|Rev. J. C. Michael Allen
October 16, 1927 - September 4, 2013
Other Sheep Board Member Emeretis
Rev. J. C. Michael Allen
October 16, 1927
September 4, 2013
On this page
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Rev. J.C. Michael Allen
dies; activist priest who
once had no religion
Steve Parelli Remembers
Michael Allen: Steve & Jose's
Photos on this page
The Commissioning Service of Steve
Parelli and Jose Ortiz to the Work of
brought by Rev. Michael Allen
Spring of 2006
St. Louis, MO
|This web page was created in the Bronx,
NY, on October 20, 2013, and published
on the same date.
Visit to this web page:
"I have other sheep that are not of this
fold. I must bring them in also."
"I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also."
John 10:16 NRSV
J.C. Michael Allen didn’t consider himself religious. But that was before he found himself
interviewing a controversial Episcopal priest as a writer for Look magazine.
The priest was James Albert Pike and he spoke of racism, abortion, birth control and
exploitation of workers.
Allen was taken with Pike’s activism and told him: “If I could believe in God, I’d become a
Allen was baptized soon after. He went on to become an ordained Episcopal minister and the
dean, or head priest, at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral in downtown St. Louis.
The Very Rev. Allen died Wednesday (Sept. 4, 2013) at age 85, less than a month after he
was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, his family said.
He turned the cathedral basement into a homeless shelter, fought for civil rights and the right
for women to have access to abortion, and was a pioneer in providing housing for people with
HIV and AIDS.
He wanted everyone to feel welcome at his church. That included gays, lesbians — and
When the Very Rev. Allen came to St. Louis in 1976, he noticed that the church had a clubby
attitude. Most of the congregants were from the suburbs. Few lived downtown, near the
He caught an usher at the cathedral stopping children at the door, saying they weren’t
allowed in services.
That was just one of many things that got changed after the Very Rev. Allen arrived.
Jay Cooke Michael Allen was born on Oct. 16, 1927, in Paris. His father was a correspondent
for Chicago newspapers and a contemporary of Ernest Hemingway. He reported on the
deaths of thousands of people at the hands of the fascists during the Spanish Civil War and
later was “blacklisted” by the Catholic Church, according to the Very Rev. Allen’s family.
Michael lived in France and Spain until he was 6, before moving to the U.S. He attended a
private boarding school before entering Harvard University.
He enlisted in the Army during his sophomore year and served in Japan after that country
surrendered in World War II. He later returned to Harvard and met Priscilla Morison, a student
at Radcliffe. They married in 1949, then left for Paris to study at the Sorbonne for a year.
He returned to New York as a journalist for Look.
He later told a grandson how he had come to believe in God during his interview with Pike.
“I think Jim Pike didn’t try to prove that God existed,” grandson Michael Lhotak said. “He said,
‘We’ll work on that.’ And that was the answer my grandpa needed.”
The Very Rev. Allen graduated from what is now the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge,
Mass. Then he went to New York as an assistant priest at Grace Church and then rector at
St. Marks in the Bowery in Manhattan for 11 years.
“He was a tireless crusader for justice, particularly in the lives of the poorest and most
marginalized among us,” wrote the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, who succeeded the Very Rev.
Allen at Christ Church Cathedral.
The Very Rev. Allen marched for civil rights with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With
singer-activist Joan Baez, he visited Hanoi, surviving 11 days of bombing by U.S. planes
during the Vietnam War.
From 1970-76, he was dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, where he orchestrated the
merger of Berkeley with Yale Divinity School. But he wanted to return to an inner-city parish
and accepted an offer to become dean at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis.
He established a homeless shelter in the cathedral and then a day care for homeless
children. Both ran afoul of city regulations and were closed, a diocesan official said.
At a time when some churches wouldn’t even bury people who had AIDS, the Very Rev. Allen
proclaimed, “Our Church Has AIDS,” and preached that there should be no outcasts.
He was the first president of Doorways, an interfaith organization that provides housing and
support for people affected by HIV-AIDS.
The Rev. Jason Samuel, rector of Transfiguration Episcopal Church in Lake Saint Louis,
recalls how in 1997 he was the first openly gay priest in the Missouri Episcopal diocese:
“When I got here, Michael was the first to welcome me. And that week, he invited me to
preach at the cathedral.”
After retiring in 1998, the Very Rev. Allen and his wife, who was also an Episcopal priest,
joined Samuel’s church, where the Very Rev. Allen continued his pastoral work until his death.
His wife of 63 years, the Rev. Priscilla Ridgely Allen, died on Feb. 24 at age 84 from
complications of burns during a cooking accident at home.
Just over six months later, the Very Rev. Michael Allen died at the couple’s home in Oakland.
A memorial service will be held on Sept. 29 at a time to be determined at Christ Church
Cathedral, 1210 Locust Street.
Among the survivors are two sons, Thomas Allen of St. Louis and John Allen of New York
City; a daughter, Sarah Allen Wilson of Morehead City, N.C.; and three grandchildren
Rev. J.C. Michael Allen dies; activist priest
who once had no religion
September 08, 2013 7:00 am • By Michael D. Sorkin firstname.lastname@example.org
|Photo at Right:
Michael Allen in his
Source: St. Louis
September 8, 2013.
Spring 2006, St. Louis, MO
Rev. J. C. Allen, Other
Sheep board member
2002 - 2011
In 2002, The Very Rev'd Michael
Allen become an Other Sheep
board member. From the
beginning, his wife Priscilla
accompanied Michael to board
meetings and soon she, too,
was made a member of the
In 2011, the Allen's announced
their retirement from the Other
Sheep board and were, in turn,
voted board members emeritus.
Above and Below Photos
The Commissioning Service of
Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz to the
Work of Other Sheep.
brought by Rev. Michael Allen
Spring 2006, St. Louis MO
Jose Ortiz Rev. Michael Allen Steve Parelli
|At left and above (left to
right beginning with photo
Gordon Herzog, Jose Ortiz,
Peg Atkins and Alice Kitchen
Photos taken at The
Commissioning Service of
Ortiz/Parelli to the Work of
Spring 2006, St. Louis MO
Spring 2006, St. Louis, MO
The Christ Church Episcopal
Cathedral in downtown St. Louis where
Michael Allen was Dean (head priest)
for some time.
Our commissioning to the work of Other Sheep occurred about seven
months after we had been called by the board to work as staff volunteers for
Other Sheep as Executive Director (me, full time) and as Coordinator for
Africa and Asia (Jose my significant other, part time). At what point in time
the commissioning service had been planned, I don’t recall. What I do
remember is my feeling a bit strange about the whole idea of a
commissioning service because of the fact that so much of my thoughts on
God was still in flux.
For the board, and for Michael Allen, this commissioning service was of
great importance to each of them, so I observed. I could sense their faith in
my call and their faith in the mission of Other Sheep.
I had told the board at my interview for the job that I was never more certain
of God’s call on my life than I was in accepting the position of Executive
Director of Other Sheep. That much I knew, but not much more. I felt
certain I had been somehow fitted for this task at this time, and with Jose as
my significant other who shared my excitement, calling and gifts – well, Jose
and I were ready to go. If nothing else, we had each other. But this
commissioning service . . . well . . . I had to somehow manage my doubtful
feelings about its earth-while significance because of my own theological
Those attending from the Other Sheep board and J. C. Michael Allen who
gave the commissioning charge – there was something special about these
folk from Missouri. Both straight and gay, most of them my senior by fifteen
to twenty years, gave the impression that something real good was
happening here. I was so unsure of so many things theologically, that the
commissioning service seemed irrelevant, if not irreverent. However, these
folks – Michael Allen and the rest – they had a sense that we were in the
right place at the right time.
This much I knew: I was fortunate, and humbled, to be in their midst. Their
collective years of experience and maturity gave me comfort. Each one had
a remarkable personal history of achievement carved out by deliberate
choices and years of sacrificial service. The commissioning hands that
touched us (Jose and me) and the heads that were bowed in prayer on our
behalf were moved by a spirit of love for queer individuals just like Jose and
me. For years, this LGBT-friendly spirit had enveloped them with an energy
that moved them to do the work. And now Jose and I were joining in the
work with them. We were to be an extension of them; their arms reaching
out to the LGBT world through us. In the seven years between Michael’s
commissioning charge to us in the Spring of 2006 and his passing in
September of 2013, Jose and I have worked Other Sheep in more than
Michael, whose life was dedicated to ministering to the marginalized, was
just as proud as ever to be a part of our small commissioning service, so it
seemed to me. I saw his commitment to us, and the pride he took in the
Other Sheep ministry of gay equality, and the kind of man he was, and I was
thankful for his having charged us to our call and work with Other Sheep.
Michael – who himself had, at one time, entertained his own doubts about
God – was indeed a great man, and was so well fitted for our gay-equality-
fighting times, and he touched Jose and me with his legacy and with his mid-
western sense of “you guys can do it.”
Remembering Michael Allen and Our Other Sheep
Commissioning Service of 2006
by Rev. Stephen Parelli
Bronx, NY - October 20, 2013