A8 WEDNESDAY, MAY 2"; 1998 GREAT PLAINS THE SAUNA JOURNAL will FROM PAGE A1 Some pastors interviewed for this story won't accept gays and < lesbians as members of their !§nurch. Others accept them but t whnt to reform them. Some openly support gays and lesbians but disagree with their lifestyle. Others openly accept them and could care less about their lifestyle. And i one small church, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 901 Beatrice, promotes itself through ad- , vertisements and flyers as a religious home for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Seeking middle ground "Thou shalt not lie with • mankind, as with womankind: it is .. abomination." . - — Leviticus 18:22 ,.. The Rev. Paxton Jones will support, minister and love any member of his church. Homosexuals in . the past have been members of his church. But that doesn't mean he agrees with their lifestyle. "There's no getting around the scripture," Jones said. "It's a sin, and sin is not something we encourage." . Jones, however, doesn't rank homosexuality as a sin above all others. And he certainly won't disrespect someone solely on their sexual orientation. One of the best pastors he has ever know was a lesbian. "It's not listed among the top 10," Jones said. "A sin is a sin is a sin. I did a lot of things my parents disagreed with. It didn't make them love me any less." Jones probably represents a majority of pastors on this subject in the Salina area. But it's hard to know for sure. Not every church was interviewed. Others gave some background but didn't want to be quoted. And some turned down interview requests. With most churches, the pastor decides just how supportive and open his or her church will be toward homosexuals despite what the national church may say about it. Ordination of gay and lesbian ministers has become very divisive within the Presbyterian Church, said the Rev. Tom Reid, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, 308 S. Eighth. "Of course, all God's children are welcome worshipping at First Presbyterian Church," Reid said in a statement. "I think it's kind of silly to think that gay and lesbian folk aren't already an important part of our worshipping congregation today. I don't think any Presbyterian would say, 'No, don't come to church.' " Even pastors who want to be supportive of homosexuals don't want to exclude members of their church who aren't comfortable with it. "I just tend to think maybe things are more important than worrying about it," said the Rev. John Martin, pastor of the Trinity United Methodist Church, 901 E. Neal. "I really want to be a place where we can include everyone. Some people very much want us to be open. Others aren't comfortable with that stance. I work as hard as I can to love everybody. I think a lot of people struggle with what's really right about it." Divided we stand Members of the Methodist faith are some of those people. There are two movements within the church, Martin said. There is the reconciling group and the transforming group. To put it very simply, the reconciling group wants to be supportive and welcoming of homosexuals and ratify their lifestyle. The transforming group also wants to be supportive and welcoming, but that group wants to help transform them into heterosexuals through faith. Another difference is the way the groups view homosexuality: The transforming group believes that homosexuality is a choice and that the choice is sinful. The reconciling group generally believes that homosexuality is not a choice and that it isn't sinful. Some churches belong to one, some belong to another, and some don't belong to either one. Martin's church doesn't belong to either one. Both groups are supportive of one another even though they disagree on many different viewpoints. "It makes it a lot harder to include everyone when some are saying it should be this way and some are saying that it should be that way," Martin said. "That's not something that I think is healthy." David Otto is a reconciling Methodist. One reason for this is because he's gay. Otto, a religion professor at the Centenary College in Shreveport La., will talk at a supper from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Trinity United Methodist Church. "As a gay man who is in ministry, who has had a lifelong relationship with the church, I feel called not only to claim my place as a rightful member," Otto said. "When the church tells me I don't have a right to be ordained, or that my partner and I can't make a public declaration of our love, it doesn't seem to be an affirming place. I am a reconciliation Methodist because I choose to stay in the church." Otto was trained in the seminary and had several gay friends who studied in the seminary but were turned down by church boards. Otto think he is living out his calling through education. Otto said the larger issue between the two groups is how the doctrine and scripture will be interpreted. "We have differed on many different issues, and homosexuality has been the most prevalent and popular one recently," he said. "How do we make sense of the scripture? To what extent should we use literary influence. These are important questions for any religious community. The question of homosexuality is just a byproduct of that. Homosexuality will not spilt the church." The Kansans for United Methodist Renewal believes in the transformation movement. The Rev. Rob Winslow, pastor of the Christ Community Church in Wichita and treasurer for the group, said the members of the movement believe that the church has spoken clearly about homosexuality. The group is more concerned with affirming and strengthening traditional interpretations of the scriptures. "It's too bad that this homosexual issue is all people think we're concerned about," Winslow said. Even so, the group will propose that the Kansas West Annual Conference, which begins today, adopt a statement that expresses support for the denomination's present stance that says homosexuals are individuals of sacred worth but also calls for local churches to support "the ministry of transformation of homosexuals into heterosexuals." "We don't want to kick anyone out of the church, but we want to affirm what the Methodist discipline has taught," Winslow said. , "We will not ordain homosexuals, and we will not perform marriages for gay people. We want to just pull together and have this not be a divisive issue. I feel like this reconciling group is trying to pull the church in a direction they don't want to go. It's like a child that you say, 'No, you can't do that,' and then the child waits a few days and then We have differed on many different issues, and homosexuality has been the most prevalent and popular one recently - David Otto reconciling Methodist We don't want to kick anyone out of the church, but we want to affirm what the Methodist discipline has taught. - the Rev. Rob Winslow transforming Methodist Rate of Kansas Value from a Kansas Bank. Summer Vehicle Sale AUTO LOANS 6.89% / 7.27% A.P.R. 1996,1997, and 1998 Models Only W.A.C. Fixed rate to 60 months. New loans only. $5,000 minimum loan amount. 70% loan to value. Rate available with ' Automatic Debit only. Rate available May 19, 1998. Some restrictions apply. 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A sin against the scripture The Rev. Ron Bowell, pastor of the Zion Brethren in Christ Church in Abilene and a member of the Salina Journal's Board of Contributing Editors, wouldn't have a problem with homosexuals attending his church on a regular basis. He would not allow them to become members. "I think I would speak for many evangelical churches when I say that they would probably struggle with a practicing homosexual being a member of their church," Bowell said. "Membership entails a little greater commitment, and from at least my understanding of what the scriptures say about particular sins, practicing homosexuality is a sin. It would be similar to someone coming to your church and saying, 'Well, I'm married, but I'm sleeping with someone else's wife.' " Bowell would welcome a homosexual as long as he or she wasn't practicing the lifestyle, he said. "You don't just snap your fingers and stop being a homosexual," he said. "But you can stop practicing it. It's like being an alcoholic. Many live with that weakness all their lives. Many men are tempted with other women but have to resist that." A member of his church who revealed that he was a practicing homosexual probably would have to be removed from membership, Bowell said. "We would give many, many chances for turning the other way," he said. "But it's located in the scripture. You know, even before I was a believer, I thought that something wasn't right about it, and what I found in the scripture firmed that up. I have not found anything in the scripture that points to the other side." The Rev. Lauren Holtberg, pastor of the Emmanuel Foursquare Gospel Church, 1325 E. Cloud, wouldn't kick a homosexual out of his church. But he would challenge him or her. "I would tell them that this is something that God needs to free you of," Holtberg said. "I would challenge someone to try to change that lifestyle. I use the Bible as a basis for thoughts and feelings. I think that one is pretty black and white. Some areas are pretty gray. That one, to me, isn't one that is." Holtberg has had several homosexuals as members of his church in his 19 years as pastor. "Most of my dealings were with people who wanted to change their lifestyle," he said. "Some of them have, and some of them haven't." A sanctuary for gays About a month and a half ago, the Unitarians placed an advertisement in the Salina Journal that pictured the faces of a lesbian couple and a statement about the fact that the church accepted them as open homosexuals. "We wanted gays and lesbians to know that our church was a place where they would be welcome," said David Lewerenz, president of the Unitarian Uni- versalist Fellowship. Unitarians have ordained openly gay or lesbian pastors and have performed union ceremonies or marriages between homosexuals, Lewerenz said, and the Unitarian church usually is in the forefront of gay-rights issues. There are 20 to 25 members in the church, Lewerenz said, but he doesn't know how many are homosexual. The local church in Salina doesn't have a pastor but invites speakers representing all religions to speak. The church is attempting to get 30 members so it can become an official congregation. "I think, for us, it's absurd asking people what their sexual orientation is," Lewerenz said. "It's just seems ridiculous to make that distinction." Lewerenz said the scripture of the Bible isn't something that should be taken word for word. "There is some value in studying many religious scriptures," he said. "We don't take any of them literally. You can't hold yourself to 2,000-year-old perspectives." Gene Bales, an associate professor of philosophy at Bethany College in Lindsborg, studied to be a Catholic priest. He remains a faithful Catholic — he's the church organist at a Catholic church in Lindsborg — and teaches at a Lutheran school. He also has a good deal of skepticism about many interpretations of the Bible's scripture. Historian John Boswell, Bales said, has said there are five, and only five, passages that deal with the question of homosexuality. "In every single case, it is not clear that Bibles are talking about homosexuality as we know it today," Bales said. "God created us with human minds, and he expects us to use them. I read scripture and what others in the church "say about them. That doesn't mean I have to believe their opinions about them. I prefer to live as a Catholic who refuses to give into the prison mentality. "I support anybody in good conscience if they seek to express their love. I don.'t think the question of who you go to bed with is important in life." Other pastors don't have to look at the Bible's scripture in a different way to be openly supportive of gays and lesbians. One of those pastors is the Rev. Patty Brown- Barnett, pastor of both the Rolling Hills Congregational Church (United Church of Christ), 2026 Starlight, and the Grace United Church of Christ in Abilene. "I think most churches have had gay and lesbian members and leaders and probably weren't aware of it," Brown-Barnett said, "My congregations are just a little more open about it. I have two very diverse congregations, but both are more open than most in talking about homosexuality." Brown-Barnett has seen the pain that many gays and lesbians go through because they try to be good Christians and are confront* ed with something telling them it's wrong. She struggled herself with interpretation what the scriptures said about women becoming ordained as pastors. Some believe the scriptures say that women shouldn't be ordained. One of the scriptures even state? that "women should keep silence 1 in the church." "They (homosexuals) feel ext eluded from the church," she said. "I am a clergy woman, and it was easier for me to look beyond the surface because on the surface in several scriptures it saya that maybe women shouldn't be leaders, and yet I felt this calli ing." That's what led Jason to be comfortable with his own faith, and as churches struggle with the issue, Jason listened to his heart to resolve his differences. "There were times I was furthe^ away from God than I would have liked," he said. "But it's all a struggle with your identity." THE RICK MACH SHOW 4pm-5pm Weekdays ONA Q1Q NEWS TAUC Rolls, Rolls, Rolls Check out our large variety in-stock carpet rolls! 6 mos. no interest OV.A.C.) 833 East Prescott, Salina • (785) 827-8755 ATHLETIC SHOE CLEARANCE & SPECIALS! Excellent Prices For Men & Women By Nike & Reebok! Orig. 75.00 REEBOK Women's "SB-Speed" Sizes 6-10M. Orig. 55.00 NIKE Men's "Apprentice" Sizes 7-15M. Dillard's REEBOK Men's & Women's "Comfort Ultra" The ideal shoe for walking comfort. 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