When I was in the sixth grade, growing up in the United Methodist Church in Macon, Georgia, I remember taking Confirmation Class.  I don’t remember much about the content of the class – aside from the fact that we learned about Jesus and the church and they gave us some cool ink pens to write with – but I do remember that Pastor Sonny was one of the teachers.  Pastor Sonny was a gregarious and silly man who clearly loved the Lord with all his heart.  He wanted to teach us to love God as much as he did and, in my case, this turned out to be the case.  

What I knew at the time was that Sonny loved God and loved the church.  He would often cry tears of great feeling – to great effect –  whenever he preached.  What I came to know, much later, is that Pastor Sonny was a faithful pastor who was a deeply-closeted and very unhappy gay man.  

Years after Confirmation Class, after I had graduated from seminary and become a Presbyterian pastor, I ended up back in my hometown.  My church was not too far from Pastor Sonny’s church.  He was overjoyed to learn that I had become a pastor but, as I got to know him through some professional clergy circles, I could see that there was a lot going on with Sonny beneath the surface.  Sonny was really struggling in his long marriage to his wife (a marriage that would soon come to an end).  He was struggling at church (because it’s hard to do your job if you can’t be your true self).  And he was struggling with his own beloved United Methodist denomination (because they had a ban against LGBTQ clergy).

Eventually, Pastor Sonny was asked by the powers-that-be in the United Methodist Church to leave his congregation.  I cannot imagine the heartbreak of it all – to have your true calling and vocation be revoked. Thankfully, Sonny was able to transfer his membership to a different Methodist Conference (in a different part of the state).  

Thanks be to God that Sonny is still serving as a pastor, but I know it has not been an easy road.

This past week, after decades of discord in the United Methodist Church (UMC), the General Conference of the UMC voted to repeal its ban on LGBTQ clergy.  I don’t know how Pastor Sonny feels about all of this, but I do hope that he has been able to see his unwavering faithfulness to Christ and Christ’s church vindicated in some way.  I know that the church is better with him in it.  The church needs his voice, his faith, and his gregarious love for God.

The culture wars have really wounded the church and wounded some otherwise beloved and faithful people in the church.  The vote this past week by our United Methodist siblings may have helped to end this particular denominational battle but there have been a lot of casualties over many generations.  One major casualty has been the unity of the church.  

This week in worship, were are focusing on 1 Corinthians 13, which is often called “The Love Chapter.”  These ancient words from the Apostle Paul were not written with romance in mind.  Instead, they are words that describe what God’s love is like, which is the basis for what true and faithful love between people should be like.  God’s love is a model for how our own love should be.  I am thankful for the love of God shown by Pastor Sonny to me and to so many people over the years.  Love like this has a way of making a positive impact that reverberates across miles and miles and throughout years and years.  

See you in church!

Grace and Peace,


Prepare for Worship

This Week: “If You Only Sing One Note” (The Greatest of These is Love)

  • Read Psalm 136
  • Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
  • Read or sing Hymn # 731 – “Give Thanks to Those Whose Faith is Firm”