behaving like christians

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When I met Ernest, we courted for five months, and after we married, on February 2, 1974, in Fort Valley, GA. That was 40 years ago.   I wrote my parents in Anniston, AL.  They replied with the hardest letter that I have ever received. They knew I was gay. That was not their problem. Ernest’s being black was the hard part for them. In their letter they wished us all happiness but asked me not to bring Ernest home with me. They hoped that I would continue to visit, but they did not want to put their friends to the test. They knew that most would continue to love them, but “We’re retired and we don’t want to find out who won’t.”

I showed Ernest the letter. He responded with his own enigmatic smile.

“Well, come on. Let’s pack. We can be there in five hours,” I said.

“Didn’t you read the letter?” he asked.

“Yes, but they won’t say that once they meet you. Once Dad sees that you are very gentle and kind like Mother….”

“No, Louie. I am not going, but you are. They have every right to be who they are. You could not love me had they not taught you how, and something in you that is very important to both of us will die if you cut yourself off from them. Besides, I have the best of both worlds: I have nice in-laws and I don’t have to spend any time with them.”

I visited them regularly as before. Each time I would tell them the loving things he had said about them. Each time they would send me back with the car loaded with mother’s best cakes and various baubles, such as pieces from her silver collection…. At one point she sent her engagement ring for him to make into a pendant.

Even to this day, both of us answer the phone in the same manner. Most friends can’t tell which one has answered. Nor could either set of our parents while they were still alive. It often led to light humor.

Six years into our marriage, I picked up the phone. “I’d like to speak to my son, please.”

“But Dad, this is your son.”

“No, Louie. I want to speak to my other son.”

“This one’s for you,” I whispered as I handed Ernest the phone.

“We’re Christians,” Dad told Ernest, “but we have not behaved like Christians towards you, and we desperately need your forgiveness.”

“That’s easy,” Ernest said. “You have it.”

“We want you and Louie to spend the weekend with us.”

They arranged for 50 or more of their closest friends to drop by at intervals long enough for each to have a good conversation with us. Later we learned that other friends were disappointed to find they were not part of the inner circle. They wanted to meet Ernest too.

I not only believe in the Holy Spirit: I have seen the Holy Spirit happen.

Three years later Mother and Dad died, he seven month’s after she did. Knowing that I might not be with him when the end came, I said to him – forgive me, lgbtq friends, this is not politically correct, it sounds like apologizing for who I am – I am trying to be honest with you the way I try to be honest with God, “Dad, I know that I have not been the son that you wanted, but I love you very much.”

He was down to 90 pounds He struggled to sit up and would not let me help him. He got eyeball to eyeball and said, “Louie, you have never been more wrong. You are the son that I wanted, and I love you very much.”

I realize that some of you may not have had a father that loved you like that. But let me tell you about my other father, because he’s your father too. The God who made heaven and earth made you. You are the daughter God wants. You are the son God wants. Let your pride be in God’s absolute love of you. Amen

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Louie Crew Clay

Louie Crew Clay,  81, is an Anniston, Alabama native and Professor Emeritus at Rutgers. He lives in East Orange, NJ, with Ernest Clay, his husband for 44 years. He holds an M.A. from Auburn University, a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), and honorary doctorates from three seminaries of the Episcopal Church. He is the founder of Integrity, an international organization of lgbt Episcopalians/Anglicans. Editors have published 2,730+ of Louie Crew Clay's poems and essays — including Letters from Samaria: The Prose & Poetry of Louie Crew Clay, NYC: Church Publishing, Inc., November 2015 and  Our Station Forgot to Give the Evening News,  Poetry Superhighway. An eBook in the press' annual 'The Great Poetry E-Book Free-For-All,' online from December 1, 2016. You can follow his work at Rutgers.edu. See also Wikipedia.org. The University of Michigan collects Clay’s papers.