The pastor of Canyon Springs Church, in the Scripps Ranch community of San Diego, invited a woman who had left lesbianism to come speak to his congregation.
But LGBT-identified activists and their allies were upset because the church rents space from a public school, part of the San Diego Unified School District. They protested at the church and petitioned the district to end the rental agreement.
The petition states, “Canyon Springs has outwardly endorsed hate speech, hate rhetoric and discrimination toward the LGBTQIA+ community specifically, in addition to religious sects.”
Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote that the incident points to a conflict between “the new morality” and religious freedom and free speech:
So this is the classic kind of head-on collision between two different worldviews that we know is happening and is absolutely almost certain to happen community by community, church by church, institution by institution, as we pass through very tumultuous cultural change.
The Los Angeles Times wrote:
The speaker was Patti Height of Out of Egypt Ministries, who told her audience she used to consider herself gay but now believes that was a “false identity.” According to her website, her work aims to help Christians minister to LGBTQ people, believing that being gay is incompatible with being Christian.
Canyon Springs, founded 25 years ago by Pastor Jack Hawkins, is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The congregation rents space from Thurgood Marshall Middle School and meets outside of school hours. The church has raised $100,000 to renovate the school’s theater, the LA Times reported.
The congregation was discussing gender issues in the culture, and in a sermon titled “God Loves All,” Height told her story of growing up detached from her mother, deeply angry because she wasn’t born a boy, and suffering verbal and sexual abuse as a child.
She began harming her body at age five and started numbing herself with alcohol and drugs when she was 12. Around that same time, she realized she was attracted to women. Height described her younger self as a “19-year-old, same-sex attracted, gender-confused, drug-addicted, alcoholic teenager.”
In a vain effort to find love and eliminate her same-sex attractions and gender confusion, she married a 27-year-old man who had just been released from prison. He physically abused her, and eventually, she left him and “came out” as a lesbian.
Height told about the series of circumstances that led her to faith in Christ, and she described some of her painful journey toward healing, sanctification and a deeper relationship with God.
If you watch her talk, you’ll see she teaches with deep grace, love and truth. Height read from Colossians 3:12-14 and encouraged the congregation to love those caught in sexual sin: “ And above all these put on love” (ESV).
After her sermon, Pastor Hawkins affirmed that Height is motivated by love, and she is the one who receives hatred. He said she pays for telling her story, “because she receives death threats” and responses from people who are angry with her.
The petition against the church states:
The sermon on February 5th was given by a woman name Patti Height. Here is her website PROCEED WITH CAUTION: https://outofegyptministries.org
Patti says she is a “former” lesbian whom [sic] claims that Jesus saved her from this “sinful lifestyle.” Patti’s sermon was given at the local Middle School’s theatre this past Sunday, that was in front of about 100 people, some children. Her message continued to speak about there being no place for anyone in heaven that is homosexual, Muslim or Buddhist. Her words are incredible damaging and devastating to the LGBTQIA+ community and other religious communities (emphasis in original).
The LA Times reported the school district “is reviewing Canyon Springs Church’s rental permit to see whether the district’s facility rental policy was violated.”
Schools do not have to allow outside groups to use their buildings, but when they do, “The school district cannot constitutionally discriminate based on viewpoint in its decisions about whom to rent things to,” Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law professor at UCLA School of Law, told the LA Times.
Mohler encouraged Christians to understand the “monumental precedent of this kind of story.” Whatever the school district does “has a very great deal to do with the future of our society and with the freedom of Christians in any context to hold to a biblical understanding of sex, marriage, morality, gender.”
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