UMAction Briefing HomepageMark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy


Mark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy
March 29, 1999


The Association for Church Renewal (ACR) is calling upon the secular news media not to lavish undeserved attention upon an extremist pastor who advocates hatred of homosexuals. The ACR is a coalition of evangelical renewal leaders and executives within mainline Protestant denominations, including the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Episcopal Church, American Baptist Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the United Church of Christ. The following is their statement:

The Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas has become a merit-less focus of media attention because of his very public demonstrations against persons or organizations he perceives to be pro-homosexuality. Rev. Phelps and his followers loudly proclaim that God "hates" homosexuals. Most recently Phelps has appeared in the limelight because of his demonstration at Matthew Shepard’s funeral and against two United Methodist ceremonies celebrating same-sex unions, in defiance of their own denomination’s teaching. Rev. Phelps has also demonstrated at the funerals of Sonny Bono, Frank Sinatra, Barry Goldwater, and Bill Clinton’s mother. In his view, all were complicit in promoting homosexuality. Phelps once demonstrated against the Rev. Jerry Falwell because Falwell had said God loves homosexuals. And Rev. Phelps has demonstrated against conservative religious schools such as Bob Jones University and Oral Roberts University. Phelps denounces religious conservatives for refusing to endorse his erroneous message of divine hatred for all homosexuals.

Phelps is not affiliated with any denomination and his small congregation appears to include mostly family members. His nationwide demonstrations, although vocal, typically comprise no more than 20 persons who are Phelps’ children, grandchildren or in-laws. The Phelps organization is largely a clan, not a church, and certainly is not a national organization.

As renewal leaders in mainline denominations, we strongly affirm the Scripture’s celebration of marriage between man and woman as the only proper context for sexual expression. We are also mindful of the Bible’s admonition to love all persons, and to offer God’s invitation to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to all persons. We believe the church must be in compassionate ministry to homosexuals and to all persons addicted to sexual sin, with Christ’s offer of forgiveness and healing.

The campaign of hatred by Phelps bears no resemblance to scriptural Christianity. It properly may be called heretical. His demonstrations provide an erroneous view of our faith in the public arena. His views are too often portrayed as the sentiments of conservative or traditional Christians. And his advocacy of hatred and bigotry is often contrasted with the ostensible love and inclusiveness of homosexual advocates and the practitioners of same-sex "marriage." Thus, Phelps’ organization, as the embodiment of gross stereotypes about Christians, has become a very helpful ally of the movement for full acceptance of homosexuality. His message of hate inspires bigotry against Christians.

We implore members of the media who cover topics relating to religion and sexuality not to portray Phelps as a voice for America’s Christian community. He does not speak for us, and he does not speak for any branch of Christianity.

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