In 1620, a group of dissidents departed England aboard the Mayflower for the wilderness that would become Massachusetts and religious liberty. Their pastor encouraged them to keep their hearts and their minds open to new ways in the new world because God “hath yet more truth and light to break forth out of his holy Word.”
The Pilgrims had been printers and publishers who incurred the wrath of King James the 1st before they left England. Twenty years after they established the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a printing press arrived from England, and the first American religious publication was the “Bay Psalms Book” in 1640.
Of course, the religious progeny of the Pilgrims would become a central feature of American educational and religious life. Three of their earliest colleges became Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth, my alma mater. When I attended college, the UCC church in the center of Hanover, New Hampshire was known as the “White Church”—not for racial reasons but because it was painted all white.
The UCC and her predecessor church bodies going back to the Pilgrims boast many “firsts”, including a stand against slavery 150 years before the civil war, support for the Boston Tea Party, the first African-American ordained minister, the first female pastor, and the first gay man to be ordained in 1972.
And, the progeny of those original publishers would continue to offer cutting-edge religious publications through the centuries. Three centuries after becoming the first religious press in the colonies, The Pilgrim Press would publish the first book of a young, black minister of the south, Martin Luther King, Jr. The Pilgrim Press, like all religious publishing houses and the publishing industry generally, has cut back in recent years. Currently, they are only accepting 15-20 manuscripts annually for publishing.
And, I am pleased to announce that my book has been selected by Pilgrim Press for publication next year. Gays in the Pulpit will be a look back at the historical journey of the mainline churches toward full inclusion of the LGBT community. The manuscript is about 70% complete.