Last year I wrote an article confessing I had changed my mind about the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, I received a certified document in the mail charging me with “teaching doctrine contrary to the Church of the Nazarene.” My district superintendent repeatedly urged me to recant and when I refused, I was subjected to a trial to remove my ministerial credentials. That effort failed.
Through that process I’ve had several people ask why I had changed my mind about the LGBTQ+. The answer to that question is too long for this article. But part of the reason has to do with Billy Graham.
Several years ago I read that toward the end of his life, Billy Graham talked about his role during the days of racial tension. The article said Graham expressed deep regret that he did not march at Selma. Stop and think about that for a moment. This great man had done so many wonderful things for God. But one of his regrets was that he failed to stand with those who were oppressed.*
That incident made me think of my own life. What will be my legacy? I’m 68 years old. I’ve done my share to help build the Kingdom of God. But when I’m on my deathbed will I regret not “marching at Selma” on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community? Yes, the analogy between the historic stance on the church about slavery and the LGBTQ+ breaks down at several points. But the church once used the bible to justify oppressing blacks and owning slaves. And today, many churches use the Bible to justify oppressing and excluding members of the queer community.
I decided to march at Selma. I spoke up. I wrote a 500 word article about changing my mind. And it caused me pain. In a recent meeting I was told by my District Superintendent I could no longer be trusted to preach. It hurts. But doing the right thing often causes pain.
Stan Mitchell is a pastor I follow on Facebook. At one time he helped grow a conservative church to 1,000. The day came when he decided to march at Selma. He transitioned his conservative church into an affirming church. I’ll spare you the details but today he has a ministry to pastors and people struggling to navigate the waters of coming out. Recently he was asked why he changed his mind. He answers the question and lists close to twenty conservative pastors who decided to embrace the queer community. And then Stan added,
“…here was a chance in our middle years, before any more of our days were wasted on the trivial and self-serving, to do something that approximated the life of Jesus; to do something that indicated some sense of true caring on our part; to do something that would meaningfully cost us…We did not do this in disregard of our consciences and souls; we did it to save what was left of them.”
Do you see? These pastors decided to march at Selma. They decided to take a stand on behalf of the gay community which is being oppressed by the church.
At the end of my life, I may never have another opportunity to preach. I may have my ministerial credentials stripped away by the church to which I’ve given my entire life. But as I draw my last breath I will know at least I stood up and marched at Selma.
*I’m not able to document this story with 100% accuracy. BUT I am able to say, whether true or not, it deeply impacted me.