he is still missed.
(This biographical statement written by Jeremy Landau with additional information provided by Mark Bowman and Judy Cayot.)
Biography Date: April, 2007
United Methodist Church | Affirmation (United Methodist) | Activist (church change) | Clergy Activist | New York | New York City | Collins, Michael
“It must have been about 1982, +or- a year or two, that Michael was told by the Bishop of the Oregon/Idaho Conference that he would not be appointed to serve a church. He showed up at our United Methodist Annual Conference meeting at the University of Redlands in Redlands, CA. I sat on the lawn with Michael, out under a tree, as the opening worship was getting underway in the chapel. We could hear the organ music and singing that signaled the beginning of the Conference, a reunion of friends and colleagues, joining in Christian worship. Tears came to our eyes as Michael expressed his grief at no longer belonging, no longer being considered fit to serve. We were outsiders sharing our pain. ”
– as remembered by Ed Hansen on May 13, 2013
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