Friday, March 03, 2006

A 'freedom ride' to anti-gay colleges

(The following article taken from the liberal local newspaper, The Star Tribune. My comments are in RED.)

Four Minnesotans will be among a group of young people who will begin a bus journey to 19 Christian colleges that have anti-gay admission policies.

Pamela Miller, Star Tribune

When Jacob Reitan heard a young man talk about the pain and fear he felt as a gay student at Wheaton (Ill.) College, a school that opposes any expression of homosexuality, he got an idea.

Reitan, 24, of Eden Prairie, was inspired by such stories, as well as by an admiration for the civil rights activists of the 1960s, to organize a "freedom ride" that will travel by bus to 19 U.S. colleges with religion-based policies that exclude gays. The young activists, who are Christians, hope to talk with students and faculty members. This morning, Reitan and four others will fly to Washington, D.C., to join about 30 other "Soulforce Equality Riders" for training before they set out on their seven-week, cross-country crusade.

On Thursday night, hundreds gathered at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis to honor the Minnesota participants -- Reitan; David Durand, 26, and Carolyn Westra, 25, both of Minneapolis; David Coleman, 23, of Delano -- and ride co-organizer Haven Herrin, 23, of Dallas.

I have a friend working toward ordination in the PCUSA, and it's these very things that concern both he and I about his future there. How is it that a church "honors" people who are advocating and intentionally promoting something clearly laid out as sin in the Bible? The answer is a low view of scripture. Who cares what it says, we want it to mean this...

Issues around homosexuality deeply divide U.S. Christians. Some believe the Bible compels them to oppose gay rights, while others say it calls them to advocate for them.

Two Minnesota colleges are among the schools the bus will visit -- North Central University in Minneapolis (April 17) and Bethel University in Arden Hills (April 18). Both denounce homosexuality in their statements of principle, posted on their websites.

Bethel is one of 10 schools that have invited the riders to talk with faculty members and students. North Central is among "a small few" where the riders may be arrested, Reitan said. A third group of colleges will allow them on campus but will not set up conversations.

In a prepared statement, Bethel Provost Jay Barnes said, "We are planning to host the riders for courteous and honest discussions. ... Our students are encouraged to form sound positions on cultural issues relevant to their Christian faith." North Central officials could not be reached for comment.

I was alerted quite some time ago that this group was coming (as the Seminary President). The school informed the whole of the student body over a month ago. I expect the "riders" will be well received and treated with respect inspite of their sin affirming campaign. I think Bethel's approach is the right way in dealing with this, we can't stick our heads in the sand and hope the issue goes away on it's own.

At Thursday's service, Coleman received a standing ovation after he spoke emotionally about being kicked out of North Central after revealing that he is gay.

"God loves you just the way you are," said Coleman, who was a senior when he was asked to leave the college last year. "Nothing can take us away from the love of God."

So let's see, you deliberately LIED to get into the school, and then are now complaining that when you revealed you had violated a fundamental segment of the school's principles they threw you out? Yeah, that sure makes sense. I agree that God still loves you inspite of your sin, but God is also very clear about His views on homosexuality.

Durand said the riders will speak "for those who can't speak for themselves, because they must stay closeted."

Said Westra: "These [anti-gay] folks won't come to us, so we have to go to them."

Errr....we're not anti-gay, we just don't want to be intentionally promoting a life style God has clearly condemned as sinful. Just as I don't promote pre-marital sex, pedophillia, murder, or suicide bombing as a way of life.

Thursday's service, which featured a civil rights theme, included a performance of "We Shall Overcome" by the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir.

The Rev. Don Samuels, a Minneapolis City Council member, described his journey from anti-gay fundamentalist to believer that gay rights are civil rights, saying he was "embarrassed to think of some things I've said" in the past.

He described a seminary debate he won defending slavery using scriptural defenses as an illustration of how the Bible can be misused. "Holy men sometimes make flawed judgments with unholy consequences," he said.

I have no idea of who this "Rev." Don Samuels debated, but clearly his opponent must not have known much about the Bible and Biblical times if he couldn't oppose Samuels' support of slavery. So let's follow this arguement out. Since I once won a "debate" that I am my parent's favorite child, they can't love my brother, and furthermore, I am now justified in this belief. Make sense? Nope.

Reitan said the multiracial group feels a strong affinity with the civil rights movement, and has a common player in the Rev. Phil Lawson, a civil rights pioneer who serves on the board of Soulforce, a national Christian gay rights group.

Equating the gay rights movement with the civil rights movement is such an incredible injustice to the civil rights movement. One was God honoring, the other is SIN honoring, and you can't get farther apart than that. I have no idea where Rev. Lawson got his credentials to be a "Rev" but I'd give it a 95% chance that it was a liberal main-stream denomination school that long ago abandoned a high view of Scripture and thereby sapped the Bible of any real authority. We have two such institutions in the Twin Cities, Luther Seminary, and the bottom of the barrel United Seminary. I don't even think United requires you to profess Christ as Lord to be admitted. I'm not making that up.

Education, as much as protest, is the group's goal, Reitan said. "A lot of people don't know that I would not be allowed to attend Bethel," he said. "These policies are based on religion, but we don't believe that's what Christ came to do. He came to throw off old laws, to expand our understanding of what God meant. Perhaps talking to people, we can get them to see that they need not be so unbending."

Christ came to free us from the eternal ramifications of SIN. Christ KEPT the Law and Christ fulfilled the Law. He did destroy some of the laws created by man in His time, but you would be hard press to construct an argument that holds water with Reitan's views from the Bible. You are on one hand saying the Bible has no authority, or at best only authority that you CHOOSE to give it, but then on the other hand you want to use the Bible to build a defense, to justify, your promotion of SIN. Sorry, the Bible doesn't work that way. There is a thing called Hermeneutics that would be quite helpful if you would ever like to understand how to interpret the Bible.

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Martin R. Oakley said...

I am so happy to see this article responded to in this fashion.

I used to be one of those that believed "Hey, I'm bisexual, and GOd loves me, so therefore I'm gonna live like heck and hope to get into heaven."

Now I have to say that God has showed me where I was wrong. My lifestyle was a CHOICE, not a result of genetics. Thank you for this rebuttle.

pete said...

Hey now, Luther isn't so bad...

mrclm said...

Luther isn't so bad if you want to cultivate a group of future church leaders who are unwilling to stake their lives on the Truth of the Gospel. Luther isn't so bad if you want clergy unable to clearly articulate how to come to saving faith.

Example: Todd Friel, former KKMS Christian talk radio afternoon host spent time on the campus the past couple of years interview Seminarians on his radio show. In the 20+ interviews of Luther Seminary student over 2 years, only 1, a SINGLE person, was able to articulate why being a good person is not adequate to get into Heaven. This past year Luther Admin actually came and tried to chase him off campus (he was legally standing on the sidewalk boardering campus, but did indeed leave because he didn't want to cause others to be angered by his ministry) because he was "harassing students". This was all played over the air for the world to hear, not something I'm making up, I heard it, unedited, live on the radio. I've also interacted with a number of the staff of Luther and find their theological foundations shaky at best. The ELCA has gone down the toilet, and I'm afraid it's not coming back.

Do I have a right to criticize the ELCA? I think I do, I have skin in that game. I spent the first 19 years of my life in an ELCA church, all of my immediate family are members of ELCA churches. It both sickens me and saddens me the sacrifices to the culture the ELCA has made, in the process abandoning the Truth found in Scripture. There's a reason so many good churches have been and continue to leave the ELCA. It's seminaries are an absolute mess as evidenced by what they have been and are producing. Are there exceptions? I'm sure there are, but that doesn't excuse this or justify this fruit.

So I stand by my criticism of Luther as only being just slightly better than United. Though Luther does have the best Library of all 3 seminaries (Luther, Bethel, United).

Big Chris

pete said...


I'm sorry that the ELCA is so disappointing to you. I graduated from Bethel Seminary in 2003 (which I've mentioned to you before on this blog, but since you don't seem to remember me, I'll mention again). I think that your criticism of the ELCA is entirely justified. I'm not sure that the approach that you (and others) take--to abandon the ELCA to the people you disagree with and join other denominations--is actually the most helpful. Is the ELCA beyond repair? I don't know. But I don't think so. It is going to take a LOT of work, without question. But I think at its foundation, the ELCA is worth working to save and transform. So call me a missionary to the ELCA if you think it fits--I didn't grow up in the denomination (I grew up in the C&MA).

Todd Friel...I have to admit up front that I find his approach to "evangelism" unbelievably irritating, because it comes off so canned. If a person isn't willing to play his "do you consider yourself a good person" game, or if they don't speak in the same theological terms that he understands, he insults them. Ray Comfort, though I've only heard him a few times on the program, comes off the same way. Once, when a person called in, obviously in anguish over their sinful homosexuality and desperately wanting a way out of that lifestyle, Ray made them go through the "good person" test--completely unneccessarily. They even said "I AM NOT A GOOD PERSON" when he asked the question, but he continued with his prepared speech. A pastoral spirit? Hardly. This person wasn't looking for a quick fix or a feelgood message--he knew he was bound for hell, and he wanted to repent and be saved. Ray's approach was completely unneccesary at that point.

But with that said...Todd came to Bethel a couple of years ago and did the same thing, with the same result. Very few students were able to answer his questions about salvation. Does that mean that Bethel is on its way "down the toilet" too? I hope you'd say "no" in response, but I have no idea what sort of experience you had here.

mrclm said...

I haven't forgotten you, I think frequently of you slaving away in the rooms in the lower bowels of a building over at the college. I was actually over there mailing something yesterday and thought of you.

As for my leaving the ELCA, I never specifically left them. I was in an ELCA church my first 19 years, but didn't get saved until I was in college (at a Baptist college). When God got ahold of me there, my friends were all (mostly) Baptists, so I went to church with them, and found what I had never experienced in my ELCA church, which was a theology that made some sense to me. Even when I was unrepentant, I struggled with the Lutheran view of communion and baptism. I struggled so much they threatened to kick me out of confirmation (yes, I was baptised and confirmed Luthern, also did a believer's baptism as an adult) because I wouldn't stop asking questions about these subjects, and the two pastors leading our group were unwilling to address the subject with me. This discontent and disconnct, coupled with my own selfish pride kept me pretty far from God. So I didn't specifically leave the ELCA, I just discovered a system of beliefs that I felt was more accurately reflected in Scripture.

As for Todd's evangelism style, I'm not defending it. He clearly uses a form of confrontational evangelism (as does Ray Comfort), and that only works for some people some of the time. But it does work, and can be used to glorify God. I am a relational evangelist, but I see the needs for other types as well.

I am aware that Todd came to Bethel as well, and my understanding is that he was at the college. While that doesn't justify people on our campus not being able to answer the questions, his rate of positive responses were far better at Bethel College than Luther Seminary, which is why he kept going to Luther.

And in response to Bethel Seminary, as to whether it is going down the toilet, the answer would be possibly, but not likely. There was a time not all that far past in Bethel's history that the Seminary was decidely NOT putting out a good product. I think the past 10 years have done a lot to move away from what was becoming a mess for the BGC, and that is a good thing. Are there still things I disagree with at Bethel Sem? Certainly, but even in my four years I have seen improvement. I have enormous respect for Dr. Eliason and the work he (and his team) have done.

The fact that you feel as a "missionary" to the ELCA speaks volumes about where they are at. Should the ELCA be abandoned by those in it? That's up to those churches/individuals, and I cannot make that decision for them, but I cannot fault them if they choose to go. My family fortunately is primarly in South Dakota's ELCA Synod, which doesn't bear the taint of the Minnesota liberals, but in the governmental form of the ELCA it's likely to have an impact some time soon.

Big Chris

pete said...

Thanks for your response, Chris.

Since I've not been in the ELCA long, and during that time have only been in the St. Paul area Synod, I don't have as much familiarity with the problem you bring up of the "Minnesota liberals." I am almost certainly more liberal than you are (although probably not about most of the important things...of course everyone defines the "important" things differently, but you know what I mean), but I don't know much about what this label specifically means. My assumption is that it is primarily about homosexuality within the church (about which I am most likely squarely in your camp) and the clergy (again, same case), but beyond that I'm not sure how your categories work. It does seem to me that the Minneapolis and St. Paul synods are much more liberal than those of greater Minnesota (and it would only make sense that the Dakotas would be more conservative as well), if only because that's how things seem to pan out politically, too.

By the way, I'm not very often at Bethel anymore--only 25 hours per week. I've actually taken a position as Youth Director at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Circle Pines. (it's a very interesting mix of conservative and liberal folks, both on staff and in the congregation...quite an education for me.) I'm being interviewed for ordination candidacy this week at the St. Paul synod office--at which time I'll be enrolling at Luther to complete the MDiv (should only be a year or two because of the MATS from Bethel).

mrclm said...

You are correct in which subjects (primarily) my concern with the ELCA is based in. This to me is a foundational issue, foundational because to get to where they have gone (locally) the hermenutics are perverse. That abandonment of Scripture as the authority and placing our own opions/public opinion in place of correct interpretation is devistating in future ramifications. Right now it's just one issue (primarily) that is hot, but once you've abandoned a high view of Scripture it is very difficult to come back. When I moved to Minnesota for seminary, I was offered a very nice job in an ELCA church, and I thought long and hard about it, and what kind of sacrifices it would be for me personally to accept the position. I was unwilling to compromise my foundational beliefs, and I turned down the pastoral position. I haven't regretted it, even though times have been tight.

And of course it is the Minneapolis/St.Paul portion of the ELCA that has been making a mess for the rest of the state's synod, but that's the nature of the state with so much of the population centered here. Though I don't know what the breakdown of the spread of the church enrollment of Lutherans in this state is, I would guess that there are a signficant number outside of the Twin Cities.

Big Chris

bloodsky said...

I happen to personally know David Coleman, the rider who was kicked out of North Central. I find it interesting that, without knowledge of any of the circumstances surrounding his life or college career, you assume he must have "lied" to the school. All this in spite of the fact that you believe homosexuality to be a choice, not an orientation (but if he lied, wouldn't that necessitate that he must have been orientated that way since it was 4 years before he got kicked out? If it's a choice, then he could have started choosing at any time, and not lied about anything).

I am deeply saddened by the way the conservative church dehumanizes gay people by painting them in an unfair derogatory light. We sidestep the question of love by speaking of them as a political entity rather than real people just like you and me.

As someone who comes from a conservative Christian background myself, it saddens me greatly to see people like you making derogatory statements about gay people based on thin assumptions that have no or little relation to reality. Regardless of your stance on homosexuality as a practice, try to find it in your heart not to condemn individuals whom you haven't the slightest clue what is really happening in their lives.

It's so easy to call someone names, though, when you don't know them and don't care to ever get to know them as a real person.

All I ask is this: be more responsible in the accusations you make. Calling someone a liar is no small matter.

mrclm said...

I have friends who were both in school with David when he was kicked out, as well as friends on faculty at North Central. I'm not speaking from complete ignorance here. So I find it interesting that you, without any understanding of my knowledge of the subject just randomly accuse me of being ignorant.

So, I am not assuming he lied. I understand the covenent he had signed. I understand how and why he broke that agreement, and was therefore subject to correction from the school.

And I think you paint far to broadly with your brush strokes of talk about dehumanizing gay people. I disagree with the gay lifestyle, gay agenda, and pro-gay world view on a number of levels. Biblically first and foremost, but I believed that homosexuality was wrong long before I was a Christian. I believed adultery was wrong long before I was married as well. So while I do not know David Coleman personally, I have no doubt I may like him quite well, but that's not the point. I have friends and co-workers who are gay, and I've been upfront and clear with them that I disapprove of their lifestyle choices, but I've been clear to my friend who drinks too much, and my other friend who used to sleep around, that I don't approve of their life styles either. So I guess by your logic I just hate people. I'm a closed-minded-right-wing-Bible-thumping nut job in your book, so you've dismissed me arbitrarily without knowing anything about me, or my views. Quite interestingly hypocritical.

Big Chris

mrclm said...

From today's Star Tribune:

Among the riders is David Coleman, who said he was kicked out of North Central when, in seeking protection from a threatening student, he revealed that he is gay. Federal law bars the school from discussing students without their written permission. But Coleman said the expulsion left him emotionally broken, in debt and without a degree.

So I stand by my statement, now with news media backing up my claim. Coleman willingly signed a covenant statement, and then was not living according to that statement. When you say one thing, and do another, that's a lie in my book. While it is an absolute tragedy he felt the need to seek protection, that doesn't change the truth of the matter.

Big Chris