Ministry leaders say confrontation over this issue will continue, but Christians must respond with love and kindness
Gay-rights activists converged on a historic downtown Chicago church in February, decrying it as a house of hate and protesting the pastor’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Christian observers say such confrontation will likely continue as believers become more vocal in opposition to homosexual unions.
Erwin Lutzer, pastor of The Moody Church, was one of two ministers targeted by the Gay Liberation Network (GLN) during a series of demonstrations Feb. 12, a date recognized as Freedom to Marry Day in the homosexual community.
Some 35 participants carried rainbow flags and held signs that read “Christians for Equal Rights” and “Marriage is a Human Right,” while chanting slogans such as “Separate church and state; Moody is a house of hate.”
“We’re at Moody because of Lutzer’s book titled The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage,” said Andy Thayer, protest organizer and a member of GLN, which was formed in 1998 as the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network in response to three violent attacks in Chicago against gays.
Protesters decried Lutzer’s view that same-sex marriage “is arguably the most damaging social experiment to ever be attempted in this country.” A proponent of gay-rights legislation, Thayer said GLN wants to protect homosexuals against violence. Comparing the experience of homosexuals to that of African-Americans during the civil rights era, he said violence against blacks was at its highest when legal discrimination reached its peak.
Other gay activists agree. In a message on GLN’s Web site, member Bob Schwartz said he believed “hate from the pulpit” could foster “an environment that gives rise to the violence.”
After staging a demonstration at Moody, activists including Deborah Mell, daughter of Alderman Dick Mell and sister-in-law of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich marched a few blocks east to the home of Cardinal Francis George, the highest-ranking Catholic clergy in Chicago, and shouted: “Shame on you! Shame on you!” George made headlines in January after the Chicago Sun-Times reported on a Vatican statement opposing legal recognition of same-sex unions.
Gay-rights organizations have been regrouping since November when voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. GLN member Craig Teichen said he hopes to tear down institutions opposing same-sex marriage vocally, if not physically. “We have resources and passion they don’t have,” he told the crowd, “and our relationships are stronger than their corporate ties.”
While the demonstrations were not as provocative as they might have been had they been held on a Sunday, observers say Christians should expect more confrontation over gay marriage. “If they call Moody a house of hate, any church in America that believes the Bible could be called a house of hate,” said Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute.
He said gay activists are targeting mainstream congregations that have been less vocal politically as part of an intimidation tactic. “The gay community is coming out of the closet, and they’re trying to push Christians into the closet,” he said.
He said Christians must not opt out of the culture war; if they do extreme groups will be the only ones offering a religious point of view. He said Lutzer’s book, released in July by Moody Publishers, and The Homosexual Agenda by the Alliance Defense Fund, can help believers understand the issue and craft a response.
Chad Thompson, founder of Loving Homosexuals.com, says that response must include a strategy for ministering to those in the gay lifestyle. “It’s true that as churches become more vocal on this issue, they will see more and more opposition from the gay and lesbian community,” said Thompson, author of Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would (Brazos Press). “We must prepare for this by making sure our churches are a safe place for gay and lesbian people.”
“If God’s people are not equipped to give homosexuals the special kind of love they need in order to heal the wounds of their past and move into heterosexuality, then we have no right to oppose them politically,” he added. “No one has any business reading a single book about how to oppose homosexuals politically until they’ve read a book on how to love them personally.”
Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, an ex-gay ministry based in Orlando, Fla., said Christians must not be intimidated by the gay-rights movement, but should respond in truth, love and grace. “Imbalance on either side is damaging to the cause of Christ, and fails to represent His heart accurately,” he said, noting that judgmental attitudes can cause a homosexual to reject Christ, while total acceptance can cause the person to avoid repentance.
Karen Tom in Chicago