Malcolm Boyd

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Boyd in a 2010 interview

Malcolm Boyd (June 8, 1923 – February 27, 2015) was an American Episcopal priest and author. He was active in the civil rights movement as one of the Freedom Riders in 1961 and as a minister. Boyd reached people with his book of prayers, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? (1965), which became a bestseller.[1] In 2005 it was published in a 40th-anniversary edition. Boyd also was active in the anti-war movement.

In 1977 Boyd "came out", revealing that he was homosexual and becoming a spokesman for gay rights. In 2013 he served as a poet/writer in residence at St. Paul Cathedral in Los Angeles.

Early life[edit]

Boyd was born in 1923 in Buffalo, New York, the son of Beatrice Lowrie, a fashion model, and Melville Boyd, a financier and investment banker whose own father (also named Malcolm) was an Episcopal priest.[2][3][4] Boyd was raised as an Episcopalian (his maternal grandfather was Jewish).[5][6]

In the early 1930s Boyd's parents divorced; his mother retained custody of him.[7] Boyd moved with his mother to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and then to Denver.[7] During his time in college, despite early spiritual interests, he decided he was an atheist.[7] In the 1940s Boyd moved to California and eventually became a Hollywood junior producer.[8] He began moving up in the Hollywood world, eventually founding PRB, a production company, with Mary Pickford.[8] At the same time, amidst all the abundance, he found himself looking for meaning in different places, including churches.[8]


In 1951 Boyd began studying to become a priest at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.[9] He graduated in 1954 and was ordained a deacon.[9] In 1955 he continued his studies abroad in England and Switzerland and returned to Los Angeles for ordination as a priest.[9] During 1956 and 1957, Boyd studied further at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York and wrote his first book, Crisis in Communication.[9] In 1959 Boyd became Episcopal Chaplain at Colorado State University.[9] In the 1960s Boyd became known as "the Espresso Priest" for his religiously themed poetry-reading sessions at the Hungry i nightclub in San Francisco, at the time of the San Francisco Renaissance poetry movement.


Boyd went on to become a minister in the American Civil Rights Movement, promoting integration and voting rights. He participated as one of the Freedom riders in 1961. Later that year he became the Episcopal Chaplain at Wayne State University in Detroit. He held a weekly meeting about civil rights, influencing Viola Liuzzo. Three years later she went to Selma, Alabama, to participate in the voting rights marches organized by SCLC and SNCC. She was murdered by the Klan while transporting marchers from Montgomery back to Selma following the successful march ending on March 25.

In 1963 Boyd attended an interfaith conference for racial integration in Chicago. Malcolm X referred to Boyd at the conference in his 1963 speech, "The Old Negro and the New Negro." Malcolm X said, "Rev. Boyd believes that the conference might have accomplished much good if the speakers had included a white supremacist and a Negro race leader, preferably a top man in the American Black Muslim movement." He quotes Boyd:

A debate between them (meaning this white racist and a Black Muslim) would undoubtedly be bitter, but it would accomplish one thing: it would get some of the real issues out into the open. In this conference we have not done that. The money spent to bring these people here has been wasted. We have done nothing to solve the race problem either in our churches or in our communities.[10]

Boyd was also active in the anti-Vietnam War movement, marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.

Later life and works[edit]

In 1977 Boyd came out of the closet, becoming the most prominent openly homosexual clergy person of the era. In the 1980s Boyd met Mark Thompson, an author and homosexual activist. They became long-time partners.[11] They lived in Los Angeles, California. Boyd served on the Advisory Board of White Crane Institute. He was a frequent contributor to the homosexual wisdom and culture magazine White Crane.

Boyd was the author of over 30 books, including a bestselling collection of prayers, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? (1965). It was re-issued in a 40th-anniversary edition. Until his death he wrote a column for The Huffington Post.[12] He served as a poet/writer in residence for the Diocese of Los Angeles.[1] Boyd died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 91 in a Los Angeles on February 27, 2015.[13]


  • Crisis in Communication (Doubleday, 1957)
  • Christ and Celebrity Gods (Seabury, 1958)
  • Focus: Rethinking the Meaning of Our Evangelism (Morehouse-Barlow, 1960)
  • If I Go Down to Hell (Morehouse-Barlow, 1962)
  • The Hunger, the Thirst (Morehouse-Barlow, 1964)
  • Are You Running with Me, Jesus? (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1965/40th anniversary edition, 2005), became a bestseller
  • Free to Live, Free to Die (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1967)
  • Malcolm Boyd's Book of Days (Random House, 1968)
  • The Fantasy Worlds of Peter Stone and Other Fables (Harper & Row, 1969)
  • As I Live and Breathe (Random House, 1969)
  • My Fellow Americans (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970)
  • Human Like Me, Jesus (Simon and Schuster, 1971)
  • The Lover (Word Books, 1972)
  • The Runner (Word Books, 1974)
  • The Alleluia Affair (Word Books, 1975)
  • Christian: Its Meanings in an Age of Future Shock (Hawthorn, 1975)
  • Am I Running with You, God? (Doubleday, 1977)
  • Take Off the Masks (Doubleday, 1978; rev. ed. HarperCollins 1993, White Crane Books 2008)
  • Look Back in Joy (Gay Sunshine Press, 1981; rev. ed. Alyson, 1990)
  • Half Laughing, Half Crying (St. Martin's Press, 1986)
  • Gay Priest: An Inner Journey (St. Martin's Press, 1986)
  • Edges, Boundaries and Connections (Broken Moon Press, 1992)
  • Rich with Years: Daily Meditations on Growing Older (HarperCollins, 1994)
  • Go Gentle Into That Good Night (Genesis Press, 1998)
  • Simple Grace: A Mentor's Guide to Growing Older (Westminster John Knox, 2001)
  • Prayers for the Later Years (Augsburg, 2002)
  • A Prophet in His Own Land: The Malcolm Boyd Reader (edited by Bo Young/Dan Vera) (White Crane Books, 2008)

Edited by Malcolm Boyd[edit]

  • On the Battle Lines: A Manifesto for Our Times (Morehouse-Barlow, 1964)
  • The Underground Church (Sheed & Ward, 1968)
  • When in the Course of Human Events (with Paul Conrad, Sheed & Ward, 1973)
  • Amazing Grace: Stories of Lesbian and Gay Faith (with Nancy L. Wilson, Crossing Press, 1991)
  • Race & Prayer: Collected Voices, Many Dreams (w/Chester Talton, Morehouse, 2003)
  • In Times Like These…How We Pray (with J. Jon Bruno, Seabury, 2005)


  1. ^ a b Pat McCaughan, "Malcolm Boyd at 90: Still writing, still ‘running,’ still inspiring", Episcopal News Service, 7 June 2013, accessed 11 January 2015
  2. ^ "Melville Boyd Beatrice Lowrie", Books, CA: Google, p. 826 .
  3. ^ Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University .
  4. ^ "Biography", Malcolm Boyd 
  5. ^ Boyd, Malcolm, "My Jewish grandfather", Huffington Post .
  6. ^ Boyd, Malcolm (2008). Samuel Joseph for President: Media, Politics, Religion, Race. KenArnoldBooks, LLC. p. x. ISBN 0979963435. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c "Thirties", Malcolm Boyd 
  8. ^ a b c "Forties", Malcolm Boyd .
  9. ^ a b c d e "Fifties", Malcolm Boyd .
  10. ^ X, Malcolm (1971), Karim, Benjamin, ed., The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches, New York: Arcade, pp. 94, 95 .
  11. ^ "Eighties", Malcolm Boyd .
  12. ^ "Rev Malcolm Boyd", Huffington post .
  13. ^ Rourke, Mary (February 27, 2015). "Malcolm Boyd dies at 91; Episcopal priest took prayer to the streets". Los Angeles Times. 

External links[edit]