Harry Emerson Fosdick, the early 20th Century liberal Baptist minister who was a prominent force against the emergence of modern-day Fundamentalism, says, in part, in his 1932 book entitled As I See Religion:
The whole discussion…as to which is the true church, seems…a poor expenditure of time because there is no such thing as a true church. All religious organizations, like all secular organizations, are approximate endeavors to meet changing human needs; and one of the best things about them is that, in spite of themselves, they cannot remain as they are.
Fosdick goes on to say, that:
The envenomed controversy also as to which is the true theology…seems largely futile, not because the discovery of the truth about God is unimportant, but because the idea that anybody has so discovered and defined God that he should controversially desire to enforce his opinion on another is absurd. All theology tentatively phrases in current thought and language the best that, up to date, thinkers on religion have achieved; and the most hopeful thing about any system of theology is that it will not last.
Well, the most hopeful thing about my own personal relationships has also been that they do not last. Before you get all anxious about what I am going to say, let me clarify: they do not last as they are, but grow and blossom into something new. Or, when the time has come, they fade away into the past. A concept that has been useful, hopeful, and saving for me, is that of the circle or of the spiral. In a circle one can see that the ending is the beginning is the ending is the beginning. In a spiral, one sees more clearly that a cycle doesn’t necessarily require a ceaseless repetition of the same, over and over and over again; the spiral illustrates the ever-widening scope of experience—every round goes higher and higher.
Today I am 29 years old, and have come to see clear decade-long demarcations in the quality and type of relationship that I have had. My first 5 years were spent almost carefree, living in a 3-story house filled with aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, cousins, my grandmother and great-grandmother! The next 5 years – my first 5 in school – I became much more guarded and cautious with the world. For awhile, I did not know what the word ‘fag’ meant, but could tell by the meanness of those who chose to apply it to me that I did not want to be associated with it.
My grandmother, Shirley Mae, died when I was 10; and so started the next decade of my life. I’d be willing to bet that none of you would have recognized the Adrian of 10-20. Sure, I was friendly and outgoing; but I was deeply closeted and unhappy. Severely depressed at times. My relationships with people, my family, with God, they all deteriorated slowly until at times I felt I would not reach my 20th year.
But I did. I came out to my friends, I came out to my family, I came out of a theological environment that was harming my soul and came to Unitarian Universalism, which as I once told [the Reverend] Phyllis Hubbell, is saving me every day as my mind and spirit are expanded in love. My 20s have proven to be a time of personal trial and error—a time of learning who I want to be, and of learning to be who I am in all my relationships again. Relationships with other people, my family, with God, with faith, and yes, with myself. The most hopeful thing about any system of theology – or any system for that matter – is that it does not last; that it is not static and stale, but grows and is ever-becoming.
My 20s are coming to an end. I have met the love of my life in my partner, Joel Graham, who is now officially a full-time resident of [Baltimore City], I thank you very much. And a new phase of life begins, calling me to grow even more, in the spirit of love. I expect my 30s to be, like my 20s, years of personal trial and error. But though the cycle be repeated, these next 10 years will be even better than I can possibly imagine. Blessed be each transition, as they are times of holy action.