What Happened When My Brother, Rev. Dr. Steve Ayers, Baptized A Gay Couple

 

 

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My brother, Rev. Dr. Steve Ayers, pastor of McGill Baptist in Concord, North Carolina, is a hero of mine.  He’s a hero for many reasons, but no reason more than his actions related to LGBT equality many years before the gay rights movement took off.

When a gay couple asked to be baptized at McGill Baptist my brother did not think twice. As Steve told reporters, “When people ask to be baptized, we don’t ask them about their sexual orientation.”

Negative reactions to the baptism of the two gay men were immediate and harsh.  Seventeen families withdrew from McGill Baptist. Keep in mind, the church had just built a new building and losing that number of people and that amount of income was a testament to the church’s willingness to do the right thing at high costs.  The North Carolina State Baptist Convention and the local Baptist Association also kicked the church out.  A group named Save America protested at the boundary of the church’s property for over a year.  In one instance, protesters disrupted worship calling the church “a den of iniquity”.  A person who did not respond to the police requests to leave had to be tasered.  Can you imagine being the pastor of a church that was protested every Sunday for over a year?

My brother is a hero, as are all clergy who work for peace and justice, particularly those who, like my brother, provide the largest income for their family.  My brother’s wife, Jan, worked as a librarian for a public school.  We all know how much public school personnel are valued/paid.  When your family’s main income is on the line it takes a lot of courage to follow the way of Jesus.

I hope you are lucky enough to have brothers (siblings) like I have.

Needed: Virtual Church and House Churches for LGBT Christians Who Live In Rural Areas

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For years I have been aware of a great need on the part of LGBT Christians who live in rural areas of the United States.  Several times a year I will get a phone call, Facebook message, or email asking me of a church similar to the one I serve as pastor that the person can attend in the individual’s area.  Invariably, the person lives in rural America and I have no good news to share with the LGBT Christian about such a congregation.

This past weekend Charlotte (North Carolina) Pride has its annual festival.  The turnout was incredible, 115,000 to 120,000 people.  Wedgewood shared a booth with several United Church of Christ churches.  Interestingly, a good number of the people with whom I talked were not from the Charlotte area.   Some were from rural towns about an hour away from Charlotte.  These individuals have no churches in their area to which they can go and be fully accepted and welcomed.  There are no congregations in their vicinity which recognize that one’s sexual orientation and gender identity are gifts from God and have nothing whatsoever to do with sin.

My wife and I encouraged such individuals to, at a minimum, make a monthly drive to Charlotte to participate in a LGBT welcoming and affirming faith community.  This is not a solution, though.  Such LGBT Christians must have more support.  Don’t hold your breath for welcoming and affirming congregations to form in their area any time soon.

A virtual church is not a solution, but welcoming and affirming denominations need to fund a virtual church for LGBT Christians and LGBT allies who live in rural areas.  A virtual church can be part of a response.

It wouldn’t hurt either for the encouragement of the formation of some house churches.  The early church had some house churches. It’s an old idea that should be given serious thought.