Tuesday, January 16, 2007

RIP Rev. Brent J. Dugan

I have spent time over the last days and weeks reading blogs from both Anglican and Presbyterian authors, all responding to the ongoing conflicts that threated to tear our churches apart. Bloggers such as Madpriest and Elizabeth Kaeton have been posting about the ongoing struggles to control the direction of the Episcopal Church in the US, and about breakaway dioceses who seek episcopal oversight from so-called "orthodox" prelates rather than give in to the 'scourge' of, among other things, women priests, gay priests and bishops, and those who would associate with them. My church (the Presbyterian Church [USA]) is still struggling with the results of the Peace, Unity and Purity Task Force report (found here with commentary on the Witherspoon Society's website), which was accepted by vote of the General Assembly last summer, and which sought, in as sensitive and theologically grounded a way as possible, to find for the church a "middle way" over the question of the ordinations of GLBT folks in our church.

Then, this morning, I read on the PC(USA) website, this story, about Rev. Brent J. Dugan, a 60 year old minister from Pittburgh, who killed himself after a man with whom he met to have sex set him up to be videotaped by a local television news station. Here is a quote that made my heart ache:

A statement released by the session of Community Presbyterian Church said, “we are a community in grief” over Dugan’s loss.

“As a favorite person to many of us, our beloved pastor is now gone, and we will never understand all of the reasons for his actions,” the statement said. “But we will cherish the many gifts he gave to us each week and each year as he helped to make our lives full of the Word and grace of God.”

And also, this:

The Rev. Jim Mead, pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery, said in a statement posted on the presbytery’s Web site that “Brent was and is deeply respected in this presbytery, known for the fruit he bore in ministry, his caring and thoughtfulness, and for his humble, missional leadership. He was a very dear man.”

This man, by all accounts, was a good minister, and a good human being. (The news station quoted in the article makes vague reference to possibly illicit/ illegal activities, but fails to specify what these might have been.) By the "fruits" of his ministry he was known as a beloved pastor and a good colleague. But in response to the rules of this denomination, he tried for years to fall in love with a woman, only to conclude, finally, that his best hope was to commit fully to his congregation.

But we don't work that way, as human beings, do we? We, most of us, long for intimacy with one particular person, and/ or the chaotic jumble of family life created with that person. But this denomination, which seems to have failed to have gotten the memo from Jesus that A. Love is what it's all about, and B. We are set free from legalisms that keep us chained by the throat, offered this good pastor and good man no other option than secrecy, shame, and, when it came right down to it, a choice to end his life rather than endure the humiliation of exposure.

Something is not right here. Something is sadly, horribly wrong.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O God, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May the new morning find him full of your Word and your grace. And may you have mercy upon all our souls.


Cynthia said...

::weeping for this loss::

KJ said...

Detractors of GLBT individuals will use this as evidence to prove their position (i.e., homosexuality is wrong and unhealthy) when in fact, it is the result of ill health that comes from attempting to pretend to be somebody that you are not. I read such stories and can only think, "But or the grace of God..."

Rest in the peace of Christ, Brent.

Eileen said...

How horribly wrong and sad. And wasteful.

May God grant him the peace in his death that he was unable to feel in life.

And may the Christian churches world wide wake up to END this discrimination and bigotry rooted in bad theology.

Iris said...

I hadn't read about this. How terrible and what a loss for the Church. I am struggling so much between wanting to honor, respect and maintain connection with those who disagree with me on this issue and my growing impatience with the injustice and harm that our present standards cause.

I think the television station has some culpability in this situation. I hope the ratings were worth it.

Grandmère Mimi said...

So very sad. Something is, indeed, not right, and terribly wrong.

Rest in peace, Brent Dugan.

Please, God, give us the grace to do better by our brothers and sisters.

steve said...

Yes, something is so very, very wrong here.

I am continually saddened by how our society treats our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. I run across the effects of this bigotry with some frequency in my practice.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'll let Andrew Sullivan have the last word:

"What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility."

Pray for the soul of the Rev'd Brent J. Dugan.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Catherine + said...

This story grieves us who love our LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ. This story and stories like it always bring to mind the descriptive of Christ: "And Jesus wept". I weep also.