The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Converting Hate Against LGBTQ into Love

So, my question is: In this era of increasing fear and hatred, in addition to prayer and moral support, what role can I play in converting hate into love? What actions are suggested?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected]mail.com.

Chris writes: “I speak as a Christian from my own perspective:

“I am troubled that in most, even all, Christian denominations there remains a residue of ministers -- men and women who have dedicated themselves to God -- who, in their homilies, publicly and shamelessly accuse LGBT persons of self-damning sinfulness. Upon hearing such judgment, these persons surely feel abandoned, not only by their church's fellowship, but also by our God. In some persons, this level of rejection leads to deep emotion pain, even causing suicidal behavior.

“I believe that God loves us unconditionally.  I also believe we are challenged to follow Jesus' example of love in word and deed. So, my question is: In this era of increasing fear and hatred, in addition to prayer and moral support, what role can I play in converting hate into love? What actions are suggested?”

The Rev. Steven Manskar, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids, responds:

“My response to your question is shaped by Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. The General Rule of Discipleship is a helpful guide: To witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This general rule is a practical guide for living the Christian life shaped by Jesus’ summary of his teachings in Matthew 22:37-40, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ As followers of Jesus Christ we are called and commissioned by baptism to live as people who love like Jesus. 

“We convert hate into love when we ourselves love like Jesus. This means, first, by doing no harm and avoiding evil. ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:21). Second, by doing good, by being merciful and kind to all people. Third, stay close to God by practicing holy habits: the public worship of God, listening to the Word of God read and proclaimed, regular participation in the Eucharist, personal and family prayer, searching the Scriptures, and fasting or abstinence. When these practices become habits the Holy Spirit opens our hearts and minds to love like Jesus.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Too many Christians forget what Christ Himself declares, that ‘God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved’ (John 3:18). If the only message I have for my hearers is a word of condemnation, then I should question whether I am preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ or not.

“The only people sure to damned are those who do not believe the gospel (Mark 16:16). Scripture does not carve out an exception for any class of persons, and say to them, ‘Others may be forgiven and restored to the family of God, but you may not!’ As a young pastor, I soon discovered that many people in my flock were beset with serious sins. Repentance is a journey, not a destination, and in this life we only begin that journey. There should be room in the church for all who have begun to walk in the way of Jesus Christ.

“Reformed Christians believe that, ‘The promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel’ (Canons of Dort, Head II, Art. 5). Present circumstances challenge us to believe, ​proclaim, and live out that great confessional truth.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“I am grateful for the thoughtfulness of this question. I think the day has come where all religions, particularly the Christian faith, must re-evaluate their position on the acceptance of the entire LGBTQA+ community. Our global society has shifted to a kinder level of acceptance leaving the church behind. I think the best action is to speak up and to let your voice be heard by others in your faith community.

“Currently happening in Grand Rapids there is a successful urban garden program which provides fresh produce to the Creston neighborhood. The new executive director happens to be a gay minister. The church that provides the land for the garden is ending their relationship with the urban garden because of the church’s stance on homosexuality. If you believe this is wrong the church needs to hear from you.”

And here is one more, online-only, bonus response:

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“The Catholic perspective is found in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document, Ministry to persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care, November 2016.

“The pervasive influence of contemporary culture creates, at times, significant difficulties for the reception of Catholic teaching on homosexuality. In this context, there is need of a special effort to help persons with a homosexual inclination understand Church teaching. At the same time, it is important that Church ministers listen to the experiences, needs, and hopes of the persons with a homosexual inclination to whom and with whom they minister. Dialogue provides an exchange of information, and also communicates a respect for the innate dignity of other persons and a respect for their consciences. ‘Authentic dialogue, therefore, is aimed above all at the rebirth of individuals through interior conversion and repentance, but always with profound respect for consciences and with patience and at the step-by-step pace indispensable for modern conditions.’ Such dialogue facilitates an ongoing, interior conversion for all parties truly engaged in the exchange.

“We extend a word of thanks to our brothers and sisters who have labored so patiently and faithfully in pastoral ministry and outreach to persons with a homosexual inclination. They have done so at times under adverse and difficult conditions. They have set an example for this important service to the Church.”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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