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The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle leaving California after 32 years of ministry

SAN DIEGO, California – The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, a distinguished man of the cloth who has an international pulpit in his quest to further LGBT rights on a global scale and a pastor who is as comfortable caring for people with HIV in remote parts of Africa as hobnobbing with former President Bill Clinton, is leaving his post at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral for a new calling on the East Coast.

After 32 years of ministry in Southern California, Ogle will take over as the 31st vicar at St. Peter’s, Lithgow in Millbrook, commonly called a low-key version of the Hamptons in upstate New York about a 90-minute drive from Manhattan.

Ogle has agreed to continue writing his weekly RGOD2 column for San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and the GLBT News Network. The RGOD2 column is widely read and closely followed by faith leaders across the globe, and allows Ogle the opportunity to write about faith and religion from an LGBT lens.

The founder of San Diego-based St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, Ogle said he will continue to serve as president of the non-profit organization. He said he will open a chapter in New York, and will return often to Southern California where he maintains a dual residency in San Diego and Palm Springs.

The Very Rev. Penny Bridges, Dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, had nothing but praise for Ogle.

“Canon Ogle’s ministry has been a blessing to the Cathedral congregation and to the wider community,” she said. “His tireless and sacrificial efforts on behalf of those who are persecuted for their very identity have saved lives and raised awareness of the plight of LGBT people across the world.

“He is dearly loved at St. Paul’s and will be much missed, but we rejoice with him that this call to St. Peter’s, Lithgow will offer him new opportunities to practice Christian leadership and to advocate for those with no voice in their home countries, as he will be based near the UN headquarters in New York City and will have greater access to decision-makers,” the Dean said.

Ogle’s departure from St. Paul’s will be noticed.

“It would be hard for anyone to fill Albert’s shoes, and as yet we have not identified someone to succeed him in his ministry here,” the Dean said. “However, Albert assures us that he will be a frequent visitor to San Diego, and there will always be a home for him at St. Paul’s. He departs with our blessings and our prayers for a fulfilling and joyful new chapter in his life.”

Taking over at St. Peter’s, Lithgow

St. Peter’s, Lithgow – a small, historic parish near the tri-state intersection of New York, Vermont and Connecticut -- was founded in 1801. The Vestry announced last month that they had unanimously voted to call Ogle as their 31st victor.

Ogle said he will arrive at the parish on Sunday, Oct. 12, and will preach his first sermon at the 8 and 9:30 am Eucharist services on Sunday, Nov. 2.

The historical church serves the Millbrook community, Ogle said, noting that a substantial number of people live there but work in Manhattan. Ogle said he and his partner, Mile, will live in the city but that he will spend much of his time in Millbrook.

Ogle said his main focus will be on preaching, pastoral care and outreach to the diverse community in the Lithgow area, but his half-time position will also permit him to open an East Coast office for the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation.

“I have enjoyed preaching more often over the summer months in Palm Springs to help cover for the local Rector who was on sabbatical. There is something profoundly grounding when you share in the liturgical seasons with a congregation and I have missed that since leaving St. George’s eight years ago,” Ogle said.

“The Cathedral community in San Diego has been my spiritual home since returning from my academic studies in Dublin in 2008 and I will miss the good people of St. Paul’s and our friends in San Diego. However, this is a wonderful opportunity for us and will mean living and working in the city and in Millbrook. I am a frequent visitor to New York and Washington, and I am so excited to becoming a part of the Diocese of New York where I have many friends and colleagues.”

In 1977, Ogle was ordained in the Anglican Church of Ireland. After he was ousted from the Church for being gay, he lived for a short spell in London before moving to California in 1982. Over his 32 years spent in Southern California, he worked in many parishes, including St. Mary’s in Laguna Beach; St. Thomas’s in Hollywood; All Saints in Pasadena; and Trinity in Los Angeles. He was Priest in Charge and Rector of St. George’s in Laguna Hills, before his ministry started with St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego. He was made an Honorary Canon in the Diocese of Los Angeles in 2002 and, a decade later, a Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego. Yes, he’s a double Canon, and proud of it.

According to a news release issued by the Foundation:

Ogle also worked in many non-profit organizations, offering a compassionate message from the religious community on sensitive issues such as homelessness, LGBT issues, family poverty and AIDS. In the early 1980s, he worked in the economically disadvantaged communities of Watts, South Central Los Angeles and Northwest Pasadena, as well as with street children in Hollywood. As one of three openly gay clergy at that time in the Episcopal Church, he worked at the Los Angeles LGBT Center as Youth Director and Acting Executive Director, established the first state-sponsored youth home for LGBT youth, and negotiated the first HIV testing program in the state that offered both health and mental health services. Ogle designed the first comprehensive HIV plan for Los Angeles in 1986 and a statewide plan that helped to double the state’s budget for HIV prevention and care in 1987. This model was used in All Saint’s Pasadena to create the AIDS Service Center, for which he became the first Executive Director. From 1992 to 1997, on a half-time basis, he assisted the Anglican Church of Uganda with disease prevention strategies and funding and introduced morphine to Uganda for the first time as a legal drug in 1996 as a result of a grant from the Elizabeth Taylor Foundation.

In 2008, after completing an M. Phil. in International Peace Studies at Trinity College Dublin, he returned to California to work on the Proposition 8 (marriage equality) campaign through the work of the California Council of Churches and Equality California. At the same time, he served as a consultant for UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites program and his thesis “Returning to Places of Wounded Memory: The Role of World Heritage in Reconciliation” was published. His interest in the historic sites of St. Paul as the basis for international reconciliation emerged from this research and led in 2010 to the establishment of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, based at the cathedral in San Diego. In its first four years, the Foundation sought to build dialogue between the LGBT community and religious leaders who were often leading political campaigns in many of the approximately 80 countries where LGBT people were criminalized. He was moved by the motivation of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who called St. Paul “his mentor” because of Paul’s inclusive and universal values of reconciliation. The Foundation provided support and technical assistance to the bishop for three years. The Foundation was the first organization to encourage the World Bank to begin to look at international LGBT issues as a poverty issue. Based on his work in Cameroon, Jamaica and Uganda, the State Department appointed him to serve on an Advisory Body looking at religion and LGBT issues. He has received many recognitions from State and local bodies, and received Equality California’s Pride in Action Award in 2012 and KPBS’s Local Hero Award this year.

“I am so grateful to all of the friends and colleagues from California who have supported my ministry in religious and secular organizations over the years. I would not have been able to achieve any of this without so many people behind me,” Ogle said.

“California has been good to me and I have lived here longer than anywhere. My partner, Mile, and I intend to return here and will keep our property here with a view to retiring back in the Golden State. In the meantime, I have one really exciting new gig for God and am grateful to the good people of St. Peter’s for this exciting call. I leave the St. Paul’s Foundation’s local Chapter in the capable hands of Lindy Miles, Susan Guinn, David Reicks and Gary Voice, who all serve on our board, and Jim and Mary Keely as coordinators with the Cathedral community. This is not an end, merely a deepening of our spiritual roots so the work of the people of God can be more effective. The effects of rabid religious fundamentalism are not going to disappear anytime soon. We have a lot of work to do.”

Ogle will preach his final sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday, Nov. 16.

Meanwhile, an informal celebration of Ogle’s ministry will be held at Heat Bar & Kitchen in North Park from 6 to 8 pm Tuesday, Oct. 7. Ugandan activist Maxensia Nakibuuka, a straight ally who advocates for HIV rights in Africa along with Ogle and his Foundation followers, will join the celebration before returning to Kampala the next day. Donations can be made by clicking HERE to support the Foundation’s work in Cameroon, Jamaica and Uganda.

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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.