Here are some books that our readers are recommending.
From L. Louise: Stranger at the Gate, by Mel White
Stranger at the Gate is a fascinating tale of one man’s struggle for religious freedom. Rev. Mel White was a pastor, teacher and writer. He wrote speeches for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and many others. The book traces his life from his childhood experiences, through his marriage, and finally to his coming out and his ministry of today. Rev. White takes us on a Christian history tour of the right wing fundamentalists as he describes their movements and activities during the time that he was writing for them. He outlines his life and the tremendous torture that he experienced as he tried to reconcile his gayness with the God that he knew and loved. Rev. White describes his attempts at not being gay, the medical and psychological atrocities that he tried, to not allow himself to be gay. In his words:
I had tried being honest, but honesty had caused everyone too much suffering. This time, I would not be honest. I would protect my marriage. I would save my family. I would guarantee my vocation as a Christian writer, filmmaker, and public speaker. For everybody’s sake, I would go on living in the closet forever. (p. 179)
Thankfully Rev. White did not go in the closet forever, but eventually, and painfully found his way through the web of religious abuse and finally came to the clear light of reality of being gay and being a Christian. His story is moving and inspiring. Because he was a pastor, all of the abuses piled against him were more intense then want many lay people experience. He has had the courage to go back and confront the religious leaders that he wrote for and offer to enter dialogue with them about gay Christians.
To date no one has taken him up on his offer. Rev. White is now part of the justice ministry of MCC. He story is definitely worth the time to read.
For almost forty years I had been plagued by guilt and fear. Finally after decades of “ex-gay” therapy, needless guilt, and growing despair, I had learned to celebrate my sexual orientation as another of God’s gracious gifts and to take my place in the world as a responsible and productive gay Christian. In my lowest moments, I had wanted to die. I never dreamed that one day I would be happy or hopeful again. (p. 267)
From L. Louise: We Were Baptized Too, by Marilyn Alexander and James Preston
We Were Baptized Too is a very interesting book that questions mainstream Christianity. What is mainstream Christianity’s responsibility towards gay church members?
The book is set within the Methodist organization, but is truly relevant to any mainstream denomination. It has a forward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The book consists of stories of people’s experiences, specifically of their baptism experiences. It contrasts their experiences with the way their church’s related to them after they discovered and disclosed their gayness. What it means to be Christian and gay is throughly explored. The covenant that the church makes with a new believer through the sacrament of baptism is also explored and determined that mainstream Christianity keeps their covenants selectively.
Every Sunday morning, mainline Christian congregations across this country welcome into their fold newly baptized Christians. Within the liturgy, these congregations pledge their undying support to accept, love, forgive and nurture this person in faith. (p. XIII)
Given the terms of the covenant, what is the church’s responsibility toward their baptized members? This book explores it in a personal and intense way. It is worth your time to read, especially in light of the recent Methodist and Anglican denominational meetings that condemned their gay members.
From Twila Chaloupek: From Wounded Hearts, by Roberta Schowalter Kreider
I have not yet finished reading this book, though it deserves review. From Wounded Hearts is compiled by Roberta Schowalter Kreider. She has gathered stories of LGBT persons, their parents and friends. Roberta’s brother was the person who inspired she and her husband to study the whole issue of Homosexuality. For a couple in their ’70s, their views are less than “traditional mainstream Mennonite.”
I personally met Roberta and Harold this summer when they came to Wichita, Kansas to the Supportive Congregations Network (of the Brethren and Mennonite Fellowship of Concerns for Lesbian and Gay Affairs) International meeting. What a wonderful experience. Both Harold and Roberta are a breath of fresh air. Harold is a retired Mennonite pastor.
The book is available through Roberta & Harold Kreider or from Chi Rho Press.