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Controversy
OK… here’s an interesting story.  A Christian baker will not bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, and he’s now being boycotted.  Read here: Pro-gay activists have launched a boycott of an Iowa baker who declined to create a wedding cake for a lesbian couple based on her religious beliefs. Victoria Childress, the owner of Victoria’s Cake Cottage in Des Moines, has been accused of being anti-gay, homophobic and a bigot after she refused to make a cake for Trina Vodraska and Janelle Sievers. Childress told Fox News & Commentary that she made five cakes for the couple to taste – unaware that they were lesbians. “She introduced herself, and I said, ‘Is this your sister?'” Childress said. “She said, ‘No. This is my partner.'” At that point Childress told the couple that she would not be willing to make their wedding cake. “I was straightforward with them and explained that I’m a Christian and that I have very strong convictions,” she said. “I chose to be honest about it. They said they appreciated it and left. That was all that was said.” But that wasn’t the end of the story. Soon Childress began receiving hateful emails and then the local media called. Vodraska told KCCI that she was offended by Childress. “It was degrading,” she told the television station. “It was like she chastised us for wanting to do business with her. I know Jesus loves me. I didn’t need her to tell me that. I didn’t go there for that. I just wanted to go there for a cake.” The pair also released a statement, calling the Christian cake baker a “bigot.” via Baptist Press // I’m not sure I get it.  I mean, I get it… but I don’t get it. So, you’re a baker… but you won’t bake for a same-sex wedding.  What else won’t you bake for?  A heterosexual wedding of people who have been living together?  A heterosexual wedding for people who are being unequally yoked?  A couple that’s getting married at the local mormon church?  A baby shower for a single mother?  The anniversary party of a drunk? You’re a baker.  It’s cake. If you own a lawn service, do you only service people who are Christians?  Do you service Catholics, or Mormons, or Presbyterians?  Do you mow the lawn of a gay couple?  I would say if you’re in the lawn business… you do. Am I all washed up here?  What’s the big deal? Where do we get the notion that if you bake a cake that you’re condoning lifestyle? And when do Christian beliefs turn us in to discriminators and bigots?  Ever? Todd
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Controversy
A United Methodist minister acquitted Wednesday on a church charge of being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual,”was sentenced Thursday to a 20-day suspension for presiding at a holy union ceremony for a lesbian couple in 2009. As part of the penalty, the Rev. Amy DeLong must work with Wisconsin church officials to craft a document that will help resolve future disputes in a more collaborative way in an effort to avoid trials. Both sides heralded the penalty and split verdict as just. “I feel good about what the church has done. I think we’ve sent a message that the United Methodist Church will not throw out its gay and lesbian people, and that it has opened the doors for a more inclusive church,” said DeLong, who has long acknowledged to church officials that she is a lesbian in a committed relationship. The Rev. Tom Lambrecht, a Wisconsin elder who served as church counsel in the trial, said the penalty recognizes that DeLong harmed the clergy covenant and that there are consequences for such actions. “I think the suspension is just the first step,” said Lambrecht, who had asked the jury to suspend DeLong indefinitely until she agreed not to officiate at same-sex unions in the future. “What’s important is Rev. DeLong’s written work that will look at ways we can resolve issues without creating that adversarial spirit and doing harm to the clergy covenant.” DeLong, 44, of Osceola, is executive director of Kairos CoMotion, a United Methodist advocacy group that promotes, among other things, greater acceptance of gay and lesbian people. She was appointed to that job by her bishop. via JSOnline. Thoughts? Todd
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Controversy
The church’s call to exclusion is ‘killing its soul’.  Those are the words of Dr. Joretta Marshall of Brite Divinity School talking about the upcoming trial of lesbian pastor Rev. Amy DeLong in the United Methodist Church. Watch this: The soul of the church is what’s at stake, according to Marshall. The soul of the church deserves to be set free. Thoughts?
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Current Events
I’ve long said that the way the church responds to homosexuality will be one of the biggest tests of the next years.  Recently, two things have occurred that have spoken to where some parts of the church are heading.  The first was a statement by emergent church leader Tony Jones; the second by ‘out of the closet’ megachurch pastor, Jim Swilley. The first is a comment by Tony Jones:
One of the key leaders of today’s most cutting-edge church movement has opened an Internet discussion on the issue of same-sex marriage with the bold proclamation that he believes “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and queer” individuals can and should live out their sexuality in – and blessed by – the Christian church.
“I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (as least as much as any of us can!),” writes author and church leader Tony Jones, “and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.”
Jones is an author and former youth pastor who holds a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also the national coordinator of Emergent Village, a loosely-formed friendship of churches that derive their descriptive name from having “emerged” from postmodernism to take the gospel of Jesus Christ into a post-Christian culture

“I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (as least as much as any of us can!),” writes author and church leader Tony Jones, “and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.”

SOURCE

The second is a message from Jim Swilley, the pastor of a large church in Georgia, who just recently came out saying he was divorcing his wife and living openly as a homosexual.  My friend, Ed Stetzer, has a great post about the Swilley situation, including Swilley’s video where he ‘comes out’. Ed closes his statement with a great question.  I’d like to post it here as well for your consideration and comment: Is it possible to demonstrate legitimate love and compassion to homosexuals, while believing homosexual behavior itself is sinful? Is there a kind of accountability for pastors that is both realistic and effective? What would that look like? Is it possible to maintain biblical orthodoxy while jettisoning biblical morality? What do you think?  How will YOUR church address the issue of homosexuality?  (Because, I think EVERY church WILL HAVE TO; and very soon). Todd
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Outreach
Given the interest in the Jennifer Knapp story here at MMI yesterday, I thought this would be a great follow-up, and I’d really like to spark some additional conversation around this topic because I think it’s vitally important.  Meet Constance McMillen.  Constance is an 18 year old high school senior from Fulton, Mississippi (but she might as well be from your town).  Constance is a lesbian.  She’s been ‘out of the closet’ since eighth grade. It’s prom time, and Constance wants to take her girlfriend to the school prom.  School rules state that prom dates must be of the opposite gender.  She asks the school board to reconsider.  They refuse.  She enlists the help of the ACLU.  The school board’s response:  cancel the prom for everyone because the whole matter is a distraction “to the educational process”. My question:  how should the church respond to this? This morning, I tried to find out a little more about the situation, and how any of the local churches responded to the local controversy.  I found nothing. Oh wait.  I did find one thing.  The infamous Westboro Baptist Church (look them up if you need to) has announced that they are going to picket Constance’s graduation this year.  Here’s the only response from a ‘church’ that I could find on this story.

“WBC will picket the graduation of Itawamba Agricultural High School to remind the parents, teachers and students of this nation that God said ‘Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is abomination,’” the church said in announcing the protest.

“This generation has been raised to believe that they can live for the devil and still go to heaven, that God has no standards and the biggest lie of all – that God loves everyone.” “The parents of Fulton, MS feign outrage that a filthy dyke wants to parade her ‘girlfriend’ around at their night of fornication called a prom,” the church added. “They had a duty to teach their children what the Lord requires of them. They shirked this duty.” Fulton, Mississippi is a town of less than 5,000 people.  It could be any of our ‘hometowns’.  Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Constance lived in your community.  That Constance went to the same high school as your son or daughter.  That your church found itself in the same location as this community-changing story. What would your church’s response be?  Would you/should your church have a response? This is where the rubber meets the road, folks. You’ve often heard that we are to love the sinner but hate the sin.  How do you do that when it’s a very public and very divisive issue? Sinners have names.  Most all of us (myself included) on this forum (at least from the Jennifer Knapp post) believe that homosexuality is forbidden in scripture.  So how do we mesh our love for Constance with our understanding/condemnation of sin? I would argue that calling Constance a ‘filthy dyke’ is not the way to do it (as Westboro has done).  I think most of you would agree. I would also argue that affirming Constance’s lifestyle choice as God-honoring is also not a good choice.  Again, most of you would agree. So… if the church can not affirm the lifestyle, but cannot call names; how should the church respond?  It HAS to be somewhere in the middle.  But where? Like it or not, our culture HAS changed.  When I was in high school (a few years ago); homosexuality still had a very negative connotation to it.  Today, culture has shifted to the point that most high schoolers don’t think twice about homosexuality being negative or sinful.  It’s like red or blue… pick a color. In fact, I would bargain a guess that in your church, you have people that struggle with same-sex attractions on a regular basis.  You might not even be aware of their struggle.  How do you love them?  How do you reach them?  Just preaching against homosexuality won’t do the trick anymore. Here’s the deal… Gay people need Jesus too.  Specifically, Constance needs Jesus.  My fear is that the only ‘christian’ or church that Constance will hear from is the likes of Westboro.  Or, just as bad, a local church that will speak against the ills of homosexuality and never do a thing to personally reach out to Constance or people like her with the LOVE of Jesus.  ‘If Constance could only be delivered from her sexual orientation, then maybe she could hear the gospel and be saved.’  Is that not the approach that many of us take? OK… I’ve rambled long enough.  I’ve written about the homosexuality issue alot over the past five years because of one reason:  I think this is the BIG social issue the church will have to wrestly with in the next decade.  And how we respond now will determine our direction. Truthfully, I don’t know what the proper response is.  I know it’s somewhere between Westboro and affirmation. So… if Constance lived in your town, went to your kid’s high school, maybe even attended your church’s youth group… how would your church respond to this very public, very polarizing, very nasty situation? Seriously… think it through.  You may very well have a situation like this happen very soon in your community.  If it happens in Fulton, MS, it could just be a matter of time before this happens in your town. Please, take a moment to share your thoughts.  Iron sharpens iron, you know. Thanks, Todd
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Controversy
A defiant Christian Singer Jennifer Knapp takes on a pastor of last week’s Larry King Live… Watch the video, then let’s discuss: First of all, while I do think that homosexuality, biblically, is a sin, I think Jennifer makes a couple of good points: 1.  She is correct when she asks why this one sin is chosen to debate.  Homosexuality is the big taboo sin in Christian culture these days.  I’m not saying that is a bad thing; but it is seen as a much greater sin than any number of other sins combined:  lying, cheating, divorce, living together before marriage, guttony, gossip.  Many of these are tolerated.  We very seldom ask the glutton or the gossip to turn from their sinful ways.  We just assign them to a different committee. 2.  She does, I think, have a point against the pastor.  He is not her pastor.  He does not have the power/privelege of speaking into her life; privately or on national television. That said, 1.  Jennifer cannot condone her sin by saying that other people who sin are getting a free pass.  It might be true, but it doesn’t allow her to play the ‘they’re sinning so I can sin’ card. 2.  Unfortunately, Jennifer has (as have many other gay christians) found a spiritual leader that has said that homosexuality is acceptable under scripture. This is not the first time that a Christian singer has come out of the closet.  Ray Boltz came out a few years ago (no one ever say that one coming!).  Kirk Talley shocked Southern Gospel fans with a scandal a few years back as well.  I’m sure there are others that will happen in the future. How will/are you responding to Jennifer’s announcement?  Will you buy her album (if you’re a fan?)  Will you continue to use her music in your services?  Would you attend her concert?  Would you have her sing in your church? And what do you make of her defiant attitude on Larry King?  Justified or not? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Todd
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