LGBT+ History Month: Remembering Pastor Joseph Doucé

LGBT+ History Month: Remembering Pastor Joseph Doucé

For LGBT+ History month we invited members to write blogs on their favourite historical LGBT+ person of faith. In this blog OneBodyOneFaith member Paul Whiting, shares his memories of Pastor Joseph Doucé:

Before most LGBT+ Christian movements came into existence, there was Pastor Joseph Doucé. Born in Belgium in 1945. He was raised Catholic and began studies in Stenonious College, Maastricht NL, but after a year began a conversion to Protestantism. In 1964, age 19 he moved to France. He demonstrated passions for religious studies and languages (French, German, English and Italian, as well as Dutch) from his youth.

In 1967, he converted to the Baptist faith and, after studies in Switzerland, became a pastor. From 1970 to 1974 he served parishes in Lens and Bethune in le Pas de Calais. Long aware of his own homosexuality, from 1974 to 1976 he studied pastoral and psychological needs of sexual minorities at the Free University of Amsterdam, partially supported by a grant from the World Council of Churches.

In 1976 he moved to Paris, and seeing the huge need for support and ministry to sexual minorities and sex workers, he opened the Centre du Christ Liberateur. As soon as the Baptist Church became aware of this ministry they disassociated themselves from him. He held a weekly Sunday service, an open table where you were invited to a simple meal around this huge table, followed by a talk, prayer and conversation. CCL was a drop-in centre, gay switchboard, and place of prayer.

He began support groups for LGBT+ people, as well as a street support ministry to sex workers. He was very misunderstood and maligned, but having known him since 1979, I truly believe he had a genuine passion for the LGBT+ community in all its diversity to be embraced by God’s love.

In 1978 he was a founding member of the International Lesbian & Gay Movement, and in 1984 attended his first European Forum for LGBT Christian Groups and in 1986 was elected the first co-president.

I visited his centre on a number of occasions, one time arriving at daybreak, and he was always wearing his brown suit and clergy collar. His ministry was ahead of its time. What people thought of him, was not on his agenda; caring for people was his agenda and learning about why they chose to live how they lived.  He published a magazine Il Libère, Il Aime ("He Liberates, He Loves"). In later years he published several books on sexual minorities and opened a bookshop “Autres Cultures”. Following his death a biography was published.

In May 1990 he was visited by two men and was never seen alive again. He was 45 years old. A decomposed body was found in October that year, presumed to be Pastor Doucé but his death was never investigated, or his murder resolved. His husband Guy Bondar and his ministry partner Caroline Blanco endeavoured to continue his ministry for another decade.

Written by Paul Whiting, member of OneBodyOneFaith