Thursday, May 31, 2012

How One Evangelical Church Is Reaching Out To The Gay Community

Photo Credit: Royal Oak
Missionary Church
While driving with my twelve-year-old son to church early one Sunday morning a few weeks, I noticed a large billboard next to a major road that had caught his eye. The billboard was touting "Gay Days", an annual event here in Orlando where Disney and a number of other businesses sponsor events tailored for the gay and lesbian community.

I asked my son if he knew what "gay" meant and why there were two men on the billboard together. He understood what it implied and this led into what I thought was a healthy conversation (which was really not all that awkward considering that we had had "the talk" some time ago) and I explained to him how we should respond as Christians to people like those on the billboard.

We discussed that even if we don't understand the choices of others or don't necessarily agree with their lifestyles that we should still respect others and not tease, make fun of or be mean to them. I told him that there may be people we know that are gay, even if won't don't realize it. As a Christian, I believe that God's Word instructs me to stand up for the ridiculed and the marginalized and to demonstrate His love to all those He brings across our path.

With the recent vote in North Carolina and President Obama's comments on gay marriage, as well as the widespread media coverage of cringe-worthy comments from some members of the clergy, the topics of homosexuality and gay rights are very much at the forefront of the national dialogue. Although there are some Christian ministers that continue to build barriers between people of faith and the gay community, I know of at least one church that is intentionally reaching out to gays and lesbians in a loving and creative manner.

Royal Oak Missionary Church (ROMC), led by Pastor Bill Barnwell and located just outside of Detroit, is dear to my heart in so many ways. Not only is it the church that nurtured my wife in her youth and eventually sent her out as a missionary, but it is also the place where Lori and I became husband and wife. Many dear friends of ours are members of ROMC and I couldn't be prouder of what they are doing this weekend.

The church is putting on a play entitled "Masks" that will address topics like marital infidelity and homosexuality, with proceeds from the play going to a non-profit organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to gay and lesbian youth and those struggling with their sexual identity.

The Daily Tribune shares about the play:
"If a church proclaims itself as pro-life, the members should care about gay teenagers who are at risk of committing suicide. 
That’s what the Rev. Bill Barnwell of Warren believes. He is practicing what he preaches with his evangelical congregation at Royal Oak Missionary Church, 411 E. 11 Mile Road. 
Barnwell’s play called “Masks” opens next week at the church and 80 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales and advertising will go to The Trevor Project. Even before the curtain rises June 1, the church has raised about $6,000 for the nonprofit group that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.  
“I attribute the fundraising success so far to people in the church just really catching the vision for saving young lives and seeing the value in reaching out a hand of friendship and love to the LGBT community and letting them know that their lives matter,” said Barnwell, calling his congregation brave. The central theme of his three-act play is that secrecy breeds dysfunction in any relationship. Barnwell intertwined two major plots in the script with a closeted gay youth pastor driven to despair after years of torment and a prominent, successful married couple struggling with infidelity and their teenagers’ sexually related angst. 
While some pastors are going on record as saying that they wish we could just get rid of all gay people, I'm thankful there are others like Bill Barnwell that are willing to take faith risks and face the scorn of their own community so that gays and lesbians can find life in Christ. If we as Christians say we are pro-life, we need to be pro-life for everyone. We don't have to agree with people to esteem them as image bearers of God and I'm grateful that a church that I am so close to is doing just that.

If you live in the Detroit-area and would like to see the play this weekend, please visit here for ticket information.


Ramos33 said...

...We don't have to agree with people to esteem them as image bearers of God and I'm grateful that a church that I am so close to is doing just that...

Can you restate this?

scottmcrocker said...

What I meant to say is because I believe that all people are created by God and in His image then each person has inherent value. In other words, each person's life matters whether we agree with their opinions or lifestyles. I believe that ROMC is doing an admirable thing in saying that the lives of all people matter.

scottmcrocker said...

Thanks, Yonnel!