Sunday, December 8, 2013

Kentucky Churches Avoid Nativity Service -- Partly Over Homosexuality

Over the past 42 years, the churches of Bellevue, KY (population of @6,000), have participated in an annual nativity processional. The people of Bellevue would gather at the nativity scene and share worship together. The gospel would be read and candlelight would be displayed. This year, the nativity was no longer allowed to remain on the city-owned park. So the group in charge of the nativity reached out to St. John United Church of Christ, largely because the church has enough space to house the nativity props. But there remained one huge snag: none of the other churches wanted to participate in the annual nativity event -- in part, because St. John UCC is an open & affirming church with a gay pastor!

Let's be clear, this lack of enthusiasm wasn't entirely over differences about homosexuality. One church (who had reportedly been very active in the nativity service in prior years) was upset about the service being moved from the park. Another church didn't respond to this year's invitation about the revised nativity service. A third church opted out because its membership was too small and too old to muck around in the dark.

That left First Baptist Church, who outright refused to participate in the nativity service because of differences over homosexuality:
The last of the five pastors in Bellevue responded to my invitation by requesting to meet with me in my office with a lay leader from his congregation. In this meeting they proceeded to make it perfectly clear that they would not participate because we (St. John United Church of Christ) do not “follow the teachings of Christ”, i.e., we accept gay and lesbian people. After listening to this pastor talk about all of our differences I suggested we try talking about what we have in common; we both celebrate Christmas, we both read the Bible, we both pray. These are the elements of the dedication program at the nativity each year. We may disagree on some things but these things we agree on. I suggested that in the spirit of Christmas and following the example of Jesus that we bring our community together around these things. They continued with their message that they will not pray with us, read scripture with us, or participate in any religious service with us due to our understanding of the Bible regarding homosexuality. Then they proceeded to tell me they were not judging me.
First Baptist Church's pastor released the following response to this controversy:
We support St. John's religious liberty. We appreciate that they want to have a positive impact in our community. They are clear however on what they believe and we are clear on what we believe and there are contrasts. We have some different beliefs that prevent us from linking arms from this activity.
Keep in mind that these two churches presumably would have linked arms in this worship activity if the nativity service hadn't been moved from the city park to the UCC church yard.

The nativity service was held two nights ago. According to Facebook, it was unclear if it would actually happen because of the heavy snow, but the nativity was celebrated -- by members one of community church, at least.

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