Christian Group Calls for Non-discrimination Law to be Upheld
Conservative Christians who favor Springfield’s non-discrimination ordinance are asking fellow followers of Christ to “choose the way of love” on April 7, and vote not to repeal the measure.
Four citizens with deep religious ties shared why they think the bill expanding discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity should be upheld. It was the latest effort by the No Repeal campaign, which has also gathered large support from area businesses.
John Cremeans is an evangelical pastor with The Commons, a nondenominational church in Springfield, who says his worldview changed when his son came out.
“I always wondered and suspected, and if I’m honest back then was afraid. And when he did come out, that just launched us all on a journey just of understanding. [It] changed our perspective on a lot of things.”
Ivy Schulte, a self-described Jesus follower and once aspiring pastor, talked about hiding her seven-year relationship with another woman for fear of judgment by those closest to her. After it ended, she told her pastor.
“And instead of being listened to, or cared for, or shown love, or grace, or understanding; all the things that Jesus stands for, I didn’t get any of that.”
Schulte says she was forced from the church.
“Though the church failed me, Jesus never failed me,” she said.
Now a member of The Commons, where Cremeans is pastor, Schulte says while her fellow congregates may not agree with everything she does “they love me anyways.”
For Randy Cathcart, who grew up in Springfield and for a time served as an Assemblies of God pastor in Utah, he sought for years ways to dissuade his attraction to men.
“I did everything I knew to do to try to bring about the change that I believed God wanted from me,” said Cathcart.
He believed being gay made him the object of God’s wrath, but was later led to believe he was merely fighting God’s agenda for him.
“And so I stopped making my [sexual orientation] change my conversation with God, and I started letting him speak to me; unconditional love, unconditional love, unconditional love. Until over time I discovered he loved me as I was. As a gay man, who loved him,” Cathcart said.
“It has nothing to do with God’s approval of them as a human being or his love for them. And my love for them is exactly the same as well,” Morrow said.
Calvin Morrow is spokesperson for the Yes on Question 1 committee, which is advocating for repeal of the ordinance.
“When you get away from the scriptures and you interpret it from the emotional or you interpret it from preference perspectives, then we could go all over the place from that.”
He says the religious ideas and sentiments of ordinance proponents are “very fringe,” and do not represent mainstream Christianity.
In a recent sermon, the leader of the roughly 12,000-member James River Church, the Rev. John Lindell, repeatedly referenced homosexuality as sinful and encouraged his congregation to vote yes for the repeal.
James River Church was among many churches presented the referendum petition that ultimately was certified and sent to the ballot.
Morrow estimates based on his communications that over 100 area churches support a repeal, many of which are “absolutely” preaching for members to vote as such.
He adds that many, what he calls traditional Christians, are “terrified” to come out in favor of the repeal, saying they’ll get “tarred and feathered in the press.” Morrow adds that has made it difficult to get businesspeople with the same view to speak out on the issue.
John Cremeans, pastor at The Commons, says he is not speaking on behalf of his church or members, but does support the rights of other churches to have that dialogue. He adds that most people don’t know anyone in the LGBT community, let along love anyone. Cremeans believes that at some point, opponents may come to know or love a gay, lesbian or transgender person.
“And when that happens it just has a way of putting a different context on how you deliver a message, how welcoming you are.”
Voters will be asked whether the city of Springfield shall repeal the ordinance. A "no" vote keeps the ordinance and a "yes" vote repeals it.