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Letter to the Editor: Standing in solidarity

To the Editor:

I would like to respond to views expressed in recent advertisements run by Gregg Harris in Our Town. I am not writing to start a debate with anyone nor to criticize how this paper does business. Rather, I am writing as a community member and local pastor. 

Though there are perhaps many areas where Mr. Harris and I disagree, I am most troubled by a recent advertisement in which he expressed that while he doesn’t hate people in the LGBTQ+ community, he does believe that they are going to Hell for being queer. 

Having been raised in conservative, evangelical churches, this view did not surprise me. However, I have come to see this belief as dangerous and wrong, one with which I can no longer agree. I’d like to express an alternative viewpoint, as a follower of Jesus. I wish to stand in solidarity with the wonderful LGBTQ+ people in my life, and in our town.

Queer people exist. Queerness exists in nature. Queerness exists in the kingdom of God. Much of what has been taught and used to oppress LGBTQ+ people in our churches is groundless and more rooted in bigotry than in the Bible. There are currently many well-researched books on this issue that provide alternative views, and an honest study can easily be undertaken.

When you accept that God made queer people as they are, and that queerness isn’t a choice, you open yourself up to having real relationships with people in the LGBTQ+ community. In the eight years since I began consciously rejecting the homophobia of my evangelical roots, my life has been greatly enriched. I’ve had people whom I’ve known for years come out to me and I’ve been able to celebrate with them, humbly receiving the honor of their trust. Befriending trans and nonbinary people, who have made the courageous decision to be true to who they were born to be, despite the violence of our society, has taught me so much about being my fullest self. The examples of my queer friends invite me daily to live with authenticity, compassion, and joy. The only side effect of shifting my religious beliefs has been that my life is now more full of love.

To churchgoers: I invite us to honestly reflect on the ways that our beliefs can harm the people in our lives. There are more LGBTQ+ people in our families and among our friends than we may realize, they deserve to be accepted and loved.

And to our LGBTQ+ community, I’m sorry for how the church continues to treat you. You deserve much better than what you’ve received. Please know, there are those in Silverton’s faith community who think in a manner that is very different than that expressed by the ads in Our Town.

Pastor John Friedrick
Oak Street Church

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