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K’zoo Churches: we can’t be seen with tolerant Christians

Timothy Kincaid

December 17th, 2009

Some things are so spiteful and full of malice that I – as cynical as I can be – still am shocked. I shouldn’t be surprised that nastiness can raise its head, but it does shame me how often downright meanness comes trotting along waving the “Christian” label.

Take as example a situation that is happening in Kalamazoo, MI. Eight churches had joined together to provide food for the homeless. They would provide food and religious support hoping to gradually draw the homeless back into society.

But then in June the city council of Kalamazoo voted to ban housing and employment discrimination against LGBT people. And some of the churches in Kalamazoo said, “Treat all God’s children with dignity? Yeah, I think we can get behind that.” But when the voters of Kalamazoo passed the non-discrimination ordinance with 62% of the vote, this became too much for some anti-gay ministers.

So they decided that they just couldn’t serve food to the homeless with someone who thought that gay people should not be, well, homeless. And because some of the other Martha’s Table participants supported the ordinance, then they took their ladles and went home.(Mlive)

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.

For them, it wasn’t about caring for the needy. It was about using the food as a bribe to “bring souls to Christ”. (WWMT)

[Word For Life Church of God’s Pastor Jeff McNally] says that helping the homeless alongside supporters of the ordinance is something the bible just won’t let him do.

“I don’t feel comfortable recommending people that I love and I care about, that I’m trying to lead to Christ, to go to a church that I feel that may lead them astray with their interpretation of the scriptures,” said McNalley.

The remaining five will continue to, as they put it, in their “commitment to serve Christ and others.” And at least one is a conservative church that still is able to but anti-gay activism as secondary to helping others.

A pastor from another church in the Reformed, or Calvinist, tradition, the Rev. Ken Baker of Third Christian Reformed, said his church will continue its commitment to Martha’s Table.

“I feel very sad about the decision of three partner churches to pull out,” Baker said. “Everything about the ministry of Martha’s Table reflects the heart of Jesus, who came to preach good news to the poor. Surely, all our churches would agree that mercy and compassion were at the heart of the ministry of Jesus.”

He noted that his denomination takes a “theologically conservative” position on homosexuality, interpreting the Bible to say the practice is wrong but that it is not a sin to have a homosexual disposition. “But I fail to see how our integrity is violated by participating in Martha’s Table,” he said.

I marvel at the three who left. What, exactly, do they think faith, religion, and Christianity are all about? At this season, Christians speak of joy to the world, of peace on earth, of God’s love, of goodness, of kindness, of charity. How do they reconcile that with a decision to not feed the hungry because another church thinks that gay people shouldn’t be fired or evicted for being gay?

I am a Christian but I don’t pretend to be a theologian. I have no great insights about the nature of what comes after this life – if anything – and I certainly can’t preach with any certainty about the nature of any deities.

But I do know what is moral, what is ethical, what is good and what is right. And I know that I want nothing to do with the spiteful, angry, hate-filled god those three churches serve.

Comments

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Burr
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

Those aren’t churches. They’re businesses too obsessed with establishing their brand instead of doing the work of Christ. Once again I must thank bigots for continuing to make it so crystal clear to everyone what they truly are about. Please continue with the selfish myopic whining. Your temper tantrums only undermine your perverted cause even further.

joel
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

so they read/interpreted from the scriptures that sinners should not be able to worK? Or was it only those that practice homosexuality?

If you take the literal ‘kill gays’ stance of the bible then it would obviously follow that those who practice homosexuality shouldnt work(as they SHOULD be.. ded).

Maybe theres a bit more to this than meets the eye. Maybe their real concern was that landlords would be forced to permit housing for unequivocally and primarily sinful purposes(housing a gay couple). Or impose on the employer the hiring of a gay person(which he believes to be unfit BECAUSE their gay).

Christopher™
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

The Amplified Bible is better for studying than casual reading, but it best captures what I think of whenever I hear that certain “Christians” (or, better yet, Christianists) treat GLBT people, and those who support them, as beneath contempt:

Matthew 25:41-46

Then He will say to those at His left hand, “Begone from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!”

“For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me and entertain Me, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me with help and ministering care.”

Then they also [in their turn] will answer, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?”

And He will reply to them, “Solemnly I declare to you, insofar as you failed to do it for the least [in the estimation of men] of these, you failed to do it for Me.”

Then they will go away into eternal punishment, but those who are just and upright and in right standing with God into eternal life.

For those who claim to “believe the Bible,” it’s a serious warning from Jesus Himself that they clearly pretend He never said.

Richard Rush
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

If you can temporarily ignore the damage they do, it’s fascinating to watch Purity Seekers eat their own.

Kurt Glasser
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

Hmm lets see, “the church” has basturdized blacks women other religions gays, and just about anyone who is not white and agreeable maybe 3/4 of the world. And I thought money was the root of all evil.
I think Jesus, having died 60 some years prior to the writing of the NT, should be lifted from Christianity in general. He surely did not have any say about being picked as a religious idol fraught with all the hoopla of the other writers. Maybe he is the one who truly needs to be freed, to stand on his own without being enshrined in conflict.
Obviously, he was put into a position within the NT that he did not choose.
I am reading A Course in Miracles and do find him to be right on in that document, and standing on his own. He has much to say in the first 50 pages that does not affirm “the church”.
From the post above, it is obvious there are churches of Jesus Christ and churches of The Bible, two really different energies.

Donnchadh
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

I once read Alan Keyes saying outright that Christian charity is not for the sake of physically helping people, it is a way to encourage them to listen to what the charity-givers have to say about Christ. Because the salvation of souls is more important than the sustenance of the body.
I’m not sure where I read it, it was a transcript of a live radio boradcast with people phoning in. Might be found on his website.

Andrew
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

I would appreciate if folks would stop equating “conservative” with “anti-gay.” Anti-gay isn’t conservative. It’s radical. Radically stupid, but still radical.

Ray
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

“I would appreciate if folks would stop equating “conservative” with “anti-gay.” Anti-gay isn’t conservative. It’s radical. Radically stupid, but still radical.”

Agree. Fundamentalist Christians have embraced conservatism and rewritten the litmus test to conform to core conservative values that didn’t exist, say, when William F. Buckley was throwing the John Birch Society into the gutter from whence it came. These days the entire idea of freedom has been distorted by fundamentalists to be unrecognizable. It’s an uphill fight for modest conservatives to contend with. “Hater” is the more accurate term.

Priya Lynn
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

While “conservative” may not perfectly equate with “anti-gay”, a much higher percentage of conservatives are anti-gay than liberals. There’s a sound reason why most people assume “anti-gay” when they hear “conservative.

Ben in Oakland
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

As I have often said, and iwll again, as a Jew, I can totally rejet the Chrstian story, and this bothers no one but the most rabid fundamentalist. I can still remember F. Bailey Smith, fuhrer of the SoBa convention, declaiming 30 years ago that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”

But let me say I am gay, and reject this itty-bitty bit of conservative religion, and all hell breaks loose.

I can only guess why this gets them so excited, excuse me, exercised.

Eshto
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

I would appreciate it if people stopped putting the word “Christian” in quotes when referring to Christians they disagree with politically. And I am tired of people accusing conservative and/or anti-gay churches of not being real churches, or not really being real religion.

Of course they are churches, and of course they are Christians. This is the way religion has always worked. It’s always been an institution that meddles in politics. And when you accuse other people’s religion of being invalid, you are doing the same thing they are. They think YOU are the fake “Christians”. The Bible lends itself to both interpretations, and both sides are picking and choosing verses to support your respective positions.

I don’t care if you are sticking up for equality or not, when you go around acting like you have the authority of God behind you, you look like a deluded, arrogant, self-centered child. Just as much as the “haters” do.

Learn to fight homophobia with rational arguments. I look at pro-gay Christians and anti-gay Christians and all I see are children whining back and forth: “God’s on my side”, “NUH-UH! He’s on my side”. Grow up!

Richard Rush
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Fundamentalist Christians seem to think they own the label “conservative.” Perhaps the rest of us need to coin a more truthful version of that label. I’m thinking “controlative.”

gregory brown
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

I spent the first 2 years of college in a town that was crowded with Reformed Churches, and a few Christian Reformed congregations. My impression then was that the CR pastors and their flocks were burdened with a smugness and condescension toward what they viewed as the fallen away Reformed folks. So it’s good to see that in Kalamazoo (where I lived 12 months without much noticing the Calvinists despite the energies pouring down from Grand Rapids) there’s at least one CR pastor with both the intelligence and integrity to recognize that what Jesus said we should do lovingly trumps what some others appear to condemn. He doesn’t compromise his basic beliefs, but behaves in a humane way. Bravo to Rev. Ken Baker.

Timothy (TRiG)
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Of course, fighting the gays is so much more important than doing good.

TRiG.

Timothy (TRiG)
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Eshto, you’re absolutely right. I’d add that any form of morality which is less concerned about real humans here on earth than it is about an imaginary friend in the sky, is not real morality at all. We’d be far better off without that kind of thinking. Morality, real morality, is about people. Gods merely confuse the issue.

TRiG.

Laurent
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Well said TRiG on both posts.

Alex
December 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Do we know whether the three churches plan to start their own version of Martha’s Table?

Alex
December 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Anyone?

Timothy Kincaid
December 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Alex, I don’t know the intentions of the other churches. I’m sure that you can either google for news, or contact them to find out.

Alex
December 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Timothy,

I don’t mean to be rude, but isn’t that your job as the reporter?

You call the three churches mean, spiteful, malicious, and nasty, even though you admittedly do not know their intentions. If they plan to stop ministering to the homeless altogether, then I would agree that their behavior is appalling and disgusting, especially for people who claim to espouse the tenets of Christ.

However, if they left Martha’s Table over theological disagreements regarding homosexuality — and from what I’ve read, they left on amicable terms with the other five churches — and if there is a possibility that they might branch off and continue serving the homeless on their own, then wouldn’t that be something you as the reporter should be investigating? True, it wouldn’t change the fact their reasons for withdrawing are petty and political, but it would show that they are not as uncaring toward the homeless as you make them out to be.

There is a considerable difference between “deciding not to serve the homeless with certain churches due to theological disagreements” versus “deciding not to serve the homeless at all,” a difference you do not seem to recognize. I am willing to give these churches the benefit of the doubt, whereas you do not seem particularly interested one way or the other. Is that true?

Timothy Kincaid
December 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Alex,

If you’d like to pay me to be a reporter then I’ll happily do research for you. The authors at Box Turtle Bulletin run this blog as a labor of love, we are not paid to do so.

You are, of course, entitled to disagree with my opinions. I believe that anyone who chooses to stop helping the poor because they’d be around people who think that gay folk should not suffer discrimination is mean, spiteful, malicious, and nasty. You may think them principled.

If you wish, you can present evidence to support your argument. But I’ll not be doing your research for you.

Alex
December 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Timothy,

I was not asking you to do research for me; I cringed at my comment after posting because it sounded as though I were giving you an assignment. My point — which I should have made clearer — was that if I were the one reporting this story, I would have looked into the possibility that the three churches who left Martha’s Table may continue serving the homeless on their own, because in my opinion that would make a difference. That said, while I disagree with your opinion, I do at least understand and respect it.

Timothy Kincaid
December 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Alex,

At the time that I posted the commentary I went to the website of a few of the churches and could find no indication that they were simply breaking off to do their own charity. One website still listed Martha’s Table (church websites tend not to be updated quickly).

Nor did I find any reference in news stories to continued service. So while I can’t say for certain, I saw no indication that they were going to continue ministry to the homeless.

Additionally, it appears that the location of the help was in one of the churches that stayed. It may be that the breakaways are not in a location that is helpful.

Jarred
December 23rd, 2009 | LINK

There is a considerable difference between “deciding not to serve the homeless with certain churches due to theological disagreements” versus “deciding not to serve the homeless at all,” a difference you do not seem to recognize.

I’m not convinced that the difference is all that considerable.

These churches were participating in an established service that helps homeless people. To run, that established service required a certain amount of overhead. That overhead can be represented by some value, N, which can be measured in terms of time and money expended in administrative necessities.

Presumably, the cost of that overhead was covered in part by all 8 services. Assuming an equal share, that means that each church contributed N/8 to cover that administrative overhead.

By withdrawing, the remaining church now have to contribute N/5 to cover that same overhead. Which means that each remaining church has experienced an increased administrative expenditure of 3N/40.

Even if the three remaining churches work together to start their own program, they now have a new program which will also have administrative costs, which means they now have to invest N all over again. Now their paying N/3 to cover administrative costs, which for them represents an increase of 5N/24 in administrative expenditures.

This means that now instead of a single program with a total administrative overhead of N, there is now two programs with a total administrative overhead of 2N. So if M is the total amount invested in either scenario, the total amount spent actually helping the homeless is after administrative costs has gone from M-N to M-2N. Effectively, by splitting off, these churches have decreased the total amount of help actually being supplied to the homeless.

Or to put it another way, these churches have demonstrated that cutting ties with anyone who doesn’t hold their theological views on homosexuality is worth decreasing the actual help given to homeless people by some value N.

In my mind, that’s still pretty damning evidence that that their theological purity is more important to them than helping the homeless.

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