Twenty-two years ago, Reverend Oliver White founded Grace Community United Church of Christ in a low-income black neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a strong congregation with 320 members — until 2005, when White stood up at a synod of the United Church of Christ and voiced his support of gay marriage. Then he came home and told his congregation what he had done.
“I thought they were with me,” he says, “but much to my chagrin, I immediately started losing members.” Over the next few weeks, two thirds of his members left the congregation. […]
How did you become such a strong supporter of gay marriage?
You know, I’ve always felt this way. This is not something I’ve evolved into. I’ve always just felt that people are people. There are all kinds of different people — some are left handed, and others are right handed. Should we discriminate against people because they’re left handed?
That’s how I see it. Many of my friends happen to be gay, and some of my enemies, too. They all deserve the same rights I have in terms of being married, and the joys and benefits come along with that. I would not be inclined to be in relationship with another man, but it’s not for me to judge two men or women in a relationship. It’s about the freedom to love.
The people who left your congregation obviously believe that gay marriage is against the Christian religion. Which parts of scripture do they cite, and how do you read those same passages?
Most people who oppose homosexuality use biblical references found in Leviticus, which state that homosexuality is an abomination to God. Now, that’s a misinterpretation of that text. They really need to read further into it. In the same book of Leviticus, it states that if an unmarried woman is not a virgin, she can be put to death. We don’t put women to death for that reason nowadays.
The one law I quote frequently and try to conduct my ministry by is the one that Jesus gave: Love God first and then love your neighbor as yourself. And yet, we have laws in Minnesota in 2012 that say oral sex is a sin. You can go to jail for it. Come on people, wake up! Let’s get on with it!
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