LGBT-Affirming Ministers Stage Service in Stockton, California, After Organizers Nixed 16-Year Tradition to Avoid Praying With GaysÂ
About 75 pro-LGBT Christians staged a makeshift Easter service after homophobes in Stockton, California, canceled a citywide celebration rather than allow gays to attend.
The evangelical Stockton Leadership Foundation nixed the 17th annual Easter Sunrise Service due to controversy over an invitation being sent to the Rev. Terri Miller (photo), a minister who leads Valley Ministries, a predominantly LGBT church.Â
WhenÂ Stockton Police Chaplain Jim Reid, a boardÂ member for the Leadership Foundation, discovered that Miller is gay, he rescinded the invitation, leading to hisÂ termination by the Police Department. Miller's invitation was reinstated, but the foundation ultimately decided to cancel the service, saying itsÂ "transforming message will be overshadowed as a result of the well-publicized clergy invitations."Â
Instead, Miller was joined by eight other LGBT-affirming ministers on Sunday at the downtown waterfront, just outside the building where the Easter Sunrise Service isÂ normally held, The Stockton Record reports.
â€œHarsh endings are often the new beginnings in disguise,â€ Miller said during her sermon, calling for â€œa new era of inclusive faith.â€
Nearby, Stockton resident Gabriel Magana protested the pro-LGBTÂ service with a bullhorn and a sign saying, "HELL IS HORRIBLE NO WARNING IS TOO STRONG."Â
â€œJesus Christ is love. He is also a holy God and he demands righteousness and holiness. This is contrary to what Terri Miller is basically teaching,â€ Magana told the Record.Â
Meanwhile, about two dozen people held a separate service a short distance away. But when pro-LGBT worshipers tried to join them for communion, they were told they weren't welcome, according to Miller.Â
Rev. Robert Klein, of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Stockton, used his sermon to call out theÂ Leadership Foundation for canceling theÂ service.Â
â€œWe are more than ever in need of an Easter that will really change things," he said. "Why do people choose the most divisive readings of every tradition? Why donâ€™t we choose the words that unify, that celebrate love? It is so easy to tear things down with so much rage, so much hate. Didnâ€™t Jesus and Muhammad both preach love? We need the words from every tradition that build up the community.â€Â
Miller told the Record she was "very sad" the city-sanctioned service had been canceled, but didn't commit to organizing another pro-LGBT event next year. Â
â€œThere needs to be some dialogue, and Iâ€™m hoping that we can do that dialogue,â€ Miller said. â€œWe can do better to come under the umbrella of inclusiveness and love. Itâ€™s not about our sexuality. Itâ€™s about having faith and the resurrection."Â
Image: Screenshot via ABC 10 videoÂ