Bishop Richard R. Mickley, CDOS, Ph.D. is Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit Philippines (Bishop James H. Burch of Virginia, principal bishop) who entered “monastic” seminary at age 13 toward the priesthood in the Society of the Precious Blood, with aims of missionary work in Chile. The dream was shattered after many years when the superiors, guessing that he was gay (which he knew nothing about) advised leaving the celibate priesthood and getting married. After 14 years of family life, Mickley discovered that, in fact, he was gay. He joined a group of ministers who eventually set the United States, New Zealand, and the Philippines until his retirement (according to church rules) in 1995. In retirement, he founded the Order of St. Aelred and the Gay Men’s Support Group and provided supplementary ministries of education (sex-positive theology, self-esteem seminars, retreats) but not parish ministries in “competition” with MCC. He was ordained bishop by Bishop James Burch and founded The Well for wellness programs for persons living with HIV and those trying to step out of various addictions. At 85 he serves as coordinator of the healing ministries of The Well.
At age 10 with parents and six siblings Childhood. Richard Raymond Mickley, oldest of 10 children of Raymond and Clara Mickley, knew that he was called to be a priest by the time he was 13. He had grown up on the farm in what he calls “the beautiful rolling hills of Ohio” — in Danville, 15 miles from Mt. Vernon and 60 miles from Columbus. He milked the family milk cow every day of his life from Grade 1 through Grade 8, before school in the morning and before dinner in the evening. After a family move to New London, Ohio — where his father owned and operated the Volunteer Food Store — he learned the Latin prayers and became an altar boy in Grade 5.
Seminary. With the spiritual advice of his pastor (after a move to Louisville, Ohio, seven miles from Canton) and wise consultation with his parents, at the age of 13, he entered Brunnerdale Seminary in Canton, the minor seminary of the Society of the Precious Blood. He found that religious (community) life satisfied his deepest yearnings.
He never dreamed there was such a thing as sexual orientation, but he painfully thought he was the only person in the whole seminary community of 200 men and boys who ever felt the (frequent) urge for personal physical sexual “relief.” His most painful moment every week was Confession, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I committed the sin of self-abuse again this week.” Feeling full of shame and self-hatred for this ungodly, disgusting, sinful thing in his life that he was sure was so very abnormal, he consulted a Protestant doctor while home on the brief summer vacation. “Young man,” the doctor explained, “you are not the only one. All your school mates who are normal no doubt have the same sexual needs.” Richard later said, “That saved my sanity. At least I knew I was not the only one, even though surely some who were holier than I did not have this problem.”
Age 22, in the Society of the Precious BloodThat extended experience (and the secret he learned from the doctor) began the building of an empathic base for a lifetime, later, of sexual counseling. Many years later he attended a series of lectures by Fr. Bernard Haring along with 600 priests at Catholic University of America and was, for once and for all, relieved to hear the world-renowned Catholic moral theologian say, “It is normal and expected for students, including seminarians, to engage in masturbation, and it should not, in itself be considered sinful.”
His years of delightful religious life were filled with joys and works near to his heart from writing and publication in the Society’s journals to sacristan in the chapel where yearly priestly ordinations required alert and eager sacristans. It was his “true calling,” he said.
Sexual Trauma. But year after year into seminary college and beyond, Mickley was beset by his “besetting problem,” Teenage Masturbation Trauma (TMT). He defines TMT as “the experience of mental and spiritual anguish and self-disgust resulting from societal and religious disdain for sexual self-stimulation (even if only partially voluntary with the power of nature stronger than the will to be good), especially during the impressionable years of adolescence.” But it all came to an end when the superiors called him in and said, “It will all go away if you leave the celibate priesthood and go out into world and find a nice wife…” He said, “I thought they meant masturbation. Little did I know what I later realized — that they suspected I was homosexual and that ‘it would all go away if I found a nice wife…’”
Army duty, parent, and entrepeneur. After a tour of duty in the United States Army, with service in the war zone of Korea, Mickley indeed found “a most wonderfulwife, Nancy. They were married and she became the superb mother of three awesome daughters and five awesome sons (thanks to her).” By 2014 the family had expanded to innumerable grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including adorable twin great-granddaughters.
Richard and wife with their 8 childrenHe taught Latin for eight years (with masters studies in Kent State University and Rome, Italy), and for several years he and his wife owned and managed successful restaurant businesses in Canton, Ohio. Then he answered a call to Catholic parish work as Director of Religious Education in Michigan, one of the first five lay directors in the United States. For many years he worked with Ralph Martin and Steve Clark in the National Cursillo Movement Leadership and later in the Catholic Charismatic movement, serving on the team of their first “Life in the Spirit” seminar and in their charismatic ministries at Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was named one of the first Lay Ministers of the Eucharist in the country.
Discovery of gay world. In the contacts of big city life in Detroit, it evolved that he discovered it was true that he was gay, and he learned what that meant. He initially joined the Gay Liberation Front within a year after the awakening of the “gay liberation movement” at the famed Stonewall Riots in 1969.
Troy Perry and MCC. A year before Stonewall, the famed Rev. Troy Perry had founded the Metropolitan Community Church to bring spiritual and religious liberation to Christian gay and lesbian people who were excluded from their faith communities in some way because of prejudice. In Detroit, Michigan in 1970 Mickley became a member of a group of pastors, who took turns leading worship services, who wanted to bring “religious liberation” from the shackles of prejudice to the people of Detroit. They listened to a tape recording of a fiery speech by Rev. Troy Perry and decided to bring his church, MCC, to Detroit. Mickley became a student pastor in MCC Detroit. He was later called to serve as Assistant Pastor of MCC in Chicago.
Divorce. As all this developed, Mickley's family suffered. He told everything to his wife and with the counseling of a social friend who was a psychiatrist, they separated by legal divorce.
More Ministry in MCC. From Chicago, Mickley moved on to MCC parish work with Rev. Joseph Gilbert, in Phoenix, who also introduced him to prison ministry and inspired him to write the Prison Ministry Handbook, which became the guide book for prison ministry throughout the MCCs (and some other denominations) of the United States for ministering to gays and lesbians in prison. He visited and counselled numerous prisoners in numerous prisons.
Editor, MCC’s In Unity magazine in 1975 Los Angeles and Rev. Perry’s office. Mickley was invited to Los Angeles to head the Prison Ministry office in the MCC denomination headquarters. In addition he was asked to take on the position of Director of Publications in Rev. Perry’s office. He describes working in the same office with Rev. Perry with daily prayer together, “an awesome experience with a prophet of God.” He edited the denomination's magazine, In Unity, published Prison Ministry Handbook and Christian Sexuality which he wrote, and Gay Lifestyle in 1976 by the world famous Process theologian, Father Norman Pittenger, the 69th of his nearly 100 books.
In the meantime he worked in MCC parish ministry at MCC Los Angeles and as interim pastor in Upland--and then pastor of MCC Ventura. Throughout his time in the Los Angeles area, Rev. Mickley served as teacher of Theology, Christian Sexuality, and MCC Polity in the growing MCC seminary there, with classes sometimes numbering 30 or 40 in some subjects. He founded Excel, a Cursillo-type, prayer, study and action transforming religious experience in MCC.
Graduate Studies. His experience in parish work convinced him that most people who come for “pastoral” counseling are looking for psychological counseling. He took a leave of absence and earned a Masters degree in Psychological Counseling at Sierra University, and then decided that a doctorate would be even more helpful. He earned the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from International College in 1983, specializing in LGBT relationships. While working in administrative positions in several Los Angeles colleges, he continued his clinical work in psychological clinics.
Ministry in New Zealand and Philippines. In 1988 he was called back into parish ministry, through the intervention of the Rev. Ken Martin and soon thereafter was called as pastor for the struggling MCC Auckland, New Zealand. After three and half years he realized Auckland had a large congregation and several competent ministers on staff by that time, and he decided to answer a desperate plea from another country, “When is MCC coming to the Philippines? I have been rejected by my church, and there is no one here to help us.”
Pioneering gay and lesbian ministry in Philippines. He borrowed enough money to fly to Manila in May 1991. He knew no one when he arrived. He networked for five weeks and on June 26, 1991, held the first public Gay and Lesbian Pride Mass in the Philippines at the high altar of the Holy Child National Cathedral with 50 people in attendance. A week later he left for Los Angeles with a petition signed by 43 gay and lesbian Christians calling him to return to Manila and set up the gay and lesbian Christian ministry of MCC.
With the approval of Rev. Perry and the MCC Board of Elders, after returning to Auckland, resigning his pastorate, giving up his house, salary and car, he went to Manila, having filed for U.S. Social Security benefits in order to be self-supporting in what was then called a “third world country.” Rev. Mickley established MCC Manila officially on September 7, 1991. It was the first openly gay and lesbian organization in the country.
The Pride Mass at the First Gay and
Lesbian Pride March in Manila (and Asia) in 1994 Gay activist. In 1992 Pro Gay Philippines was founded as a politically activist group. Together with Oscar Atadero, an officer in both groups, it was arranged that Pro Gay would sponsor, with MCC Manila as co-sponsor, the first gay and lesbian Parade in the Philippines. It was held with 50 brave gays and lesbians marching on a rainy day, June 26, 1994. Recently footage was discovered on YouTube of that historic march, which turned out to be the first Gay and Lesbian Pride March in Asia. All this was a major breakthrough for the LGBT people of the Philippines where the MCC had become the first openly gay and lesbian organization in the country in 1991.
Manila Pride March 2013 with MCC pastors Myke, Kakai and Egay Media attention and Weddings. Rev. Mickley found himself in a swirl of media opportunities as a result of that 1994 march, and for years thereafter he was invited to guest on popular television shows, such “Mel and Jay,” speak at universities, and to address various organizations. The message of God’s unconditional, limitless love and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people began to reach the grassroots homes of the Filipino people. Rev. Mickley introduced same-sex wedding ceremonies of Holy Union into the Philippines, and hundreds of couples came to make their vows of love and commitment. The rest is history. Marches got bigger and bigger. MCC grew to have five churches by 2010.
In 1995, MCC pastoral policy required Pastor Mickley to retire. He founded the Order of St. Aelred to continue supplementary ministry, but not to duplicate the MCC parish ministry. Rev. Mickley continued to encourage and refer gay and lesbian people to MCC for participation in parish life.
CPPS Amici. Rev. Mickley was invited to join the alumni group, Amicus CPPS of the Society of the Precious Blood, in 2003 (and that same Order which had told him “to find a nice wife” developed an affirming ministry for gay and lesbian people).
Ordained bishop. In 2004 Bishop James Burch, founding and Presiding Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit ordained Father Richard Mickley as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, Philippines to enhance his ministry to the LGBT community. In answer to their calling, CDOS priests were ordained as Catholic priests by Bishop Mickley. Some of the priests of the CDOS Diocese, Philippines, establish parishes, such as Fr. Regen Luna, CDOS, as each CDOS priest, man or woman, is at liberty to answer their personal call to ministry.
Looking to the future… At age 85 in 2014 his ministry continues, and he is thankful that he can continue to help people with serious life difficulties such as HIV or addiction, or moving over and beyond the hump of destroyed self-esteem because of condemnation not only of same-sex love, but of masturbation and using condoms — in a country which is the only country in the world which does not have divorce — because, in his words, “of the power of the Roman Catholic bishops over the three branches of government.”
Delivering his acceptance speech at COSE Award 2013He received the honor of being included in the “Ten Outstanding Elderly Award of 2013” in the Philippines by the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE).
In 2014 Mickley lives in Metro Manila, Philippines with his partner of fifteen years with their unfulfilled wish for canine and feline companions.
In reflection upon his nearly half century of sex-positive ministry in MCC, the Order of Saint Aelred, and the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, and The Well. Mickley offers these observations:
Rev.Troy Perry (in front of world globe), founder world-wide
MCC, Rev. Richard Mickley (holding Philippine flag), founder
MCC Philippines, at MCC General Conference 1993“All my life I have remained a fervent believing Christian. At the same time I have learned through experience. Through association (in person and through their writings) with Rev. Troy Perry, Bishop Jim Burch, Rev. Paul Breton, Fr. John McNeill, Fr. Norman Pittenger and many, many other luminaries of sex-positive theology, I have learned to combat destructive sex-negative theology which is of neither Jesus nor of Biblical origin, but has driven uncounted numbers of God’s beloved children to trauma and/or to abandoning the all-loving God who has been so blasphemously misrepresented to them as a hateful monster. I offer free ‘cyber seminars’ (by email) to anyone who wants to go more deeply into these issues of sex-positive theology.”
With co-founder of The Well, Argel Tuason The Well for Wellness. Mickley currently serves as co-coordinator of The Well, the LGBT Healing Center, with Argel Tuason, prayer partner and co-founder in 2013. After meditating on the parable of the Good Samaritan, the prayer partners set up The Well to provide free support groups for persons with serious life difficulties.
Having begun AIDS ministry in Los Angeles with Bishop Stan Harris, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, he had continued HIV and AIDS ministry, serving as National Coordinator of the faith-based AIDS Ministry Network in New Zealand and Coordinator of the faith-based Aids program of the AIDS Society of the Philippines, he was well prepared to set up The well wellness program for persons living with HIV, helping PLHIV make their Personal Wellness Plan and to live in wholistic wellness.
In addition there are groups for stepping out of various addictions in 12-Step programs and groups for coming out of internalized homophobia and stigma. He employed his own personal experience with addiction, having learned the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous from Tom Powers, one of the authors of the 12 Step program. Based on a lifetime of experience in addiction, prayer groups, ministry to the LGBT community, and serving persons with HIV and Aids, he wrote the 250 page Handbook for The Well Method for The Well leaders. The Well is serving seekers in Manila, Philippines and scattered locations in provinces where trained staff and life coaches are available. Mickley says, “It is undeserved in my twilight years, but The Well is one of the most gratifying works of my long ministry, as we see transformations of life and well-being right before our eyes.” The Well is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thewellphilippines. The Well Method is not copyrighted and is available to help anybody anywhere.
(This biographical statement is provided by Richard R. Mickley, CDOS, Ph.D.)