- Louie Crew Clay, Letters From Samaria: The Prose and Poetry of Louie Crew Clay. Ed. Max Niedzwiecki (New York: Church Publishing, 2015), 58.
TransEpiscopal mourns the passing of Louie Crew Clay, pioneering founder of Integrity USA and a friend and tower of strength to all who sought peace and justice in and through the Episcopal Church. Yesterday Louie died peacefully at home after an illness, surrounded by family and friends.
Louie’s example as a lay leader who, starting in the 1970s, persistently and creatively forged a way forward when forces within the wider Church were hostile to LGBTIQ people, has long moved us. The way he went about that work, with abundant spirit, wry humor, deep encouragement, and palpable joy, has inspired us just as much.
At the turn of the millennium, when trans* people were just beginning to organize ourselves to seek welcome and acceptance in the Episcopal Church, Louie was a mentor, friend and wise counselor. “Even at the most difficult times for gay, lesbian and bi people in the church, Louie pointed the way for trans folk to follow in our own struggle,” commented Donna Cartwright, TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member. “He was undaunted in defeat and magnanimous in victory -- a good friend and we will miss him.”
In 2009, when TransEpiscopal first sent a team to General Convention, Louie not only supported the legislation we had come to support and were aware of ahead of time, but also drafted a resolution, 2009-D032. It read, simply, “Resolved, That the 76th General Convention commit The Episcopal Church not to discriminate in employment of lay employees based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” The resolution, which passed easily, is arguably just as significant as the canon change resolutions that barred discrimination in access to the ordination process (which passed in 2012) and in deployment (which passed in 2018). Together, with 2012-D019 (“The Rights of the Laity” ) it seeks to safeguard the ministry of trans people among all the baptized.
“Louie Clay was filled with joy and courage,” commented Sarah Lawton, ally Steering Committee member of TransEpiscopal and General Convention Deputy from the Diocese of California. “I learned so much from him. I'm sure he is already numbered among the saints.”
Cameron Partridge, also a Steering Committee member and Deputy from the Diocese of California, added, “I will always remember how Louie welcomed the TransEpiscopal community when we first attended General Convention in 2009. He was a true ally, encouraging us as we navigated unfamiliar and overwhelming terrain. Many times over the years Louie went out of his way to reach out to me and others, to offer support and joy-filled messages of encouragement. I am so grateful for him.”
“The last time I saw him he gave me a big kiss,” said Michelle Hansen, Steering Committee member from the Diocese of Connecticut. “I thank the Lord for his presence among us at in these days. What a loss for the Church! What a gain for Heaven!”
Louie’s life was an emblem of God’s unquenchable, joyous love. When he declared “Let the word go forth: God loves us,” we truly felt it. We give thanks to God for the life, the love, the leadership, and the sheer joy of Louie Crew Clay, and we offer our sincerest condolences to Louie’s beloved husband Ernest. Rest eternal grant Louie, oh God, and may light perpetual shine upon him.