Gay Christian pastor to speak at church

Editor's note: This clarifies what LBGT stands for.

While Christian beliefs and ideas about homosexuality sometimes conflict, in the case of the Rev. Mel White, two worlds unite.

The openly gay pastor — who was a ghostwriter for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson — will be speaking about gay social issues at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach from March 4 to 6.

The author of "Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America" will discuss issues such as gay marriage, gay adoptive rights and hate crimes during the series called "Church, Politics & Church Politics: the Future of LBGT [Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender] Issues."

St. Mark Pastor Gary Collins believes the congregation will find White's discussion particularly relevant because some of its active members are Christian and gay.

"We have a wonderful number of great people who are LGBT," Collins said.

White's ministry, Soulforce, is greatly influenced by the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, according to his website. He promotes pacifism and peaceful resistance, as evidenced by his 1996 arrest while protesting against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Although White once chronicled the lives of prominent right-wing religious leaders, he has expressed disagreement with many of their views.

On his blog, for example, he denounces a pending bill in Uganda that criminalizes homosexuality, citing the fact that gay Ugandan men and women can face life sentences, and, in some cases, the death penalty.

Collins said there's no doubt that White will touch on issues that are of moral and political importance. A theme he might cover, Collins said, is the idea of being an outcast in society.

Jesus was an outcast, he said, and many individuals feel isolated as well as whole groups, such as the LGBT.

Tom Thorkelson, a Newport resident who is the interfaith relations director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Orange County, was supportive of the event and said every church has the freedom to choose its speakers.

"My faith doesn't have any problem with any pastor that Gary Collins wants to have speak at his church," he said.

To Collins, having speakers like White is important as he strives to create a more progressive denomination that open its doors to all people.

Right now, their constitution does not allow LGBT members to be ordained as elders, deacons or ministers. Collins is hoping that legislation will be introduced allowing churches to be able to ordain members regardless of sexual orientation.

"We want to have the right to ordain who we believe is qualified," he said.

White will make a brief appearance during the March 4 service at St. Mark and will speak during two sessions March 5.

For more information, call St. Mark Presbyterian Church at (949) 644-1341.

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