Gateway: Interpreting and being Gay

On Friday, July 21 I received the following email from Ted, the Teaching Pastor at Gateway:

Your ears were probably burning last night, because we were talking about you at the Gay/Lesbian small group. Don’t worry. Everyone who knew you went around the circle and said what an awesome guy you are and what an example you are to them of a Christ-follower. We started talking about you because someone in the group asked about what would happen if a gay person wanted to lead at Gateway. I recalled a conversation that you and I had at Einsteins probably 4 years ago. You told me your story and about your desire to serve God through doing deaf interpretation. I explained to you that I was excited about that. Even back then, though, it was the policy of Gateway to make sure that all spiritual leaders were walking with God in a pure and healthy way and could serve as examples to anyone who looked at their lives. While I think you may have had a different opinion in regards to the application of that policy to gays, we both agreed that your role was not necessarily a spiritual leadership position.

Fast-forward to a few months ago . . . Gary Foran, our Small Groups Pastor, was introducing some people to you after a church service. I believe they had a son or daughter that was interested in studying sign language. Anyway, while you all were talking, you introduced Benjamin as your “partner” to these folks. These were people who didn’t go to Gateway, and Gary felt very uncomfortable about what they would think.

Hey, if I just met some people, and Stephanie [editor: Ted’s wife] was standing next to me, of course I would introduce her has my partner to anyone. It’s just that in this case, it bothered Gary enough to bring it to our Management Team — John, Gary, Charles, and Ted. They started a conversation with me about your role. Some of them feel like it is a position of spiritual leadership — that you are communicating Scripture from up front. I told them that I don’t view it that way. You’re in a serving role, which you do faithfully and sacrificially and with excellence, and it would be a mistake for us to walk around disqualifying people from service just because we had questions about one thing or another in their character.

That’s about as far as the conversation went with those guys, but I get the sense that it’s going to re-surface soon. Recently we removed a woman from a prominent spiritual leadership position because she had an affair and was unrepentant about it. As would be expected, her response was, “What about this person and what about that person? Do you know what they do? Why are you focusing on only me?” And so the past couple of weeks we have been talking through different folks in leadership that we need to have hard conversations with. It’s not going to be pretty.

I can’t help but think that soon I’m going to be asked to have a “talk” with you. That would break my heart because of the friendship I have with you and Benjamin and because of my belief that you are not necessarily in a spiritual leadership position. It would further break my heart because of the ramifications it will have on many in the gay community, whose friendships I also cherish. So, I was wondering if you and I could talk things over unofficially before this goes any further. I want to hear your perspective, and even your frustration. Maybe together we can figure out some kind of solution.

Casey, you and Benjamin are an important part of this church. I’m sure it hurts you tremendously just to read this email. I’m sorry for that. I just think that before the current situation snowballs, we can have a dialogue and figure something out.

You are welcome to share this email with Benjamin, but please keep it confidential until you and I have interacted more about it. We can carry on this conversation via email, phone, or in person.

Wow, what a way to kill my weekend. I thought about it some and replied back with this few hours later, notice the attempt at humor, that’s often what I do initially to compartmentalize when I feel very hurt:

This almost feels like deja vu .

Last night Terri and I held another Silent Dinner for several folks who are helping out with the Deaf ministry at the church. It’s a chance for folks to practice their signing skills as well as for us to get to know each other better. One of the gals asked if I was planning on attending the Kids Quest Party out at the Massengale Ranch and I said that no, I wasn’t because I didn’t want to go without Benjamin and that I’m trying to ‘lay low’ about my sexuality so church leadership doesn’t ask me to stop signing. They asked what I meant so I explained about the standards for church leadership positions, how being gay didn’t fit in that definition, and that I was operating undercover until the church leadership decided that what I did was a leadership position and was asked to stop.

Looks like I didn’t lay low enough. I recognized that the conversation with Gary would probably come back to bite me but such is life.

I’ll tell you what I told the gals last night: I respect that the church *must* have standards for people who are seen as leaders, in fact – I as a layperson demand it. I obviously disagree where being gay falls into these standards but I accept that standards must be set. I’m wanting to ride this train of helping with the deaf ministry for as long as God has me on it. If God decides that he wants me doing something else (or somewhere else) then so be it. Will I be disappointed? Very much so. Will I be frustrated and heartbroken? Yes. Will I be bitter and jaded, only for a few hours :)

I hate to say it, but this really doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Because of that reason I have had some time to think about what I would want to do if I was asked to step down. Despite thinking about it, I don’t have any good answers at this point. Based on the conversation with the women last night and their reaction, I have concerns that the deaf ministry would be severely hindered. I also have some concern about Gateway’s reputation among the gay population who may feel as though they are being treated as second-class citizens (I’m not even sure that I would disagree with them). I hope and pray that neither happen.

Ho humm… not exactly the email I was hoping for on a Friday afternoon. I don’t mind getting together to talk about it if you’d like. I prefer email or in person as Benjamin tells me that my social phone skills are very very poor and that I don’t communicate well via that medium. I agree that keeping this between you, Benjamin and myself is an excellent approach. I appreciate you giving me a ‘heads up’.

On Sunday afternoon I sent him a second email:

Benjamin and his friend Eric were out at the clubs last night and saw Danny Harvill. Danny made a point of asking Benjamin if you had talked to me. My assumption is that Danny is a part of the GLBT small group. I’m curious exactly what was discussed such that they knew you planned to talk to me. According to Benjamin via Danny – a lot of the gay population will be very upset / possibly leaving the church if I am asked to stop. Not sure how much of that is Danny being dramatic (possibly) and/or Benjamin exaggerating (possibly) and/or it being true. but there you have it.

I shared your email with Benjamin. He took the approach that I thought he would and expressed his concern and frustration about attending a church where gay people were not allowed to be leaders. He said that he recognized that he doesn’t expect any church outside of MCC to be totally accepting of gays but he expected more from Gateway. He also said that while he loves the building, the people, the music of Gateway, that he doesn’t need Gateway to worship God and asked why we should attend or financially support a church that doesn’t support us. Granted, he can get pretty dramatic when he’s really passionate about something so take all of that with a grain of salt, but I can’t say that I disagree with his sentiments. [pause] I just want to talk to him about this paragraph and he said his essence is he feels now that he has been supporting a church via One Life that is indirectly working against him.

I reminded him that nothing had been decided for sure yet. After I said those words I had to think about it — the writing is on the wall. I don’t expect the church leadership to change their opinion on this matter so even if it doesn’t end up blowing up now it will always be hanging over my head.

The thing I found truly ironic was your message today. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good message (and a relatively easy one to interpret thankfully) but I found it ironic that here I was, a volunteer who’s volunteering days are possibly numbered, interpreting a message who’s goal was to encourage people to open their eyes to themselves and to God and to go through open doors to serve others either in the church or directly in the community. After the 2nd service today a deaf woman came up to me and introduced herself and thanked me for interpreting for her. She said I did a good job. A hearing woman came up and said that she didn’t understand sign but loved to watch me interpret, particularly the songs. Finally a young man came up and said I did a good job as well and that he was an interpreter too (both of his parents are deaf).

So there you have four rambling paragraphs full of some words but not getting either of us anywhere I fear. Being the analytical person that I am, allow me to make a list of possible future outcomes I can see from this point:

  1. No decision is made (or the decision to not make a decision is made)
    1. I continue interpreting, knowing that the decision might be made at a later time and still feeling like I’m really not welcomed there in my role.
    2. I step down from interpreting as I feel like I am no longer supported by the church staff.
  2. A decision is made to have me step down – I stop interpreting.
    1. I adopt a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy and only tell people why I stopped if ask.
    2. I don’t advertise, but don’t hide, why I stopped.
    3. I lie when asked about why I’m not interpreting (Note: this one won’t happen.)
  3. A decision is made to allow me to continue
    1. I continue interpreting
    2. I stop interpreting due to the knowledge that the reason I’m allowed to continue is due to a technicality of me not being a ‘spiritual’ leader, not actually due to being accepted.

Of course, those don’t really get us anywhere either. I guess the important thing I want to convey is that I don’t feel entirely welcome at the church any longer doing what I love and serving how I feel that God is leading me. That makes me very sad.

Regardless of the decision and outcome I want to ensure that the deaf ministry continues. I also want to ensure that the Gateway gay community stays and feels supported. Finally, I’ve decided that I want all the players in this decision to take responsibility for the final decision and the outcome thereof.

On Sunday evening Ted replies with the following

I really appreciate the thoughtful response in your past two emails. I am really impressed with your reaction — that you want to do what is best the folks in the deaf ministry, but you want the church to act respectfully and fairly. Yes, I can totally see the irony in your situation today. That would have been very hard for me if I had been in your shoes (or in Benjamin’s). I would be very tempted to say “screw it” if I were you, but I hope you don’t.

This is an important opportunity for Gateway to wrestle through what kind of church it is going to be, and I think it is also an opportunity for you to work through what sort of faith community you really want to be in. It’s just much more complex than people want it to be. Certain people on my team want a very black and white response to how we lead leaders and volunteers, a response that doesn’t take into account individual stories. On the other side, I sense from people like Danny and others that this is a very black-and-white issue to them — “You either accept us unconditionally in all aspects, or you don’t. We don’t care what other people think.”

I’m really hoping that all parties can have the courage to wrestle through the gray areas and not abandon the process. A lot is at stake here — a lot of hearts and some very foundational things about our church.

Casey, this is exactly why I came to you unofficially before I might possibly be asked to speak to you officially. I feel like you appreciate the complexity of this more than most people I talk to. And I hope you know that I am willing to put aside assumptions and the need for everything to make perfect sense. Remember, I’m the guy who was willing to meet with you and Benjamin to talk to you about your relationship? That was a risk, and there are many people at Gateway (unfortunately) who would be very angry at me for trying to help two guys improve their love for one another. All of that is to say, I hope I have enough money in the bank with you so that you know my intentions toward you are good. And while you have more at stake in this situation than I do, it still totally sucks for me, too.

Let’s take some time to pray about this and ask God for a wise solution. Are you willing to do that and stay in communication with me on what you are hearing from Him?

So there you have it. I’m not sure what will come of it or what I even want to come of it. There is no easy way out.

It pays to listen to Performance Peons

Customer ran into a bug with our LDAP software that screwed up 250k entries in their LDAP causing them to take it out of production. I asked the IBM service guy on-site repeatedly for the output of two DB2 commands, expecting we could do it directly in DB2 (which LDAP sits on top of) much faster than going through LDAP. Aforementioned IBMer was too busy to run the two (2!) commands I provided to him. Instead he spent a day or so creating a script to fix it using LDAP commands and gave it to the customer. After getting it started, customer estimates that total running time is 10 days. Customer is very unhappy and escalates the situation way up. I get called in. After receiving the output of the two commands, an hour of developing/throughly testing/confirming a script to work in DB2, and 15 minutes to run the script – we’re done.

In short: I do know what I’m talking about, that’s why my (self-given) title is “ITIM Performance Lead (LDAP & DB2 Performance Peon)”. And yes, it really does say that in the internal IBM corporate directory, aka BluePages.

Bumper stickers…

I freely admit to having an irrational massive hatred towards our current President. Heck, I’ve been counting down the days since his second inauguration.

I am even sad enough to transfer this distaste to cars and trucks with pro-Bush bumper stickers (“It’s not my fault you’re in a left-turn-only lane ’cause you can’t read freak’n street signs. That’s what you get you sheep, you’re not cutting in!”) and amusingly grant ‘freebies’ to cars and trucks with anti-Bush bumper stickers (“Well, we can’t all know this crazy Mopac + Braker intersection, come on over”). The same holds true for anti-gay marriage stickers (bad) and pro-gay marriage/HRC stickers (good).

This morning I realized that I need to take a much closer look at the stickers than I apparently have been before. While driving into work this morning I encountered a car with a sticker that at first glance looks just like a Bush/Cheney campaign sticker until you look closer and realize that the ‘campaign date’ isn’t ’04 but 1984. Love it, but a bit too subtle for my taste.

Ranting about today’s news

Warning: This post contains nothing worth reading, your time would be better spent taking a nice walk outside.

What the hell is wrong with the world recently? Am I the only one that thinks the headlines today are over the top? The following are actual news headlines and my rant about the topic.

Pope raps China over bishops
Folks in China appoint two new bishops. Pope Benedict is pissed that he didn’t have a say in the matter. Can you say classic catholicism at its worst? The notion that “the Pope has God’s ear and everyone else is wrong” just blows my mind. Protestant theology holds that God is an equal opportunity employer, yes anyone can talk to him. Not sure why the Pope (or the Catholic church in general) think they have a monopoly on the red hone to God.

US asks Mexico to reconsider ‘stupid’ drug law
So Mexico wants to pass a law that allows people to legally possess a limited amount of currently-illegal drugs. The US government is going ballistic because, well, no one’s sure exactly. The US has claimed that it would encourage “drug tourism” in Mexico – no shit, much like underage youth go across the border to drink. Amsterdam seems to be doing OK. One article has Judith Bryan, the US embassy spokesperson, as saying that they are encouraging Mexico to re-examine the law “to ensure that all persons found in possession of any quantity of illegal drugs be prosecuted or be sent into mandatory drug treatment programmes”. Lets think about that, if Mexico passes the law then they wouldn’t be illegal in small quantities so how exactly are they suppose to prosecute people who are acting within the law? I love how the US will gladly ignore the international community when we go to war with Iraq, an action affecting another country, and yet we have no qualms with telling Mexico what to do about laws that effect its own citizens and Mexico complies. The US is the worst kind of playground bully.

Side rant: America has somehow made a mental connection that “illegal drugs” are drugs that are bad for you, when in reality they are drugs that are illegal to possess. Sure they may also be bad for you for various meanings of the word ‘bad’, but bad != illegal. Someone needs to think up a new term. On the same thought, there’s currently a radio ad here in Austin about some news station doing a story over “Drugs that your students can buy on the streets … legally”. Right, like advil or Pepsid AC ’cause you know those are drugs that students can buy legally now. I’m sure they’re actually talking about some hallucinogenic/mind-altering substance but they have decided to use “drugs” instead. Arg!

Sugary sodas to be pulled from US schools
Thank you Mr. Clinton and the rest of society from protecting America from itself and becoming the parents of our youth. Lets not tackle the harder health problems like why parents can’t send their kids to school with nutritious lunches instead of money for the vending machines, or teach them the value of eating healthy food — no, lets just make it so that they don’t have access to sodas in their schools ’cause that’ll solve the problem. Good thing all of those convenience stores down the streets from those schools aren’t selling those sodas either, oh wait.

Mutant Mice May Hold Clues To Athiesm
Well, actually it was “Hold Clues to Autism” but that’s what I get for reading it too fast.

Little Rock, the Food Tasting, and Littlefield

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Little Rock, AR the last several weeks. I was shipped out there to help a large telecommunications company with some critical LDAP problems they were experiencing in their production environment. Since it is a production environment they have strict change management controls which dictate that we can only make “atomic” changes in their environment between 11pm and 5am. This made things complicated as we had about 10 changes that needed to be made and were told we could only make one of them a night. When I left last week (on the 5th) they still had about 5 changes to get in. The change window was a pain as well. I’d work from around 8:30am until 6:00pm monitoring their systems and determining what other problems existed and how to best fix them. I’d head out to the hotel, then to a restaurant for dinner, and back up to the customer site at 10:45pm to make the changes needed and with luck I was back at the hotel and in bed at 2am. This went on for about a week (Mar 31 to Apr 5). The flip side is that I identified many many areas in their environment that needed to be changed to better stabilize their systems — most of which we were able to accomplish before I left. Based on an email that was sent to the IBM account team, the customer loved me and my work which is always a nice reward.

During that time Benjamin and I had our food tasting for the wedding. Once a season the Barr Mansion has a buffet dinner for several dozen couples to allow them to get an idea of what menu options are available for their upcoming event. Since I simply could not miss this (according to Benjamin) I flew back to Austin from Little Rock on Saturday evening, interpreted at church on Sunday morning, attended the food tasting Sunday night, and was back in Little Rock by 9am on Monday morning. Talk about a whirlwind weekend! The tasting itself was fun. We weren’t the only gay couple there although we were greatly outnumbered by our heterosexual brethren. We by chance picked an excellent table as the two other couples at the table were very cool and gay-friendly.

I finally made it back to Austin from Little Rock on Wednesday the 5th only to turn around on Thursday and drive up to Littlefield. As my role of Computer Guru for my dad, I had several computer-related tasks that I needed to be present for in Littlefield. Over a month ago I had decided to take off work and get it done over a long weekend. The trip didn’t start out well when the Mustang began to overheat when I reached Leander. Thankfully it was Benjamin’s half day so he was at home and was able to meet me in Cedar Park and swap cars. The Fusion is a great car to take on long road trips I’ve decided. Beyond that the trip went well. I accomplished about 95% of what I went up there for, and it was the important 95% at that. As always it was good to see the parents and grandparents.

HRC Gala and Michael Buble

Saturday evening Benjamin and I attended the Austin Human Rights Campaign Annual Gala. This is our third year to attend and also marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the organization. I heartily agree that this year’s event was the best organized from a participant’s perspective. Benjamin and I are HRC Federal Club members, a distinction obtained by contributing over a certain amount to HRC of the course of a year. We’re frequently being invited to Federal Club events although we haven’t attended any of them to date — mostly because we don’t know anyone in the organization. Before the Gala this year the Federal Club gathered for a Pre-Gala Mixer to sip on free wine/champaign/cokes and meet this year’s speaker, Joe Sol., the head of HRC nation wide. Benjamin and I attended and sipped our champaign (Benjamin) and coke (Casey) and proceeded to stand in the corner and talk to each other for about 30 minutes. Yup, we totally copped out and stood in the corner looking like dorks — total affirmation why we don’t attend the more frequent events throughout the year. The silent auction before the dinner was well done. Benjamin and I bid on at least 10 different items and at the time the dinner started was looking to be out about $1k. Luckily (nor not, depending on your perspective) someone went in during the dinner and outbid us on most items. We still walked home with a marble vase, a chandelier (that we discovered has a few missing parts – arg), tickets to the Alamo Drafthouse, tickets to a Zach Scott performance, and gift certificates to Which Wich (a sandwich joint downtown who is building a location on Parmer across from the old Randall’s).

On Sunday we got up bright and early and headed to church. The young deaf woman who has been attending regularly was there again and was particularly attentive during the sermon. I felt I provided a good interpretation although I need to ask Terri the signs for a few words (race, racial, prejudice among others).

Directly after church we drove down to San Antonio and spent the day on the Riverwalk until the Michael Buble concert started at 8pm. The weather was oddly nice in San Antonio despite it being rainy and cold in Austin when we left. The concert itself was very good. I wasn’t sure what to expect really as MB’s sound seems to target a large audience. If you’re not familiar with him, MB is a modern day Frank Sinatra. He has a jazz/big band sound that seems to appeal both to the younger teenie-bopper crowd as well as older folks like my grandmother. Given that diverse fan base I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a crowd surfing concert or a classical recital. Oddly enough it was a little of both. He had a live jazz band on stage and sang songs off both his major albums. There was only one song that Benjamin and I didn’t recognize. MB is a great entertainer. He didn’t just get up there and sing, he worked the crowd making jokes and such during the breaks between songs. The beginning of the show featured his fast songs that got the teenie-boppers rushing the stage (yes, rushing the stage) to take his picture. The tickets specifically mentioned that photography and recording of any kind was expressly prohibitive so Benjamin and I made a point to leave our camera and both cell phones in the car like good little citizens. Apparently not everyone was so inclined. Between one of the songs MB said “you know, you paid good money for these tickets, take as many pictures as you want” so of course, everyone did all throughout the performance. After a couple of songs the bouncers got the area in front of the stage cleared (which I’m sure the people in the first 5 rows who paid $$$$ for their tickets were glad of). He then switched into a slower song set and threw in two other fast songs at the very end (and the teenie-boppers rushed the stage again). Benjamin loved the performance and admitted that he would love to be one of the folks rushing the stage. I liked the music but would have enjoyed the concert more if the teenie-boppers had just stayed home. It illustrates again how different we are. All in all, the concert was well worth the price of the tickets. If you have a chance to see MB in concert, I highly recommend it.

Marathon Results – Take 4

Three weeks and 4 emails after the fact and I finally have official results for the Austin Freescale Marathon. As I mentioned in a previous post – the point of having an official time was to enable me to have a placing in the Austin Distance Challenge.

After some digging I found my splits. It looks as though they have my halfway time (2:42:34) and my 30k time (4:08:25) but not my 10k time and obviously not my finish time. I need to see about getting my chip checked out as I’m thinking it is defective.

Finally – closure!