THREE VISITORS FROM GOD Part 3

This is part 3 of the story of 3 men who came into the midst of Gentle Spirit Christian Church who as it turns out were simply visitors sent to teach this congregation and I dare say me, some basic lessons of theology, life and the practice thereof.

Those lessons in the order of each man’s story: 1) “It’s about a relationship with God nothing more and nothing less”. 2) Crazy, Wild and Independent is cool with God” 3) despite anger and severe pain you can love and serve God.

I am sharing these stories in 3 parts first because the total blog would be too long and second because I think each visit needs to stand on it’s own and cause us to ponder one story at a time.

So today the final chapter and as the reader can tell from the dates of this 3 part blog, this was by far the hardest to write.

The difficulty did not come on my ability to tell Father Warren’s story, but rather the fear of being honest about what his visit was about.

You see Father Warren B. Taylor while having a pastor’s heart and an incredible understanding of deep theological truths, was in his time with us difficult at best and down right heart breaking in his worst of times.

When he was at his best, when he could step outside of his challenges he could hear and recognize how God was working with the church and the community in a profound and clear way. Yet most of that ended up being clouded and fog covered in the agony of a deep continuing anger, betrayal and severe physical pain.

As a church community today Father Warren’s imprint is all over the congregation…we are outside and a “church without walls” because of prophecy God laid in his heart.

We have a ton of pictures that have so eloquently caught our ministry in the making, because he had a gift of snapping the shutter button at the exact moment, which would make the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” a working art form.

There was no man on the face of the earth that loved his little girl more then Father Warren. She was the one lone shining bright light in his life and we have the pictures that give testimony to this fact. “Bug” was many times all the reason he needed to get through a day where his physical pain was so bad he could not find the strength to get out of bed. No one was prouder of her achievements regardless if was school, sports or taking a swim in the neighbor’s pool.

His love for preparing food for those around him gave him great affirmation and for good reason…he was a wonderful cook.

When it came to the beauty and practice of the Roman Catholic liturgy, there has been no one I have ever met for which the beauty, the simplicity and way of expressing the Gospel in liturgy was understood so deeply and practiced so eloquently.

So RBS what is so difficult in this? Stop writing here and we have a story about a true man of God, a man who lived out what he believed and died much too young.

I suppose this would make for a nice eulogy and I think I expressed most of those things at the memorial we did…over his loud and strenuous objections coming forth from the heavens. Father Warren had often told me after his death he wanted nothing done, “cremate me, give the ashes to Bug and be done with it.”

This is why there is more to tell…and in it’s telling we discover the reason for his visit and maybe why his visit and lesson for all of us is more important and urgent then the other 2.

When Father Warren was found dead on the floor of his bathroom…to the medical examiner based on Father Warren’s medical history, it looked like a heart attack. The autopsy and toxicology tests would later bear this opinion out. Father Warren B. Taylor age 45 died due to a massive and severe heart attack.

Simple, yes; physically accurate, yes; but the full truth, no. You see the full truth is this was a suicide.

Remember, I shared he had a deep understanding of the Roman Catholic Catechism…well let us take a look at a few lines of the catechism.

“2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.”

So swallowing a bunch of pills, putting a gun to his head or hanging was not an option for him. So if one chooses to stop taking their heart medication, pushes oneself beyond their physical limits, refuses to go and see a doctor and then keeps their anger at unhealthy levels the heart sooner or later will give out.

Father Warren had been telling us for a long time he wanted to die, he had nothing to live for and well despite his willingness to answer God’s call…God didn’t much care for him either.

Suicide happens in a variety of ways. We are all to familiar with the methods people use to take themselves out of this world when they see no hope, no future, no reason for continuing.

However, this was a lesson in what a childhood of severe physical abuse, a lifetime of betrayed trusts, an adulthood spent in the bowls of deep and unresolved anger coupled with the lack of ability to forgive will take a person too.

I think it is the inability to forgive, which causes all the other mention things to burn hotly and without quenching in our inner being. I think there is an inability to forgive because we are not really taught how to forgive or what the consequences of not practicing the art of forgiveness will lead too.

We live in a world where revenge, getting even and ‘justified hate” are the norm and not the exception. Sadly Warren was caught in this trap. With every “Jesus teaching” about forgiveness, unconditional love and sacrifice Warren had a “but”, a reason it didn’t apply to him.

Warren grew up in a dysfunctional and abusive family, his father an unrelenting alcoholic and his mother was unable to protect Warren from the abuse. When Warren’s sexual orientation came to light what little family cohesiveness there was broke. Warren would now face the world on his own trying to everyone that he was worthy.

As time past he pushed his pain deep into his soul by no longer paying attention to himself and turning his attention to trying to help others. Unfortunately this would begin to take a physical toll on his body and on his emotional well-being.

The disconnect from his family coupled with his desire to be something better would not allow him to seek help because in his words, “I had to prove I was good enough.”

With each failed relationship and with no support, no trust things continued to break down. He developed a neuropathy that caused him to almost be wheel chair bound, and have limited use of his hands.

In addition with each failed relationship regardless of straight or gay his level of trust sank and depression set in. The kind of depression that is mind numbing and life altering. At this point even if he had a job with health insurance I am pretty sure he would not have gone for counseling because “they are all quacks.”

When his last real relationship broke up, he lost his part-time job, so he had zero income and he was on the verge of being homeless. This coupled with the fight with Social Security to gain “disability” and get back the money he had paid into it all his life so he could get proper medical care and have the opportunity for some independence left him bitter, hopeless and really angry with God.

Then his mother died and he held his father responsible for her death, telling me, “He would never forgive him.”

Even when a member of the congregation stepped forward and took him in with no income and no expectations could he see God at work.

In scripture Paul talks about our faith being refined by fire, i.e. the challenges of life that make us stronger in the faith. However, I would suggest when this fire is fueled by our anger, disappointments and our perceived betrayals, it is no longer a refining fire but one of destruction.

In the end it consumed Father Warren.

Yet, his visit to our congregation was an incredible time of learning, loving acceptance and courageous steps in faith. We now know how critical it is to resolve our anger and find the avenues of grace and forgiveness. We know too God can and does work through all of the crap to bring about justice and mercy.

Father Warren was a complicated man. He was a man of integrity and faith, a man with a deep sense of right and wrong. He was driven and I believe with all my heart did the best he could with his understanding of his faith and his love of “the church”.

Today, he is no longer in pain, no longer fighting to prove his worth, and now knows for certain God loves him and was him through it all.

I pray Father Warren knows now we loved him with all our hearts, we had a deep and abiding respect for knowledge and theological skills. That he is deeply missed, that worship and fellowship time are not quite the same…we miss the stories and the jokes and the lessons.

Yet, most of all I pray he knows his challenges to this congregation to move outside the walls of traditional church, to “walk our talk”, to get past being so “gay centric” are being met with vigor and great success. This is a better ministry; I am a better pastor because of Father Warren B. Taylor choosing to be in our midst for a visit.

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.