By Paulette Niemiec
TRENTON – In a world where "traditional marriage" dominates the expected norms, along with all the legal challenges of same-sex marriage facing LGBT couples in Michigan, two individuals have crossed societal boundaries in more ways than one. Pastor Mike Meyer and husband Carson Anderson are not only a legally married couple, but with Meyer an ordained Lutheran Minister and Anderson an African American, the lines of racial, religious and traditional marriage have all been blown away by this happily married couple, who've been together for the past 15 years.
Ordained in 1994 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Long Beach, Calif., Meyer, 57, has been working as a Pastor for St. Phillips Evangelical Lutheran Church in Trenton since last June. Legally married to Anderson, 62, in 2008 in California (following a commitment ceremony in 1999), Meyer has relished the idea of the two being pioneers in this new world of same-sex marriage, racial integration and religious freedom since the two met in Los Angeles when Anderson posted an ad in The L.A. Times personals.
"I was working as a nurse (Meyer is also a registered nurse and has had several positions, including his current one in Troy) and someone came up to me with the Times opened to the page where Carson had his ad printed. It was before the Internet and all the famed dating websites we have today," he said with a smile. "I took a look at what he wrote and thought, I have to meet this guy!"
Following two long phone conversations, they met and decided to see the movie "Breakfast At Tiffany's," a traditionally gay-supportive film that was screening at a local theater in a classic movie tribute to Audrey Hepburn. "The movie doesn't depict a relationship between two gay men, since in those days (1961) it was highly unacceptable to do so. In the gay community we recognized the fact that Truman Capote (author of the book by the same title) was gay," explained Meyer. "It was the gay thing to do."
Those first conversations and eventual date to the movies led to a long-lasting relationship that has been filled with a deep sense of respect and a bonding love that has kept the couple together throughout the years.
"After those first few conversations and our first meeting I knew right away I wanted him to be a close friend," said Meyer. Anderson spoke of his love and admiration for Meyer. "He has a big heart, and those unguarded moments of laughter and spontaneity is what I like."
Anderson continued to describe the special bond between them and how their faith in God and Jesus Christ has helped keep them together. "This is a great opportunity for us to have deep conversations about theology. We both believe being Christian is not a contradiction to being LGBT," he said. "We tell a different story than those who are conservative right-wing Christians."
Meyer has spent most of his life and 20 years of active ministry in the Lutheran Church fighting against the bigotry and prejudice produced by Christians who follow a very narrow-minded view of the world's most popular religion. "The arguments against homosexuality, gay marriage and being transgender are totally bogus theology and scripture interpretation," he said. "There are hundreds of scriptures regarding love, compassion, etc., but only seven that can be twisted and read against homosexuals."
Meyer is passionate when it comes to defending his faith. "How can you love a God you can't see when you can't love your brothers and sisters whom you can see?" he asked. "If they (traditional Christians) can bash us with misinterpreted and misunderstood verses of Leviticus scriptures than we need to bash them back with love!" Meyer exclaimed.
Anderson takes a more subtle and calmer view, but with similar conviction. "I grew up Methodist and Episcopal, two Christian Churches which implement the conservative views regarding scripture interpretation and religious practices listed above. When I discovered my sexual orientation while teenager, I realized I could no longer practice my faith without feeling unwelcome and judged. This made me sad and I went through my early years of college without any faith," said Anderson.
"I was relieved when the local Episcopal Church in L.A. began to acknowledge the AIDS crisis in the '80s and began to embrace the gay community. By the time I met Mike, I was able to practice my faith again, and it made for much more engaging and interesting conversations between us." Anderson explained how his religious faith and his love for Meyer were connected.
Now Meyer and Anderson live and work in Trenton, where Meyer is a pastor of an evangelical Lutheran Community that embraces them both. "They knew I was gay and had a partner when I interviewed for the job and was voted in by the church council in June of 2013," said Meyer. "The first thing I did was re-write the mission statement."
This statement reads as follows:
"We, the members of St. Phillip Lutheran Church, welcome all who are seeking God. Further, we welcome into membership all who are, or wish to be baptized into Christ. We encourage and welcome active participation, growing in Discipleship to Jesus Christ. As a 'reconciling in Christ Congregation,' we welcome people of all sexual orientations (straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning) and all gender identities/expressions as fully participating members at St. Phillip Lutheran Church, Trenton, Michigan.
Believing that all are one in Christ Jesus, we welcome all regardless of race, color, age, gender, ethnic background, physical/emotional/mental abilities, or marital/economic/medical/political/social status. We pledge to ourselves and to all others that we strive to live as a reconciling people, in our life together and in our outreach to the world. We affirm that this Ministry of Reconciliation calls us to be good stewards of all of God's Creation."
Meyer strongly recommended the printing of this Church Mission Statement to show "all people that we here at St. Phillips truly are a welcoming community of Christians."
As church service ended April 6, several volunteers came forward to claim their roles in a passion play coming April 13. Traditionally regarded as "Palm Sunday," and known in many Christian faiths as "Passion Sunday," the performance depicts the last few hours in the life of Jesus Christ. Keeping in line with the philosophical views of Pastor Meyer, the play consists of an all female cast, including the part of Jesus to be portrayed by a 12 year-old girl.
The one exception: Anderson, the only male cast for the reading of the "Passion of Christ." Anderson will be performing in the role of Pontius Pilate. "I can't believe I chose such a controversial role," he laughed. The irony of the moment was unmistakable, as Anderson has demonstrated a great love for Christ throughout his life and now he had chosen to portray the person who tradition states judged Christ and condemned him to death by crucifixion.
On the other hand, it demonstrates how Anderson and Meyer's roles in life always seem to revolve around a theme of contradictory and highly controversial issues. "We really do tell a different story of Christianity," said Anderson. One might say they tell a different story in life, period.