michael bernard kelly
Photo: Facebook | Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.
News, Victoria

Michael Kelly remembered as beloved activist for LGBTIQ people of faith

Melbourne activist Michael Bernard Kelly has been remembered as a champion of the LGBTIQ community after his death last Saturday.

Best known for his work with the Rainbow Sash Movement, Kelly was a queer theologian, ordained bishop, educator, and author.

He died aged 66 after a period of illness.

The Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives posted a social media tribute to Kelly, saying his work reached far beyond activism in his many roles including as a leader and spiritual counsellor.

“The Rainbow Sash Movement was founded… to expose and challenge the Catholic Church’s oppression of queer people and the ‘contracts of silence’ by which the church operated,” the Facebook post reads.

“Michael has described how on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 1998, when the movement formally began, around 60 people were publicly refused Holy Communion by Archbishop George Pell.

“In Catholic culture worldwide, this was unprecedented, and it created a media storm.

“It was a peaceful protest, but a powerful one that sustained many LGBTIQ people of faith and their families and friends.”

As well as fighting for LGBTIQ people of faith, Kelly’s work ranged from running retreats for people living with HIV/AIDS to the movement against nuclear weapons.

Lesbian Christian author Kittredge Cherry also this week published a tribute to Kelly, remembering him as a personal friend and praising his devotion to “integrating spirituality with LGBTQ experience”.

“He publicly challenged the church’s mistreatment of LGBTQ people by co-founding Australia’s Rainbow Sash Movement,” wrote Cherry.

“His activism for LGBTQ religious rights was grounded in contemplative practice.”

Kelly has been remembered fondly by many in the religious and LGBTIQ communities for his work and friendship.

During his career, he was a guest speaker at universities around Australia and the world; many of his books and lectures are available online.

Kelly’s funeral was held on Monday in coastal Victoria.

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