As a few of you may recall, even if I no longer consider my self Presbyterian or Christian anymore, I do still subscribe to my national church's news feed. Which occasionally comes up with something interesting.Evangelism consultation challenged to consider welcome extended to gays and lesbians
by Bill Lancaster
Special to Presbyterian News Service
STONY POINT, NY — Susan Andrews, former moderator of thePresbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly and currently executive presbyter of Hudson River Presbytery, opened the “Growing Christ’s Church Deep and Wide” consultation here Nov. 11 addressing a controversial topic.
“I’m going out on a limb,” she said, “and raising this question: can the inclusion of gay and lesbian persons be a part of our evangelism?”
Three or four persons responded with stories of their experiences in ministry with lesbian, gay bisexual and
transgendered (LGBT) persons.
One of them — Cynthia Diaz, a faculty member at New York Theological Seminary and pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Elmont on Long Island, NY — told the story of Vinny, a Puerto Rican boy with whom she grew up in the Bronx and who learned he was homosexual.
Diaz, who is also Latina-American, said she and Vinny grew up in the same building and were close friends. When they became teenagers and she began to be interested in boys, Vinny did not become interested in girls. They went their separate ways, and Vinny developed relationships with other males.
Years went by, and Diaz learned that Vinny had developed HIV/AIDS. She wanted him to experience Jesus in the church prior to his death, and she was certain that he would be warmly received by the congregation. She enthusiastically invited Vinny and his partner to attend a Sunday service.
On the day that Vinny and his partner came to the church, a visiting pastor was preaching. Though it was not the subject of the lectionary passage that day, Diaz said, the guest preached a sermon condemning homosexuality. She though perhaps the preacher sensed something different about this pair of young men, but in any event “this message devastated and humiliated two young men who had come in search of hope,” she said.
“So my friend Vinny, who had been my best friend in the world, died in worse shape than before he had come to
church. And that was very painful,” Diaz said.
“So I had to ask myself what position I would take in light of that theology. I know that God created Vinny just like God created me, and that God loved him just as God loves me. So what position in the church would I take, and how could I now as a pastor, stand before my congregation and talk about my love for the Vinnys of the world,” Diaz said.
“I struggle with it. We need to show people how to be loving and affirming with respect to all of God’s people.”Bill Lancaster is associate executive for Foothills Presbytery and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.
All of which goes to show that I still remember and remain influenced by the faith of my youth. while my faith has both grown and completely changed focus, I guess my roots remain.