‘Naked Pastor’ cartoonist reaches out to the disconnected
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/03/2021 (800 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
With a title of “The Naked Pastor,” I knew I had to find out more about David Hayward and his unique cartooning ministry.
Hayward, 63, lives in Quispamis, New Brunswick, just outside Saint John.
For most of his career he was a pastor, including 14 years at the Rothesay Vineyard Church in Quispamis from 1996-2010.
In 2005 he started a blog he called The Naked Pastor. It was a way, he said, to pull back the curtain on the life of a pastor — not just the positive aspects of ministry, but also the struggles and challenges.
“I wanted to be open and honest and vulnerable,” he said of how he came to choose the name for the blog. “I wanted to show what really goes on in the life of a pastor.”
In the blog he talked about his doubts and questions, along with his growing conviction the church should be more welcoming of LGBTTQ+ people.
He also shared about his newfound conviction that all of humanity “is deeply united, that there is only one reality although many different interpretations and explanations of it.”
That realization “was a profound experience for me,” he said. It was, however, very unsettling for his church, and for the Vineyard evangelical association to which it belonged.
After leadership in the association received notes of concern about his blog, they said in the future he should pass everything by them for review.
“I knew my time was up,” he said, and he offered his resignation. “I felt it was in the best interest for me, and for the church, for me to go.”
The departure was amicable, but leaving the ministry was scary. “I was freaked out,” he said. “All I had ever known was a life as a pastor.”
He taught at a local university for a couple of years before that job ended. Faced with a need to earn income, he decided to take a leap and make The Naked Pastor his full-time occupation — writing and selling books, cartoons, art, drawings and other assorted merchandise.
At the same time, Hayward used it to explore a new calling to create and foster an online community for those who, like him, feel disconnected from organized Christianity — people with questions, doubts, or who don’t feel they are welcome in the church.
It’s a community “where people are free to question, doubt, and grow,” he said, not one where they need to do whatever a preacher, guru or leader says they have to do and believe.
Unlike many churches, which “tend to be exclusive theologically,” believing “only they have the truth, that this way of believing is right, that is wrong,” he wants to be part of a group of people who are “going in the other direction.”
Issues that are close to his heart include the accepting love and mercy of Jesus; being more inclusive and welcoming of LGBTTQ+ in the church; and encouraging women to use their full gifts in ministry — topics reflected frequently in his cartoons, art and drawings.
These issues have become “sacred cows” for some churches, he said, adding “I guess I am iconoclastic. I like to topple them over.”
For Hayward, it’s a matter of freedom for women and LGBTTQ+ “to be who they are, to have equal participation in the church, like everyone else.”
He explores these themes in his cartoons, where Christians are often depicted as sheep; the LGBTTQ+ sheep are rainbow coloured.
In one cartoon, a rainbow-coloured sheep is shown pulling Jesus along by the hand. “Come! I found a church that welcomes us both!” the sheep exclaims.
Another shows Jesus with a rainbow-coloured sheep draped over his shoulders in front of a group of black and white sheep. “Whoah, whoah, whoah,” says one angry member of the black-and-white flock. “He wasn’t lost. We kicked him out.”
In a cartoon about women in the church, several of Jesus’ female disciples are talking to a large group of male disciples. “So ladies, thanks for being the first to witness and report the resurrection,” says one man. “We’ll take it from here.”
One wordless cartoon shows people drawing lines of exclusion while Jesus erases them, and another shows black, white and rainbow-coloured sheep putting together a heart-shaped puzzle with Jesus.
Hayward also targets what he calls spiritual abuse, when churches use their power “to manipulate and control people,” often through fear of hell and damnation or through social exclusion and shaming.
“Some people find themselves caught in toxic and abusive relationships with their churches and are afraid to leave for what might happen to them,” he said.
Through his blog and art, he wants to let people who feel excluded because of their gender, sexuality or doubts and questions know “they aren’t alone.”
This includes clergy. “I hear from a lot of clergy who are struggling, leading a lonely life,” he said.
As for where his fans live, the number one country is the U.S. — which doesn’t surprise him, considering the rightward shift of many evangelical churches in that country — followed by Canada, the U.K. and Australia.
The number one city for his fan base is Sao Paulo, Brazil, also not surprising, he said, since there is a “resurgence of conservative Christianity there, like in the U.S.”
As for those who think he might hate the church, he said that’s not true.
“I care about the church. I know how amazing and dynamic it can be when it’s healthy,” he said. “I just want it to do better.”
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John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
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