I didn’t intend to make an ultimatum this week, but I felt I had no other choice. This all really started at a church connect group I went to where a petition to ban gay marriage was put in front of me and I wouldn’t sign it (you can read about that here). Basically, I believe that churches should never have power over the government. When has that ever been a good thing in history?
Anyway, the following Sunday the same morning announcements appeared encouraging members to sign this petition. The Pastor, Ryan, gave a sermon on the power of one, what one person is capable of in Christ, and about not living your life in fear. I felt like he was just begging me to write him a letter about my concerns, so I did just that. Although I do disagree with him on the issue, I tried to be as respectful as possible while still getting the message across. Here it is:
Pastor Ryan Graves and the leadership of Word of Faith Center, May 27, 2012
After today’s message regarding the power of one and not letting your life be led by fear, I feel compelled to write this letter. In taking your advice, I am empowered to bring something of great importance to your attention.
Jesus Christ preached about loving all people. He wasn’t the kind of guy that only hung out with the “most righteous “, “well to do” or the “top level” of the church. He hung around the sinners and the lowliest of people. He taught us that there was no “elite” that salvation was intended for. He taught us that all men can be saved. That is exactly what I want. I want the tri-cities to get saved. I think that Word of Faith is in a very powerful position in that goal.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been very disturbed by the morning announcements inclusion of pushing political agenda to ban gay marriage. First of all, I believe in the separation of church and state and I have a hard time imagining Jesus making it his priority to get so involved in politics. The bible may be clear on its position of homosexuality, but it’s also clear on its position of a multitude of other sins. The only reason this particular sin of homosexuality is in your announcements, is because it’s a relevant controversial political topic.
I’d like to ask you to put yourself in the shoes of a gay person who wants to have God in their life and decides to attend church at Word of Faith center. They come in and enjoy the worship, feel God’s presence, then they sit down and are told right off the bat that this church is actively pursuing to deny them what they would consider one of their basic human rights. Instead of an invitation to come, repent, and live your life for God, it’s an invitation for them to leave. You may “love the sinner, hate the sin” but how on earth do you think that a gay person is going to even have the opportunity to see how much you love them when they are being blatantly discriminated against.
If you (the church) feels so compelled to push political agendas that go with bible teachings and to make it known that you intend to be a moral compass for the world and not just your own church, then I encourage you to push political agenda against every single sin that you can think of, to let your members know that they won’t be accepted in your church community unless all sin will cease and desist immediately.
Please, let’s do everything that we can to get EVERYONE saved. I’m not asking you to change your beliefs on this issue, just to be respectful and inviting to those whose beliefs and struggles are different and are in search of a life with God that you as a church can lead them to.
After writing this letter, I knew that however this was handled would be key in determining my future attendance. I wasn’t expecting to really change anyone’s heart with one letter, but I at least wanted to have a voice. I wanted to be heard by the leaders of this church. I didn’t get a response this week. He could have called me or sent me a letter back, but I got nothing. So, I honestly didn’t have much hope for the situation going into church today. I was already prepared to say my goodbyes, but I genuinely wanted to see if there was any chance I could still place any hope in this church.
I walked into church and the first thing I saw was a huge display with multiple petitions for banning gay marriage. I pretty much knew right then that I had my answer. But then I watched the announcements and there was nothing in them encouraging members to sign this petition. For a second, I was torn. Was this a half-hearted effort to take my suggestion?
My confusion ended very shortly after. Ryan announced to his congregation that he was starting a new series of sermons about married life. He continued on saying,”If any of you have questions about marriage, we’d love to hear from you and give you some biblical answers.” Then he said, “We’ll be defining marriage, cause SOME people wanna think it’s their basic human right.” The attitude he said this with was just disdainful.
It couldn’t have been any clearer. There was no coincidence. Ryan Graves was too personally offended by my letter and wasn’t secure enough to say something directly to me, so instead he answered me publicly with my own personal invitation to get out of his church for thinking differently from him. Apparently his message about the power of one and not letting your life be led by fear came with a disclaimer; you’re only encouraged to tap into this power if it aligns with what Ryan Graves believes.
Well, I refuse to be a part of a church where the only voice is that of the Pastor’s. And I certainly refuse to “pay tithes and offerings to God” when all that really is at Word of Faith Center, is paying Ryan’s salary. Granted, they do other charitable things with their money, but if I want to donate to those causes, I will without Ryan Graves taking his cut.
Where’s God in all this? That’s what I keep wondering. Was Ryan thinking that he was doing God’s will by publicly acknowledging and disdaining my letter? Ryan, you are not God and I DO NOT believe that you speak for him either. God wouldn’t have answered me this way. So my journey with Word of Faith has ended, but my journey with God lives on.