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|Book Cover, And You Invited Me In|
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- It’s a tragedy that Cheryl Moss Tyler’s book “And You Invited Me In” would be considered controversial in most conservative evangelical circles.
That’s because it’s a very readable and eminently Biblical exhortation for self-described Bible believing Christians to show the love of Jesus Christ to homosexuals.
Once I began reading “And You Invited Me In,” I couldn’t put it down. If you choose to purchase the book, and I strongly suggest you consider doing so, I believe that you’ll experience the same reaction I did.
Cheryl’s web site (www.andyouinvitedmein.com) describes the book plot, “Alex Marshall is dying of AIDS. Over his partner Scott's objections, he asks his conservative Christian sister, Annie Whitley, to help take care of him. Annie must decide whether to hold to her position of separation, hoping to force Alex to repent of his sins, or go to him without expectations. Close family friend and football legend Jett Taylor insists she will become tainted by the sin of homosexuality if she follows her heart.”
The description continues, “Annie and her family must learn the true meaning of God's grace to show Alex and Scott who Jesus is. But nobody could predict the explosive series of events their decision sets into motion, not only in their town, but in other lives as well - including Scott's father, a well-known conservative preacher. These dedicated Christians learn about sacrificial love.”
An Interview with Cheryl
I asked Cheryl by e-mail to tell me if there was a spark that ignited the book.
She said that parts of the book had been forming in her mind for a long time, but the real genesis came in 1992 when she and her husband were living in Atlanta. Their landlord had given up a homosexual lifestyle, but he had AIDS.
This was a time, Cheryl said, when preachers preached that AIDS was a judgment of God. Cheryl said several weeks before her landlord got sick, she realized that there was nothing in the church to replace the friendship and support he had lost by leaving the gay movement. Cheryl said no one in their church came forward, even though their landlord was active in a number of ministry areas.
Their landlord’s health quickly spiraled down. His family came to town, unaware how serious the problem was. His house was filled with stacks waist deep of dirty bed clothes.
At the time, Cheryl said, she and her husband attended a mega church where the pastor was a leader in the conservative movement.
Cherly said she called the church and told the pastors’ secretary in detail what was happening. A pastor made one visit.
Cheryl said, “They knew the family was in trauma and turmoil. On the other hand, it was the gay community who helped to get the house ready for his family. Also during this time I heard that at (one area hospital), ministers were not permitted in the AIDS ward unless specifically named. (That was) because so many had come in telling the dying men that their sickness was a judgment from God.”
Cheryl said, “The church failed him and others ... I was honestly in shock for several months. How could this church ask him to give up everything, and they can't even be there to do their basic job ... (like) visiting the sick.”
Cheryl recalled a similar story from five years earlier that still deeply disturbed her. She and her husband had a Jewish friend who was dying of AIDS. He agreed to go to a certain church and Cheryl said when she called the pastor, his response was, “I can't let you bring that plague into my church.”
I asked Cheryl how long after this incident she began writing “And You Invited Me In.”
She said she wrote bits and pieces for many months that would later be incorporated into the book to help her deal with everything she was feeling – confusion, anger, hurt and her eyes being opened to a major issue within conservative Christian churches.
Cheryl said, “My assessment of the problem is we want to put people in a box to conform to what our expectations are of ‘the perfect Christian,’and we stand around only offering criticism ”
Cheryl really began writing the book in 1993 at the suggestion of her husband. She had written a short story, and he suggested she write a novel.
She said, “I chose a fiction novel over an article, because I felt that a story would touch the heart in a different way than just facts on a page.”
I asked Cheryl how long it took her to write the book, and what her schedule was.
She said, “Writing happened during life. I worked full time, and I would write in my head during the day, and then at night on paper. Once I had it all written and the computer crashed - -there were no floppy disks or anything. I had to re-type the whole manuscript. I would put it down for a year, and then pick it back up.”
Cheryl did her research well. She said that when she began writing “And You Invited Me In,” she wanted to get a starting point about how the gay community views Jesus.
With that in mind, she called the Metropolitan Community Church in Atlanta and talked with a pastor, as well as sending out surveys to a variety of people.
She said, “I got back strong, beautiful testimonies of a relationship with the Lord. I was shocked, because I had always been taught that being gay and Christian was an oxymoron. (Included in) these testimonies were stories of how their pastor would see them (gay persons) coming down the street, and walk across the street to avoid them.”
The more Cheryl find out, the more troubled she became. “I quickly found out that my conservative brethren had a sickness worse than AIDS, (placing) conditions on love. Not just with strangers, but with family. How can people see or want Jesus when we're all about conditions and strings attached?
So, Cheryl said, “I can say I knew the story and had it down in a few weeks, but it took years to write, because it was a process of the Lord teaching me.”
I asked Cheryl if she had a hard time finding a publisher, and how long the process took.
She told me something I already know, that getting a book published is a difficult feat.
“An acquaintance of my husband-who is a publicist-loved the book and took it to a publisher she works with ... While my book isn't typical of his company, he loved it. Getting the publisher was God's doing-He opened the doors, and I can't take any credit.”
Cheryl added, “Since this is a unique book and I'm not a Frank Peretti, getting the word out about the book is a grass roots effort.”
Cheryl said the majority of people who read “And You Invited Me In” love it. She said that many men who read the book cry.
She said, “One man had his wife reading the book to him on a trip, and he cried so hard he had to stop driving.”
Another comment Cheryl received was, “I like your characters because they're messy. No one is perfect, even the perfect people have flaws. Life is messy and flawed.”
I asked Cheryl what her friends from church had to say about the book. She said that many of them had been praying for years for the success of the project.
Cheryl said, “Many were readers with a red pen to question, or sound off, on what I was writing. Now, they do all they can to help me get the word out. I made a YouTube video (www.YouTube.com/cherylmosstyler) about the book, and a friend sent it to her relatives. Many have said they never thought about this gay-conservative controversy being different than is presented from ‘our’ side, and now they are looking at the whole issue from another side.”
Cheryl admitted there were still people in her fellowship who didn’t want to think about how the Lord was leading Cheryl. However, Cheryl said, “No church or place is perfect. We have to make the best of where we're planted. My pastor is a compassionate man ... Overall I would say that 98 percent of the people in my church are excited and want it to succeed. Those who don’t, I guess, don’t want to see the issues from another perspective.”
I asked Cheryl if she had heard from any members of the gay community about her book. She said she has, and they typically start out like this, “You've told my story.”
One response came from an official at the Matthew Shepard Foundation (www.matthewshepard.org).
He wrote, “I do not really have words to express how your book affected me. All I can say is, thank you for your story. I believe it has the power to change hearts and minds. I would love to chat with you in person sometime. Perhaps the universe will direct our paths to cross when the time is right.”
About a decade ago, Shepard was killed in a gay hate murder www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/main/5703362.html).
Another letter came from someone who said he attends a conservative gay church.
He wrote, “You have really expressed so many different realities that thousands upon thousands of gay men and women have had to face. I come from a Christian home, went to Christian school; for as long as I can remember God has always been part of my life. You can only imagine the struggle I faced coming to terms with the fact I am gay. I can honestly stand and say as Romans 8 says, that NOTHING shall ever separate me from the wonderful LOVE of GOD.”
The writer continued, “I really did shed many tears as I read your book. I have worked in health care for the last 18 years. I have had the privilege and honor of taking care of many aids patients. I have taken care of so many that had been shunned by their families. I have had to stand next to way too many as they died, with no one around them from their families as they faced the most crucial part of a human being’s life, when we leave this life and step into the Presence of Almighty God. You expressed so well the feelings and emotions that those poor patients had to face. Your book truly was inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
I asked Cheryl if she thought there is a tendency in the evangelical church to move toward a more compassionate and less condemning approach when ministering to homosexuals.
She said, “I don't want to equate this with the Civil Rights movement, but I also see many of the dynamics going on; the way we conservatives respond to the gay community needs as if they are non-people.”
She continued, “We need to examine ourselves and see if we're trying to please the Lord or our neighbor. It may sound harsh, but there is a HUGE amount of political correctness in our community. We have to be like Jesus. If we spend more time getting ourselves right and focused on being a willing, open vessel, then we wouldn't have time to point fingers.”
I asked Cheryl if writing the book changed her, and if so, how?
She said, “Even now I work at practicing grace with people, (and) grace is difficult. It is more difficult than hate and anger. Grace, and living in forgiveness and grace, is where the power is in our churches. It isn't about money or being healed. All of that can be duplicated by the devil-he can't duplicate unconditional love.”
Cheryl commented, “God has put me in situations where I know how the gay community feels, and I've seen our (the conservative church) actions through their eyes. In short: we don't know Jesus until we are willing to lay down our lives to be like Him-social, political, spiritual ideas, and conservative community expectations for us as believers.”
Cheryl said she believes that “And You Invited Me In” is giving an essential message to the conservative community.
She said, “It is telling (them) that we have broken the hearts of people in the gay community. They aren't non-people, and our words have gone to their bones. We all have friends and family who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning. This isn't about us going to the GLBTQ community at large, but to our GLBTQ loved ones and being Jesus to them.”
Cheryl recalled her own metamorphosis. She said she used to be the “conservative of conservatives.” She even used to believe that AIDS was a judgment.
She said, “In 1979 I refused to have dinner with a friend and her husband because a gay man was going to be there. And God laughed when the next week I got a job across the hall from this gay man.”
However, several years ago Cheryl started to have a change of mind and heart when a long time friend of hers came out of the closet and left his family.
She said, “His best friend from childhood, who was a minister, said, “‘I can no longer associate with XXX, because his sin is too great.’ I think that statement says it all, and that is why we must have a book like this. Our conservative churches dwell on this issue, and make the gay community look as if it is the reason for all our nation's problems.”
Is Grace the Name of Your Ship?
I can’t say it any better than Cheryl, so I’ll let her say it. “In the conservative church our problem is not having enough grace. Grace is the name of our ship and why we are saved. Extending grace when it seems impossible what the book is about.”
For more information about “And You Invited Me In,” go to
|Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "The Face of Homelessness." Additional details are available at http://www.HomelessBook.com He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: (505) 400-7145. Note: A higher resolution JPEG picture of Jeremy Reynalds is available on request from Dan Wooding at email@example.com.|