I don't like talking about myself that much - but people always want to know my story. It is important that we tell our stories. Our stories are important. It is how we get others to know about our lives and how we connect with others.
I began my journey in the Southern Baptist Church. I was baptized in 1985, at the age of 10, at First Baptist Church in Eastland, Texas, by Dr. Robert Jeffress (which I am not too thrilled about...yes he is the same pastor of FBC Dallas). I left the Baptist Church at the age of 15 and entered the Episcopal Church. It was in the Episcopal Church that I felt comfortable and encouraged to question things - the existence of God, the reality of heaven and hell, why are we here. I was even allowed to question sermons and disagree with the clergy!
I felt called to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church in my late teens. I began the process for postulancy when I was about 23. The following year, I "came out" as gay. The bishop didn't seem t care at that point - since I was single. A year later I met Jason and after six months we realized we wanted to be a couple. It never dawned on me that I needed to report this to the bishop.
One evening, the class I was in for theological studies met at the home of a local priest who had a chapel in her backyard. She held a Eucharist there for all of us students and our significant others. Jason was my significant other. While everyone there was aware of my being gay, no one had met him before. By this time, Jason and I had been together for about a year. Following the service at the minister's house chapel, we told her that we wanted to be married and have a holy union (this was before there were canons that "protected" same-gender people or anything written allowing such in the denomination). Note: Holy union is a term that was used for same-gender couples who wanted to have a religious service of commitment where they make vows before God and witnesses and have their union blessed by a member of the clergy. It was the closest thing to marriage at that time for a gay couple. She told us she would have to get the permission of the bishop before she could do so. The next thing I knew the bishop had contacted me and wrote me a letter expressing that he could no longer support me in my pursuit of the priesthood and denounced my status as a postulant in the diocese. Needless to say we did not have our holy union in the Episcopal Church.
During this time, Jason was attending a local Unitarian Universalist fellowship. I began attending with him. While most of the congregants were staunch, evangelical atheists (and you did not call them humanists), there was also a sprinkling of pagans, Wiccans, Buddhists, Jews, and a Christian here or there. While it wasn't the greatest experience I could have hoped for at that time, it did open my eyes up to UUism. I read a lot about it and found that I agreed with the organization. Jason and I tried to be as involved as we could. I eventually became a member of the fellowship.
It was also during this time that I discovered the Orthodox Catholic Church and entered into a discussion with the Bishop of Texas, the late Rt. Rev. John Nunez. I shared my story with him - including my relationship with Jason. While I passed my initial phone interview, the bishop invited me to a nearby city where he and his wife (you can be a married priest in this branch of catholicism) were visiting. I met with him that weekend and we began the transition process over the next several weeks of my entering the denomination and beginning the seminary process. John also understood our connection to the Unitarian faith. He had friends and connections to the UUA and had worked in partnership with them. He eventually made Jason a liaison to the OCC and UU Fellowship as part of the diocesan commitment to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. Two years later I was ordained to the priesthood by the Archbishop, The Most Rev. Joseph Raffaele of New York. I served over a small mission church in Abilene, Texas, which met (coincidentally and yet intentionally) on Saturdays at the UU Fellowship.
In 2006, due to economic strife in West Texas, Jason and I made the decision to relocate to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex where members of my family resided (and where I had lived before in my very early 20s). I took on a more administrative role in the diocese, serving as director of communications, keeping up the diocesan website and the denomination's website. After the new bishop was ordained/installed I was then elevated as the Vicar General. By 2008, I realized how disconnected I felt. I just didn't feel as connected to the Church as I once did. I had so many questions. I also had other beliefs that I dare not share with the bishop or other people in the Church - such as connection to Earth-centered beliefs.
In November 2008, I resigned from the priesthood. I had a long talk with the Archbishop in New York. He provided me with a dismissal in good standing. During this time I began working with an LGBT ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth known as Integrity. Jason and I then became involved in a small Episcopal congregation and for a short time I felt that I might have an opportunity to go into priesthood in the Episcopal Church (finally). I was even allowed to serve as an assisting priest of that congregation for about a year. But the desire to enter into priesthood, I learned, had passed. I was coming into my own and realizing too many things about myself.
In 2010, I discovered The Church of the Larger Fellowship, an online UU church/ministry - primarily designed to reach out to disenfranchised UUs or those who were UU-like without a community. And that is how I worshipped for 2 years. I then began inching out to UU congregations. In 2014, I renewed my faith in the UUA and began working closely with a congregation (where I am at now). I had left that congregation for a short while when we purchased a home in another area of the Fort Worth metroplex (only because another UU was close to our new home) but returned one year later when I realized my heart is with Pathways UU in Hurst, Texas.
As a sidebar, I did get ordained with the Universal Life Church so that I can still perform weddings, funerals and the like. I have also maintained my certification as a Spiritual Counselor. Below is a photo of a wedding I celebrated at in 2014 as a ULC minister.
Photos of me as a priest in the Orthodox Catholic Church
Jason and I in 2007
Jason and I in 2015