When I was 4, we were in the Michigan cabin where my mother grew up. One night while I was in bed, my parents watched a Billy Graham Crusade on TV. When he gave the invitation, I stood up in bed, tears flowing from my eyes, to invite Jesus into my heart. I was supposed to be asleep, and I worried about the squeaking bed springs.
I was raised a Christian and an activist. I grew up in public housing in East Oakland, where my parents organized other tenants when the housing authority tried to tear down our back yard fences to save money. That’s how they became community organizers. At thirteen I walked a precinct for Bobby Kennedy (1968). I grew up picketing the board of education, city hall, even the police chief’s home for racism in police hiring--where my mentally retarded sister was nearly killed by a phalanx of police motorcycles.
My father was hired as a community organizer during LBJ’s “War on Poverty.” He studied under Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky, and eventually became Director of the Alameda County Poverty Program--all this with an eighth-grade education.
I remember how slicked down my dad’s hair was when he was baptized at Melrose Baptist Church in Oakland. That same Sunday afternoon he had the first outdoor meeting of a new tenant organization on the front lawn of our building in the project. I grew up in Lockwood Gardens Housing Project. We were on welfare for a long time. The Housing Authority spread rumors among the tenants that my parents were Communists.
When I was twelve, I knew there was something missing in my life. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I would find the answer in church. We hadn’t been to church in about six months, so I took the bus to the last church we had attended, Melrose Baptist. There was a visiting evangelist there that morning, and at the beginnig of the invitation I went forward, tearful and trembling, and accepted Christ as my Savior.
I organized anti-war protests in ninth grade and ditched school with my algebra teacher for the Vietnam Day Moratorium (1969). “No More Business as Usual.” On the way to school I used to transfer buses in front of the Black Panther headquarters at 90th and East 14th.
In junior high and high school I attended attended Castlemont Baptist Church. I got up on Sunday mornings and took my brother and sisters to church with me on the bus. During high school I attended G.A.R.B. churches (General Association of Regular Baptists). It was there that I learned to love the Scripture and first saw some of the weaknesses of fundamentalism.
In high school a friend questioned whether I was really a Christian. I knew she was right, that I had frequently told people that "I have a Christian philosophy," but that I was afraid to let Christ be Lord of my life. I had plans I didn't want him overriding. I began to pray, and I heard his inaudible voice say, "You'll be able to do what I want when the time comes."
I attended Simpson College when it was in San Francisco, where I met my wife Diane. I majored in Biblical Literature and in history. As my profile says, “At Simpson, through my coursework in Bible & theology, church history, through my exposure to world missions and to a student body that ranged from C&MA to Lutheran to Pentecostal to Catholic, I discovered that the Christian world was far more varied and flexible than I would have ever imagined.”
In the fall of my freshman year at Simpson College, Rev. Sun Myung Moon launched his campaign in the U.S. When Rev. Moon spoke to an audience of 3,000 people at the Scottish Rite Memorial Temple in San Francisco, I walked to the front of the auditorium and onto the platform, turned to the audience and shouted two times, “Don’t listen to this man! He is a false prophet! He is twisting the Word of God!” I heard several people in the audience say "Amen!" I was escorted out of the building by two nice men in white shirts, photographed, and told not to come to the rally in Berkeley the following evening.
I also worked with Jews for Jesus, street preaching outside the San Francisco strip clubs, and passing out “Broadsides” (tracts) at the airport. We were trained in non-violence to prepare us for hostile confrontations, which the Jews for Jesus were used to.
My wife and I planned to become Alliance missionaries, and I became a licensed minister in the C&MA. The birth of our third child, Jonathan, prevented us from becoming Alliance missionaries (the "two children" rule).
In the mid-eighties I was assistant pastor of Chula Vista Alliance Church under Dr. Warren Thompson, a former district superintendent. I took the youth group on regular mission trips to Tijuana orphanages, as well as to Long Beach to refurbish the YWAM missionary ship Anastasis.
I was president of the San Diego Interfaith Task Force on Central America, part of the Sanctuary Movement (1985), which smuggled Salvadoran refugees across the border, provided church sanctuary, and was infiltrated by FBI informants. I took my children to a counter-demonstration against a rally of white racists near the border with Mexico and was nearly run down (with several other counter-demonstrators) by their speeding pick-up trucks. A nun had my little ones safely with her on the side of the dirt road.
In 1990 I was arrested for civil disobedience, along with about 60 other people. Pleading no-contest to charges of criminal trespass and failure to disperse, I was sentenced by the judge to 25 days in jail. I know exactly where I was over the 1990 Fourth of July weekend!
My son came out to us during his sophomore year in 2001. We were attending a United Methodist Church, and Jonathan had been written up in “The Reader” (a local paper) for his gospel singing. After he came out, the pastor forbade him to be on the praise team or sing any more solos. Jonathan was a virgin, but no platform work the homosexual. He was president of his high school Bible Club, and the club advisor “suggested” that he resign “for the good of the club.”
After these rejections Jonathan attempted suicide three times. God was merciful.
Since 2004 I have worked to establish support groups for parents with gay, lesbian, and transgender children. I carry the Christian flag in the annual Pride Parade. In February, 2008, I initiated a local candlelight vigil, a memorial to fifteen-year-old Lawrence King, who was shot in the back of the head during his first period class by a fellow student because he was gay.
I've been serving on the local boards of PFLAG and GLSEN for the last six years.
My son was featured in this story was published by the Gay & Lesbian Times: http://www.gaylesbiantimes.com/?id=10953
My family is one of three featured in this documentary:
segment 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ7Ai4c0fJY