At it’s general conference last weekend in Warsaw, the Christian United Church of Poland elected as bishop Rev. Szymon Niemiec, 35, an openly gay man and the founder of Poland’s first Gay Pride parade.The LGBT Religious Archives Network describes Niemiec’s rise:
Szymon was raised in a Roman Catholic family and was strongly drawn to the church as a child. While serving as an altar boy in his mother’s congregation he became disillusioned noticing that money and gifts were more important for clergy then people and congregation. His feelings of being called by God for ministry were crushed when he was 16 and experienced hate speech, condemnation,and blackmail from Catholic clergy. For the next several years he declared himself an agnostic. In 1991, he received a diploma as an instructor of theater. By 1998 he had come out publicly as a gay man, not a common occurrence in Poland at that time.
In 2000 Szymon met the Rev. Ernest Ivanovs from Latvia, who like Szymon was ex-Catholic and and called by God. Ivanovs helped Niemiec recover and understand his Christian faith. In 2003 Ivanovs came to Poland to establish the Free Reformed Church of Poland and confirmed Szymon in that church. The Free Reformed Church in Poland became the first Christian church in that country to openly welcome lesbian and gay persons.
Ivanovs left Poland in 2005 and retired from ministry due to poor health. Niemiec was examined and ordained by the congregation as a Deacon. He attempted to study at the Polish Christian Academy of Theology, but was rejected because he was openly gay. So Szymon decided to undergo informal biblical study. In 2007 this small Free Reformed congregation decided to start the process of registering with the government. This was not easy in Poland as it required considerable money and a minimum of 100 signatures confirmed by notary. Niemiec began serving as Moderator of the congregation at that time. On 9 November 2008 the congregation decided to ordain Niemiec to the office of Elder.
Also at the conference on Saturday, delegates decided to join the United Ecumenical Catholic Church, a more liberal and inclusive denomination than traditional Roman Catholicism.