Rev. Szymon Niemiec, Polish photographer, gay rights activist, journalist and clergy, was born 5 October, 1977, in Warsaw, Poland. Szymon was raised in a Roman Catholic family and was strongly drawn to the church as a child. While serving as an altar boy in his mother's congregation he became disillusioned noticing that money and gifts were more important for clergy then people and congregation. His feelings of being called by God for ministry were crushed when he was 16 and experienced hate speech, condemnation,and blackmail from Catholic clergy. For the next several years he declared himself an agnostic. In 1991, he received a diploma as an instructor of theater. By 1998 he had come out publicly as a gay man, not a common occurrence in Poland at that time.
In 2000 Szymon met the Rev. Ernest Ivanovs from Latvia, who like Szymon was ex-Catholic and and called by God. Ivanovs helped Niemiec recover and understand his Christian faith. In 2003 Ivanovs came to Poland to establish the Free Reformed Church of Poland and confirmed Szymon in that church. The Free Reformed Church in Poland became the first Christian church in that country to openly welcome lesbian and gay persons.
Ivanovs left Poland in 2005 and retired from ministry due to poor health. Niemiec was examined and ordained by the congregation as a Deacon. He attempted to study at the Polish Christian Academy of Theology, but was rejected because he was openly gay. So Szymon decided to undergo informal biblical study. In 2007 this small Free Reformed congregation decided to start the process of registering with the goverment. This was not easy in Poland as it required considerable money and a minimum of 100 signatures confirmed by notary. Niemiec began serving as Moderator of the congregation at that time. On 9 November 2008 the congregation decided to ordain Niemiec to the office of Elder.
Niemiec was the founder of the first Polish Gay Pride parade, held in 2001. From 2000 to 2006, he held the post of Cultural Ambassador of Poland to the International Lesbian and Gay Culture Network. From 2001 to 2005, he was President of the International Lesbian and Gay Culture Association in Poland. Niemiec has been a member of the Left since 2002, and on 6 May 2005 he was elected vice president of Union of the Left party.
In May 2007 he published his first book: "Rainbow Humming Bird on the Butt: An Autobiography" (ISBN 8392419103). In 2008, Niemiec became a member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association as well as the president of the board of "Friends of Szymon" Foundation.
In 2009 Ks. Niemiec met Bishop Paul David C. Strong of the Christian United Church. Szymon notes that it may seem strange that someone from Poland with Catholic roots who had become a progressive Calvinist minister to be drawn to a more Anglican denomination. Yet Szymon attributes this to his strong ecumenical leanings. At the Christian United Church's General Conference in 2010 Ks. Niemiec was received as a Full Elder in Connection and his congregation affiliated with CUC. Bishop Strong appointed Ks. Niemiec to the office of Dean of Missionary Conference for Europe where he serves at the operating officer of the church in Europe. At that time the Christian United Church had two congregations in Poland and some others in Europe preparing for affiliation. On August 25, 2012, Ks. Niemiec was consecrated as a bishop in the United Ecumenical Catholic Church by Archbishop Terry Flynn.
(This biographical statement was written by Mark Bowman from information provided by Szymon Niemiec.)
Biography Date: September, 2011
Ecumenical Catholic Church | Free Reformed Church (Poland) | Strong, David | Activist (church change) | Author/editor | International Human Rights | Ordination/clergy | Poland