Tacoma church groups split on antigay initiative

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com October 22 2002 11:00 PM ET

An initiative to repeal Tacoma, Wash.'s gay rights law is dividing the city's religious community. The Tacoma Ministerial Alliance, a predominantly black group of 35 ministers, supports the initiative to repeal the gay rights ordinance because its members believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sinful. The Associated Ministries of Tacoma-Pierce County, a group of about 200 congregations, opposes the initiative because it believes the Bible teaches that discrimination is wrong. In April the Tacoma city council approved an ordinance banning discrimination against gays, lesbians, transvestites, and people who undergo sex changes. Initiative 1 would repeal the ordinance.

"I know that discrimination is wrong," said the Reverend Gregory Christopher, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church and a member of both ministerial groups. "But I believe that the Bible teaches we have a choice whether we're going to be heterosexual or homosexual." The Reverend Charlie Price, pastor of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Tacoma Ministerial Alliance, believes the Bible says homosexuality is "sexual deviance." The Ministerial Alliance fought the ordinance before it was enacted and helped gather petition signatures to put the initiative on the ballot. "I don't hate the person," Price said. "I just hate what they're doing because of the principles of God. That's deviant behavior."

The Reverend David Alger, executive director of Associated Ministries, said that while many of the group's member churches also believe homosexuality is a sin, they feel more strongly that discrimination is wrong. "We're simply saying a person should not be denied any civil rights based on their sexual orientation," Alger said. Other ministers see biblical precedent for their support of Tacoma's gay rights law. "At the heart of the gospel, Jesus is breaking down rules of discrimination," said the Reverend Paul Galbreath, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church.