Clay Nelson profile

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in zero.com. [00:00:06] My background is that I'm an American who immigrated here in 2005. Determined to go somewhere else after George Bush got reelected. And I was at a point in my life where I could do that my kids were established, my parents were deceased. So I could have one more great adventure. And part of what drew me to New Zealand, as opposed to other locations was its record and human rights in particular. That was one of the things troubling me in the US was lyst. Under Republicans. Equality issues were a problem. [00:00:49] There were many other issues, but that was a big one. [00:00:52] I have worked in higher education has my first career. And then when I was about 20, [00:01:00] seven, I went to seminary, or I started thinking about going to seminary, went to seminary, and when I was 30, and I've been a priest for 30 years. [00:01:11] I have always worked in [00:01:18] from a progressive angle in the church. My one of my formative bishops was Bishop John's mom. When I was a young priest, he was my bishop. [00:01:33] So these issues have always been important to me. [00:01:39] When I came to New Zealand, I had not been working as actively as a priest. for about six years, I'd worked with another faith group, the Unitarians as an administrator. Because I was frustrated, in part, I would had been in a position of high rank and an American diocese. And I got it was fairly conservative diocese, and I got very tired of the sex wars. [00:02:10] Because there was still a lot of resistance to equality. [00:02:15] And wasn't the only reason but it was a big one. And [00:02:22] so I went off with free thinking Unitarians for a while. When I came here, I did not expect to work for the church. [00:02:32] I thought I might have to drive a taxi. I just hope I could stay [00:02:37] the [00:02:40] stain in temporary housing over on Queen Street. And during my first week, I happened to walk by Christ, St. Matthews, and they had a big banner on their belltower that said, Make Poverty History, I thought it might be my kind of place. So I came the next Sunday, and heard a fairly progressive sermon, tolerable liturgy, and I have a place I can come worship. But then I noticed they had a notice sheet activities and they the bottom there was an ad for they were looking for someone to do communications and marketing. And gave a URL for looking up the position description went back to my hotel looked at it was like I've written it for myself. So they weren't looking for a priest, but I have that I had experience with web development and communications and qualifications there. So I applied Two weeks later, [00:03:40] I had a job and [00:03:43] with a vision of creating a virtual progressive church online and [00:03:52] then they cottoned on to the fact that I was a priest [00:03:56] eight years later, I'm still here and at the moment president so it's, it was one of those grace filled moments. That's how I can be here. [00:04:09] St. Matthew is is known around New Zealand for its very progressive but proactive approach to promotion values that you hold. Can you talk to me a wee bit about that? How did that all come into being I'm thinking of things like the billboard outside the church is always coming up with interesting ways to kind of push the button [00:04:37] that's part of my brief here and [00:04:46] it's a Matthews has always been a place that was concerned about social justice not just for the gay and lesbian community but much broader I mean, maybe help found the seafarers and, and they are at least they were involved with it. And they started a medical clinic, which later I think evolved into the Auckland City Mission. And the first mission City Mission or was somebody in my position, who went to do that work and establish a mission? It was involved with the he call f4. Market land rights and it in my office is where the demonstrations for the Springbok tour. [00:05:38] Reply and [00:05:41] when Nelson Mandela came to New Zealand to thank Kiwis for their support, he did it from St. Matthews pulpit. We were involved in anti war Pete Seeger sang from our pulpit. So there's been this long history and then 30 plus years ago, when it was still against a lot of big gay, St. Matthews help found the Community Church or at least offered a safe place for them to be and with many of its members are members who are involved in supporting clergy have preached there regularly over the years. And, and it slowly became more and more seen as a major component of who we were was to support that community. No, [00:06:40] I mean, I think it's important that [00:06:44] the heterosexual community is not just tolerating the gay and lesbian community, but respecting, honoring, appreciating that community and St. Matthews has a long history of doing that. So we've been involved with the the AIDS quilt, the AIDS Foundation, they really have their some of their services here, the transgender community, it has memorial services here. Many, many funerals of prominent gay and lesbian. [00:07:18] People have had their farewell here. We've had some [00:07:24] great funerals with [00:07:27] some of the [00:07:29] entertainers in the gay community. I mean, it's so we've been been there. And whether we directly were involved in doing it, we at the very least, provided them space for it. We have spoken actively in the pulpit about the issue with confronted our own Anglican Church about their policies. And a few years back, [00:08:00] I decided that [00:08:04] we had requests for people to do civil unions here. And the Dyson policy was not supportive of that. It was okay to do blessings. I got myself licensed to be a civil union celebrant so that I could actually hold the whole service here in the church. Well, the diocese doesn't fully approve it. We don't hide it. And they've chosen not to make it an issue. I don't do a lot of them. The gay and lesbian community for understandable reasons isn't necessarily trusting of the church, to have their services, I think is a big part of it. And I certainly understand that, but for those who wishes, I'm available to them, if they want to have a religious ceremony. I only do gay and lesbian civil unions. I don't do civil unions for other people. For the heterosexual community, they plenty of civil union civil rights for that. So we're working out in our minds how we're going to handle the issue if but Fingers crossed, that the marriage equality passes, how we handle that, because the church will be behind the curve on that, in terms of improving our ability to do that. I think they will eventually. [00:09:35] But in the meantime, what are we there. [00:09:37] So if we've kind of worked out a strategy on that, [00:09:41] we're going to [00:09:44] couples who want to have a marriage here, are going to need to go to internal affairs have a kind of a JP wedding. [00:09:53] So they're signed off. [00:09:56] But then they'll come here and we'll do the full thing as a renewal of vows, at the very least, and and provide the blessing. So [00:10:11] having all these things go on on the church is one thing, but actually, things like your billboards and being quite outspoken publicly about your progressive attitudes is another. How did that idea of really pushing the message out into the community come advantage? Well, it tied [00:10:32] into this world we now live in with the internet, social media, and I've been doing billboards for a while, hardly ever did they get picked up in the media. They were often clever. They provided a smile, but they didn't push the envelope. It was our first, the first billboard that push the envelope, didn't have it anything to do with the gay and lesbian community had to do with [00:11:04] the doctrine of the virgin birth. And [00:11:08] that it was a billboard showing Joseph and Mary embed [00:11:13] Mary looking with the satellite to heaven, and Joseph looking rather dejected. And it just simply said, pour Joseph, God is a hard act to follow. Well, that was quite an experience, because it when I watched it go viral on Google. And then it was in all the newspapers around the world. And there was we were getting interviews and television radio from around the world. And [00:11:42] and people found us, and they found [00:11:47] a website, that we didn't have a big Facebook page at that point. We're just getting into that. But just incredible numbers, thousands and thousands people came to the website and people, [00:12:04] you know, were either very supportive or [00:12:09] extremely angry about it, you know, we got lots of hate mail, lots of pay email, [00:12:18] with mixpanel, with lots of positive ones as well. [00:12:24] That's when we really discovered the power of the Billboard. [00:12:28] And so we we work hard now to find a way to push the edge. It's not for our notoriety, it's in order to engage the world, and to talk about issues of spirituality and social justice. And we have lots of evidence that that happens. For instance, our Christmas billboard was part of a major block in rock were just had tons of comments, I have no idea what they thought. But, but it's now because of that first billboard, whenever we put up a billboard, the media is interested. And so we're almost guaranteed that what we put up is going to get some attention. [00:13:22] We've got with the [00:13:27] we've had three, four billboards that have had directly to do with gay and lesbian. And one was showed Noah's Ark and it said, we welcome to have every kind It was a beautiful illustration will use it a lot. And the next one had to do with confirming church policy. We have a member of the staff, who has a theology Bachelor's of theology. It's incredibly gifted every inch of him as a priests, but he's only gay and in a committed relationship. And the bishops have chosen to have a moratorium on allowing someone like him to go through discernment for ordination. And after two bishops are making requests and being kind of blown off, he finally felt too humiliated to continue. And I was furious, and took on the diocese and the old prophets, New Zealand on the session, in a sermon that got a lot of attention. We started a virtual billboard, stopping white collar crime and use the web to have a petition calling on the diocese to change this policy. And then we followed it up with a billboard that looked like a meter that looked like calling gatos, what the church uses to discern people for ordination, that head straight and gay on two sides. [00:15:10] So we're pretty on their face on that. The next billboard was [00:15:16] coincided with Louis's bill on marriage equality is and its first reading, we put it up the day of or day before the first vote. And that showed two women on top of a wedding cake with our message that we don't care who's on top. And that, that also got a lot of people talking, generate a lot of hate mail. But nothing like the Christmas or the Christmas one with Jesus with the rainbow Halo. It's Christmas time for Jesus to come out generated some of the most nasty haste. I've finally had to start monitoring. I've tried to let the website and comments be free, free, like without censorship. But they were so nasty towards [00:16:09] the govt community [00:16:11] I had. So nothing goes up anymore that I don't seek first. It got lots of attention on Facebook comments, it's been picked up by a lot of other Facebook pages and websites and blogs. So it's it's a worldwide attention. [00:16:34] It generated some pretty nasty death threats, [00:16:40] which we passed on to the police. [00:16:43] So it's [00:16:46] it's certainly push the issue. There have been complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, which has upheld us on all the complaints. So [00:17:01] breach it was, but people try. [00:17:06] So it is clear that while I believe the back of homophobia has been broken, and the future is clear, is going to be a long time before all the wounds are healed. And we will have to continue standing up for our gay brothers and sisters. [00:17:31] As they deal with the remnants of that. I do believe these attitudes and values are generation. And as [00:17:40] people of my generation and older begin to go [00:17:45] see less and less other [00:17:49] evidence of that is marked by some rather prominent evangelicals recently coming out. [00:17:56] The same week, I'll let this go This isn't wrong. So [00:18:03] I'm quite hopeful. [00:18:05] I'm actually quite amazed to have seen all this in my own lifetime in ministry. And I feel good about having played some small part and pushing [00:18:17] that first billboard we were pushing the envelope. What year was that? [00:18:21] 2010? Yeah, [00:18:27] no. 2009 2000. [00:18:29] And we when you were coming up with that concept, did you have any inkling as to what kind of responsibility because obviously you wanted to [00:18:38] push? Yeah, I didn't want to push. But [00:18:45] I was thinking maybe if it got picked up or Sideswipe it being a success, you know. [00:18:52] And I said, I thought people would find the humor and let it go. But now [00:18:58] it really pushed buttons worldwide. And I learned [00:19:04] that we can make use of this. And [00:19:10] when that happened, how did the rest of St. Matthew respond? Welcome divided unit? Well, [00:19:16] let me start where we are now. And then I'll go back, I did a survey of congregation, both our online congregation and over our physical congregation about a wide variety of issues. But amongst that was, how did they feel about our billboards? How did they feel about our presence in the media, writing articles, all that sort of thing and pushing these controversial issues. And as of last [00:19:47] November about [00:19:50] it was overwhelming support of the congregation. Okay. There's some outliers. And the most common problem I have are those who say, they get tired of having to defend our Christmas billboards at their Christmas parties or with their families or that sort of thing. I think they find that [00:20:11] uncomfortable. And but [00:20:17] I would say the majority of this time are quite proud of our public position, [00:20:23] and are quite supportive. [00:20:27] Certainly our online community is quite supportive. [00:20:31] Overwhelmingly huge, but it's true. They either strongly support or support. Yeah, in the 80% 90 to 90% percentile. So an old and almost no one says we shouldn't do is just how important they think they might be. So but the first billboard, you know, none of us were prepared for the worldwide reaction. But, you know, [00:21:01] Glen, and I did a kind of [00:21:06] a conversation sermon, this first Sunday after that reaction, and and then invited people to ask questions and talk about that. And and they were some of the work. I mean, this was fairly new, I mean, to be that this visible and that provocative. So people were working through it. But what I can say is, three years later, and several more billboards that provocative, they've come to terms of the [00:21:40] product. [00:21:44] Talk to me about the kind of design process that you go through for one of those billboards. I mean, who comes up with a message? How's it formulated? Do you have a test group? [00:21:57] No, all of that. We've been blessed to have [00:22:03] different [00:22:07] advertising companies willing to work with us pro bono. Okay, so we don't pay for any of the creative work. We sometimes have to pay for, well, we pay for the printing of the scan and installation. Basically, sometimes there's some other costs. But so we get these quite economically. The reward for these companies is they use they have a lot more freedom than they do with their usual clients to come up with things. And then they use these in competitions within their industry with won lots of awards for over 20 years. [00:22:48] Even the ones before regard will be controversial. [00:22:55] The challenge for me is I'm generally these creative teams are young people. And they are by and large, unchurched. And they have strong stereotypes about what churches and I have to disabuse them. We are their stereotype. So I have to educate them about what we're about. And that's, [00:23:18] that's not easy. It sounds like I can just [00:23:21] give them a paragraph and say, This is how we different. Yeah, so usually takes me a while, especially when I'm starting with a new team to get the message across. But the first thing in the brief I give them is if this billboard can be comfortable and outside any other church, it probably doesn't work for us. [00:23:42] Okay, start from there. [00:23:47] And, [00:23:50] you know, [00:23:52] we always try to have on a Christmas, Easter and maybe four or five others during the course of the year. Sometimes, that time short notice, we have to deal with what's happening in the culture. And we're trying to reach out not to people in the church, we're trying to reach out to people who are either skeptical of the church, harmed by the church or ignorance of the church. And we're not trying to get them, their bums on the pews. We're not trying to build our numbers this way, though, that we have had some success. So what we really want to do is public theology, we want to engage, we want to be one of the voices in the marketplace of ideas. At a time when the church has quieter and quieter voice. Yeah, so we have to use a megaphone to get attention. And so the most common complaint as How could you a church saying do these things? You know, well, we're not talking to the church, generally, sometimes we're kind of trying the church and their attitudes, but generally, we're speaking came to the greater culture. And, and, you know, I have friends here are gay and Pakistani, and they went back for Christmas after one of their, our billboards and found some remote part of Pakistan, the family was discussing our billboards over over the dinner table, you know, the conversation goes well beyond New Zealand. [00:25:24] The [00:25:26] last year's Christmas billboard [00:25:30] was discussed for 10 minutes on the view, which is a major pro daytime program in the US, for women predominantly focused on women with Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg, [00:25:41] you know, and that's how my children [00:25:43] found them. [00:25:46] And they were quite chuffed that they had [00:25:52] gotten this out there. [00:25:54] So it's, it's really about being discussed. The last billboard i did i have a brief interview on Sydney channel TV channel. And some of my Australian friends wrote me and said, after your bed, the newsreaders realized, do you know, we've been talking about Jesus for five minutes. And I felt that's what, that's what this is. But, you know, if, if, if a few of those people are drawn to us in Auckland to come worship with us on occasion, to cool, but that's not our agenda. Our agenda is to, to love what our understand the gospel is. Get some discussion out there, and to challenge people's stereotypes, and understand that not all churches fit in the same box [00:26:55] under the same people, so it's [00:26:59] I think we getting pretty good at it. [00:27:03] So what is the relationship between St. Matthews and in the rest of the infocomm? church? [00:27:11] Well, there we have our quiet supporters. Say Matthew, I got [00:27:19] See, Matthew says is very unique. And we have a responsibility because of that. The unique This is and how we are funded. We don't really depend on the congregation's giving we welcome. But [00:27:40] our people don't have deep pockets. [00:27:44] We just happened to be blessed to have been put on land that's incredibly valuable. And a few years ago, was he was entrepreneur Nouriel enough for the congregation to build the car park, which we lease undergirds our, our budget. And then we have a view of using our building as kind of a community center for all of our calls. So corporations, nonprofits, private parties, use the space, and we profit from that. We sometimes sponsor those events, so they get made through rates. And if it's something that fits our agenda, but that [00:28:34] generates income, [00:28:36] we do about 100 weddings a year, which generates some income. And once somebody gave us a factory in Eagan terrorists, which we get some rent from. So because of that, we're not worrying about some important giver in the congregation and might be upset with our theology. So while I've had some fairly free pulpits in my life, I've never had one freer than this, I can say exactly what I think and believe. I'm not calling on everybody else to believe in think the same way. But I am very free to say it. Because our financial stability is not a challenge. Most clergy out there may agree with us, but they don't dare. So we have to speak for them. [00:29:33] They generally, [00:29:38] smaller town in particular, where you can't go to church shopping, there's one England church here, the Anglican. So there's going to be the whole broad spectrum of theology and that congregation. And those who don't like our theology probably left long ago, those who are drawn to that are here, they say, pulled us. And so we're able to speak, [00:30:06] consistent voice. So I recognize that [00:30:11] others aren't in a position necessarily to do what we do. I'm not calling on them to do what we do, will do for. So we also wish, though, that they would use these opportunities. When we get media attention, they can get media attention arguing with us, if they like, the Catholics have gotten pretty good at it. You know, nobody would be talking to anybody else if it was a pro billboards. But you know, they have an opportunity to react to it at least get their views out there if they disagree. At least that furthers the conversation. But unfortunately, they tend not fewer starting to hear their [00:31:01] people taking us on, that's fine. [00:31:03] Has there ever been a point where you've looked at the reaction, and you've looked at some of the negative reactions of the billboards, and your fault? Actually, either we've gone too far, or we should take this down? Or this will be the last one? Has there ever been that moment where you thought you might have crossed along? [00:31:26] Well, personally speaking now, I can't speak for everybody. [00:31:32] I mean, we were we do I know push right on that fine line. And [00:31:38] and people say we should we shouldn't be offending people. I'm sorry. Ideas offend? You know, it's not personal. Yeah. But yeah, if we're going to generate a conversation, it's got there's gotta be some controversy. We don't do it just for controversy sake. I mean, we're pushing ideas and values we hold. But we know that there are many others who don't hold those and and perhaps there's a certain amount of jealousy that we get the attention, I don't know. But those people just dismiss this are just saying that these all that church. Okay, fine. But since we weren't talking to them anyway. Not too concerned about [00:32:32] that you have had vandalism? [00:32:34] Oh, yeah. In fact, it's wonderful. I almost should pay people to vandalize it and I, it adds a few more news cycles to the story. I mean, with the Joseph and Mary billboard, it was thanks to it being once painted over, then stolen, then replaced then attack by some madwoman with a knife. [00:33:00] It was in the Herald nine straight days. [00:33:06] in some form or fashion. Yeah. So and then last year's Christmas billboard had vandalized I thought this one was terrible, but now it wasn't. [00:33:20] So it's going to be used in the gay pride parade this year. [00:33:30] So [00:33:33] my favorite story about the battle is the guy that painted over the Joseph of Mary. Two months later on trow Tuesday was in line to get pancakes that we serve out in front of the church to people as they walk by. [00:33:48] We gotta kick [00:33:52] may not like our billboards, but likes our pancakes. [00:33:57] You were saying earlier that the kind of agenda for the billboards is not necessary to bring people into church. But you bet, you will also saying that some people have come in through the billboards, as opposed to more rainbow community. I mean, [00:34:17] we have a faith community that's focused on that, and many of them choose to go there. But we also have a number of gay couples are part of our, our 10 o'clock, Sunday morning service, and, and feel very comfortable and happy, have had some young people who are struggling with their gender identity, or orientation. [00:34:48] We have those two actually [00:34:52] spoke with one today. [00:34:57] You who come to me not be every Sunday, and they may just kind of come for the service and then disappear again. I've had, I've had people from other parts of New Zealand arrange to come see me to talk about their family situation when they came out or wanting to come out. [00:35:20] So it's more than just an awkward [00:35:27] the [00:35:32] lot of wonderful emails and letters from people in the gay community about the Christmas billboard, it really felt incredible affirmation. So makes up for all the hate mail in a hurry. After [00:35:51] several of these kind of billboards, the Hitman kind of just rolls off. [00:35:57] The [00:36:00] I used to try and answer all of [00:36:03] the mother anymore. [00:36:06] I'm not going to change any minds, [00:36:09] correspondence, to invite more nastiness, stopped responding to the abuse. [00:36:20] But it gives me [00:36:22] a lot of sympathy for the gay and lesbian community has suffered with I don't use a lot of time. [00:36:29] And it is personal there. So [00:36:34] when somebody from rainbow community comes to kind of struggling, is this a struggle with the sexuality? Or is it more about the sexuality and religion and how they kind of coexist, or [00:36:48] Yes, [00:36:52] I, in some cases, it's [00:36:59] a young person who who [00:37:02] is pretty sure they know what their orientation is. But [00:37:07] they're not quite sure how to talk to anybody else about it. So they're coming to a safe place to try out how to talk about summer coming, because they come from conservative religious homes, and they've heard all of all of the negative stuff, and they're coming to get another take on it. Another way of understanding those parts of Scripture that are always getting thrown at them. And trying to get some reassurance from somebody who's in authority, who wears a color, who, you know, who in their minds, from past experiences, and unlikely places, support. And [00:37:57] so I'm glad to be there. [00:38:03] I'm one of my bigger concerns is the bullying, they receive the nastiness they receive and trying to give them support, and help them find support groups and, you know, places that will honor who they are and hold them up in the midst of that crap. But I'm also amazed at some of the young people have come to me who are quite clear what their orientation is. And at a at a young age, you know, mid to late teens and, and are quite articulate about it. But they just kind of want to work through some more issues with it, or they're, they've been working with their family, but they're, you know, and they love the family, but their family still struggling with it, trying to figure out how to help the family deal with it. I mean, I have a well, he, she was born, my nephew, she's now my niece, and at the age of three or four knew she was transgender. I mean, she didn't know the word. But she knew she was a girl. And she's being raised and supported as girl. And so that we're living in a slightly different world, you know, her parents have, who are lesbian couple at work with the community, the school's her friends, their neighbors, to help them understand her or her orientation, or gender orientation. And, you know, she's growing up very well adjusted to it. [00:39:46] So that wouldn't have happened when I was young, [00:39:51] maybe wouldn't have happened 20 years ago. So you know, the world is changing or making progress. And I'm hoping that that while the truth is pretty slow on this, it'll eventually come around on this justice, dead on slavery, just as that on civil rights. Women, you know, maybe not universally all at the same time, but as long as their pockets of it. We still provide some hope, and honesty, the Gospels concerned, [00:40:24] you've been talking about young people coming to you. Is it also the case for older people come to choose one or two, because many young people? Well, I [00:40:34] spoke with a transgender woman today, who's 72 and was a he until she was about 60. And [00:40:47] finally, was able to acknowledge [00:40:51] she was married, is still married. same person, you know, she's gone through all that. And she's dealing with some of the the hatred, the Tucker that she has been fortunate enough not to receive, until recently, [00:41:08] trying to figure out how to respond to that. So she came in, [00:41:14] she was struggling, she just kind of hope that maybe she could find someone to talk to. She came in today [00:41:23] we're a safe place, and people know that [00:41:29] we will continue to be a safe place. [00:41:33] Having received both positive messages, and also a whole lot of negative messages towards this kind of proactive messaging. How do you keep on the positive side of things without kind of slipping into negativity and kind of hopelessness? [00:41:57] Well, my hope is, is actually in the gay lesbian community itself. You know, the fact that there's quit buying into the, the crap, you know, that's been pushed onto them by the church, and by homophobic people and, and standing tall, and living their lives and being wonderful people. [00:42:24] Many of whom are quite [00:42:26] faithful people who care about the gospel, and have shown great courage. So I have no trouble finding. [00:42:38] And [00:42:40] I suppose when I first started getting this kind of mail, I'm an introvert. [00:42:48] And most of my ministry, I have not had a prominent place in the, you know, visibility, say till I came here. And that's where I learned all local news. It's national news. And now talking international is. So if that was new for me, and at first somewhat bewildered, [00:43:09] like I told you, I used to answer all the hate mail, [00:43:13] thinking I need to reach out and respond. [00:43:17] And they were wondering, [00:43:21] now, read the first couple sentences. And when I see where they're going, right, this mobile, and that's [00:43:30] because [00:43:32] we don't deserve to be abused. Now, if people like it, that's not to say that people who disagree can write and offer their honest views and in a respectful way, [00:43:47] those all answer, I just don't get many. But when I get one night, I'll respond to that. [00:43:56] And try to open up a conversation with them. And occasionally that been successful, rarely, the occasional. So, but I now look at it as abuse. And if you let yourself just be abused, then you're buying into this. So [00:44:13] I just refuse to be abused. [00:44:17] Hence your time at St. Matthews, change your, your faith and anyone. [00:44:26] Yes, no. [00:44:30] I mean, my faith journey is always been evolving. So it's, it's continued to evolve since I came to St. Matthews, almost eight years ago. And there's nothing like standing up and speaking your truth, to deepen and push it forward into to where that truth leads. So in that sense, it's been quite informative. But values I hold were their own. They're just deep now. [00:45:05] Yeah. [00:45:08] To walk a path of faith will cost you [00:45:13] if you truly are if you're willing to stand up for. And so yeah, I've taken some crap. [00:45:20] And but the [00:45:25] but I'm still here. I'm fine. Yeah. And [00:45:31] so fears that I may have had before, [00:45:33] you know, I mean, I'm used to walking lines before. Now walking the line, I'm not going over the line of pushing the envelope too far before people are ready. Before I used to push the envelope from the Orthodox side. As far as I could, but not crossing that line. [00:45:52] In a pulpit. I would cross the line, frequently teaching or counseling, but I didn't do it from a public place. [00:46:01] When I decided to put the color back on, I decided this time, I was going to tell it exactly the way so whatever it might cost. [00:46:11] And [00:46:14] I was overwhelmed. I still remember the first sermons I did that with and how anxious I was. And then I was amazed by how alive and the congregation was because I was speaking things I've been thinking anyway, but hadn't heard from a pulpit. And so, you know, [00:46:33] in that way, my faith has been strengthened. I, [00:46:37] my values and beliefs haven't changed much. [00:46:41] But my faith is much stronger.

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