By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND — No one should assume Kevin Palau and Sam Adams agree on everything now. To be sure, there remain a host of differences of opinion.
But the two have found agreement in enough ways to help spark a level of positive action in the Rose City that has gained even national attention.
But even more, despite their major differences, something surprising gradually took place.
“We’re (now) genuinely friends,” said Adams, former mayor of Portland and first openly gay mayor of a U.S. big city.
Adams and Palau, son of famed evangelist Luis Palau and president of his father’s Portland-based ministry, told the story behind their friendship to more than 100 people at a release party at Powell’s Books Aug. 5 for Palau’s book Unlikely.
In the book, for which Adams wrote the foreword, Palau tells how he and local pastors almost a decade ago approached Adams to ask how the local Christian community could serve the city with no strings attached.
The result was a partnership, now called CityServe, that sees churches working with local leaders and agencies to address a wide range of needs, including hunger, homelessness, health care, the environment and public schools. CityServe has become a model for similar partnerships in communities nationally.
Adams said a history of tensions between the church and gay community caused him to be wary at first when Palau and other pastors contacted him.
And Palau now acknowledges he was worried about the reputation of the Palau ministry if he tried to work that closely with an openly gay mayor.
But for both parties, working together on some of the city’s most serious challenges has been a very positive learning experience, they say.
“It has allowed a certain amount of reconciliation,” said Adams. “It’s been very healing, very tranforming for me … Through this process, I’ve learned how much I’ve stereotyped the evangelical community. It was just wrong.”
Palau says his dialogue with Adams on many subjects has been a natural result of their developing friendship and that it has been enjoyable. “It’s made me much more willing to ask questions and to listen, listen, listen,” he said.
But that hasn’t persuaded Palau to adopt all of Adams’ views, nor vice versa
“I should be so lucky to change his mind. He’s one stubborn dude,” Adams quipped.
Palau said he continues to try to influence his friend.
“I encourage Sam, a lifelong Episcopalian, to get to church a little more,” Palau said, grinning.