Notes from the Faith Journey

On Sunday, November 1st, I attended the 25th anniversary celebrating the installation of the Christ Statue at First United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi.”It Is I” became a reality when I served the congregation as the Senior Pastor. My return to First Church marked my first visit in 23 years. My warm and gracious reception stood in marked contrast to my departure in October of 1996.At that time, I was forced to resign my pulpit, because I was outed as a gay man. While I was at that time a non-practicing homosexual and had kept faith both with the Discipline and my former wife, that ultimately did not matter.In the span of eight days, my seven-year pastorate ended. Suddenly I was thrust into a frightening new world. With no warning, I suddenly had no income and no place to live–my family and I had resided in the church parsonage. My marriage was also over. Dear friends did not speak to me. As a fifth generation Methodist pastor, I felt personally devastated and professionally bereft.

After spending six months with my brother and family in Kentucky, I returned to Corpus Christi and moved in with my parents. I began work as a petroleum landman in a local firm, trying very hard to learn a totally new job. A year after my return to Texas, I suffered a near-fatal heart attack. My boss gave me CPR and miraculously saved my life before I successfully underwent by-pass surgery. When I recovered, that was the beginning of a true walk in the wilderness–working twelve jobs over the next five years in an effort to keep body and soul together, as well as pay child support. During that period, I found my way to the United Church of Christ, an Open and Affirming denomination.When I became a UCC pastor in full standing, I applied to become a local pastor–willing to go anywhere in the country.

By the year 2000, I had been waiting for a year-and-a-half for my phone to ring. I was working five part-time jobs simultaneously. I was as discouraged as I have ever have been. I vividly remember one afternoon during that time dragging myself to my neighborhood HEB in Corpus. As I walked to the store, a man got out of his car up ahead and started walking ahead of me. On the back of his t-shirt were the words from Jeremiah 29: “For I know the plans that I have for you…to give you a future and a hope.”On Consecration Sunday, Pastor Paul preached on this text. Afterwards I wrote him a note and said that beloved scripture, that parking lot epiphany, gave me a second wind.Never again would I ever feel so low. Six months later, a call came through from a UCC congregation in Bangor, Maine. I stayed nineteen years.A future and a hope indeed!

–Mark Allen Doty