As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.Romans 14:1-4 ESV
This week, Jason Collins came out as a black, gay, professional basketball player in Sports Illustrated. His bold and courageous move was met with encouragement and support from a wide cross-section of America. Many notable figures, including Magic Johnson, Father James Martin, Kobe Bryant, Nancy Pelosi, Rev. Al Sharpton, and both the Clinton and Obama families offered words of support and encouragement.
This outpouring of support was not shared, however, by Chris Broussard, a commentator on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" who was asked for his personal opinion about Collins' coming out. Broussard stated that he was a Christian, and as such, he was compelled to say that being gay was "open rebellion" against God. When asked about the fact that Jason Collins was also a Christian, Broussard stated that one cannot be gay and Christian at the same time.
The following clergy and religious leaders in America responded to Broussard:
Here is what they said in a jointly written Washington Post editorial:Rev. Gil Caldwell, TruthinProgress.com, National Board of PFLAG, Asbury Park, NJBishop Yvette Flunder, Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, San Francisco, CARev. Darlene Garner, Metropolitan Community Church, Prince George's County, MDThe Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DCRev. Cedric Harmon, Many Voices, Washington, DCRev. Candy Holmes, Metropolitan Community Church, Prince George's County, MDThe Reverend Luis Leon, St. John's Church – Lafayette Square, Washington, DCThe Reverend Dr. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church, New York, NYThe Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey, Boston University, Boston, MARev. Irene Monroe, Harvard University, Cambridge, MAGene Robinson, IX Episcopal Bishop of New HampshirePastor Joseph Tolton, Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, New York, NY
As Christian leaders in America, we know that Christians hold a wide variety of viewpoints on human sexuality. It is not necessary, nor is it right, to reject lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people out of hand due to the Christian faith. To do so, misrepresents the ever widening nature of the gospel of Christ, who engaged with those on the margins, and placed in leadership people who were not powerful by worldly standards.
We are pastors and leaders who have discovered that LGBT people are often the most faithful members of our congregations and denominations. We have received blessings upon blessings when we free them to be the people God made them to be and use the gifts that God gave them. In the same way, we are thankful that Jason Collins has been able to use his God-given gifts for athletics, and now has the freedom to be faithfully and authentically himself with the world. That is a cause for rejoicing, not of condemnation.
When Broussard uttered his words of condemnation, LGBT-supportive people of faith sprang into action. Faithful America has already gathered over 24,000 signatures, asking that the Bible not be used to bash gay athletes on EPSN. GLAAD is helping faith leaders like us formulate a challenge to the false claim that Christians must uniformly reject LGBT people and LGBT athletes. And thousands of people of faith are offering a prayer for thanksgiving for Jason Collins and the role model he is for thousands of LGBT athletic young people, including people of color.
As Christian leaders, we also encourage the media to report the reality that an increasing number of people of faith, including many Christians, are embracing and supporting their LGBT friends and family. They do so, not despite their faith, but because of it. As GLAAD demonstrated in last year's 'Missing Voices' report, too often, stories like that of Jason Collins becomes one of "gay v. Christian," when the reality is that Collins is a man of strong Christian faith, as are many who support him.
We pray that God will open the eyes of Chris Broussard and help him mature in his faith. May Broussard see that Christianity is not a faith that is closed off to those who are different from him, but one that continually expands, reaching out to the neighbor and the stranger, sharing the good news. We encourage Broussard to listen with humility to LGBT Christians, their lives and stories. It is through listening that we learn.
We are among those who give thanks for the life and witness of Jason Collins. May he always know that God has created him and loves him just as he is. May he exemplify the courage and grace that he has displayed in the last two days. And may God use him to send that message of love and inclusion to others, telling everyone of the ever widening love of God.
Those who read my blog, and especially those who read my Sunday posts, know that I am gay and Christian. I can't understand those people who reject someone merely because they are judging that person for some perceived wrong. Matthew 7:1 clearly states, “Judge not, that you be not judged." God is our ultimate judge, and Jesus, who welcomed all people, especially those on the margins of society, is our advocate before God. There will always be those dissenting voices who spew spurious lies and hatred toward LGBT people, but we must remember that God loves us unconditionally.