Fact Check: About That Claim New York’s St. John the Divine Cathedral Lit Up in Rainbow Colors for Pride Month

St. John the Divine
St. John the Divine


The church of St. John the Divine in New York City lit up in rainbow colors in June 2024 to celebrate Pride Month.


Rating: True
Rating: True

In early June 2024, photographs began to circulate on social media claiming the inside of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City had lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate Pride Month:

This vibrant image had garnered more than 972,000 views and 3,900 likes. Other people posted similar pictures, and even a video, claiming it was the inside of the church. But the posts were also the target of conservative outrage. One person replied to the first post saying, "And whoever allowed it should be excommunicated." Another response said, "Disgusting blasphemy. A man cannot serve two masters. You cannot be a Christian and an intersectional marxist."

As we'll see, the claims were true.

St. John the Divine is a cathedral of the Episcopal Church. A branch of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church has included and welcomed gay and lesbian people since at least 1976, an inclusion that has extended to people of different gender identities and expressions. LGBTQ+ people can not only pray in the Episcopal tradition, but also become ordained and, since 2012, be elected bishop. In 2015, the Episcopal Church codified same-sex and gender-neutral marriage. According to the Human Rights Campaign:

With an estimated 2.3 million members, the Episcopal Church is open and welcoming of the LGBTQ+ community. Unlike the Worldwide Anglican Communion, of which it is a part, the Episcopal Church does not condemn homosexuality.

On June 1, 2024, the first day of Pride Month, the Rev. Meg Stapleton Smith gave a sermon at the church. Stapleton Smith is openly queer, according to a 2022 profile on the Fordham University website, which described her desire to become an Episcopal priest. Behind her, the transept and the apse were lit in the colors of the rainbow, confirming the photographs of social media users:

On June 9, 2024, video of the Holy Eucharist, as services are known in the Episcopal Church, showed the aisles and the ambulatory also were lit in rainbow colors:

Also on the cathedral's website was the program for "Iconic Pride," a series of events organized by the congregation to celebrate Pride Month. The first event, on May 31, 2024, was described as follows (emphasis ours):

Pride Eve, A Pilgrimage to Pride

Kick off Pride 2024 at the Cathedral with A Pilgrimage to Pride.

Journey to the Upper West Side for an evening of crafts, color, and pageantry. The night will begin with a cocktail hour where visitors are encouraged to tour the Cathedral, mingle, and visit different craft stations. Our Host, the Greedy Peasant, will then take to the stage for a 40-minute performance culminating in illumination of the Cathedral in its traditional rainbow lights.

All are welcome for this special occasion, with monochromatic fanciful dress encouraged. The suggested colors include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Tassels also implied.

The Greedy Peasant, a queer social media star who likes to live out his passion for medieval times, posted photographs of the event on Instagram:


The Anglican Communion encompasses 46 churches across more than 165 countries, including in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is the third-largest Christian communion after the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, with 85 million people.

The largest "province" of the Anglican Communion in population is the Church of Nigeria, which is staunchly opposed to homosexuality and other LGBTQ+ expressions. Many provinces in Asia also oppose broader inclusion in their churches. The disagreement has created a rift in the Anglican Communion, with the more conservative churches expressing frustration at the Anglican leadership for not taking a stricter stance against the richer, more progressive provinces, like the Episcopal Church, that have shown support for same-sex marriage.


'Friction over LGBTQ Issues Worsens in Global Anglican Church'. AP News, 7 Dec. 2022, https://apnews.com/article/anglican-church-lgbtq-issues-4f635708fdb24df166ac8237f9473f00.

McClain, Lisa. 'The Anglican Communion Has Deep Differences over Homosexuality – but a Process of Dialogue, Known as "via Media," Has Helped Hold Contradictory Beliefs Together'. The Conversation, 22 Apr. 2024, http://theconversation.com/the-anglican-communion-has-deep-differences-over-homosexuality-but-a-process-of-dialogue-known-as-via-media-has-helped-hold-contradictory-beliefs-together-224834.

'Meg Stapleton Smith, GSAS '22: Queer Theologian and Aspiring Episcopal Priest'. Fordham Now, 10 May 2022, https://now.fordham.edu/colleges-and-schools/graduate-school-of-arts-and-sciences/meg-stapleton-smith-gsas-22-queer-theologian-and-aspiring-episcopal-priest/.

'Member Churches'. Anglican Communion, https://www.anglicancommunion.org/structures/member-churches.aspx?s=AF#country.

'Stances of Faiths on LGBTQ+ Issues: Episcopal Church'. Human Rights Campaign, https://www.hrc.org/resources/stances-of-faiths-on-lgbt-issues-episcopal-church. Accessed 10 June 2024.