Discrimination | Michigan | News | Religion

800 Pack Kalamazoo, MI Forum on the Bible and Homosexuality

In Kalamazoo Michigan, where an anti-discrimination ordinance based on sexual orientation will go before voters in November, 800 people packed the Radisson Plaza Hotel and Suites for a forum with six local pastors about the Bible and homosexuality:


"A panel of six area pastors — three who believe same-sex relationships violate biblical teaching and three who say Scripture does not support that conclusion — spent two hours giving their perspectives and answering questions posed by the audience and each other. The Rev. Matthew Laney, pastor of Kalamazoo’s First Congregational United Church of Christ, said the scriptural debate on homosexuality focuses primarily on seven passages of the Bible’s 31,000 verses. 'It’s only .002 percent of the entire Bible, an incredibly small slice,' Laney said. 'Sexual orientation is not a choice; it’s not a disorder. It’s part of God’s diverse creation.' The Rev. Dr. Douglas Vernon, senior pastor of Kalamazoo’s First United Methodist Church, agreed, saying the Bible may be taken 'very seriously' but not always literally. 'We believe there is no one right way to interpret Scripture,' Vernon said. The Rev. John Byl, pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church, and the Rev. Dr. Paul Naumann, of St. Michael Lutheran Church, disagreed, saying the literal words are relevant and timeless. But all three ministers who argued homosexuality is a Biblical violation called for, as Byl put it, 'a church that doesn’t shut down those who struggle with this sin.' .. 'God is grieved by how the Christian church has handled this issue,' said the Rev. Dr. Jeff Porte, of Kalamazoo’s Third Reformed Church. 'We’re sorry for the way we have treated the gay community and people who find themselves challenged.' But Porte said he also is obliged to “speak the truth” and call homosexuality a sin."

The forum was privately sponsored by Kalamazoo business owners and Republican activists Lorence and Nancy Wenke, M Live reports:

"Wenke is a Republican and former Michigan House member who is running for the state Senate in 2010. Wenke said that sponsoring Monday’s forum — at a cost of about $3,500 for the venue, advertising and materials — probably cost him some conservative votes."

Poor thing. Fortunately he's not worried about being kicked out of his job or his housing because he's gay.

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  1. Honestly - why are we these people acting as if we live in a Christian Theocracy ?

    Posted by: walter | Sep 29, 2009 1:39:22 PM

  2. Praise the Lord and pass the erudition! Another installment in that popular, long-running serial, "Love the sinner, hate the sin!" Giving the fag bashers and political opportunists air cover to deny you spousal visitation, adoption, property inheritance and medical benefit rights in this enlightened era. They love us! They'll kill us and hang us from fences to save our mortal souls! I feel so special!

    Posted by: MikeMick | Sep 29, 2009 1:52:08 PM

  3. I live in Kalamazoo but didn't attend, because I'm frankly tired of listening to people try to justify or condemn my existence by debating 7 verses from a book that doesn't govern my life. I'm glad there are open and affirming churches in the area for people that still need them, but I am so much happier since I stopped buying what the church was selling.

    It just made me furious to read the local mlive article about the event due to the pompous conservative posters in the comments section. They are truly malicious people yet feel nothing but smug self-righteousness. Here's hoping conservatives go the way of the dodo.

    Posted by: Jonathan | Sep 29, 2009 2:09:36 PM

  4. In the immortal words of Beorn, 'I wish I had been there. I'd have given them more than fireworks.'
    It's tragic that we don't have more educated people defending us. Those conservatives are liars calling themselves literalists because everyone cherry picks the bible to some extent. Not only do they do it worse than anyone, they ignore the basics, the endless demands for fairness and mercy for the oppressed. Those demands trump any obscure passage they can pull out.

    Posted by: Wilberforce | Sep 29, 2009 2:13:06 PM

  5. I hope someone thought to ask those religious folks claiming "the literal words [of the Bible] are relevant and timeless" when it comes to the very few verse on homosexuality if they also feel God approves of human slavery (Leviticus chapter 25) and if they support the death penalty for women who aren't virgins when they marry (Deuteronomy chapter 22). That should be a start to get them chatting about how much they support a literal reading of the Bible, though there are a lot of other reprehensible verses in the bible that, for some reason, don't seem to capture the active support, attention, and activism of these religious zealots. Like, while we're on the subject of Deuteronomy chapter 22, how about that chapter's command to stone female rape victims to death because the victim "did not scream for help"? Let's see these supposed biblical literalists put THAT on a ballot iniative.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Sep 29, 2009 2:24:52 PM

    You're dead on. They lost all that shit along with "Judge not lest ye be judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." So fondle that pigskin and eat that shrimp, you hypocritical assdrools, and say hi to that fucker Jerry Falwell when you get to the eighth ring of hell.

    Posted by: MikeMick | Sep 29, 2009 2:36:26 PM

  7. Wow, the LGBT PC police are back. How about instead of engaging in some of this nonsense, we focus on the fact that there are more and more mainstream denominations are standing up for us? Why is that so difficult?

    Posted by: DR | Sep 29, 2009 2:36:48 PM

  8. I would love it if everyone could read a book called "What The Bible REALLY Says about Homosexuality" by Daniel Helminiak. It's such an encouraging read for those of us on this side of the fence.


    Posted by: mrmnyc | Sep 29, 2009 2:48:16 PM

  9. @ DR
    The problem with your snotty rejoinder is that the denominations that are backing us ARE NOT THE FUCKING PROBLEM. The problem is the Bible humping dinguses who play both sides of the aisle by saying they love us but hate what we are. They were in full evidence at this forum, and they give the haters and fag bashers legitimacy among the religious. "Ohhh, too bad that nice boy was a sinner and those four guys had to cripple him for life outside that PFLAG meeting." Until we turn that tide, conservative Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and whatever other fucking "ism" you want to plug in are a threat.

    Posted by: MikeMick | Sep 29, 2009 2:48:44 PM

  10. Interestingly, none of the bible passages in question mention female homosexuality but specifically male homosexuality. A literal interpretation of the word of god says lesbians are in the clear. I wonder why no one calls the fundamentalists on that one?

    Posted by: Chris | Sep 29, 2009 3:55:45 PM

  11. Lorence Wenke actually has supported LGBT legislation in the Michigan House and nearly lost his last election because of it. He has been a great ally for us in Michigan.

    While I do not care for these kinds of debates, they may help to sway some of the "moveable middle" folks who are religious.

    Posted by: Voet | Sep 29, 2009 4:04:04 PM

  12. Actually, Chris, the Bible never mentions homosexuality--not once. That word was invented in the late 19th century and was inserted into the Bible in the 20th Century. There was also no word for sodomite. This all started around 379 AD, when the Church felt threatened by the political influence of the eunuchs in the Roman palace. They began reinterpreting the Bible then to lessen the influence of the eunuchs, and it took about 150 years to include "homosexuals," who were known then as "natural eunuchs."

    Just like then, today homosexuals continue to be oppressed by a political movement that hopes to gain power at our expense.

    Posted by: MackMike | Sep 29, 2009 4:19:05 PM

  13. OK, let me see if I have this correctly:

    Wenke sponsored a forum in which 3 pastors argued that homosexuality is not a sin and 3 pastors argued that it is a sin but that we should be decent to gay people.

    Wenke's sponsorship may have cost him some votes, but he wanted the idea that not all churches are anti-gay to be known.

    So... you mock Wenke.

    Wow, that's an interesting response. Could it possibly be because Wenke is a Republican and no matter what he did in support of our community you'd still mock him? Because being registered Democrat is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than actually supporting us?

    Posted by: Timothy | Sep 29, 2009 4:37:03 PM

  14. @Timothy: Who's mocking Wenke? Did I miss that somewhere?

    Looks to me like people are only mocking the fundie literalists.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Sep 29, 2009 6:06:04 PM

  15. Just wanted to add to the kudos for Wenke. I'm a lesbian in Kalamazoo who also did not attend because I don't think these things can ever accomplish anything...and I have participated in more than a few of them.

    I've met Wenke a few times through people and events related to GLBT stuff. To my knowledge, he has never been anything other than kind, generous and supportive to both gay people and gay causes. I respect his attempt at creating community last night, I hope it helped some folks.

    Posted by: Angie Howse-Willard | Sep 29, 2009 8:08:07 PM

  16. I'm so tired of people debating our rights as if it will have any impact on their lives whatsoever. Its utterly exasperating.

    Posted by: DominiqueP | Sep 29, 2009 8:37:30 PM

  17. And no one asked whether one group of Americans have any legal right to force their religion on another group of Americans...

    The argument is not what the Bible says about homosexuality or anything at all, but whether religious teachings have a role in civil affairs.

    I am not a Christian, I don't wish to be a Christian, I regard Christianity as a pernicious force in human affairs, and I don't want to live under a government that is responsive to Christian doctrine.

    Posted by: Bryan | Sep 29, 2009 8:58:49 PM

  18. Andy,

    Why the snarky comment at the end of the article? A balanced discussion is all we could ask for form anyone. I am happy that a conservative would be open to exploring these questions, let alone paying for the venue.

    Posted by: LAGUY | Sep 29, 2009 9:46:44 PM

  19. Himmler had a way with crowds as well. Nothing new here, just hate wrapped around hate with a hate filled middle full of hate.

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Sep 29, 2009 10:08:45 PM

  20. I attended the forum the other night and, like others, noticed people tried to be polite.
    The right was thought to be tolerable because they are sincere in their belief I am a sinner and the Christian church has failed in not excommunicating me. How polite! How civilized the debate was!
    The panel was six white men, only one of them gay. I was thoroughly offended.

    Posted by: Mary | Sep 30, 2009 11:43:55 PM

  21. If you are interested in helping out the vital efforts of the campaign in Kalamazoo, go to www.onekalamazoo.com. We're toiling away here, up against some vicious and well-funded sources and need your support!

    Posted by: RebelPrince | Oct 3, 2009 2:42:51 PM

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