There’s a reason I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been busy. 660 double-spaced pages. 173,871 words. 829 endnotes. But, now the manuscript for Gays in the Pulpit is complete, and I have sent it off to Pilgrim Press, the publisher. To be sure, there will undoubtedly be further revisions based upon editorial feedback, but I have reached a significant milestone in the process. I think that the timeline of Pilgrim Press is for a release in the summer/fall of 2013.
In the early-spring of 2011, I thought about using some of the hundreds of Spirit of a Liberal blog posts as the core of a book, but that idea soon morphed into a much broader project. Rather than just writing about the ELCA decisions of 2009, I would go back to the beginning of LGBT activism within the Lutheran predecessor bodies. That idea, too, soon mushroomed into a pan-denominational historical retrospective of each of the five principal mainline denominations (United Church of Christ, Episcopal, ELCA, Presbyterian, and Methodist) . Later, while lunching with early Methodist activist Mark Bowman, he rightly suggested that I was taking on a “huge universe.”
I sent queries to the major denominational publishing houses. Pilgrim Press of the United Church of Christ expressed interest but said it would be after the first of the year (2012) before they would seriously look at the project. I started writing anyway, but didn’t get very far before a residential move from Northfield, Minnesota to Arlington Heights, Illinois interrupted the process. Settled into the Chicago suburbs by October 1, I had forty or fifty pages written by Thanksgiving, and by February Pilgrim Press had accepted the project.
Contacts with leadership of the various gay-advocacy organizations in each denomination resulted in “leads,” and one led to another. I have benefited from face-to-face interviews with iconic figures in each denomination. Private collections of early documents have been graciously shared. Many early pioneers have offered assistance via phone calls and emails. Still others have fact-checked my writing.
One of my early concerns was that I was an interloper, a straight man writing a gay history, but the support I have received has calmed my apprehensions. A common refrain has been that these are stories that need to be told.
I have been thinking a lot these days of our lesbian, gay, and bisexual sisters and brothers and supporters who have gone before us to bring us to this time and place. I wish that I knew more of their names. I wish I knew more of their stories.
I have been moved to tears by the poignancy of the stories, and my ongoing worry is that my retelling does them justice. Conflict and celebration. Hope in the face of despair. Struggle for human dignity. Stay tuned.