Thursday, June 2, 2011

To Evoke the Better Angels of Our Own Nature




James Wieland is an ordained Elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, New York and gave the following floor speech to the Presbytery of Western New York. Western New York passed 10-A by 77 to 44.

More Light Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian Church
Good Morning -

My name is James Wieland. I am a pediatric dentist, a life long Presbyterian - baptized in 1955, confirmed in 1970, and ordained as an elder in 1994. I was a lifelong member of the Youngstown Pres Church, until I transferred my membership to Westminster, 6yrs ago.

I can also describe myself as a born-again Christian, an ordained Elder, and an openly gay man. Born–again in the spirit and body of Christ, and I was made a new. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour.

My mother was a Sunday school teacher, my father a lifelong trustee and superintendent of the Sunday school, in Youngstown. It was a great church to grow up in but, I clearly remember hearing about the sin of homosexuality being preached from the pulpit in Youngstown. I must have been 8 – 10 yrs old.

From that time, until about 12 yrs ago, no matter what I had accomplished, how much my family may have loved me, or whatever “things” I had in my life – the shame that I felt about myself was an overwhelming factor leading my to grotesque self-abusive behavior.

Hate is an extremely powerful emotion. I had many suicide attempts, was entangled in severe alcohol/drug abuse and eventually found myself having been in jail, numerous hospitals and mental institutions and very near death.

Literally, I have been from Harvard yard to the grave yard, and back.

I was living a lie - lying to myself, to my friends and family. I too, was dying – in mind, body and spirit!!

Somehow, I never left the church… or more correctly stated, God would not allow me destroy the life that He had freely given me.

I stand before you today, simply because of the Mercy and Grace of God. Without His love, compassion and concern for me as a human being, a gay man…. I would not be alive.

Twelve yrs ago, I was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease. I was so sick that I do not remember asking for God’s help, but what I did receive was a second chance at life. I have been freed from the demons of addiction and self-hatred that had haunted me for many years.

I just celebrated my 12th anniversary of a clean and sober life, and nine yrs ago, this past March 13th; I underwent a successful liver transplant….

His Mercy and Grace are the only reasons I am alive today. I am becoming the person that He meant me to be – My church family is a very integral part of my life – I can look to any of them for support, love, and full acceptance, with the assurance that His spirit is omni-present in all...

I can only be a power of example to others, live my life with honesty and personal integrity. I thank God everyday for His gift.

To paraphrase former president Jimmy Carter – “My faith demands - that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have - to try to make a difference”

I would also like to share part of a story from Mike and Janet Fazzini members of Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, the Pittsburgh Presbytery and PFLAG. I met them at a More Light national conference and they have a gay son.

“A well-loved local minister — a closeted gay man — committed suicide. That’s when we went from being passive as Christians to becoming active. It was incredible that a man of such faith, with a wide circle of people who admired and loved him, who meant so much too so many, nevertheless could be so hidden and so threatened by the prospect of being outed. He had loving people all around him yet he could not be fully honest with them. We may not have known him personally but it was a defining moment for us as Christian activists.”

James 3:17-18 “…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It knows no partiality and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.”

In closing, remember these words from Abraham Lincoln that we are here today “…to evoke the better angels of our own nature.”

Thank you and God bless.