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Last week in WorldNetDaily, I recounted my reasons for hosting our
anti-violence summit in Lynchburg, Va. This week, now that the dust has
settled on this greatly-watched event, I want to present the remarks I
made at this closed-door meeting between 200 conservative Christians and
200 homosexual-rights advocates. Needless to say, there was a great deal
of trepidation regarding this event because nothing like it had ever
been attempted.

I decided to reveal my comments to you because my speech outlines
many of our ministry outreaches — here in Lynchburg and across the
nation. I hope this speech serves as a sort of introduction to those of
you who are not fully familiar with my ministry. My speech follows:

This is one of the most unlikely gatherings of our times. In fact, it
is probably unprecedented to convene a meeting of 400 gay and lesbian
activists and evangelical Christians for the purpose of creating good. I
welcome my friend Mel White and those of you who have journeyed with him
to Lynchburg this weekend. Thank you for coming to Thomas Road Baptist
Church.

Why are we here today? I doubt there is anyone here or elsewhere who
knows anything about me who thinks that by meeting with 200 gays and
lesbians, I have suddenly changed my belief that homosexuality is
Scripturally wrong — that it is sin. Indeed I have not. But we are not
here today to debate homosexuality, as our views are clearly and equally
divided in this room on that subject.

The Memory of 100

We are here because seven Christian young people were shot and killed
in cold blood at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, several
weeks ago.

We are here because of the senseless shootings of students at
Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., earlier this year, most of
whom were apparently evangelical Christians, such as Cassie Bernall, who
was shot after answering at rifle-point, “Yes, I believe in God.”

We’re here because two persons full of hate in a Wyoming bar decided
to torture and kill a young gay man, Matthew Shepard. We are here
because, in February, Billy Jack Gaither of Alabama was bludgeoned to
death with an ax handle by two men who got tired of him being gay.

We are here because innocent people of various religious faiths,
racial and ethnic groups, and sexual preferences have increasingly had
their lives abruptly and violently ended by people with opposing views
and beliefs in recent months and years.

Today, we have made this room in our church a memorial and a rostrum.
It is a memorial to the 100 human beings whose pictures hang on the
walls of this room and the sanctuary next door. All of them have been
violently killed in 1999 because someone did not like their faith, their
color, or their lifestyle. It is a rostrum from which we speak to our
respective communities and to all who would hear our words. We will
state our precepts as clearly as possible:

It is wrong to hate homosexuals; and those who lift a violent hand
against them invite the wrath of God upon themselves. Reciprocally, it
is wrong for homosexuals to hate Christians or others who believe
homosexuality to be a sin. It is doubly shameful to aim violent and
destructive actions at these believers.

Here today, we commit ourselves to reducing the hostility in our
culture against gays and lesbians, against evangelical Christians, and
against anyone on the basis of faith, color, and creed. We invoke the
memory of the 100. Through our words and actions may we give additional
meaning to their senseless deaths.

To Hate is Human; to Love Divine

Animosity between people who are different is unfortunately a deeply
human tendency. Unchecked, this natural aversion can degrade to hatred
and violence. It is perhaps the most visible evil of modern times. Can
anyone argue otherwise at the end of the 20th century, the century of
mass graves and ethnic cleansing?

We can restrain and reverse this hatred through greater contact, a
commitment to understanding, a check on our own pride, and ultimately,
by God’s grace. It is unlikely that we can love those who are different
than us in this very room without both extraordinary effort and, far
more importantly, the supernatural hand of God. God does not condone our
sin. But, He does reach out to us with His love, not where we ought to
be, but where we are.

Deep Conviction

I have deep convictions about homosexuality. Mel White has never
asked me to refrain from preaching what I believe, that the Bible
describes the practice of homosexuality as a sin against God. I could
not even if he had asked. And I contend that a pastor should be
permitted to preach the whole counsel of God without being labeled and
targeted as a bigot.

With that said, I also believe my role as a pastor is to help
followers of Jesus Christ to develop a spiritual balance that enables
them to hate sin while genuinely loving sinners — for it is for sinners
like you and me that Christ died 2,000 years ago.

By the way, let me clarify that there aren’t 200 sinners in this
room, there are 400. While my convictions are firm, so too is my
commitment to take greater care in my characterizations and criticisms
of the homosexual community. I have agreed that my staff and I will be
vigilant in assuring that we do not make statements that can be
construed as sanctioning hate or antagonism against homosexuals.

God has called me to be a minister to my fellow man and I cannot do
that from a perspective of selective rejection and condemnation. I must
share God’s grace and forgiveness to all men.

The Excesses in our Communities

Sadly, there are those in the religious world who commit heinous acts
in the name of Christ. Some of them have traveled here to parade their
campaign of hate in Lynchburg this weekend simply because we are having
this meeting.

Others have burned crosses in lawns of black families and burned
entire black churches to the ground.

Still others have bombed abortion clinics or killed homosexuals. May
God save us from those kinds of un-Christian attitudes and actions. They
are an abomination to Almighty God and we must call it such when we see
it.

Then too, there are radical and violent homosexual groups, which I’m
glad to say Mel White has never been a part of.

These groups have desecrated places of worship like St. Patrick’s
Cathedral, mailed containers of “AIDS-infected urine” to my office with
written threats of physical harm, and stormed and disrupted meetings
where I was speaking. They have carried out other hateful acts toward
people of faith just because these people honestly believe homosexuality
is wrong. We should also join in condemning this kind of behavior.

There simply is too much hate on both sides of the debate on
homosexuality. It must be curbed: First, because hatred is a sin; and
second, because hatred too often leads to violence. Such violence must
stop, and reasonable people on both sides must speak out and say so.

Words Lead to Actions

Often the hateful actions of various groups and individuals begin
with reckless and dangerous language. We acknowledge that words can lead
to actions, intended for good or evil. Our words must compel love, not
hate.

The Bible commands us in Romans 13:8-10 to “love one another; for he
that loveth another hath fulfilled the law … and if there be any other
commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, that
thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his
neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Anglican pastor John Stott wrote recently, “If homosexuals cannot be
loved in the church, where are they to go for what only the church can
offer? As unpleasant as this debate may be to some, the church is called
to express faith by accepting God’s standards and His grace, to share
hope, to look past the suffering of this present world, and to show love
in a supporting and caring way.”

Actions Validate Words

We agree that any kind of hate or violence aimed at people with whom
we disagree is wrong, regardless of the legitimacy of the cause. We want
to state this clearly, and also do something about it.

As Christians, we believe that healing comes not only from the
absence of hate but from the presence of love. Many of us pastors like
to talk about loving the sinner but hating the sin, as I have already
mentioned.

Unfortunately, that statement has often become a meaningless cliché.
While we may not always be guilty of hating the sinner, we too often
fall short of the mark of hating the sin but truly loving the sinner.

Those of us who have strong convictions about sexual sin — and I
believe the Bible considers all sex outside of a marriage bond
between a man and a woman sin — should daily examine our own lives in
light of the fact that the Bible also deals harshly with the sins of
pride, hypocrisy, and hate.

We, as evangelicals, would do well to demonstrate more of what I
would call compassionate conviction. Compassionate conviction includes
three elements: First, we hold firmly to historic biblical truths that
remain unchanged with time. Second, we express our views — even our
attempts to persuade — with respect and kindness. And third, we take
action to demonstrate our care and compassion for those who disagree
with our views.

We commit ourselves and call today for evangelicals to embrace
compassionate conviction. Those on the right should not misconstrue our
compassion as compromise, and those on the left should not equate our
conviction with intolerance. There is plenty of room, and need, in our
society for both our convictions and our compassion.

My relationship with my own three children illustrates this concept.
I have often been asked by reporters and critics, “What would you do if
your daughter came home one day and told you she was pregnant out of
wedlock or even had an abortion?” Or, “what if one of your sons informed
you that he was homosexual?”

As firm as my beliefs and convictions are on these two subjects,
these are easy questions to answer.

I have said publicly for years that if I learned my daughter was
having an abortion or that my son was homosexual, it would be at that
time, more than ever, that my children would need to know and feel my
unconditional love for them. Yet sadly, many parents, even pastors, have
rejected their children, even putting them out of their home, at just
such difficult times.

That is why, nearly 18 years ago we started the Liberty Godparent
Home for unwed mothers. Many young girls were being thrown out of their
homes because they were pregnant and many of them were children of
evangelical pastors who had rejected them just when they needed their
parents’ love most. That is just wrong. I have said for 37 years that
there is nothing my children could ever do that would cause me to
withhold my love from them.

I have preached about the evils of pornography my entire public
ministry but most of you know of my relationship with Larry Flynt and
others like him. I have reached out to him in Christian love without
compromising any of my convictions that what he is doing is wrong.

I have also preached against alcohol and drug-addiction most of my
life, yet our church operates the Elim Home for Alcohol and
Drug-Addicted Men here in Lynchburg where we, in love, give men who have
given in to the power of alcohol and drugs in their lives a second and
third and fourth chance. These men know of my beliefs and convictions,
and they know of my love (and God’s love) for them at the same time.

Although our guests would disagree with the characterization of
homosexuality in the same context with pre-marital sex, pornography, and
alcoholism — again we agree to disagree — nonetheless it is incumbent
on me, in the demonstration of consistent, compassionate conviction, to
back my words with action. That is why we are here today. That is why
this ministry has provided, through the years, free counseling to gays
and lesbians who seek it.

As Christians, we must show this kind of love to people everywhere
that believe and live differently than we do. It is possible with God’s
help.

So what can we do about all of this? Let me propose several things.

  1. Let each of us search our own hearts for any evidence of
    hate toward any people. If we find any, let us ask first for God’s
    forgiveness, and then for the forgiveness of the ones we have hated.

  2. Let us seek to balance our convictions with grace and compassion
    for those who don’t share those convictions.

  3. Let us quickly condemn any and all violence aimed at homosexuals,
    evangelicals, racial and ethnic minorities, or anyone.

  4. Parents, above anyone else, must reach out in love to their
    children when they are living contrary to the beliefs of the parent.

  5. I will firmly tell those who say I should not be in the same room
    with 200 homosexuals that they are wrong. And I would encourage Mel
    White to tell those who say he should not be showing respect for Jerry
    Falwell — because I believe and preach that homosexuality is a sin –
    that they are wrong.

  6. We have agreed that this will not be the last meeting of this
    kind. We must continue to dialogue, to listen to others, and more
    importantly, to demonstrate the love of Christ to all mankind.

We remember these 100 victims pictured here today, and we
see in our mind’s eye the thousands who will follow them if we allow the
voices of hate to prevail. We must contend with evil, but we will not
fight evil with evil, but with good.

Ultimately, the only eternal hope for all of us — heterosexual or
homosexual — is a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through
His death, burial and resurrection in our behalf. And in so saying, I
will be ever mindful to preach this message with a heart of love and not
condemnation for Mel White and other homosexuals in our nation.

I well remember the challenge this church and pastor faced in the
’50s and ’60s when we were able to overcome the challenge of segregation
and racism, and I believe, set the trend for many in the evangelical
church world.

I well remember how this church and pastor led the way for political
and moral involvement in America during the ’70s and ’80s, during the
Moral Majority era. Now, as we face the new millennium, this same church
and pastor are charged with building a loving and biblical outreach and
friendship with the homosexual community.

It is quite different from the two earlier challenges.

We believe the homosexual lifestyle is wrong. But, we are commanded
by Christ to love our neighbors and make very clear to the world from
henceforth that we love the sinner even more than we hate the sin.

Today, as followers of Jesus Christ, we extend our hand of
friendship, we seek understanding, we commit to care, and we resolve to
love.


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