Darrell Todd Maurina
Llano Estacado Community Church of Portales is sponsoring a different kind of Bible study: an open discussion inviting the community to reconsider what the Bible teaches about homosexuality.
“Obviously the main purpose of doing this is to help the outreach of our church and to allow the good news of the gospel to come through,” said the Rev. Christopher George, pastor of the congregation. “For a lot of our community, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning community, the Bible is no longer good news because of the way it is being used. It is basically bad news.”
The study series is open to church members and non-members, and will meet on four Sunday afternoons in January and February, beginning this Sunday with a review of Genesis 19:1-25, the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. George said that passage and five others have been misunderstood over the years as a condemnation of homosexuality, and he wants to explain why he believes the passages shouldn’t be understood in that way.
“The main purpose for the workshop is to educate people and be a mission to challenge those concepts that have been passed down from generation to generation,” George said. “We’re dealing with a lot of myth.”
Deacon Tino Cordova of Clovis said he is happy his pastor is trying to explain the church’s theological views to the community.
“I believe a lot of people believe that the law in Leviticus still applies today and they have not read the New Testament in Romans that we are all saved by the grace of Jesus Christ,” Cordova said. “If they actually read the Bible, Jesus never condemned homosexuality; he never even really mentioned it.”
While acknowledging that three New Testament passages have traditionally been seen as condemning homosexuality, Cordova said readers need to take a closer look at them as well.
“Some of these were mistranslated in the beginning,” Cordova said. “Some of the letters thought to be written by Paul were actually not written by Paul but rather by his followers after he died and a lot of people do not know this.”
“I believe organized religion misconstrues that the Bible was given down by an angel and that is not so,” Cordova said. “It was written by men and some people believe it was written for men, and that’s where discrimination against women comes in, and not just women but also homosexuals and different ethnic groups.”
George said he’s offered the discussion series at other churches in the past, but grew up as an Anglican in England and Canada and said he didn’t know how people would react in a deeply conservative part of the United States.
“A lot of mainline biblical scholars are in agreement that these scriptures do not say what people think they say. Hopefully we will become a vehicle for discussion,” George said. “In the Portales and Clovis areas we have sent out brochures to some of the mainline churches and invited them to attend.
“I don’t know what to expect,” George said. “I might get some adverse reaction from some people coming, protests, but I don’t know. We’ll find out and deal with it when it comes.”
Cordova grew up in the Southwest and said he understands that many people will disagree.
“I believe we’re slowly trying to get the community changed around. We’re trying to get them to think with an open mind and to have an open heart,” Cordova said. “I know it’s very slow in a rural community to get people to think about it and change their minds, but if we begin to educate people we will have a greater impact that way.”
Llano Estacado Community Church is currently independent but is in the process of affiliating with George’s denomination, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. George said a denominational official will be coming to Portales later in January to review the church’s application, and one of the items on which the church will be evaluated is how effectively it reaches out to the community.
“There are certain criteria the church has to meet — producing a budget, being able to support at least a part-time pastor, developing a program of outreach — and this is part of the program of reaching out and instructing,” George said.