Area churches welcome LGBTQ community

Area churches welcome LGBTQ community

April 02
23:01 2013

Marlene Gonzalez, Joshua Friemel / News Editors

On Easter Sunday, eight Denton churches signed a statement saying they would start being more accepting toward members of the LGBTQ community.

In a full-page advertisement in the Denton-Record Chronicle, the eight local churches said, “We believe in the universality of God’s love. We recognize that many in our community have not always found the church to be a welcoming space. In response to the past, we the undersigned declare our churches to be open and celebrating of persons of diverse sexual orientations and identities. We invite other churches to join us.”

Jeffrey Hood, a 29-year-old pastor at The Church at Mable Peabody’s Beauty Parlor and Chainsaw Repair, created the statement as a kind of rebellion toward institutional churches.

“You can talk all you want to about love, but if you don’t include everybody, that’s not love,” he said. “We’re trying to right a lot of wrongs committed by traditional churches.”

Hood said he made the decision to do this now because he wanted UNT students and Denton community members to know where to find a place to go to church during holy week.

To find churches willing to participate, Hood said he contacted 65 to 70 churches in Denton. He said he got mixed reactions, including some churches saying, “God hates fags” and other “strong language.”

He said the churches that signed demonstrated “tremendous courage.”

“They are stepping up there and we are no longer allowing this oppression to go on,” he said. “We’re allowing the oppressive, hateful churches to speak for everyone else. This statement was a real attempt to not have other churches speak for us.”

Brittany Burrows, a minister at the Refuge Ministry at UNT, said Hood contacted her regarding the ministry’s position on welcoming people of diverse sexual orientations into the church. She said they signed because she hopes that LGBTQ students will know that they have a place in the church.

“A lot of people think that it’s impossible to be LGBTQ and Christian, and we believe that it’s possible to be both,” she said. “Jesus came for everyone.”

First Baptist Denton pastor Jeff Williams said his church didn’t sign because Hood didn’t contact him personally. Instead, Hood taped a two-page sign titled “Moderator on the Committee to Queer Denton Churches” on Williams’ church’s door on Ash Wednesday.

“I would have definitely responded to him if he had talked to me personally,” Williams said when asked if he’d sign the statement.

He went on to say that his church is “absolutely open to everyone and everybody.” Williams said he’s also starting a sermon series on how Christians should view same-sex marriage called “The Gray Area” this Sunday.

On March 26, the Supreme Court heard California’s Proposition 8 case concerning the ban of same-sex marriage. In response, an equal sign  circulated throughout social media to support same-sex marriage rights.

Philosophy and religion professor Adam Briggle said the issue of Proposition 8 questions fundamentals “of the nature of the human family.”

“I’ve never heard a good argument opposing same-sex marriage,” he said. “It seems like there is nothing on their side and I think it’ll topple very soon. It’ll be a big social experiment to see what this does to families.”

Philosophy and religion professor Sarah Fredericks said churches accepting members of the LGBTQ community has been an ongoing process at the individual and national level.

“Just because a national church body says one thing or another, it doesn’t mean that an individual congregation necessarily agrees,” she said. “But the churches involved [with the statement] clearly see this as an important issue.”

She said other churches are going in the opposite direction and may “never come to the same conclusion.”

Hood said society didn’t pressure him to make the announcement, but the signing churches are now pressuring others to become more accepting.

“The church is either going to change or it is going to die,” he said. “I don’t know if there is any middle ground. If it dies it’ll be because it ceases to be the loving example of Christ.”

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