There’s a kind of unique club in the world called “friends of Tony and Peggy Campolo.” I’m a grateful member of that group. It began when Tony was the first “big name author” to read my first manuscript and send me some encouraging words. While some established authors might see “up and comers” as a threat, Tony saw me as an ally and colleague and his encouragement and support have meant the world to me.
One of the nicest things Tony ever did for me was introduce me to his charming and brilliant wife. Once, when I was still a pastor with some standing in the Evangelical world, Peggy called me. There was an LGBT-friendly church pastored by a gay man in Little Rock, Arkansas, she explained. They wanted to invite me to speak at a conference they were hosting, but didn’t want to put me in an awkward situation by doing so.
They knew that I was clearly sympathetic to the LGBT cause and critical of the typical conservative Evangelical attitude to LGBT people. But they also knew that if I accepted their invitation, I would be labeled as a “friend of sinners” and association with a “gay church” could cost me whatever fragile credibility I had left in the Evangelical community. Peggy wanted to test the waters with me so she could let them know whether or not to make the invitation.
I prayed about it and said yes, which led to my meeting Randy Eddy-McCain and the beautiful church he served.
What neither Randy, Peggy, nor I knew was that about four months later, one of my sons would be coming out. When he did, I kept thinking, “Thank God my son didn’t have to worry that his coming out would in any way hurt my work and reputation. Thank God Randy and Peggy invited me and I had the chance to ‘come out’ as a publicly gay-affirming ally … before the issue of sexual orientation became a personal reality in my own family.”
With that backstory in mind, you can see why Randy and Open Door Community Church would mean so much to me. And you can see why I’m so thrilled that he is telling his story in a new book, And God Save Judy Garland: A gay Christian’s journey. But it’s not just that connection that makes me want to be an advocate for this book. It’s also that Randy tells a story that needs to be told, and he tells it honestly, compassionately, courageously, and beautifully.
Sadly, the people who most need to read a book like this too seldom do. And when they do, they often do so (pardon the nerdy Star Trek references) on red alert with their defector shields up and their photon torpedoes fully armed. If you’re one of those readers who feels nervous even listening to the words of an outspoken “gay Christian, ” first, let me congratulate you for your courage in getting this far. And second, let me remind you that Jesus’ message similarly made people nervous. He dared question old certitudes about who was clean and unclean, who was acceptable and unacceptable, who was in and out. That’s why he so often had to say, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear!”
You may be a Christian who is questioning your own sexual orientation and you’re opening this book feeling a different kind of uncertainty mixed with hope. You’re wondering how “coming out” will affect your family relationships, your church relationships, and most important, your relationship with God. All I can say is that I can think of no better pastoral care for you at this moment than what you’ll receive in these pages from Randy.
You may already be part of the choir, people who are sympathetic to Randy and the good work he is doing. “Preaching to the choir, ” I’ve learned, isn’t a bad thing. If the choir learns to sing better, more and more people will hear the music.
If that happens, “somewhere over the rainbow” may, like the Kingdom of God, appear a little more among us, here and now, “on earth as it is in heaven.”