Another Example of Christian Love

Churches that Won’t Bury Gays?

by Guest Writer The Rev. LEA BROWN
Metropolitan Community Church

Whew. I don’t know about you, but I sure sleep better at night knowing the Christian churches in Texas are standing by their principles.

Take the High Point Church in Arlington, Texas, led by Rev. Gary Simons (brother-in-law of mega-church pastor Joel Osteen). The church believes that homosexuality is a sin. When they recently found out that they had inadvertently (according to their version) agreed to provide a funeral for a gay man, they withdrew their invitation 24 hours before the event on the principle that they didn’t want to appear to be endorsing “that lifestyle.” Sure, the grieving family was left scrambling to find an appropriate venue in which to say goodbye to their loved one, and then contact 100 expected guests about the change of location in their time of sorrow. But hey, principles are principles.

Aren’t you glad that at least in Texas there are church folks who are willing to risk looking like heartless bigots rather than betray what they believe to be their “Christian” beliefs?

I mean, let’s give credit where credit is due. They chose one principle that they believe is true (homosexuality and homosexuals must be rejected), when there are so many principles that they could have chosen instead. Let’s review a few, shall we?

First, there is the principle of compassion, which dictates that we seek to understand the suffering of others, and do what we can through kindness to help in times of need. Cecil Howard Sinclair, the gay man who died at the age of 46 from an infection prior to heart surgery, didn’t really need to have the funeral at High Point Church. But his mentally challenged brother probably did. Mr. Sinclair’s brother works as a High Point janitor, cleaning the toilets, dusting the pews, and sweeping the floors that church members soil each week. Perhaps saying goodbye to his brother in a familiar place would have been comforting to him, and would have given him some peace as he returned to work each day in the weeks and months after his brother’s passing. Perhaps all of Mr. Sinclair’s family, including his partner, might have been comforted by the knowledge that the 5,000-member church actually cared about them at such a difficult time.

We could say that the church acted with compassion when it offered to pay for a community center space for the funeral, and provide food and a video presentation for those attending the service. In fact, we could even say they came dangerously close to violating their principle by these actions. But thank goodness they didn’t offer to find another church space for the funeral. That would imply homosexuals and their loved ones actually deserve to grieve in a sacred place, as if God was actually with them in their pain. And we could probably agree that feeding homosexuals and their families is acceptable, but for heaven’s sake – don’t pray with them or stand with them at the graveside! Because that would certainly imply endorsement of two people of the same gender being in love with each other, wouldn’t it?

Then there is the principle of gratitude. Cecil Howard Sinclair was a veteran of the United States Navy, and he served in the first Gulf War. He was willing to risk his life for our country, and for principles like “freedom of religion” that High Point members enjoy each day. Perhaps their willingness to make a video presentation of Mr. Sinclair’s life for the funeral was the way they chose to express their gratitude. Thankfully, we can again be assured that they didn’t compromise their principles though, because they edited out the images that showed Cecil being affectionate with his partner. After all, we wouldn’t want a veteran’s image to be tarnished with pictures like that.

Finally, there is the principle of hospitality. In the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 10 Jesus instructs his followers to shake the dust from their feet from any town that does not welcome them warmly and listen to what they have to say. It seems that hospitality was rather important to Jesus, because he said that any such town would actually be worse off than Sodom and Gomorrah at the day of judgment. (Funny, he never mentioned homosexuality as being the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah – just their lack of hospitality). How courageous of High Point Church (which has a larger population than many towns in Texas) to risk fire and brimstone. They could have considered entertaining the notion that perhaps being a Christian is more about love than about unbending principles, but they didn’t. Jesus would be so proud!

Now, it is true that not all churches in Texas are so principled. Right here in my own town of Wichita Falls there is a church that would have gladly received the family of Cecil Howard Sinclair. At Wichita Falls Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), we celebrate the lives of all of God’s people of all sexual orientations. In fact, we would even lovingly welcome anyone from High Point Church into our sanctuary. Lest we forget, even Jesus reached out with compassion to those who were the oppressors of his day, just as he did when he healed the Roman centurion’s son. The fundamental principle we live by is this one: Love your neighbor as yourself. We think that means loving all of our neighbors – straight, bisexual, transgender, Baptist, Muslim, lesbian, HIV+, poor, Latino, queer, disabled, Republican, veteran, peace-activist, immigrant, and gay.

So, I guess we could say that High Point Church doesn’t have the corner on principles – just on their particular principle, which does indeed put them at great risk of looking like heartless bigots. But like many others on a spiritual path, those of us at Wichita Falls MCC will love and pray for them anyway. We will pray, “Forgive them, God, for they know not what they do.” We will pray for their healing, that they might change their ways. We will pray that God will bless them and be with them, and that our actions would truly show that we desire to love those at High Point Church just as we love ourselves.

I guess we just have different principles.

The Rev. Lea Brown is the openly lesbian pastor of Wichita Falls Metropolitan Community Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, and a veteran of the U.S. Army. Article reprinted with permission of UFMCC.

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4 thoughts on “Another Example of Christian Love

  1. The level of vitriol in this article is amazing for one who claims to accept all as they are.

    Standing up for and defending one’s principles should not be an excuse for expressing hate; which is what this article seems to do.

  2. I suppose you see something in the article that eludes me. Having witnessed many, many instances of Christians figuratively spitting on queers, I believe Rev. Brown offers an important point of view and a valuable lesson for humankind.

    Let me offer an example: I recall the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and his congregation and how they invited 200 GLBT members of Soulforce to dinner in 1999 — specifically to DINNER — and how, when everyone showed up, they found tables with tiny disposable plastic cups and little bottles of Poland spring water. And it was on purpose. Rev. Falwell told me that his members could not break bread with unrepentant sinners, hence the water.

    OK. But if that was the case, why a DINNER invitation? And why not warn his “guests” ahead of time so that they did not have to endure the wrenching pain and humiliation of walking in to supper and seeing cups of water and being told that they aren’t worthy of an actual meal. Oh, and then having an ex-gay person (one later found to be sleeping with members of the same gender before being rushed out of the spotlight) shoved into their faces.

    I was there, Mr. or Ms. Smart. I saw how hurt the GLBT contingent was. I also was able to eat quite well; Rev. Falwell’s church was quite generous in feeding journalists. And if journalists aren’t unrepentant sinners, I don’t know who is. I’m a journalist by trade, which gives me some insight into my colleagues and myself. And it shows that what Jerry Falwell said was a crock. They wanted to humiliate them. What is loving about that? would Jesus have treated the Soulforce squad that way?

    Show me the hatred in REv. Brown’s piece. Please.

    I read the words of a Christian cleric from a welcoming church who is stunned by the blatantly un-Christian behavior of another Christian congregation that claims to follow the teachings of Jesus. I see and feel no hatred from the reverend’s words, merely sadness and alarm (which I believe is fully justified) and an urge to demonstrate what (many believe) Christian love is supposed to look like. Frankly, I believe she served an educational purpose in reminding people what Christian love is supposed to be — helping people out and being there for them when the chips are down. You know, the way Jesus did anytime he dined with tax collectors and prostitutes and those considered sinners by the majority society. It was a modern lesson in Christian behavior and a reflection upon tragic, damaging un-Christian behavior by a church, and it’s a lesson worth teaching. That’s why I published it.

    So please show me where the hatred exists within the piece.

  3. The church was not rejecting homosexuals. It would look worse to allow the funeral and then speak out against that person’s chosen lifestyle. People who choose such a lifestyle should always be accepted if they’re looking for help with their sin.

    But if they don’t want help then it would hypocritical to treat them like everyone else while they openly live in sin. There’s just a problem there. Sin can never be accepted as okay.

    That doesn’t mean there is hatred towards sinners. They should always be loved as we want to be loved. But their sin cannot be accepted and sinners need to have their sins addressed so they can be better Christians. How can you address the sins of the dead who are on their way to Hell?

  4. That’s your opinion. I think it’s baloney.

    BTW, the only sin I see here is the bigoted church’s inhospitality, and I certainly would not desert them in time of need because they are unrepentant sinners. Neither would Jesus, I imagine.

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