July 28, 2001
Dr. James Merritt, President, Southern Baptist Convention
First Baptist Snellville
PO Box 647
Snellville, GA 30078
Dear Dr. Merritt,
On June 25, 2001 I wrote you and asked you to read my letter, read my story, and to contact me to set a meeting to talk. I regret that I have not heard from you. I still want to meet you. I am willing to come to Snellville or any place you designate. You name the time and place and I will be there.
In Dr. Mel White’s letter of June 26, 2001 he stated that during the year between your conventions, you would be receiving stories and photos of Southern Baptists who love the SBC but who have been victims of its anti-homosexual teachings. My letter and photo was the first. I have enclosed another story in this letter. The story is about Mike Herrington, a Texas Baptist.
Dr. Merritt, we are not going away. You will continue to hear from me, and Soulforce will be at the convention next year in St. Louis. We will continue to try and contact you until the Spirit of Truth and Love tugs at your heart. We make this commitment because we know first hand, and too well, the sufferings and violence that takes place because of fear and misinformation. Jesus never advocated exclusivity. I plead with you to sit down and begin to talk with us. I believe with all my heart that together we can make a huge difference towards ending violence against God’s gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender children. Pray to our loving God. Contact me today and set a time to meet. I am pleading with you as a sister in Christ to reach out and help end the suffering of so many people.
In Christ’s love and peace,
Director of Operations
Mike Herrington is another first time attendee to a SOULFORCE direct action. He tells us:
I always considered myself to be a God-fearing, born-again, Bible-believing Texas Baptist. I am from rural central west Texas and a graduate of the world’s most prestigious Southern Baptist University, Class of 1964. Being gay was simply not an option. In some sense I knew for a very long time that my primary physical attraction (it was more than sexual) was to those of my own sex. I was determined to be a good person so I felt very confused.
I was a farm boy who made his confession of faith at a little country church. Because I wanted the best Christian teachings, I persuaded my parents to attend church in town where I faithfully attended Sunday school, Training Union, and Wednesday night prayer services, revivals twice a year and, as a high school senior, was elected president of the associational Youth Rally. I was blessed with a few very fine teachers who knew their way around the Bible. Some of them would even admit that there seemed to be some contradictions in the Scripture. Almost all assured me that what was most important was that God is love and that, through the grace of Jesus Christ, all were welcomed into the family of God. The majority, though, did not seem so inclusive in their message.
I did not see or hear much ever said about homosexuality. If it was ever slightly mentioned, it was suggested that only strange, deviant type persons were attracted to having sex with their own gender. The topic of sex alone was almost as taboo as during the Victorian era. How could I hope to get accurate information or understanding for my feelings and for who I seemed to be?
My mother once guessed that my attachment to one of my dearest male Baylor friends was not totally "normal." I dodged her inquiry like a hail of bullets. I dated much more at Baylor than I had in high school. I had some very good female friends. For years I would believe that I was unusually blessed with the ability to respect female virginity. I did not consider the fact that I was not that interested in being physically intimate with a female.
I did plan on marrying eventually not only because it was the natural course of things but also because I very much wanted to have children of my own. Compared to a number of my peers, I was late marrying. I was blessed with a wonderful, beautiful, educated woman who was everything I could imagine in a wife and the mother of my children. We seemed to have a lot in common. We were quickly blessed with the births of three children. For the first few years, the marriage went seemingly well, but the relationship began to slide downhill for no particular reason that I could identify.
Both of us took our Christian parenting of our children very seriously. Both of us were very active in our church. We tried very hard to have a good life together. I feel that we did love and care for one another as human beings and as partnered parents, but something was definitely missing. I suffered from depression off and on for years; but then it became more intense. I began to feel guilty: first, for being depressed; second, for having moved my family to a new location in search of elusive happiness; and third (probably most important), for my inability to be totally honest with myself. I thought of many excuses: things that would make everything okay. It was not that simple.
I began to seek out both pastoral help and professional medical intervention. Something was still missing. Trying a career switch did not bring the solace that I hoped it would. I struggled to tell my spouse that I had "inappropriate" sexual feelings for men. I thought if I could just say the truth to someone that I could get better. She probably never knew exactly how to react. She was not cruel, but she did ignore my hints. Being ignored can be very painful.
When my job situation became critical, our marriage rapidly worsened. Ultimately, even though I did everything within my power to fix the situation, the marriage was doomed. Marriage was something I had desperately hung on to like a lifeline. I did not think I could survive its demise, but I did. Still I worked hard at being a moral person and a good divorced father. I became almost asexual. I had no difficulty remaining totally celibate, though most everyone made jokes about the sexual freedom of the divorced man.
I danced around the possibility that I was gay. I tried to find a mental health person who would allow me to discuss my questions about my sexuality. It was a difficult search. Once I did find someone, I could move ahead in accepting. Ultimately I chose to move home to Texas and to allow myself to be. I soon found more accurate information as well as support and affirmation. I was 57 years old; but, surprisingly, I felt as though I had come home.