Last edited: December 08, 2004

Defining The Moral Battle Line

Church leaders in Wichita differ over how the recent Supreme Court ruling on sodomy will affect their ministries.

Wichita Eagle, July 5, 2003
South Kansas Avenue, Wichita, KS 66603
Fax: 316-268-6627

By Abe Levy, The Wichita Eagle

For some in the faith community, last week’s ruling on homosexuality by the U.S. Supreme Court represented a disturbing shift in moral beliefs. No longer does the court see gay sex to be a crime. Their children will hear one thing in Sunday school and another from their government. For other faith groups, the ruling backed up their beliefs that same-sex relationships are God-endorsed.

It gave hope that their government may legalize gay and lesbian marriages and facilitate adoptions among homosexual couples.

The court reversed a previous decision that states could punish homosexuals for what they had deemed, by law, to be deviant sex.

While the ruling is intensifying the political battle, it also is galvanizing the resolve inside houses of worship.

For Wichita’s largest gay and lesbian church, First Metropolitan Community Church of Kansas, the ruling invigorated its ministry of being a healing place for its congregation, said pastor Graylan Hawkins-Pyles.

“It has sparked a new fire and energized us again,” he said. “We’ve jumped one more hurdle.”

Meanwhile, other congregations, including Immanuel Baptist Church, have stepped up their prayer and teachings against homosexuality.

Like the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, this ruling runs contrary to the laws of God, said the Rev. Terry Fox of Immanuel.

“If the Bible is no longer the standard, whose standard are we going to have?” he said. “My fear is what the Supreme Court has said is that as long as it’s consenting adults, morality is not an issue. So why not polygamy? Where do you draw the line?”

Both sides say they plan to push their points of view.

Fox, a national leader with the Southern Baptist Convention, will meet with White House officials, possibly the president, toward the end of this month, he said.

The meeting was already planned to talk about human cloning and judicial nominations, but Fox said he’ll bring up the court’s ruling.

“True religion affects the way we vote, what we say in classrooms and how we legislate morals,” he said.

The Rev. Lincoln Montgomery of Tabernacle Baptist Church said the court’s decision goes against the biblical standard of sexuality. Because of the ruling, he said he expects the nation eventually to follow Canada in recognizing homosexual marriages.

“It’s an indication of the erosion of what I would call the foundation of this nation: the Judeo-Christian ethic,” he said.

Alan Chambers, executive director of Exodus International, which offers help to homosexuals wanting to become heterosexual, said the Bible does not endorse non-traditional families. It may refer to non-traditional families with concubines and multiple wives, he said, but they’re not offered as godly examples.

“What was always the highest standard was biblical, monogamous, heterosexual marriage.”

Other church leaders, however, praised the ruling as affirming people of different sexual orientations, who are created in God’s image.

The Rev. Gayla Rapp of University United Methodist Church in Wichita said the understanding of sexuality and family is evolving.

“I see my role in the church to be one of celebrating the diversity of God’s creation,” she said.

Four years ago, Rapp baptized an infant, with the mother and her lesbian partner vowing to raise the girl in the Christian faith.

“I have seen those two mothers fulfill their vow of baptism beautifully,” Rapp said.

Though she supports the court’s ruling, Rapp said she would rather see people’s hearts change than have laws and rulings force acceptance of homosexuality.

Acceptance of different sexual orientations is a hallmark of First Metropolitan Community Church.

The membership has gay, straight and transsexual people, many of whom felt ostracized in other churches because of their sexuality.

Two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, the congregation held a same-sex union ceremony for Fred Blair and Bobbi Green, one of dozens the church has performed in its 28-year history.

“It was the most special day of my life,” Green said. “It couldn’t have been more perfect. It made me feel normal.”

For Green and others at Metropolitan, the ruling reinforced what the congregation has recognized from the start, said Donna Mitchell-Ayers who joined the church a year ago:

“I can be gay and be a Christian, and it’s OK.”

[Home] [News] [Kansas]