Evangelicals Speak Out in Favor of LGBT History Bill

Categories: LGBT, Politics
Todd_Ferrell_TEN.JPG
Todd Ferrell

Last week, SF Weekly reported that antigay group Stop SB48 had started collecting signatures for a referendum to overturn the FAIR Education Act, the nation's first law requiring public schools to include LGBT history in the curriculum.

We were contacted by the Evangelical Network, an S.F.-based group of LGBT Christian activists who support the FAIR Education act. SF Weekly interviewed president Todd Ferrell, who explained that Christianity is not at odds with gays and why the bill is necessary to prevent bullying.


What is the Evangelical Network?
It is a network of LGBT and straight evangelical Christians. We started in 1988 with the mission of letting people know that they can be gay and Christian and have a relationship with God. That has been our primary mission. In addition, starting in 2005 we have started another endeavor to build bridges with mainline evangelical churches and pastors, to help them better understand what and who the gay community is.

We're not coming at this from a political agenda. We are coming at this because there are lives at stake. We hope to make the church a safe place for future generations, to save lives in the process, and I really believe we're helping to create the church as it was intended to be, a place to welcome everyone.

How big is the Evangelical Network?
We have affiliates located throughout the U.S. and Canada. There are 25 churches affiliated with us, but our circle of influence (through our mailing list) is pretty big -- we've reached over 600,000 people.

How have the mainline churches responded to your outreach?
What I've found is that their idea of the gay community is that every day is gay pride and we all dress in drag, and everyone has 50 partners. But by developing these relationships with them, their whole paradigm and mindset is shifted and the negative stereotypes are all washed away. We've had some great conversations with churches in Sacramento and Southern California. Everyone we have talked to has recognized the need for discussion and so they are always very welcoming. It has not always been agreeable, but we agree to disagree.

When most people hear "evangelical Christian" and "LGBT," they think they are irreconcilable. How do you respond to this?
Well, I think you have to go back to the roots of what evangelical means. Unfortunately, most people hear that and think "right-wing" and "Republican." What evangelical means is that we believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. We believe that the Bible does not condemn LGBT people for being gay. We don't see that there is a conflict.

But many churches claim that the Bible condemns homosexuality. How would you respond to them?
I think that they're often misquoting scriptures. If they actually do the studying they'll find that those passages that have been used to condemn the gay community are taken out of context. They often deal with rape or with idol worship -- people who are worshiping pagan gods.

Last year we sat down with 23 evangelical pastors in Sacramento and spent all day going through the scripture with them. Most of them had never done the research on their own --  [what they taught] had just been passed down generation to generation. But we think they must do that investigation themselves, because there are people killing themselves over this situation. There are suicides, there are people leaving the churches, feeling like they are in a situation where they have to choose "God or gay?" and unfortunately many evangelical churches have put them in that position.

If they are misconstruing Scriptures, why have the antigay clergies had such a loud voice that they've come to represent American Christians?
Well I think it's for a number of reasons. I think money's involved. The evangelical church always has a topic de jour which they collect money off of. And if it's not abortion, it's gay rights. In the past, it was women in roles of leadership, and at some point, it was whites and blacks being able to go to church together.

Those were the devil issues at the time; they worked their way through that. Likewise, I strongly believe they will work their way through this issue too.

So you think that the Christian stance on homosexuality will change?
Yes. Another reason why a change is coming is that the younger generation don't have issues with homosexuality the way the older generation had. It's a generational change. Evangelical churches are losing membership and they are having to take a serious look as to why. The church is starting to wake up and realize that their future is at stake. I also think that it's coming through education.

Stop SB48, the group seeking a referendum, says that the FAIR Education Act "forces schools to use a social science curriculum that promotes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles that undermine traditional family relationships."
When I sat down with these pastors, I've let them know that the gay community has no agenda. What [the bill] is doing is recognizing the contributions and involvement of gay community in society. It's not a matter of special interest. There are all kinds of groups that have been [historically] excluded, like the Chinese community, or women, and this is just being inclusive. I'm very fair minded. I don't think it should be anything more or less than any other community's contribution. But it's part of the fabric of our society and those voices need to be heard and understood.

I don't think that you can ever go wrong by educating people and helping people understand. That's what we do as an organization. We share our lives and our stories. We become real people to [the people we talk to]. Before that it, it was as though we were three-headed monsters. "You're not so different from me," is what they're realizing. These textbooks would probably limit the bullying because it would start to strip away at the negative paradigms about the LGBT community.

Also, there's no science to prove that [teaching about LGBT contributions would undermine traditional family relationships]. There's no scientific study that substantiates that claim.

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31 comments
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E
E

Frank, the reasons for the shorter lives and mental illness of many is that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are put under constant strain by family and society to hide who they are for fear of physical abuse or emotional condemnation.  Also parents and families do not have mature conversations about safe sexual practices.  Some do but not enough. Churches and religious organizations also imose shame on these individuals.  It is not being gay that can reduce lifespan but stress and persecution that lead to these issues.  If people would love their neighbors as themselves and not judge others this would be very different scenario.  I believe that these issues should be brought up in school.  The issues of lifespan and mental illness however, when we look deeper at theses issues and see why the numbers are the way they are, it is easy to see the cause is not the sexual orientation or gender identity but rather the way our society treats these individuals.  Let's not judge especially our children.  It makes growing up even more difficult.

mommy2
mommy2

This is about our children/ my children and what they will be exposed to in school.  As a parent, I feel that I have a right as to what information they will be learning in our schools.  We parents should have the final say in the instruction of our children, not the politicians and the special interest groups.  This is why I support StopSB48. 

really now
really now

Mommy2, We understand that you are protective of your little ones and want only the best for them, but doesn't the best include the truth?  I think we ALL benefit from knowing the truth, for we can make the best decisions in our lives based on truth rather than myth. History is history, facts are facts; this is not make believe. To the history program will be added the contributions of glbt folk; it is the same concept as adding the contributions of women, and of people from other races, cultures and belief systems. These all are positive additive qualities that should have never been missing, but we all see things through our own perspectives, through our own narrow lens. It is a benefit to all of us to see things as they are through the perspective of many; this helps all all grow together as a community and to break down the walls that divide us and hurt our country, our world. If we could all let go of this crazy fear of "other", perhaps we could take on the real problems of our world, and solve them. All these other divisions are mere distractions from the real problems our world faces.

Frank
Frank

Will they also include the truth about mental illness and disease being more prevalent in homosexuals? Or that gay and bisexual men live on average 20 years less? Or that studies and experience shows that the best thing for a child is a loving mother and father in a lifelong committed relationship?  

Ed Ness
Ed Ness

Mommy2 this law is not to endorse or condemn anyone.  It will simply educate students that there are people in our history who were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  Many of these people are already discussed in history books, but the fact that they were parts of these groups as well just has not been discussed.  If this saves the life of just one child who feels alone it is worth it.

erin
erin

I pray for the Christians and non-Christians who believe it's their place to judge and condemn others . God made each of us in His image. How can you be so insecure and fearful in your own actions and lives that you have to spew hatred toward another group of God's creations? Does it make you feel any better? More loved by God? I have been to both glbt (hope I got that right) friendly and non-friendly churches.  As a disabled, straight woman I will pick a friendly over non-friendly church any day of the week..... more love, more welcoming, and a whole lot less judgment.

Mark Tidd
Mark Tidd

Well done Todd. As in many times in the past, God is doing some wonderful and surprising things that bring justice and freedom to people harmed by religious based bigotry by those who are confident that the "plain meaning of the text" is the final hermeneutic."Slaves be obedient to your masters", "I permit no woman to speak in the assembly" couldn't be plainer but don't seem to have the same "obvious meaning" now than they did when hotly debated in the past.  And there's the high benchmark of the church excommunicating both Copernicus and Galileo for  insisting that the earth is not flat nor is it at the center of the universe. People who now take with a grain of salt what was formerly demonized by the church are not always quick to realize that they might be doing the same thing in there own age. Thanks for the good work of The Evangelical Network for helping the Good News be good for all! Mark

Sharon Groves
Sharon Groves

This is an excellent piece. Thoughtful explanation of a compassionate and measured evangelical response. Nicely done.

Edness510
Edness510

Sharon, thank you for your encouragement on this piece.  We at The Evangelical Network  try very hard to show a loving, compassionate understanding of what it means to follow Christ.  We are very thankful that God opened the door for this interview. God is moving.Ed Ness, Director of Public Relations, The Evangelical Network.

Betty
Betty

I believe there should be a distinction between being attracted to someone of the same sex and acting on that. I believe that the Bible condemns the "practice" of homosexuality in the same way that it condemns promiscuity and adultery and all forms of immorality. Having said that I think that those who want help to leave the lifestyle should be allowed the freedom to try. God can heal anything! And even if He chooses not to, it still does not make the behavior right.

now really
now really

Does it really make sense that God would not choose to heal one of His children crying out to Him to change something about them that He supposedly hates, and that keeps a distance between them? If God can, and God doesn't, God is either evil, or He doesn't give a hoot about someone's sexual orientation, and said child is only in agony over it because of what they have been taught about it, and how they know that, if they choose to live authentically, they risk losing their family, their church community, etc. I can respect that you are in the place you are in your understanding of all this, but please think these things through more. It is not a sin to think and find the logic, or lack thereof, in various things we have been taught to believe. Also, the practice of one's sexual orientation cannot be likened to promiscuity, adultery and the like; it is not the same thing. There is nothing inherently immoral about being in relationship with a person of the same gender for one who is oriented that way. It is not as if it is all about lust or sex, it is about relationship and being in love- just like healthy heterosexual relationships. Promiscuity, adultery and other misuses of sexuality are not to be (fairly) equated with healthy homosexual relationships.

Lovewenn
Lovewenn

So a behavior that is wrong and not corrected is still wrong?  Why wouldn't he want to help them to be able to follow their Lord?  Because he doesn't love them and hate them like you obviously do. 

Just me
Just me

Kinda hard to misinterpret this: Romans 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

really now
really now

It is clearly quite easy, especially for a pre-biased community, to misinterpret it when you don't look at the context - like you have just done, and so many others preceding you. Did you even notice vs 18-23? It gives you the context, also, the rest of the chapter; it is talking about idol worship- was common in those days- read about it, look it up, study it out before you make blanket statements trying to use the authority of Scripture to back your pre-judgements.

Just me
Just me

Plenty of context, just because I didn't include verses 18-23 doesn't in any way discount the fact that homosexuality is still condemned in verses 24-27.

BTW, just for a little more context on what God intended "from the beginning":  Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

really now
really now

I implore you to do the research. You've been sold a bill of goods and you're now offering them freely to a world that neither wants nor needs them.Don't take my word for it (not that I think you would, but just saying that I don't even want you to). Study this all out thoroughly, don't skip around like you have done here - pulling out few verses here and there to reinforce your own agenda - that is not helpful, but instead, really seek out the truth. The mis teachings and misinterpretations have been so ingrained in the "Christian" mindset that it is difficult to be free of them. This is one reason why so many gay people fight so hard against who they are; because that lie that they are wrong for being who they are -and for feeling the feelings that they naturally feel- is so strongly ingrained in them from hearing this crap over and over all throughout their lives and having it pounded into them even before they were aware of their feelings.Be willing to let God transform your heart and open your eyes on this. We all have blind spots, and we all get off track. Question is, are you going to trust religious teachings, or are you going to trust God, because it all boils down to having a relationship with God or not; that is what it is really all about. And that relationship with God is what transforms. Earnestly and honestly seek God's heart on this matter; that is the most important. That is where peace comes from, but all do your homework and study this out, thoroughly, and with an open heart.

really now
really now

AND, BTW homosexuality cannot be fairly equated with same sex sex, for not everyone who engages in same sex sex is homosexual, and that is what appears to be the case here in Romans. Moreover the sex spoken of here is clearly not based in love, but is all about lust and about usery, having nothing at all to do with any kind or form of love. I say 'appears' above only because one Bible translator, who came at the translation by way of an intimate knowledge of the Greek language rather than of theology, and simply wanting to translate versus trying to propagate 'Christian" teachings, believes that Paul might here be referring to angels having sex with women as was spoken of in the Book of Enoch, which, say what you will, was quoted in part by Jesus himself.

really now
really now

Just Me,  Your context for Romans 1 is (still) missing. You are stuck in your pre-conceived bias, and you are blind to what the verse it speaking of. Completely blind to it, and u pick out 1 part and state that it means something that the text itself is NOT saying, but that you and others have read into it too many others. Unfortunately it is not "Just You" sending out this misleading, misinformed and very detrimental message. You started this bringing up the out-of-context verses in Romans 1, but you don't finish that, and you instead go onto another verse which you think backs up your stand. You are confusing the issue just to prove your point and I say YOUR point because it is not the point of the passage, and that will be clear when you open your eyes and read the context and forget the rest. Stand alone, these verses in Romans are speaking about those who have chosen not to honor God but to serve idols...and because of that God gave them over to their lusts so, basically, they could make utter idiots of themselves since they chose not to recognize nor honor Him ...Now, watch the dvd  documentary "Through My Eyes" and tell us all if you believe the people therein fit the bill, alright? You can see a trailer of said dvd at throughmyeyesdvd; just copy and paste that and you will find it. This will give you, perhaps, your first glimpse into the reality of gay Christians. Watch it, share it with your church, and for heaven sake wake up!

really now
really now

Just Me. Your context for Romans 1 is missing. You are stuck in your pre-conceived bias, and you are blind to what the verse it speaking of. Completely blind to it, and u pick out 1 part and state that it means something that the text itself is NOT saying, but that you and others have read into it. You started it on Romans, but you don't finish that, and you go onto another verse which you think backs up your stand. You are confusing the issue just to prove your point and I say YOUR point because it is not the point of the passage, and that will be clear when you open your eyes and read the context and forget the rest. Stand alone, theses verses in Romans are speaking about those who have chosen not to honor God but to serve idols...and because of that God gave them over to their lusts so, basically, they could make utter idiots of themselves since the chose not to recognize nor honor Him ...Now, watch this video trailer and tell us all if you believe the people therein fit the bill, alright? http://www.throughmyeyesdvd.co...

Lisa Salazar
Lisa Salazar

Just me — you need to look at the parallel passage in Matthew where Jesus blew the wheels off the binary view of human sexuality with his interjection of the three types of eunuchs. He did not condemn those who are born with ambiguous genitalia or who where rendered that way, he also did not stipulate any prohibitions from marriage nor did he place any lines of delineation between what parings were acceptable for a eunuch. It is estimated 50% of inter-sex children who are raised as one gender have the wrong gender assigned to them by their doctors and parents. If gender identity and orientation are "fluid" for these individuals and these aspects of their sexuality are not linked to their physical, binary sex or lack thereof, how, where and why can anyone then draw arbitrary lines of acceptable human pairings? The lesson the church has failed to learn from these passages is how holy commitment and fidelity are to God. Why do you and others continue to only focus your disdain and judgement on those who desire to enter into a permanent loving relationship with each other and overlook the problem Jesus was addressing—infidelity? If churches focused on the adulterer and the divorced among heterosexuals, the churches would be empty. The lesson to be learned is that the Holy Spirit chose to demonstrate the inclusivity of sexually other persons right from the gate with the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. Have you ever wondered why this person's sexuality was mentioned in the narrative? This was to tell the church God did not place any barriers to His Kingdom based on what you had or didn't have between your legs and how you identified sexually.

Tony
Tony

I'm sorry, I meant to say history of the last 40 years.  There is a strong movement to silence Christian rights while simultaneously pushing for more gay rights.

EastBayWill
EastBayWill

Tony .. I am a gay man who is curious to know about that movement and agenda you speak of.  Can you tell me more about it, or are you just blowing hot air in an attempt to make your non provable bigotry look valid?  Go ahead and tell us about the movement and the agenda, Tony ... facts please.

Tony
Tony

Hello Will.  Im not blowing smoke and frankly if I was part of such a huge movement to effect change, I wouldnt want to deny that the movement exists.  Anyway, there isnt enough room on this reply section to show the different events and new laws that silence Christians and push for gay rights, but instead of "laying it all out" in one post, I'd love to dialogue privately with you about the issue and maybe we can both get a better understanding of each others viewpoints. Thanks.

now really
now really

Tony, I understand that the format is limiting, but if you are going to make the claims that you have, publicly, you ought to be willing to substantiate them with actual facts, even actual personal experience publicly, other wise you ARE just blowing smoke- and contributing to misinformation about a group you, apparently, know very little about. Your statements contribute to the unsubstantiated fear many have of opening their hearts and minds to their homosexual neighbors and this is hurting, not helping, the Church, communities, and individuals.

Tony
Tony

There is a very clear agenda that the gay community has always tried to deny exists. Anyone who has studied history of the last 4 years knows that.  

The TRUE Christian viewpoint that homosexuality is a sin and does separate you from God's fellowship. The bible very clearly and "in context" states that gay people will not inherit the kingdom of God.  It is a sad an pathetic but probably effective tactic to infiltrate the church, call yourself a christian and try to change the views from in the inside.  

The truth is that the gay community needs God just as much as anyone else and they know it.  That precious intimacy cannot be shared with a God who hates what is sin.  Pray for the gay community, at their very heart they must have such a huge collective aching for real love, and that can only come from the repentance of sin and pursuit of the change that comes with Christ.

really now
really now

Yes! The gay community needs God just as much as anyone else; brilliant! It is tragic when people like yourself try to stand in the way of that precious intimacy with God that they need, telling them they cannot have it unless they pretend they are someone they are not!. Really, truly, do you think you have the place to stand in the way? Do you really think you have the right to judge whether some has or can have an intimate relationship with God of not? Your thoughts and words on this are EXTREMELY damaging to those who are seeking, reaching out to God. People like you come along and tell them He can be none of theirs until they repent of being themselves..some are so distraught with this mis-information, with this utter lie that they commit suicide! Knock it off, Man, God will have a relationship with whom He will have relationship- who are YOU to block that based on your own mis-understanding of God's extremely loving heart? I know if I have a relationship or not; I don't need you to confirm it for me, and you discrediting of it changes only my relationship with you, not my relationship with my Father God.

Lovewenn
Lovewenn

Equal rights for all Americans, silly movement, why that's unconstitutional to deny rights to all Americans.  They trying to stop you from having sex 100 people of the opposite sex, getting married, having children, adopting children, or say good-bye to your loved one in a hospital or something as simple as being served at a restaurant.  Oh right that's not them that's you.  You need a longer list of rights that you deny them everyday?

Josie
Josie

I will never accept, be part of, donate to, any gay, lbgt, or anything else you call yourselves. As far as the evangelical churches you are part of here, I will never let you cram this stuff down my children's throats or mine. Period! Depraved is what it is!

Anne
Anne

Nobody is cramming anything down your, your children's or anyone else's throat.  You cram your own negativity down your own throat when it is all you focus on.

EastBayWill
EastBayWill

The saddest thing in the world, Josie, is when your gay or lesbian child wants to be honest with you about who they are and they know that their mother's heart is filled with fear and hatred toward them.  The fear you have expressed in your post is virtually screaming ... and it is going to destroy you.

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