Rev. Ed Bacon

On the third day of her televised “Best Life” week-long series, even Oprah Winfrey was stunned to hear one of her pastor panelists, Rev. Ed Bacon, declare, “Being gay is a gift from God.”

With wide eyes, Winfrey responded, “Well, you are the first minister I’ve ever heard say, ‘Being gay is a gift from God,’ I can tell you that.”

The comment was made earlier this month on the “Your Spiritual Journey” segment of Winfrey’s “Best Life Week” by Rev. Bacon of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., a church described by Pasadena Weekly as “one of the most socially progressive religious institutions in America.”

The comment was so controversial that Winfrey invited Bacon back four days later via video link to explain himself.

“Tell us, what did you mean by that comment?” Winfrey asked.

“I meant exactly what I said,” Bacon responded with a wide smile. “It is so important for every human being to understand that he or she is a gift from God, and particularly people who are marginalized and victimized in our culture. Gay and lesbian people are clearly outcasts in many areas of our life, and it is so important for them to understand that when God made them, God said, ‘You are good.'”

The video of both Bacon’s original statement and his follow-up interview with Winfrey can be seen below:

During the original broadcast, Bacon’s comment was applauded by another member of Winfrey’s panel, Michael Bernard Beckwith, founder and spiritual director of Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, who agreed and gave a high-five to Bacon.

“You … you are the first two ministers I have ever heard say, ‘Being gay is a gift from God,'” said Winfrey.

As Winfrey explains on the video above, however, Rev. Bacon’s comment – and Beckwith’s agreement – generated a massive viewer response.

“You don’t know how freeing it felt to hear that statement, and I was sure any gay person that heard it was in awe,” one of Winfrey’s Internet message board writers reportedly responded. “I want to thank both of them for letting my heart lift up and feel like something in this life, not an abomination.”

“On today’s show,” another viewer commented, “I was appalled by the pastor’s remark that being gay is a gift from God. How many gay people did this man of the cloth lead down the wrong road with his comment?”

Rev. Bacon, as well, confessed that he received an avalanche of e-mail and voice mail response, which he says was 30-to-1 appreciative of his comment.

“What I gather is that [the comment] simply unleashed a flood of healing throughout the country,” Bacon said. “People were talking about their hearts being healed, and their hearts leaping.”

Bacon also acknowledged that he received criticism over the remark.

“Ironically,” Bacon said, “the most meanspirited e-mail I received was from Christians who interpret the Bible – from my perspective – in a condemning way.”

Bacon further explained that he perceives some Christians use the Bible to condemn people, while others use it to love.

“Everyone has to make a decision about how they use the Bible, if they’re biblically oriented like I am,” Bacon said. “You have to take the orientation of compassion and inclusion to the Bible, or you’re going to have to use it as a way to beat people up and condemn them and judge them.”

Bacon further addressed the issue at All Saints Episcopal Church the Sunday between his two appearances on Winfrey’s program.

Referring to critical e-mail received after his remark, Bacon said from his church’s pulpit, “Some of it is the most vitriolic stuff I have ever read, calling for the rescission of my ordination, saying I didn’t know what I was talking about and saying, ‘Show me where in the Bible it says that being gay is a gift from God.'”

To the last challenge, Bacon replied, “Well, if those folks would read the Bible, they would see that in Genesis it says that when God created humankind, God said that we are good – all good, didn’t mention any exceptions.”

A video of Bacon’s pulpit comments, made available by All Saints Church, can be seen below:

Rev. Susan Russell, associate pastor at All Saints, further backed Rev. Bacon and his comments.

“We take for granted that a message of toleration and inclusion is what God’s message is about, but a lot of people have never heard this,” Russell told Pasadena Weekly. “What I find so wonderful is that Ed Bacon [is] able to use this national stage for an inclusive message about the love of God.”

She continued, “Ed said he meant that we’re all created in God’s image. We invite those who thank us to come see us, and we explain the background of our positions to those who disagree. We think it’s an opportunity for dialogue even with those who think we’ll burn in the lake of fire.”

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