Greetings Faith Friends!
In January of 2008, Dean Lackey (also here on this site), and myself, established Emergent Wilmington here in Wilmington, North Carolina, by meeting together every Thursday at 8 AM at Port City Java. Today that group has grown and continues to meet weekly, now at Jester's Java.
There are now also two other weekly groups, each in homes, one meets on Tuesday evenings, the other on Wednesday evenings. All total we have about 75 persons who meet from time to time with us, including many area pastors, and have a strong contingent of participants from the LGBT community here. Regular weekly attendance is probably about 35 persons.
We are planning to begin offering monthly large combined gatherings for worship and community beginning at Advent in just a few weeks.
A little about myself: Born and raised in a nearly exclusively pastoral leadership family within the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition (Church of God, Anderson, IN), my father, grandfather, 3 uncles and 8 cousins, are all current pastors or national leaders in that tradition, having served in positions including Chair of the General Assembly (North America), President of Church Extension (North America), Vice-President of Anderson University (main institution of higher learning), Dean of Anderson University School of Theology (main Seminary), Dean of the Chapel at Anderson University, one was pastor of what at one time was the largest congregation, and one is now the pastor of what is close to our largest congregation.
I present this information to provide a contrast as to my more recent experience. I too pastored in this tradition for over 25 years, specializing in Leadership Development, Youth and Worship, and in fact personally mentored a substantial number of current pastors and leaders in the Church of God, and many who are serving other traditions. At one time I was counted among the most influential worship leaders in the tradition, having brought significant progress to the overall worship experience within the tradition. As a gifted vocalist, early on I was privileged to begin singing and recording with major Christian artists who originate from the Church of God, such as Bill & Gloria Gaither and Sandi Patty, as well as many others from other traditions.
White working toward my Master of Divinity at Anderson University, in 2000, I was challenged spiritually, emotionally and intellectually to go the final mile toward full authenticity. A key element of this challenge came when Dr. Stan Grenz came to be a guest lecturer that year. I went to every seminar, presentation and discussion group he led that week. I bought a few of his books and then some that he recommended, and devoured them as if I'd only just been introduced to the mission of Jesus for the very first time, even though I had already pastored for over 15 years. I was introduced to the many reasons I had felt so restless over the years, and I was introduced to the phenomenon of emergence.
Along with my experience that year, I felt it was time to deal with a life-long hidden struggle between my faith and my deepest self, my reality. With the help of a wonderful professor I located an excellent therapist who assisted me in the process of coming to terms with myself as a gay man. I went on to continue pastoring churches over the next three years while remaining in therapy and finally developing a complete peace with my orientation. In December of 2005, I resigned as a pastor, and in June of 2006 I came out to my family and to the entire Church of God. Even though my credentials have never been formally stripped, it was generally understood that my leadership was no longer needed within the Church of God, and my credentials were simply not renewed after 2007.
I sold Audi automobiles for 2 years, then pastored a small congregation of the Metropolitan Community Churches here in Wilmington for a year and a half. The church suffered through the recession, so I resigned as pastor. I still attend and volunteer leadership there, but, took the opportunity to build something I had been dreaming of since that experience with Dr. Grenz, then attending the Emergent Conferences in San Diego 2 years and Nashville 1 year, and numerous other experiences over the past 9 years, not to mention all of the reading and study! Emergent Wilmington was born.
To be honest with everyone, I have not been able to find steady employment for over a year now. My resume is loaded with Christian ministry experience, except for the 2 years with Audi, and I've found the few employers who are hiring from time to time unwilling to consider me. I've been making it, somehow, by God's grace, on odds jobs and weddings, and singing, etc., for over a year, but am honestly suffering economically. Still my faith is sound and I love what I am able to offer to my communities of faith. Your prayers are much desired and needed.
I am grateful to the Emergent community for offering and open, safe and embracing space for ALL of God's family. I welcome community with all of you... Greg McCaw