Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Call From Peggy

One night, in late 2000 or early 2001, I came home and saw the blinking red light on my digital answering machine. I was coming home after...what? I don’t exactly remember.

It could have been a night out with my gay/gay-friendly friends or with my church/Christian friends. It could have been after visiting one of my secret boyfriends (I had three short-lived relationships in the span of two years). Or I might have come back from dinner with my former pastor and his family. Or I could have come home from an internet hookup.

My life at the time was like shattered glass: I felt broken in shards, and I had to be extremely careful with the pieces.

Seeing the blinking light, I walked over and pressed Play. The message began.

“Hi Kevin, this is Peggy Campolo calling.”

I was immediately shocked and immediately touched. Earlier that week, I had found a transcript online of a public dialogue about homosexuality between Tony and Peggy Campolo. The tone and the content of the conversation was something new to me. Although Tony was clear about what he believed was sin, his focus was on the unjust and cruel treatment of LGBT folks by the church. Peggy, agreeing with her husband on the latter point, disagreed with him on same-sex relationships. She believed that these relationships are blessed by God.

I had heard about Tony Campolo growing up in my church culture. To most people I knew, he was an evangelical in good standing, even if his political views were really screwed up. (He was a Democrat for God’s sake!)

After reading the transcript, I did a search for Tony Campolo to find a place where I could contact him. I found an address, typed out a brief message, printed it, and signed it. I don’t remember what was in the letter exactly, but it was a cry for help. Right before I mailed it, I scribbled my phone number on the letter. I’m not sure why I did that, other than desperation.

I’m so glad I did. Even though I addressed the letter to Tony, he passed my letter to his wife. He could have simply ignored it, or he could have written me himself. I'm sure he would have been encouraging, but he might have also told me what I had heard over and over and over again: that acting on my same-sex desires was sin. Instead, he gave the letter to Peggy, with whom he disagreed. I found this to be an incredible act of grace, humility, and discernment.

So, what did Peggy Campolo say on my answering machine? She spent about 5 minutes giving me personal encouragement. She provided a list of online resources. (I honestly don’t remember which ones, as this was back in the early 2000s, but they were resources such as The Gay Christian Network and Soulforce. Unfortunately, there was no such thing as The Marin Foundation back then.) She also told me that she had sent some information in the mail to me, including a recording of the dialogue that she and Tony had had about homosexuality. The packet of materials arrived in the next day or two.

The information was extremely helpful to me at the time. What has remained with me to this day, however, was the act of love from Peggy and Tony, reaching out to me personally.

As I continue this journey in my own spiritual wilderness—a journey that is absolutely necessary, and a journey that I am still on—people like Tony and Peggy help me understand that (for me anyway) there is something deeply meaningful and authentic about the Jesus way. For that I will always be thankful. I also remain hopeful that their influence is having an impact on Christians. For LGBT young people growing up in the evangelical church—lonely, fearful, and struggling to integrate their identity and their faith—this is very good news.

For more on Peggy Campolo and other resources, check out the Recommended Reading section at The Marin Foundation website. Scroll down on the page to view her specific recommendations.

No comments: