This month, Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco's Castro District was left disappointed after Archbishop George Niederauer asked the parish to rescind invitations to three gay-friendly clergy members to speak at a series of pre-Christmas Advent services.
"The archbishop felt the speakers were inappropriate for the season of Advent which should be a time to reflect on the coming of Christ," said archdiocese spokesman George Wesolek to the San Francisco Chronicle. In the Catholic Church, Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas.
The church invited the three speakers -- Rev. Jane Spahr, Rev. Roland Stringfellow and retired Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles -- to act as guest speakers at several Advent services leading up to Christmas.
Upon news of the cancellation, Charles -- one of the nation's first openly gay bishops -- told the Chronicle that the decision to ban the speakers sent a loud and clear message that "those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual are less than OK."
"I recognize that the Archbishop and I are not on the same page on all the questions that relate to how gay and lesbian people are enfolded into the church, but the fact there could be a conversation -- that I could be speaking, that I could be participating, was a sign of openness," Charles said to the Examiner. "Well, obviously that openness was not there on the part of the Archbishop."
According to the Chronicle, Rev. Roland Stringfellow, another one of the speakers, was not even planning to speak about gay rights. The Chronicle reported:
Stringfellow, who was a grand marshal for the 2011 San Francisco Pride Parade, said he intended to speak on the theme of Christian love and how Christmas can be "incredibly hard" for gays and lesbians estranged from family and friends.
"Most congregations invite speakers who can speak well to their community's concerns," he said. "We are all clergy within our own rites and denominations, and we were very disrespected by the idea that we can only give a talk that's about gay rights."
According to The Christian Post, Stringfellow also called the Catholic Church "hypocritical" for its "Come Home" advertising campaign. "Clearly not everyone is welcome," he said.
Most Holy Redeemer was contacted but declined a request to comment from The Huffington Post.
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