If pride is a sin, color me guilty

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Remember Colby Martin, the young pastor whose story I shared in Pastor Fired for LINKING to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Article? The one who, for doing nothing more than posting a link on his Facebook page to a completely innocuous story about the abolishment of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law, was fired from the church he’d dedicatedly spent the previous five years growing and building? The one whose wife was pregnant with their third child when his Christian brothers and sisters summarily kicked him to the curb once they discovered that he doesn’t believe that homosexuality is a sin?

Here’s part of the letter Colby wrote to me at the time:

On the topic and issue of homosexuality (a word which I’ve wearied of saying over the past month), over the past five years I have journeyed with Jesus, and undergone a shift in my beliefs about people being born gay (versus merely “choosing”), about the Father’s posture towards such people, about their inherent right to love, and the beauty in their loving, committed, monogamous relationships, etc. No longer do I believe it is a sin to be gay. And my heart and soul hurts at the rampant discrimination towards the GLBT community all around the world. I mourn that the church is not a safe place for them. I mourn that the church has chosen to alienate and in some cases attack them. I mourn that ignorance has clouded people’s judgment. I wish that people could open themselves to hear what other people are saying with regards to what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) about this issue. What science is showing us. What the GLBT themselves are saying. How being a follower of Jesus ought radically impact our posture towards the GLBT community.

Right now, three weeks after being fired, I have so many conflicting emotions. I’m devastated at being fired. I’m angry at the process by which it was done. I was just eliminated almost immediately. In the eyes of the church body and the staff I essentially just disappeared. I was there one week, and not the next. It’s made me feel like a leper, like someone who committed some heinous sin and had to be “dealt” with. I’m disappointed that the church I’d loved and served and believed in ultimately came up short. I desperately wanted [Name of Head Pastor] to stand by me, and say to the board and to the negative people in the church, “[Guy's Name] and I agree on what it means to follow Jesus. We agree on the essentials of the faith. And we have done ministry together for five years, and I want to continue to serve alongside him. We disagree on things, on non-essential elements of the faith—and you know what? That’s okay! We celebrate our unity in the faith, and we welcome different viewpoints and beliefs.”

That’s what I wanted; that’s what I hoped for.

But that’s not what happened. Instead his boss (“one of those worn jeans-wearing, gelled-hair-perfectly-mussed, shirt untucked, telegenic hipster poseur pastors,” as I put it at the time because … well, I’m anti-bullies) fired him. (And then told Colby to keep quiet about why he’d been fired, or risk losing his severance package.)

Can you imagine being Jesus, and looking down and seeing that?

Well, maybe Jesus did witness that inexcusable travesty. Because soon upon being fired (that’s right: I channel Jane Austen) Colby was hired as the Worship and Arts pastor of Missiongathering Church right here in San Diego, where I live. Mission Gathering is a big, successful, emergent, progressive, not just “welcoming” but affirming church.

How affirming you ask? Well, enough to have recently put up this billboard in San Diego’s vast and bustling gay neighborhood, Hillcrest, by way of helping to celebrate San Diego LGBT Pride, which is happening this very weekend:

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And also affirming enough to have a gay pastor, actually: the church’s founder and lead pastor, Rich McCullen, who, from what I could tell during the one time I met him, is so sweet and good-natured he makes Charlie Brown seem like Freddy Krueger.

I liked that guy immediately.

It must be said, however, that Rich’s judgement is likely suspect. Either that, or he is unaware that, due to Colby’s kind invitation, I will be delivering the (45 minute!) sermon at both Missiongathering’s 9:00 and 11:00 services this Sunday.

Which, I don’t mind telling you, I will take great pride in doing.

Please join us if you’re in the area! You’re certainly, one and all, more than welcome.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • brmckay

    The word “sin” itself is full of it.

    “Ignorance” is so much more accurate in describing the source of our exile.

    The degree to which we remain unaware, lack interest in or refuse to know.

    Our Unity in God. Seamless, un-divide, eternal Christ.

    Actions arising from this “not knowing” , not a litany of behaviors, blocks the light.

  • Rachel G.

    This has made me tear up a little.

  • Tim Northrup

    Please, please, please, video! A lot of those types of churches do that type of thing.

  • Elizabeth

    Of course you channel Jane Austen. That… explains everything. Great piece. Please post your sermon(s) afterward for those of us in the hinterlands.

    • Jill

      yes, and yes.

  • Lymis

    Wonderful John! I hope that there is a way to arrange for us to hear one or both of your sermons!

  • Richard W. Fitch

    There are so many words in our ‘religious’ language that are misused, such as ‘sacrifice’ and ‘martyr’ and pride is another. If we mean arrogant and haughty, then, yes, ‘pride’ can be sinful; however, if by pride we mean self-esteem, then how is that any abuse of the Great Commandment? If we are forbidden to love ourselves as God loves us then how can we love our neighbor and ‘the other’? It is often those who are outwardly most self-deprecating that also denigrate ‘the other’, yet are inwardly prideful in somehow bringing God’s judgement to bear on the ‘sinners’.

  • Joyce

    Oh, Sweet Jesus. YES! After I read the older post I looked at Colby’s new church’s web site. Took me a couple of clicks to discover it is a Disciples of Christ church. Coincidentally, just last night I spent some time researching the connection between that denomination and my own, the United Church of Christ. We and the Disciples are so alike we could be identical twins separated at birth. We share a ministerial relationship. IMHO, Colby could not have found a home more in tune with his understanding of what it means to be one of Jesus’ disciples if he had planted it himself. As we in the UCC are fond of saying, “God is Still Speaking!” Every blessing on your life and ministry, Colby!

    Congratulations to you, too, John. Blessings on your sermon prep. I join previous comments in asking for a video of your sermon. But really… 45 minutes!

  • http://www.susanirenefox.com Susan Irene Fox

    Kudos to your post, to Missiongathering’s billboard and to Colby…and shame on his former church and pastor. I echo the requests for a video!

  • Lonnie

    How refreshing! I’m so glad for Colby.

    And how great for San Diego to have such a church. Those in non-affirming churches should simply shake the dust off their feet and move on. To a place like this one.

  • Matt

    I must add my voice to the chorus saying, post a video or something! I’m a sucker for a good sermon.

    Colby’s terrible situation just makes the whole hysterical screeching about “Christian persecution” coming from the right wing even more laughable. But I’m so glad that things worked out for him.

  • Jill

    SO cool! I’ll be at our Pride event this weekend, connecting up to the huge energy going on 2,000 miles away!

  • http://Fordswords.net David S.

    Knock ‘em dead this morning, John! I mean that in the idiomatic way, of course.

    I probably didn’t need to add that last part. Let’s try this again…

    Break a le…

    How about this: Do well, my friend!

    There. Done.

  • robert

    It has been a couple of years… maybe it is time to actually name the non-progressive, hipster church that fired the young pastor… I don’t really understand the (bleeps)…

  • mike moore

    well, how’d it go?!


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