February 24, 2011
Thanks for saving our lives, but please leave now, because we don’t like what you stand for.
That is the message Jeanne Assam says she received last year when she informed the powers-that-be at New Life Church that she is gay. It was Assam, you’ll remember, who was widely hailed as a hero for ending a murderous rampage at New Life Dec. 9, 2007.
On that morning, 24-year-old Matthew Murray shot and killed two New Life parishioners after having murdered two others the night before at a training center for Christian missionaries in Arvada. Heavily armed, Murray would have killed many more at New Life, had it not been for Assam, who was working as a volunteer security guard.
Assam was outgunned but undeterred. She fired repeatedly at Murray, wounding him and pinning him down. He then shot himself.
Assam, also a member at New Life, held up well during the ensuing media barrage. New Life Pastor Brady Boyd, the Colorado Springs Police Department and others honored her.
Ultimately things quieted down, but as Assam told a public gathering of the Colorado Springs gay community Saturday night, her longstanding personal identity struggle became more pronounced and she accepted her sexual orientation.
When she informed church officials, she said, they told her she was no longer welcome.
“Absolutely untrue,” said Boyd. “We welcome everyone at New Life. We would never tell someone to leave because of their sexual orientation. Jeanne will always be a hero at New Life.”
Whom to believe?
New Life was nationally humiliated in 2006, when Pastor Ted Haggard departed after acknowledging that he had a relationship with a male escort in Denver.
On Saturday, Assam gave a speech at the Pride Center’s annual masquerade ball, a fundraiser for the gay community. She spoke of the pressures society places on gay people. It’s not unusual that some gays take a long time to come to terms with their sexual orientation.
“I don’t own a dress,” she said at one point. And she encouraged those in the audience to make sure they’re never ashamed of who they are.
Her speech, and her decision to give it, revealed a different sort of courage than what she displayed on the day of the shooting.
Assam declined requests for a timely interview this week, saying she was working with another news medium. She has completed a self-published book, “God, the Gunman and Me,” and her Facebook page says she is working in law enforcement again.
New Life labors on, too, accepting many different kinds of sinners. It says it would never reject a gay person.
Based on recent history, you have to wonder.