As my most faithful blog followers know by now, I’m a “faithful follower” too. Or at least I try to be. I’ve been that way ever since I was eight years old. My spiritual walk has carried me through many “hairy” times, so why give up now?
It took me many years, into adulthood, to find the right place for me to go on that walk. Even after being baptized — in 1998, at the age of 37 — I’ve found that the denomination might be right for me, but the particular church out of that denomination I’m attending at the time might not be right for me.
Church pastors aren’t perfect. I don’t expect them to be, and I don’t fault them when they speak to or show their weaknesses — their human shortcomings. It’s only when they try to convince us that they’re just one short step down from God that it raises my eyebrows.
For a case in point on how that can be, I present to you Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina. He has a problem with gays and lesbians, as you can see in the video below.
As if that weren’t enough, if you go to the story in the link below you’ll find another link to audio of a sermon Pastor Worley gave in 1978 in which he said, “Forty years ago [LGBT people] would’ve hung, bless God, from a white oak tree!”
It’s pretty amazing how people who claim to follow God can see things so differently on the kind of spirit God presents to us, depending on which church you go to, even within the same denomination.
The words “come as you are” get lost on some church-going people. For the more judgmental church-goers, it’s more like “come in the way that I (not He) want you to be. And if you don’t, you’re a heathen who’ll be damned forever.”
I’m not gay myself. I do have friends who are gay. These friends are also Christian, and they are welcomed into their church with open arms. No one treats them any differently, they’re treated as equally as anyone else regardless of sexual orientation. They’re treated as the believers that they are. They attend church “as they are.” The way it should be, if we are to follow the spirit of the teachings and the sacrifice that was given for people of all races, genders, nationalities, or sexual orientations.
I have to wonder if church leaders, regardless of denomination, ever stop to realize just how much damage they do to Christianity by turning their nose up at and condemning anyone who doesn’t see eye to eye with them in their Old Testament view of the Holy Bible, forgetting all about what it says in the New Testament when it talks about love for everyone, having those who are without sin casting the first stone. I don’t recall seeing Christ condemning gays and talking about how they should be strung up from an oak tree anywhere in the Bible.
It’s not just the issue of gays that can bring about such massive disagreement and hate among Christians either. I had a local pastor from a non-denominational church put in a friend request for me on Facebook long ago because he saw that we had a mutual friend in my current pastor. Everything was going just fine between us until politics got in the way and I started seeing things he was putting up on his Facebook page, essentially condemning Muslims and anyone who shows any support for them. We ended up in a “dialogue,” and it ended up with some members of his congregation saying that I hated God, and their pastor blocked me on Facebook.
My church has had a Muslim ministry for a few years now. In the time that I’ve been the head deacon at my church, we’ve had a Muslim wedding ceremony take place in our building that I needed to be at in order to open and close the facility. I can honestly say that the Muslims I met that day were much more warm and friendly than quite a number of Christians that I could name.
It’s Christians that give Christianity a bad reputation. It’s Christians who can’t wrap their brains around the words “come as you are” who turn so many non-Christians away from even thinking of attending any church.
Pastors like Charles L. Worley are only a glaring example of how that is. It’s Christians in the congregations who don’t stand up to church leaders like Pastor Worley’s brand of political rhetoric who damage the cause as well.
I’ve been a believer since I was eight years old. I searched for a church I could “call home” until 1989, when I attended my first Seventh-day Adventist service with the young lady who would soon become my lovely wife. I studied Adventism for several years after that, and everything I was seeing and hearing made sense to me. It all seemed to fit right in with what I believed. It all made so much sense.
Even then, I was reluctant to “take the plunge” and get baptized until 1998. But then it happened. Ever since then, I’ve been involved in church leadership positions more often than not, serving on church boards for all but a few years in that time.
Even my own denomination has shown that it’s not perfect either. That’s because churches are all too often led by the minds and spirits of humans, with all of their imperfections, instead of looking at things in a Christ-centered manner.
I’ve served on a church board that was run in a dictatorial, manipulative fashion by a pastor, and I’ve seen evidence of it in other Adventist congregations I’ve been involved with. For the most part, blessedly, that kind of experience has been rare in my experience with Adventism. The large majority of pastors it’s been my pleasure to get to know are people who can see their own human frailty, their own shortcomings. They’ve refused to allow themselves to look upon themselves as being one short step down from God.
When I’ve witnessed the manipulations and the “God-like ego trips,” I’ve spoken up about it, including during my time as a church board member. Churches can be threatened from the top on down, and if their leaders aren’t awake when spiritual abuse is evident … God help us.
I’ve sat through church board meetings where a particular pastor practiced outright manipulation in order to get his way. It can happen. In that case, while it was happening, the man that the pastor was arguing with came away humiliated, deeply hurt, and left the church — even though his intentions were totally honorable.
The same pastor created stirs in other ways, with other churches in the valley, including over matters of education. That issue raised its ugly head during our own board meetings, and caused dissension among sister churches for a while, threatening the spiritual well-being of all of them. That same issue especially created a stir among my own church board, with the one acting the worst being the pastor, who would throw out ugly accusations for everyone to see and hear about a board member.
It was a scene that made my jaw drop in amazement. I spoke to the pastor about it in the days after, trying to act more as a peace-maker. I voiced my concerns in a calm, peaceful way and expressed my hope that he would ease up a bit from his “my-way-is-God’s-way-and-if-you-don’t-like-it-you’ll-head-down-hell’s-highway” path. He assured me that he’d try.
He didn’t try very hard.
I later found myself sitting in a church town hall meeting, with seats arranged in a full circle in the fellowship hall, being asked why I would support anyone who dared to stand up to our pastor. I didn’t back down. I may have been the only one in that entire room who was sitting “in the hot seat.” I didn’t back down.
My wife and I and other members later received a letter threatening censure by our church’s pastor and elders, and we were told to stand in front of our congregation and admit the errors of our ways in order to begin to correct the wrongs we were doing in standing up to the pastor.
Thankfully, there were friends at a sister church on the other side of the valley who were aware of what was happening and did not approve. They invited us to go back to their church. We’ve been there ever since.
A couple who had once been among the leaders at the church that had condemned us — a couple who once looked down upon my wife and I as a result of what had happened with their pastor — years later found themselves in trouble with that same pastor. When they were faced with their own issues with their pastor, they came to me, seeking help. I didn’t spurn them. I did what little I could to help them, even though I didn’t even attend the same church any longer.
Yes, church pastors are human. It’s when they start believing they’re more than that — much the same way that Charles L. Worley and others like him seem to believe — that the real problems begin. That’s when pastors begin to do serious damage to the very public face of Christianity and all that it stands for. It’s what makes so many people turn away from churches like they’re running from some kind of plague.
Luckily, I have a pastor now in Bernie Anderson who doesn’t think that of himself. I was on the church board that decided to bring him in several years ago, after we’d gone without a pastor in our church for a full year. Bernie had a few “human issues” of his own that he wasn’t afraid to talk about in a recent (at that time) issue of Newsweek magazine.
We as a church board were well aware of Bernie Anderson’s very deep, personal struggles. All of us as board members prayed about it at great length, in private and together in our discussions. We decided to offer Bernie the chance to move from his home in the Dallas area — closer to his Arkansas roots — to Salt Lake City. He faced our congregation, and answered some pretty tough questions. He’s been with us ever since, and we’ve been blessed to have him here. He’s brought unique vision, passion, strong leadership, a gift for ministry in various forms.
In fact, after he came to our church, he published a book about his personal struggles with pornography, called “Breaking The Silence.” He’s traveled around the country since then, talking about addictions and how to break the chains that come with them.
Bernie hasn’t been the only one to bring so much to our church as a result of that offer. His own lovely wife, Christina, has been a blessing to us as well with her own strength and spirit and tremendous energy, especially in the area of children’s ministries, working tirelessly every year to organize our Vacation Bible School and other efforts to enrich our children’s lives. There was a time that Christina could have turned her back on her husband, but she forgave him and stayed with him, and their teamwork as leaders in our church has been tremendous throughout the entire time they’ve been here.
You could say that Christina decided — once Bernie was able to address his addiction, his own personal weaknesses, and do something to overcome them — to accept Bernie for the human being that he is, in effect telling him to “come as you are.”
That’s the problem I have with pastors such as Charles L. Worley, and their judgmental and “holier-than-thou” ways. I’m sure Pastor Worley isn’t perfect in everything that he does in his life, and these sermons of his are glaring evidence of that. The best that we can do is pray that he might someday “see the light” and reflect upon what he’s saying and doing.
The worst thing we could do is to sit back and agree with the kind of destruction and hate that he preaches from the pulpit.
What Charles L. Worley preaches … that’s not the kind of America I envision coming from our own churches. I dream of an America with the kinds of churches that throw their arms out in a welcoming gesture, saying to one and all who consider entering, “Come as you are.”
Copyright 2012, Daddysangbassdude Media
- Dear Pastor Charley Worley: We condemn your words of hatred and cruelty. Repent! (eugenecho.com)
- Mixed reactions around church whose pastor’s anti-gay rant went viral (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
- Pastor: Put gays in an electric fence (kshb.com)
- The Response To Pastor Worley (ken_ashford.typepad.com)
- Members stand behind pastor’s anti-gay sermon (wcnc.com)
- ‘Pastor’ Charles Worley Isn’t Christian in Anything But his own Mind (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Audio of 1978 anti-gay sermon found after pastor goes viral (wave3.com)
- A Member of the ‘Put the Gays Inside Electric Fences’ Church Tries to Defend Him… and Fails Miserably (patheos.com)
- The Poisonous Anti-gay ‘Morality’ of NC Pastor Charles Worley’s Flock (pamshouseblend.firedoglake.com)
- North Carolina Pastor calls for Gays to be put in an electrified pen and killed. Is this a Christian message? (hazimc.wordpress.com)
- Bigoted Pastor = Bigoted Members (scotteriology.wordpress.com)