The Calgary Chamber of Commerce is one of the city’s oldest institutions – 125 years old this year! In 1981, it was the regular meeting place of the Knights of the Round Table: a group that has met weekly in Calgary since 1925. The Knights promote learning through discourse, typically inviting a guest speaker of historical or contemporary interest, and then peppering the speaker with questions.
On September 15th, 1981, the questions got more aggressive than usual. The invited speaker was Reverend Lloyd Greenway, from the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a predominantly gay church and at that time one of seven MCC congregations in Canada. The pastor spoke to the approximately 70 gathered Knights about MCC but the questions afterwards turned hostile.
74-year old, local historian, James H. Gray, stood up and asked Greenway: “Do you sodomize?” The stunned pastor delivered a clever rejoinder, “I’m a Calgarian, not a Sodomite.” The undeterred Gray rephrased his question: “Do you do buggery?”
The meeting chair determined that the questions were not out of order; Greenway was left dangling and the event came to an awkward end. Ed Wolf, who chaired the speakers’ committee and had invited Greenway, was incensed. A 25-year veteran of the club and prominent oil industry geologist, Wolf tendered his resignation one week later.
“Free speech was not well served by the unprecedented and hypocritical handling,” Wolf wrote in his letter to the Knights’ executive, demanding that they apology to Greenway. Wolf was a founding member of the Calgary Civil Liberties Association and the Unitarian Church of Calgary. He likely first met Greenway there, as MCC services were hosted at the Unitarian Church, which is still located at 16th ave and 1st St. NW.
Greenway had come from MCC Toronto in 1977 to start MCC Calgary. Back in Toronto many years later, Greenway became a subject of renowned Canadian filmmaker Allan King, in the 2003 documentary, Dying at Grace. The sad and highly praised film follows Greenway in his final days, suffering from inoperable brain cancer in the palliative care unit of the Toronto Grace Hospital.