Ok, so it has been a while since my last post, so much has been happening in my life but i'm back! This past year has been, without question the most difficult and maybe the most rewarding year of my life. I cannot think of many things that can change in someone’s life that haven’t changed in mine this year. Obviously coming out, getting engaged and getting married are all really important parts of this year and I have about one billion blog posts that I want to write about choosing love over fear and how much I have learned and I will write those too. But this post is about another thing that has been changing in me this year. This is a post about God, church, an unlikely friendship and a new adventure.
You may be wondering why there is a picture of a random white guy at the top of this post… that’s Cory. That big beacon of privilege has not only been a really important part of the last year of my life but has also become a really dear friend.
On June 1st 2016, I spent my last day as a pastor at the church I used to work at. It was my last day as a pastor there and deep down, I knew that within a few months I would be out and I imagined that I wasn’t only done being a pastor there but that I was done being a pastor for the foreseeable future. It can be hard to imagine doing something that you have never seen and at that point, and still today, I don't know of any or haven't seen any pastors or preachers who were also out members of the LGBT community. To me, coming out and choosing Sami meant saying goodbye to this part of my life and honestly, I was ok with that.
Shortly after leaving the church, I got a random message from a guy named Cory and it simply said “I read your blog, I also used to work at a big church and left. Do you want to grab coffee sometime?” I had no idea who this guy was but honestly, it was the “me too” that I was looking for. In case you’re wondering, a lot of doors don’t necessary fly open when you are trying to figure out what to do after being a pastor at a megachurch and also you just came out.
So Cory and I began a friendship and I began my year of wandering. I ended up filling an interim role at a university in their African American resource center for a while, I started my own speaking and consulting business, I gave a TED talk, I said yes to anything that came my way and tried everything I could think of and it was awesome and terrifying and confusing and I am so grateful for this year. But still, every week I would hang out with Cory and we would just talk and dream about the possibility of telling a bigger story about God. Cory asked me to preach at his church a few times this year and I couldn’t believe it, I love preaching and I thought I had to give that up but as we kept meeting and I kept wandering, it became clear that something special was stirring up and happening.
Its no secret to anyone that the evangelical church in America is in bad shape. The resemblance between the church and the teachings of Jesus seems to keep growing farther and farther apart. We have whole systems and organizations based off of fear and keeping people comfortable and this is nothing new, the church has always struggled with power and fear and comfort. I am not saying this to bash the church because I hate it, I am saying this because the whole bible is essentially a collection of stories about a small group of people, asking bigger questions and challenging the religious empire of the day. I certainly do not have all of the answers… well, actually I don’t have any of the answers but I do have more questions than ever and that is strangely comforting.
This past year, I have NEEDED to have a bigger understanding of God… I needed God to be less petty than just someone in the sky who says pastors can’t marry two people who are gay, I needed to understand a God that is bigger than a true love waits pledge card and Awana badges, a God that doesn’t look at women and say “wow, you are really talented, if only you were a man then you could really do something” a God that was concerned more with empire building than people was no longer a sufficient enough understanding. The story of God HAS to be bigger than that!
So every week, we sit and talk about the possibility of a bigger story of God and how to tell it. Cory and I made an office in his garage and we put up a giant piece of paper with all of these ideas and lines and circles (it looks like the chalkboards from a beautiful mind except there’s no math involved) but at the top, written in giant letters is a question, a question that I have been asking and want to keep asking for a very long time: “what does this say about God?”
What is the story that we are telling about God? With our churches, with our lives, are we telling the story of a petty, punitive God? A God of justice? Love?
A few weeks ago in church, there was a cup sitting on a table and we talked about how for some of us, we grew up understanding God as the cup, it was understandable, the answers were all there, we could grasp it. But as we go on in life and ask questions and dig deeper, we realize that cup was sitting on a table the whole time and our understanding gets bigger and then we realize the table is in a room and the room is in a city and so on. This whole thing is bigger than any of us realize and I want to have no part in making it small again. I want to be committed to growing and asking questions and telling a bigger story about God because we are all telling stories about God and I want to tell the one that says God is bigger than I thought.
So, a few months ago Cory asked me to join him as a pastor at New Abbey. I went and I talked to Sami and I told her that Cory wants me to be a pastor at New Abbey and to start in June. Sami started crying and reminded me that June 1st is exactly one year from where my other journey ended. I don’t think it is any coincidence that my year of wandering brought me to a new adventure that will be full of me asking even more questions.
Side note, if you’re in the area and want to be a part of a conversation telling a bigger story about God or if you have questions or if you just want to hang out... Come, and be a part of what we are doing.
We are not perfect at New Abbey, no church is perfect anywhere. But we will keep asking ourselves “what does this say about God?” because these stories we are telling about God are important and people are listening.
God is so much BIGGER than I ever thought and I can’t wait to keep learning and telling that story.