Susan B. Anthony Echo was a mover and shaker and brainstormer in the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian/Gay Concerns during the 1980s, remaining active into the 1990s. She served on the national Coalition Council for two terms, from 1985 through 1988. She was born and baptized into the E&R Church (five+ generations), which merged with the Congregationalists (once famous for being abolitionist) in 1957 to become the United Church of Christ (UCC).
Early in life her artistic abilities emerged and were nurtured by her artistic mother. Likewise, her father was a role model, having served as president on a statewide UCC conference council and having been an enthusiastic synod delegate himself, in turbulent times.
As a youth, Susan was very active in a statewide conference, serving on the youth cabinet, the camps and conferences committee, the annual meeting planning committee, the Women’s Task Force and other key committees. She became “In-Care” (UCC’s preparation for seminary) in 1973 after being a speech timekeeper at a life-altering event, the Ninth General Synod in St. Louis, where the farmworkers movement and the Task Force on Women were in full swing advocating grape boycotts and inclusive language respectively. There, also, the new Gay Caucus made it’s national debut, just one year after Bill Johnson was ordained. Susan was within 20 feet of Bill when he, in an act of protest, mounted the stage holding another man’s hand. (Too bad we can’t develop her photographic memory!)
It wasn’t until 1979 that she finally hooked up with what the Gay Caucus eventually became, the UCC Coalition for Lesbian/Gay Concerns (UCCCL/GC), when a delegate to Synod in Rochester. She was a delegate for two synods, then moved out West to attend graduate school, and became the Rocky Mountain Conference UCCCL/GC chapter co-coordinator, joining Jeff Logan who was at the helm.
Susan and Jeff wrote their first resolution called “People with AIDS, Their Families and Friends,” and the following year a “Resolution on Openness and Affirmation,” both passing heartily at the Rocky Mountain Conference Annual Meetings. For the latter they garnered ideas and borrowed from the preexisting Massachusetts Conference resolution, a Riverside UCC statement, the Church of the Covenant statement and a couple of other Methodist and Presbyterian examples, as well as being inspired and pulling from scripture, history, precedent and Roget’s Thesaurus.
The Open and Affirming resolution was in Susan’s back pocket when they hit the Fifteenth General Synod that summer in Ames, Iowa (1985), but the Massachusetts one entitled “Resolution on Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming,” was the frontrunner in the lineup. The resolution was assigned to Committee 30, but there were some rumors that led to some second thoughts about whether the Massachusetts version (the stronger and more savvy of the two) would pass from the executive council, move into committee, sail through committee, go to the plenary floor, and survive with an affirmative vote. With not a little misgiving, it was decided by the Coalition Council that perhaps they should hedge their bets and submit the Rocky Mountain resolution to the committee “just in case,” perhaps hoping that the committee would take the best and strongest passages from BOTH and come out with a resolution that was strong, inspirational and effective. (The Rocky Mountain version was conceived of more as an educational tool, whereas the Massachusetts version was a tool that would have established a firmer foundation for resources to be developed and distributed by the denomination.) In the end, Committee 30, elected to pull almost exclusively from the more palatable Rocky Mountain Conference version, much to Coalition members’ collective chagrin. When it went to the plenary session on the Synod floor at the Iowa State University auditorium, it passed the muster and was adopted by General Synod XV on July 2, 1985. The upshot is that, in spite of the polity maneuvering, the outcome is history with over 1000 UCC ONA churches as of 2012.
During Susan’s tenure on the UCCCL/GC’s national council the Rocky Mountain chapter hosted the National Gathering (1988). Other council-related contributions included creating a first national brochure (with Sam Loliger and Jan Griesinger having major input and final say on the text), creation of numerous certificates for Synod banquet awards and initiating the designation of a repository for the Coalition’s papers (Boston, 1986). Susan and another Coalition leader represented the Coalition at the "Gay & Lesbian Religious Leaders Summit Meeting" at the Dignity Chicago Headquarters in September 1987.
Other coalition-related accomplishments include presenting a workshop during the UCC’s Second National Women’s Meeting in Milwaukee in 1984 and speaking on a panel at a clergy meeting in Wyoming in 1985 with Jeff Logan and Elinor Lewallen, the latter who later became national president of PFLAG. Furthermore, when walking down a sidewalk in Greenwich Village with Bill Johnson in 1986 she mused out loud that the UCC should have a parent’s group like PFLAG, and the next thing she knew, it was a reality, with Oliver and Eleonore Powell heading it up. She had put a bug in the right ear!
On more artistic fronts, she had a poem published in Open Hands magazine in 1989 and displayed her most well-known art piece about AIDS in numerous venues including at the 13th National Gathering in St. Louis (1993), and at the Disciples of Christ General Assembly in Denver (1997). A Denver Post reviewer said her installation work “carries a huge wallop.”
In 1998 she served on the Worship Committee of the 18th National Gathering in Chicago, contributing both visual and liturgical elements to the worship experiences. Later that year she created a Day of the Dead altar for Matthew Shepard who had just died, and after showing it in a local metropolitian gallery, displayed it at a remembrance service for Shepard at a UCC church in Denver.
In terms of seminary, Susan let her in-care status lag, although she took a course in Feminist Theology at the Iliff School of Theology in 1986. In terms of work, Susan was on the front lines in the early days of the AIDS crisis, working at Denver’s major HIV/AIDS nonprofit first, and then as a HIV test counselor with State Health.
In the first decade of the twenty-first century one could find Susan hard at work in the archives of a major Colorado metropolitan library system processing photograph collections, including those of two women historians and an African American photographer, all of whom were quite prolific. In 2012 she was asked to come to the Chicago 40th Anniversary National Gathering as a special guest, and there she also co-presented a workshop on archives with Mark Bowman and did an oral history of fellow coalition member Marnie Warner.
(This biographical statement provided by Susan B. Anthony Echo.)