A young, cute preacher was preaching on homelessness during the Christmas season. Social justice! Just what I wanted!
I nabbed him during the coffee hour after the service. His name was Fred; he was 27 years old, a new seminary graduate, and he was working as a student intern while looking for a pulpit of his own. I told him about my interest in finding a non-fundamentalist church, and he invited me to dinner next Friday night to "discuss theology."
I spent the next week agonizing over what I should wear, trying to think of questions to ask about Methodism, and wondering:
Was he gay?
Was it a date?
We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Davenport, Iowa, across the river (not the one in Moline where Bruce and Leanne sniped at each other). I tried hinting around to determine if he was gay or not:
Me: Is it hard to get dates, being a minister? People thinking you're going to judge them?
Fred: Just the opposite, really. Lots of people have a thing for ministers.
People, not men or women!
Fred: Methodists realize that we're fallible. I'm divorced, but that shouldn't be a problem in finding a pulpit.
Divorced! So he was straight! Or did he divorce when he realized that he was gay
Me: I heard something weird about that hymn, 'In the Garden': he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own. If you didn't know it was about God, you'd think it was about two gay guys!
Fred: Yeah, you can find some crazy interpretations of those old hymns.
When the waiter brought out the check and fortune cookies, Fred said "Forget the fortune cookies. I have dessert and coffee waiting for us at my apartment -- devil's food cake."
Straight or not, I never turned down an invitation for cake.
|Fred's Apartment Building|
I scanned his bookshelves for books with the word "gay" in the title, checked the pictures on his wall for beefcake. Nothing! We sat side-by-side on his couch, eating cake, and I still didn't know if this was a date!
"Do you want to watch tv?" Fred asked. "I think The Rockford Files is on."
"Sure. I love James Garner. He's very handsome. He should take his shirt off more often."
"Yes...he's a fine actor."
This was getting ridiculous!
I decided to make a move -- he was a minister -- the most he could do would be to grab a Bible and start screaming. So I tried the "yawn and stretch" maneuver for putting my arm around him.
He was gay. This was a date.
We dated for the next six months.
Fred's story continues in the summer of 1980, when we move to Omaha together.