Gay Church's Participation Leads to Cancellation of Citywide Easter Service
Organizers of a citywide Easter celebration in Stockton, California, have canceled this year's event, due to a controversy over an LGBT-affirming church's participation.
Earlier this year, Easter Sunrise Service organizer and Stockton Police Chaplain Jim Reid (photo, front right) invited the Rev. Terri Miller, who leads Valley Ministries church, to attend the 17th annual event.
But Reid retracted Miller's invitation after learning that Valley Ministries is a predominantly LGBT church. In an email to Miller from his city account, Reid explained that "we are diametrically different in our view of scripture when it comes to homosexuality.”
Reid's email led to him being placed on leave by the Stockton Police Department, then fired. The head of the Stockton Leadership Foundation, which organizes the service, re-invited Miller, and she planned to attend with her wife.
On Tuesday, however, the Stockton Leadership Foundation called off this year's the event, saying the Easter service's "transforming message will be overshadowed as a result of the well-publicized clergy invitations," according to Fox Channel 40.
Reid, who's still on the foundation's board, told The Stockton Record that Valley Ministries' participation would have created “a media frenzy at this year's event."
“I felt it would defeat the purpose of having it,” Reid said. “I didn’t think it would bring glory and honor to God. I was in favor of canceling.”
Miller told the Record she was "very, very sad" about the decision.
“It’s just disheartening to me that here these folks claim to be Christians … and are squandering this opportunity because of some perceived differences instead of uniting under the banner of what this day is supposed to mean," Miller said.
"This is based on fear and not on grace and love," Miller told Channel 40. "It'd be great if we could have truly a citywide Easter service. Where when you use the label citywide, it should mean everybody."
This is the second time in less than a year that an LGBT-related controversy has rocked Stockton, a city of 300,000 situated 80 miles east of San Francisco.
Last July, Lt. Toby Will was placed on leave by the Police Department after he used his title in a letter to the editor responding the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. In the letter, Will called homosexuality "vile and sinful" and said the ruling would lead to God's destruction of America.
Image: Jim Reid at Stockton Leadership Foundation's 2013 Easter Sunrise Service, via Facebook