Musical Explores Reaching out to Gays United Methodist `Parable' Examines an Inclusive View of Christianity

Article excerpt

A new parable circulating among some United Methodist congregations tells the story of Beatrice, the wife of a conservative Christian pastor, and Neal, a gay man she learns to accept.

They encounter each other in "HOME: The Parable of Beatrice and Neal," a musical performed Wednesday night at Centenary Christian Church, 16th and Olive streets, St. Louis. The musical was commissioned by the United Methodist Church's Reconciling Congregation Program, under which churches make public statements of welcome to gay men and lesbians.

The program is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Centenary hosted the musical's only St. Louis performance on its 14-city tour because the church has worked for years at being inclusive of all people, says the Rev. Jane Clark, minister of program at the church.

In introducing the play to the audience of about 150 men, women and youths, Clark said it might "help us to think some more about what it might mean if we could call the church `home.' "

Reconciliation, she said, "is at the heart of our Judeo-Christian understanding."

Clark hopes the musical will start church members talking about making a public statement of reconciliation.

In the 90-minute musical, a mutual friend introduces Beatrice to Neal. At a dinner at his house, she meets two other gay men and a lesbian and hears how Christian churches have ostracized them.

One character says his pastor asked him and his lover to leave the congregation after the lover started getting skin lesions symptomatic of AIDS.

A young lesbian tells how she and her mother were excluded from their church after her mother divorced. And a black man says that because he was gay, his father, a pastor, threw him out of the house when he was a teen-ager.

Neal left the seminary because seminary officials objected to his gay lifestyle.

The play gives no easy answers to questions about Christianity and homosexuality. But at the end, when Beatrice and her new homosexual friends share Holy Communion, the audience is made to see that love can set aside differences and make church a "home" for all people.

The audience gave the performers a standing ovation. …