LGBTQ activists call out GracePoint Church
A gay rights campaigner called on spiritual leaders attached to a new church to show their perspectives on same-sex relationships had shifted.
Winston Godwin, whose legal fight paved the way for same-sex marriage in Bermuda, said of GracePoint Church: “If those involved made a statement about how their views have evolved and changed, [supporting the church] is something I would consider.
“I would love if this new church preached acceptance and inclusion.”
Mr Godwin spoke to The Royal Gazette yesterday after Gary Simons, the former deputy chairman of Preserve Marriage Bermuda, which was set up to fight same-sex marriage, held his first service as senior pastor for the church on Sunday.
The inaugural service was held at the Elbow Beach Resort & Spa.
Mr Simons left Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in 2017 after 17 years at the church.
A flyer for the first GracePoint service listed Jim Cymbala as “overseer” and Tony Evans as “adviser”.
Mr Cymbala is an American author and pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, located in Brooklyn, New York.
Dr Evans is the founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, located in Dallas, Texas. Both have voiced opposition to same-sex relationships in the past.
Questions sent to Mr Cymbala and Dr Evans about the new church were not responded to by press time yesterday.
The Royal Gazette has not been able to reach Mr Simons or a representative for GracePoint Church.
Mr Godwin said that he was upset, but not surprised, to see a new church connected with people who had expressed views against same-sex marriage in the past.
He explained: “There will always be those against same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships, so it would be naïve to think it would just go away.
“I personally believe a church like that absolutely has no place in our cultural landscape — but as long as there are those with those beliefs, there will be people to follow them.”
Mr Godwin said that everyone was entitled to their beliefs.
He added: “The problem arises when you use your beliefs in an attempt to dictate how someone else lives their life.
“It's a problem when your beliefs dictate how someone else should be treated. It's simply not acceptable and wouldn't be something I'd subscribe to.”
Mr Godwin said that his question to any religious leader who opposed same-sex equality would be to ask why.
He added: “Why do they feel the way they do and why would they go to these lengths to speak out against and spread hate towards a small section of the community?
“If you are against the LGBTQ community, why even waste your time preaching hate towards us? Surely there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed.
“If Bermuda Pride 2019 showed us one thing, it's that we are here and we belong.”
Linda Bogle-Mienzer, an activist and prominent member of the LGBTQ community, said she did not know the vision of the new church but that, more generally, worship groups opposed to same-sex relationships could not force their beliefs on others.
When asked what message she might issue to religious leaders who support the spread of anti-gay ideas, she replied: “I wish they would operate in a message of love and inclusion and not hate and exclusion.
“I have never associated God with such hate. I felt welcomed in two churches — Wesley [Methodist] and Mount Zion.
“I wish all churches had an open, inclusive environment.”
To the congregations of churches against same-sex relationships, Ms Bogle-Mienzer added: “The hate you practise could be towards your own family members.
“I'm always amazed at the level of forgiveness and tolerance and acceptance of all sorts of sins like fornication, adultery, molestation, lying and domestic violence but no such love for gay people.
“I've always found that fascinating and sad.”
Tony Brannon, a same-sex marriage activist, said that the inaugural Bermuda Pride event last summer, attended by more than 5,000 people, showed “a huge acceptance and tolerance” for the LGBTQ community.
He added: “It was evident in the amount of people who showed up on the day.”
Mr Brannon said that he hoped Mr Simons would not use his post to try to “deny others their right to love and marry the person they want”.
He added: “If he does that again, that would be a travesty.”
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