Guest blog by Rev. Marvin Havard, Proclaim member
“Why? Because I’m gay?”
I heard myself say those words to a friend in a conversation in January of 2014 and couldn’t believe I was saying it out loud. All the shame, guilt, and repression from my childhood in a fundamentalist Baptist church and school came roaring up from the depths of my psyche and I collapsed into a weeping mess for the next few hours. My friend was amazing and simply held me and let me cry it out. When I got through the initial emotional meltdown, I knew I needed some help for the next part of the journey.
After finding the website for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) and an agonizing three hours of writing, deleting, and rewriting, I finally sent an email. The response was amazingly quick with a wonderful offer to talk on the phone.
I called and in our conversation ELM program director Jen Rude explained to me that ELM had recently started a project of offering conversation partners for rostered leaders and seminarians in the coming out process. She shared that Proclaim is made up of people who have had a variety of coming out experiences and that it can often help to talk with someone who has been there. (Here’s some more information about pastors and seminarians getting support while coming out). Jen offered to connect me to Donn Rosenauer, a retired Lutheran pastor and Proclaim member, who happened to live in the Dallas metro area where I live.
From our first meeting, Donn’s words of affirmation have continued to uphold me during this process: reminding me that I am a Child of God, created in God’s image, as I was intended to be from the very beginning; encouraging me to write about my experience and to spend time reviewing the journey to this point; but most importantly, helping me to see where God is at work in my life and in the life of the people around me.
Donn Rosenauer says this about ELM’s project to support those coming out: “The ministry in which I am engaged is a needed resource for many on this journey. I have accompanied several pastors coming out. I’ve been doing this ministry as a volunteer with ELM for a little more than two years. I have grown in this service to others and hope this ministry can be an ongoing gift to those we serve.”
Then began the process of coming out – to my wife of 28 years, my family, my friends, and my congregation. As each of these events occurred, Donn encouraged me to not give into my fear but to allow for the work of the Holy Spirit in the response of each person and group. My wife and I are determined to remain friends even as we proceed with a divorce. My family, though struggling deeply to accept the truth, has continued to remain connected and to profess their love for me. The congregation I was serving, though fairly conservative, was much more accepting than I could ever have imagined. I still felt the need to leave and find another call where I can better live into this part of my identity. I am currently serving as an interim pastor while looking for a new call.
In December I officially became a member of the Proclaim community and am looking forward to attending the Proclaim Gathering in April. Through it all, Donn has continued to point me back to God’s work within me and within this process. He has been an incredibly supportive mentor, spiritual director, and friend who understands, who encourages, and who even provides the needed joy and laughter when I get too anxious and self-absorbed.
I say “Thank You!” to Donn, to ELM, to Proclaim and to all who have helped to provide this support and encouragement. I can’t imagine going through this without such amazing people. God is definitely at work within this community and its amazing members!
by Marvin Havard. Marvin (he/him/his) is serving as interim pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Carrollton, TX. After 15 years working as a church musician, he defected to the other side of the bench and was ordained in 2009 as a graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary. Marvin is an avid reader and has been known to quote Tolkien, Asimov, and other sci-fi/fantasy writers in sermons.