HRC calls out Pastor Joel Osteen, who will again promote gay teen suicide on CNN tonight

Above is video of the Houston megachurch pastor’s latest remarks, which are scheduled to air tonight on CNN. And below is a press release that just came across from the Human Rights Campaign:

HRC to Joel Osteen:  Use Your Pulpit for Good, Not Hate

Televangelist’s Hateful Remarks Before a National Audience are Dangerous

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, today called on Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX and well-known evangelical preacher with a syndicated television following of over 7 million viewers, to immediate apologize for his remarks on national television that “the Scripture shows that [homosexuality] is a sin.” Osteen made the remarks on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. The full show will air tonight.

“It’s a real shame that someone of Joel Osteen’s prominence and life experiences would repeat this tired and dangerous statement. It furthers ignorance and discrimination by some Americans and adds a burden to those already struggling to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “One would hope Mr. Osteen would use his pulpit, with an audience of over 7 million people, to tell all human beings that they are loved just the way they are. Instead he chose to send a dangerous and irresponsible message.”

The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have both concluded that same-sex attraction is normal.

Mr. Osteen’s position does not reflect the views of many religious leaders and denominations. Mainline denominations such at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Episcopal Church, see God’s divine presence working across the spectrum of human sexuality. Many Baptists also dispute Mr. Osteen’s stance.

“Joel Osteen is certainly entitled to his opinion, but America needs to know that he doesn’t speak for all Christians, he doesn’t even speak for all Baptists,” said Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, a Baptist minister and member of the HRC Religion Council. “As a Southern Baptist and an ethicist I believe that we can’t follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor as our self if we start with the premise that homosexuality is sinful. Starting with the belief that people are sinful doesn’t allow us to get to know them, let alone love them.”

HRC encourages young Baptists who are struggling with their identity to contact the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) for resources on the church and sexuality. AWAB’s website is http://www.wabaptists.org/. AWAB partnered with the Human Rights Campaign in 2010 to honor several Washington, DC area Baptist pastors who were instrumental in passing marriage equality legislation in the District of Columbia.

—  John Wright

New Lutheran group likely to rise from gay discord on Friday

PATRICK CONDON  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Richard Mahan and Anita Hill are both Lutheran pastors who were inside a Minneapolis convention hall last summer when delegates for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow non-celibate gay and lesbian pastors.

Afterward, each cried for different reasons.

Mahan, lead pastor at St. Timothy in Charleston, W.Va., said he cried because he realized he would likely leave the denomination in which he had invested 42 years of ministry. For Hill, the openly gay lead pastor at St. Paul-Reformation in St. Paul, they were tears of “joy and relief.”

A year later, the ELCA is moving gay pastors into its fold — it’s now the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. to allow noncelibate gays into its ranks — even as the most visible dissidents strike out on their own.

Mahan and other critics of the decision plan to gather this week in Columbus, Ohio, for another Lutheran convention. Leaders of 18 former ELCA churches were expected to vote Friday, Aug. 27 to create a brand new Lutheran denomination that they claim will follow the Scriptures more faithfully: the North American Lutheran Church.

“The issue is departure from the word of God,” Mahan said. His church has already voted twice to end its longtime identity as a ELCA church, also ending an annual $36,000 in tithing to the denomination.

Meanwhile, Hill will finally join the official roster of ELCA pastors. She was ordained in 2001, but she had been kept off the roster because she lived openly with her lesbian partner, with whom she’d shared a commitment ceremony in 1996. That meant she was not eligible for the full housing allowance and retirement benefits and could not be a voting delegate to churchwide assemblies.

Next month, Hill and two other lesbian pastors will gather to receive the ELCA’s newly designed Rite of Reception and officially join the roster of the St. Paul Synod. The St. Paul bishop will “lay on hands,” Hill said, in a ceremony that is becoming more frequent around the country. Seven gay and transgender pastors were received last month in San Francisco. Similar ceremonies are planned soon in Minneapolis and Chicago.

“At my church there is a sense of great celebration, of people being very happy that our work to make the ELCA a more inclusive place has come to fruition,” Hill said.

Her denomination will be slightly smaller: As of early August, 199 congregations had cleared the hurdles to leave the ELCA for good, while another 136 awaited the second vote needed to make it official. In all there are 10,239 ELCA churches with about 4.5 million members, making it still by far the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S.

And the breakaway members gathering in Ohio will face their own challenges if they vote to start another denomination at a time when attendance at mainline Protestant churches is falling and denominational distinctions appear irrelevant to a growing number of churchgoers.

But pastors in a few churches that plan to join the North American Lutheran Church say there are still good reasons to be part of a larger church body.

“For a lot of congregations and a lot of churchgoers, there is value in a larger Lutheran fellowship,” said the Rev. Mark Braaten, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Tyler, Texas, another charter member of the new denomination.

About 75 percent of the churches that already left the ELCA have affiliated with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ — another, smaller denomination. But the Rev. Mark Chavez, Lutheran CORE’s director, said some Lutherans found that denomination too loosely structured and wanted a choice that retained aspects of the ELCA identity.

Some ELCA refugees have a more bottom-line reason to join a new denomination. Under many church constitutions, congregations that leave the ELCA and try to strike out as a wholly independent church could actually see their ELCA synod council assert legal ownership of their property and church buildings. “People don’t see it as too likely, but it’s not a discussion too many want to have,” Braaten said.

So why go through the hassles — especially when even critics of the ELCA’s more liberalized policy admit that no congregations are likely to be compelled to install a gay pastor?

“I don’t think it’s the issue of whether someone is going to have a gay pastor forced upon their church, as much a question of what a straight pastor is going to be teaching,” said the Rev. David Baer, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Whitewood, S.D., another charter member of the new denomination. “What’s God’s intention for marriage, for sexuality? The concern is the ELCA is trading in its teaching and losing its grounding in scripture and no longer having a moral center.”

Organizers of the new denomination will reveal on Friday its 18 charter churches — a number they hope will grow to 200 or more within a year.

Earlier this month, the ELCA reported a nearly 3 percent drop in total receipts for its congregations from 2008 to 2009, and a decline in membership of 90,850 people. Three times since April 2009, the ELCA’s council cut the denomination’s budget by a total of $17.5 million and eliminated the equivalent of nearly 76 full-time jobs.

ELCA spokesman John Brooks said departures over the new clergy policy played a part in the picture but that the bad economy has also been a major factor in the denomination’s financial struggles.

Hill, who in her early days at the church helped found a ministry for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, said she was disheartened by the departing churches.

“There are some who feel they must leave the ELCA over that,” she said. “I feel sad about that, it’s unfortunate. But to feel you have to leave over the inclusion of your brothers and sisters — that diminishes who we are as the body of Christ.”

—  John Wright