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Courage to Love: A Gay Priest Stands Up for His Beliefs.

Reading this book gave me much the same feeling as watching Ellen DeGeneres's character come out on Ellen. Like that instantly classic TV episode, Courage to Love is poignant, funny, simple, and unpretentious--but credible while dealing with serious issues.

The authors here are Barry Stopfel and Will Leckie, the gay couple whose lives became harshly public in 1990 when Bishop Walter C. Righter ordained Stopfel as an Episcopal deacon. Because he ordained a gay man who was in a sexually active relationship, Bishop Righter was tried for heresy, in a highly publicized case that ended in a verdict of not guilty.

The men at the center of the furor recall it in matter-of-fact tones. With life partner Leckie, Stopfel writes: "Life in the closet wasn't an option for us. We were too old and had journeyed too far to play psychosocial parlor games about our sexuality, and we had definitely buried too many great friends and lovers to pretend to be other than we were.

There's cliff-hanging suspense in the book's chronicle of Stopfel's long, hard struggle to be ordained first a deacon, then a priest--and then to find a parish in which to serve. But Courage to Love comes alive most vividly as it tells the touching love story of two gay men who are committed, share a dream, work hard, and--at long last--experience a happy ending.

This book takes its place in a growing canon of literature by gay and lesbian clergy. In 1978, when I wrote Take Off the Masks: The Classic Spiritual Autobiography, my coming-out book as a gay Episcopal priest, there were dismayingly few books explicitly linking lesbians and gay men with spirituality and religion. A year or two earlier, former Jesuit John J. McNeill had contributed his stunning The Church and the Homosexual. Other books by gay leaders in religion followed: Chris Glaser's Uncommon Calling: A Gay Christian's Struggle to Serve the Church; Rose Mary Denman's Let My People In: A Lesbian Minister Tens of Her Struggles to Live Openly and Maintain Her Ministry; Robert Williams's Just As I Am: A Practical Guide to Being Out, Proud, and Christian; Troy Perry and Thomas Swicegood's Don't Be Afraid Anymore: The Story of Reverend Troy Perry and the Metropolitan Community Church; Nancy Wilson's Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible; and Mel White's Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. These books contain triumphs as well as tragedies; mostly, their authors have worked things out and have survived to share guidelines with others.

But As Stopfel and Leckie discovered, the road ahead for gay people in mainstream churches is still thorny and unpredictable. Highly qualified lesbian and gay clergy who have life partners still face either unemployment in the church or underemployment. This is a major issue, causing suffering to people who deserve better. Let's hope Courage to Love leads to real gains for gay and lesbian clergy who continue to model that courage in their own lives.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Liberation Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Boyd, Malcolm
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 10, 1997
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