Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Change Comes to the North Beach - Rev. Guy A. Lizzi

The Rev. Guy A. Lizzi

Information compiled from: Lizzi, Guy A., “Brief outlines of my Education, Theological Training, Chruches and Missionary field served. Also my Doctrinal conviction and Beliefs,” April 19,1963 (courtesy of the ELCA Region 2 Archive, North Beach Mission, SPS, SF CA, 1964 Founding)

The Rev. Guy A. Lizzi was born in Italy and arrived in San Francisco in 1910. Guy established the Evangelical Missions for Italians in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada for the American Bible Society. While a student in seminary in 1912, Guy was asked to organize St. John Italian Methodist Church in San Francisco. After he graduated, he received a call from the Presbyterian Board of National Missions to become a pioneer missionary in Duluth Presbytery in April of 1915 where he remained for five years. Guy then transferred to Chicago in 1919 and served Indiana, Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Then from 1924-34 he spent ten years in Italy as a general missionary. Guy then worked in Des Moines, IA to run the Evangelistic Center, until his wife passed away in 1938 and he returned to San Francisco. In 1940 Guy was called by the Presbyterian Church to be a Missionary in San Francisco, Costal Area and Reno, Nevada. Guy resigned in 1960 when the Board of National Missions asked him to “stress more the preaching of the Social Gospel,” and he refused.

Guy joined the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) after hearing a radio program of “the sound doctrinal bible sermons, broadcasted by the late Dr. Meyer.” Guy then was confirmed and received as a member of St. Paulus Lutheran Church. After corresponding with Concordia Seminary, Guy became commissioned as a Missionary. Guy became a Lutheran because he was convinced that the Lutheran church would not be swayed by tradition or human reason, but that only the Bible is the source of authority. A fan of the Lutheran understanding of justification, the centrality of Jesus and the Lutheran Catechism, Guy expressed his faith in the words of the Apostle’s Creed and found God’s grace bestowed through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. “The most vital meaning of ‘Church’ is found in the phrase ‘Communion of saints’ – the fellowship of Christian believers whose lives are committed to Jesus Christ.”

Guy established the North Beach Mission (NBM) in 1956 as part of the LCMS. Three years later he lost funding and with the backing of Lewis J. Julienel of the First Baptist Church, the Mission became an Interracial Evangelical Church. When the Lewis’ successor decided not to continue supporting NBM, the mission was then taken over by The Miraloma Reformed Church who subsequently gave it up do to “lack of financial means.” Finally, NBM gets support by the Lutheran Church in America (LCA).


So imagine what happens when the 72 year old Pastor Guy Lizzi meets Pastor Chuck H. Lewis. Guy had resigned previous calls when he was asked to begin preaching the social gospel. So, what would he do when a young pastor came to town charged by the LCA to create an outreach to the homosexual community?

In a letter dated September 23, 1964, Guy describes an inner voice that answered his ten days of prostrated prayers: “WHY QUIT? Remain, continue to work faithfully, as in the past, and I shall give you the victory to overcome the points on those things you disagree with Pastor Lewis.” Guy calls his ten days of discernment the “greatest spiritual crisis I ever faced in my years in the Missionary work,” and asked for forgiveness for the hurt he caused “do to my disagreement.” Guy vows “co-operate 100 percent with Pastor Lewis in all his endeavors. Even use the power of persuasion to bring back into our fold the alienated ones.” Lizzi, Guy A., "Letter to The Rev. Orval C. Hartman," (courtesy of the ELCA Region 2 Archive, North Beach Mission, SPS, SF CA, 1964 Founding).

And so it was, that the pioneer missionary pastor from Italy became a part of an open and affirming congregation in 1964. Guy worked in partnership with Chuck and Joanne "Jo" Chadwick to provide ministry primarily to those living in the Federal Housing Project, gay youth, conscientious objectors and others who signed the NBM covenant.

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