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Until 1995, the personal cost ...
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Until 1995, the personal cost was a private matter, which took its toll on each individually and on their relationship. But then the Episcopal Church decided to put retired Bishop Walter Righter on trial for heresy, because he had ordained Barry as an openly gay priest. All Barry wanted to do was serve the Lord he loved through full-time ministry in the church, yet his openly homosexual lifestyle forced him into the spotlight of theological and public debate.
Stopfel and Leckie's life together is a microcosm of our turbulent times. Homosexuality is a hot-button issue for us, and raises questions about legal recognition of same-sex marriages, health care and benefits for same-sex partners, job discrimination, homophobia, AIDS. This book boldly tells of the personal struggles of the authors and draws in readers with its wide-ranging implications.
Stopfel was the second gay man to be ordained an Episcopal priest when he was already out of the closet, and his story marks a major revolution in mainline Protestantism. From his first day at the seminary, Stopfel was committed to honesty about his gay identity, refusing to hide his partner in an effort to stay uncontroversial. The authors relate in great detail the seemingly insurmountable obstacles Stopfel overcame in order to be ordained and the challenges he faced after ordination. The book is filled with incidents of homophobia, from the quotidian chilliness of some parishioners to the dramatic objections raised by one vocal opponent during Stopfel's diaconal ordination ceremony, which stopped the show and cast a pall over the whole proceeding. The bishop who ordained him was brought to ecclesiastical court for heresy (in May 1996 he was found not guilty). But what is most valuable about this book is that it is, quite simply, a love story. It was actually written by Stopfel's partner, Leckie, who has stood by him faithfully during all of the trials of his quest for ordination. The two committed themselves to this undertaking, hardly knowing that their life and love would be put on media display, scrutinized and criticized. Leckie says they never intended to undermine the Church—one thing the book reveals clearly is how thoroughly Episcopalian Stopfel is. The book will be published one month before the triennial Episcopal conference, which may well decide the future of gay clergy in the denomination.
Leckie and Stopfel were, as Leckie puts it, "just two guys who loved each other." Their love, humor, and forgiveness resonate from every page.