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Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr. Headshot

'Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner' Not Enough

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The above statement has been used by many faiths in describing their position on homosexuality, yet affirming unconditional love for all.

The recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, a gifted teen with untapped potential, displays in center stage the close mindedness and harm caused by religious teachings' bias and intimidation toward gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender individuals, especially youth and families. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated before some 4,000 delegates at last year's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting that he believes homosexuality is one of the worst sins imaginable. Can you imagine how a young man or woman may feel in discovering their sexuality have certain churches condemn same-sex sexual orientation? So many kids fear they will be separated from their parents' love if they divulge a same-sex sexual orientation because they know what their parents have been taught in church. Worse, consider the emotional and spiritual trauma of being made to feel your sexual orientation also will separate you from God-knowing as a young person that your relationship with God means to your parents. Of course the social stigma and hostility that is promoted toward gay and lesbian individuals is not confined to Southern Baptist churches and other evangelical churches. While their numbers are decreasing, there sadly are Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran ministers who continue to teach that homosexuality in and itself places the gay and lesbian person beyond God's love.

I am delighted to know a colleague and mentor, Pastor Heidi Neumark, who serves at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Manhattan. Her church is considered a Reconciling in Christ congregation, meaning they welcome all people, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and couples as fully participating members to the ministry. Under her leadership, she has developed a shelter called Trinity Place to help homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ)for youth and young adults in New York City. This program's purpose is for these youth and young adults to safely transition out of the shelter system and grow into independent positive and productive adults. In the world's wealthiest city, there are 8,000 LGBTQ youth/young adults currently living homeless in New York City and only 250 beds or fewer that are specifically available for this population. It is time for the church to step up and be the incarnate body of Christ in giving hope to those who many have deemed the modern day lepers as dirty, unclean and something for which they should be ashamed.

I am very disappointed in the church particularly that has used in Christian circles around the country "hate the sin, love the sinner" perspective as a 'Christian approach to homosexuality. We must share God's grace at work in our spiritual lives and in our communities of faith. When can the doors fling open for the entrance of God's grace, the spirit revealed in the richness of God's gift to us all who have all fallen short of this great gift.

Consider Jesus' loving response to the woman taken in adultery and the crowd poised to stone her. Instead of judging her, Jesus responds with love and compassion. Jesus' first instinct is to be compassionate. His heart reaches out to the woman. She is the one facing the death threats. The crowd wants Jesus to come over to their side. They want his endorsement so they can apply the letter of the law. Jesus says "no" to legalism. His compassion compels him to stand with the woman. He is more concerned about giving the woman a fresh start and God's grace than he is about staining his own reputation by associating with her.

I wonder are we extending a hand slap of indignation or a handshake to others in need? Are we responding to them in love and compassion or in judgment and condescension? Are we always looking for ways to inject Christ's love for others into our community?

The recent suicide of Tyler Clementi is what Jesus says "what we have done to the lest of these, we have done unto him." We can no longer, just hate the sin and love the sinner but deliberately through action dismantle the bullying, the stigma, the prejudice and the discrimination.

Immunity can no longer be given to misguided church teaching's bias and intimidation toward gay and lesbian youth and families. If we do, there will be more stories about a precious life being senselessly ended because of legalism instead of what Christ requires of all of us: justice, mercy, compassion and love.