THE GOSHEN NEWS
For nearly two months now, the undercurrent of gay-straight relations in our community has flowed steadily through the pages of this newspaper. It began May 19 on the Religion page when Pastor Andrew Wollman, contributed a Pastor’s Pen column titled “Disobey the president on gay marriage.” Wollman, who guides the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on C.R. 18, believes homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals will be damned to hell unless they repent their sin through Jesus Christ.
These divisive waters swelled again on June 23 when Pastor Karl Shelly contributed a Pastor’s Pen column titled “Gay equality part of Christian theology, ethics.” Shelly, who is co-pastor of Assembly Mennonite Church, believes sentiment toward homosexuality has shifted in recent decades and that Christians should be more accepting.
Since Shelly’s column ran, The Goshen News has published 15 letters to the editor on the topic. Several other letters were submitted but were not published because they exceeded the paper’s word-count policy of 300 words or fewer. A majority of the letter writers agreed wholeheartedly with Wollman’s point of view. A few sided with Shelly, proclaiming his stance as a “breath of fresh air.” It is clear that homosexuality is as polarizing a topic in our community as it is everywhere else in our country.
Therefore, we decided to put together a two-day series, beginning today, examining the differences in opinion regarding homosexuality and religion. This series is not meant to change minds, challenge beliefs or advocate one position over another. The objective is to facilitate a civil and respectful conversation on a matter that quite often elicits tremendous passion and rigid argument. Our goal is promote an understanding within our diverse community that is steeped in mutual respect.
We would like to thank pastors Wollman and Shelly for graciously participating in this dialogue. Each pastor contributed their time and insight, and each thoughtfully answered our questions, furthering the understanding of this complex topic beyond what we even envisioned.
It is this type of understanding that allows us to coexist in this great community despite our differences regarding religions, faith or lifestyle choices.
It was nearly three years ago when Eric Kanagy, an openly gay Goshen businessman, helped champion equal rights for gays through a crusade to amend the city’s civil rights ordinance. That request was eventually denied by a 4-3 vote of the City Council. During city elections last fall, local Republicans felt the prospect of gay rights in Goshen was a legitimate issue to fight and campaigned accordingly. Again, it is clear to us that this social issue matters to our residents when they go to their sanctuaries and to their voting booths.
What matters to us is that you read this series with understanding and respect in your heart and remember that someone else’s beliefs are just as important to them as your beliefs are to you.