I am not Catholic, and I don’t know Bishop Tobin, but today I am coming to his defense. I can’t watch how he is being beaten up by activists, and even the media, without speaking up.
Bishop Tobin made a statement to parishioners in his faith community, discouraging them from participating in LGBTQ+ pride month activities. He even went so far as to call the activities and the lifestyle they represent “harmful” especially to children. No doubt, he had the recent newsworthy “library story hour” events in mind when he made his statement.
Bishop Tobin made this public statement about the position of his religious movement on this matter. More specifically, he made a statement about how people within his represented churches should respond. He did not say anything hateful. He was not initiating public demonstrations or protests. However, activists and other people have responded in ways that seem very disrespectful and even hateful — even protesting loudly outside a worship service.
When did it become wrong or hateful for a Christian religious leader to advise his parishioners with a biblical perspective on moral and social issues? That is what the church has always done. The freedom to have and express different religious views was the purpose for the founding of our state. I am quite certain that that has been valued here historically.
For the record, I agree with Bishop Tobin’s sentiments about this “pride” month. Similarly, I would advise my church congregants to avoid LGBTQ+ pride month activities as well. This is simply because these are not consistent with our religious beliefs and Biblical values. Thank God I still live in America, where I have the freedom to have those religious beliefs, as does Bishop Tobin. It’s the same kind of freedom that allows others to have different opinions and allows gays to freely be gay. Don’t we still value that freedom?
My church has been located right here in Rhode Island and meeting here continuously for over 300 years. Our beliefs about biblical marriage, sexuality, and human relationships have not changed during that time. Culture is constantly changing. The Bible, which we view as our authority, is not changing. At my church, we preach and teach love and respect for every human being as a person created in the image of God. We also teach conservative biblical values which include our views about marriage and sexuality. I don’t think that the changes in our culture suddenly turned us into haters. I don’t hate people. And, I don’t teach or preach hate. People will choose to hate me, but the feeling is NOT mutual.
As a Christian church leader in a complicated cultural environment, I am able to have different views while maintaining respect and love for all people. Are you?
Rev. David Stall
The writer is senior pastor at the First Hopkinton Seventh Day Baptist Church.