I must say that it is truly an experience to be “outed” when you are a community leader and religious figure. I always knew that at some point I would have to share with my congregation that I married the love of my life—and that she is a woman—but I wanted to wait until the right time. In hindsight though, would the “right time” ever have come?
I got married in March 2013 to my best friend.
It was truly a great day! It was one of the greatest days for me on my journey called life. I had to drive to Iowa to get married because Michigan does not allow same-sex marriages. Iowa was about six hours away, but no number of hours was too far to legally marry the one I love.
I knew my marriage would not be welcomed by some, so I held it until I felt “released in my spirit” to share my news. That day never came. Seven months later, I was informed by another pastor, who I considered a friend, that there was some “buzz” about me possibly being married to a woman.
I was totally shocked that my whole life was about to be exposed without my permission. It was like a snowball traveling down a very steep hill—the ball was rolling very fast! It got to the point where I knew that, as the pastor of my church, I had to inform my Deacons so we could discuss how to handle this delicate situation. Collectively, we decided to wait two weeks to present the information.
As the ball continued to roll down the hill, picking up speed every second, I let the Deacons know that I felt the best thing to do would be to tell the congregation immediately. They agreed.
On Sunday morning, October 6, I did something that I was not really prepared to do: I “came out” to my congregation during our worship service.
My congregation was shocked. Some were hurt and disappointed. Some simply could not believe it. But when I opened the floor for comments regarding what I had just said, some people stood up and shared kind words of expression: “Pastor, I love you. I support you.” One expressed being upset. Some said, “Pastor, I’m shocked, but I support you.” One person even said, “Pastor, do you, because so many others are doing them.”
I had remained faithful as I represented the church in our community—nothing had changed. Many across the city did not share this view, and they called to express their opinions to members of my congregation. Disclosures about my marriage caused conversations about my personal life across the leadership of Detroit, which began to feel like bullying to me.
I went into greater prayer about how to handle this situation in the church and in the community, and I heard God clearly. As a spiritual discerner, having had the same theological and doctrinal belief in the past as a Baptist (which had now changed), I knew that I needed to get the truth to the people of Detroit. I called the newspaper to share my side of the story because of the “buzz” going around in the city about my marriage.
Before giving my first interview to the Michigan Chronicle, the deacons and I agreed on a mutual resignation from me as pastor from my church because of the potential for conflict. Some members wanted me to stay and some wanted me to leave.
The church was split, which was the last thing I wanted to happen.
As pastor of the church, I knew that God would not want me to divide the church on this issue. I loved the members, I loved being the pastor to this flock, I loved being a leader in this community, I enjoyed the many wonderful programs we provided and gave at the church, and my heart was truly with the people. However, it was best to leave the church as one body, resign my pastoral position, and to allow God to speak to their hearts.
I was affiliated with numerous religious organizations that were not yet, as a whole, as progressive in their theology and Christology as I was. I therefore believed it to be best to leave rather than battle with these communities over scriptures and doctrine. Simply put, there would be no dialogue or discussion to see if we could come to an understanding on theological position or have a meeting of the minds. This is why I resigned from many of my religious affiliations.
The one thing I am sure of is that I still have the same passion and drive for my ministry and the same anointing on my life as I had before my marriage. I am confident that same-gender loving individuals can lead God’s people and serve God’s church with integrity. As a matter of fact, I now have a double portion, because my spouse now enhances who I am in ministry.
I have often said that you have to be friends first before you can have a successful marriage. My spouse is my best friend, and she has been a great blessing and support system through it all. Just as much as my spouse enhances me, our commitment enhances my ministry.
It does not matter who you are, we are all made in God’s image.
It does not matter what color you are, we are all made in God’s image. It does not matter what your sexual orientation is, we are all made in God’s image.
God created us in God’s likeness. And if God calls same-gender loving individuals from amongst the people to be leaders, who is anyone else to say that we cannot serve?
Weapons may form, but the word of God says that they shall not prosper. We all must remember: “What God has for you – IS for you.” My spouse and I, while stepping out as our “authentic selves,” are given an opportunity to express love and support among the “least of these.”
God is granting miracle manifestations DAILY as we go on this journey. We have had an opportunity to witness to other pastors and ministers who are in same-gender marriages, but live in fear of coming out. We have had many conversations and received tremendous encouragement from other pastors who are still serving in the church and are in same-gender marriages. We have received an overwhelming number of text messages, phone calls and emails from ally and supportive pastors, who identify as heterosexual, but have told us that they support us, love us, and have a great degree of respect for us, and my honesty and integrity.
The support of people from across the country and around the world lets us know that God is an AWESOME GOD.
God is much larger than me or this situation. The haters have thrown their stones, but thanks be to God, the future of my ministry lies in the Potter’s Hands—God is still doing great things in my life.
I welcome any opportunity to speak on moving forward with an inclusive community. I welcome preaching engagements to share the gospel and good news of Christ. I welcome the opportunity to lecture on what it means to be a welcoming community and an affirming community. I welcome the opportunity to pray for the people of God.
I am open to this new level that God has placed me on and ready to move to help the people of God show the love of God all across the world. GOD IS LOVE. I am prepared to serve ALL of God’s people with God’s help.
Please note that God will use you, change you, and shift you, even when you are not ready.
Point being—the CAUSE will find you. The CAUSE to stand up for justice. The CAUSE to speak out for human rights. The CAUSE to be a voice to the voiceless. The CAUSE to be a catalyst to bring forth change. The CAUSE to show love to everyone. The CAUSE to empower the least of these. The CAUSE to shift the minds of those who stand in the way of freedom, hope, power and love.
The CAUSE HAS FOUND ME!!
Photo by Tyrone Holmes