Pennsylvania minister upsets gays at 9/11 service

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com September 16 2002 11:00 PM ET

An official with the Greater Bethlehem Area Council of Churches in Pennsylvania said Friday that the governing board will discuss a Baptist minister's comment that angered gays and lesbians at a September 11 ecumenical service, according to The [Allentown, Pa.] Morning Call. William Cauller, president of the council's board, declined to say, however, if the council would denounce the remark, saying instead that he wanted to talk with the council's executive director before making a public comment on the remark in which the minister linked last year's terrorist attacks to same-sex marriages.

About a dozen gays and lesbians said they walked out of Wednesday's service after the Reverend Marshall Griffin of St. Paul's Baptist Church of Bethlehem made the antigay remark during the service. Griffin said his comments were in response to questions about where God was during the 2001 terrorist attacks. Griffin said he then asked, "Where were you when God needed you, when prayer was taken out of schools and we started allowing same-sex marriages?"

Members of the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley requested a statement of regret from religious leaders and a statement of intention that the council does not accept Griffin's intolerance. On Saturday the Reverend Elizabeth Goudy of the Metropolitan Community Church, which is also in Bethlehem, said she had received no formal statement.

Not all Baptists agree with such opinions, said Richard Schramm, a spokesman for American Baptist Churches USA, headquartered in Valley Forge. He said Baptists stress local autonomy of the church and encourage everyone--not just clergy--to interpret the Bible. That leads to a wide spectrum of views. "I think that to make a link between the terrorist attacks and same-sex marriages is a quantum leap," Schramm said.