Gay ex-NJ governor's path to priesthood is blocked

FILE - In this April 27, 2007 file photo, former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey is shown in Elizabeth, N.J. McGreevey's pursuit of the Episcopal priesthood has been put on hold indefinitely. The New York Post reports that the church has rejected his bid to join the clergy. The church wants McGreevey to wait so he can put more distance between his possible ordination and his 2004 coming out as a self-described "gay American," his simultaneous resignation and a messy divorce finalized in 2008. (AP Photo/Mike Derer, Pool, File)

April 25, 2011 5:23:13 PM PDT
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who abruptly resigned in 2004 after declaring himself "a gay American" and admitting an extramarital affair with a male staffer, has had his pursuit of the Episcopal priesthood put on hold indefinitely.

The New York Post reported Monday that the church has deferred his bid to join the clergy.

The church, which accepts gays and women into the clergy, wants McGreevey to wait so he can put more distance between his possible ordination and the fairly recent turmoil in his life: his coming out in a nationally televised speech, his resignation and a messy divorce from his wife, Dina Matos, in 2008.

The Rev. William Sachs, director of the Center for Interfaith Reconciliation in Richmond, Va., said it's "not unusual" for people to be deferred. Sachs said church officials would be interested in how someone with McGreevey's baggage would handle the ministry.

"How would he apply what he's learned to his ministry? Does he translate from being the person he was in the political realm to being in ordained ministry," Sachs asked. "It doesn't surprise me there would be an instinct to defer."

Neither McGreevey, a Democrat, nor the Episcopal Diocese of Newark would comment on his potential ordination, saying the process is confidential.

McGreevey, 53, earned a master of divinity degree last spring, three years after entering General Theological Seminary in New York City.

The Rev. Patricia McCaughan, who writes for the Episcopal News Service, said ordination is a complicated, subjective process that differs from state to state.

"If a person is deemed not ready to go forward, that doesn't mean that's the end," she said. "People can always try again." For now, McGreevey said he plans to continue ministering to inmates and helping raise his daughter, who is in elementary school.

"I'm enjoying prison ministry, particularly with the women in Hudson County Jail who have suffered tremendously in their lives," he said.

McGreevey, a former Catholic altar boy, shocked the nation by declaring his homosexuality with his stunned wife and parents at his side. He was the nation's first openly gay governor, but he resigned three months later.

He converted from Catholicism after leaving office. His divorce from Matos followed a protracted public trial during which she claimed she was duped into marriage to advance his political career.

The couple spent four years married and living together and had one child, named Jacqueline. They formally separated in February 2005, three months after he left office. They publicly sparred about their breakup, each writing a tell-all book about the relationship, with almost no detail deemed too embarrassing to reveal.

McGreevey has lived with real estate executive Mark O'Donnell in Plainfield since 2005. He has made few public appearances since leaving office.