Kalamazoo, Michigan is developing a spiritual fault line revealed by a minor earthquake between several churches in the town over gay affirming good works. Refusing to partner with gay or gay affirming churches to do “good works” may get you a double condemnation: homophobic and unchristian.
A couple of weeks ago, we had considerable discusssion on this blog about the religious forum on homosexuality held in there. Perhaps the forum helped some of the bible believing churches to realize they needed to separate themselves from those who claim Christ but yet sanction sexual abomination.
Three churches who had been involved with a feeding/homeless ministry decided to withdraw after one of the churches went public with its support of homosexual rights.
Theological disagreements over homosexuality are causing a divide within a downtown ministry that serves the poor, homeless and lonely.
Martha’s Table, through which eight churches have provided Sunday afternoon worship and meals for the needy at First Congregational Church, is losing three of the churches because of the issue of homosexuality, even though the ecumenical ministry takes no position on it, said the Rev. Matt Laney, pastor of First Congregational
Agape Christian Church and Word for Life Church of God plan to withdraw from Martha’s Table at the end of the year, and Centerpoint Church (formerly Third Reformed Church) has already done so, Laney said.
“The founding principle of Martha’s Table was that churches would come together and put aside their differences in light of what unites us, which is our common commitment to serve Christ and others,” Laney said. “But now this difference has risen above our common commitment to serving Christ.”
The FCC pastor said he was “dissapointed and shocked” at the other churches’ pull out and said he’d rather keep silent about the split. That’s an interesting position, given he was so vocal about supporting gay rights prior to the split.
Ron Vestrand, senior pastor of Agape Christian Church, said it wasconversations with McNally that led to his church withdrawing from Martha’s Table.
“As time went on, Pastor McNally was becoming concerned with Pastor Matt Laney’s stand on homosexuality. I believe it was causing some disunity. … I think the primary issue was that we felt that Matt’s stance on homosexuality as a valid Christian lifestyle violated our biblical worldview.”
Vestrand added that “ecumenical ministries are a great challenge because sometimes there can be issues that can rise up. We probably were a bit remiss in not talking more extensively about some of the possibilities.”
Kim Sandelin, a lay pastor from Agape, said churches can tolerate some theological disagreements and work together, but “an immoral lifestyle has eternal ramifications in Scripture.”
Yet, he said he wanted to emphasize that “none of the pastors in this ministry have any ill will or bad feelings toward one another.”
He said he talked to Laney about his church’s decision. “When Matt and I were done, we shook hands and considered one another brothers in Christ”, he said.
None of the churches said they would never feed the hungry again or help the poor. The reporter didn’t even ask that question which would have placed the whole controversy in a different light. If the issue is helping the needy, why is it required to do so with someone with whom you have irreconcilable disagreements? Secondly, if the gay affirming church felt it was of such prime importance to help the needy, why didnt they just keep quiet about their progay activities knowing it would bring division and jeopardize the work?
One pastor said that its no violation of scripture to help the poor along with churches who affirm homosexuality. What do you think? When it comes to helping the poor are all restrictions and beliefs to go out the window? And is that a biblical litmus test of one’s salvation? For example, if a white supremacist church wanted to feed the hungry, should a black church jump in to help them with no acknowledgement of their racism?