(Originally posted April 9, 2014)
"I'm coming out! I want the world to know, got to let it show."
- Diana Ross, "I'm Coming Out"
Six months ago today, my religious life as I knew it, came to a jolting and horrific stop. With one signature, all that I’d held close and true since August 18, 2007 ended. I did not know if I was going to survive, but I did. Since then, the people closest to me have listened to me go through this discernment process about where I am supposed to be, what I am supposed to do, and in essence, who I am.
The coming out process is never easy. I never appreciated the difficulty that accompanies the decision to declare a truth about ones self that could potentially change people’s opinions, and in some cases, alter relationships permanently. For the people who hear about the coming out sometimes feel betrayed and disappointed; some feel bereft; most celebrate that the truth has finally been told, and embrace that truth with hope and determination for the future.
I never had to come out as gay to my family; they already knew. When I confirmed it, there were some hurt feelings, but overall, my family has always embraced me in whatever I have endeavored to do. For that, I am eternally grateful. My friends have been there to walk with me; I don’t know what I would do without them. My seminary community and field education site have always been amazingly present and, in the last six months, has been the life jacket that has kept me afloat.
I am coming out as a Congregationalist today, because that is who I am in my DNA. Many of you have heard me say this: “I’m Baptist born, I’m Baptist bred. I’ll be Baptist when I’m dead!” I tried to follow the Episcopal form of church governance, but honestly, I have been a “Baptist in an Anglican Suit”, and that suit is ill-fitting. So, the time has come to take it off. I will be completing my field education process with the church I am assigned to, but after that, I will returning to the United Church of Christ, which is the denomination I joined while living in Illinois, and where, if I am completely honest, find my spiritual moorings. Additionally, people who have known me have seen the internal struggle this has been, and for many, this announcement is no great surprise. In fact, it’s a relief.
So what? Well, for those of my friends who are Episcopal, that means that I won’t be an Episcopal priest, and I am a little sad about that. I have too much, in the words of Billy Porter, “pizzazz”, which might be great in a congregational setting, but not so much in high church. And that’s OK. I learned what I was supposed to learn while in that setting. For my UCC brothers and sisters, I’m coming home, and hope to be received with open arms.
So that’s it. And with a nod to Bex, a friend of almost 30 years, I am going to do a quick Q & A section to answer some questions.
Q: You’re leaving the Episcopal Church. Were you put out?
A: Absolutely not! No, I was not put out. I am leaving of my own free will and accord. Run and tell that.
Q: What about preaching? Will you still be doing that?
A: I will ALWAYS do ministry, and if God permits, I will ALWAYS be a preacher. I just don’t know where I will be preaching as of now. However, something will come along; of that I am certain.
Q: Why not go back to the Baptist church of your youth?
A: Because you cannot be an openly gay man with a partner in most Baptist churches, especially churches that are historically African-American. Notice I said “most”, not “all”.
Q: So where are you going to church now?
A: I will continue at my field education site until graduation, and then…who knows?
Q: You mentioned graduation. What are you going to do about your ministry and vocation?
A: Bob says I am going to “get a job”, and that’s absolutely correct. I am also starting the church membership search. Those two, together, are a full-time job.
Q: So why make this announcement? Who cares?
A: I made this announcement so that I could move into my future unencumbered by my past, and to live a transparent life. And who cares? I hope YOU do, because you are reading this.
That’s it. That’s all. Any question? Let me know.
May the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of us all surround you with love,