(COC’s foremost purpose is to provide a place for Covenanters to tell their story of “Coming Out.” We welcome submissions. We thank the author, who chooses to remain anonymous, for sharing their story.)
I recently read that for its first two hundred years Shakespeare’s King Lear floundered. From 1642 until 1660 the Puritan revolution had closed theatres across England. Nahum Tate, the son of a Puritan clergyman, saw his role in the burgeoning British empire as his ability to improve its literature. In 1681 he introduced a sanitized version of Lear, which dominated the stage for 150 years. What was the reason for his re-write? Lear’s actions were inexplicable to the minds of Puritans who detected no moral uplift as a result of the trials that he endured. Tate resolved the problems by: changing the character’s motivations, having the actors who exhibited lesser moral fiber die in the end, and re-scripting Lear as a victim of villains. The last scene resolves the play in merriment with actors, Enjoy[ing] the present Hour, nor fear[ing] the Last. The play ends with all of the characters jigging off the stage to Pharrell William’s lyrical tune, Happy.
For the past twenty-five years I’ve been a close friend with the most gifted organist to ever play in a church that I served. Now in his seventies, he is still invited each year to perform at festivals that feature some of the oldest organs in the USA. And there was another, a vocalist with an operatic baritone voice, with whom I have sadly lost touch. A Native American, he specialized in 19th century hymns. Standing at the front of the church, with long black hair sitting on his shoulders, his singing was wonderfully moving. Each of these men made profound impacts on the congregations I served through their participation in worship. Both loved Christ; both knew themselves loved by Christ. Each of them were, and are, homosexual. And there were others: Christian educators, doctoral students, parishioners, vowed religious brothers and sisters, priests, Protestant pastors, and even Covenant clergy.
Some of the first words in the Gospel of John are, In the beginning was the logos. Greeks understood the word logos as indicative of a language used to develop linearly logical arguments that could then be debated. And John uses it to indicate that his writing too will be logical, but in a different way. John’s usage of the word logos challenges all of us to give up our ordered notions of God and to exchange it for the logic with which God makes sense of the world, which is actually pathos…the manner in which we are related to one another. In other words, God’s logic enters our lives at a transformative gut-level…and the single greatest indicator of whether we have acquired God’s logic, is whether we truly love or not. King Lear stands in relation to the rest of Shakespeare’s writings as the Gospel of John, or the drama of Job, stands in relation to the rest of Scripture; these are remonstrations and chastenings.
It has been nearly 20 years since the Evangelical Covenant Church took its non-binding vote on human sexuality in 1996. When that happened I began to caution homosexual Covenant friends, colleagues, and parishioners to start looking for a new spiritual home. It was difficult for me to do and difficult for many to hear. And I myself began a measured retreat from Covenant ministry a few years later until I eventually, and quietly simply stepped out of Covenant ministry altogether. I went through a deep and horrible grieving process throughout this time. I grieved because the love that I extended to all people equally and indiscriminately as a minister of Christ’s was silenced and seen as traitorous by the spiritual family who had convinced me when I was growing up that God is love.
I will always greatly value my Covenant roots. I still promote everywhere and with everyone the Covenant’s motto, that I am a companion of all who fear Thee. I wish my Covenant friends well in being this when it comes to fully understanding, and truly loving all people, including those in the LGBT community without any strings attached. It’s certainly not an issue for my children who are now adults and who can’t quite wrap their minds around why it is so difficult for the church in which they were raised to do this? They, too, know that they are no longer welcome in the Covenant and attend worship elsewhere. I recently had a friend comment to me that it was a lot easier for them to love LGBT’s than to love the Christians who don’t love LGBT’s. I wryly told them that I thought that that was a pretty profound statement and that if they chewed on that long enough they ran the risk of actually living their way into God’s reign! It certain is much easier to fully accept LGBT’s than many Christians seem to be making it.