A Brief Biography
I have always believed I came into this world knowing why I was here. My parents and grandparents loved telling everyone that at age three I announced I was a preacher, at four I was preaching to the chickens as I fed them and at five I was taking the ones I thought were saved to the rain barrel at the corner of the house and baptizing them.!
Growing up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist culture in rural southern Mississippi in the 1950’s, the realization at puberty that I was attracted to other males was devastating. The two most profound experiential realities in my life—that I was meant to be a minister and that I was homosexual—felt irreconcilable. By the time I went to college I was a house divided. At times I loved my spirituality and despised my sexuality. At other times I embraced my sexuality and resented my spirituality. While in college, I married a wonderful woman, hoping my orientation would change or that I could successfully hide it.
After college and two years in the military, my wife, young son and I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where I entered Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was there that I realized I could not preach the truth and live a lie, and it was then I experienced the only single event in my life that I cannot explain as anything except a literal miracle. I found a copy of The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay by Reverend Troy Perry. Shortly thereafter, I drove to Chicago and found Good Shepherd Parish MCC. I was 30 years old and for the first time, during that worship service, the warring realities that were my life made peace. My spirituality and sexuality were reconciled for the first time and that night I new where and how I would spend the rest of my life.
After returning home and coming out to everyone I knew, and with a divorce in progress, I arrived in Chicago in the Spring of 1974 broken, lost and feeling totally alone in the world. Good Shepherd Parish MCC gathered me in and loved me back to life. In December of that year I was elected the church’s pastor. After my installation service, I was shaking hands and looked up into deep blue eyes that had been distracting me for weeks. That night I prayed, “God, if this is not your will you need to stop me now, because I am making plans for that man’s life.” I have been looking into those same eyes now for 46 years. Tom Cole has been my partner, lover, husband, friend and biggest supporter.
From Chicago our journey led us to California where I served as Pastor of MCC in the Valley, North Hollywood 1982-1989. After working as an HIV Educator and Counselor for the HIV Healthcare Center in West Hollywood, we moved to Austin, Texas where I served as Pastor 1993-2006. I became an MCC Elder January 1, 2007 and retired in 2013.
Today Tom and I, along with a group of dedicated friends, are creating Sanctuary in the Woods, a retreat and event center on our 13 acre homestead outside Austin, Texas.
As I reflect on my life, I can imagine many different directions it might have taken, but none more challenging or rewarding than this.