Lesbian and gay people are just beginning to find role models, and very few good examples of healthy relationships with partners and families of choice exist. Now, the senior pastor of the world’s largest predominately lesbian and gay church has written a book that fills this void with stories and practical advice.
Rev. Michael Piazza, whose church serves a congregation of three thousand mostly gay and lesbian people and has already outgrown a 900 seat sanctuary completed in 1992, shares his personal experiences and research in his fourth book, Rainbow Family Values.
The book is divided into two parts. First, Piazza looks at family formation, then he offers advice on beginning a healthy family by starting with a committed relationship with a partner. Piazza says right-wing religious zealots are destroying the family fabric of America by attacking gay and lesbian people.
“Today, overt racism is socially frowned upon, and Communism has been defeated. The Radical Right requires another ‘enemy’,” Piazza writes. But their rhetoric, he says, causes children to be rejected and abused. “The hateful Right should be worried, because they are undermining the very institution they purport to esteem.”
Piazza examines the conservative Christianity’s attacks on gay and lesbian people and suggests the “Family of God’s Dreams,” made up of more than just one or two people, but of an extended family of choice — people who may or may not be related by biology but are related by emotion. The pastor says relationships don’t have to be based on a committed couple. His relationship with Bill, his partner, though, forms the basis of his other relationships, which include two children (one adopted, the other born by artificial insemination) the mothers of his children and a circle of close friends.
Piazza is the senior pastor of Cathedral of Hope Metropolitan Community Church. He pastored Methodist churches for almost a decade before joining Metropolitan Community Church, a denomination of churches formed by lesbian and gay Christians. He hopes to build the Dallas church into a “Psychological Cathedral” for the lesbian and gay community, a goal that is rapidly becoming a reality as the congregation embarks on a plan to build a new church home designed by the world-famous architect Philip Johnson.
Most of the Rainbow Family Values is devoted to Piazza’s advice for couples. He uses his own relationship as an example as well as examples from the couples he has encountered in more than twenty years of pastoring Methodist and Metropolitan Community Church congregations. Piazza points out that many lesbian and gay people don’t get to date as teens and often must either rush ahead with no experience to adult relationships or try to date like teens in later life; neither is a really good option, he says. He encourages readers to enter relationships slowly.
Time is important in relationships, he says, just as it is in cooking with yeast. “Without time, the proper chemical reaction does not occur and you end up with something that is half-baked,” Piazza says.
He notes four keys to forming healthy relationships. Commitment, covenant, communication and compatibility. Each have their own chapter, and he also provides several lists of “do’s and don’t” about forming and sustaining long term relationships.
Ultimately, Piazza’s book recommends relationship based on trust, mutuality, communication, prayer, love and fun. He encourages gay and lesbian couples to not worry about trying to fit their relationships into the mold of a heterosexual couple with children. After all, that model is resulting in high percentages of divorce, dysfunction and unhappiness.
Piazza suggest readers live a life like Jesus — the Jesus who turned water into wine (not grape juice, he notes) at a wedding feast and called a group of outcasts who weren’t biologically related to him his family. The Religious Right may see healthy gay and lesbian relationships as a threat, but Jesus, he says, sees those relationships as modeled after God’s plan.
Conservative Christianity often seem to be trying to destroy the lesbian and gay community, but by forming stronger relationship within the community and outside of it, the community can become stronger than ever. Rev. Piazza’s book can help that happen.
[At last check, Piazza had moved on from Cathedral of Hope. He now pastors a church in Georgia.]