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Gay Issues Split Church Coalition

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Three congregations in Kalamazoo, Mich., are pulling out of an ecumenical ministry that serves meals to the poor because they deem the host church too liberal on gay issues -- its pastor publicly supported the city's gay rights ordinance, recently upheld by voters.

Centerpoint Church has already left Martha's Table, a group of eight churches providing Sunday services and meals for the needy at First Congregational Church, and Agape Christian Church, and Word for Life Church of God plan to do so at year end, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported Wednesday.

First Congregational pastor Matt Laney (pictured), who spoke out in favor of the gay rights measure passed by the Kalamazoo city commission a year ago and upheld by voters last month, said the three departing congregations have made it clear they don't want to be "guilty by association" with his church and its acceptance of LGBT people. "It's incredibly disappointing," Laney said.

He said the five churches remaining in Martha's Table plan to continue the ministry's work, and he is trying to recruit other churches to join.

Agape senior pastor Ron Vestrand confirmed to the Gazette that gay issues were at the heart of the split. "We felt that Matt's stance on homosexuality as a valid Christian lifestyle violated our biblical worldview," he said.

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