“Nice People The Jones'” …………………. if you get my drift….
Three churches in Kalamazoo, MI have chosen to leave Martha’s Table, a charity which provides services and meals for those in need. The reason why they are leaving is simple- the church, First Congregational, that houses the charity is inclusive of the LGBT Community, and the three churches who either have or will quit are unwilling to associate with First Congregational over that issue. They talk about “guilt by association. “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. But now this difference has risen above our common commitment to serving Christ,” Pastor Matt Laney has said. Representatives from Agape Christian Church and Word for Life Church of God will withdraw from the charity at the end of the year, and Centerpoint Church already has. Kalamazoo Churches Pull Out Of Charity Over One Church’s Support For LGBT Rights, Dec 2009
You should read the whole article.
Churches to leave homeless ministry over sexuality conflict
Reported by December 16, 2009, 6:45AM KALAMAZOO — Theological disagreements over homosexuality are causing a divide within a downtown ministry that serves the poor, homeless and lonely.
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.
Mark Bugnaski | Kalamazoo GazetteMinistry unveiled: In this photo from October 2007, when the Martha’s Table ministry was launched, the Rev. Matt Laney, left, and Jeff McNally pose at Laney’s First Congregational Church. 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.”
Vestrand added that “ecumenical ministries are a great challenge because sometimes there can be issues that can rise up. We probably were a bit remiss in not talking more extensively about some of the possibilities.”
Kim Sandelin, a lay pastor from Agape, said churches can tolerate some theological disagreements and work together, but “an immoral lifestyle has eternal ramifications in Scripture.”
Yet, he said he wanted to emphasize that “none of the pastors in this ministry have any ill will or bad feelings toward one another.”
He said he talked to Laney about his church’s decision. “When Matt and I were done, we shook hands and considered one another brothers in ministry,” he said.
The Kalamazoo Gazette was unable to reach a representative of Centerpoint for comment.
A pastor from another church in the Reformed, or Calvinist, tradition, the Rev. Ken Baker of Third Christian Reformed, said his church will continue its commitment to Martha’s Table.
“I feel very sad about the decision of three partner churches to pull out,” Baker said. “Everything about the ministry of Martha’s Table reflects the heart of Jesus, who came to preach good news to the poor. Surely, all our churches would agree that mercy and compassion were at the heart of the ministry of Jesus.”
He noted that his denomination takes a “theologically conservative” position on homosexuality, interpreting the Bible to say the practice is wrong but that it is not a sin to have a homosexual disposition. “But I fail to see how our integrity is violated by participating in Martha’s Table,” he said.
Laney said his church and the other remaining churches — St. Luke’s Episcopal, First Presbyterian and First Methodist — are also committed to continuing the ministry, and he is trying to recruit other churches.
The church that leads the Martha’s Table worship service on a given week will now bring the meals, Laney said. Attendance can vary widely, from about 50 to 120, although Martha’s Table usually draws 80 to 90 people, he said. About 20 to 30 of the attendees are volunteers.
McNally and Vestrand also say they remain committed to serving the poor and homeless. “Our heart toward the homeless has not deviated at all,” Vestrand said.
Baker said he intends to write a letter to the three churches leaving Martha’s Table.
“My hope and prayer is that these other churches will reconsider and change their minds,” he said. “What better time of year to do that than this season of the year when Christ followers ponder the mystery of God coming in the flesh to ‘lift up the humble and fill the hungry with good things.
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