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Jim Cline & Paul Schulz

Jim Cline & Paul Schulz


An Indiana minister risked his congregation by marrying the couple earlier this year

Photography by Thomas Quinn of Midnight Images

On August 29, 2014 in Valparaiso, a small former train hub with a population of just over 30,000 in Northwest Indiana, gay couple Jim Cline and Paul Schulz were married inside their church by their minister.

What for most couples would be a standard venue proved to provide a challenge for Jim and Paul, as their congregation divided over the minister's decision to perform the ceremony. With same-sex marriage not yet legalized in Indiana and a strong cultural, often religious, bias against it, the wedding proved controversial, losing the minister an unfortunate number of worshippers and putting his job at risk.


Still, Rev. Dave Kovalow-St. John proceeded with the wedding, hoping to serve Jim, Paul, and God the same way he would any other couple. Venturing to Illinois for legal paperwork the day before the ceremony, the minister said in his sermon: "We're happy to see social justice coming to our gay friends and family members."

>>>Click through to read the full sermon


"It's About Time!"

A sermon for the celebration of the wedding of Paul Schulz and Jim Cline on Friday, August 29, 2014. Rev. Dave Kovalow-St. John, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Valparaiso, Indiana

"It's about time." If Jim and Paul were a straight couple, that phrase would have two meanings: 1. Anybody who has been to their house would see it as a chance to squeeze yet ANOTHER clock into their lives (we love you two, but ...really?). 2. And - again, if they were straight - we'd be thinking: "You two have been together for ten years - ever since Paul first dazzled Jim with his dance moves at Charlie's - and you've known you were right for each other for ALMOST that long. Everybody here, including you, knows that...

  • God has blessed you with love;
  • We know that you share the same Christian faith;
  • That this is the person you want to be faithful to and grow old with;
  • That you've built a wonderful home together;
  • And to top it all off: Jim puts up with dogs, and Paul puts up with clocks.
  • You two are perfect for each other!

Yes, IF you were a straight, we'd all be saying "Darn right it's time!" In fact, we'd be a little worried: "Why didn't they do this years ago? Is she afraid to get pregnant? Is he afraid to commit?"

But of course, they're not straight. They're not "he and she"; and at the end of this ceremony, they will be not "husband and wife," but "husband and husband."

Most of us know that Jim and Paul made a sacred and binding pledge to each other many years ago, but we also know why they did it in private, why they didn't formalize it then: it wasn't legal, and even activists in the gay community didn't dream it would be in our lifetime. Back then, we were wondering if a soldier died defending our country and was posthumously discovered to have been gay: could he receive a military funeral?

Well, times change, and here we are: a gay wedding! For most of us, it's a first. I'm sure the gay people here are excited that this time really has arrived (even if you are a little ticked off at Indiana for forcing Jim, Paul, and me to go to Illinois yesterday for the LEGAL paperwork). As for the rest of us: we're happy to see social justice coming to our gay friends and family members - though a few straight folks here probably can't stop wondering: "Are they going to kiss at the end of this?"

...The answer, by the way, is: "Yes, and with our blessing." ...But that's putting the cart before the horse. To let the horse go first, let's talk a little about how we ALL got here, and then a bit about how these two got here.

How we ALL got here, of course, is convoluted. I think my own route started in my college days, 15 years ago (well, 20 years ago..., okay: 40 years ago). My Psychology 101 class went to a conference. I was intrigued by a protester outside. His sign read: "End Aversion Therapy for Homosexuality." He had a battery and jumper cables; when anyone walked by he'd say, "Would YOU want this?" He'd touch the end of the cables together and make sparks fly. I asked my teacher, "What's that about?" She said therapists would shock people every time they had a sexual thought to get them to stop thinking about sex. Hey, I was 18: "ANY sexual thought; you get shocked?! That's medieval!!" But then she said, "They use it to treat homosexuality," and I went, "Phew. What a relief." But it still sounded ...wrong. A year later, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, but by then I'd moved on; gay issues were interesting, but not really on my radar.

Straight people: if you're like me, that's how it went. Something got your attention (maybe it was Matthew Shephard, crucified in Wyoming for being gay; or stories about Stonewall, or Harvey Milk, or "Don't Ask, Don't Tell") - you were interested, but then the next news story came along and you were interested in whatever IT was about.

I didn't really take it seriously until our denomination (The Christian Church, Disciples of Christ) began to debate whether or not gay Christians could be ordained. At our General Assemblies, a few people would march out some Old Testament passages:

  1. Genesis 19 condemns the men of Sodom for wanting to gang-rape a couple of guys. But just about everybody realized that wasn't really relevant because NOBODY (straight or gay) is in favor of rape.
  2. A couple of other Old Testament passages SEEMED relevant, but they were right next to scriptures that condemned eating pork, mixing fabrics, or seeding your lawn with two different kinds of grasses. Well, my denomination loves bacon and most of our lawns combine blue grass AND crab grass; so we passed on those.
  3. The Scripture passages that gave us pause, though, were in the New Testament: Romans 1, First Timothy 1, First Corinthians 6. Some scholars pointed out that Roman soldiers frequently forced themselves on boys, as did Roman men on their male slaves. It was non-consensual, but it was also legal and widespread. It would have been morally repulsive to Paul - as I'm sure it is to everyone in this room (gay or straight). Most of us (not all) were convinced THAT is what Paul was condemning in those three passages.
  4. Personally, I prayed about it and came to believe the handful of passages that mention homosexuality were NOT talking about consensual sex between adults that is part of a God-given sexual orientation and monogamous relationship. But it grieved and gave me pause, that there were other Christians who saw things differently. They're good people, but on this we did not agree. And, of course, if I was ever tempted to be mad at them for what I saw as spiritual blindness, Jesus would step in and - in that irritating way he has -say, "Yes, they're wrong. Love them anyway."

By the way: here's something you may not know about Jim and Paul: they have worked hard at loving the people who see those few passages differently. For me - for most of my life - this has mainly been a "civil rights issue," and also (let's face it) slightly academic. But for them: well, let me quit talking about them and instead talk to them.

Jim, Paul: what I've been discussing so dispassionately, you have LIVED through. You didn't choose to be gay, because - well, let's face it - because you're not idiots. Until 1973, being gay supposedly meant you were psychologically sick (subject to shock treatment or even imprisonment); gays were not guaranteed equal rights in the workplace until 2007; and it is STILL dangerous to be gay. YOU know what it's like to deny your sexuality because you might get beaten up (especially back in high school), just as both of you know what it's like to tearfully plead with God to make you straight because church and society combined to convince you that your God-given sexuality was wrong.

Some of the straight people in this room would say we have paid a price to be here. Personally, our congregation (First Christian Church) has lost some wonderful people because we were not ALL of one will in this matter.

But Jim, Paul: whatever price WE paid, I'm going to suggest that none of us complain to you (or our other gay friends) about it. I suspect I can't even begin to understand what it cost you to come to peace with being gay. I can only say I'm glad you did; just as I'm glad - as we are ALL glad - that God has put into your life a partner, a friend, a husband for life.

Well, that's enough about the "gay-aspect" of what we're doing. Jim, Paul (and any other gay person here) I will grant you that - as a straight guy - there's stuff I'm probably naive about. HOWEVER, as a human being, there are a lot of things I know REAL well - especially when it comes to the many ways ANY child of God can mess a relationship up. More than that, I even know the ONE way humans can do relationships right. Being gay is an important part of who God made you to be, but being human? That's the whole enchilada.

Now, because I know you as individuals and friends, I know, Jim: Paul loves the way you make him happy, the way you accept him and see past any faults to look for the good. And Paul: I know Jim loves you for far more than being a great dancer. He loves your life and vitality, and the way it's just plain exciting to do things with you.

ON THE OTHER HAND, like I said, I know you a little, and Paul: I know you're going to have to work on patience. Jim: for the rest of your life I suspect you will have to ask God for help in NOT pushing Paul's buttons.

And beyond personal things like that, I know you'll both have to work on things EVERYBODY has to work on if they're trying to love each other. That includes straight families, gay families; it even includes other ways human beings come together, like (for instance) when they try to form a congregational family I'm thinking specifically of a church family in Corinth almost 2,000 years ago. Like you, the Christians of Corinth were people called by God to love each other. But, like you, they were human - which means they were capable of messing love up.... And they did.

As a church family, the Corinthian Christians had promised to love the God they met in Jesus Christ AND to love each other. But instead, they quickly degenerated into a family that spent most of its time getting angry and sitting around being "right." One group - the preachers - would say, "Hey, we're the only ones keeping this thing going thanks to our sophisticated, inspirational, motivational, divinely inspired articulation of God's Christological plan!" (Preachers never use one word when eight will do.) Other people - the teachers - said, "Who cares about preaching? We're the ones transmitting the secrets of faith to a new generation. You preachers would not last a second in a room full of middle schoolers!" And then these guys - the big financial contributors - said, "Oh give us a break! You wouldn't even have a room to teach in if we weren't giving the big bucks that support our church budget!"

Well, the Apostle Paul wades into all this and says, "STOP! You folks are supposed to be Christ's body, but you sound like you'd like to amputate nine tenths of that body's parts (everything that isn't YOU). But don't you remember: you've promised to love each other and love doesn't act like that. Love...."

Well, at this point let me stop paraphrasing and we'll hear from the man himself. I'd like to ask Mark Schulz (Paul's brother) to come up and read the Apostle Paul's exact words as they are found in the most famous of his writings, First Corinthians, chapter 13.


If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Therefore, only three things really endure: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Jim, Paul: God gave the Christians of Corinth love, but it did not last. I don't think love EVER lasts unless you work on it; unless you're willing to rebuild it when it fades. I challenge you to call on each other, on your friends, on your family and (especially) on God to help you maintain the love that has brought you to this point - or rebuild it if necessary - from now until one of you closes the other's eyes to this life forever. Amen.

And with that, "it's about time" for the vows. Would you please turn and face each other. Paul, repeat after me....

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