God Only Knows

What makes lesbians fight to stay in a church that condemns homosexuality? And should that church remain resolute, or bend to the latest trends?

Donna compares what they went through to the struggle of Rosa Parks, the African-American who years ago wouldn't give up her seat to a white man on a bus in the segregated South.

"We are Rosa Parks. We understood where we sat. We understood we wouldn't be in the ministry. We understood we couldn't be members or ministers or do anything but attend. We accepted that. It still got us church and worship and the fellowship. We still wanted to ride the bus. But now that's not even okay anymore. You're telling us to move. We don't want to move."

Michael sees it entirely differently. Christians are called upon to judge fellow believers. He is sure that if Jesus came back today, he'd be with the most troubled members of society. "I think he would offer healing, and I think he would call them to change." Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman, Michael says, but he did tell her: "Now go and sin no more."

Donna and Marti believe they can be good Christians and lesbians at the same time.
Margaret Downing
Donna and Marti believe they can be good Christians and lesbians at the same time.

Marti and Donna felt that over time they could help Michael and his church see homosexuality not as a sin but as a valid lifestyle. Michael and his church felt that through love and a system of withholding rewards such as church ministry and Communion, they could win these two lesbians over to their way of thinking.

Each side talks offhandedly about getting messages from God. Each side is absolutely firm in his or her stand.

Surely a church has the right to determine what its own beliefs will be, especially when there are so many other churches to choose from.

But if you consider the possibility that God talks to Michael Palandro, can you dismiss out of hand that he might be talking to Marti Rickard as well? What if she's the one who's right, the one who got God's message and didn't scramble it?

Short of dying, there's no immediate way to figure out who's the theological winner in this one. Marti and Donna are productive members of society, in a loving, monogamous relationship, providing a stable home for Donna's 14-year-old daughter. But because of five or six "clobber" passages in the Bible that appear to condemn homosexuality, that's not enough to keep them in good standing at the Vineyard. A murderer could go there, if he repented. A thief could go to the Vineyard if he stopped stealing and expressed remorse.

But Marti and Donna see no sin in what they are. And that is the biggest sin of all for the Vineyard. So much for the vision of Christ's unconditional love, hey?

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I have known Michael and Donna Palandro for many year and was not going to the Houston Vineyard during the period described in this article.  I do appreciate you giving the Palandros some time in this article to speak just as you did Marti and Donna.  But I have to say that you are clearly biased towards their side and are conflating some issues.  


From the beginning of Christianity, sin is defined and elucidated both by sense/feeling/hearing AND by Scripture.  If you believe that Scripture is what God says, then you know that it will always trump what you feel.  (E.g., I might feel like I love someone a lot, but that doesn't mean that it is right for me to have sex with them when I'm already married.)  If you feel something is right but Scripture says it's wrong, then it's wrong.  And if you feel that something is wrong, but Scripture approves of it, then it is right.  If you think that the Bible is bunk then you can judge sin and moral behavior by whatever standard you like, but if you say that you believe that the Bible is God's word (as Marti and Donna seemed to), then you don't have a leg to stand on when it comes your actions being in direct conflict with its teaching.  It would be like if you told a police officer that the road you were driving on felt more right at a speed of 85 mph rather than 55 mph.  You're still going to get a ticket, and you're still challenging the legal authority behind that speed limit.


Secondly, your bias is evident in that you believe that sexuality is a given and immovable part of someone's identity like race or gender.  It is true that to marginalize and mistreat homosexuals is akin to a form of discrimination.  But you can't tell a white person that they're "wrong" for being white.  You can say that someone is wrong for being a Hindu, a capitalist, a binge drinker, or a homosexual because these are identities tied into your volitional actions and not into unchanging, born with characteristics.  Now if you want to come out and say, "people are born gay" then you can believe that.  But I would have to say that such an assertion is not a settled matter but rather is debatable.  Thus, it is better to acknowledge that some of us just don't believe that homosexuality is innate at birth.  If we believed that, then we wouldn't feel like we can say homosexuality is wrong.  But you're not getting the whole story right, and you're not trying to understand people if you just assume that everyone operates on this innate sexuality hypothesis.


Finally, there is simply no positive, approving, or even neutral statement about homosexuality in the Bible.  And there is no statement in the Bible that I can find that asserts that homosexuals are so because they were born that way.  Every reference to it that can find shows God's and the early church's disapproval of homosexuality and that it is a choice of behavior.  Please don't believe the Bible if you don't want to, but it is actually more self-consistent to believe in the sinfulness of homosexual behavior if you follow Jesus.  Otherwise, you've got to pick and choose what parts of the Bible you accept and ignore...and I don't think that is a wise thing to do.  It is true that followers of Jesus do not love homosexual as we should oftentimes, but that is a different issue from saying that we should ignore the Bible's clear condemnation of the action itself.


(Please not that never once in this commenting did I express hatred towards homosexuals but rather approval of the Scripture in condemning homosexual behavior.  Also please note that when parents shows "unconditional love" to their children that they still discipline them.  This is exactly the role of the Church as well.)

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