An Open Love Letter to My N.C. Kin

Dear N.C. Family,

When we were kids going out with friends, Henry used to say, “You’re taking a good name with you.  Make sure you bring it back.”  

I won the genetic lottery when two fine families from Prospect Presbyterian Church united in marriage in 1954.  Two families with two good names. I stopped counting at 60 how many Edmiston-Linker-Miller-Overcash-Johnston relatives I have who still live in North Carolina.  

The Edmiston side still meets here every June and I am profoundly humbled when asked to offer thanks before the meal – especially because I know that many members of my extended family do not believe that scripture affirms the leadership of women in ministry.  And yet everyone is gracious and welcoming of me.  I am so thankful to be in our family.

It is in this family that I came to follow Christ.  In this family, I learned how to study scripture and pray, and so did you.  And yet one of the reasons we don’t talk politics at family gatherings is because we disagree.  We vote differently in elections.  We interpret scripture differently in terms of what we believe God is calling us to do and be.

With this in mind – and at the risk of offending people I love in North Carolina – I am prayerfully asking you to take the name of Jesus into the voting booth this Tuesday.  Because it is already illegal for same-sex couples to marry, my prayer is that – no matter what you believe about gay people – you will, please, vote against Amendment 1.  It is unnecessarily mean-spirited and it will hurt people we love.

My authority comes from Scripture, but – again – we interpret Scripture differently.  Jesus consistently sided with the weak, the disenfranchised, the other.  We’re  talking Samaritans, the bleeding woman, the Syro-Phoenician woman, lepers, and tax collectors.  In other words, Jesus loved and reached out to foreigners, unclean people who were not allowed in the temple, and sinners.

Again, no matter what you believe about homosexuality, marriage is already defined in N.C. as between one man and one woman.  Gay couples can’t be married to each other.  And men and women can’t be married to more than one person at a time.  It’s already in the law.

As a pastor, I’ve dealt with many pastoral situations that would be negatively impacted by this amendment if it passes.  For example, there were two 90-something women in my church in Virginia who had come to DC to serve the government during WWII, never married, and retired together in a single-bedroom apartment, because they were extremely frugal.  Or so I thought.  When E. went into the hospital, I drove M. to visit her each day and we asked the nurse to please phone M. if E. took a turn for the worse.  We put a lime green post-it in E’s medical file so they couldn’t miss it.

One morning, M. phoned me at 7 am and told me that E. had died in the night and they had not called her because she was “not related” to E.  Instead they had called a great-niece in S.C. whom E. had not seen in decades.  I drove M. to the hospital and they had already taken E’s body away.  To make a long story a little shorter, M. told me that she and E. were actually a couple.  They had been together for over 60 years.  “Do you know what I’m telling you?” this pillar of our church said to me.  “I’ve just lost half of my body.”

M. and E. were never connected via civil union or any other official status.  It’s not legal in Virginia.  And yet, in the name of freedom and compassion, don’t we believe that we should be allowed to share our lives with anyone we wish – and let  God sort it out, if we ourselves find it wrong?

I see that Billy Graham has asked people to vote FOR Amendment 1 and I have enormous respect for this man.   But I also know, from Montreat friends, how frail he is and I wonder if he really made that statement or if someone made it for him.  The photograph is clearly from his younger, healthier days and the truth is that Amendment 1 is not about the definition of marriage.    Again, N.C. has already defined it.

At a San Francisco Crusade in 1997 Billy Graham stated: “There are other sins. Why do we jump on that sin  [homosexuality] as though it’s the greatest sin?…What I want to preach about in San Francisco is the love of God. People need to know that God loves them no matter what their ethnic background or sexual orientation. I have so many gay friends, and we remain friends” (“Graham Welcomes Gays at San Francisco,” Christian News, Oct. 20, 1997, p. 7).   This is also a wonderful piece done in 2005.

The God I trust in wants all children to have health care,  all people – even those with whom we differ – to have secure home lives, and all people to be able to make faithful choices.

You are taking the name of Jesus into the voting booth with you Tuesday.  And I respectfully and prayerfully ask that you consider making the same choices Jesus made when he came in contact with  the maligned of his time.

Nobody has ever come to Christ because of exclusion or mean-spiritedness.   People come to Jesus because of grace.

You are my family no matter what, but I can’t live with myself without sharing what I believe Jesus would want us to do.  Please prayerfully consider voting against Amendment 1 on Tuesday.

Your sister/cousin/aunt/in-law in Christ,  Jan


22 responses to “An Open Love Letter to My N.C. Kin

  1. Martha Brown

    Lovely and powerful, Jan.

  2. Pingback: Jan’s Open Love Letter to Her North Carolina Kin | Bruce Reyes-Chow

  3. Pat Macaulay

    Thank you, Jan. Well said and so very thoughtfully put.

  4. Debra Clinard Caywood

    Very well said Jan. Thank you and I will repost.
    Let’s hope NC will make us proud on May 8.

  5. Pingback: Jan’s Open Love Letter to Her North Carolina Kin

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  7. Susan Schmidly

    Such a shame that everyone in our state couldn’t have read this. Thank you for saying what so many of us have tried to say.

  8. Alexis Fuller-Wright

    Right on, Jan. Preach.

  9. Thank you for putting into words the feeling I have in my heart.

  10. Sharon Edmiston

    Amen, Sister! I pray that as we seek to follow Christ, may we do so with love, compassion, and inclusivity; sharing the love and grace God has given us so freely. May we always remember that God is greater than our understanding.

  11. I’m not trying to be ugly here, so please don’t read it like this. I always fear writing comments that are disagreeing in nature on a blog post because we often infer a different tone than the author meant. I have done the same and caused quite a stir! Let me start off by saying that I agree with the HEART of your post. And I agree very much that sexual orientation was not the primary message of Jesus, therefore neither should it be ours. My question however is this…if we are to love each other as Jesus loved us, and if God is love, and by His very nature cannot not be loving towards us, and in His love when He created the universe and gave us the laws that are to govern us and guide our lives, God instituted marriage and defined it as being between a man and a woman, then how can we as a country make a decision to agree with God about what He has already stated, be an unloving act? If for us to say that we are going to define marriage as being between a man and a woman be a mean spirited act against love, then when God defined marriage when He created it must not have been an act of love as well.

    You told a very touching story about the elderly couple who had been together for over 60 years. It seemed that it was in the hopes of evoking an emotional response that we were to identify with them, feel sorry for them, and thus condone their union. Jesus loved the worst of sinners and invited them in, not so that he could say that it’s fine for you to do whatever you wish, but so that he could heal them and show them a better life. While I certainly do not believe that God looked down with hatred towards that couple, how could he??? He died for them! You don’t die for people you hate! However, I don’t think God looked down and said, “ya know, you’ve been great and all, and in light of this tragedy in your life I’ll let the fact that you’ve chosen to ignore me on this issue and let it slide.” Scripture is clear that our sin, ALL of our sin breaks God’s heart. Whether it’s lying, stealing, pride or any kind of sexual sin. That couple living together for 60 years was not a representation of true love, it was an example of our precious savior had to come to earth, leaving His throne, be betrayed, tortured, and die a slow painful death. In addition to the physical pain Jesus had to endure the Father turning His back on Him, abandoning Him and pouring out all of His wrath on Him. That’s what that story you told is a reminder of, not a call to embrace a new concept of love.

    I’m SO very thankful that God loved me enough to do all that for me. And I deserve hell just as badly as anyone else does. In fact in my own eyes I deserve it way more than anyone reading this, and way more than the couple in the story that you told about. I’m the worst of sinners. But I pray that we do not make the mistake of invoking stories of sinful lifestyles in order to justify a political stance.

    You also said that shouldn’t we in the name of freedom and compassion let people do what they want and then let God sort it out. You say that you are a pastor, and by its very nature your job is to do the exact opposite. God put the Holy Spirit inside of all believers in order to be His representatives here on the earth. The New Testament was written to exhort people to NOT do what they wanted, but to exhort them and challenge them, encourage and rebuke them to follow God’s laws.

    I believe that there is room for genuine believers to disagree on this amendment. There is a lot of stipulation and vague language that many could view to be harmful. I’m not willing to say that if you really love Jesus then you will vote for the amendment. In fact I find that offensive and ridiculous. But I would challenge us to affirm the word of God and let God define for us what loving others really looks like. I believe that is what you are trying to do and I commend you for it, but the Lord has laid it strongly on my heart that we needs to be doing some hard evaluating of what God really defines as love.

    I truly hope that this post didn’t come across as too harsh, or judgmental. I really am thankful for your obvious desire to show love towards those who are hurting and to create a place where homosexuals feel safe and will Lord willing turn their lives to Jesus. That is of the utmost importance!

    • I really appreciate your comments. It would be wonderful to be able to sit and have coffee or something with you and share what we believe. The longer I am a pastor, the more I am reminded that – although it is my calling to hold people accountable according to what scripture teaches – I am also not God. I can be – and am sometimes – wrong. But God calls us first to love people and the NC amendment strikes me that very unloving. If ever you are in Chicago, I’d love to get together and talk. Blessings.

      • I believe whole heartedly that there is room for disagreement even amongst Christians on this issue, and I am thankful for your heart to love others as I had stated before. I think my pastor was very wise in his encouragement to us in the congregation that if we didn’t know where we stood on this then to go ahead and “punt” the issue and to focus instead on the Gospel and the claims of Jesus. I don’t have any plans to be in Chicago soon, but my wife and I are raising our support for full time ministry so who knows where it will all take us 🙂

  12. Dennis Jones

    While I do agree that Jesus loved (and still loves) and reached out (and still reaches out) to foreigners, unclean people, and sinners, He also told them to go and sin no more. For example, in John 8 when the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in adultery…they wanted to stone her. Jesus told them that if any of them were without sin, they should cast the first stone. None of them were able to cast a stone. Then Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more. So, yes, Jesus did love the sinner, but He also told her that she needed to change her lifestyle and no longer live in the sin of adultery. Anytime you see Jesus reaching out to the sinner, He always told them to leave their sin. He does the same today. He still continues to love the sinner, but He wants them to change their sinful lifestyle and follow Him.

    You also mention that there is a law already on the books that does not allow same-sex couples to marry. That is correct. However, this law can be overturned by a judge. If it is written into the constitution, a judge would not be able to overturn it. It would only be able to be overturned by a vote from the people.

    Also, this amendment is not trying to keep anyone from living like they choose to live or loving whom they choose to love. If the amendment passes, two men or two women will still be able to love each other if they so choose. The amendment simply states that for two people to be married, they have to meet the “prerequisite” of marriage – that one be male and one be female. That is the definition of marriage. For a same-sex couple to get “married,” the term marriage would have to be redefined.

    As for the situation with M. and E., each individual hospital sets up their own rules as for visits and notifications. This is not determined by the state. If M. and E. had entered into some sort of contract, this amendment would not affect that contract.

    To sum up my position, it is not one of hate. I am not trying to hurt anyone, keep them from getting benefits, keep them from loving whomever they want to love, or anything of the sort. Everyone does have the freedom to live how they choose to live. This does not give them the freedom to change the definition of words nor to force others to accept the choices they make. The choices one makes determines what effects can be had from making those choices.

    I seriously doubt that anything I have said is going to change anyone’s mind. Likewise, anything that you may say is not going to change my mind. We will have to agree to disagree. That’s what’s so great about living in America. We have the freedom to believe or not believe like we choose. However, I wanted to make my voice heard. I want people to know that I am not being mean-spirited or hateful. I do not hate those that make different choices than I do. I just may not like the choices that they make. I’m all for loving them and receiving them just as Jesus did. But this does not mean accepting their choices as being right.

    • Thanks for your comments Dennis. My fear is that those contracts between two men or two women are void if this amendment passes. I’ve seen it happen in other states and I don’t want it to happen in my home state. But I value our right to disagree with each other. I faithfully hope that the amendment fails. It doesn’t seem necessary to me.

      • Dennis Jones

        You’re welcome, Jan. I appreciate being able to voice my (opposing) opinions here in your blog. If the wording of the amendment holds true to what I’ve read, these contracts will not be made void. Even though I may disagree with their lifestyle, I would hope that any contract that they have entered into would be upheld. I’m not for removing benefits or contracts from them nor making life in general miserable for them. That is not loving at all. Many Christians need to learn that you can “win someone over” more with love than with criticism. This doesn’t mean to compromise on the issues, but to love others despite the choices they make. When a child does something that his/her parents do not agree with, they don’t quit loving the child. But just because they do love the child does not mean that they accept or condone the action of the child.

        Again, thank-you for allowing me to freely express my views here.

  13. A pastor near Dallas but originally from NC read your blog post and linked it to me via Facebook. Thank you for writing. I have now posted your blog entry to my Facebook and know another of my FB friends has shared to his wall as well. Thanks for your heart felt words.

  14. Polly Coleman

    What an open-minded and loving person you are! I agree with everything you said. Will you please more to Mt. Pleasant,S.C. so that I can join your church? Polly Coleman

  15. This issue has divided the church that I serve, it has divided family members, friends and others who are all seeking to understand what it means to be a human being and a child of God. Your words were thoughtful, faithful and filled with grace. You can’t do better than that!

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