Since you’re here, I assume that means you’re interested in learning a little more about me. And I have much I’d like to share about the things that have shaped my writing over 60+ years—where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, things I’ve done, and lessons I’ve learned. For those who would prefer the “short version,” this is the short version.
Growing Up – Learning from a Turbulent Time
I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. I grew up during the historic time of advancing civil rights, at what many consider the epicenter of the movement. When I entered high school, it was the first year of forced desegregation, and the first time I’d attended school with black children. It was a struggle for everyone—students and teachers. (One teacher quit rather than teach black kids) Later, because I was Editor of our school newspaper, I was invited to be part of an Interracial Harmony Committee to help find ways to make this transition easier for everyone. I got to hear from the displaced students—their concerns, fears and struggles. I listened to some of the bigotry and misinformation of those strongly opposed to having this “solution” imposed on them. It was my introduction to the civil rights movement—up-close and personal. I’ve been involved in working for equality since that time. (Never knowing how important and personal those lessons would become for me later.)
Ministry & Family – Acceptable Passion
In my freshman year of college, I had deeply profound “conversion” experience. The terminology can vary (e.g., “born again,” “saved”), but it was powerful and transformative to me. It’s still deeper than my ability to assign any word or phrase to the reality of the experience.
With some wise guidance from others, I began a life-long study of the Bible. Not long afterwards, I regularly found myself in leadership roles, and being asked to speak to and lead Bible study groups. And I determined I wanted to pursue ministry as a vocation.
I married during my second year in college. Throughout our time in college, we served in the Youth Ministry at various churches in our hometown.
I have a B.A. in Religion (concentration in Theology and Biblical Languages) and double minors in English and Psychology from a Southern Baptist-sponsored school in Birmingham. My graduate/seminary training was also at a Southern Baptist-sponsored school, where I continued my concentration in applied theology, administration and Biblical languages.
While at seminary, during a summer break back in our hometown, I was invited to speak at a local church that was without a pastor. It was supposed to be a one-time, Sunday morning fill-in…but a different Plan unfolded. It was a fit none of us expected, and I remained there for 11 years. The work was very successful by all outward appearance and standards. Within a few years, the church became one of the fastest growing congregation in the state—going from around 100 in attendance to hundreds in multiple services. I was featured in the local newspaper, as well as a national Christian magazine and was a guest on national TV programs. I worked with several well-known evangelists, coordinating their crusades and training volunteers. Our church had an active, far-reaching ministry, which included pregnant unwed teenagers, reading programs for inner city children and those struggling with homosexuality. In addition to my duties as Pastor, I served as Executive Director of these outreach programs.
I’ve been studying…and teaching…the Bible for 40 years; I cherish the Bible and believe in the “inspiration” of Scripture—though that doesn’t extend to individual or denominational interpretation of that concept. As part of my undergraduate and graduate education in biblical studies, my coursework included a total of three years of Greek (New Testament) and four years of Hebrew (Old Testament), as well as hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation), church history and systematic theology.
Disclaimer: The primary reason I share this is NOT to brag about my training, or to flaunt my Bible knowledge, experience and background. I include it because I regularly get sincere people who write to me, determined to share “the truth” with me (i.e., as they understand the truth). They will always include passages of Scripture and their clear-as-a-bell, not-to-be-argued-with interpretation. So, I’m merely trying to preclude—in advance—that inevitable question: “Haven’t you read what the Bible says in…?”
Sexual Orientation – An Unwanted Secret
I knew I was “different” from a young age, though assigning a name to it would have been difficult. When I became a Christian, I was active in a hyper-fundamentalists group (an understatement), and they made it clear that same-sex attractions were unacceptable (another understatement!).
I was serious about following Christ in my life and honestly wanted to please God, so I knew it was something that had to change—those “sinful” desires had to go away. Naively, I assumed all I needed to do was to disregard them. I also figured that getting married would “fix” the problem. Regardless, I was determined to be successful, and pledged myself before God. I had no idea at the time the toll that vow would exact on my life.
I think my passion for the ministry sublimated the same-sex desires for many years. Yes, at times they would surface…but for the most part, I was able to ignore them. Once in the ministry, especially as I became increasingly prominent in my hometown, it was important to me that I overcome—and hide—this repulsive, “forbidden” side of myself.
“Ex-Gay” - Desire for Change
Eventually, I learned about the work of “ex-gay” ministries—organizations that claimed to heal or repair sexual orientation. I began to read books, attend workshops and going to counseling. I also got involved in a “recovery” group. I listened to what they taught, and did everything I was told. Whatever new information came in about the “root cause” of my same-sex desires, I was eagerly onboard to try it.
Side Note: Therein lies one of the inherent problems with these groups and programs—they have no idea what causes a person to be gay, so finding a “cure” is something akin to “Whack-a-Mole” game at the arcade. Most of the “practitioners” are not mental health professionals, there is no science behind their approach (quite the contrary, in fact) and there is little agreement on methodology.
I studied the Scriptures and memorized verses (actually, I memorized entire books of the Bible!) to “renew my mind.” I prayed, fasted and confessed my sins. I even confessed the sins of previous generations, since I was told that my sexual desires could have been handed down from previous generations. I was anointed with oil, had demons cast out, and went through “inner healing” of past/repressed emotional trauma. I used my positive words to “speak those things that are not as if they are.”
Note: It’s the idea that with the power and authority of our words, we speak those things that are not, in order for them to become reality. It’s generally known as the Word of Faith movement, or the “name it and claim it” theology. In my opinion, it’s a misrepresentation of the what faith is (cf: Hebrews 11:1) and how it operates in our lives.
The harder I tried and the longer I worked at it, the more conflicted I felt.
After all, I was really trying, and I didn’t want to appear a failure. During that time, I was getting invitations to relate my experience of restoration and healing at churches and conferences throughout the country. In time, my testimony began to spread and I was being asked to share it in churches and conferences throughout the country. I was interviewed by a popular religious magazine and did radio and TV shows. Several national ministries as well as local counselors consulted me as a resource for dealing with those wanting to change their sexual orientation. One well-known national evangelist interviewed me for a staff position.
Gay and lesbian Christians began to seek me out for counseling. Or they were sent to me by their parents or church leaders. I took all this as a divine “sign” and decided to start a ministry to help those with sexual identity issues.
But through it all, I knew my own feelings and desires were still there.
So why did I claim the program was working?
That question has haunted me for years. Looking back, I was not purposely being dishonest; it was a sincere self-deception. We were taught to “say it ‘til we see it.” Plus, it appeared to be working for everyone else...so I assume there was something wrong with me, and that eventually, it would happen…if I remained faithful and obedient. (I have since learned that most of those “others” were having the same internal struggles, and responding in a similar manner. We were perpetuating one another's self-deception by not being honest!)
Explanation: The culture of “ex-gay” programs is not conducive for honesty. I’d been in those sessions when someone would confess a failure or doubts, and the response was always very clear: it’s not the program’s fault; the problem had to be the person with the doubts or the one who failed. They were told they didn’t pray enough, confess enough, try enough, do enough, blah, blah, blah.
About 9 years into the ministry at the church, I experienced several emotionally devastating difficulties, including the death of two dear (gay) friends, one by suicide and another with AIDS. Both hit me hard. I limped on, but finally after 10+ years at the church, I was burned out and disillusioned with the ministry. I took a long, hard…honest look at my life: the “desires” were not going away. Resisting also became more difficult. I finally admitted that after so many years of struggle, nothing had changed. The process did not work!
Author's Note: I deeply regret that my involvement in these programs, and my promotion of these promises have hurt others. Like those when entered the programs, I wanted to believe. I wanted to change! Several years ago, I posted an apology for my participation.
I’m sure there are some sincere people involved in ex-gay groups, but they are sincerely wrong. And they harm so many people. When the founding premise, presuppositions and purpose of these groups are wrong, there is little that can be praised about the outcomes. Because I was an active leader of one of these ministries, I know their goals, their processes…and their failures. Trust me: they don’t work!
That’s when I left the ministry and my marriage rather than live a lie.
“Coming Out” – Journey to Wholeness
Shortly after my divorce, I moved to Southern California and “came out” as an gay man. It was a tough, confusing and depressing time for me, because all that was important to me was gone or in shambles—my family, my home and my ministry
Fortunately, not long my relocation, I found Evangelicals Concerned—a wonderful group of loving gay and lesbian Christians. They welcomed me, nurtured me and in time, allowed me to once again exercise my ministry gift of teaching. They were truly some of the most sincere people I’ve ever met. Several years ago the group disbanded, but I honestly don’t know where I would be today without their loving support.
While in California—actually speaking at an Evangelicals Concerned national conference—I met a group of people from a newly formed, predominately gay-lesbian church in Fort Worth, Texas. I was invited to “candidate” for the position of Pastor, and was approved by board. (That’s how I got to Texas.) I remained in that position for 4 years.
My Writing – Born from My Experiences
As you read about me, I think you can see where the primary themes in my novels were born. They take place in the “Bible belt” and involve the power and influence of the religious institution—good and bad—which are so prominent in the region. The deep south is steeped in history, full of charm and entrenched in tradition. To me, it makes for rich characters, great conflict and a compelling story. But there are long-held and not-easily-abandoned traditions, and this is especially true of the religious community. The force and influence of that dual-power construct (conservative theology and ingrained Southern culture) challenge me to this day. And they find their way into the stories and characters I write. They are not religious novels, but stories about people dealing with real-life situations and struggles in a religious culture.
My books do include gay characters wresting with issues of rejection, self-hatred, bigotry, faith and reconciliation because I’ve been down that road, and for many years, I’ve worked with those having these struggles. But again, I don’t see them as “gay novels.” (In fact, my first novel dealt more with a straight man who wrestled with his place in the ministry than with any “gay” plot line.)
Included in the books are my insights on the damnable dangers of the ex-gay programs prominent and promoted in so many conservative/fundamental churches. Because I was an active leader of one of these ministries, I know their goals, their processes…and their failures.
And, as I shared, I was a Pastor for more than 15 years. All of this is to say: I know the Scripture, including those used to condemn homosexuality and homosexuals. I teach workshops on the subject, and have included some of my materials on this site. As one of my characters in The Mind Set on the Flesh learns, it’s not as black and white as some might purport.
Life in the NOW
I have a wonderful partner (15+ years at the time of this writing in 2014). We live just outside of Dallas, Texas. (Our story is so special; wish I could include that here as well. You can find it here.) My kids are grown, and we have a beautiful granddaughter.
Though I’m no longer in full-time (“salaried”) ministry, I occasionally have the opportunities to speak at churches and conferences. Because of my background in the so-called “ex-gay” or reparative ministries, I continue to actively work with those who’ve been damaged by the deceptive promised and destructive practices of these groups.
In 1989, I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, and was successfully treated. After 12 years, we recently learned the cancer has returned. I am now on medical disability from my career in public relations and communications.
Today, I tend to live my life in the joy of what I’ve come to call the “three 3s.” To me, they are essential truths for the simple life of a Christian:
John 3:16 The “whosoever” of God’s invitation
Galatians 3:28 (and Colossians 3:9-14) Our equality in Christ.
I John 3:10-14 (and James 3:13-21) Love is the primary and foremost evidence of a relationship with God.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me. I will gladly respond.