Local church’s campaign responds to Prop 8
‘We’re with you’ pastor says
Published Thursday, 25-Dec-2008 in issue 1096
Motorists on University Avenue in Hillcrest and North Park may see billboards with a supportive message about same-sex marriage courtesy of a local progressive church.
The billboards read: “Missiongathering Christian Church is sorry for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of those who took away the rights and equality of so many in the name of God. Our hearts are with you. Christianity for all.”
The billboards are a part of the “Our Hearts Are with You” campaign created by Missiongathering Christian Church, located in North Park. The campaign was launched to illustrate a number of points in the Proposition 8 debate.
With the campaign, the church is saying “that not all Christians believe what was put out there by Prop 8 [the California voter-approved constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage],” said Jay Selnick, pastor of creative arts at the church.
Selnick said the “Our Hearts Are with You” campaign also aims to shine light on what some have said are the Yes on 8 campaign’s deceptive tactics – including the assertion some churches would lose tax-exempt status for refusing to officiate same-sex marriages.
“The final [goal of the campaign] is to say that we’re with you,” Selnick said.
So far, the church has purchased two billboards, one in Hillcrest and another in North Park, and has advertised in CityBeat and the Gay & Lesbian Times. It has also placed posters in local businesses, and has created a group on the online social networking site Facebook.com. The group has 625 members.
Selnick, Missiongathering’s lead pastor, Rich McCullen, and Missiongathering’s pastor of spiritual formation, Alex Roller, devised the campaign after attending a post-Election Day rally, where former District 3 Councilwoman Toni Atkins referred to a 12-hour prayer rally at Qualcomm Stadium hosted just three days before the election as “the blatant misuse of prayer.”
“[Selnick, McCullen] and I just looked at each other and our hearts just dropped,” Roller said. “Because it’s like, even though we didn’t do it, we are part of ‘the church’ at large. In that respect, we were a part of who did this. So we were just like, ‘We gotta respond.”
The pastors were also motivated by wanting to create a strong relationship between the church and the GLBT community.
“It’s kind of like a huge chasm [between the GLBT community and the Christian church] that got wider through Prop 8,” Selnick said. “And so our desire was to hopefully bridge some of that gap and to let people know that [Yes on 8 campaign’s message was] not the general belief,” among Christians.
So far, they’ve seen a varied response, which has come primarily online in blogs and through the campaign’s Facebook group.
“This is a wonderful billboard,” said one user online. “Glad to know that other people out there are working to show that not all Christians are hateful and bigoted!”
“I reconciled my faith and sexuality (heart and head) about a year ago,” said one Facebook user. “I have lost my way and recently felt ashamed. I live with a pretty conservative family and I feel unaccepted, but listening to your messages and sermons has encouraged me to seek Jesus again.”
While responses are overwhelmingly positive, the church has also been criticized.
“We’ve received negative responses like, ‘I don’t want your Christianity,’ [and] a letter we just got this week that said, ‘Shame on you. May God have mercy on your souls,’” Roller said.
Some have criticized the church for not taking a more active role before the election. On blogs, some have asked, “Where were you guys before Prop 8?” Selnick said.
Before the election – and before Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote – Missiongathering hosted an educational series on sexuality and spirituality. The pastors volunteered individually and participated in various No on 8 campaign events – but the church didn’t take as strong as a stand as it has now with its campaign.
“Before Prop 8 we were there but we didn’t put up a big billboard or anything, because we thought, ‘Let [God’s] grace organically occur’ … and we truly believed that Prop 8 was going to fail,” Selnick said.
Each of the pastors supports same-sex marriage. McCullen said during the time the Bible documents, marriage was a matter of property. “You really have to take the whole text and the whole journey of the text and apply it to today,” he said.
Selnick said marriage is a matter of love – something the church should celebrate.
“When it comes down to it, there are two people that love each other, that want to make a lifelong commitment to one another and want to do that before God,” he said. “And that’s something that ought to be celebrated by the church.