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This letter of dismissal shows everything that’s wrong with how the church responds to LGBT people

Justin is a Gay Christian who attended, and worked as a music director of the Faith Presbyterian Church in Gainesville, Florida from 2010 to 2012. At the time of his employment, the head pastor and a few elders knew Justin was gay but were under the impression he was planning to remain celibate. Since Justin wasn’t dating at the time, and was still trying to figure out his vocation, he lived with the Don’t Ask Don’t tell space.

In July of 2012, He moved from Gainesville to Seattle and was officially out as a gay man. He had a boyfriend, changed his relationship status on Facebook, and was subsequently contacted by an elder to clarify his relationship status. This phone call is what set the events in motion that led to the church sending him a letter of dismissal.

The letter begins, “regretfully it has come to our attention that you have been engaging in a homosexual lifestyle” which as my friend Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network points out, there is no such thing as a “homosexual lifestyle.” The letter then proceeds to explain their traditional theological stance on same-sex sex (as if Justin has never heard the arguments presented despite him growing up in the church). It concludes with indicting Justin “on the charges of living out a lifestyle of sexual sin and falsely promoting this lifestyle as being in accordance with the Scriptures against the peace, purity and unity of the Church, and the honor and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the King and Head thereof. “

The PCA has every right to decide their membership criteria. I don’t wish to deny the administration that right. But we have to examine how they acted out their sincerely held beliefs because it does not reflect a Christ-centered theology.

First, the Church had absolutely no correspondence with him for two years. He didn’t receive a phone call checking on his move or an update on how he was doing. The familial connection wasn’t there yet the administration felt comfortable enough to issue a letter of condemnation. Next, when the elder of this church called to confirm the relationship, Justin asked that his membership be removed peacefully. He said he wished he could leave in “quiet disgrace.” The church had other plans, not only sending this letter but stating they were planning on making this public to their congregation – they wanted to publicly condemn someone who asked to leave peacefully.

Finally, showing some seriously flawed theology; In their letter they state, “This teaching cannot be ignored without denying God’s original creation of Adam and Eve, and if this truth is denied, then the atoning power of Jesus’ sacrificial death and our hope of eternal life must also be denied, for Adam’s role as the head of the human race is inextricably tied to Christ’s atoning work and our eternal hope in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:20-22.” Despite the Bible only mentioning same-sex sex a handful of times, and Jesus not mentioning it once, the question of whether you believe if it’s a sin or not has become non affirming Cristian’s end all question. Somehow, if you are affirming of same-sex relationships you have also thrown out Jesus’ sacrificial death and hope for eternal life.

Minimizing scripture, especially the gospel, to theology on same-sex sex is a grave injustice to Jesus’ time here on earth. The Bible doesn’t say, “It is through your strict beliefs in the Church’s current teaching on sexual ethics that you shall be saved.” No, it says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8.

Justin responded to the letter, in a way he said was admittedly angry—though he stands by his words. LGBT Christian’s face tangible experiences of alienation. Justin’s story is just one of many of a long list of Church’s feeling righteous in their religious homophobia. Many discuss LGBT people as a theoretical subject or sexualizing us to the point we’re seen as sex acts (FYI: The administration never asked Justin if he was sexually active).

[tweetable]The church is pushing LGBT people out of the pews and calling it God’s work.[/tweetable] Yet Christ never said “they will know you are my disciples by your hard stance on socially divisive issues.” No, He said “by this they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:35. As Justin said in his response, “You bring me a rod for beating and call it love.” It’s time to stop alienating God’s children and work for inclusive community so when Christ asks us on Judgment day what we have done we can respond, “Lord, I loved.”

Please be reflective of Christ-like love while engaging in the comments. Follow my Twitter and Facebook for all things LGBT Christian. 

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About the author

Eliel Cruz

Cruz is a contributor on religion, (bi)sexuality, media and culture at The Advocate, Mic and Religion News Service.

30 Comments

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  • They were perfectly correct I their decision, words do their spot on theology.

    See all the dancing around that has to happen to try and push a position against Gods Will?

    Justin removed himself from fellowship through his surrender to his sinful,desires. Why is this surprising at all?

  • It’s easy to call this kind of spiritual and emotional abuse “love” when you’re reasonably certain you’ll never have to choose between being on the receiving end of it or lifelong celibacy and singleness. I think pretty much everyone who had to feel like they had to choose between loving God and loving another person, as I did, understands Justin’s pain at receiving this, as well as what you’re trying to say. I left a church for my girlfriend over 20 years ago, and this kind of thing still hurts. It hurts to know that your church family and family of origin will forgive everyone but you and everything but the best thing that ever happened to you. It reminds me of why I’m dreading Christmas with my family of origin.

    A good friend of mine, who is a straight Sunday school teacher, tells me he’s thankful that God is more forgiving than many of his followers. As you point out, Eliel, the fact that they didn’t even maintain a relationship with him or respect his desire to leave quietly says a lot about their priorities. There was absolutely no need to humiliate him. But they did it anyway. Why?

    What is so very difficult to understand about “This is hurtful, not loving. Please try something else or leave us alone”?

  • It saddens me that churches see so little of the love in the world. Even if you believe that God condemns being gay as a sin (I don’t), then what is it about this particular sin that makes it so much worse than any other sin? How many of the members of these congregations have been divorced? National statistics would say about half. Have they been publicly asked to leave the church? Isn’t it the job of the church to bring the fellowship and Word of God to the people, and isn’t it the job of God to judge? There are only a few unclear and mistranslated verses in the Bible about being gay, but there are so many, very clear messages from the Holy Word that command us to love, cherish, respect, and support one another despite our sinful nature. Because this church has decided to take God’s role in judging this young man, he is denied the grace that has been extended to other sinners in that congregation? Tell me how that is love. Tell me how that obeys the Word.

  • Did Jesus not spend his time with the whores, gamblers, siners of all kinds. Are we not suppose to embrace all who want to know Gods love? I know I do!!

  • Keith-Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more!
    He told her to change her/the behavior. We all must Repent/change!
    Read Luke 13 the whole chapter and 1 Corinthians 6:9-12. God bless.

  • A quick excerpt of a piece i wrote on the mantra “Go and Sin No More.”

    “When Christians tell LGBT people to “Go and sin no more”, they act as Pilate, washing their hands of us. Jesus did say, “Go and sin no more.” The often forgotten fact is that it was only Jesus who said that, prefacing it with “Ye without sin, cast the first stone.” In a story that is all about not throwing stones because we are all sinners, we’ve identified with God. No wonder we are missing the point! It wasn’t until everyone else left that Jesus privately spoke with the woman and said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

    Our human tendencies make us want to be that seminarian student, standing up to condemn each other. But that is not the model Christ left for us. We must leave room for the Holy Spirit to do Its job. The model that was left for us is one of reconciliation, not condemnation.”

    Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2014/01/go-and-sin-no-more-2/#ixzz3JxPE8Yu9

  • Eliel Cruz-Thank you for the comment/feeback…I really appreciate it
    but the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 that drunkards,swindlers,
    thieves,adulterers/sexually immoral,coveters/the greedy,liars/gossips,
    homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of heaven unless they all
    Repent! Bible says to Repent and believe the Gospel to be saved!
    The wine Jesus made was new wine/diluted and made for symbolic
    reasons not to get drunk/Bible says don’t get drunk on strong wine
    and the Bible also says don’t get drunk with wine for it’s debauchery
    so people who still get drunk with strong wine are just as wrong as
    people who still get drunk with beer/alcohol. All of the sins are bad!
    Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk! 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that
    all drunkards go to hell so I hope somebody does an article on that
    because it’s shocking how many people in church still get drunk and
    are still being mean/have sharp tongues,gamble,have premarital sex.
    Two guys were next to Jesus on the Cross. Only guy went to heaven
    cause only one guy Repented/had a change of heart about their sin.
    Read Luke 13….the whole chapter. Bible says that we must Repent!
    Bible says Repent or perish not continue in our sin. We must Repent!
    I appreciate the article and we are to love yes but in Truth. God bless.

  • First, thank you for responding so politely. It’s a rarity online these days!

    I assure you i’ve read those verses before (perhaps even more times than you) but notice the piece says nothing about the theology behind same-sex sex (because we’re really talking about sex here not a sexual orientation). The piece is discussing how the church approached this Gay Christian man and how they showed clear condemnation.

    Justin understood the church’s theological beliefs and wasn’t going to argue. He asked to live quietly. Yet they wrote this harsh letter and wanted to make a public ordeal. Is that loving in truth? Couldn’t they have just rescinded his membership? I assure you Justin has heard all the theological arguments and is content being an open and gay man (also mind you the church never asked if he was having sex). I don’t think there’s any love in this response.

  • I made a mistake in the comment above. It says only guy went
    to heaven but it’s only one guy went to heaven. Two guys were
    next to Jesus on the Cross and only one guy went to heaven is
    what I was trying to write/say.

  • Eliel Cruz- I agree that we all need to do a better job with loving
    and we all need to look in the mirror/at ourselves. So many today
    only want to talk about gay marriage or abortion so they don’t
    have to face their own sin so I hope more articles on here cover
    other sins because so many want to focus on abortion and/or
    homosexuals so their sin doesn’t seem so bad. I agree with you
    about people online being so mean. We might not agree with
    everyone but there is no need to be mean. Thanks again for all
    of your feedback and taking the time to respond. God bless.

  • I don’t see the issue here – I’m sure they would do the same if someone posted on Facebook their pride in committing adultery or stealing. I am not a Christian, but my understanding of the theological concept of Grace in Christianity is not a license to sin, nor a license to flaunt one’s sins. Sure, we all sin, but our sins should make us humble, not proud.

  • Joe-Amen/well said! Many think that Grace allows them to sin but Grace
    allows us to Repent/turn from our sin. Big dfference. We all must Repent!
    Luke 13 says we must bear good fruit and that fruit is of Repentance not
    good works cause many non-believers do good works so works don’t save.
    I don’t know why you aren’t are a Christian but you are right on in what you
    said. I would like to encourage you to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. God bless.

  • Just a question for both you and Joe– how do you know Justin was having same-sex sex? Not even the church asked.

  • I think his making it public about “being in a relationship” with someone of the same-sex raised the concerns. In a similar fashion, I would expect those in my faith family to have some questions and concerns if I were to publish a statement about “being in a relationship” with a married man, sex or no sex.

    I agree that a public condemnation was unnecessary, though.

  • The sin of homosexual behavior is no worse than other sins but no one is trying to fallaciously suggest the other sins aren’t sin. No walks into church and says I’m proud to be a lair, or murderer, or thief.

  • Same sex sex is the least of the problem. The more egregious sin is In trying to make a same sex relationship or romance. A samesex sex act is a one time act that can be repented. A same sex romantic relationship is a constant sin.

  • The big mistake obviously was that the gay person expected to be treated like a human being with dignity by his church employers. The church definitely pointed out the foolishness of such assumptions.

    Florida doesn’t protect gays from employment discrimination, so there is no legal issue here. Its just a church acting like a church.

  • How does one respond to such a comment. Spot on, huh? Wow, Frank. I’m not sure what to say. Clearly you have made several wrong assumptions about people that are gay, but seeing how you probably read scripture out of context I’m sure there probably are plenty of those in your sights. And, I suspect, you are probably one of the hold-outs that still insist on believing the destruction of S&G was about “gay people”, huh? Either you’re a self-loathing gay man yourself or you’ve been so brainwashed by your fundamentalist community you can’t see past your unscriptural and unChristlike perspective. After a student of the word of 30 years, I finally had the courage to look at different (scary!) positions other than the one I made a gluttonous diet of for so long. Much to my surprise I discovered the horrible lies of anti-gay “theology”. I encourage you to try the same and discover there’s actually a heart under all of those layers of Phariseeism you have wrapped yourself in. Instead of listening to James Dobson’s lies, try listening to the truth of the Holy Spirit. Quite life changing I must say! Sadly, until then, your life shall be characterized by Matt 23:13.

  • As you have noticed, Frank isn’t actually interested in looking at any perspective other than his own. He is obsessed with homosexuality.

  • “It saddens me that churches see so little of the love in the world.” They are far more concerned about what they believe constitutes “sin” (Paul) than they are about “love”. (Jesus)

    “Even if you believe that God condemns being gay as a sin (I don’t), then what is it about this particular sin that makes it so much worse than any other sin?” Several answers. It’s the one they have no intention of committing. It’s the one they have every intention of committing. It’s the only sin that happens to be as well a deeply engrained, ancient, and vicious prejudice.

    “How many of the members of these congregations have been divorced? ” Doesn’t matter about divorce. That’s a heterosexual sin. Gay and icky and all.

    “National statistics would say about half. Have they been publicly asked to leave the church?” That would seriously inconvenience heterosexuals, and cut significantly into their business model. Besides, all of their heterosexual friends would be upset.

    “Isn’t it the job of the church to bring the fellowship and Word of God to the people.” It is, but this is much easier and more fun.

    “and isn’t it the job of God to judge?” It is, but this is much easier and more fun. And besides, how can you over-identify with god and be his BFFF if you mind your own business?

    “There are only a few unclear and mistranslated verses in the Bible about being gay.” They aren’t even about being gay. They may possibly condemn some aspect of some same sex sex, but that is debatable, except for fundamentalists. And again, that’s no fun at all. It’s much easier to believe romans is a condemnation of homosexuality than it is to read it, and understand that it is a condemnation of idolatry.

    “but there are so many, very clear messages from the Holy Word that command us to love, cherish, respect, and support one another despite our sinful nature.” And your point is? And besides this is easier and more fun. All of the trappings of love and Christianity, but without any of the difficult stuff.

    “Because this church has decided to take God’s role in judging this young man, he is denied the grace that has been extended to other sinners in that congregation?” Yes, but gay is extra special double icky, and only for gay people.

    “Tell me how that is love. Tell me how that obeys the Word.” It doesn’t, but this is easier and more fun.

  • With all this Ferguson drama going down these days, one has to remind oneself to visit Eliel Cruz’s blog and keep up with THIS end of the seesaw. But don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten. I’ll check out this new stuff in just a little bit.

  • Misguided love hurts almost as much as hate. I wish there could be one day where straight Christians experience the pain that we feel (because of our orientation) at the Churches hands. Maybe then they wouldn’t hurt us. I truly believe they don’t intend to harm us, I just think they don’t realize how horrible their ‘calling-out-sin’ and ‘restoration’ can be. I also don’t think they understand how interconnected our orientation are to ourselves. (I can’t speak for straight people but I don’t think straights are forced to consider their orientation as a piece of them because no one ever says that it isn’t a part of them.) So when they said “love the sinner, hate the sin” to them it might mean “Love the person but dislike what their doing.” But all I hear is “Love Emma but hate a huge piece of her.” The main struggle I have with my faith is my self-imposed isolation from other Christians. I can’t be near them because I will be judged, rejected and hurt. But staying away from them is a huge cost because I can’t get encouragement for fellowship. I found a pro-gay Church in my area about a week ago so I might check it out. (Although I am scared that I will still be judged in some way.)

  • It seems like everybody on all sides, on all topics, both in-church and outta-church, liberal or conservative congregations, sooner or later feels something like…

    “Please don’t call my favorite sin a “sin”, don’t read any Bible verses that do so, or my feelings will be hurt, and I will find myself questioning any further hanging out with your congregation.”

    It’s a common temptation, I guess. I’ve been there before.

    But why do I need a church or a preacher who’s scared to tell me the Bible truth about the things of my life? Why do I need to hang out with cowards?

    If I just want somebody to AGREE with my favorite sins all the time, if all I want is non-stop coddling instead of challenge, I’ll just skip church altogether and follow my own counsel. Lots of folks going that route anyway (see the file marked “Nones.”)

    Now, as the old pastor from the Louisiana Bayou told, it’s not just WHAT you say but HOW you say it. And obviously, we all agree that Justin’s former church really really messed up on that score. They didn’t have to put a wide-open Scarlet Letter gig on him.

    So the church leaders committed a big sin — the sin of lovelessness. Okay, got it. Cautionary tale. Don’t be like THOSE church folks. Agreed.

    But there’s more than one big sin in this tale, and the Bible has something to say about sins OTHER than lovelessness, doesn’t it? So Justin doesn’t get off the hook here either.

    Which is quite normal. The Bible doesn’t let any of us off the hook, and that includes any “relationships” that the Bible calls sin. Like Karla suggested, repentence winds up on everybody table.

  • “Misguided love hurts almost as much as hate.” It is only love because they claim it is, and because it makes them feel better about how they treat us.

    “I wish there could be one day where straight Christians experience the pain that we feel (because of our orientation) at the Churches hands.” They are not interested in the pain we feel. They are interested in being righteous, holy, and god’s BFFF. They are interested in expressing as “sincere religious belief” what is simply, demonstrably, an old, deeply ingrained prejudice.

    “Maybe then they wouldn’t hurt us.” That’s exactly what they intend to do, unless you prefer to believe that they don’t understand what they are saying, don’t have access to any information at all, don’t care about informed opinion, and think not much of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    “I truly believe they don’t intend to harm us. I just think they don’t realize how horrible their ‘calling-out-sin’ and ‘restoration’ can be” I think many do, and others simply don’t care if they are harming us. We are spiritual infants, satan-sucking deviants, they are our human, moral and spiritual superiors– at least according to them.

    “I also don’t think they understand how interconnected our orientation are to ourselves.” They don’t know, and they don’t care.

    (I can’t speak for straight people but I don’t think straights are forced to consider their orientation as a piece of them because no one ever says that it isn’t a part of them.) Heterosexuals never have to confront their sexuality. Though they absolutely should. They don’t know and they don’t care.

    “So when they said “love the sinner, hate the sin” to them it might mean “Love the person but dislike what their doing.” It might, but that merely is how they justify their egregious behavior towards other people. You do it because you “love” me, right? What the hell kind of an excuse is that?

    “But all I hear is “Love Emma but hate a huge piece of her.” They don’t know and they don’t care.

    The main struggle I have with my faith is my self-imposed isolation from other Christians. I can’t be near them because I will be judged, rejected and hurt. But staying away from them is a huge cost because I can’t get encouragement for fellowship. I found a pro-gay Church in my area about a week ago so I might check it out. FIND A BETTER CLASS OF CHURCH TO ATTEND, AND A BETTER CLASS OF CHRISTIAN TO HANG OUT WITH.

    (Although I am scared that I will still be judged in some way.) Always a possibility, because the Church of the Sanctimonious Pharisee is everywhere. But this where you will need to stop being scared and start standing up for your dignity as a human being and as a Christian. It appears to me You have allowed a certain class of so-called Christian to define you for so long that you have accepted their definition of you. That’s not healthy in any way for you.

    I would suggest you look at MCC, Unitarians, ELCA, or United church of Christ. They have pulled their heads out of their pharisaical butts, and will allow you to worship in peace.

  • Americans want to know why the church is dying… The media has not satisfied the question yet! Let’s publish.
    Gotquestions.org says it’s because few young adults believe in Satan or that Christianity is the only true religion. Why don’t they believe?
    The primary reason for the exodus is sociological. Most young adults go to school, work, and live with diverse friends now. But the church, as always, insists that their religions are an abomination.
    This long standing precept of the church has struck a cultural nerve with most young adults. (Gay issue, included) With Indians, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and middle easterners all around them, they’re quitting church because this policy is divisive and offensive to their new friends. So Americans are searching for, and finding non-discriminatory spirituality outside the church. This micro phenomenon is becoming macro, and could be the undoing of the world’s largest religion.
    Let’s talk about this and other contributing factors.
    Truly, Brad O’Donnell, Richmond, Va. Video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fuwmi2EWAD8
    [email protected]   

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