Tag Archives: UCC

Happy Anniversary to my wife

Seven years ago  we ended our 18 year engagement , left Indiana to elope to Iowa. Actually our marriage  had been affirmed in a church years before. This wasn’t recognized legally.

See, we lived in Indiana. We actually met in Philadelphia in 1989.  We fell  in love later, in 1991. But marriage wasn’t legal.  Mind you many denominations and faith communities affirmed same gender marriage, but States did not. Then slowly they began to get our of religious side of marriage.

When Mike Pence and others point out they respect religious freedom they are full of it. They respect THEIR religious freedom and their interpretation. They are of courses entitled to it. But stop insulting those of us of many faiths who believe otherwise.

I was an ordained UCC minister serving as a Pastoral Associate in Indianapolis. And Indiana continued to discriminate.  My denomination was one of  the first mainline denominations to affirm same gender marriage. (in 1992 over 11 larger denominations did). Even though there is separation of Church and  State, we could not be married in our own Church. Our  pastor,   faith community I served in , our Church could not host our marriage. We wanted to be be  married IN our denomination- IN our church.

We began to look to Iowa, which had recently affirmed same sex marriages.  We spoke often with a UCC minister at Faith United in Iowa City. He properly counseled us about the commitment of marriage etc.  And we made a date. July 16th.

Without a word to my Senior Pastor on why I needed 2 days off,  and with only 2 friends, it was off to Iowa City!

Aside from Alice and Bill, we had no one coming to celebrate with us. In true extravagant welcome, Rev. Bruce Kittle asked if he could invite others.  We were thrilled. Faith UCC also provided music, a violinist ( a perfect addition as my wife plays violin). As it turned out, we were the first same gender marriage. And many of the guests were from local denominations- United Methodist, a rabbi, Presbyterian and others I forget. They witness our vows to one another. And the Church provided everything. And we were married.

Iowa was wonderful.  From the county clerks office , the  rehearsal dinner (the 4 of us),  and the wedding, there was never any bias toward us. We were married!

I never forget driving home and stopping at a rest area to upload wedding photos. A dear little old woman was manning the rest area  for hospitality. Iowa had WIFI in their rest areas in 2009. I hesitated as I struggled to get on the computer and she asked if she could help me. Discrimination runs deep..   here is this lil old lady and I  thought would she call me a sinner ?  or worse?

She was thrilled. She complimented me on my dress, and my beloved in her tux. She looked at each photo. I cried.

and then…. we crossed the State line  back to Indiana. And that Sunday, I announced our wedding. And for some in our congregation, and later my family, it sunk in how the laws of Indiana  were discriminating.  Many thought we were. Many thought we could.  And I do believe I was the first UCC  ordained openly  gay person to be legally married in the Indiana Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ,  if not the entire denomination.

Yet  what hurts , what resonates, is when the  the Pastoral Associate cannot be married in her own church.. ,,. then I remember Iowa and Faith UCC and look into my wife’s eyes and our wedding party. And I am happy.

Religious Freedom means all religions.

And love is love.


wedding 009

Racism/Hate/Evil is not a Mental Illness. SIT with that for awhile.

We knew it wouldn’t take long. Before we even heard the names of the victims- we heard from media that the suspect was mentally ill. Enough.


Dylan Roof has made it quite clear, as have others, that he hated this group of people.  He wanted to kill them just for being who they were- black.  And yet the media and others toss out the synonyms for mental illness ad nauseaum.

We must stop this labeling.  Foremost, the fact is that those who are mentally ill are more often the victims.  Thus sliding in the euphemisms for mental illness so early after a violent event plants the seed that society doesn’t need to look any further.  Mental illness will be the avenue the media and law enforcement travel.

Why?  Why not, for at least a DAY sit with the concept that racism. is. real. Racism.and. hate. exist. People are evil.  (And no, evil is not a mental illness either, Scriptural herd of swine perpetuate THAT myth).

I strongly believe that authentic discussions on racism are so raw and emotional that society prefers to avoid all but a cursory nod to racism when it comes to violent acts. So much easier to label someone mentally ill. “See? SEE? He’s sick, he’s deranged, and his mental state is in question.” And with that WE feel better. Whew. The evil is no longer among us. There’s a reason- we can point to it. We can rest.

Except mental illness demands its own attention from society. One not connected to the ugliness of racism.

The idea that anyone could be murdered while in a house of faith is anathema to many in the United States. So it MUST be the actions of a mentally ill person. (Consider how many mosques, temples, shrines are bombed in the Middle East and Africa on a weekly basis – you don’t hear mental illness, you hear terrorist).

Terrorism is not a stranger to US soil despite what media wants you to believe. Nine beautiful souls are gone in Charleston and Emmanuel AME as a result of hatred and racism. Six faithful worshippers at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin   were murdered in 2012 due to bigotry and hate; Nine Monks in a Buddhist temple in Phoenix were executed for no reason in 1991. Black lives are being targeted.

I am begging people to think. To have that difficult, uneasy discussion, to sit with the concept that no, this cannot be explained away by a diagnosis. This is tough work. It’s not easy.  I am a Chaplain, an ordained minister in the UCC.  I do not sugar coat facts nor say things to make those I minister with feel better. (In reality that IS the work of a Chaplain- to companion in the messiness of life and meet the other where they are. Happiness is not the goal.)

So I implore my fellow ministers to choose their words carefully for their Sabbath sermons and prayer services. Do NOT choose the easier softer way and default to mental illness, sick mind, deranged, etc.  Embody the pastors who were massacred Wednesday night- step out into the world- BE in the world- with its racism and hate and allow the discussion and anger and emotions to happen. Do not damper anyone’s grief with solutions and reasons for an evil act.

Make no mistake. I am not saying there is no hope. What I AM saying is that we must address this racism in our country now. Black lives matter. (I hear you mumbling all lives matter—- stop that too).

Can we- as a country – in 2015 – focus on the terrorist attacks on Black lives? Can we sit with THAT? At least for 24 hours? For a week? For a month?

Let’s start today. It is racism. Not mental illness.