My personal journey to God began at a young age and yet it wasn’t until the mid eighties, when I was in my late twenties, that I realized two important facts. First, that I was called into the ministry and secondly, that I was gay. Reconciling my faith, my calling, and my sexual orientation was not an easy task(!) and began a journey that in many ways, still progresses to this day.
‘Coming out’ was made even more difficult because I was considered one of the top Javelin throwers in the United States at the time and was competing for the Christian track team, Athletes in Action. I knew they wouldn’t approve (hardly!) of one of their athletes being gay and fully expected people to be knocking on my door at all hours of the day and night to ‘save me’! But there was no denying the fact that I was gay. Not a person to hide my faith or what I believe in. I soon retired, much to the dismay of AIA as the Olympics were only a year away and I was within a few feet from qualifying for the Olympic Trials.
While I missed track and regretted never achieving all of my athletic goals, I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. I knew I had been called into the ministry just as surely as I knew I was gay and had found the love of my life! I am glad to report that we’re still together after eighteen years and have two wonderful girls. 🙂
Like many, my first forays into the gay Christian community were tentative and I wondered at times if I’d ever find a church that would accept me. Thankfully a friend introduced me to Dignity (a Catholic organization), which was meeting in San Francisco at the time. From there I found MCC and joined a congregation that met a little closer to where we lived.
Following God’s call on my life, I soon joined MCC’s student clergy program. I can remember the day as if it was yesterday. I was still struggling with the decision if I should retire from track or not and had gone out to practice. I remember sitting on the field for over an hour, just staring at my track spikes, not even able to tie my shoes. Finally, I realized, Olympics not withstanding, that God had turned the page on that portion of my life and I packed up my equipment and drove straight over to my pastor’s office. I realized then that my track career was over for good and a new chapter of my life had begun.
Turning the page isn’t always that easy though and sometimes it takes a while to figure out where one fits in. I got a ‘little shove’ in the right direction a year later when my pastor kicked three others and myself out of the church for being “too zealous.” While I was perplexed and crushed at first it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Within a few weeks the four of us had started Tri-Valley Faith Fellowship which flourished for a while until two of the original members moved out of the area. When church membership dropped down to almost nil, at the request of friends, in 1990 we moved the group closer to the Bay Area and began again, this time as “Faith Fellowship.”
During my tenure as pastor we saw Faith Fellowship grow from a small bible study group into a strong church built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. It was an exciting time, God blessed countless numbers of people through our church and we were instrumental in bringing together the other ‘welcoming’ churches in our area. Also during this time, the Lord had opened up some powerful new truths to my heart and my ministry was starting to take me abroad to other churches to teach and preach.
‘Growing up’ is never easy though and churches are no exception. In 1996 we lost a significant number of our people to a bigger church that one of our influential board members who wasn’t gay had started to attend. This other church, while Christian, strongly opposed homosexuality. In spite of my warnings, many of our younger members were enticed by the charismatic preaching and teaching, and began attending their services. My worse fears were realized a short time later when many of these people started to question their faith and their relationship with God. Guilt and condemnation over their sexual orientation eventually drove almost all of them away from the church altogether and back into the arms of bad acquaintances and drug habits they had left with the help of our ministry.
I was devastated. Not only was our church family almost halved, and later dropped to a fraction of our former attendance. My heart was breaking daily for these people that had fallen away from their faith. But what could I do? Through the years I pastored, my spouse and I had dealt with many difficult times but this was one heart break too many. It was beginning to affect my relationship not only with my spouse but also with our children. In addition I could feel the anointing to pastor starting to lift off of my shoulders and sensed that my ministry was evolving and changing but into what I had no idea. It all culminated when I told the church one day toward the end of 1996 that I could no longer function as their pastor.
It was a difficult and emotional decision but one that needed to be done. In addition to everything else my work situation had taken a turn for the worse that year and a software company we were in a joint venture with had suddenly decided to “take the money (and software system!) and run.” The next four years were embroiled in a lengthy lawsuit, dealing with financial issues, working through some difficulties that arouse in our relationship and raising our two small children. In the ensuing chaos, God’s call on my life was set-aside for a period of time.
God is patient but He is persistent and a visit from a dear friend of mine in the ministry in 2000 gave me the “kick in the pants” I needed to get started again with the vision God had given me years prior. The full width and breadth of that vision I still don’t understand to this day, but two things seemed clear. First I was to “get off my duff” and finally begin writing the first of several books I knew I was supposed to write.
Secondly, I had dreamed for years about creating a reconciling web site where gay Christians and “welcoming” churches from around the world could find a place to fellowship. I wanted to provide a forum that not only provided a rich source of teaching material on a wide variety of subjects. But a place where people could exchange ideas and create an online community. In addition I envisioned a welcoming church database like no other. I knew how hard it had been to find a welcoming church myself, and hoped such a listing would make it easier for others down the road.
It was around this time that I felt God’s push to start GALIP with the last remaining monies we had coming from the software company. GALIP’s goal would be the financial arm to help these dreams and visions become a reality.
So where am I in this journey? Slowly but steadily moving forward. The first book “Calling the Rainbow Nation Home”, is done and available through this site and most online book retailers. The second part of my vision was fulfilled in November of 2003 with the creation of www.gaychurch.org.
So what is next in this journey? I don’t know what God has in store but I’m sure it will be exciting!
In His Name—