I was serving in my very first appointment after being ordained and so excited!
It was fun to get together with my colleagues who were in the area. One colleague and I became good friends right away. He had gone to another seminary so I hadn’t known him before. We were both single and would get together to go out to dinner, to movies, or just to hang out. We got into a pattern of calling each other late Saturday to see who had their sermon done first – or what we were going to preach about; “Do you have any ideas? What is your approach to the lectionary scripture for tomorrow?” Then the inevitable, “Ach! Another Saturday night alone! When am I going to meet someone?”
Let’s call my friend Wesley (since I cannot disclose his true identity – soon you’ll see why). I had a great affection for Wesley the minute we met! He was gentle, thoughtful, had a deep spirituality and wry sense of humor. We were very close from the beginning, almost like meeting a soul mate.
Looking back, I know we both hoped that romance would develop between us. We shared of our deepest feelings, talked over everyday concerns, laughed together, talked of our ministry dreams together. But somehow the, well, shall I say ‘spark’ wasn’t there.We couldn’t figure out why. We talked about it and it was a sensitive conversation – sad in a way to say out loud what was not going on between us. It just wasn’t there.
Our friendship remained strong – and grew stronger. We both moved away with new appointments but always stayed in touch, our Saturday evening phone calls even more important than ever.
And we both started dating. Wesley was always shy, gentle and sensitive, and I worried about him sometimes. I hoped that he would meet a nice Methodist young woman in his congregation, who would see the amazing qualities in him that I did, they would fall in love, I would officiate their wedding and baptize their children. But Wesley was always circumspect about his dating.
Then it happened. A few years later at Annual Conference, Wesley came running up to me and gave me a big hug. “I’m in love!” he said. We both had tears in our eyes. I was a little surprised since he hadn’t mentioned he was seeing anyone in particular. He said, “Let me show you his picture. His name is Jim!” Did I hear correctly? Did Wesley say “him” and “Jim”? I found myself looking at a picture of a handsome man. I looked at Wesley and the penny dropped. Yes, he was gay. That’s why there was never that ‘spark’ between us. And I felt an overwhelming sense of joy! I gave him a big hug with tears in my eyes, “I’m so happy for you, Wesley!”
Later, the implications for his life came to my mind: He must remain anonymous in his congregation and in general, he will not get married (at that time it was not legal), he will not have biological children….the list goes on. It was staggering as I thought of all the restrictions he would have to live with, and joys he may never experience, not because he wanted it this way, but because that was “the way things are”.
I vowed in my heart to support him, protect him, and to work on helping others – especially in the church – to realize this was not a choice Wesley made. It’s the way God made him.
Please take my story to heart. Remember there are many people like my dear Wesley. Let’s work together to help others understand, and to be truly open and inclusive, to be truly Christian. “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Rev. Amy Rosenbaum