I went to seminary but I am not really sure why. I would like to offer that I felt a call to ministry as a child and spent my life pursuing that dream. I have never felt a call like so many of my colleagues and friends had as they have shared their call stories.
I “got saved” in response to a Pauline miracle that happened on Good Friday on Pacific Coast Highway. I was delivered to an evangelical Pentecostal faith. I was that man on Venice Beach with my Bible in hand telling you that it was not too late to turn your heart towards Christ and repent from the evils that comprise the life you call normal.
That included all the classics, sodomy, fornication, gluttony, sloth, lust, and my personal favorite knowledge. I focused on hating sin and calling the sinner to task. I felt it was my personal responsibility to pull from the fires of hell all that I could. I endured anger, humiliation, argumentation, and spit to stand there and deliver the Good News of Jesus Christ. I was a zealous warrior in Gods Army.
I subscribed to the “us” and “them” rhetoric of holiness and righteousness movements. I demanded from myself a robotic precision of goodness that left little of my humanity exposed to be saved. I particularly struggled with those nefarious outlanders in West Hollywood.
I became a prayer warrior and would visit bars hoping to pray THAT prayer of salvation with someone looking for salvation. I also would spit brimstone and fire upon any “Gay” I encountered. When I became a youth minister I supported the efforts of Exodus and the belief that being homosexual was a choice and a bad one at that.
In seminary I became good friends with a woman that was lesbian. I did not know it at the time. She and I grew close as we would smoke and BS behind the dorms. We struggled to pass Hebrew one semester and encouraged each other to kick this beasts backside.
In one conversation she came out to me and I was shocked to discover that her orientation did not make her any less or more my friend. She was still the same person I grew to love. My love for her fashioned me in to an advocate and shaped my call.
This was this first time in my life I felt a call. I felt called to fight the systemic injustice in the church and in this nation against the LGBTQ community. I was finally called to something. I took to it with the same passion and zeal I had meet my beach ministry with in LA.
We all graduated seminary. I married my best friend and moved to Louisville to go to social work school and continue my fight against injustice as a social worker. Only things did not work out so well. I could not attend school right away and needed a job.
This is when the Disciples of Christ entered my life. I was hired to be the Associate Minister at a Disciples church in Louisville. I was called to help this congregation live in to its recent affirmed choice of being an Open & Affirming church. In fact, this is the only reason I applied to this church. I wanted to live out my call to serve the LGBTQ community and here was a church that wanted to take this risk too.
I went out in to the community. I protested and picketed alongside the local Fairness groups and lobbied in the State and our National capitol for Equality. I sat on the board of the local fairness group and refashioned a statewide group of affirming clergy. It was a whirlwind of action and I felt honored to do it.
All the while I heard whispers that the work I was doing was going to make it harder for me to find work outside of the congregation I was serving. My calls to fight injustice grew and my call to the church to be better in responding to the changing world around as manifested in the founding of [D]mergent.
I was certain that the future of the church arrives in soil that is free from racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and in concert with the truth of the dynamic religious landscape of America. The whispers grew to polite conversations. Then some things changed at the church I was serving and it became apparent that I would need to find another church to continue my ministry.
I put my profile out. I waited. I called a few folks. I had many conversations at General Assembly in Nashville. As it turns out, the whispers, the polite conversation may have been correct. I had worked myself out of a denomination.
In all honesty the truth is somewhere between my story and those that will tell you that I am a rebel, obnoxious, reactionary. I have never been able to confirm that my employability is limited due to my past, my theology, my vision of the church or that the church really has no one pulpits. I am not in a place to wait it out.
I am no longer a Disciple. I have severed ties with my region. I mourn this. I had very high hopes that the Disciples could be the place that I may find a home and work this stuff out together. The hope that I had for us is gone.
I recently wrote a farewell that was published on [D]mergent. I was saddened by the responses. It affirmed my decision to leave. What hurt most was the silence from those that had allied with me in the fight against injustice.
I will never know the pain, suffering, and hurt that we as the church heap upon our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. I can only imagine what they go through. If anything I have learned it is that silence hurts as much as the hateful words. Silence inflicts pain as swift as a steel-toed boot. Silence mains and harms as much as bloodied fists.
I cannot be silent. My faith will not allow it. I am not a Disciple anymore. I support and affirm the work of my friends in GLAD Alliance and any hope I have left for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) lies in their efforts to be a place of vocal love in a church that affirms silence.