More than 1,500 New Yorkers gathered today in Manhattan to mourn the death of a 32 year-old gay man, who was shot down on Friday just blocks away from the historic Stonewall Inn in an apparent act of anti-gay bias.
Faithful Voices Oppose and Discredit North Carolina 'Electric Fence' Pastor's Harmful Words
Earlier this week, a video featuring Providence Road Baptist Church Pastor Charles Worley went viral much to the chagrin of LGBT and affirming faith leaders.
Pastor Worley, in his Mother’s Day sermon, advocated for the imprisonment of all LGBT people behind an electric fence, telling parishioners:
"I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn't get it past the Congress. Build a great big, large fence – 50 or a 100 miles long – and put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them. And you know in a few years, they'll die out. You know why? They can't reproduce."
Rev. Worley has no visible support from those outside of his congregation. His sermon elicited strong words of condemnation from neighboring pastors. “I am angry and sick at heart over Pastor Worley's comments,” the Reverend Dennis Teall-Fleming, of Open Hearts Gathering in Gastonia, NC told CNN’s Belief Blog. “Nothing he says has anything to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Preaching and living the Gospel means loving all people, even those you might be opposed to or disagree with. Pastor Worley fails to preach or live anything close to the Gospel in this video.”
“There is no way that such rhetoric can be justified as preaching against one's personal understanding of sin. His words were just downright mean and nasty, to saying nothing of his concept as being illegal and against every freedom we, as all citizens, should enjoy,” commented Gary West, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Statesville, NC. “If this is what it means to be a Christian, then I don't want to be one. Thank God, it's not what it means.” Other pastors are sending opinion pieces and letters to the editor at the Charlotte Observer.
There has been a recent spate of comments from anti-gay religious leaders that have included calls of violence against LGBT people. During the debate over Amendment 1 in North Carolina, another pastor in North Carolina advocated fathers to punch their effeminate sons. In a separate incident a Mississippi lawmaker quoted a Leviticus passage in calling for the death of LGBT people as a part of his opposition to President Obama’s support for marriage equality.
“As a committed, evangelical Christian from a Southern Baptist background living in North Carolina, I am sorely disappointed in some of my fellow Christians and fellow North Carolinians for words and actions that do not represent the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ,” said Justin Lee, Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network. “We Christians have disagreed and continue to disagree on topics like marriage for same-sex couples, but we surely can agree on one thing: that Jesus was a friend to all, most especially the "sinners" and outcasts of his day, and he never would advocate the kind of hateful, hurtful language we've heard from some who claim to speak in his name.”
"There are many ways that we see the interpretations of scripture expressed across denominations and within them. The members of [the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists] believe strongly that scripture supports the full inclusion of lgbtq people in the life of the church, and in particular the Baptist tradition.,” said Robin Lunn, Executive Director of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. “We respect any congregation's freedom to live their faith as they feel called. What we do not condone is the use of the pulpit to insight harm of any kind against any group of people, particularly the lgbtq community."
Others have been moved to action. There are plans for a peaceful protest outside of Providence Road Baptist Church on Sunday being planned by Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate.
The Rev. Mark Sandlin, blogger at The God Article, has published a post that not only responds to Rev. Worley’s harmful words, but also comes up with a non-violent response. He has suggested that people make an donation to an LGBT organization in honor of Rev. Worley.
“Not only will it be a wonderful opposing response to Pastor Worley, but it does several other wickedly beautiful things,” Rev. Sandlin writes. “One, it helps fund organizations who are actively working against this kind of exclusion and bullying. Two, it puts Pastor Worley on their mailing lists!!! And, three, it can really show Pastor Worley and others what creative, non-violent resistance looks like – and that's biblical.”
Rev. Sandlin offers a list of LGBT-serving organizations, and has been updating the list to include suggestions from his readers.
In full disclosure: So far, GLAAD has received about 20 donations in honor of Rev. Worley through The God Article suggestion. We will be sending him a letter to let him know that his words have inspired people to support the fight against harmful words and images like the ones in his sermon.