I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir about a man who has devoted his life to changing the Methodist church away from homophobia and towards respect of LGBTQ people.
I won it in a Goodreads giveaway, and to be completely honest, when I received it, I thought, "Oh no. I'm not going to like this because it's about religion. I have less-than-zero interest in god, religion, churches, Jesus, religious people, etc. Why did I greedily enter this giveaway for a book I won't like?"
However, I was pleasantly surprised, and found the book both touching and interesting. Although the first few chapters that covered Jimmy's boyhood and what the bible says about being gay were not really for me, I was soon riveted by Jimmy Creech's story. He sounds like quite a guy. He was not gay and didn't even know any gay people, so he had no personal connection to this issue, and was just a regular Southern pastor. Then one of his parishioners came out to him and said that the discrimination he experienced from the church wasn't fair. Jimmy thought it over, examined his own prejudices, and realized that his parishioner was right. He set out to make his church more inclusive, welcomed LGBTQ people to his church, and challenged the Methodist church's ban on performing weddings/commitment ceremonies and the ban against LGBTQ pastors. Immediately the higher ups did everything they could to silence him and even run him out of the church. But this guy was indefatigable, performing ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples left and right, even though he knew there would be difficult consequences for him, and all because he believed in civil rights and equality. The tone of the whole book was gentle and thoughtful.
I've been reading about the Enneagram personality types recently, and I think Jimmy Creech is definitely a 5 with a 4 wing. I also particularly enjoyed hearing about his wife Chris. She was quite a character. She had grown up in a fundamentalist household and as a result, religious people struck her as insincere and she didn't enjoy hearing about god. But she was in love with this guy, so as a minister's wife she preferred to help out in non-religious ways, like re-painting all the yellow lines in the church parking lot. But when he got in trouble with the church authorities, she stuck by him in every possible way. The descriptions of the byzantine church trial process was also fascinating, sort of like a John Grisham courtroom drama. My favorite aspect of the book was hearing the feedback Jimmy got from his parishioners, in their own words; from closeted people who were overwhelmed with happiness, to old-school people who struggled and overcame homophobia, to angry and bigoted people who weren't willing to have an open mind. I recommend this book for all LGBTQ and straight ally readers. It is completely palatable to a non-religious person like me, and it might be revelatory to a believer.