October 12th, 2010
07:30 AM ET

My Take: People of faith must preach love in the face of anti-LGBT hate

Editor's Note: The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel is the Faith Work Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

By Rev. Rebecca Voelkel , Special to CNN

Before he committed suicide, a high school friend of mine wrote pages and pages in his journal about his turmoil and struggle with his church’s teaching that he, as a gay man, was sick, sinful and an abomination. Finally, it was simply too much for his 15-year-old soul to endure.

His experience has been writ large in recent weeks as we’ve seen a national spate of suicides caused by bullying - in school and church.

We’ve seen brutal attacks on gay men in New York City, while New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino verbally attacked the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community with divisive, hateful remarks. Threats to LGBT people have become an epidemic.

As a pastor who claims the life and ministry of Jesus as her model, I need to say that this is simply unacceptable. Preaching hate from our pulpits, in our politics, or to our pupils is never acceptable. It literally endangers lives. And the life and ministry of Jesus always stands against that which hates, hurts or destroys.

Last weekend, at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Believe Out Loud Power Summit in Orlando, Fla., more than 300 Christian leaders gathered to stand against this kind of violence and to proclaim the extravagant welcome and inclusive justice of the gospel.

Through worship, Bible study and teaching, participants affirmed a vision - rooted in Jesus’ life and ministry - of a church whose primary mission is proclaiming God’s love for all people, and a practicing justice that is specific, particular and concrete. Participants prepared themselves for action within their churches and society. This includes:

• Creating a church that ordains all who have a call and a commitment to ministry.

• Building a church in which all the sacraments are for all the baptized.

• Embodying a church that celebrates love — in all its forms — including in blessing the marriages of same-sex couples.

• Being a church that advocates tirelessly for the human and civil rights of all people — including for housing, employment, health care, immigration and marriage equality.

We strive for these goals because Jesus calls us to enter into real people’s lives and show God’s love in real ways. That can literally save lives.

About a year ago, a United Methodist pastor in Florida made the courageous decision to proclaim God’s specific and concrete love for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. And he got a lot of negative pushback. But he persisted, because he knew this persistent love is what he is called by God to do.

Last week, a young man from his congregation who had left for college called and asked him for a meeting. When they finally sat down, the young man said to him, “I am a gay man and I’m alive today because of you.” That is the power of the life-saving gospel of Christ.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rebecca Voelkel.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Gay rights • Homosexuality

soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. Whitny Stone

    It was certainly interesting for me to read that blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

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    January 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  2. jonah of arkansas

    why is the joker the director of the national gay and lesbian task force? shouldnt they have someone more qualified for such serious work?

    October 13, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  3. thinkpoint

    Gay Marriage: Why I speak out

    October 13, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  4. Mark from Middle River

    Part 3 .... If this works, I can not believe what word triggered the Moderation status.

    This is how, I feel religion goes. It is only a individuals method to talk and worship the Father in Heaven. Does everyone worship in the same way, nope. Even within the Faiths there is enough division and new birth of new sects that feel that their spiritual needs are not being met and are forming together to worship.
    So just as I in many ways detest those that go after LGBT because of their hate and wish they could find a middle ground, I also wish that you can one day find such in you. I mean, even in Christopher Hutchins closing days he while holding on to his atheist views, he found a place in his heart to thank those persons of faith that were praying for his recovery.
    This is the "real world" Rasion, a world where folks know that the easier road is to hate and scorn but to acknowledge the awesomeness of those that work for peace, tolerance and coexistence.
    Basically Raison, if you have nothing but scorn for a segment of society then count yourself with the Bin Ladens and the Rev. Terry Jones. Do I even have to post that I pray for you to lay that hate down and move on with your life? Peace kid.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  5. Mark from Middle River

    Part 2

    The question you need to ask yourself is this Raison, going back to the topic of this thread, if religions deal in absolutes then why are all Christians not part of a single uniformed church? Maybe I am tired and sleepy but it is interesting that many say religions stance on LGBT is wrong, but then they are confronted by LGBT churches and clergy. I have been to one. Then folks say that religions views on women clergy, but then female ministers, deacons and bishops come forward. The list goes on and on. I will give this Raison, my church was created because Africans were not allowed to worship as equals in the segregated church that they attended. What did the Africans do, they moved out and set up their own church.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  6. Mark from Middle River

    Ok, gotta break this up into multiple post Raison to find out which word triggered the "waiting for moderation"


    "I tell you, Mark, religious thinking gets nothing but scorn from me, for these and many more reasons.....What middle ground is there for me to seek?"
    Hey Raison – Another quick response, class in a bit. Raison, if you can not find nothing but scorn in your heart for persons of faith then in the end what makes you that much different than Osama Bin Laden or the Rev. Terry Jones? Between the black panther party and the klu kluk klan? All of these parties deal with absolutes because in the end that is all that they have and in the end all they have in common. To many folks... in the real world... know or have known since they were young that there will be people different than themselves but few have come to the understanding that the first steps should be towards a middle ground or détente. If not then what we end up with are more and more folks being pulled to the extremes and trust me those of us in the "real world" ... are starting to tire of folks such as yourself for who talk is over and a "I hate you" mentality exist.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  7. JohnQuest

    This question ought to be a no brainer for believers, God is good, God created all people, LGBT are people, LGBT are good. Or is my logic over-simplified or just flawed?

    October 13, 2010 at 9:30 am |
    • Mike

      Your logic is flawed
      God is prefect.
      Man was made perfect.
      Man has sin (rebelled and treason against God)
      men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is evil in nature (Romans 7) but agree that the law is good.
      God gives us Christ to take on our sin as we take on his righteousness.
      All men receive grace through faith. Eph 2.

      October 13, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Mike, if man was made perfect but has sin, then, man could not have been made perfect, do you see the contradictions?

      October 13, 2010 at 11:15 am |
    • adams

      john i really appreciate that you're looking for a solution that is "simple as possible, but no simpler," as i think einstein said. oversimplification from the talking heads drives me nuts.

      i don't think it's that much of a contradiction. God is good, yes, in fact, we believe only God is good. people, however according to Scripture are definitely not good. originally, people were without sin as capable of living consistently with good (obeying God) , but WHEN tempted, they chose to rebel against God.

      since then, Christian theology teaches that every human is a sinner against her or his creator and has no hope but being rescued by God.

      i imagine, we don't share the same world-view, but at least this might help you understand the way Christians think about sin.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • JohnQuest

      adams, thank you for your reply, although we do not share the same world view we are civil. I think man has always been flawed and that's why we (most people) need God. I personally do not believe God is necessary to have a good and productive life.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • adams

      you're welcome John

      October 13, 2010 at 11:33 am |
    • Mike

      No I don't see the issue. But maybe it is my wording– Man chose sin.

      That is like saying if I have a toaster that worked then I smash it to peices how could it have ever been a toaster?

      October 13, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Mike, your analogy is a bit off, if you made a toaster that was perfect it would always be perfect until you break it. If it starts to malfunction before you break it, then you did not make a perfect toaster, you made a flawed toaster. Smashing doesn't change the fact that it was flawed at the moment of conception, all you've done was smash a defective toaster.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • Mike

      The anology works perfectly, everything was perfect for two chapters. Then man willingly smashed it.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Mike, it that is true, then man could not have been made perfect, if perfection means complete obedience to God. If perfections means anything else then disobedience to God couldn't be a sin.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • Mike

      Good thing perfection does not mean complete obedience to God.

      The rest of your statement does not make sense.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Mike, I will admit that the "If perfections means anything else then disobedience to God couldn't be a sin" was worded badly. If perfection doesn't mean "complete obedience to God" then what does perfection mean?

      October 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  8. Mark from Middle River

    On this subject I can not begin to judge. I have visited a alternative lifestyles church in New York city and as a Episcopalian I have to admit that I think the flow of the service was more un-settling to me then some of the LGBT church members that were there to worship that morning. After knowing just the gay and lesbian Christians that attend our church and others I have met in life I have come to the personal belief that their faith and salvation is between them and the Father in Heaven. I really have no business in the middle of that relationship. I know that Mark 16:16 and John 3:36 works for me to leave the door open on who will or will not make it to Heaven because I am not the one meant to stand at the gates to judge.

    October 13, 2010 at 7:51 am |
    • Raison

      Hi Mark!
      How did you like my response(s) on that Constltutional stuff way back where that woman used the crowbar?
      (I thought I should ask because everyone's posts were getting flung hither and yon..)

      October 13, 2010 at 9:01 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.