OK, the headline refers to a book title that will soon be published. The book will be a chronicle of the LGBT struggle for acceptance in the church.
In the spring of 2011, I began to research the history behind the journey toward full LGBT inclusion in the mainline, Protestant denominations. From the outset, the book was intended to chronicle the parallel journeys of the United Methodists, ELCA Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and the United Church of Christ (UCC).
I visited with a local UCC pastor, who was an out lesbian, for contact suggestions within her denomination. I already had good contacts within my own ELCA. After a geographical move from Northfield, Minnesota to Arlington Heights, Illinois late in the summer, I visited the Gerber-Hart Library of Chicago which stored archival material from the early days of Lutherans Concerned, the Lutheran LGBT advocacy group. Chicago was also the home base of the Methodist advocacy group known as the Reconciling Ministries Network, and I visited their offices and with early Methodist leaders such as Mark Bowman and Morris Floyd. I took a drive up to Madison, Wisconsin for lunch with Steve Webster and Jim Dietrich. Steve had organized the first gathering of gay Methodists way back in 1974. Rev. Amy DeLong corresponded with me about her recent Methodist ecclesiastical trial.
I began to write, and by thanksgiving, I was up to forty pages. During the winter and spring of 2012, Pilgrim Press offered to publish the book, which then carried the title, Gays in the Pulpit. The pages of the manuscript swelled.
I contacted Dr. Louie Crew, the founder of the Episcopal group called Integrity, and he provided valuable information about the Episcopal journey. Later, I contacted Bishop John Shelby Spong. Many are familiar with his voluminous writings, but fewer know about his own role as the leading advocate for LGBT issues within the Episcopal House of Bishops in the late ’80s and ’90s. Professor James D. Anderson served as the editor of the Presbyterian newsletter, More Light Update, for twenty-two years and had written his own article about the history of the Presbyterian journey. My wife and I had dinner with him near his home in Florida, and he loaned me several boxes of archived newsletters. When I traveled to Cleveland to conclude an agreement with Pilgrim Press in the spring, I also visited with UCC LGBT leadership, including Rev. Loey Powell, who had been ordained in 1977. Later, I visited with Rev. Powell and others at the fortieth anniversary celebration of the ordination of Rev. William Johnson that was the theme of the UCC Coalition gathering at Johnson’s alma mater, Elmhurst College, in the Chicago suburbs. I visited with Rev. Johnson, and he provided valuable background information.
In addition to the UCC Coalition gathering in June, the summer of 2012 also included networking at the UMC quadrennial General Conference in Tampa, the biennial Presbyterian General Assembly in Pittsburgh, the Episcopal triennial General Convention in Indianapolis, and the biennial gathering of Lutherans Concerned, renamed to Reconciling Works, in Washington, D.C.
Throughout the process, key subjects of the story have offered great support and background details. They also fact-checked my growing manuscript. The list of helpful correspondents is lengthy.
Though the manuscript was mostly complete by the end of 2012, Pilgrim Press planned the book for inclusion in their fall, 2013 catalog. Thus, the pace slowed considerably during the first half of 2013, but allowed for the addition of new details and revisions. Pilgrim Press suggested a title change, and after receiving comments and suggestions from many of my sources, the title became Queer Clergy, with the pretentious subtitle, A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism. The most recent manuscript contains common material plus five, separate sections on each denomination; altogether, the manuscript consists of nearly seven hundred pages, including nearly nine hundred end notes.
Pilgrim Press has just announced that Queer Clergy will be released in November, 2013, and they have also designed the book cover, which is included below.