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.