Last April, I preached at a church in New York City called The Gallery Church. It’s a small evangelical congregation meeting in a restaurant right in the heart of Manhattan. Pastor Freddy T. Wyatt had planned a series on sexuality and gender, and my contribution was on the meaning of marriage.
A few weeks after my part in the series, another speaker brought a message on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. As a result of that message, the owners of the restaurant informed The Gallery Church that they could no longer meet in their establishment. Pastor Freddy describes what happened this way:
The restaurant that was hosting us had received significant backlash from the neighborhood for hosting a Christian church in their space. The backlash came before the sermon was even preached yet was enough to motivate the restaurant to end their partnership with us. We were renting their space for $25K on the year, paying their sound tech $150 a Sunday, and averaged about 10 people eating every Sunday at their restaurant that opened right after our worship service ended. Yet, disassociating from a Christian church was more valuable to them.
In short, the church was thrown out because of their Christian conviction. They took a tough stand, and they paid a price.
Thankfully, the church found a new space, but it is going to cost them about $15,000 more than their previous location. They don’t have the funds yet to cover their rent for the year, and so they need some help. If you want to contribute to a solid evangelical church doing good kingdom work in Manhattan, perhaps you would consider helping out with this young church plant. If you can provide a financial gift, click on the following link:
What is the problem here? The restaurant decided what the church was saying was against their best interests and they didn’t agree with it, so the restaurant owners evicted them off their property. If the church wants to be able to say what they want, they should find landlords who agree with them or they should get their own property and preach there. The restaurant was well within their rights to do what they did. The church in question needs to be more shrewd in future in their interactions with others, particularly if they decide to operate in rented instead of owned space.
It’s also within the rights of the church to pursue legal action against the restaurant owners if they want to. If they feel they were rightfully wronged in this scenario, they should do so.
Of course the restaurant was within their rights to do this. That doesn’t mean, however, that the antipathy toward Christianity is right. In fact, it’s wrong. And that’s why this eviction was a moral and social injustice, if not a legal one.
When is antipathy toward anyone right or wrong? Why does Christianity get special status? If it were a Muslim group or gay group or a women’s group or a non-profit tutoring services for the poor group would it have been the same level of moral and social injustice had the restaurant taken issue with and evicted them?
Again, if they feel they were wronged based on discriminatory reasons due to their religion, then they should take it up with the courts.
Nothing this resturant did was illegal, which Denny does admit. But it just shows how opposed to Biblical Christianity certain segments of our society are. This could come as a shock to some, especially for those living in more “Bible Belt” regions where the citizens, even if they live immorally and do not attend church, still generally regard church as a good thing for society.
As I watch, from Canada, things like this unfold, I sometimes wonder if American Christians have verses in Hebrews 11 that they never, ever underline.
In whatever nation we live, we believers are never more than resident aliens. Expecting to be treated fairly is an unrealistic expectation…one that forgets about the reality of spiritual warfare.
All of us who read about this story have been given an opportunity by God to get in touch with our inner Mennonites, and to realize that indeed this world is NOT our home…not even in “Christian America.”
But why should it be different? Jesus said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
Aaron A. Smith
If a florist or a baker wants to exert a right to not provide a service for a same-sex ceremony, then a building owner also should be allowed to choose to whom he/she wants to rent based on use of the space.
James Harold Thomas
Right you are, Aaron. As long as they didn’t violate the contract, the restaurant owners are within their rights to “refuse service” to the church.
But there’s one big difference. AFAIK, the church isn’t suing the restaurant.
If their new space is going to cost 67% more then they were getting a phenomenal deal from the restaurant. To the extent that the restaurant should have been charging them more all along.
Aaron, if a homosexual couple is refused the exchange of money for products/services based on the owners conviction and that couple can sue them for discrimination..isn’t this just an example of the show being on the other foot? Can’t this church sue this restaurant for refusal of services/eviction?
And to Hannah-if you feel the resaurant was withing their rights to do what they did as they felt it was not in their best interests, why then can’t florists/bakers do what they feel is in their best interests without legal/criminal reprcussions?
I think the restaurant was within their rights as the property owners to evict the tenants. However, there are federal protections against people not renting to people or evicting them because they’re black, etc. so there are issues of descrimination regarding rental property that the church might be able to exploit in their favor in a court of law, saying they were descriminated against in their eviction. I think either side has a case. I’m not a lawyer, so while a feel the restaurant was within their rights as the property owners here, I may be wrong due to the extent of anti-discrimination policies regarding rental property that I am not aware of. I also think it’s within the rights of the church to take the restaurant to court for descrimination. I actually think they *should* do so because the church needs to be able to assert itself as having a right to exist instead of just slinking off into the night whining about perceived persecution. They should use the laws of the land to fight back and say “I have a right to be here and practice my religion freely. We aren’t hurting anyone doing so.”
The florists/bakers are a bit different, imo, becuase they are actually refusing service to people because they just don’t like their lifestyle. That is also an issue of federal protections against descrimination (think: “Only whites served here” and why storeowners can’t do that anymore) that may be violated here. So, while I think it’s childish to refuse service to someone because you disagree with some aspect of them (it’s also hypocritical to the extreme on behalf of “Christians” to refuse service to gay people but you never hear “Christians” doing that to any other demographic representing some sin or other, just gay people because they’re the current scapegoat-du-jour). I also think it was perfectly within the rights of the gay couples in question to appeal to the legal system because they *were* being descriminated against and they had a case to stand on there, and I applaud them for doing so. They have a right to be served equally like any other customer. And a court of law found they were unfairly descriminated against and ruled in their favor. In such way, the church in question should appeal to a court of law if they feel they were unfairly descriminated against instead of whining about it and doing nothing. They have a right to exist peacefully and practice their religion in freedom. Unless they know what they did was a breach of contract or something and they know they have no case to stand on.
And in my dream, Christian and Faithful rented a booth at Vanity Fair, and everyone got along splendidly.
Thus begins the process of sending the church underground in America. It honestly would not be that bad a thing.
No one suggested the restaurant did not have a right to serve whom them please. That is a false premise begging a platform. It is obvious however, the reason for the restaurants change of business, the content of the message. Thus it follows a well established pattern that on this issue going against the grain will not be tolerated. The restaurant would have been run out of business, and they saw the writing on the wall, a smart decision. Also, all the ..”if it had been xyz group…” talk is also a false premise. It is singularly the Gospel message thats on trial in the case, a message that is offensive to the unregenerate. Some might say “Gospel, what Gospel, all they were doing was holding church?” But the obvious, distinct and unmistakable subject of this action was the Christian message.
The issue vis-a-vis homosexuality has nothing to do with the Gospel. It’s a detail. A side-issue. A theological debate. Like whether women can be pastors or whether church should be held on Sunday. Some Christians interpret it differently from others. Some Christians take it way more seriously than others. But it’s not a part of the Good News that Jesus proclaimed. Neither is it foundational to the faith or salvation.
This church in question wasn’t preaching the Gospel or Christ, they were doing a series on sexuality which is a side issue. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s stop acting like they were kicked out for “preaching the Gospel”. I actually wish churches could keep more to the Gospel and Christ as their focus.
J O E B L A C K M O N
Some Christians interpret it differently from others.
There are no Christians that believe homosexuality is anything other than a sin. There are, however, pretend christians who say that homosexuality isn’t a sin.
Joe, please, isn’t that a little forward? I mean, we’ve only just met… We should at least get dinner and drinks first. 😉
I do, however, find it ironic that some Christians think gay kids should be excluded from boyscouts because they disagree with them, or teachers not allowed to teach evolution in school because they disagree with it, but when Christians get excluded because someone else disagrees with them, they get upset. This is how it feels. Take note.
There are two spheres that we are dealing with here.
1. There is the public sphere which addresses legal and moral rights.
2. There is the spiritual sphere which addresses what is right before God.
No one is arguing that the restaurant is wrong according to the first sphere. But a Christian will state that the restaurant is wrong according to the second sphere.
Furthermore, Christians know that God’s law is higher than man’s law. Therefore, whenever any conflict between sphere 1 and sphere 2 occurs, God’s people are to always choose sphere 2. In addition, just because something is right according to sphere 1, if it violates sphere 2 then Christians are supposed to call it wrong. By the same token, if something is right by sphere 2 but sphere 1 makes it immoral or illegal, then Christians are to still call it right.
That is why the whole “how would you feel if it were Muslims or gays or evolutionists being excluded” is looking at it from the wrong angle. The Bible calls Islam – and Judaism and Hinduism and Buddhism and New Age and atheism and all other religions and ideas – false. So according to sphere 2, we cannot pretend that withholding privileges from Jews or gays is the same as withholding privileges from Christians because Christianity is right and the other beliefs are wrong. That is not what sphere 1 says according to the Bill of Rights, the Civil Rights Act and a society conditioned to elevate both to the level of veneration and beatification according to our civil religion, but it is what the Bible says, and Christians are not supposed to pretend that the Bible is wrong.
When there is “right” according to the law on one hand and “right” according to the Bible on the other, Christians should always choose the Bible. So kicking this restaurant out for preaching the Bible was wrong according to the Bible, making it wrong according to the law of God that is higher than the law of man and is also unconditionally true.
“we cannot pretend that withholding privileges from Jews or gays is the same as withholding privileges from Christians because Christianity is right and the other beliefs are wrong”
I can’t quite find the right words to describe how offensive this is. I’m a Christian and I will defend the right of every person on this planet to live peacefully with equal rights and privileges as everyone else, because everyone is created equal by God and God loves them all equally. As a Christian I can’t do otherwise, and I will NOT work towards special privileges for myself just because “Aren’t I special, I’m aligned with God and you all aren’t!” That’s offensive beyond what I can describe and entirely anti-Christ to my understanding of who Christ is. I find as offensive the idea that gay people can’t marry in peace like I can, as much as I find offensive that a church may have been evicted just for peacefully talking about what they believe. I am a Christian, and I see neither case any differently, because I believe in equality for all not just a few. I don’t care if the believe in Buddha, I will defend their right toa life of equality and peace. My Christian call to love my neighbor requires no less.
We live in a democracy not a theocracy. In light of Matthew 22:21 we understand that Christ did not come to overturn human law, but to fulfill OT Law. Hence this idea that the government is to treat Christians one way and non-believers another is both undemocratic & unBiblical.
I’ve always said that discrimination is always wrong, and the Church should sue the restaurant for discrimination on the basis of religion. Discrimination of any kind is simply never OK.
If we’re to be a civil society we have to have a zone of tolerance and free speech.
unless your a christian – in your supposed democracy its ok to marginalize christian’s but How dare one refuse to bake the wedding cake for a gay couple!!
either say no to both or yes to both not just one thing- that is a democracy!!!!
aah yes “free speech” ( code word for only non biblical ideas allowed)
J O E B L A C K M O N
That’s offensive beyond what I can describe and entirely anti-Christ to my understanding of who Christ is. I
Are you from Enid, OK?
For you, honey, I could be. 😉
“The florists/bakers are a bit different, imo, becuase they are actually refusing service to people because they just don’t like their lifestyle.”
Christianity or being a Christian is a lifestyle. Clearly, the restaurant didn’t like the lifestyle of the church/parishoners. If the restaurant decided to void it’s contract due to its dislike of this lifestyle, it’s no different. At best, the restaurant has breached its contract lease of space with this church and at worst, it’s discrimination.
And as far as evolution in schools, it’s a fallacy and even Stephen Hawking/Julian Huxley admit it has big holes and that ship is listing from a ruptured hull. The law of infinite regression and the problem with genetic improbability negate its premise. Science, logic and reasoning rule it out.
Bob- great points up there. Too many people really believe this is a Christian nation, when in fact, it’s truly not.
No repentance of sin, no Gospel. Please think further about the “gospel” you are endorsing.
It’s important to note that not all Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. That’s a debated topic within Christianity. Like many other issues we differ on amongst ourselves. Age of the earth, women in ministry, infant baptism, yada, yada.
What I was saying before was a sermon about how a certain denomination’s interpretation of Biblical sexuality is not preaching the gospel, neither is a sermon about Biblical marriage or some political issue, etc. It’s a side issue about Christian living. Different churches will differ on how they interpret these issues, and which ones they decide to preach on. The gospel is “God loves you and died for you and wants a relationship with you, come follow him” No church should differ on that. That’s fundamental. Or should be.
There are many issues that have been debated within the church without reaching a reasonably consensus. Homosexuality is not one of them. Across historical and denominational lines, God’s stance has been clearly understood in Scripture. It’s only contemporary Westerners who have cast doubt on this.
A follower who utterly rejects the word and teaching of the one he claims to follow is not a follower. No doubt, genuine believers can be wrong on many topics but as they grow in maturity, they will increasingly affirm God’s Word and align with him on all things. To persevere in rebellion against what God says in his Word is to prove oneself to be an unbeliever.
Note clearly: I do not say this as a personal attack on you, though I realize it may seem that way. Rather, I write this to be clear that one cannot be both justified and continue in rebellion against God as the status quo.
This tete-a-tete exemplifies the incorrigible differences between liberal Christian hermeneutics and its conservative counterpart. Never the twain shall meet. Liberal Christians might as well be militant atheists and conservative Christians might as well be the Taliban. Yes, that statement was inflammatory toward both sides, as it should be. I don’t see any reconciliation in the future. Both sides are swamped in the politicization of their faiths–which, because the politics are so different, basically means the faiths completely different as well.
Dylan, backpedal all you want, but you have, in many words, essentially told Hannah she isn’t a Christian, simply because of her view on what she believes to be a side issue. I won’t deny how clear the bible is on homosexuality, but it is also only “contemporary Westerners” who have all but repudiated the Word when it comes to other sins like no-fault divorce or gluttony, and yet we never here a peep from Evangelicals on these topics, as they eat themselves to an early grave and divorce/remarry like Hollywood starlets…and like the rest of Americans who share these sins.
Mainline/Liberal Christians (are they one and the same these days?) have voluntarily rejected parts of the Bible. But at least it coincides with their hermeneutics, which have long perceived the Bible as written by highly fallible men. But that still means they absolutely cherry-pick their verses to favor antinomialism. Meanwhile, homosexuality remains the scapegoat-du-jour for Evangelicals.
I don’t reject the Word, I reject one interpretation of one part of it. Something not new at all in Christianity. Jesus did that with the Torah a lot actually, turning 180 degrees interpretations of the Torah that had been held for ages.
And no, I don’t take it as a personal attack, I understand where you are coming from. Thank you for clarifying that.
The literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2 wasn’t questioned for a very long time either until about 150-200 years ago when modern geology, biology, astrophysics, etc etc emerged and began to better understand the earth and the universe and how things work. The interpretation of Genesis began to change when the understanding of earth’s history and structure began to change.
The interpretation of homosexuality as it is addressed in the Bible is changing because our understanding of homosexuality is changing. We’ve learned that people are born gay and have no choice in who they’re attracted to, just like straight people. In the Bible, homosexuality was understood as an immoral thing by the Jews because it was practiced by male prostitutes in pagan worship, by adult men with children, by men who raped other men as a show of domination and specifically to cause pain and humiliation, etc. It was never associated as something natural or good. And it always referred to the actions of homosexuality, which were not necessarily practiced by only gay people.
We’ve since learned that there are people who are born naturally attracted to the same gender, it’s rare, but it’s not new and it is not a choice. “Being gay” – or simply being born attracted to the same gender – isn’t a sin any more than my being born straight is a sin because it’s a state of being, not an action. My understanding of who God isn’t a being who creates people with a certain trait and then damns them for it. So I cannot accept that simply being gay is a sin. That leaves for debate, of course, whether acting on those attractions and having gay sex or gay relationships is a sin and many Christians are divided on that issue, even among those who accept that simply being gay is not a sin. I can see the reason for both sides of that argument and leave that to the individual to determine for themselves. To better understand these perspectives, I highly recommend “Torn” by Justin Lee” and “Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill. They’re very thoughtful books written by gay Christians.
The writers of the OT or NT didn’t understand homosexuality this way, but now that we do, we must decide what to do with it and the consequences of that. I can’t continue to say “being gay is a sin, end of story” because that conflicts with who I understand God to be (i.e. God wouldn’t make people who are naturally attracted to their own gender, and then damn them for it). And my understanding of who God is has to inform my decision making on this matter. I can’t accept your interpretation of this particular part of the Bible because it conflicts with my understanding of God, also from the Bible, but also from my life experiences. That’s where I am on the issue anyway. Two years ago, I was where you are now. I’ve been there. Now I’m not. I suspect that will happen many times on many issues over my life. And I do allow that I may be totally and completely wrong. But while I may come on here and argue the other side a bit (I like to read blogs different from my views to try to keep an open mind and arguing for my side helps me to constantly rethink it and reassess it which I find healthy), I have to give a proviso: I may be totally and completely wrong. It’s happened before. 😉
We each have to do what we figure is best with what we have, and sincerely and prayerfully let the Spirit lead us. Which is all I try to do.
J O E B L A C K M O N
It’s important to note that not all Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. That’s a debated topic within Christianity.
Ah, yes. And the fact that it’s debated PROVES that both sides have an equal claim to the truth. Sounds legit. (/sarcasm)
Infant baptism, age of earth, etc. may be issues, but are they full blown “Level 1” issues? (yes, there’s level 1’s, 2’s and 3’s) Differences regarding God’s natural created order and morality certainly are.
Ian– Do only certain Christian movements (and not others) get to decide which issues are Level 1? Are the ones who disagree on those rankings simply not real Christians?
J O E B L A C K M O N
Are the ones who disagree on those rankings simply not real Christians?
If they say that homosexuality isn’t a sin….yeah, that pretty much describes them.
Well, it’s always good to know where I stand. 🙂
Fortunately, my standing in Christ — nor Hannah’s, nor yours — is based in Christ and what he has done, and not on how we view six or seven verses of scripture.
Check the creeds, and what both Jesus and Paul have to say on the subject. Follow and believe ; God’s grace is wider than we often give him credit for.
so since only a couple of verses criticize stealing can I steal?! – why is it against the law?!
Bob, thank you for taking the Biblical view. Regarding the comment that the Theological/Doctrinal view of homosexuality is not important, to quote Dorothy Sayers, “The Doctrine is the Drama”.