Leap of faith by Mormon filmmaker

“Who could have foreseen what would happen between the Mormon filmmaker and the lesbian priest? Not Douglas Hunter, even after he took a leap of faith and trained his camera on the Rev. Susan Russell. And maybe not even Russell, who had undergone a remarkable transformation from onetime suburban soccer mom to priest and outspoken champion of gay rights.” Duke Helfand of the LA Times tells their story today:

It was in early 2007, after the death of a close family friend, that Hunter decided it was time to put his religious ideals to the test.

Filmmaking provided the vehicle.


His new film, he reasoned, would allow him to explore a subject considered taboo by many other Mormons but which he could no longer ignore.

“The engagement of the ‘other’ was so important in the teaching of Jesus that it had to have a place of centrality in my own faith,” he said. “What’s your reward if you only love people who already love you?”

Hunter didn’t know where to start, so he turned to his computer. He typed in random search terms — “Christian gay,” “gay theology.” The search led to a clip of Russell on YouTube and then to her personal blog, called An Inch at a Time.

“I was like, ‘Wow, she’s fabulous. She’s here in Pasadena. She’s practically a neighbor,’ ” he said.

Hunter sent an e-mail to Russell in June 2007, explaining that he wanted to make a short documentary about the personal and spiritual challenges of same-sex marriage. The finished product, he said, would be submitted to an international documentary project that would broadly address the meaning of citizenship.

Russell, 54, was accustomed to interview requests in her role as president of Integrity USA, an advocacy group for gay and transgender Episcopalians. She had few qualms about sharing the details of her personal story to further her cause.

With a command of Christian theology and a fearless streak, she had become a national emblem in the struggle for gay equality in the Episcopal Church, a spiky-haired priest in a clerical collar who turned up on CNN and such news programs as ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Read it all here.

The Film, The Constant Process will be shown in April here.

Past Posts