Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Come out from among them. . .

From The New York Times:

ATLANTA — When the Rev. Dennis Meredith of Tabernacle Baptist Church here began preaching acceptance of gay men and lesbians a few years ago, he attracted some gay people who were on the brink of suicide and some who had left the Baptist faith of their childhoods but wanted badly to return.

At the same time, Tabernacle Baptist, an African-American congregation, lost many of its most loyal, generous parishioners, who could not accept a message that contradicted what they saw as the Bible’s condemnation of same-sex relations. Over the last three years, Tabernacle’s Sunday attendance shrank to 800, from 1,100.

The debate about homosexuality that has roiled predominantly white mainline churches for years has gradually seeped into African-American congregations, threatening their unity, finances and, in some cases, their existence.

In St. Paul, the Rev. Oliver White, senior minister of Grace Community Church, lost nearly all his 70 congregants after he voted in 2005 to support the blessing of same-sex unions in his denomination, the United Church of Christ.

In the Atlanta area, a hub of African-American life, only a few black churches have preached acceptance of gay men and lesbians, Mr. Meredith said. At one of those congregations, Victory Church in Stone Mountain, attendance on Sundays has fallen to 3,000 people, from about 6,000 four or five years ago, said the Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, the senior pastor.

This should not be difficult. The state of finding oneself sexually attracted to persons of the same sex is not in and of itself sinful. Not any more than being attracted to persons of the opposite sex to whom you are not married. The sin comes in what you do with the temptation.

For a church to turn someone away because of the kind of temptation he or she is struggling with is wrong. It is a negation of the purpose for which the Lord created the Church in the first place. He came to seek and to save sinners.

When criticized by the self-righteous religious leaders of his day Jesus told them that he was the physician coming to treat the sick, not the healthy, to call sinners to repentance not the righteous. Since the leaders thought that they were spiritually healthy and righteous they refused the Lord's help.

Many homosexuals today are like the chief priests and Pharisees of Jesus' day. They are sinners in need of salvation, but they will not admit it. They demand that the Lord accept them on their terms, not his. They elevate their own judgment above the divine will and substitute their own desire for God's express commandments.

These pastors who are opening their church's membership rolls to unrepentant practicing homosexuals have substituted their own word for God's Word and are preaching another gospel. The people of God are rightly fleeing from them.