"Theological disagreements over homosexuality are causing a divide within a downtown ministry that serves the poor, homeless and lonely.Read More
Martha’s Table, through which eight churches have provided Sunday afternoon worship and meals for the needy at First Congregational Church, is losing three of the churches because of the issue of homosexuality, even though the ecumenical ministry takes no position on it, said the Rev. Matt Laney, pastor of First Congregational.
Agape Christian Church and Word for Life Church of God plan to withdraw from Martha’s Table at the end of the year, and Centerpoint Church (formerly Third Reformed Church) has already done so, Laney said.
“The founding principle of Martha’s Table was that churches would come together and put aside their differences in light of what unites us, which is our common commitment to serve Christ and others,” Laney said. “But now this difference has risen above our common commitment to serving Christ.”
Laney said representatives of all three churches have been “very clear” that they don’t want to be “guilty by association” with First Congregational and its inclusiveness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, said Laney, who publicly supported an ordinance passed by Kalamazoo voters in November that protects GLBT people from discrimination in housing, jobs and accommodations.
“To me, it’s incredibly disappointing,” Laney said. “That’s the best word I can give it. It’s also mystifying. I was very shocked and surprised when they pulled out.”
The man who came up with the vision for Martha’s Table — Jeff McNally, pastor of Word for Life and owner of McNally’s Kitchen, which provided most of the meals — declined to comment on the reasons for his withdrawal from the ministry that began in 2007.
“I would just as soon let it go,” he said. “We are just pulling out. That’s all. ... We would just as soon take a position of silence.”
But Ron Vestrand, senior pastor of Agape Christian Church, said it was conversations with McNally that led to his church withdrawing from Martha’s Table.
“As time went on, Pastor McNally was becoming concerned with Pastor Matt Laney’s stand on homosexuality. I believe it was causing some disunity. ... I think the primary issue was that we felt that Matt’s stance on homosexuality as a valid Christian lifestyle violated our biblical worldview.”
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
According to the Kalamazoo Gazette:
Posted by Public Relations at 9:29 AM