Author, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay And Christian In America
Justice Minister, Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
On February 15, 1995, the Rev. Dr. Mel White was arrested for "trespassing" at Pat Robertson’s CBN Broadcast Center. The story of his arrest, the 22 day prison fast, and the "little victory" that followed, made news across the nation. For 30 years, Dr. White had served the evangelical Christian community as a pastor, seminary professor, best-selling author, prize-winning filmmaker, communication consultant and ghost writer to its most famous and powerful leaders. His ghost-writing clients included Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Ollie North, and Pat Robertson.
Then, on Pride Sunday, June 27, 1993, Mel White was installed Dean of the Cathedral of Hope Metropolitan Community Church in Dallas, Texas, with 14,000 congregants, the nation’s largest gay-lesbian congregation. After almost 3 decades of counseling and "anti-gay" therapy including prayer, fasting, exorcism, and electric shock, Mel White was able to reconcile his Christian theology and his sexual orientation. At his installation, Mel proclaimed his own, heart-felt statement of faith: "I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation."
In the months that followed, Mel’s story was featured in the L.A.Times, the Washington Post, and in media across the nation. He was interviewed on hundreds of radio and TV broadcasts including Larry King Live, National Public Radio and the BBC. In 1994, Mel, his partner, Gary Nixon, and his former wife, Lyla, were featured on Sixty-Minutes. In April, 1994, Simon&Schuster released Dr. White’s Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America. In this moving, best-selling autobiography, Mel comes out of the closet to give hope to other gay and lesbian Christians, to confront the misleading anti-gay rhetoric of the radical right, and to launch his own fight for justice and understanding for God’s gay and lesbian children.
On January 1, 1995, Dr. White was appointed national Minister of Justice (an unsalaried position) for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the only Christian denomination with a primary outreach to gays and lesbians. The Reverend Elder Troy Perry, founder of the U.F.M.C.C., and its Board of Elders, has asked Dr. White to represent the denomination’s 300 churches in the current nationwide struggle on behalf of justice for all who suffer, gay and non-gay alike. In the summer of 1996, UFMCC moved into their newly acquired world headquarters in West Hollywood, California. To work closer with Troy Perry and the UFMCC Elders (who function as Dr. White’s advisory board) Mel and Gary sold their home in Texas and moved back to southern California.
On September 1, 1996, Mel and Gary began a two week Fast for Justice on the steps of the United States Senate, inviting people of faith across America to join in this prayer vigil that God would change the minds and hearts of Senators about to pass the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." Passing DOMA would be the first time in U.S. history that the entire lesbian-gay community would be singled out for discrimination. This act of injustice denies God’s lesbian and gay children 175-250 federal and state rights (automatically gained by married heterosexual couples.) When the Senate passed DOMA (85-14), White moved his Fast for Justice to the White House steps where he, his partner, Gary, and 7 others were arrested while praying on the White House sidewalk. Currently Dr. White is working on a four year strategy to help President Clinton and the Congress do justice for lesbian and gay Americans, "in spite of the fact," explains Dr. White, "that in their "rush to the middle, the President and the Congress are strongly tempted to sacrifice us for some greater political good."
With his experience in theology and media, Dr. White is uniquely qualified for his justice ministry. While completing his B.A. degree at Warner Pacific College (1962) and his M.A. degree in communications at the University of Portland (1963), Mel produced and hosted a weekly NBC television series, "The World of Youth" (1959-1966). While working on his Ph.D. in communications and film at U.S.C., Mel won a Rockefeller grant to begin a doctorate in religious studies as well. Mel completed his doctorate at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, where he also served for more than a decade as a professor of communications and preaching. In 1973, Mel was appointed Senior pastor of Pasadena’s First Covenant Church.
In 1965 Mel founded Mel White Productions, Inc. and in the next 20 years produced 53 prize-winning motion picture and TV documentaries. Since 1972, Dr. White has also written 16 books, 9 of them best-sellers including David, the story of David Rothenberg, the child burned by his father (a 1988 NBC movie of the week with Bernadette Peters) and A Gift of Hope: The Tony Melendez Story, a July, 1989, HarperCollins release, condensed in the June, 1989, issue of Reader’s Digest.
After post-graduate studies in communication at U.S.C., U.C.L.A., and Harvard, Dr. White wrote a syndicated column using motion picture and television reviews to explore the spiritual side of modern media (Eternity and Faith at Work magazines). He has served as consultant to major film studios including Warner Bros. ("The Mission") and Universal Studios ("Cry Freedom"). From the beginning of his career in media, Mel has searched for stories that would inspire and inform the struggle to be human. He directed documentary film crews in Vietnam during the last years of the war, documenting the spiritual dimensions of that conflict on its victims.
Mel has produced and directed television specials in Africa, Asia, South and Central America His book, Margaret of Molokai, is the story of the last leper to leave the Kalaupapa peninsula and a fascinating analogy for the current AIDS crisis. Mel’s Aquino (Word Books, 1989) is the biography of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, the martyr and the president, and the amazing spiritual story of the People’s Revolution in the Philippines.
During his first 18 months as Dean of the Cathedral of Hope, Dr. White and his partner, Gary Nixon, traveled to 28 states, speaking, organizing, lobbying, and protesting injustice. After a year-long study of his nonviolent resistance heroes – Gandhi, King, Bonhoeffer, Mandela, and Aquino – Dr. White is writing Storming The Gate, his sequel to Stranger at the Gate. "Across this country," Mel explains, "our gay brothers and lesbian sisters are the victims of a tidal wave of intolerance, discrimination, and violent crime flowing directly out of the anti-gay rhetoric of the radical right. We Christians, gay and straight alike, must take our stand to end the suffering."
After Dr. White’s 22 day fast in the Virginia Beach City Jail, Pat Robertson visited him in jail, heard White’s plea and went on the air to say clearly that he "abhorred the growing violence against gay and lesbian people." "Pat Robertson is not our enemy,’ White said later. "He is a victim of misinformation like we all have been. In the spirit of Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. we must go on believing that Pat and the others can change." Dr. White has dedicated his life to a ministry of change. "Until this nation accepts God’s gay and lesbian children as full members of the human family," White explains, "we must go on telling that truth in love, whatever it might cost us."