Several members of the Gay in the Lord Church, Lynchburg Virginia,
recently left the congregation after the pastor, Frank Lee Wright, performed
a union for a heterosexual couple. The official church doctrine remains
rather ambiguous in regards to heterosexuality. (Article IX, subpoint 3,
section F, sub section point 34.5 of the church constitution states: "We
affirm God's will for humans to express their God-given sexuality in the
context of committed partnerships of mutuality.") Many church members,
however, maintain strong views on the subject, and clear factions are
forming. One long-time church member claims that the Gay in the Lord
congregation hasn't been this divided since 1978 when they had to pick new
carpet for the sanctuary.
'Hate the sin and kick out the sinners.'
One faction adamantly opposes Rev. Wright's actions. Many in this
group have already left the church. Others feel called to remain as
prophetic voices-and for the potluck suppers. Former church member Ima St.
Seime said, "I simply can no longer be part of a church where the Word and
will of the Almighty Lord my God is being blatantly ignored."
St. Seime, and others who have left over this issue, insist that
theirs is not a position of hate, but one of love for the righteous plan of
God. In a time of increasing acceptance of heterosexuality nationwide, many
anti-heterosexuals feel that those within the church who condone the
heterosexual lifestyle are merely succumbing to the secular values of our
"This ludicrous position [pro-heterosexuality] cannot be founded on
anything but specious secular relativism," claims R.U. Wright, cousin of
Rev. Wright and president of Christians for Righteous and Appropriate
Members of CRAP cite numerous biblical passages to support their
position. "Eve's desire for her husband was a curse-a curse from which we
must break free!" says R. U. Betty Thanue, vice president of CRAP, explains
that the purity codes found in the Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly prohibit
mixing different types of things. "If we can't mix wool and linen," Thanue
argues, "how can we justify mixing men and women?" Leviticus 15:18
specifically states: "When a man lies with a woman and there is an emission
of semen . . . they will be unclean." In Judges 21:11 the Israelites are
ordered to "destroy every woman who has lain with a man." Even Paul says
that, "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman" (I
In addition to clear biblical teachings against heterosexuality,
Thanue says, there are also obvious ethical and social reasons to reject the
heterosexual lifestyle. The message of Jesus Christ is ultimately a gospel
of revolutionary equality, claim CRAP members. Such equality is
fundamentally impossible for a heterosexual couple to achieve in our
hopelessly patriarchal society. Thanue explains that "Jesus' relationships
were primarily homo-social, and we should follow his example if we hope to
move toward the Kingdom of God that Christ came to proclaim."
"Besides," says St. Seime, "just look at the mess our society is in
now! This is a society based on unorthodox heterosexual models of
family-and it is screwed up!" Richards cites heterosexuality as a key
factor in such societal problems as domestic abuse, rape, drugs, gangs, war
and Brittney Spears.
'As long as your daughter doesn't hit on my son.'
A more moderate constituency in the church feels that
heterosexuality is not the best lifestyle for someone to choose, but these
members are unwilling to deny membership or condemn someone to hell based on
Many of the teens in the church fall into this group. Their
viewpoint is summed up well by 15-year-old Don T. Kare: "Yeah. It just
seems, kind of, you know, weird. I mean, really, kind of gross. But I
mean, you know, if that's their thing, I mean, I guess maybe a guy can't
help it if he falls for a chick. That's his thing, you know. I just don't
want to see it or nothing."
More eloquent members of this group explain that, while they do feel
heterosexual sexual activity is a sin, they also believe that some people
are born with an attraction to people of the opposite sex. "I can't really
imagine it," says Lou Sur, "but I have a close friend who says she just
can't help being sexually attracted to men." For people like this, some
members believe lifetime celibacy is the only Christian option.
Others, however, recognize the difficulty of celibacy and concede
that what people do in the privacy of their own homes really should not be
an issue for the church. "I mean, as long as they aren't sending their
daughters in here to seduce my son or talking about their perverted sex acts
in Sunday School or something, people have a right to their own lifestyle,
you know" says Will N. T. Kare, Don's father.
"Our God is a loving God," says Sur. "God would want us to welcome
everyone, even if we don't necessarily agree with the choices they have
'I'm O.K. You're O.K. Heterosexuals are O.K. too.'
While Sur's view sums up the majority opinion in the church, there
are those, Rev. Wright among them, who adamantly declare that
heterosexuality is a valid lifestyle for committed Christians. Despite
libelous remarks by critics that Rev. Wright is himself a closet
heterosexual, he affirms his own homosexuality and has indeed been living
with his male partner for more than 20 years.
"The issue for those opposed to heterosexuality," says Rev. Wright,
"is cultural, not Biblical." Wright points out that scriptures most often
used to condemn heterosexuality are taken out of context and, at times, rely
on specious translations of the original texts.
Holly R. Zanthou, who mastered in divinity at the School of the Bible
in Tulsa, Oklahoma, agrees. "Not only are their translations and
interpretations suspect, but these people (anti-heterosexuals) are ignoring
the larger issues present in the scriptures. Love, justice, compassion,
wild parties-that's what Jesus was about." Indeed, many biblical scholars
suggest that the ambiguity of Jesus' own sexuality and his apparent lack of
sexual interaction make a strong case for inclusion of all people-even
heterosexuals-within the body of Christ.
For some, though, the issue goes far beyond biblical exegesis. Mrs.
and Mrs. Love, long-time members of Gay in the Lord, used to believe
heterosexuality was a sin. But when their 17-year-old daughter Moira told
them she was straight, the two women had to reconsider their position. "I
could tell Moira had struggled with this a lot," said Mrs. Love. "It became
clear that she had already been through a lot of pain regarding this issue,
and we just decided we could not put her through any more. It has taken us
a while to understand it, but we have prayed about it and we know God wants
us to support our daughter." "And," adds Mrs. Love, "we know God loves
It was the union of Moira and Paul Lease, performed last month by
Rev. Wright at the Gay in the Lord Church, that sent some members packing.
This is clearly a church divided. Tensions are running high, and no clear
resolution of the issue is in sight. To top it off, the carpet from 1978
looks like it needs replacing.