So why now?
In 2018, the church where I serve as pastor went through an incredibly trying season. When a leader and beloved member of our congregation told me he was gay and that he was preparing to ‘come out’ publicly, I desperately wanted to know how other pastors had responded to a challenge like this without destroying their church in the process.
I grasped for anything that could help me get through what I knew would be a daunting leadership experience with significant implications for our church’s future. While I was able to find a number of books written from different sides of this hot-button issue, the primary commentaries seemed to come from those who were not actually leading local congregations. At the end of the day, I couldn’t find anything that described the experiences of an actual pastor walking into this conversation with an actual congregation.
It’s been said that you should write what you want to read. And this is the primary reason why, on one particular winter’s night, when the storm was just starting to brew, I suddenly felt compelled to write. I got up at an unreasonably early hour, sat down at the dining room table (where I'm seated right now), and began to type away.
In the year that followed, the writing I did—most of it in the margins of my days when sleep escaped me—provided me with an outlet for the thoughts and emotions swirling around in my head. There was (and is) something healing about the process of turning keystrokes into words and words into paragraphs and paragraphs into the story of an unusually difficult season of life and leadership.
I also hoped that telling my story would be helpful or even healing for others who might one day read it and be able to pull some value from my experience, honestly shared.
And now here we are...
I recognize that some of my readers might be wondering what all the fuss is about. If church is not a part of your life or if you’re not especially well-versed in contemporary social controversies, all of this might seem like a waste of time. All I can do is ask you to trust me when I say that this is about as far as you can get from a waste of time. There is nothing simple about this conversation and there are no smoking-gun answers to the tide of complex questions that roll in from the wide variety of people affected by these questions.
The working title I gave my writing project was: The View from Here: How One Church Navigated the Issue of Same-Sex Attraction and Lived to Tell About It. The entries that will follow in future posts were written in real time over the course of twelve months as I led our Evangelical/Pentecostal congregation into this conversation and through to the other side.
This is the story of both my personal struggle as a pastor during the darkest season in my twenty years of ministry and also the story of our congregation’s struggle to find a way to respect the diversity of our beliefs in a way that would allow us to move forward together in faith. While I will be telling the story of our church from my unique vantage point as its pastor, I’m not doing so in any official capacity.
I chose a quote from Frederick Buechner for the header of this blog to remind myself of the kind of writing I want to put out into the world. “I try not to stack the deck unduly,” he writes, and I couldn’t think of a better way to frame what I’m trying to do here. I’ve given the deck of my story a good, honest shuffle and I’m prepared to let the cards fall as they will. I have tried to write with vulnerability and unbridled honesty throughout, with the belief that my story might somehow help you to engage this theme with courage and faith. At the end of the day, I’m pretty convinced that a healthy dose of honesty is the best way for us to grow as individuals and as communities.
I'm going to leave my original entries as intact as possible, releasing them in blog-sized pieces on a weekly basis. I’ll omit segments that would identify individuals who may not be comfortable having their role in my story shared publicly. I’ll also add occasional thoughts from the present, which I will mark clearly within the post. Finally, I'm going to experiment with leaving the 'comments' on, so for heaven's sake, be kind, or I'll have to renege on that one!
I hope you will continue reading along with me in the weeks and months to come. It's with a measure of fear and trembling, then, that I invite you to click the “subscribe” button to join me on this journey...