All saints are Queer!

All saints are Queer!

“One of the benefits of having a calendar of saints is that these wildly different lives speak to us in different situations and at different moments,” writes Rowan Williams.  In the Church calendar we normally remember the saints at All Saints in November.  But as part of our focus during LGBT+ history month, and continuing through Lent, we’ve focused on the lives of the saints of the LGBT+ community and those traditional saints who have a resonance with LGBT+ Christians.

With the benefit of hindsight we can look back and identify some traits of the saints that lead us to think they too may have been LGBT+.  The relationships they had, their writings, their focus on spiritual and physical ecstasy.  Often this is conjecture.  But I think we can say that all saints are queer.  Because to be a saint is to live over and against the prevailing wisdom of society and the Church.  Most of the saints that we celebrate today lived lives that didn’t fit the social or religious orthodoxy of the day. In one sense that’s why they’re remembered, because they were different.

So, Rowan Williams’ point is that these ‘wildly different lives’ remind us that we too, according to the New Testament, are saints and are called to live ‘wildly different lives’ with the God who creates us, loves us and calls us as we are.  

The author Jonathan Kemp, writing about a drag queen whose makeup is bad, whose lip syncing is terrible, writes, “but I also have seen those moments when who she wants to be and who she appears to be coincide so gloriously that it is enough to make you trust in saints.”

Saints are flawed human beings.  If you’re waiting until you pray more, understand the Bible more, come to church more, live your faith more or whatever next level you are hoping to achieve you will never make it.  Saints are people who allow the Spirit of God to work so that who we want to be and who we appear to be gloriously coincide and we are more than we ever could be on our own.  That is our queerness.

And if we’re waiting for the Church to wake up to where the Spirit is leading us, we miss the point.  Saints are called to live queerly, challenging the Church in its refusal to live out the radiant splendour of God’s love.  Sometimes at a price, how many of the saints are martyrs. 

So, our journey with these LGBT+ saints, or saints who speak to our queerness is about reminding ourselves of those who have gone before us.  Who have let God shine through them so that we can learn to let God shine through our own queerness.  As we reflect on their lives, their writings, their flaws, their legacies we realise that God will use whoever God chooses, and often over and against the Church world. 

There is always a need for saints, as we journey with these over the next few weeks may we each be realised into our own queer sainthood.

Fr. Lee Taylor, Member Care and Chaplain to Rhythm


Fr. Lee will be exploring the lives of queer saints throughout Lent during the Rhythm prayer group.