Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One Year Later (Part I)

Hey, Bloggers...

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I suppose I should tell you at the outset that it's probably going to take me several days to say everything I want to say. I don't post here on the blog as much as I used to...these days, for the most part, I just communicate through the social media (Facebook, Twitter) like everyone else. But today I wanted to write some things here to catch you all up on where we are, and to answer some of the questions that so many of you have asked.

As you may or may not know, tomorrow marks the year anniversary of my publicly "coming out",  a term with which I am still, for whatever reason, trying to become completely comfortable.

On Wednesday, October 13, 2010, I shared something entitled, "A Real Message to Real People" with the CITN congregation, which has now become the most watched/heard/talked about message of my entire 40 years of ministry. In it I talked about my lifetime effort of trying to harmonize two personal absolutes which have been a part of me for as long as I can, the call of God on my life...the other, my sexual orientation. I explained how I didn't ask for either of them, and how that, through a series of events including the amicable divorce that Debye had sought a year earlier,  I had come to terms with both of them. 

The tape of the service went viral on the internet almost immediately after I delivered the message, became for a few days the video with the most hits on YouTube, and garnered an unbelievable amount of unexpected media exposure in the following weeks and months. The response to it was, for me, astounding. I suppose I was rather naive in my anticipation of the ultimate fall-out from it...I honestly did not expect it to be such a big deal for some reason. On that Wednesday night I had no plan or outline of what I wanted to script or pre-meditation of it at all. I know that I communicate best when I just speak right from my heart, so that's what I did. I also knew that if I had over-thought what I was going to say, I probably would have talked myself out of saying anything at all.

Had I known beforehand that the video was going to become so high profile, I would have no doubt phrased a few things that I said that night differently. I have since then offered my apologies more than once to anyone who was offended by anything that was stated. But there has not been one day in the last year that I haven't heard from someone somewhere in the world who wanted to thank me for it, or to tell me that it changed their perception of God or of religion or of people with same sex attraction. Many have told me it changed or even saved their life. Atheists have told me that it made them want to believe in God again. Straight people have told me that it helped them come to terms with their gay friends and family members, or even with their own authenticity issues. Some gay teens have told me it kept them from considering suicide, and many of their parents have told me that it opened up broken lines of communication, and brought much-needed healing to their families. So even though the letter of the message wasn't perfect, the spirit of it apparently came through loud and clear, and for that I am very grateful.

So now I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight on several issues, and to inform those of you who sincerely care about me and my family and about CHURCH IN THE NOW of where we are on the journey.

There was a good bit of speculation a year ago about my real reason for coming out when I did. On many of the blogs that discussed me ad nauseum, the rumor was that there was a gay scandal about to come out on me, and so I used the opportunity to get in front of the story and do some damage control. But anyone who knows me knows that, if there had indeed been a scandal, I would not have assumed that it would end my ministry, so I wasn't afraid at all of that possibility. I have sown a lot of mercy over the years, and so I always expect to reap mercy.

But, as you can see, here we are a year later and no such scandal has ever surfaced for the very simple reason that one did not exist. No one outed me. No one threatened to out me. Even with Debye divorcing me, I could have gone the rest of my life and never publicly admitted to my sexuality...I could have just avoided the subject altogether, as many closeted celebrities and high profile ministers do. Truth be told, if anything at all outed me, it was my own life's message of building the Kingdom of God with Real People Experiencing the Real God in the Real World.

So I guess the first question is: Did you come out because of a scandal?

And the answer is: Obviously not.

OK, let's get on to the other questions...

Q: How is your family?

A: Everyone is doing very well.

It would be a lie to say that this last year didn't put us through some major changes, and it would be misleading to imply that it wasn't hard. It was very hard. But everyone is good. Really.

I came out to Debye before we were married, and I came out to my parents nearly a year before I did it publicly. I came out to my kids not long after that, and because I have been and am a good father, and because they were not raised with any kind of prejudice, including homophobia, all four of them are OK with me. They are OK in general. For Judah and Jonah (my two kids with Debye), our divorce was actually much more difficult for them than the disclosure of my sexual orientation. So October 13 of last year wasn't a shock for any of my immediate family.

Mom and Dad are fine. Dad voluntarily turned in his credentials to the Assemblies of God (after 56 years of ministry) so that he and Mom could freely attend my church. They are on the front row at every service unless they're sick or are out of town. They have no agenda in attending (it's laughable to me that it has been said that my 78 year old Father is promoting the "gay agenda" by attending my church)...Really? My Dad? You know, I don't try to reason with religious people any more, but let me say to any of you who believe that nonsense that my Dad is just being my Dad. My Mom is just being my Mom. It's called unconditional love, something that religious bigots know practically nothing about.

Jared lives in LA and is doing great. Christina and her family live in Key West and they love it there. I don't get to see my girls as much as I would like, but I'm glad they're in a place where they're happy. Judah is the Youth Pastor at CITN EAST, and preaches for me when I'm out of the pulpit. He also has a really cool ministry in Athens now called Ignite Athens. Jonah is in his first year of college and lives in Athens with Judah. My kids are all beautiful, and their support for me in the last year has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Debye is still the Associate Pastor and CFO of CITN, and we work together as we always have. She also travels and speaks and is a certified Life Coach. She and I are still best friends, and she is doing very well. Any questions you have about her personal life is something you would have to ask her.

I was in a relationship for nearly a year with someone that I met just a few days before October 13 which has recently ended and I'm single again. That's all I'll say about that, except that it's all good, and I am very happy with my life as it is.

To be continued...