All should read the story of Murray Richmond, a Presbyterian pastor who used to be anti-gay, but had a change of heart and belief when reality interfered with his preconceived notions. Here’s where he started:
A recent poll shows a huge shift in American attitudes toward gay marriage, from a 32 percent approval in 2004 to 53 percent today.
I am one of those people who changed their minds.
In 1989 when I was ordained as a minister to serve a small church in North Carolina, homosexuality was an invisible issue. Gay rights were barely on the radar of mainstream churches. The idea of an openly gay pastor was beyond the pale. ? I knew there were “gay churches,” of course, but I did not believe one could be a practicing homosexual and a Christian. The Bible was straightforward on this issue. It all seemed incredibly obvious to me.
Every year we send young people to our national meeting as youth delegates. In a year when gay ordination was going to be discussed (again), I sat down with our selected delegate to share some of my own thoughts on the topic. Later, the person declined the position. I was given reasons, but none of them made any real sense until I learned, many years later, that the person had come out of the closet. What had I said back then? I couldn’t remember exactly, but I am pretty sure it boiled down to the idea that there was no place for homosexuals in our church.
In 2005 I left the parish ministry to work as a hospital chaplain. Part of the reason for leaving was my separation. But also, I was tired of trying to live up to standards that I did not fully agree with.
With distance, I could see the mean-spirited nature of the anti-gay movement, and the naked way large Christian organizations used the “gay threat” to raise money. Free from the constraints of a congregation, I could spend more time actually looking at the biblical texts that deal with homosexuality, and I was surprised to find they were not as clear as I had supposed they were. At this point, I have done a 180 on the topic. And I believe it’s a change for the good.
Of course it is. We don’t hear stories about people using intellect, reasoning and reality to become bigots. Rather, it’s stories like these, happening in pulpits and congregations across the nation, that are becoming more commonplace. It’s hard to live in the real world and continue to accept the lies of the Religious Right about gay people. That’s why the fundamentalists have lost so many of their young people. The way it used to be, people could be fairly cloistered in their little communities, and absent the knowledge of real gay people, they could convince themselves and each other that gay people are some huge threat to their safety and well-being. But now we have this little thing called the internet, and people are more mobile than ever before, and quite frankly, even in Podunk, USA, more and more people have real life experience with gay people.
Kudos to the pastor for speaking out.