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Civil Rights in America
September, 2007

 

The following notes have been received in response to recent media coverage of Dan Bryant's efforts to work toward civil rights for all citizens:

 

Dear Reverend Bryant,

I am in receipt of your letter, and as a fellow pastor I would be remiss in not responding with a brief note to express my deep concern for what you have written. I have been bothered about it all weekend wondering how the Body of Christ could actually be divided over such an enormously important moral issue with far reaching impacts to this generation and our children's children. It's obvious we don't share the same view point regarding what Scripture has to say about the sacredness of marriage, and the sin of homosexuality. While I would not choose to debate with you or anyone else whether you think "Concerned Oregonians" or "The Defense of Marriage and Families Again" as organizations have properly represented themselves (I feel they have to us), the reason and motivations behind the very causes should be much more of a concern I should think to those who are tasked by God to shepherd others in the full counsel of His Word. These are the battles we would perhaps expect to fight from those outside of the church, not within.
As a minister of the Gospel, I can only fear for you being held to a stricter judgment as a teacher and shepherd to disseminate such a divisive message as you have just sent, and implementing at best cryptic scare tactics for those churches who are willing to stand up to help reverse an immoral law. You said, "as pastors we should all be wary of those who blatantly violate the law and disregard the rules of our democratic government." While I don't disagree we should not violate civil authority for that would be sin, I don't believe that is even close to an accurate representation of these groups. But way more importantly I would be wary of those who blatantly violate Scripture, and disregard His laws. My prayer is that you will repent for your actions, and no longer buy the lies of the evil one. We will, each of us, be judged at the Bema seat for every single thing we have said, thought or done (I Cor. 3:13-15). I, for one, would not want to sit in review of the position you have taken, as a pastor no less, which clearly opposes the truths of His Word.

In His grace, by His power, for His glory I serve,

A Pastor in Salem


A response to pastors who think homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle:

God is very clear in His word. A person has the freedom to accept His word
or not. What does God's word say about homosexuality? Here are the most
often cited passages from both Old and New Testaments:

'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.'
(Leviticus 18:22)

'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have
done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will
be on their own heads.' (Leviticus 20:13)

'Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their
women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way
the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed
with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men,
and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.'
(Romans 1:26-27)

'Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor
adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves
nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit
the kingdom of God.' (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

' . . . knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but
for
the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for
the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of
mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for
kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing
that is contrary to sound doctrine, '
(1 Timothy 1:9-10)

I have gay friends. It pains me to think they are headed for judgment.
What is the most loving thing I can do? Accommodate their sin as they
stumble into hell, or try to dissuade them from following a destructive and
unhealthy lifestyle?

The answer is obvious.

If my brother's house is on fire, do I stand on the sidewalk and wish him
well, or do I rush in to save him?

It is not an act of love to standby and pat people on the back while they
destroy themselves.

And it is not discrimination to courageously speak the truth in love.

As to political considerations divorced from theological considerations, we
have always held to the idea of community standards of morality as defined
by the majority.

All the current petitions seek to do is put the matter before the people.

What the Oregon legislature and the governor did was railroad their minority
view in opposition to the majority's will as expressed in passing Measure
36.

I'm constantly astounded at so-called pastors who ignore God's word,
accommodate sin which is killing people, and bow to tyrants.

Lord help us.

As always, the Lord of Love shows the way.

When the religious hypocrites threw the adulterous woman at Jesus' feet,
challenging him to give the order to stone her to death, the Master waited
for a teachable moment, challenged the sinners to cast the first stone,
loved the woman, and told her to "sin no more." He restored her, not by
accommodating her sin, not by looking the other way, but by protecting her,
and leading her into the light, by His grace.

We must "go and do likewise." We should neither condemn sinners, nor codify
sin into law.

I fear pastors who prefer accommodation to salvation lean to their own
understanding, lead people to destruction, and dishonor the Lord, all in the
same breath.

'There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.'
(Proverbs 14:12)

'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.'
(Proverbs 3: 5,6)

Sincerely,

Newberg resident


Dan:

After reading this morning's front-page news story, I just have one thing to say: More power to you!

On a similar, yet unrelated topic: I was attending the Eugene Celebration this past weekend, looking at booths down in the park block when I heard two young women talking as they passed a booth selling very liberal bumper stickers. One of the young women was heard quoting a bumper sticker which read: "Jesus is a Liberal," and then exclaiming with disgust, "They must be kidding." The other young woman simply encouraged her friend to keep moving, "Don't stop she said, just keep going."

I was sooooooo tempted to turn and say, "Jesus was absolutely a liberal: He not only cared deeply for the poor, he provided free medical care -- even if they didn't have health insurance!"

Have a great day Dan!

Eugene resident


Dear Dan--
I received your letter this week regarding the petition drives and I wanted to thank you for spending the time and money to send it.

Well done!

in the Big Love--

Portland Pastor


Dear Rev. Bryant,

Thank you for your letter stating that the information that religious opponents to the two gay rights laws are promising donors is incorrect/false. We appreciate that you have taken this action, but we are not surprised, given all the important and generous work you do for people in this community and around the world.

Eugene couple


Dear Pastor Dan,

I volunteer at our church front desk, and today, to pass some time, I was reading the Register-Guard. I was horrified at the backlash occasioned by your letter to other pastors about the misinformation concerning the availability of tax deductions for those who signed petitions to gather signatures to repeal anti-gay legislation signed by Governor Kulongoski.

I am a married heterosexual Christian, and I have never been able to understand the anti-gay hysteria and hatred. I have worked against every anti-gay measure since Measure 8, the backlash created by Governor Neil Goldschmidt's legislation protecting the rights of homosexuals.

I agree with you that, in the 21st century, the most crucial civil rights issue is that of gay rights. Having said that, I fear that all of our civil rights are in deep peril. As Benjamin Franklin said, "We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

All this by way of wanting to help. I plan to renew my connection with BRO. Can you give me some guidance on other ways that I can help? I will give of my treasure and of my voice. I hope you will be gentle in your assessment of the outpourings of my heart.

Yours in Christ,

Eugene resident


Dan -
I applaud your effort at timely intervention to protect the gay rights
legislation pending Jan 08 implementation from right-wing Christian
forces that give Christians in general an unsavory name. No
commentaries on homosexuality were attributed to Jesus, or even on
marriage as far as I know, but He did reportedly talk a lot about love
without specificity regarding its recipients.

(And after all, He did travel about with a group of guys and wasn't
himself married, so who knows?)

To me, gay "rights" is a Constitutional slam-dunk, clearly required by
the 14th Amendment prohibiting any law "which shall abridge the
privileges...of citizens of the United States...nor deny to any
person...the equal protection of the laws." We live under the
Constitution, not the Book of Leviticus.

Eugene resident


I was reminded of a title to a Agatha Christie novel, and then there were none while reading the article that dealt with your letter and its after affects. glad you wrote it. all of us need someone at some time to add their voice to our defense. if not, then it's only the voices of the rabble heard and what type of change does that usually bring? I don't think I will ever understand how or why civil liberty, equality or common decency seems to taunt so many.

your actions give Christianity a good name. at least by the definition in my understanding of the bible.

Eugene resident


Dan,

Saw the article in the R-G. As they say in CALC, we've got your back!

Eugene couple


Dan,

I am a member of docdisc - an online listserve made up of Disciples clergy and laity. Today someone posted a recent article from the yesterday's Register-Guardian regarding your letter to Oregon clergy and the response by David Crowe. The original posting was something to the effect that we should write to David Crowe to correct his understanding of the polity of the Disciples of Christ. Personally, I don't have much of a problem if our denomination is viewed to be progressive on gay and lesbian policies.

So, my response is to instead write to you and thank you for taking such an active part in this legislation in Oregon. I do not live in your state and will not benefit directly from your actions, but I think it is essential for clergy to be involved in issues that involve the full humanity of all people. Particularly when those issues seem to revolve around "religious" statements.

Thank you for your work. Please know that you have at least one strong supported in Michigan!

Peace,
Michigan pastor


Sat Nam Dan,

I was "heartened" by the article in the RG of your courageous letter to Oregon pastors. I am honored, as one of many I'm sure, to know a leader of faith who possesses great compassion and integrity. Thank you for all you do to enlighten and forward justice in the Name of God.

Humbly
Eugene interfaith leader


During football season I frequently buy a Guard to catch up on Duck football. When I saw Thursdays paper I noticed the headline about the Eugene pastor and I had a hunch that it was you. After reading the article, I was pleased that I was correct. I applaud your position and your courage to make it known. I believe you are correct when you state that gay rights are the defining social issue of our times. It may take some time but I am confident that justice and fairness will prevail. I think that future generations will be surprised to learn that gays did not have equal rights just as today's students are surprised to learn that women were not given the right to vote by our founding fathers. Best wishes,

Eugene resident


Dear Dan,

I am part of a distribution list of "young Disciples" where they have been "discussing" the article that appeared about your letter to pastors there in Oregon related to the push for signatures regarding the issues of gay rights and the phony tax credit. Their discussion has basically been focused on our church's position (or non-position) on the issue of the ordination of homosexuals and the various regional decisions in relation to this issue.

I wanted to write to let you know that, in reading the article in the Oregon newspaper, I was very proud of the work you have done on this topic, and agree with your assessment that the issue of "gay rights" is the major challenge not only to our churches today, but also in society.

I hope your ministry continues to go well there in Eugene. With best wishes,

Disciple pastor


Dear Dan,

Thank you for what you always do for mankind and being a true Christian. Brought up as an orthodox Jew, my religion has long ago left me.

But I sincerely admire what you do constantly in your life. not
always popular, but always correct.

For two years I was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church. I was a great admirer of MLK. I always remember what he siad "the opposite of love is apathy."

Eugene resident


Dear Dan,

Thank you for your letter concerning those groups who want to overturn our anti-discrimination laws. Well state. I don't recall receiving a letter from them, but I could have just tossed it in the recycling bin.

Your concern is shared here at our church. Many thanks for your time and expense.

Lutheran pastor, Portland.


On most Tuesdays after my 4 hour volunteer shirt at Hopewell Hospice House I drop by the Interchurch Center on my way home to attend to different matters primarily with either the Disciples or EMO. Today while in the Regional Office I saw a copy of the Register-Guard Sep 16th editorial that you had emailed to Doug & Cathy.

Dan, I simply desire to tell you how much I appreciate your efforts to support gay rights. I suspect you were a strong voice in that regard on the Governor's Task Force, and obviously remain so. If the so-called "religious right" manages to get enough signatures to hold a statewide referendum vote on the legislature's passed Domestic Partnership Act (House Bill 2007) and the Anti-Discrimination Act (Senate Bill 2), both signed into law by the governor, it will indeed be a sad day for the State of Oregon. For I'm not inclined to trust the general public on issues of basic human rights that should not be subject to a vote in the first place as far as I'm concerned. I've been an advocate of Constitutional Liberalism my entire adult life, in which minorities are protected from tyranny by the majority. I'm still embarrassed to this day that not many years ago Oregonians joined in the homophobic milieu in much of our nation to build into the Oregon State Constitution an explicit provision that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. Eventually, I'm convinced such State constitutional provisions will be ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court to be unconstitutional (but certainly not by the current court), just as many years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that State provisions against inter-racial marriage to be unconstitutional. If that happens in my lifetime, is problematic, but in my view, it is not a question of "if", but of "when". In the meantime, many of us within the church must endure the immense irony that most of the energy comes from quarters within the wider church to fight what in the long term are pathetic 'rear guard' efforts to prevent or at least slow down the evolving dynamic process & progress of Creative Advances with Stubborn Facts of a still strong remnant of "old time religion" that largely is fed by exclusive notions that orthodox people are more favored by God than unorthodox that exhibit an un-Godly "differentness" in some manner from the Godly orthodox.

Dan, thanks again for all your effort in working for a more expansive humane Oregon community. Keep up your prophetic witness.

A Disciple minister


Dear Dan,

I wanted to say thank you for on the gay rights issue and congratulate you on your courage and forthrightness in taking an open and publicly pro-active roll in this controversy. It is nice to have a Christian pastor who shows the world that Christianity and religious commitment/practice do not and should not represent rigid fundamentalism, exclusion, prejudice or moral self-righteousness.

Thanks again!

Eugene resident


Dear Dan,

Thank you for your courageous act in standing up for justice. Your letter, sent to 3000 other pastors in Oregon, was truth in action and deeply appreciated by so many.

Shalom,

Eugene resident

 

 


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Photo by Paul Carter, The Register Guard, used by permission.