It’s important to know at least a little background about the person whose thoughts you’re reading, in order to understand what has helped to shape my thoughts. So who am I? Without holding myself to Jack Nicholson’s constraints, I am a 55-year old white male. I’m a native of southwestern Pennsylvania – specifically, a place named Masontown – a struggling small town in the heart of what years ago was one of the most productive coal fields and coke-making centers (no, not the drink or the drug; think of it as melted, concentrated coal, which is used in the steel-making process) in the world. I am a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, majoring in architecture.
I moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1984, and I lived there almost exactly thirty years to the day. I worked as an in-house architect with a very large national real estate developer. In 1990, after losing my job in the recession, and at an insanely young age, I opened my own architectural firm and operated it for the next 20 years. During those years, I got married, had two daughters who are so amazing that some days I wonder about whether I’m really their father. As of this writing, one is a recent graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and who currently lives and works in Columbus. The other has just completed her freshman year at the Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland, where she is majoring in History and French, with plans to obtain her Master’s Degree there in International Relations.
My architectural firm finally shut its doors at the end of 2010, a victim of the so-called Great Recession. In all honesty, I was in the process of closing it and transitioning out of the profession anyway, but it would certainly have been helpful if it had survived just another couple of years.
And that brings me at least closer to who I am these days.
I am an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament – or, as we also call it, a “Teaching Elder” – in the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. I earned my Master of Divinity after having attended both Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, ultimately graduating from Trinity.
For six years, while completing my seminary studies, the denominational Ordination Exams, my Clinical Pastoral Education, and generally slogging through the whole denominational ordination process, I served as a “Commissioned Lay Pastor.” CLPs were people whom the church gave specialized training and permitted to lead small congregations that couldn’t afford full-time, ordained ministers. Since these were generally 1/2 time positions or less, CLPs generally had a “day job” that was their primary source of income, or they were retired (again, if you’re a Presbynerd, you know that in recent years, the terminology for these folks changed, from Commissioned Lay Pastor/CLP to Commissioned Ruling Elder/CRE. Potato, potahto…) As a CLP/CRE, I served as pastor to The Frankfort Presbyterian Church, a small, rural congregation in south/central Ohio.
After that, I served as the Parish Associate for Congregational Care at the Worthington Presbyterian Church in Worthington, Ohio. Upon graduation, I was ordained and became their Pastor for Congregational Care and Youth (if you happen to be a Presbynerd, this was a “Stated Supply” position). Worthington is a large, suburban, corporate/ program-sized church. Besides being a great congregation, it also happens to have been my “home” congregation, which our family was part of for many years. During some of my time serving the Worthington congregation, I also served as a part-time hospital chaplain, serving both suburban Riverside Methodist Hospital, and Grant Medical Center in downtown Columbus, for OhioHealth Corporation.
In August of 2014, I accepted a position as Interim Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn, New York, a great congregation of about 210 active members. Auburn is a wonderful small city, and I’m happy to have called it home for two years.
These days, I serve as the Pastor of Springdale Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. As I write this, I’ve only been here for about two weeks, but already I can see that this is a great congregation of wonderful people. I’m looking forward to this new, and hopefully long-term, chapter of life, and settling in, setting down some roots, and defining a new “home” in what appears to be a really nice city.
Being a member of the PC(USA) means that I’m a so-called “Mainline” (that is, non-Evangelical, non-Fundamentalist) Protestant Christian.The thoughts you read here will reflect the views of a progressive Christian – one who does not fit the Christian stereotype that most non-Christians – and many Christians – hold. But realizing that my earliest experiences in the faith were in the more conservative strand of the tradition, even though I may disagree theologically with those conservative Christians now, I don’t hold them in the contempt, and I don’t see them through stereotypes, in the way that some progressives view their more conservative brothers and sisters in the faith. I’ve had the blessing of seeing that stereotyping is ugly and uncalled for, regardless of how we define “us” and “them.”
To flesh things out further: politically, I was a registered Republican most of my life. These days, while registered a Democrat with decidedly progressive views, I consider myself politically unaffiliated – I don’t really care for either/any political party enough to tow the literal party line of either camp. For most of my life, I was politically conservative – sometimes, very conservative – but in recent years, that’s changed, a lot. Over the course of the past decade, I’ve endured financial and personal situations and setbacks that showed me that no matter how “compassionate” I thought my views ultimately were, there was really a whole different world of people in society who were suffering, and through no fault of their own, and that whatever social safety nets we supposedly had were simply ineffective. The combination of my own life’s experience – going from being very comfortably well-off and experiencing the constantly-upward professional track, to being flat broke, and having lost a business, my retirement savings, my health insurance, my home, and my spouse – in conjunction with intensely engaging in the Christian scriptures, and learning how to really understand and interpret them – have had a major impact on how I see the world, politically, socially, anthropologically, and theologically. These days, I’m pretty far over on the progressive side of things, theologically and ideologically. Other things: In the past, I have been the President and Chairman of the Board of Montana de Luz, an orphanage in Honduras for children with HIV/AIDS (see the picture below), and I have worked as a hospital chaplain at two large hospitals in central Ohio.
And finally, one more thing about me that, depending on where you are theologically, means nothing or everything: I am an ordained minister who also happens to proudly be an out gay man. After struggling for a number of years trying to recognize and come to terms with my sexual orientation, I gradually began coming out to very close friends and associates. I became part of a “Men’s Coming Out” support group sponsored by Stonewall Columbus, which provided immense help. In August of 2014, I finally kicked the closet door completely, irreversibly open, just before beginning in Auburn – and yes, they knew all during the search process; in fact, they knew before my immediate family did, a fact that would cause some family friction. If you want to know more about my coming-out process, you can read the two blog posts here and here.
I’m in a committed relationship with a wonderful man named George Yu, whom I love very much. George isn’t just wonderful; he’s also extremely talented – he’s an award-winning, world-class luthier, or violin maker, whose instruments are owned and played by the uppermost level of musicians. If you’d like to know a bit more about him and his instruments, you can visit his website here. At present, we are not under the same roof, or even under the same international flag, for that matter. I’d like to remedy that situation in the near future.
So that’s a relatively short introduction to the man behind the words here. Oh, just for the record, here are a few pictures of me…