You don’t have to choose between faith and sexual identity

Pastor Keith Ogden is entitled to his opinions of my LGBTQ brothers, sisters and otherwise-gendered siblings, outlined in his March 27 letter, “What's Next, Polygamy Benefits?” I welcome the fact that the Xpress provides a forum in which such freedom of speech is permitted, even when the views expressed are so offensive, and when their expression could be so potentially harmful.

Eminent theologians and Christian activists from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Wendell Berry affirm that LGBTQ people are made in the image of God, too, worthy of love, too, and the kaleidoscopic manifestation of human diversity exemplified by the existence of variations in sexual identity may itself be a beautiful symbol of divine love.

As a Christian I want to affirm, respect and celebrate with the LGBTQ community. As a Christian leader I want to take responsibility for my share in the ill consequences of the kind of bad theology and church practice that has dehumanized difference. And as a grateful Asheville resident I want to do my part to ensure that people know there are spiritual communities and, yes, Christian churches locally that not only seek to affirm, respect and celebrate with, but whose leadership includes LGBTQ people. You don't have to choose between your faith and your sexual identity, and you don't have to give up your dignity as an LGBTQ person if you want to be part of a faith community in Asheville.

Our brothers and sisters who hang on to homophobic theology and practices — including invoking the notion that Asheville is turning into Sodom — might consider that the Bible itself speaks of the sin of Sodom as being inhospitable to God. Gay sex has nothing to do with it. Sodom is the place where people reject the offer of love and respond to difference by exiling it — or worse.

And if you are one of the people hurt, offended, or dehumanized by Pastor Ogden's letter, I'm sorry. You are not alone. And the letter didn't come from God.

— Gareth Higgins
Asheville

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