Boyd, Malcolm 1923-
BOYD, Malcolm 1923-
PERSONAL: Born June 8, 1923, in New York (some sources cite Buffalo), NY; son of Melville (a financier) and Beatrice (Lowrie) Boyd; companion of Mark Thompson (a writer, editor, and activist). Education: University of Arizona, B.A., 1944; Church Divinity School of the Pacific, B.D., 1954; attended Oxford University, 1954-55, and Ecumenical Institute, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland; Union Theological Seminary, S.T.M., 1956; studied with Taize community in France, 1957.
CAREER: Foote, Cone & Belding Advertising Agency, Hollywood, CA, copywriter, 1945-46; film writer and producer, 1947-49; Pickford, Rogers & Boyd, New York, NY, founder (with Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers), 1949, vice president and general manager, 1949-51; ordained Episcopal priest, 1955; St. George's Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, IN, rector, 1957-59; Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Episcopal chaplain, 1959-61; Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, Episcopal chaplain, 1961-64; Church of the Atonement, Washington, DC, assistant pastor, 1964-68, on leave as chaplain at large to American universities and colleges, beginning 1965; appointed chaplain of Integrity, 1981; St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Santa Monica, CA, writer-priest in residence, beginning 1981. Assistant priest at Grace Episcopal Church, Detroit, 1961-64; Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, chaplain for AIDS Commission, beginning 1990. World Council of Churches, lecturer, 1955, and 1964; National Council of Churches, member of film awards committee, 1965. Yale University, resident fellow of Calhoun College, 1968-71, associate fellow, 1971-75; Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Jerusalem, Israel, resident guest, 1974; Episcopal Cathedral Center of Saint Paul, Los Angeles, poet in residence, beginning 1996. Host of television specials, including Sex in the Seventies, Columbia Broadcasting System, 1975. Los Angeles City/County AIDS Task Force, member, beginning 1985.
MEMBER: Amnesty International, PEN (president, Los Angeles center, 1984-87), Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Clergy and Laity Concerned (member of national board of directors), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (national field representative, 1965-68), Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Fellowship of Reconciliation (member of national council).
AWARDS, HONORS: Selected by Life magazine as one of the "100 Most Important Young Men and Women in the United States," 1962; Integrity International Award, 1978, "for contribution to the gay movement and the gay Christian community"; award from Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1980, for "enhancement of better understanding between Christians and Jews"; honorary D.D., Church Divinity School of the Pacific, 1995.
Crisis in Communication, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1957.
Christ and Celebrity Gods, Seabury (New York, NY), 1958.
Focus: Rethinking the Meaning of Our Evangelism, Morehouse (Wilton, CT), 1960.
If I Go Down to Hell, Morehouse (Wilton, CT), 1962.
They Aren't Real to Me (play), produced in New York, NY, 1962.
The Job (play), produced in New York, NY, 1962.
Study in Color (play), produced in New York, NY, 1962.
The Hunger, the Thirst, Morehouse (Wilton, CT), 1964.
(Editor) On the Battle Lines (essays), Morehouse (Wilton, CT), 1964.
Boy and The Community (plays; double-bill), produced in New York, NY, 1964.
Are You Running with Me, Jesus? (prayers), Holt (New York, NY), 1965, revised edition, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1990.
Free to Live, Free to Die (secular meditations), Holt (New York, NY), 1967.
(Editor) The Underground Church, Sheed & Ward (New York, NY), 1968.
Malcolm Boyd's Book of Days, Random House (New York, NY), 1968.
The Fantasy Worlds of Peter Stone, and Other Fables, Harper (New York, NY), 1969.
As I Live and Breathe: Stages of an Autobiography, Random House (New York, NY), 1970.
My Fellow Americans, Holt (New York, NY), 1970.
Human like Me, Jesus, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1971.
The Lover, Word Books (Waco, TX), 1972.
(With Paul Conrad) When in the Course of Human Events, Sheed & Ward (New York, NY), 1973.
The Runner, Word Books (Waco, TX), 1974.
Christian: Its Meanings in an Age of Future Shock, Hawthorn (New York, NY), 1975.
The Alleluia Affair, Word Books (Waco, TX), 1975.
Am I Running with You, God? Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.
Take Off the Masks, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978, 3rd edition, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Look Back in Joy: Celebration of Gay Lovers, Gay Sunshine (San Francisco, CA), 1981, revised edition, Alyson (Boston, MA), 1990.
Half Laughing/Half Crying: Songs for Myself, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.
Gay Priest: An Inner Journey, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Nancy Wilson) Amazing Grace: Stories of Lesbian and Gay Faith, Crossing Press (Trumansburg, NY), 1991.
Edges, Boundaries and Connections, Broken Moon (Tacoma, WA), 1992.
Rich with Years: Daily Meditations on Growing Older, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Go Gentle into That Good Night, Genesis Press (Columbus, MS), 1998.
Running with Jesus: The Prayers of Malcolm Boyd, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.
Simple Grace: A Mentor's Guide to Growing Older, Westminister John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 2001.
Prayers for the Later Years, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN) 2002.
(Editor, with Chester L. Talton) Race and Prayer: Collected Voices, Many Dreams, Morehouse (Harrisburg, PA), 2003.
Coauthor of screenplays, including (with Ervin Zavada) Are You Running with Me, Jesus?, based on Boyd's book of the same title. Contributor to books, including Christianity and the Contemporary Arts, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1962; Witness to a Generation, by Edward Fiske, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1967; You Can't Kill the Dream, John Knox (Atlanta, GA), 1968; and Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning, edited by Mark Thompson, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987. Author of a weekly column for Pittsburgh Courier, 1963-65; columnist for Modern Maturity, 1990-2000; motion picture columnist for Episcopalian, United Church Herald, Christian Century, Presbyterian Survey, and Canadian Churchman. Contributor of articles and reviews to numerous periodicals, including Los Angeles Times Book Review, Ms., New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Parade, and Advocate. Contributing editor, Renewal and Integrity Forum.
Rich with Years: Daily Meditations on Growing Older has been translated into Chinese.
The Malcolm Boyd Collection and Archives was established at Boston University in 1973.
ADAPTATIONS: All of Boyd's plays have appeared on television; film adaptations have been made of The Job, Study in Color, and Boy, and are distributed nationally by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in New York, NY.
SIDELIGHTS: Malcolm Boyd, the "espresso priest" who moved religion into coffeehouses during the 1960s, believes that writers should get involved in social issues. His own life as a civil rights activist, anti-Vietnam War protester, and gay Episcopalian priest reflects this philosophy—both its rewards and risks. Boyd first became nationally known in the mid-1960s when his avant-garde book of prayers Are You Running with Me, Jesus? became an unexpected bestseller. But long before that, Boyd had embarked upon a course of social activism that would shape his writing and influence his career. Boyd's willingness to act on his beliefs has often generated controversy.
Between 1945 and 1951, Boyd worked as a writer and director in advertising and motion pictures in Hollywood. In 1949, along with Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers, Boyd formed Pickford, Rogers & Boyd, Inc., an agency that packaged shows for radio and television. Respect for his reputation in the media field spread throughout Hollywood to such an extent that, in 1949, Boyd was elected the first president of the Television Producers Association of Hollywood.
In 1951, to the amazement of many of his associates, Boyd gave up his promising career and enrolled in the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in preparation for a career in the Episcopal ministry. In an interview with Helen Dudar for the New York Post, Boyd commented: "It's too complex to explain briefly, but in a somewhat simplified form, this is what happened. I was involved in mass media from a standpoint of taking and exploiting, and I became totally dissatisfied with it. My life had little meaning beyond each day." After his theological studies, which included a year of training at Oxford University and a year of study under Reinhold Niebuhr at the Union Theological Seminary, Boyd began the first assignment of what many people consider a very controversial religious career and life.
In 1978, dissatisfied with the charade he had been living, Boyd dropped the mask that had been hiding his homosexuality and openly declared himself a gay priest. His autobiographical book Take off the Masks documents the rewards—and costs—of his coming out. "Suddenly, upon announcing that I was gay, I knew that in a strange sense I had lost my life," Boyd wrote. "But I knew that in the deepest recesses of my soul," he continued, "I had chosen life, with its unpredictable valleys and mountains, its tests and glories, over the plastic death of security, withdrawal, monochrome rigidity, and the refusal to risk." The repercussions of Boyd's decision proved to be deep and long-lasting. There was a backlash from the conservative arm of the Episcopal clergy, and some members demanded his expulsion from the priesthood. Though he never abandoned his ministry, Boyd did sever his ties with organized religion for a time.
Yet the book also received strong support from others. Christian Century critic E. J. Curtin applauded Take off the Masks as "a testament to truth and courage, an angry, sad, joyful challenge to those who buy the social lie and seek to escape from freedom. Those who seek titillation should look elsewhere. This is a very sensitive story of one man's religious and sexual liberation." Library Journal contributor G. M. Gerdes also commended Boyd's honesty and his straightforward approach, which "avoids melodrama, sentimental piety, and defensiveness as he reveals the flesh and soul of a mediamyth we thought we knew." Boyd also received scores of letters from readers whose own lives had mirrored his experience in some way.
Even with the support he received, Boyd experienced a personal crisis during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Pulled in conflicting directions, uncertain as to how to support himself financially, he considered abandoning his ministry to return to motion picture and television work. Instead Boyd decided to work for change from within. "I'm angry toward the Episcopal church for many things, but that [is] all the more reason to remain a priest and work for change," he told Mark Henry of the Los Angeles Times. "The people who are going to change anything are the ones who have to be inside it. And they change a lot just being there."
Over time, Boyd found a niche for himself within the clergy. In 1981, he was invited to be writer-priest in residence at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, California. In addition to preaching every third week, Boyd works to support gay and lesbian causes and to educate the public about AIDS, serving as chaplain to the AIDS Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Still a prolific writer, Boyd served as president of the Los Angeles Center of PEN from 1984 to 1987 and in that capacity he developed a special concern for imprisoned writers under authoritarian regimes. As he once told CA: "I think it's essential to be part of the community of one's time. One has to know what's happened in the world, and one has to feel the pain of it and to cry and to laugh. Unless one is willing and able to do this, art moves into a vacuum."
Boyd further commented: "I have been able to go public with much of my deeply personal life and feelings; therefore, that has not been a deliberate, thoughtout act like opening a door and walking into a room. It's something I've done in the creative process. So I can look over my shoulder at that and not exactly understand it. One reason that, creatively, it was very important to come out is that, both as a priest and a writer, it seemed such a contradiction not to be able to share something this basic. In fact, it seemed a betrayal of the whole creative process. Several reviewers have referred to me as 'Holden Caulfield in a collar' or a 'balding Holden Caulfield'—they keep bringing Holden into it. And I'm quite aware of Holden in myself.
"In a way I'm not an earthling. I'm very detached. I can feel: It's all been a mistake; I don't belong here; I don't understand it at all. Yet I've done the best I could; I've tried very hard and rather successfully to come to terms with the earth and body, mind and soul, and who I am. And to communicate. It's important to hear each other. And you can do that if you are able to put the issues away a little bit and say, Here's a person. Who is this person? And also be willing to share something with that person. I've loved having one-on-one encounters with people who, at the outset, seemed to hate me for one reason or another. I observed a lot of hate in the civil rights and peace movement. And when that hate could go, and I changed from pure stereotype into a person in someone else's eyes, then we could laugh, we could eat together, take a walk, focus together on certain things."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Boyd, Malcolm, As I Live and Breathe: Stages of an Autobiography, Random House (New York, NY), 1970.
Boyd, Malcolm, Take Off the Masks, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978, 3rd edition, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Advocate, September 8, 1976; November 30, 1977; June 28, 1978; August 7, 1984; April 2, 1985; June 11, 1985; November 12, 1985; January 7, 1986; March 18, 1986; August 4, 1987; December 22, 1987.
Catholic World, February, 1969.
Christian Century, January 30, 1974; July 1, 1974; October 2, 1974; December 11, 1974; September 24, 1975; February 4, 1976; March 3, 1976; April 14, 1976; May 25, 1977; April 19, 1978, E. J. Curtin, review of Take Off the Masks; May 9, 1979; April 2, 1980; October 22, 1980; December 2, 1987.
Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 1966; November 5, 1968; January 22, 1970.
Gay Sunshine, autumn-winter, 1980.
Library Journal, July, 1978, G. M. Gerdes, review of Take Off the Masks.
Los Angeles Times, January 30, 1966; September 14, 1966; June 8, 1967; May 26, 1968; July 4, 1968; February 27, 1970; July 25, 1971; October 8, 1972; February 18, 1973; December 16, 1973; January 20, 1974; December 25, 1974; June 15, 1975; August 1, 1975; June 10, 1979; October 7, 1979; November 18, 1979; January 20, 1980; May 11, 1980; June 29, 1980; August 29, 1980; October 19, 1980; October 26, 1980; November 16, 1980; February 22, 1981; March 23, 1984; April 3, 1984; April 13, 1984; April 14, 1984; July 21, 1985; October 3, 1985; January 22, 1986; January 26, 1986; February 16, 1987; July 4, 1987; September 11, 1987; December 7, 1987; September 30, 2000, Larry B. Stammer, review of Running with Jesus: The Prayers of Malcolm Boyd, p. B2.
New York Post, February 10, 1961, Helen Dudar, interview with Boyd.
New York Times, June 7, 1961; August 14, 1964; March 23, 1966; April 9, 1966; November 13, 1966; July 28, 1968; June 22, 1969; January 11, 1970; October 24, 1971; February 17, 1972; August 27, 1972; February 1, 1973; August 5, 1973; December 25, 1974; September 1, 1985.
New York Times Book Review, March 26, 1967; September 17, 1967; January 25, 1976; December 20, 1985; October 12, 1986.
U.S. Catholic, November, 1969.
Village Voice, November 23, 1967. Washington Post, March 23, 1965; April 4, 1965; August 10, 1965; May 29, 1966; March 26, 1967; September 24, 1967; June 1, 1968; May 2, 1973; September 9, 1973; January 20, 1974; April 14, 1974.*