Newark Creates An Oasis

Episcopal News Service. July 6, 1989 [89127B]

NEWARK, N.J. (DPS, July 6) -- On June 20, the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, Bishop of Newark, in ceremonies held at All Saints, Hoboken, inaugurated a new diocesan ministry focusing on the needs of gay and lesbian people. The ministry is known as "The Oasis."

"This diocese has been preparing for Oasis without knowing what we were preparing for," Spong said, referring to a recent diocesan report on human sexuality and the discussions that surrounded it. Parishes throughout the Diocese of Newark, Spong observed, have welcomed gay and lesbian parishioners and have housed gay and lesbian organizations.

The 1988 General Convention called for "all dioceses and congregations to provide opportunities for open dialogue on human sexuality." Marge Christie, co-chair of the board of The Oasis, called the new ministry an attempt to both respond to that call, and as a fulfillment of the Church's effort to be inclusive.

A large part of the mission of The Oasis is to be an outreach ministry to "unchurched and embittered lesbians and gay men." Pastoral care and educational needs arising from "issues of homophobia, sexual identity, and faith" will also be addressed.

All Saints, a growing parish that has been characterized as a "family church," is providing office space for the new ministry. According to Geoffrey Curtiss, rector of All Saints, "When Robert Williams [executive director of The Oasis] invited us to be a part of The Oasis, it was a chance to claim who we already are -- gay men and lesbians as well as heterosexuals."

A newly ordained deacon, Williams will also be serving as part-time parish assistant.