Joseph Eugene Paul Breton was born in December 1940 in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was baptized Roman Catholic at the Parish Church of St. Jean Batiste. He was raised in Hartford, Connecticut, where he attended elementary school at St. Anne's Parish. His primary language was French. He studied at St. Thomas Seminary High School and Junior College in Bloomfield, Connecticut, from which he received an A.A. degree in liberal arts in 1960. He subsequently earned a B.A. in philosophy from St. Bernard Seminary College and Theologate in Rochester, New York, in 1964. He served in the U.S. Air Force Security Service from 1964 to 1968.
During the 1960s he became active in Clergy and Laity Concerned (founded by Father Daniel Berrigan) and the antiwar movement. 1969 was a pivotal year when he met a number of early gay and lesbian activists in Washington, D.C., including Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Martha Taylor, Nancy Tucker, Lee Perrin, and Lilli Vincenz. Breton started the Homophile Social League in D.C. in 1969 and was involved in the Gay Liberation Front in 1969-70 and the founding of the Gay Activist Alliance in 1970-71. In June 1970, Breton traveled to New York to march in the first Christopher Street Parade.
Ordination of Paul Breton on May 13, 1973Under the auspices of the Homosexual Social League, Breton founded the Community Church of Washington as a forum to invite religious leaders to provide a Sunday afternoon lecture. The group met at All Soul's Unitarian Church at 16th Street and Columbia Road, N.W. Frank Kameny introduced Breton to Troy Perry in 1970 by sharing an Advocate article about him. Perry came to D.C. in February 1971 to lead a service and conduct a holy union at the Episcopal Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation. The Episcopal bishop of Washington D.C. had denied the use of the sanctuary. As a result, Rev. Perry chose to lead a pray-in at the National Cathedral. Jack Isbell, an Episcopal seminarian and later priest and MCC pastor, unlocked the doors and gates for people to enter.
Breton started a faith community in his home at 705 7th Street, S.E. That group was chartered as a Metropolitan Community Church congregation on May 11, 1971. Outgrowing Breton's home, the congregation moved to an abandoned church on Capitol Hill in the fall of 1972 as it looked for other meeting space. When winter set in and there was no heat there, the congregation quickly arranged to meet in the chapel at First Congregational UCC in downtown D.C. The congregation remained there more than ten years. While pastor of MCC DC, Breton was connected with the Gay Activist Alliance and gay/lesbian student unions at or near several universities in the D.C. area. He also participated in the Kameny for Congress Campaign.
Paul Breton & John Barbone (front);
Joseph Gilbert, John Hose, and Roy Birchard (rear)The Clergy Credentials Committee of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches approved Breton for ordination in February 1973. He was ordained on May 13, 1973, in the First Congregational UCC sanctuary. Clergy participating were the Rev. Roy Birchard, pastor of MCC New York, Rev. Elder John Hose, pastor of MCC San Diego, and Rev. Joseph Gilbert. Breton resigned as pastor of MCC-DC shortly thereafter, noting he was emotionally drained following the death of his father in November 1972 and the efforts to build the MCC DC congregation. Following the tragic fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans on June 24, 1973, that killed the pastor and many members of the local MCC congregation, Breton joined Troy Perry, John Gill, Morris Knight, Morty Manford and many other MCC leaders there for three weeks to tend to the dead and minister to the survivors.
In September 1973, Breton became pastor of MCC Baltimore where he served for one year. While in Baltimore. Breton worked with others who had started the Gay Community News. He then became pastor of MCC Phoenix, where he also assisted Mike Nordstrom in a ministry for the elderly and disabled. In early 1976 he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for a while at The Advocate and at UFMCC headquarters. In 1977 Breton and Greg Carmack founded Great Outdoors, an organization to provide opportunities for gays and lesbians to camp and hike--socialize outside of the bars. Breton pastored Trinity MCC in San Bernadino from 1978 to 1981 and New Covenant MCC in Orange County from 1983 to 1985; and was assistant pastor at Good Shepherd MCC in Riverside from 1986 to 1989. While pastor in San Bernadino he was an active member of the Professional Advisory Council, an LGBT organization, and found a site for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. He resigned from UFMCC in May 1989.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Breton was employed at the University of California at Riverside where he worked with the early Gay and Lesbian Student Union. Later he was active in the founding and establishment of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center. He also worked with others to help establish a "minor" study program in Lesbian and Gay Studies. Meanwhile he served on the new AIDS Committee serving professors, scientists, community activists and others and opened the AIDS Education Center.
In 1989, Rev. Breton and the Rev. Laurence Bernier founded Sarum Episcopal Church, a self-governing Old Catholic Communion, and St. Aelred's Chapel (the parish) as a welcoming congregation for lesbian, gay and bisexual persons and others. Breton pastored there until he retired in 2005. He lives in San Bernadino County, is involved in marriage equality efforts and assists Archbishop Mark Shirilau at the St. Michael Parish of the Ecumenical Catholic Church, also with an outreach to the LGBT community.
(Information for this biographical statement provided by Paul Breton.)
Biography Date: September 2009
MCC | Clergy Activist | Marriage Equality | Breton, Paul
“Minister Paul Breton baptized me on my 18th birthday in 1980 at the MCC church in San Bernardino. He was very kind to me and actually changed my path in life. A true man of God. I was blessed to have known him, just for a brief amount of time but he had such a positive impact in my life. I wish him all the best and just wanted to thank him for his spiritual guidance and support.”
– as remembered by Matthew Joiner on July 2, 2020
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