Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Murray Richmond: Coming Out Of The Dark

Murray Richmond was a Presbyterian minister for 17 years, and a hospital chaplain for three years. He used to stand at the pulpit and preach against The Gays and the sins of homosexuality, and the Word of God and blibbety blah blay blue everything anti-gay.

Murray Richmond
Now, however, Murray Richardson has come out of the darkness, revealing that, as Americans have shifted their attitudes bout marriage equality--from 32% approval in 2004 to 53% today--he is one of those Americans who has changed his mind.

Pastor say what?

He tells of being ordained back in 1989, and serving a church in North Carolina. Homosexuality wasn't much of an issue, gay rights weren't an issue, except maybe to the LGBT community, and the idea of an openly gay pastor was, well, it simply wasn't done. Murray Richmond believed, then, that no one "could be a practicing homosexual and a Christian. The Bible was straightforward on this issue. It all seemed incredibly obvious to me."

Then came the 90s, and suddenly homosexuality became a hot-button issue for more than just The Gays; straight people were talking about it, supporting it, protesting it. Murray Richmond advocated that old chestnut, "hate the sin, love the sinner"--he'd picked his side in the debate, and his side was anti-gay.

However, even then he didn't like the debate, because he thought other things, like, oh say, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, aiding the homeless, should be of the utmost importance, not, as he says, "determining the morality of what adults did in their bedrooms."

But Murray joined the crowds and preached against homosexuality. Today, he calls that holding "the traditional line" and limiting the role of gays in the church. But Murray felt something wasn't right with the anti-LGBT preaching; what he had once believed to be "biblically correct began to feel less and less right" in his heart.

And then Murray had an epiphany, well, three epiphanies, I guess.

He began having an online chat with a gay Christian man, who, like so many gay Christians, struggle with their orientation and their faith, and how those two things should work. The man struggled to tell Murray of his thoughts and ideas, that "God was more concerned with his pride than his sexuality" because he felt Murray, like every other man of the cloth to whom he'd spoken, had tried to convert him. But Murray listened, and questioned himself, and the church.

Then, one of his parishioners asked him to perform an exorcism for him because he was gay. The man had tried everything to change from gay to straight, and thought exorcism might actually do the trick. Murray still felt the man, and his homosexuality, were sinful, but he also knew that the man was not demon-possessed. He was just gay, and afraid.

Finally, Murray Richmond met a woman whose husband had left her for another man. And, to make matters worse, in the woman's eyes, her husband was, of all things, a minister in a small-town. But Murray Richmond was astonished by "her grace," and how she still called her husband the best minister she had ever known; a man who had simply decided that "he could no longer live the lie of his sexuality." 

These three revelations convinced Murray Richmond that no one chooses to be gay, like he had not chosen heterosexuality. And Murray realized that, after years of doing so, albeit begrudgingly, he could no longer condemn gay men and women for something that is not their fault, not their choice.

In the end, what affirmed his newfound beliefs, was when he was "approached by five individuals who demanded: that he come out strongly against acceptance of LGBT people in his next sermon. They wanted him to preach what the Bible said on the issue, but found it funny that "all five of them were divorced and remarried...[and]...[h]ad I done a sermon on what the Bible said about divorce, every one of them would have left the church in a huff."


Still, Murray Richmond did that sermon, possibly out of fear of repercussions from his flock, and today he says it was not his "best hour as a Minister of Word and Sacrament." He felt the Bible, and, apparently God's, view on homosexuality, was far more nuanced than he thought, and, while he tried to instill that thought into his sermon, he still feels he came off as anti-gay.

Murray Richmond:
"Looking back, I see how much my own opinions had been formed by the fact that I was representing a split congregation. Our church, like so many, was divided. And while the people who believed it should be accepted were not going to leave if we maintained a position of non-acceptance, those who felt it was a sin would bolt in a heartbeat if we ever allowed gay clergy or gay marriage. If they bolted, half our budget would go out the door. I knew the issue could tear the church apart. What I didn't realize was how it could tear apart the people in the church as well.
Murray Richmond left his ministry in 2005 to work as a hospital chaplain. He says one reason he left was because his own marriage was breaking up, but also he was "tired of trying to live up to standards that I did not fully agree with."

Now, he believes in the change, he believes in marriage equality, he believes you can be gay and Christian. He's a believer of all things possible now, and realizes why the church singles out homosexuality as a "litmus test for True Christianity."

Murray Richmond:

Now I am wondering why, if two gay people want to commit their lives to one another, they should ever be denied that chance. No church or pastor should be forced to perform those ceremonies, and they can choose not to recognize gay marriage for their adherents. But the constitution of the Presbyterian Church does not explicitly forbid a pastor from being a thief, a murderer, or an egotistical jerk. It is not designed to do these things. It does prohibit a gay person from becoming a pastor. All I can ask is: Why?"

Welcome into the light, Murray, and keep spreading your words wherever you can.
He began to see how the churches use the anti-gay movement as a means to raise money for themselves, and he began to really look at the Bible, and how it talked about homosexuality, and he realized it wasn't as clear cut as he'd been taught, and as he'd once preached.

1 comment:

SteveA said...

Not surprising! At least he reached an epiphany - better than keeping his thoughts stuck inside - the brother has seen the light!