Oral History

George Hyde

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Biographical Notes

With LGBT-RAN Advisory Committee
member Jim Anderson at Hyde's
home in Bellaire, Florida, in January, 2005
George Augustine Hyde was born on July 2, 1923, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His family moved to Atlanta when he was around three years of age. Hyde contracted polio as a child but recovered from that after several years of treatment and surgery.

Celebrating mass in Miami in 1997
Even though raised in the Southern Baptist church his family attended, Hyde became increasingly interested in Roman and Orthodox churches as a youth. He decided to enroll in seminary and study for the Roman Catholic priesthood. Atlanta bishop Gerald O’Hara sponsored Hyde to enroll in St. Mary’s Seminary in Perryville, Missouri. Hyde found the adjustment to seminary life difficult and, upon being accused of immoral same-sex conduct by a fellow student, was dismissed from the seminary.

Being presented key to the City of Fajardo
by Mayor Emillio Pacheco with Fr. Nicholas
Reyes, pastor of St. George Church in
Fajardo, Puerto Rico, in 1982
Returning to Atlanta, Hyde became a public high school teacher. During this time he met John Kazantks, a bishop in the Greek Orthodox Church, who had been cast out of his church position and left Greece after being accused of being homosexual. Hyde also spent time at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Atlanta where he soon developed what he calls “a rather unique outreach.” Upon learning from priests there that a young male parishioner had confessed to homosexual behavior, refused to admit that this was an “abomination” and, therefore, was being denied Communion, Hyde reacted. He organized a series of silent protests during Mass for several weeks. Then he gathered a small group of homosexual Catholics for study, eventually leading to the formation of a new parish. On July 1, 1946, Hyde was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Kazantks. In the following few years, Hyde and Kazantks formed and supervised several small parishes in different parts of Georgia that were known as the Eucharistic Catholic Church.

At Holy Transfiguration Church
in Houston, Texas, 1976
Hyde moved to Washington, D.C., in 1950, where he joined some colleagues in a worker-priest community and movement. Kazantks introduced Hyde to Archbishop Clement Sherwood of the American Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church in New York. Hyde was impressed that Sherwood embraced him despite knowing that a large number of his parishioners were homosexual. Sherwood devised a special theological education program for Hyde. After three years of rather intense tutoring, Sherwood consecrated Hyde as a bishop on May 7, 1957.

Outside St. Peter and Paul Church in
Springfield, Mass., site of 1957 synod
In 1970, Archbishop Hyde succeeded Clement Sherwood as head of what had become the Orthodox Catholic Church of America (OCCA).  The OCCA brought together several small, independent Catholic church bodies that were rooted in particular ethnic identities, such as Russian, Greek Ukranian, Swedish, and African. The intent of the OCCA was to, in effect, “Americanize” these bodies by shedding their ethnic identities and to adopt Western liturgical rites. A number of OCCA parishes that Hyde supervised were racially diverse.  Some also welcomed lesbian and gay persons.  One of the most prominent of these was the Church of the Beloved Disciple in New York City pastored by Robert Clement. Hyde consecrated Robert Clement as a bishop in 1974.

George Augustine Hyde, OCCA
bishop of Washington-Atlanta in 1957
Archbishop Hyde retired in 1983 for health reasons and moved to Belleair on the Florida Gulf Coast. Alfred Lankenau succeeded Hyde as archbishop of the Orthodox Catholic Church of America. When the Lankenau and the OCCA decided to ordain women as priests in 1995, several parishes and priests left in protest. Hyde agreed to come out of retirement and oversee these congregations and priests in a new Autocephalous Orthodox Catholic Church of America.  Hyde continued to provide guidance for his parishes as well as carry on regular writing and communication with friends and colleagues until his death on May 4, 2010. His body was cremated and ashes buried in the family plot in Marietta, Georgia.