There has been a stir of controversy at First United Methodist Church in Crestview since the Rev. Michael Precht lined up speakers to talk about homosexuality and its effects on life and faith.
I, for one, applaud his effort.
As I have read Rev. Precht’s invitations and explanations, this series does not promote homosexuality. Nor does it condemn homosexual persons.
It is about learning and understanding.
In the Presbyterian Church (USA), the topic of human sexuality has dogged us for longer than my 36 years as a pastor. It has caused more division, anguish and heartbreak than any other topic.
Several years ago, our General Assembly — our national conference made up of over 700 representatives of varying ages and theological positions — voted to allow ordination of gay and lesbian persons who were called, trained and approved by their local council for the vocation.
More recently, Presbyterian pastors were granted permission to follow their conscience, as led by God’s Holy Spirit, to perform same-gender weddings — or not. Rejoicing on one side of the human sexuality issue was just as palpable as grief on the opposite side.
Many members have left their congregations as a result. Many congregations have withdrawn from the denomination as a result.
The congregations I serve have not gone unaffected. Several families have left the church, no longer wanting to be affiliated with a denomination that allows such interpretations of the scriptures.
As the United Methodist denomination engages more deeply in the same types of debates, arguments and discussions that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has faced, education and understanding are paramount. Providing educational opportunities is necessary.
My hope and prayer is for a successful result for Rev. Precht's series.
What would make it successful? That people would attend, listen, ask questions and be informed; that actions and reactions would be made, not based on prejudice, but with understanding and knowledge; that persons would agree or disagree with the speakers and others without hostility, but by simply agreeing to disagree.
And, that all will remember that every person is a child of God and to be treated as such.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.