Courage to Love: A Gay Priest Stands up for His Beliefs

Courage to Love: A Gay Priest Stands up for His Beliefs

by Barry Stopfel, Leckie
     
 

No one should have to endure what Rev. Barry Stopfel and his gay companion Will Leckie have. As a Christian, Stopfel loves God; so much so that he committed his life to serving the church as an Episcopal priest. He has also committed himself to a relationship with the person he loves, Will Leckie. In his eyes, loving God and loving Will need not be mutually exclusive.… See more details below

Overview

No one should have to endure what Rev. Barry Stopfel and his gay companion Will Leckie have. As a Christian, Stopfel loves God; so much so that he committed his life to serving the church as an Episcopal priest. He has also committed himself to a relationship with the person he loves, Will Leckie. In his eyes, loving God and loving Will need not be mutually exclusive. And Barry and Will have paid a high price for their love of God and each other.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
On September 30, 1990, Episcopalian Bishop Walter Righter ordained Barry Stopfel as a deacon in the Diocese of Newark. Thus began Reverend Stopfel's ordained ministry and thus began his pilgrimage to integrate publicly his homosexuality and his love of God. This book is at once the account of one man's deep struggles with his beloved church and a testimony to the deep love he has for his partner, coauthor Will Leckie. The book is at the same time, however, filled with the anguish caused by a religious institutional structure that was reluctant to admit that Stopfel's love of God could coexist with his love of Leckie. This riveting memoir traces Leckie and Stopfel's relationship from their first meeting at Union Seminary to the Episcopal Church's trial of Righter-the priest who ordained Stopfel-for heresy. Righter was acquitted. Throughout this narrative, both Stopfel and Leckie struggle with their religious identities, and they both wonder whether their relationship will be able to withstand the scrutiny of the public gaze of church members who have not yet reconciled themselves to worshipping under an openly gay priest. Leckie and Stopfel hope that their lives can be a model for other gay men confronting the same attitudes as they have had to confront. An inspiring story, told with vibrant honesty, this memoir should be read by Christians who are having difficulty reconciling acceptance of homosexuality with their religious beliefs. (June)
Library Journal
Homosexuality and the position of various Christian denominations regarding it has been a source of controversy for several decades. Together with partner Stopfel, the rector of St. George's Episcopal Church in Maplewood, New Jersey, actor and author Leckie has written a moving account of their heroic struggle to see Stopfel through to ordination in the Episcopal Church. An openly gay man, Stopfel was ordained in 1995 by a bishop who was subsequently brought to a church trial in preparation for charging him with heresy. The bishop was absolved by the church court, and Stopfel is today a working pastor. The authors offer a moving story, engagingly written from the perspective of passionate commitment to homosexual rights. Recommended for all academic and larger public libraries; for a sensitive account from a different perspective, see Thomas Schmidt's Straight & Narrow? (Intervarsity, 1995). [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/97.]Charles V. Cowling, SUNY at Brockport Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
An honest, searching memoir about the trials of an openly gay priest and his partner.

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385486729
Publisher:
The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/19/1997
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.47(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.14(d)

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