Pastor Randy and Gary Eddy-McCain

Episode 18 of over Coffee with Rev Dave Thompson and Pastor Randy Eddy McCain can be found at the link below:
Episode 18 of Over Coffee

Randy and Gary Eddy-McCain

When I was five years old, I lived with my parents and my two older sisters in a rural Arkansas town and attended a small Pentecostal church. Before the church service would start, the members would gather around the altars for a period of prayer. I remember very clearly one such night.

My mother always took me with her to the altar and asked me to kneel beside her, and I remember hearing Mama pray. She really got down to business with God in those times of prayer. This specific night, as she had her arm around me, she prayed, “God make Little Randy your servant.

“I knew she was praying for me. In my childish mind, I could see myself holding a great big silver tray filled with scrumptious pastries and luscious fruit. I was standing in front of this huge ornamental door that went from the ceiling to the floor. The doors magically opened, and I walked in sheepishly. There I saw before me a Decorative throne and sitting on that throne was my childish interpretation of what God must look like. As I remember, he resembled Santa Claus quite a bit – a kind elderly gentleman with a long white beard and eyes that twinkled. I approached the throne and offered my tray up to Him. That was my concept of being God’s servant.

I believe God heard my mom’s prayer, because all my life I have had a strong desire to draw as close to God as I could. When other boys wanted to play outside, I wanted to be in with the grown-ups who were having a Bible study. I loved Sunday school and Children’s church (A service held for children while the adults were in the Sunday morning service.) In the summers I lived for Vacation Bible School. I began singing solos in church at the age of six, and I would often get up before the church and give a testimony of my love for Jesus through out all my pre-teen years.Every evangelist who held a revival service at our church would tell my mom and dad, “This boy has a special calling on his life. He is going to be used of God in a very mighty way.” This thrilled me every time I heard it. When someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would square my skinny, little shoulders, stand on my tiptoes, and proclaim, “Someday I am going to be a minister of the gospel.”

All my life I studied the Bible and poured over scriptures to learn more and more about my Savior and Lord. Sometimes I was asked to sing at other churches. In my teen years, we moved to a larger city in Arkansas, and I became very interested in Christian drama.When I graduated from high school, I let it be known that for graduation gifts I needed money to buy a sound system, so I could travel that summer singing and preaching as a youth evangelist. I traveled throughout that entire summer.

In the fall of 1974, it was time to leave my home for college. However, I was totally unprepared for the separation from my friends, family, and all that was familiar. My older sister Linda had attended Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri. I decided that was where I would go to study for the ministry. When I got there, I was one of the few Southern kids, and the guys from up North loved to make fun of my Southern accent. I thought, “What accent? You are the ones with the accent!” In many ways I felt alienated and alone.

Even before my 13th birthday, I began to notice that I was different from the other guys in my church and at my school. I found myself developing crushes on my male friends instead of being interested in girls. I actually began experimenting sexually with other guys. I had heard very little about homosexuality. It was only mentioned in hushed tones, and those speaking seemed to be appalled at that kind of behavior.

Then I discovered a handbook for Christian teens. It spoke of homosexuality as the sin for which God destroyed Sodom. The article stated loud and clear that homosexuality was an abomination to God, and that God hated it.

When I was about 16, my parents gave me a book on sexuality. It also spoke of homosexuality as a perversion and stated that those who were homosexual were basically mentally ill. This frightened me. I knew that I was very much attracted to other boys. Did that make me homosexual? If it meant that I was homosexual, how did God view me?

I immediately felt the condemnation that I had read about in the teen book. “God must really be angry with me,” I thought. “Here he has called me to the ministry, and I have promised God that I will strive to be all he wants me to be – and now I am flirting with something that could totally disqualify me from reaching my dreams.”

I had no understanding of sexual orientation. I thought that I was the one who chose to have these thoughts and attractions. I immediately saw myself as dirty and despicable. I would promise myself over and over again not to allow myself to have those thoughts ever again, and I begged God to forgive me for the experimentation and the fantasies.

Yet the harder I tried to say no, the stronger these attractions became. I had read one statement in the book my parents had given me that gave a little ray of hope. The book stated that boys go through a time during puberty where they experiment with other young boys sexually and are not really attracted to girls, but that this is normal and they grow out of this stage.

I hoped against hope that I would reach that magical age where I, too, would grow out of my attraction for boys. Then I noticed that my friends didn’t want to mess around anymore and started dating girls, but my attraction for boys still did not change. That small ray of hope was extinguished.By the time I got to Evangel College, I was still fighting this raging battle inside of me, yet I thought that I would just throw myself totally into my Bible studies and somehow push away my sexual feelings for other men.

I met a friend at Evangel from an Eastern state. He and I really hit it off. He had a roommate named Gary Eddy from South Dakota. I would go to my friend’s room, and when he wasn’t there, I would talk to Gary. Gary was a good listener. I told him about my homesickness, my self-doubts, and my disillusionment with the college.

Gary was an art major, and he asked me sit for him so he could sketch me for class. We got very close as friends, but I never got up the courage to tell him about the battle that was fiercely raging inside of me. Little did I know that he, too, was struggling with the same issues.

At the end of my first semester I was in a deep depression. I decided not to come back from Christmas vacation. I told Gary about my decision to quit college, and we exchanged addresses. I went home and tried to travel more as an evangelist, but my heart just wasn’t in it.Gary and I stayed in touch by way of letters. One day I received a letter from him that spoke of his attraction to me. He wrote that after we would finish our visits, and I would leave his room at college, he would have to go for long walks because he was so attracted to me. On these walks he spoke of having fantasies where he and I were shipwrecked on a deserted island. We lived and loved each other and no one was there to judge us or bother us in any way. I was shocked. I did not know that he, too, had feelings for guys. I felt an exciting tingle when I read his account of the beach and the waves and the sexual love – but at the same time, I was horrified. Had I somehow given off signals to him that I had homosexual feelings? I thought I had them hidden. I felt like I had been busted!

I sat down to answer his letter. “How dare you have these kind of feelings for me,” I wrote, “don’t you know that this is an abomination to God? Please do not think of me in this way. I want to remain your friend, but that is all it can be – friendship.”He waited for two weeks to write back. In his letter he told me that he had first been very angry at me, but that after he cooled down, he realized the reason why I wrote as I did. He was also raised in an Assemblies of God home and he knew the company line on this subject. He apologized, and said he would try in the future to only think of me in a pure way as a friend and nothing more.

I made a trip back to Springfield and spent time on the college campus. Gary and I spent an afternoon together, and he apologized again for his letter. He wrote to me after I returned home and said,”Randy, I am so happy that you still love me. I should not have doubted it. Please forgive me for writing that bad letter. I’m really sorry. But putting all sorrow behind, I am happy to be writing to you again. I’m super happy you came for a visit, and that we were able to set our relationship right and clear the air of the misunderstanding between us. It hurts me to know that I hurt you by my letter, and I’m sorry. I love you very much, Randy. You’re a beautiful guy. Thanks for loving me. Take care of yourself. God bless you. With all my love, Your buddy, friend, and pal, Gary.”

In the fall of the next year, I decided to go to Southwestern Assemblies of God Bible College in Waxahachie, Texas. It had more of a Southern feel and so there was less homesickness there. Gary and I remained in touch by way of letter, but then as friendships often do, we somehow lost touch with each other.

In 1980, I finally could not ignore my sexual orientation any longer. I was very angry at the church, because I urgently needed to confide in someone about my inner struggle, and yet I knew what would happen if I were to mention my attraction to other guys. I knew that I would by ostracized by my closest friends.

Finally I decided that I had to go and find my own kind, so I searched and found gay friends. I also got involved in theater and met gay people through contact with other actors. It was so refreshing to be around people who were not judgmental toward gays – people who accepted me for me. At the same time I felt very alone, because I thought that I had to choose between being gay or being Christian.

Consequently, I left the church and ran from God. I felt that living as a gay person put me at war with God, so I tried not to think of Jesus or the church or the ministry I had walked away from. The gay people I met decided they would introduce me to the gay scene. To them, being gay meant going to the bars, drinking, smoking, dancing, and having sex – lots of it. There were no gay Christian role models, and there were no books that gave any guidelines to gay young people. I got caught up in the entire gay scene of the early 80s.

One day I came across an old address book and saw Gary Eddy’s mother’s address in South Dakota. I thought I really should try to get in touch with Gary and let him know I was now out of the closet. I needed to apologize for that mean judgmental letter I had written to him back in 1976. I worded the letter in such a way that if his mother opened and read it she would not have a clue, but if Gary read it, he would understand the code.”Gary,” I wrote, “something very interesting has happened in my life and I think you would be very interested to know about it.” I sent the letter off but never got a reply. I sent that same letter two or three more times over the next three years but received no reply.

Then, in 1985, I came across the address again. In the meantime, I had met and fallen in love with a man who was very mentally abusive to me. We had been together for two years and I had lost most of my friends because of his jealous and demanding personality. Yet I was so codependent that I could not see how sick he was or for that matter how unhealthy I was to stay with him.

When I found the South Dakota address again, I decided to try one last time to write to Gary via his mother’s home. I decided that if I got no response this time that I would throw away the address because his mom had either moved or died. This time I got a response. Gary wrote and told me a fascinating story about how he had decided that it was wrong to be gay so he decided that he would change. He married a girlfriend and they tried for five years to make the marriage work, but he had come to the realization that he was still gay and could not change. He and his wife divorced, and he moved home with his mom. His wife stayed in the house they had lived in together. The day he moved in with his mom, my letter arrived! He said he was anxious to hear what my big news was all about, but that he thought he knew.

I wrote and told him that I had finally come out as a gay man and was living in a relationship with another fellow. Gary decided to come visit us. When he got to Arkansas, I realized right away that there was still an attraction between us, but I wanted to be a faithful spouse. Gary saw how badly my partner was treating me, and told me that I was far too good a person to put up with the abuse I was suffering.I found myself more and more being drawn to this kind and gentle man. Gary spent five or six days with us. By the time he left, I found the courage to tell my partner I was leaving him. It was not easy, but I did leave. Gary wrote and told me he wanted to move to Arkansas and spend his life with me. He told me he loved me and felt he really had all along.At first I told him yes, but then I began to think about the sacrifice I was asking him to make to sell his house and quit his job. What if he moved to Arkansas, and I was still not over my break-up and could not relate to him? I called Gary and told him not to make the move.

Gary was devastated. He felt he had been rejected by me twice. Yet he still reached out to me, and he said that I could always count on him to be there for me. He also told me I could call him collect any time I needed him day or night. I took him up on that. Some months Gary had to decide whether to pay his rent or his phone bill!I ended up going back to my partner again and endured one more year of hell before I finally came to my senses. In 1986, at the end of that final year of abuse, I decided that if being gay was this painful and there was any possible way out, I wanted to find it. I left my partner and went back to the Assemblies of God church. I contacted an ex-gay ministry. I was determined that if there was any way for me to not be gay, I was going to find it.

I prayed, I pleaded with God – yet I was still the same gay person that I had always been. Gary also decided to try the ex-gay route. At one point I even thought of getting engaged to a young woman. I remember calling Gary to tell him the news. He said, “Randy, I feel so jealous of her.”I reminded him that we were not to think of ourselves as gay anymore. “I know,” Gary replied, “but I always have the thought in the back of my mind that someday we will be together. If you get married I will have to say good-bye to my dream.” I decided to break the relationship with the young woman. I told her that she deserved to be loved by a man who could appreciate her feminine charms. I was at my wit’s end.In 1991, I was hired as music minister for a Cumberland Presbyterian church, a position that eventually led to the position of assistant to the pastor. The church was only three months old. It was a mission work. I loved the opportunity to minister again.

During the previous five years, I had volunteered to work in hospitals as a caregiver and minister to those with AIDS. I had watched many of my friends die, and had preached some of their funerals.I had also worked in the drama department of my home church, writing and directing plays. One of my scripts was a one-person play of the life of St. Paul. I traveled to several states performing this play.It was exciting to be on a church staff again. I was up front with the young pastor about my sexuality. I told him that I had struggled with this for years and still had not seen a real change in my orientation, but I was not acting on these feelings. He seemed to be very non-judgmental and offered to listen if I ever needed to talk more with him about my struggle. He didn’t see it as a roadblock to my ministry at the church.I loved being part of a brand new church. The pastor had just finished classes in seminary on New Church Development and he drilled into me the new thoughts on how to grow an effective ministry. I loved the people in the church and they seemed to really accept me. I often shared with Gary by phone and letter how much I loved the church.

The church had an outreach to those who felt that they had not found a place in the traditional churches. This non-judgmental atmosphere in worship allowed me to explore my feelings about my sexuality in a less threatening place. I also wrote to Gary that I was studying the Bible more carefully on the subject of homosexuality, and I was beginning to think that God never said anything against loving, committed relationships between people of the same gender. The only time I could find that the Bible spoke about same-gender sex was always referring to a lust-filled act of selfish sexual gratification at the expense of another person.

I was slowly beginning to feel that our Creator made us the way we are, and that God does not have a problem with gay people forming loving, committed relationships that are Christ-centered. I received a very sweet letter back from Gary. He wrote, “Randy, if you decide that it is okay to have a significant other, I want to be the first applicant!

“WOW! What made him love me so much after all these years? I had always thought of Gary as a very persnickety person. I was basically what you call a slob when it came to cleaning house. Gary, on the other hand, had always kept a perfectly clean room at college. You could bounce a ball on his bed. He always looked like he just walked out of a band box. “We could never live together,” I thought, “We would drive each other crazy.”In February of 1992, Gary’s mother died. Gary had been her care-giver, and now he was free to move. We decided that he would come for a visit in May, and we would explore the possibilities of a relationship.The first week of his visit we went camping. I loved it, but he hated it! Gary found camping to be dirty and unorganized in spite of the compromises I had made for him. I had found us a camping site with electricity and had brought along a television and VCR with lots of movies but he still did not enjoy it.

The second part of his visit we spent in a beautiful quaint mountain town called Eureka Springs. We both fell in love with its charm and beauty. We found a nice motel room that pleased Gary. Eureka Springs is known for it’s elaborate outdoor Passion Play. The story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is played out in a beautiful amphitheater with special lighting and sound effects. We went to see it together.

I had seen it before, but it was Gary’s first time. As we sat there watching the crucifixion, I felt tears streaming down my cheeks. I found myself worshipping my Savior while, at the same time , I was sitting next to a man who I was beginning to fall in love with. For the first time in my life I was experiencing both at the same time – my sexuality and my spirituality both together – not fragmented. When the play was over, Gary dropped a bombshell. “I want to move to Arkansas and spend the rest of my life loving you,” he said.

I froze. What would this mean to my ministry? I was just now getting reestablished and was respected in the ministry. If I made a commitment to live with a man and people found out we were a couple, I could be fired.I found myself wanting the vacation to end. I couldn’t wait to get Gary back on that plane. However, as soon as he was gone, I began to miss him. One day I sat down and looked realistically at the possibility of having a relationship with Gary. Here was a man that I had known for 18 years. He had proven to be a trusted friend. I knew him to be honest, caring, and a man of integrity.

We both were attracted to each other. We both came from the same faith background and understood our long struggle to accept ourselves as gay Christian men. He loved Jesus just as much as I did. All at once it was clear to me – “Randy, where are you going to find all these qualities in another person?” There were just too many building blocks for success for me not to accept his offer.

I called Gary and told him, “Yes, I will accept your proposal.” He was thrilled – and so was I. But now we had to wait for five more months, because he had to train a new person at work to replace him. Those were the longest five months of my life! Many phone calls, many cards, and many love-letters later, the day finally came. He walked in the door of our apartment for the first time. He was wearing a flannel shirt and blue jeans, and he had just bought gas for his car, so he smelled like gasoline.I had been longing for this day for five months. I reached out and grabbed him and held him, and he held me. I could not let him go. We shuffled over to the couch and, still holding each other, sat down together. It had taken us 18 years to come to this place but believe me it was worth the wait!

There were much heartache and happy times ahead. I was eventually fired from my position in the church because of my relationship with Gary. We journeyed on to start a new church in our home called Open Door Community Church. We met there for five years before moving into a building that God has provided for us in a very miraculous way, but that is a whole other story!

The pain we went through when I was fired from my job in the Cumberland Presbyterian church was tremendous, but it just sealed our relationship. Gary has proven to be the perfect pastor’s spouse. He never has felt jealous of my work or put out having people in our home every week. He brings me breakfast in bed every morning. We have been together 10 years, and our love grows stronger and stronger.

I now know that it is possible for two people of the same gender to love each other and live together successfully, because I see the reality of it every day. Gary and I have a loving Christ-centered relationship and home. We had a beautiful covenant wedding ceremony in 1993. We wrote our own vows and read them to each other for the first time in the ceremony. Gary read poems he had written to me, and I sang a love song to him. We had communion together and committed our lives to each other and to God in front of two ministers and 25 dear friends. There were flowers and music and laughter and tears. Many who were there made mention of the fact that they felt the presence of God’s Holy Spirit very strongly.

When Gary and I first got together, my parents would not let us both come to their house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I sent them a loving letter telling them that I loved them, but Gary was my spouse and until he was invited to come with me, I would not be able to spend the holidays with them.

There were two years of sad holiday seasons, but in 1994, the invitation came for both of us to come home to be with the family. My father told me that he was beginning to understand that I did not choose to be gay. He said that he loved me, and he was my father, and I was his son. He said that no matter what anyone said or did, nothing would ever change that fact.

My parents even started remembering Gary at Christmas and on his birthday. It was a miracle! My dad went to be with the Lord in September of 2000. Gary was such a support for me through the whole ordeal. People were able to see us supporting one another as a loving gay Christian couple.We did not have gay, Christian role models when we were growing up. Today we desire to be role models for young gays and lesbians, so that they will know that they can be both gay and Christian.For me, the questions have been answered. Yes, I am gay. No, I did not choose to be gay. My sexual orientation is a gift from God. God asks us all – gay and non-gay alike – to deal responsibly with our sexuality.

I gave my sexuality to Jesus thinking he would keep it, but he gave it back to me. He transformed it into something beautiful just as he does with everything I give to him. If someone were to come up with a pill tomorrow to change a person’s sexual orientation, I would not take it. I could not be happier or more fulfilled than I am today.

If I die tomorrow, I will have known what it feels like to love and be loved. I love Gary Eddy, and I am so grateful to him for not giving up on me. He kept believing in us through the years – kept loving me – kept forgiving me. Thank you Gary. I love you with all my heart and always will.

As I close this story of how God brought us together, I want to share one of the poems Gary wrote to me.

In the dark of loneliness,

Poems have cried out silently
With pages of rhyme and pain,
So deep that only God can feel,

This poetry was grasping for love,
So God came down to show us
(By living love in Jesus)
Just what love is.

But some of us (then and now)
After reading the heaven-sent poem,
Cannot grasp, as easily as do others,
The meaning of that love.

So God again sent someone to me –
A living poem –
To teach me, an oft-sightless seer,
The truth of his love.

And so here you are –
A poet of love within the poem of life.
God grant me many, many years
To read this sweet sonnet.

________________________

Rev. Randy Eddy-McCain and Gary Eddy-McCain live in North Little Rock, Arkansas, adjacent to Sherwood, Arkansas where Randy continues to pastor the Open Door Community Church that he founded in January 1996. He also has been involved with Christian drama and music for over 25 years and has traveled with his one man productions of The Life of St. Paul and The Life of Christ. Gary enjoys serving the church as the pastor’s spouse and also has a housecleaning business. Gary is an accomplished poet and artist. Gary and Randy have one son, Bobby who works in retail. Gary and Randy enjoy movies together as well as eating out with friends and family.

 

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